Monday, November 20, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Vigilance is key in recovering from Irma

RECOMMENDED READING


Sunday's overnight fears turned into anxiety Monday as millions of Floridians began the tough slog of recovering from Irma, the first hurricane to strike Tampa Bay since 1921. Though we were spared a direct hit when the eye itself veered east, the upending of lives and damage to property are still serious. Federal, state and local authorities performed well in preparing the state before Irma, and they need to show the same vigilance and forward thinking in the time ahead to help Florida recover from this natural disaster.

There's no doubt it could have been worse. A storm that spent most of its life as a record-setting Category 5 hurricane first made landfall in Florida early Sunday as a Category 4 near Cudjoe Key. The storm later made landfall near Marco Island, at Category 3 strength, before moving up the southwest coast and weakening to a Category 2 before jogging east toward Lakeland, brushing Tampa Bay as a Category 1. The bay area was spared the brunt of the storm as Irma moved quickly north, weakening along the way. But it cut a devastating swath across the lower half of the state and impacted millions even beyond its expansive wind cone.

Gov. Rick Scott and state and local authorities did a good job of readying Floridians in advance of Irma by staying visible and on-message about the threats to life and after-storm impacts. They will need to bring the same focus to several key areas is the coming days:

• Emergency assistance. Irma's punch and wide reach could make it difficult to fully assess the scope of the devastation for days. The Federal Emergency Management Agency needs to quickly deploy its resources and ensure the basics — shelter, water, food and sanitation — are readily available in the affected areas. The hot, rainy summer season is still here and people need help in bringing order to their lives. The power companies appear poised to respond well, but the state will need to ensure that service is restored in a reasonable manner. Neighborhoods without power need extra security patrols. This is no time for desperate residents to take matters into their hands out of a feeling that the government has forgotten them.

• Back to normal. More than 6 million people were called upon to evacuate, and millions will be on the road in the days ahead, inching back to uncertainty. State and local authorities need to move this traffic in a safe and timely manner and ensure that gas supplies are distributed across the state. In the bay area alone, tens of thousands sought emergency shelter; many will face special needs as they move from hardened shelters to homes and neighborhoods damaged by the storm. Authorities need to ensure these residents are safe and able to move about to meet their daily needs.

Insurance and gouging. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi have been proactive in helping homeowners prepare to file insurance claims and to protect consumers from price gouging. They'll need to stay on both issues. Irma will test the good faith and capabilities of the newly formed insurance companies, which have a public obligation to handle claims in a fair and timely manner. Given the duration of a rebuilding effort, Bondi's office needs to protect against fraud in the hardest-hit areas over the long term.

It was a harrowing weekend and this week will be tough. The rebuilding process will take time, money and a sense of urgency at all levels of government. But the storm is behind us, and it's time to pick up the pieces and to make the recovery as fast and smooth as possible.

Comments

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17