Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Rebuilding Pasco County fire staffing would be a smart move

After years of mostly benign neglect, the Pasco County Commission is poised to try to rescue its own Fire Department. Commissioners last week indicated a willingness to accept fire Chief Tony Lopinto's pitch for 11 new firefighters, restoring the department to its 2009 staffing. Though the commission must balance the bottom line of the still-developing 2013 budget, Lopinto's reasonable request should not be overlooked. The aim is to curb overtime expenses and to avoid the potential for so-called rolling brown-outs when trucks are removed from service temporarily because of insufficient staffing.

The county has frequently treated the Fire Department as a poor stepchild to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office where a separate constitutional officer can use the bully pulpit to advocate for budget increases. And, even though it is financed with a separate property tax, the fire department has not been immune to the budget constraints facing other county departments.

Three years ago, commissioners cut 26 people and seven vacant jobs from the fire/rescue payroll, but added 15 back a year later. Still, this year, the department burned through its overtime budget in just seven months to maintain adequate staffing. On average, three firefighters each day are being paid overtime. Adding 11 more will resolve the personnel shortage and save about $200,000 in annual overtime.

Lopinto's presentation last week, part of a update to the county's business plan, came at an opportune time. Commissioners have said they will consider approving the so-called rollback property tax rate to make up for declining real estate values and the public has affirmed its support for public safety as a county priority. The county's own citizens survey, conducted by mail, and a scientific telephone poll commissioned by the group advocating for renewal of the Penny for Pasco both identified public safety as a top concern of residents.

If commissioners ultimately decide the county can afford the 11 new firefighters, it won't end the austerity measures. The county has been unable to place ambulance crews at some of its newer stations and plans for an additional station in Bayonet Point have been set aside because the county lacks the resources for the additional firefighters/paramedics.

Future expansions, however, can't be considered until the county works its way back to its where it once stood. Rebuilding the Fire Department is a smart investment and the commission should oblige the chief's request.

Comments
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
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18