We might be stretching the definition of good news by playing the shark-attack card, but it’s been that kind of week. A good, a bad and an in-between development from around Tampa Bay and Florida.
Sharks social distancing? Good news: Florida’s sharks aren’t biting us as much. The Yearly World Shark Attack Summary from the International Shark Attack File recorded just 16 unprovoked attacks in the Sunshine State in 2020, down from its five-year average of 30. More comforting: None of the 16 were fatal and none were recorded in Tampa Bay area counties. Florida’s tally still makes up nearly half of all the attacks in the nation and more than a quarter of the unprovoked bites worldwide, and the pandemic may have made it harder for researchers to confirm as many bites. But shark attacks have always been rare, and the reassuring 2020 numbers provide another excuse to head to an (uncrowded) beach to escape the COVID-19 doldrums.
The state’s here to help. Uh-oh. Can Gov. Ron DeSantis stop talking about big tech and media conspiracies for a minute and get a grip on the vaccine rollout? Drug store and grocery chains are already doing much of the heavy work thanks to Florida’s decimated public health system. Now the state has rolled out a vaccine registration site that has only added to the chaos. At least for now, many counties are not using the system, preferring their own or complaining that the state hasn’t worked out the kinks with its portal. It’s another failed effort to bring order to the vaccine rollout, showing an inattention to detail and bad communications. There is no greater statewide priority now than getting this right.
Lopano’s good. And he gets paid for it. It’s not really news when Joe Lopano gets a raise — he’s received so many of them since becoming Tampa International Airport CEO in 2010. But his ever-rising salary made the way his nominal governing board fawned all over him this week a little hard to swallow. The board approved the terms of a new five-year deal for Lopano, which includes a 7 percent raise and annual increases that will push his $509,000 salary to more than $661,000 by the contract’s end in 2025. The only no-votes came from the board’s two elected members, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, who rightly voiced the need for caution amid the ongoing pandemic. Board members Gary Harrod and Chip Diehl were fine with the money and apparently blind to the optics. “We’re so lucky” for Lopano, Harrod said. Noting Lopano’s national reputation, Diehl said: “He could leave tomorrow.”
There’s no need to be obsequious. TIA isn’t some backwater that couldn’t attract another talented leader. Still, it’s possible to acknowledge both sides of this coin — that Lopano is paid a lot of money, and he’s a terrific leader.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, editorial writers John Hill and Jim Verhulst, and Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news