Friday, November 24, 2017
Editorials

New Port Richey should rebuke Advanced Research Institute for its bad behavior

RECOMMENDED READING


Florida's targeted industries — the companies intended to bring quality job growth to the state — include life sciences, information technology, aviation and professional/financial services. Besides creating new jobs and paying above-average wages, there should be another key attribute: Good corporate neighbor.

It is a glaring shortcoming in Advanced Research Institute's move from Trinity to New Port Richey. The company, which conducts clinical drug trials, is operating improperly after pledging to seek an appropriate zoning change to comply with city land-use rules. Instead, Advanced Research Institute (ARI) charged ahead with its operations while its president blamed the city staff for not trying harder to accommodate a so-called target industry.

That the company includes a City Council member, Judy DeBella Thomas, on its payroll as marketing director, is an awkward entanglement that neither the firm nor DeBella Thomas was astute enough to avoid. Essentially DeBella Thomas' boss, ARI CEO Susan Randall, is bad-mouthing the city staff whose senior most member, City Manager John Schneiger, answers to DeBella Thomas and the rest of the Council. And DeBella Thomas simultaneously gets to market the services of a company that paid little heed to the government land use rules over which she has authority.

By all accounts, a small, local company founded a dozen years ago doing medical-related research would be a significant upgrade over the previous occupants of 6716 Congress St. — the Harbinger House, a nonprofit home for troubled boys that closed amid complaints including generating nearly a thousand calls for police service in two years.

But ARI has created problems of another kind. In March, the city halted renovation work at the site because the company failed to obtain the necessary building permits. It also noted ARI planned to open a clinical laboratory in a residential neighborhood and told the company to apply to change the land's zoning to professional office use.

ARI countered the city should amend its comprehensive plan, paving the way for the medical research company to operate at the Congress Street property — once an adult retirement home, zoned for multi-family residential use. The city declined with Schneiger correctly saying New Port Richey shouldn't bend its rules to benefit a single entity.

It is an imperative point. The city shouldn't be giving preferential treatment to a company employing a council member, particularly now that it is again threatening to assess fines against the same company for thumbing its nose at City Hall.

ARI's excuse list is getting longer. The company's attorney blamed the illegal renovation work on a "miscommunication by the engineering firm'' hired to obtain the permits. Randall blames her landlord, the former operators of the Harbinger House, for stalling the rezoning application to the city. But the real wrath is aimed at City Hall.

"I don't see a single person in this city coming forth to help us,'' Randall told the Times.

Randall says the patients are ARI's top priority. Certainly, the company's actions and statements indicate accepting responsibility for ignoring local government zoning rules isn't a prime concern.

Comments

Editorial: St. Petersburg should revisit approach to historic preservation

St. Petersburg is headed down a slippery path in the name of historic preservation. After a group of 10 property owners in the Old Northeast neighborhood won approval earlier this year to become a one-block historic district, two more groups of neigh...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Editorial: Strengthening the ties that bind in Seminole Heights following 4 killings

During this weekend of giving thanks, let’s recognize the Seminole Heights community for remaining united and committed to their neighborhood as residents cope with the stress and fear following a series of murders. Their response as police continue ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Florida agriculture took a beating in September from Hurricane Irma, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses across the citrus, sugar, cattle and dairy industries. Yet despite a personal plea from Gov. Rick Scott, the Trump administrat...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Editorial: Senate should not repeal health insurance mandate to pay for tax cuts

There are all sorts of problems with the massive tax cut legislation the Senate is expected to vote on this week. Wealthy individuals and corporations benefit more than the poor and the middle class; by 2027, about half of all taxpayers would see a t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorney’s fees in ethics complaint

Editorial: Ken Hagan should drop effort to recover attorney’s fees in ethics complaint

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan says he’s standing on principle in his effort to collect $7,800 spent defending him against ethics charges that eventually were dismissed.If so, it’s the wrong principle. But Hagan’s strident position rings ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Another voice: Wall isn’t a lifesaver, it’s a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction — and even what type of wall — remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nation’s budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more — s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldn’t back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17