Tuesday's election will determine more than who will be the nation's president for the next four years. It also is an opportunity for Floridians and Tampa Bay residents in particular to affirm our commonsense values. Statewide, we can confirm our support for an independent judiciary and protect the integrity of the Florida Constitution. Regionally, we can continue to invest in roads and public works projects. We can renew our commitment to investing in public education and backing progressive reforms. And we can embrace science and public health over scare tactics and partisan ideology.
Supreme Court merit retention
The Florida Supreme Court justices face an unprecedented partisan effort to oust them. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara J. Pariente and Peggy A. Quince are accomplished lawyers and jurists, and their impartiality and respect for the law should not be in question. Yet the Republican Party of Florida and outside conservative groups want voters to remove them because they don't like a handful of the thousands of court opinions they have signed.
The court should not be subject to such political intimidation, and the last thing Florida needs is to give Gov. Rick Scott an opportunity to stack the court with three new justices. Voters should vote "yes" to retain these three justices and preserve the integrity of the court.
The Republican-controlled Legislature placed 11 amendments on the ballot, many with misleading titles. Collectively, they would jeopardize access to health care, interfere with the independence of the courts, limit the rights of women to control their own bodies, erode religious freedom and further scramble tax policy.
Voters can send a clear message by voting "no" on every amendment.
Incumbent commissioners Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield voted to take fluoride out of the drinking water, ignoring established science and the public health. Their opponents, Charlie Justice and Janet Long, pledge to vote to add fluoride back into the water. Voters should restore Pinellas' image as a progressive place to do business and raise a family by embracing science and the public welfare — and voting against Bostock and Brickfield.
Pinellas school tax
Voters have twice approved a modest half-mill property tax to help pay teachers, add technology in classrooms and enrich the arts and music programs. The tax money is a smart investment, and the positive impact is clear. In an era when the state scrimps on public education, Pinellas voters should continue to support their local teachers and schools and extend the tax another four years.
Hillsborough school board
The District 7 race for a countywide seat is a choice between the future and the past.
Incumbent Carol W. Kurdell has helped the nation's eighth-largest school system prepare students for the modern world. Her strong support for college preparation courses and for reforms aimed at strengthening the classroom experience show her appreciation for the role of public education.
Challenger Terry Kemple is a social warrior whose campaigns against gays, bikini bars and Muslims reflect his divisiveness. He would weaken public education even further with his support for charter schools and his call to micromanage teachers and principals. Kemple would be a step in the wrong direction for a county at the national forefront in promoting academic achievement.
Penny for Pasco
The 1 cent sales tax has served Pasco County residents well, paying for road improvements, land preservation and efforts to reduce school crowding. Former critics are now supporters, and extending the sales tax for another decade will ensure that the county can continue to invest in its future.
The outcome of the presidential election will say one thing about the direction of the nation. The outcome of these half-dozen election decisions in Florida and Tampa Bay will say another about our values, our commitment to preserving our institutions and our optimism about improving our communities.