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The highs and lows across Tampa Bay and Florida | Editorial
Sounds, slush funds, being true to your school and what’s in a number?
A scene from Robles Park where the state is proposing a 14-foot wall to compensate for not being able to install a sound barrier to separate the wall from I-275 since sound-proof walls cannot be installed at parks.
A scene from Robles Park where the state is proposing a 14-foot wall to compensate for not being able to install a sound barrier to separate the wall from I-275 since sound-proof walls cannot be installed at parks. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jan. 15

See through the trees. It’s amazing how government bureaucrats tie themselves in knots when doing the right thing is infinitely easier. How else do you explain not protecting a Tampa park from the sights and sounds of an interstate at its door? Robles Park is a 17-acre gem north of downtown Tampa, complete with a pond, walking trail and community center. But as the Tampa Bay Times’ C.T. Bowen reported this week, state officials had no plans to build a barrier wall at Robles Park to protect it from the ongoing expansion of Interstate 275. The highway runs parallel to the park. And barrier walls were planned along the 2.5-mile long expansion corridor — everywhere except at Robles. We’ll spare you the gibberish the state is trying to pass for justification. Hillsborough County officials are right to ask the Florida Department of Transportation to meet with the community to determine an appropriate barricade. Money is hardly an issue here; what’s more important are the aesthetics. A natural wall — a vegetation-covered metal trellis or landscaped hedges or trees — seems more fitting than a Berlin Wall-style concrete barrier. But let’s acknowledge the oversight was wrong and start looking for solutions.

What’s $1 billion? Florida senators revived a proposal this week to create a $1 billion slush fund that Gov. Ron DeSantis could tap during emergencies. The move is not only doubly convenient, but needless and irresponsible. Giving the governor a $1 billion check to react to emergencies that he declares is rife with obvious conflicts. A House-Senate committee can already authorize mid-year budget changes for an emergency. That oversight is an indispensable check on the powers of the purse. And nobody has justified anything near a $1 billion figure. If there’s reason enough for suspicion, consider that the law would expire in four years, in the final months of DeSantis’ second term should he be reelected and serve all of the second four years.

Homecoming of sorts. Pro basketballer Kevin Knox II scored a big one for the home team — his alma mater, that is. The Atlanta Hawks forward has donated $2 million to Tampa Catholic High School to create a new gymnasium, the school announced this week. Knox, 22, said in a news release that he was inspired to donate by his former coach, Don Dziagwa, and by the school’s mission of giving back to one’s community. “(Tampa Catholic) helped me become the person and player I am today,” Knox said. “Being a TC Crusader will always be a part of who I am on and off the court.” The new facility, which will be named the Kevin Knox II Fieldhouse, will feature a fitness center, a Hall of Fame Pavilion, Champions Hall, coaching suites, video scoreboard, men’s and women’s locker rooms, bleachers and concessions. It is anticipated to be complete by spring. “We can’t imagine a finer example of an alumnus who exhibits faith, excellence and family,” Tampa Catholic principal Robert Lees said in a news release.

What’s your number? Florida is running out of phone numbers. So beginning Jan. 22, 10-digit dialing comes to the Tampa Bay area, as a new area code — 656 — joins longstanding 813. Callers will have to use a 10-digit system, dialing both the area code and the 7-digit telephone number to connect in greater Tampa. The 813 region is centered on Tampa and includes surrounding communities such as Brandon, Land O’ Lakes, Oldsmar, Riverview, Thonotosassa, Town ‘n’ Country, Valrico and Zephyrhills. But numbers in the 813 area code were expected to run out this year, as demand for telephone numbers and services has increased. Of course, we’ve seen this before. When the three-digit code system went into effect, in 1947, Florida had a single area code — 305. Then it added 904 for the northern part of the state and 813 for the Tampa Bay area and southwest Florida. As the state’s population swelled, these area codes outgrew their pants, leading to 407, 954 and — well, the rest is history. So as you’re fuming while punching a 10-digit number to order takeout Chinese, just appreciate the hassle for what it is: a sure sign of a growing state with ever more to offer.

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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.

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