Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Tampa's streetcar of desire

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was right to press his case to save the downtown streetcar. The electric trolley has a pivotal role to play in developing the Channel District and the city center. But it needs a better business model and the steady support of local agencies to have a chance.

The Port of Tampa was on the verge of yanking its $100,000 yearly subsidy for the trolley Tuesday when Buckhorn implored his colleagues on the governing board to "figure out how to make this work." Starving the trolley for cash, the mayor said, would only lead to more service cuts and could hasten the day when local officials faced scuttling the trolley altogether. That could put the community on the hook for repaying tens of millions in federal construction dollars.

The mayor made the right pitch, though it is troubling that the port board has needed to be goaded for years to recognize the trolley as a critical asset. The port owns the land under the Channelside Bay Plaza retail and entertainment complex — a destination on the streetcar line — and the trolley is an attractive vehicle for bringing paying customers to the port and the nearby facilities. The subsidy is a wise investment and a small price for the port in exchange for the $11 million it collects annually in dedicated property tax revenue from Hillsborough County residents.

Buckhorn's move Tuesday was notable not only for sparing the streetcar from losing much-needed cash, but he promised to help turn around the operation — bringing new blood to the streetcar's governing board and devising a new business plan. The mayor would operate the trolley much more frequently — minutes apart instead of the current 20-minute intervals — and for longer periods than the current afternoon and evening hours. He said an ideal system would operate for free, dispensing with fares that run up to $2.50 for a one-way trip. The added convenience would draw more local residents and visitors alike, help circulate more foot traffic in Ybor City, the Channel District and downtown, and help create business opportunities that would continue the growth of the waterfront area.

The port authority needs to recognize the trolley as a development tool, and it should work with the mayor to stabilize the funding and better market the operation. The trolley is ultimately not the port's responsibility, but the port has an obligation as a major player in the district to take a broad view of what's best for downtown. The mayor appropriately balanced his appeal for the subsidy with a much-needed pledge to recast the trolley's business side. This could be the start of a new era for the trolley and for downtown if other officials take the same practical course.

Comments
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
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18