Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Vigilance is key in recovering from Irma

Sunday's overnight fears turned into anxiety Monday as millions of Floridians began the tough slog of recovering from Irma, the first hurricane to strike Tampa Bay since 1921. Though we were spared a direct hit when the eye itself veered east, the upending of lives and damage to property are still serious. Federal, state and local authorities performed well in preparing the state before Irma, and they need to show the same vigilance and forward thinking in the time ahead to help Florida recover from this natural disaster.

There's no doubt it could have been worse. A storm that spent most of its life as a record-setting Category 5 hurricane first made landfall in Florida early Sunday as a Category 4 near Cudjoe Key. The storm later made landfall near Marco Island, at Category 3 strength, before moving up the southwest coast and weakening to a Category 2 before jogging east toward Lakeland, brushing Tampa Bay as a Category 1. The bay area was spared the brunt of the storm as Irma moved quickly north, weakening along the way. But it cut a devastating swath across the lower half of the state and impacted millions even beyond its expansive wind cone.

Gov. Rick Scott and state and local authorities did a good job of readying Floridians in advance of Irma by staying visible and on-message about the threats to life and after-storm impacts. They will need to bring the same focus to several key areas is the coming days:

• Emergency assistance. Irma's punch and wide reach could make it difficult to fully assess the scope of the devastation for days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to quickly deploy its resources and ensure the basics — shelter, water, food and sanitation — are readily available in the affected areas. The hot, rainy summer season is still here and people need help in bringing order to their lives. The power companies appear poised to respond well, but the state will need to ensure that service is restored in a reasonable manner. Neighborhoods without power need extra security patrols. This is no time for desperate residents to take matters into their hands out of a feeling that the government has forgotten them.

• Back to normal. More than 6 million people were called upon to evacuate, and millions will be on the road in the days ahead, inching back to uncertainty. State and local authorities need to move this traffic in a safe and timely manner and ensure that gas supplies are distributed across the state. In the bay area alone, tens of thousands sought emergency shelter; many will face special needs as they move from hardened shelters to homes and neighborhoods damaged by the storm. Authorities need to ensure these residents are safe and able to move about to meet their daily needs.

Insurance and gouging. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi have been proactive in helping homeowners prepare to file insurance claims and to protect consumers from price gouging. They'll need to stay on both issues. Irma will test the good faith and capabilities of the newly formed insurance companies, which have a public obligation to handle claims in a fair and timely manner. Given the duration of a rebuilding effort, Bondi's office needs to protect against fraud in the hardest-hit areas over the long term.

It was a harrowing weekend and this week will be tough. The rebuilding process will take time, money and a sense of urgency at all levels of government. But the storm is behind us, and it's time to pick up the pieces and to make the recovery as fast and smooth as possible.

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Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18