This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
It’s been a hard month — mass shootings, inflation, war, a leaked Supreme Court draft on abortion. The American West is drying up. People are going hungry. Hurricane season is 13 days away. And, of course, politics roll on as usual, which is to say, too caustic and too extreme. What’s next? “No Country for Old Men’s” Anton Chigurh strolls into the little country store that we call America and asks us to bet everything on a coin flip? Seems possible, the way things are going.
The grim, grime and disgraceful make it all the more important to find ways to celebrate. We can get back to the rest of it tomorrow. Here are nine reasons plucked from recent news to feel a little better about our world.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. Florida’s unemployment rate is a bitsy 3.2 percent. The unemployment rate is not a perfect proxy for the overall economy, and it doesn’t account for people who have given up looking for work or otherwise dropped out of the workforce. But, geez, let’s not split hairs as we look for things to make us feel better. Only twice since 1976 has the rate been lower — in the mid 2000s and in the six months before COVID-19 hit. Low unemployment is a win, even if a recession lurks around the corner.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s quest for a three-peat. The hockey team survived a nail-biting series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and began a second-round series with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The Lightning has a chance to win three consecutive Stanley Cups, something that hasn’t happened since the New York Islanders won four in a row in the early 1980s, when none of the current Lightning players were alive. The Lightning need to beat the Panthers and then win two more playoff series to pull off the remarkable feat. That’s no easy task. But hope lives. Go Bolts!
Proof that we are still capable of doing the right thing. If you found $5,800 in cash, might your mind drift to all the ways it would make your life better? Pay off the car loan? Make a dent in the credit card debt? Fly to Europe for a couple weeks? Thankfully, the folks who found Raymond Krug’s two wallets on a Pinellas County bus last month shook off such temptations. They went the extra mile to safeguard the money — as reported by the Times Lane DeGregory — and ensure it got back to Krug — every last bill.
Reopening adult daycare centers. COVID-19 had shuttered Hillsborough County’s facilities, which provide space for older adults to gather and socialize. We are learning more and more about how important it is to have meaningful contact with other human beings, a challenge for some older adults, including those who suffer from disabilities including dementia. The country can seem like an angry place. But the reopening of these facilities remind us of how much we still need each other, even if it’s just for a laugh or to brag about the grandkids.
Florida’s death row got a little more humane. OK, we get it. It’s hard to feel sorry for death row inmates, all of who were found guilty of terrible crimes. But as part of a long-running federal lawsuit, the state corrections department agreed to some common sense changes, including allowing eligible death-sentenced prisoners to spend more time outside their cells and to hold prison jobs within the death row housing unit. The settlement also guarantees access to mental health care. Death row shouldn’t be a stay at the Ritz, but allowing inmates to see the sun a little more often is hardly akin to coddling.
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COVID not as deadly now? It’s hard to see any upside when the virus has killed nearly 75,000 Floridians (and more than 1 million Americans) and when nearly all of us have been touched by loss. The state’s death rate, though, has remained comparatively low over the last six weeks despite a steady increase in COVID cases. If past COVID waves were prologue, COVID deaths would have already started to tick up significantly. Not this time, at least not yet.
An innovative law leads to much-needed affordable housing. A 264-apartment complex could rise from a lumber yard in St. Petersburg thanks to a state law enacted last summer that allows developers to build affordable housing on lots zoned industrial. The Fairfield Apartments project on the Tibbetts Lumber property along 34th Street S and near the Pinellas Trail would be one of the first times the law is used. Affordable housing remains one of the area’s main challenges. This project could become a blueprint for other developers to follow.
Humbled by the vastness of the universe. Congrats to the folks who paid attention in physics and math classes in high school (and college and graduate school). Without them, we don’t get to stand in awe of their findings, including the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. (How massive? Thanks for asking. Four million times as large as our sun.) That’s astonishing and super cool. For a slightly different take — and a good laugh — read Times columnist Stephanie Hayes’ reaction to the recently released images of the black hole.
The future looks brighter with these high achievers. Want an instant pick me up? Take a look at the lists of valedictorians and salutatorians from Pinellas and Hillsborough area high schools (Pasco and Hernando’s lists run soon). The Times publishes the lists for public and private schools, including photos of the students and where they are headed after graduation. Gazing upon these high achievers, one can’t but wonder if they might help solve some of the world’s challenges.
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 Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.