The highs and lows of the past week in Tampa Bay and Florida
History (finally), an unjust law, setting the wrong example and applauding St. Pete’s city workers
St. Petersburg city employees clean up dead fish from Red Tide at Bay Vista Park on Thursday.
St. Petersburg city employees clean up dead fish from Red Tide at Bay Vista Park on Thursday. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jul. 17

Hat tip to St. Pete city workers. Did anyone work harder this week than the crews in St. Petersburg scooping up dead fish? A severe Red Tide bloom that shows no sign of going away has unleashed an onslaught of dead marine life along St. Petersburg’s coastline. Already, St. Petersburg has collected more than 600 tons of the nearly 800 tons of dead marine life that has washed ashore across Pinellas County. This is miserable, backbreaking work, scooping dead fish day-in, day-out in 90-plus degree temperatures without any real sense that the toil is paying off. But it is. Aside from mitigating the toxic fumes, these workers are also helping to keep the Red Tide from worsening, by preventing dead fish from releasing more nutrients into the water. So if you run across these workers this weekend, remember to say thanks. Better yet, buy them a Coke.

More than 50 years after the moon landing. We note with hometown pride the historic event taking place at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, as the Tampa Bay Rays host the Baltimore Orioles, in what will be the first major-league game called by an all-female broadcast team. The game, which will be shown exclusively on YouTube, will feature Melanie Newman, a member of the Orioles’ broadcast crew, along with Sarah Langs of and Alanna Rizzo from the MLB Network. The news is as welcome as it is bewildering; why has it taken until 2021 to break this dated barrier? Rizzo, in a statement, showed class in conveying the meaning of the moment, noting the broadcast shows “that baseball is a game for everyone.” And she rightly added: “I am looking forward to being a part of this historic, inaugural event but looking more forward to when this is the norm versus the exception.”

Protests we love, or don’t. Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t wasted a moment this week capitalizing on the unrest in Cuba, demanding a stronger response from the Biden administration to the anti-government protests on the communist island. But back here at home, two Cuban-Americans who demonstrated in Tampa in support of the same cause ended up being held without bail for nearly two days under a law the Republican-led Legislature and DeSantis championed. Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez of Tampa and Maikel Vazquez-Pico of Riverview face charges that include battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting and taking part in an unlawful assembly stemming from a demonstration in Tampa this week that blocked streets and sidewalks. The pair should have been able to post bail immediately. But a new law that state Republicans made a priority this year requires that anyone arrested on unlawful assembly charges must be held without bail until their first appearance before a judge. This is a waste of public resources that’s meant to crack down on protected speech and to punish those arrested before the state proves its case. The requirement to hold defendants in these types of cases without bail is indefensible. It’s another reminder of the many differences that should distinguish the U.S. from Cuba.

Look in the mirror. Florida’s unemployment system performed disastrously during the pandemic, and state Republican leaders hardly lifted a finger, because it was cheaper and more politically expedient to demonize the jobless as lazy tax cheats. Now comes the announcement that Florida has agreed to pay $17.5 million to resolve allegations that it cheated the federal food stamp benefits system. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that the Florida Department of Children and Families agreed to settle allegations that, starting in 2010, the agency “injected bias” into its reporting of the food stamp program. The federal government, which reimburses states for administering food stamps, provides performance bonuses to states that report the lowest and most-improved error rates. The allegations against Florida accused DCF of submitting “false quality control data and information,” which resulted in the state receiving “unentitled performance bonuses” for 2011 and 2012. So much for state government setting the right example.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.