Friday, February 23, 2018
Editorials

Tampa's neglected landmarks

Hillsborough County just committed $17-million in tax money toward the new history center. It will be a fine addition to the downtown Tampa waterfront. But the history already here is starved for money — those grand, brick, ethnic social clubs that date to Tampa's birth as an immigrant city. Local officials need to dedicate money to maintain these buildings. Beyond being ties to our past, they anchor neighborhoods and form the basis of a growing niche called heritage tourism.

These clubs — the Centro Asturiano, the Circulo Cubano, the Centro Espanol de West Tampa and others — have some of the most historically significant architecture in the city. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these century-old clubs were more than social gathering places. Their mutual aid societies were among the nation's first HMOs, and the medical care, education and citizenship services they provided were essential to Italians, Cubans and Spaniards working to integrate into American life. One building, the Centro Espanol de Tampa, is a National Historic Landmark for its "dramatic" illustration of daily life of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ybor City, the old Latin Quarter, is recognized by the federal government as a historic landmark, too, for having "the largest collection of buildings related to the cigar industry in America, and probably the world."

Yet these clubs have to depend on their own small memberships and what few grants come along to maintain their old and imposing buildings. Despite hosting thousands of visitors every year — and in the case of Ybor, being the No. 2 tourist draw in the county — these sites have no dedicated funding stream. That makes no cultural or financial sense.

Communities throughout Florida and across the nation have used bed taxes, which are charged to hotel rooms and other short-term stays, to preserve historic structures. That would be appropriate in Hillsborough. Or the city and county could leverage existing funds to attract public and private grants. Where to get the money is secondary; the point is to recognize the value these buildings have as symbols — and magnets for development. A University of Florida study noted recently that heritage tourism — visits to historic or cultural sites — contributed $4-billion to the state in 2000. That's why most counties that impose a bed tax contribute to preservation activities.

Having some of Tampa's most storied buildings locked away from public view or under-utilized simply because the city and community groups cannot maintain them is bad economics in a town that has invested so much in tapping the public's fascination with history. Local leaders need to commit money to help maintain these buildings and broaden the public's access to them.

Comments
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18