Does Tampa really need a celebrity Walk of Fame? | Editorial
Also in this week’s round up of highs and lows across the bay area: A promising high school program, a thoughtful judge and an alternative graduation.
Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan is one of the Tampa Bay area's most famous celebrities.
Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan is one of the Tampa Bay area's most famous celebrities. [ CHRIS CARLSON | Associated Press (2005) ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published May 20|Updated May 20

Look at us. Radio personality Jack Harris is toying with an old idea in his free time, lobbying to create a Tampa Walk of Fame. While Harris has knocked around the idea for decades, he’ll take his pitch to the Tampa City council next month. And Harris is ready with dozens of names of potential honorees, from current Hollywood star Patrick Wilson to professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. As Harris told the Times’ Paul Guzzo, a committee could pick the celebrities, and we could plunk the attraction in downtown Tampa, “maybe somewhere in Curtis Hixon Park,” with corporate sponsorships picking up the tab. Yeah, well — let’s see where this goes. But do we really need to keep honoring the same people from the same walks of life in the same overblown fashion? And please, the last thing we need in the downtown parks is another square-foot of concrete. At the risk of being unpopular, this seems like a cheesy idea — which means it’s got a chance.

Engaging high schoolers. Preparing high school students for the real world is a monumental challenge, but giving them confidence and the ability to communicate is the first step. That’s why the 3DE program is such an intriguing experiment. The name 3DE refers to “three dimensional education,” as the Tampa Bay Times’ Marlene Sokol reported recently. Born from an effort in Georgia with Junior Achievement to turn around a struggling school, the program involves a learning model that simulates the day-to-day work of businesses. In 3DE schools, English, math, science and social studies classes have been refocused to help solve challenges posed by companies like Home Depot and Delta Airlines. How can businesses improve the customer experience, or appeal to different customers? Students move together from year-to-year, forming bonds with teachers and each other, learning firsthand the value of critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. The 3DE organization educates about 13,000 students in five states, including more than 3,200 in Florida. The six Tampa Bay high schools using the program will be joined by three more in the fall. This novel approach has been credited with improving test scores, attendance and graduation rates. The program is relatively new and the results aren’t entirely uniform, but 3DE is certainly encouraging enough to continue exploring as a solid motivator for the next generation of young adults.

A judge’s thoughtfulness. It was heartening to see a federal judge take a pause this week as she mulled the sentence for a retired Air Force officer who kept classified documents. Robert Birchum, 55, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of unlawful retention of national defense information. The career airman, who once served at Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, served for 29 years, retiring in 2018 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. As a military intelligence officer, he was trusted to handle classified information. It was revealed in court that Birchum’s wife discovered a classified document while looking through her husband’s belongings in 2017. Investigators later searched the home and seized hundreds of pieces of information relating to national defense, including some labeled “Top Secret” and others labeled “Secret.” Birchum acknowledged he made “a series of mistakes” in keeping the items, though he denied any malicious intent, and said there was no unauthorized release of the information. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle showed the seriousness this case deserves by declaring she wanted more time to research an appropriate sentence. Prosecutors want 6½ years in prison, a probation investigator recommended four and Birchum’s defense attorney asked for probation. Given the totality of the circumstances, this is not a “throw the book at him” case. We are glad the judge is taking time to ensure a fair and just punishment.

New College graduates. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ hostile takeover of New College of Florida, the state’s historically quirky honors college, has been framed as many things — an ideological struggle against progressive thought, a power play in education and a tool for the governor’s expected Republican presidential run. But the focus this week turned rightly on the students. Hundreds of graduates, family members and friends gathered at a Sarasota art gallery Thursday for an “alternative commencement,” providing class members a chance to both celebrate their milestone and to send a very public message about the political mugging of a college long beloved for its non-conformity. Some graduates showed up in colorful attire, a nod to a decadeslong tradition of nontraditional graduations at New College. It also was a none-too-subtle poke at Republican lawmakers as they seek to bend New College into a conservative mold. Some said they couldn’t reconcile greeting new college officials on the stage at the traditional graduation. “Why would you want to shake the hands of the people responsible for this?” asked K.C. Casey, a graduate and event organizer. Parents (and taxpayers) should see that their educational dollars have paid off. These students have learned not only to think for themselves, but to act on it.

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 Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.