Sunday, November 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Neighborhood activism offers an antidote to toxic politics

Every day brings a new reminder that government seems to be tilting toward some warped idea of winning and away from the actual delivery of service.

Every day also brings a new reminder that this fixation on power notwithstanding, there still is a place for the kind of open, serious debate that can lead to meaningful action — even more meaningful when measured by its impact on the daily lives of the governed.

That place is the neighborhood. People who feel strongly about what's happening around them are getting together at kitchen tables, in library meeting rooms, at the podium of public forums in pursuit of a cause.

Often, no one ever hears about their work outside the neighborhood. Sometimes, when the cause engages enough people, they make headlines.

The examples are many.

Like when the city of Tampa took up a proposal for a private club that amounts to a commercial enterprise along residential Bayshore Boulevard. Or when state engineers moved to pave over parts of resurgent Tampa neighborhoods for toll lanes along Interstate 275. When residential development threatened the rural nature of the Keystone community. And when supporters and critics of the Temple Terrace mayor spoke for more than hour on questions about her academic credentials.

Perhaps the most compelling example came when a series of killings in Seminole Heights sparked a "Seminole strong" movement that answered fear with unity.

Many of these headlines have appeared in the pages of the Tampa Tribune, the Hillsborough County supplement to the Tampa Bay Times that until now has appeared twice a week. Starting next week, The Tribune will be published on Fridays only, but don't worry — you'll still find the same attention in these pages to matters that are important to people where you live.

Neighbors don't always step forward on the same side of an issue, of course. And their eagerness to get involved doesn't guarantee success, as some of the examples above demonstrate. Activism can also take the form of what some deride as "nimbyism," for not in my backyard — the idea that people can be selfish opponents of real progress if it comes at some cost to them.

But overall, the very act of neighborhood engagement promises a better result. Leaders in local government enjoy a steady stream of input from the wealthy and the powerful. They need to hear more, and listen better, when the input comes from people at the receiving end of their decisions.

Neighborhood activism is a kind of tonic for today's toxic political debate. It generally arises from people with a genuine interest in achieving a practical result.

For the health of our democracy, a government focused on practical results must be restored in Washington and Tallahassee, too. A founding principle in this system of representative government was to cool the passions of the moment with the deliberative reason of enlightened thinkers.

Instead, on sweeping national issues such as immigration and health care, the passions of the moment have become paramount.

Looking closer to home, we can take heart in the enduring value of collaborating with our neighbors to make life better in our smallest of communities. The path to progress is clearer here. Perhaps one day soon, it will lead once again to those in power at every level.

Comments
Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Column: Following through on Hillsborough education referendum

Your vote sends a message to our leaders that we value education.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Published: 11/16/18
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18
Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

The state is taking action to minimize wrong-way crashes
Published: 11/11/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Three veterans depart, clearing the way for new faces
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18