Climate change and a baseball stadium rock Tampa Bay this week

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This article represents the opinion of the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.

Climate and baseball. Do you think climate change is a distant problem that does not affect the here and now? Think again. During a roundtable this week, Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld said sea level rise has changed where the team can scout for potential new sites for stadiums. “Sites that once seemed like great places to build a ballpark should now be underwater,” he said. Although Auld declined to say which venues the team might have once considered but will no longer do, it is worth recalling that the Rays have considered building a stadium at the Al Lang site along the waterfront. from downtown St. Petersburg in 2007. The plan went nowhere. St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, who attended the same conference as Auld on Tuesday, told the Tampa Bay Weather he hasn’t heard Rays executives say they’ve eliminated potential venues due to weather issues. But the mayor noted: “Certainly sea level rise has to be taken into account.” It is good to see public and private leaders integrating the climate into their long-term investment plans. Stadiums, waterworks and other major facilities, after all, have decades-old life expectancies. We need to be smarter about planning and spending – and that mindset needs to start now.

And transportation too. Speaking of rising seas, four Tampa Bay mayors appeared at the same climate conference on Tuesday and stressed how critical public transit is to managing a warming planet. While climate change is a global issue, the consequences of extreme heat and rising seas will be felt strongly locally, especially on the Florida coast. The state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up levees and strengthen stormwater systems, but local communities must also do their part to reduce fossil fuel burning. To this end, the expansion of public transport, which can save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, must be a priority. Hillsborough County is set to impose another transportation tax this year to replace a 2018 measure struck down by the Florida Supreme Court. This effort is the first step in making public transit a viable option and creating a more efficient transportation system across Tampa Bay.

The example of the schools of Hillsborough. The Hillsborough County School District should be applauded for standing firm on two key issues. First, officials are looking at federal and other funding to replace the millions of dollars that should have been available from the state. So-called “school recognition” funds are awarded most years to high-performing schools, but this year Republican lawmakers decided to punish the 12 Florida school districts, including Hillsborough, who imposed mask mandates on the contempt of Governor Ron DeSantis. In recent years, Hillsborough schools have received up to $9 million. The governor’s reckless handling of the pandemic is bad enough, but the legislature has taken its pettiness to a new low by punishing districts that prioritize student health. And who stands to lose by denying districts these funds? The students, of course. So much for freedom. Hillsborough School Board members were also right to double down on their support for the LGBTQ community in the wake of DeSantis signing the so-called “don’t say gay” law. Board critics who claim to champion freedom have no idea what the word means. Hillsborough stood on the right side of these issues and set a fine example for school children in the process.

Big gifts. There are surprises and then there are multi-million dollar surprises, like those recently rolled out by the estate of David Baldwin. Known in local philanthropic circles, the retired technology and software entrepreneur was a generous donor to many causes, but few seemed to know the extent of this unassuming man’s wealth. They do now. His estate donated $63 million to local nonprofits, including $9.5 million to St. Petersburg Academy Preparatory Center, $9.5 million to St. Petersburg, more than $9 million to metropolitan ministries and about $6 million to R’Club Child Care Inc. Baldwin, who died last year at age 96, enjoyed cheap meals and rode his bike around of St. Petersburg (even in his 90s). Congratulations to the late Mr. Baldwin for his understated style and obvious generosity.

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Editorials are the corporate voice of the Tampa Bay Times. Members of the Editorial Board are Editorial Editor Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and President Paul Tash. To follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinionated news.

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