Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tampa Bay's fresh start for transit solutions

The Tampa Bay region has taken a critical step toward finally creating a robust regional approach to addressing its chronic transportation problems. The Florida House sent to the governor on Wednesday legislation that would strengthen and focus the regional effort to build a modern and efficient transit system. With strong bipartisan support from the area's political and business leaders, this is an essential piece of the puzzle and Gov. Rick Scott should sign it into law.

The bill, SB 1672, changes the name of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority to reflect its broader, more robust mission. The word "transportation" is replaced by "transit" to call attention to the role that buses, automated vehicles and rail might play in easing the region's gridlock. More substantively, TBARTA would be commissioned to "plan, implement and operate" a range of mobility options for moving people and freight throughout the region. The agency's target area would initially cover Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Hernando counties, though contiguous counties could also agree to participate.

Narrowing TBARTA's scope to five counties from the existing seven will help the region focus on core congestion problems in the metro area. Tens of thousands of commuters in the region cross county lines for work every day. With a tighter footprint and a greater sense of urgency to find solutions, this agency could achieve its original purpose by taking the lead on improving regional transit, whether on the bay bridges or by expanding bus service or building a new light rail system. At this point, the urgency and the focus on a regional effort is more important than the type of transit, which should be decided by a regional consensus.

The legislation suffered a brief hiccup this legislative session as two Tampa Bay area senators gummed up the bill by adding obstacles to building a rail system. But with a strong nudge from key business leaders from the Tampa Bay Partnership, those speed bumps were smoothed over with acceptable revisions that subject any proposed rail project to extensive public vetting.

Scott should see the bill that passed unanimously in both chambers as a balanced, responsible approach by the region to be accountable for its own destiny with no predetermined conclusions about a specific plan. The agency's 13-member governing board would include locally elected officials from the five counties and area business leaders. Scott would make four appointments to the board, including its founding chairman. This new governing structure is fresh and inclusive, and it reflects the strong working relationship of the bill's major proponents, from the Tampa Bay Partnership to the bill's main sponsors, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, to mayors and county commissioners on both sides of the bay.

Strengthening the governance of TBARTA is an essential step for the region to work together toward commuting solutions. But the tougher work is yet to come: deciding what transit options and routes are best and how to pay for them. This lays a solid foundation for the region's political and business leaders to find common ground. It's a statement about the need and urgency for modernizing the transit system, and the role that system will play in Tampa Bay's ability to compete and maintain its quality of life. The governor can support the ambition behind this effort by signing the bill into law and by appointing members to the board who are as forward-looking as this legislation.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18