1. Opinion

Hillsborough local governments are working together to manage growth. That’s good. | Editorial

Hillsborough county and city governments look for a united approach. That’s a step forward.
East Hillsborough is Ground Zero for the folly of unchecked sprawl that has occurred over the last two decades or more. [Times (2005)] [Times staff]
Published Sep. 8

The divide between the resources Hillsborough County has available and its public service needs has created a welcome byproduct: There is new interest by local officials in collaborating to meet the challenges for the future. While much of the focus up to now has been on schools, this more united effort could improve public services, save taxpayers money and help protect the region’s natural resources.

As the Tampa Bay Times’ Anastasia Dawson reported, Hillsborough County commissioners, school board members, and city council members from Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City came together for the first time in memory last month to discuss how planning by each government could impact school safety and public infrastructure. While County Commission Chairman Les Miller noted the effect a disjointed planning process could have on school placement and safety, the silo mentality by different local governments undermines growth management across the board, worsening the impact of sprawl and leading to costly, inefficient outlays for public services.

An outside planning consultant told the group that Hillsborough’s challenges are not unique; communities nationwide are spending more on transportation, housing and public services to keep up with the demands of growth. One way to maximize resources is to turn schools into social hubs for a community, co-locating facilities such as libraries or community health centers to provide residents more of a one-stop destination for public services. The idea is not new; city halls were designed on the same principle, providing a single place for residents to pay a water bill, file a complaint or meet with an elected official. The opportunity now is to bring services together across jurisdictional lines. Some builders incorporate schools, community centers, fire stations and other amenities within their own developments, reflecting the role that the private sector can play.

Local agencies in Hillsborough have built stronger relationships in recent years. County commissioners gave Sheriff Chad Chronister about $1 million in county funding annually, enabling Hillsborough to be the first county in the state to assign crossing guards at all middle schools. The county also responded after several incidents where students were struck and injured by motorists by funding new school safety projects. Hillsborough’s new transportation tax also lays a foundation for the county and its three cities to better integrate transportation planning among the various jurisdictions, and to create safer school environments with new money for road, intersection and sidewalk improvements.

There’s no reason this shared concern with schools cannot be applied to other essential public services. Officials elected to local office have distinct responsibilities and, in some cases, distinct constituencies. But local assets need to be seen in a larger scope. And local governments need to better appreciate the resources they can leverage - from publicly owned land to regulatory incentives - to get the most from their infrastructure budgets. Digital communications has pioneered this ground already, delivering a range of social services to one’s fingertips. Hillsborough should keep exploring ways that local governments can work together in advancing the common goal of maintaining a high quality of life.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.


  1. Editorial cartoons for Wednesday from Times wire services Andy Marlette/Creators Syndicate
  2. The M-16 is a pure military weapon. File photo
    Wednesday’s letters to the editor
  3. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, R-Palm Harbor, speaks Tuesday after Republicans selected him as the next House speaker.  Associated Press I Caina Calvan BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Palm Harbor Republican will become the second Florida House speaker from Pinellas.
  4. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
  5. editorial cartoon from times wires Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal
  6. Governor Ron DeSantis. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s paper.
  7. Chris Corr is the president of Raydient Places & Properties, Rayonier, and the chair of the Florida Council of 100, a nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders. Tim Nickens
    The Council of 100 focuses on new strategies to recruit and retain the best teachers. | Column
  8. Oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in April 2010.  [Associated Press]
    The House has voted to permanently ban oil drilling off the Gulf Coast. Now the Senate should approve it.
  9. Oscar-winning pop star Sam Smith, who is non-binary, announced Friday that they now use "they/them" as their third-person pronouns. On social media, they said that "after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am ..." JOEL C RYAN  |  Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
    The singer now uses they/them pronouns. It shouldn’t be hard for reporters to recognize — and explain — gender non-binary terms. | Ashley Dye
  10. After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor.