Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Spending on Hillsborough infrastructure gets needed boost

There is a bright spot in the cautious spending plans prepared by local governments in Hillsborough County. More of them are putting extra money next year into repairs and other big-ticket improvements — fixing up parks, replacing old storm drains and filling some of the cracks in the transit system. The county has a long way to go, but this investment in critical infrastructure is a welcome start.

The recession and six straight years of declining tax revenues have hit the operations side hard, as Hillsborough-area agencies have balanced their budgets by slashing jobs, freezing pay and curbing some public services. But there was another casualty under the radar: Governments scaled back tens of millions of dollars in public works projects. Spending on new roads, parks, water and sewer lines and other essentials for urban living was curtailed or postponed. Even if the region begins to experience modest growth within the next two years, as officials expect, it could take another decade before Hillsborough is anywhere close to a recovery on its capital plan.

But 2013 would mark a step in the right direction. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn would spend $105 million on capital projects next year, a 31 percent increase from 2012. The work includes water and wastewater improvements throughout the city. Buckhorn would complete the Riverwalk through downtown, repair parks and pools and upgrade the city's utility systems.

Tampa International Airport would more than double capital spending next year, to more than $67 million. The money would pay for upgrades to the curbside areas, new boarding bridges and improvements to passenger and rental car facilities.

Hillsborough County is looking to increase its capital budget about 50 percent next year, to nearly $200 million, with new money for parks and fire stations. The county will also spend the next year exploring more reliable funding sources for a range of capital projects, from roads to recreation centers.

And Hillsborough's bus agency is making noises about the need to address a chronically underfunded mass transit system. Hillsborough leaders still need to get serious about financing a modern transportation system, the biggest drawback to attracting jobs and industries.

But these capital investments are well-timed to position the county as the economy recovers. They send a message to the business community that the government will protect its key infrastructure even in tough economic times. And they mark an admission by political leaders that the county needs to be more realistic about meeting its long-term capital needs. That change in thinking is as important as the new dollars themselves.

Comments
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18