Not helping. This week, a Democratic state lawmaker pushed a politically tin-eared resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war that was roundly criticized and voted down 104 to 2 on the House floor. Fair enough. It was poorly worded, ill-timed and a lost cause from the start. But that does not justify one particularly disturbing part of the proceedings. At one point, the lawmaker asked: “We are at 10,000 dead Palestinians. How many will be enough?”
“All of them,” replied an at first unidentified female lawmaker, later reported to be Republican Rep. Michelle Salzman from Pensacola.
All of them? Two million Palestinians lived in the Gaza Strip and another 3 million in the West Bank when Israel responded to Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Oct. 7. More than 14 million Palestinians live around the world. They all deserve to be killed?
Imagine a state lawmaker who advocated for killing “all” the Jews or “all” the Catholics or “all” the Blacks. The condemnation would be swift and relentless. Yes, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is tense and elicits strong emotions. But this is a lawmaker on the floor of the Florida House calling for extinguishing an entire nation of people. All. Of. Them.
It takes a profound ignorance — or maliciousness — to utter such nonsense. And it’s a stain on Florida.
HART’s new leader. Congratulations to Scott Drainville for scoring what’s possibly the most unenviable high-profile and high-paying job in Tampa Bay. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board unanimously approved a full-time contract for Drainville on Monday, elevating the interim chief executive to the agency’s permanent leader. Drainville, who will make $245,000, joined the agency in 2018, and he’s well familiar with a string of difficult setbacks since then, from an ill-fated transportation tax referendum that the courts torpedoed to the more recent turmoil in HART’s front office. Drainville, who has three decades of experience in mass transit and fleet maintenance, needs to calm the waters at the beleaguered agency and see through a study the Legislature commissioned that could merge HART with another transit operation. Nobody should expect much on the transit front in Hillsborough. Drainville can contribute, though, by calming the waters at HART and by bringing a new regard for openness and accountability.
Speeding on Gandy. While Hillsborough transit is in the slow lane, the speeds on Gandy Boulevard are off the charts. So it was good to see area law enforcement agencies crack down last week. Officers from six agencies issued 223 citations last weekend on Gandy Boulevard and the bridge, and gave an additional 156 warnings to drivers. This is the sort of enforcement saturation residents need with speeding and street racing becoming more serious along the span connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The speed limit on the bridge is 55 mph; most of the tickets issued were given to drivers going 20 to 30 mph over the limit. (A St. Petersburg woman was arrested in October after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper reported her speeding at 120 mph on the Gandy Bridge.) The comfort that many drivers have with these excessive speeds, and their failure to move over a lane for stopped law enforcement and service vehicles, presents an everyday danger that warrants more of these multijurisdictional safety patrols.
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Flying high. Good to see Tampa International Airport expanding its roster of nonstop flights to Canada. For years, it’s been easy to fly to Toronto, but by early spring, it will have more airlines, nonstop flights and seats to Canada than it’s ever had before. Tampa Bay residents will be able to fly nonstop to seven Canadian cities, as far west as Calgary and as far east as St. John’s in the province of Newfoundland. (Fun fact: St. John’s is a little closer to Ireland than it is to Tampa). Hamilton, Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa round out the Canadian roster. Now how about a nonstop to Vancouver?
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.