Highs and lows across Tampa Bay and Florida | Editorial
Progress on Jordan Park, UF and Tampa Bay Rays.
An architect's rendering of a new three-story senior housing complex that is planned to replace the Jordan Park historic village.
An architect's rendering of a new three-story senior housing complex that is planned to replace the Jordan Park historic village. [ St. Petersburg Housing Authority ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 11, 2021

Finally, Jordan Park. It’s been a long time coming, but the redevelopment of Jordan Park is finally here. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently approved the $93 million remake of St. Petersburg’s first Black public housing complex. Construction is to start in January, when the 31 Craftsman-style bungalows that make up its historic village will be razed and replaced by a 60-unit senior housing complex. More than 200 townhome apartments built around the start of this century will also undergo an extensive makeover. Federal approval marks the end of a tumultuous period in the complex’s history, where the project stalled until city leaders cleaned house at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority and got the plan back on track. The homes, for households that make less than 60 percent of the region’s median income, will put a dent in the city’s affordable housing needs. As important, the federal go-ahead signals a promising new era for the housing authority, which needs to demonstrate its ability to oversee the project. Residents who were relocated from the complex will have first right of refusal to return. The housing authority will need to keep residents in the loop as construction proceeds. Jordan Park is the city’s oldest public housing, built between 1939 and 1942, and its demise symbolized the neglect of African-American residents. Its next chapter is a test of the city’s commitment to do better by all those who call St. Petersburg home.

Police driving skills. It doesn’t happen that often, but police pursuits can be deadly — for officers, suspects and innocents alike. That’s why Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s request for a police driving course serves such a broad public benefit. In 2010, the agency had 77 pursuits, and the number increased until 2013, when Gualtieri moved to allow chases only if a driver had committed a forcible felony, such as murder or another violent crime. In 2020, the agency had eight pursuits; the year prior, five. That reflects a more responsible approach to high-speed chases. But it also underscores the need for law enforcement to brush up on the skills necessary for pursuits. The request for nearly $5 million in state funding would pay to build a pursuit course that would also be available to other law enforcement agencies in Pinellas. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department have training courses, which shows the value neighboring jurisdictions place on this training. This would be money well-spent in an effort to save lives and prevent injuries. And given the amount of time law enforcement officers spend on the road, any program that improves driving skills makes for safer policing and a safer community.

Is UF getting it? The University of Florida and faculty leaders took an important step Thursday in de-escalating a spiraling fight over academic freedom. The move followed weeks of intense national scrutiny over a federal lawsuit, a union grievance and a U.S. House of Representative investigation into allegations that UF had chilled its professors from teaching and speaking out on controversial issues. A meeting between UF president Kent Fuchs and Faculty Senate chairperson David Bloom produced something of a truce, with agreements in five areas that should foster an air of trust as talks continue. The changes announced include adding an appeal process and including faculty on committees to review decisions regarding the university’s conflict of interest policy, which has been broadly misused as a virtual gag order. Fuchs and Bloom further agreed to reaffirm the right of faculty to speak freely as granted under their First Amendment rights. It shouldn’t have taken a public blowup for the university to recognize its duty to defend academic freedom. But that’s the state of Florida’s political environment. We hope these promises turn into action.

Rays proposal soon? It’s far from a done deal, but Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said this week the city is working with Hillsborough County and the Tampa Sports Authority to craft what her spokesman called a “workable financial package” to attract the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, this saga has gone on for years, with entreaties on both sides of Tampa Bay. But this is the closest the region has got to putting a proposal on the table. Financing even half a $700 million stadium will be a long political reach. But the outlines of a deal are coming together, and they are serious enough to warrant public attention over the coming weeks.

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.