Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Sustain Florida's rebound

There are encouraging signs, however small, that Florida is on the rebound from the Great Recession. Statistics trickling in last week from 2011 find bankruptcy filings down and fewer state banks failing. For the first time in six years, more moving vans headed into Florida than out. And the vacancy rate for office space in Tampa Bay dropped to its lowest rate since 2009. This news comes after several months of slowly descending unemployment rates that still remain at 10 percent. Now the challenge for Florida leaders is to build on that momentum, not derail it with poor policy decisions or shortsighted gimmicks.

Florida, of course, isn't alone in this recovery. Bankruptcy filings are down across the country, for example, and the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in December, the lowest in nearly three years. Florida, a state so dependent on development and growth, will take longer to pull out of this crisis than most.

But there is already a temptation in Florida to assume the best way forward is to revisit the past, with a full-scale resumption of the building industry. Throughout this recession, in fact, state lawmakers have systematically removed barriers to development, making it easier for developers to build homes and strip shopping centers, plan large-scale communities and escape infrastructure impact fees — never mind the huge backlog of vacant and foreclosed properties. Now many of the South Florida building groups are also lining up behind shortsighted plans to build three destination casinos that would hurt efforts to bring high-tech jobs to the state.

A return to uncontrolled growth would impact every Floridian with more congested roads, overrun parks, subpar schools and underfunded public safety. It would be far wiser for leaders, now that the end of the economic collapse may be in sight, to focus on creating jobs across a more balanced spectrum of industries — such as the state's budding biotech community — reviving growth management policies and reinvesting in aging infrastructure and mass transit. Now, too, is the time to reinvest in public schools and higher education, which can contribute more long-term to the state's vitality than almost any other investment.

There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and at this moment it is not an oncoming train. Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators who return to Tallahassee for the annual session on Tuesday will be tempted to look to the past for answers. But Florida's economy is different than just six years ago, and that may be the most exciting prospect of all.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

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Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

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Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

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Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17