Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tampa lost more than a building in Lee Elementary fire

The fire that destroyed Lee Elementary School in Tampa on Tuesday is a tragedy — a tragedy for the students and staff, who are already coping with strains from Hurricane Irma; a tragedy for the district, which now must find new spots for those students and teachers; and a tragedy for the community, where Lee stood as a powerful, stately and historic symbol in the inner city. The focus now needs to be on caring for these kids and ensuring everyone in the community knows the facts about the fire.

The fire broke out in the three-story brick building in Tampa Heights on Tuesday evening, after residents said power cut off from Irma was temporarily restored. The school, built in 1906 and later named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, has been in the public spotlight recently as the Hillsborough County School Board has considered whether to change the school's name — part of a larger reconsideration of Confederate memorials and homages across the country.

Tampa Fire Rescue officials said there is no indication of foul play, but given the debate over renaming Lee, the fire marshal's office was called in to investigate the cause of the blaze. The school was completing a renovation of its roof, and classes were out for the week because of Irma. The building and its contents, valued at $5 million, are insured, and expected to be a total loss.

School superintendent Jeff Eakins sent the right message on Wednesday by declaring the school's 330 students and 49 staff members would stay together at a new site. This continuity will be helpful in easing any anxieties the Lee school family will face in moving into new surroundings. Bay area residents have had their lives upended enough in the past week, and it's important to get the students settled and teachers prepared to get on with the task of learning. Area businesses and private donors showed their best by stepping up and offering help.

The issue of renaming Lee needs to be put aside while the recovery is underway. Officials need to quickly determine the cause of the fire and address any lingering public concerns with the investigation. The focus needs to be on the well-being of these children, and the ability of their families to assimilate and become involved in a new school environment. This county, this nation, doesn't build schools like Lee anymore. Its architecture stood as a symbol of the strength of education. Its presence in the community spoke to the role that schools have in society. The city lost more than a building. The job now is to ensure that these children are not lost too.

Comments
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18