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Highs and lows of the week in Tampa Bay and Florida | Editorial
Petulance, opening the beaches, opioids surge, and please just collect the garbage
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 9

Sixth grade all over. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and the state Board of Education continue to show who are the children and who are the adults in Florida’s K-12 system. On Thursday, the board agreed to financially punish eight Florida school districts for their continued hard line on masking, which is contrary to state edicts. Of course, the state is wrong on the science and wrong on the policy, and Corcoran and the board compound these mistakes by bullying elected school board members. If the arrogance of these political appointees wasn’t rich enough, add this hypocrisy: Corcoran called the Biden administration’s offer to reimburse these districts for any penalties “egregious.” So it’s okay for Corcoran and company to kick around the school districts but not be second-guessed themselves?

Our beaches, all access. The Pinellas County beaches are world-famous and a billion-dollar linchpin of the area economy. So why should it be so hard for the disabled or the elderly who live here to walk out to the surf? For the estimated 117,000 Pinellas County residents with a mobility disability, as the Tampa Bay Times reported this week, the coveted beaches in their own backyards remain largely inaccessible. Blame cost, indifference and red tape. But now advocates are making a commendable push to get beyond the treachery of sand so that those in wheelchairs can better access the beach. The disability advocacy group Help Us Gather has offered to fully fund mobility mats — nonslip pathways made from recycled material that help individuals avoid getting stuck in the sand. Beach communities should jump on the offer and work expeditiously to get them installed.

Public health before politics. America rallied as the coronavirus sparked a crisis on every front, from hospitals and workplaces to the schools. But the latest surge is in opioid addictions. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American overdose deaths increased 30 percent between February 2020 and February 2021. But Florida saw a 34 percent spike: some 7,700 people lost their lives to an overdose in that time, as the Times reported this week. State lawmakers, who are preparing for the 2022 session in January, need to confront this disaster and public health scourge. That means spending more on community mental health and substance abuse treatment. Of course, expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would help the fight enormously. Can Florida Republicans explain again why that’s a nonstarter?

Paid to do a job. Hillsborough County was right to fire a shot this week at a waste hauler plagued by complaints of poor service. Waste Connections, which serves 133,000 customers in the county, missed pickups for June and most of July after it didn’t land one of the three new franchise agreements effective Feb. 1, 2022. The company failed to complete 393 routes and missed pick-ups at more than 458,000 homes between June 1 and July 23, triggering hundreds of complaints, the county said. Waste Connections said the lost contract resulted in it getting squeezed by an already tight labor market and that it spent millions to fix the problems. The county says the company’s service has been satisfactory since. That’s fine, but with months remaining on the job, and the holiday’s approaching, Hillsborough needs to ensure there are no more lapses in service.

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.