Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Irma tests elected leaders, changes after Andrew

RECOMMENDED READING


With Hurricane Irma poised to punch Florida in the gut, the U.S. House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a $15 billion disaster aid package that should keep relief efforts here and in Texas running for the time being. The legislation, which also extended government funding and the federal borrowing limit until December, was the first significant display of bipartisanship between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats. That sort of collaboration will be necessary from Washington to Tallahassee to ensure Floridians get the assistance they need in the aftermath of this powerful hurricane.

The legislation should help both Texas and Florida cope with major storms. It includes $7.4 billion for grants for housing in affected areas and another $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which otherwise would have risked running out of funding at a critical time. There also is $450 million for the Small Business Authority disaster program. Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, with her hometown preparing for a direct hit from Irma, urged her colleagues to vote for the package. Inconceivably, two Florida Republicans — Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Ted Yoho of Gainesville — voted against the legislation. They chose to remain ideologically pure on fighting a rise in the federal debt limit rather than acting in the best interests of Floridians facing a catastrophic hurricane.

This won't be the last time the president and Congress will be called on to help. Irma is larger than Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992 and left behind more than $26 billion in damage. With Irma poised late Friday to cut a path up the length of the state, insurers say the losses could be far higher. That would require plenty of federal and state assistance, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran told his colleagues to be prepared for a potential special legislative session to respond — just as the Florida Legislature did 25 years ago after Andrew.

Fortunately, Florida is better prepared for Irma. Statewide, structures now have to be built to withstand winds of at least 111 mph. Miami-Dade and Broward counties have even tougher building codes. Those more stringent requirements will be tested like never before by Irma, and while there still could be significant damage, the tougher codes are bound to help.

Second, the state's property insurance market is in better shape than it has been in years. State-run Citizens Property Insurance, which was created after Andrew and for years was the largest insurer, has scaled back to about 450,000 policies. It has more than enough money in reserve to cover its claims after a 1-in-100-year storm, and it has access to enough money to cover about double that much. The state Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which can step in if insurers run out of money to pay claims, also has healthy reserves of about $15 billion in cash. The biggest question is how the untested smaller insurers that took policies out of Citizens will perform following Irma.

The focus today, of course, is on Irma's final approach to Florida and making last-minute preparations. This hurricane will test the state's emergency response, building codes and insurance industry. It also will test the ability of elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels to work together to help Floridians recover.

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