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A Tampa Bay think tank

One reason local issues such as water and transportation get politicized is that this region lacks a source of independent research and information. The result is often partisan gridlock on a range of issues _ from health care and growth management to support for tourism, sports and the arts _ because elected officials and the public have nowhere to turn for sound, independent advice.

A new institute formed to address problems throughout the multicounty region could fill that gap. It's called the Tampa Bay Regional Institute for Public Policy. Ben Wacksman, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, said he formed the group after realizing the need for outside input during his time in county government.

The institute is professionally staffed and governed by a bipartisan board. Its two initial projects will focus on regional transportation needs and ethics in local government. What makes the institute promising is the practical application of its research and round tables. It can provide a forum to address problems that transcend county and party lines.

Many talk about unifying Tampa Bay as a region. This institute could help promote that worthy ideal.