Friday, February 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Transit merger merits study

It's revealing that such a small item in the state budget for 2013-14 has Hillsborough Area Regional Transit so exercised: a $200,000 study to examine the cost and operational benefits of merging the mass transit systems on both sides of Tampa Bay. Gov. Rick Scott should preserve the spending as a small but potentially crucial step toward finally building the mass transit system this region needs to thrive.

The study — pushed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater — would build on an earlier report that found that merging HART and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority could save at least $2.4 million a year. That was a back-of-the-envelope estimate based on savings from cutting the administrative staff — one personnel director instead of two, for example. And the agencies might save money elsewhere by whittling down on office space and making more use of bulk purchasing.

But the bigger hurdle is HART, which maintains a combined operation would not save money or improve service. Its board sent the governor a letter this month urging him to veto the $200,000 appropriation in the budget. HART's real concern is protecting its turf.

There is nothing special about managing a two-county system. A combined agency would look much the same as the two look today — with a workforce largely involved in the routine of driving and maintaining buses. But a combined agency might save on overhead while still delivering services in the counties' home areas. The larger problems with funding and operations that HART says the merger does not address are beyond the issue of governance anyway. But a better governing model might give a combined agency more opportunities to expand its services and funding base and find efficiencies.

The governor would not be changing anything overnight or treading on local control by allowing the study to go forward. Voters on both sides of the bay would have to approve a merger; this study would merely advance the discussion, help sort through some of the legal and practical questions and make for a more informed debate.

This region will never meet its transportation needs if local leaders don't think further ahead about the mission of mass transit and its role in fostering a more vibrant economy. A combined agency could put the focus on service and quality of life instead of jurisdictional issues. And if this region hopes to get commuter rail service, it needs a transit system comfortable with ambition and risk. The merger study is a step in that direction, and its findings will be helpful whether the two agencies merge or not.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18