Gov. DeSantis rolls out his Golden Oldies on COVID bogeymen | Editorial.
Also among this week’s highs and lows: A good hire at the local Urban League and a smart step forward for Pinellas County government.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a fundraising event for U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, last month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a fundraising event for U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, last month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. [ CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Sept. 9, 2023

Ron’s Golden Oldies. Plop another quarter in the jukebox: Ron DeSantis is reprising his COVID soundtrack, and he’s hoping people (at least in Iowa) are itching to listen. On Thursday, the governor appeared in Jacksonville to criticize efforts across the U.S. to tamp down a recent jump in COVID-19 cases through temporary restrictions or masking. He said Florida won’t be joining states, cities or school districts that are taking precautionary measures to blunt the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. “People are lurching toward this insanity again,” DeSantis said. State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, whom DeSantis appointed, piped in to declare there were “a lot of red flags” in getting the latest vaccine. Who in Florida is calling for mask mandates, widespread social distancing or closing schools? This is contrived outrage in a phony war over a standoff that doesn’t exist. (And who listens to Ladapo for health advice anymore?) Maybe DeSantis thinks it helps energize the conservative base as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. It shows he’s struggling to offer anything new.

League’s promising choice. The new leader of a fabled civil rights organization has already achieved a first by becoming the only woman to head the Pinellas County Urban League. Officials announced Thursday that Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, the former director of urban affairs for the city of St. Petersburg, had been selected after a national search to become the league’s new president and chief executive. Gaskin-Capehart is the first woman to ever hold the position for the 46-year-old organization, succeeding the late Rev. Watson L. Haynes II, a towering civil rights figure in St. Petersburg who died in August 2022. Gaskin-Capehart said she wants to build on Haynes’ legacy, promoting housing, equity and other priorities in concert with the league’s clients and partners. Two former bosses, Tampa Bay-area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, praise Gaskin-Capehart for her creativity and collaborative skills, which are vital to expanding community support for the league’s invaluable work. Haynes left big shoes to fill, but this historic appointment bodes well for the league and for the goal of a more inclusive Tampa Bay.

Pinellas leaving Clearwater? There are pluses and minuses for Pinellas County in moving its government offices from downtown Clearwater to a more central location. That’s why it’s critical to make an informed decision, and to that end, county commissioners took another responsible step recently in considering whether to pull up stakes. Commissioners reached consensus on allowing staff to explore a suitable site, craft more detailed designs and assemble a timeline and costs. Of course, the details may change in time, but the big questions are becoming clear: Would Pinellas benefit from having a newer government campus more centrally located to residents? Would newer buildings be cheaper in the long run to operate and maintain? How could technology help by automating more services, shrinking the campus footprint and providing government services to the public more affordably and efficiently? And what would become of the Clearwater properties; more to the point, how could those properties contribute toward revitalizing Clearwater’s downtown? Pinellas should continue exploring this decision in a methodical way.

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.