I love looking at the front pages of newspapers. Sometimes the seemingly disparate topics on a given front page come together to create and amplify a common theme. Or sometimes a single, simple message emerges as a whole that’s different or greater than the sum of its parts. And so it was, one recent morning.
The newspaper was the Tampa Bay Times on July 17, a day that promised to be a typical hot summer day in Florida, with high temperatures in the low 90’s and humidity in the upper 60 percentile. It was muggy, with practically no breeze for relief, here in inland Tallahassee. The dominant front page headline was “Extreme heat seen in state’s future” and below it, a colorful picture of a highway work crew in bright yellow vests and hardhats, pouring and spreading the hot 275-degree black asphalt below a clear blue sky.
The story was about a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicating more frequent high temperature days in the future (defined as days with a heat index of 105 degrees or more). The common theme was heat. Florida has a shortage of highway workers because working in the heat is a tough sell. Despite wages that average $17 an hour for asphalt paving that can easily climb to $20+ an hour for related construction work, not enough people want to work in the heat. Meanwhile the DOT is creating plans for new major highways with millions of dollars committed by the legislature.
Then there’s the extreme weather debate. Is there truly “climate change” beyond the normal ebb and flow of Mother Nature or is it something more long-lasting? There, too is “heat” in that debate. And there’s increasing “heat” on our politicians and other policymakers to balance increasingly competing interests within a limited budget – education, public safety, healthcare, economic development, and infrastructure, such as transportation, to name but a few. The chorus is familiar: “do something” or “do more.”
Despite the heat, front page news is still the coolest thing going. Check it out at www.abovethefoldflorida.com in Florida and https://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/ for papers across the country. Now on to some cool and useful news to start your workweek!
LMA Newsletter of 7-29-19