Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired the fatal shots feared for their lives.

But the job of discouraging the opportunity for such a tragedy to unfold falls to the Hillsborough County Commission, whose members Thursday signalled they’ll take a welcome fresh look at ordinances designed to protect the safety of young people.

Whether any law could have prevented these particular deaths can never be known. Investigators say that in a search of the car occupied by the two victims, they found two handguns that had just been fired. But this incident joins a sad litany of reminders that the potential for danger is high when people get large numbers of teens together to party.

In 2010, a high school graduation party at an event venue in Brandon ended in tragedy when the 70 invited guests ballooned to 300 — some from rival high schools — and a fistfight quickly turned into a shootout. One graduate was fatally shot and another was arrested on murder charges.

Teens hold no monopoly on the potential for danger posed by large, unregulated parties. The same security firm that employed the two guards in the New Year’s Day shooting is facing two lawsuits in connection with violence that erupted at adult clubs where it had been hired.

But County Commissioner Ken Hagan spoke for many parents at Thursday’s commission meeting when he indicated that the dangers teens face warrant special consideration: "Having a 15-year-old 10th-grader," Hagan said, "you can imagine this issue concerns me."

Commissioner Sandy Murman suggested working with the city of Tampa to deal with this through uniform ordinances.

The commissioners were responding to a story by staff writer Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times pointing out differences in city and county ordinances that apply to large gatherings of teens.

In the city of Tampa, for example, event permits must be designated as "juvenile," with no one 18 or older allowed entry, or "adult," no one 17 or younger allowed, while Hillsborough County requires no separation. The city also requires hiring off-duty law enforcement officers — the county, only security guards.

The promoters of the New Year’s Day event violated existing zoning and event ordinances, county officials say, so it is clear that enforcement needs attention as well as getting the right laws are on the books. One challenge is the fleeting nature of one-night, pop-up gatherings such as this one — advertised and over with before anyone has a chance to check on them.

Going forward, it’s important to hone in on what’s reasonable and effective. Teens, of course, have always enjoyed independence and one another’s company. They will gather, and they will party, to ends that are sometimes rewarding and sometimes devastating. Their parents are ultimately responsible for their actions.

Where public policy enters the picture, in part, is dealing with those who would grow and regionalize teen parties to a commercial level — sometimes teens themselves, but especially promoters and landowners who would profit from them.

A visit to the scene of the New Years’s Day party is an argument for following up on the commissioners’ suggestions to do something.

It’s in a cramped, gritty, rundown neighborhood on a skinny, two-lane street ill-suited for the residential area that runs along one side let alone the industrial uses on the other. The dingy event hall is tightly surrounded by storage units with roll-up doors housing various repair shops.

Yet some 200 teens paid $10 each to welcome 2018 here with a "New Year’s Teen Pajama Jam," drawn through Facebook groups like "Tampa Teen Clubs" and "Tampa Talent" with glitzy promotions that belie the grim reality.

"Dub D Dance Hall" is what promoters called the place.

This venue’s days as a party hall may be over. But let’s hope that heading off its successors won’t require more people to die.

Comments
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18