A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

newspaper 05-17

A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — St. Petersburg should nurture IndyCar race

Imagine this. For a modest investment of $150,000, the city of St. Petersburg draws 160,000 race fans to its downtown waterfront. Tampa Bay gets tens of thousands of hotel nights, millions in economic impact and hours of worldwide television exposure for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Yet a City Council with a chip on its shoulder questions whether it is worth the money, offends the well-respected race organizers and jeopardizes the future of an event that took years to establish and that other cities would beg to attract.

Once again, the City Council sent the wrong signal this week to anyone outside St. Petersburg with the sophistication and financial means to bring signature events or developments to the city. A discussion of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s plans to extend Green Savoree Racing Promotions’ contract by three years turned sour. It reinforced the impression that this council can be its own worst enemy, too often driven by parochialism and an irrational fear of being exploited by more savvy private interests.

There are legitimate issues to discuss with Grand Prix promoters. Their decision to run the race earlier next year should have been talked over first with local hotels, museums and other businesses caught by surprise. But the city and the promoters are essentially partners, and these are not insurmountable issues.

Instead, the council meeting dissolved into attacking the race promoters, suggesting the contract go out for bid and floating the notion that somehow St. Petersburg no longer needs all of that free television exposure of its gorgeous waterfront. IndyCar has only a handful of the popular street races, and Green Savoree promotes both the St. Petersburg and Toronto races. Long Beach, Calif., has had a street race for decades. Boston gets its first IndyCar street race next Labor Day. But to council member Amy Foster, St. Petersburg apparently has moved beyond cities such as Boston and Toronto in cultural richness and may no longer need a race that draws international attention.

The Bradenton Herald — West stumbling toward compassion

As refugees continue to crawl across barbed wire fences and risk their children’s lives in boats crossing the Mediterranean, the West is stumbling toward a moderately more humane response to the most severe humanitarian challenge it has faced in decades. Yet its leaders’ new proposals remain inadequate even for the immediate need and heedless of the root causes of the crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a sometimes passionate appeal to the continent’s conscience last week, arguing that “historical fairness” demands that EU members accept a plan to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers — four times the number the union reluctantly agreed to just three months ago. The total is still far below the 500,000 migrants who have arrived in Europe already this year, or the 300,000 more who are expected.

The Obama administration, too, is inching toward a more progressive policy. The White House announced that the United States would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, and Secretary of State John Kerry told members of Congress that the administration could seek to increase overall refugee admissions from 70,000 this fiscal year to as many as 100,000 in the next 12 months. Yet that is only half the number of asylum seekers given U.S. harbor in the 1970s, when Vietnam’s “boat people” were fleeing. And so far fewer than 2,000 of the 17,000 Syrians referred to the United States by the United Nations have been granted entrance.

Given the scale of the crisis — more than 4 million Syrians have fled their country, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Libyans, Somalis and others — the bumped-up quotas remain pitifully inadequate. The International Rescue Committee has called on the United States to take 65,000 Syrians by the end of this year. Juncker pointed out that the half-million refugees now in Europe represent just 0.11 percent of the continent’s population, while tiny Lebanon and Jordan are hosting more than 1 million Syrians each. One reason for the growing tide is the failure to fund relief efforts in those countries: The U.N. has received just one third of the budget it sought for Syrian relief and has cut food aid to refugees in Lebanon twice this year.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Improve jail’s safety net

Inmates usually walk into Volusia County correctional facilities with little more than the clothes they’re wearing — no prescriptions, no treatment history except for records from previous incarcerations. And they may not be honest when telling jail officials what drugs or alcohol they’ve consumed. They may not be able to accurately describe their own mental-health status, or be aware of lurking health issues such as cardiac problems or diabetes.

That makes jail officials’ jobs hellishly difficult. Often, they are dealing with people deep in the grip of addictions — and facing a dangerous detox process behind bars. Other times, they are trying to help people who don’t trust them, or are determined not to be helped.

But these people are still human beings. And while they’re incarcerated, their well-being is the county’s responsibility.

Under law, counties must provide basic care, including addiction and mental-health services, to the inmates in their charge. And they must assure that those services are provided in a cost-effective, closely monitored manner — facing the reality that in Volusia County, the jail is the largest behavioral-health treatment facility.

The Florida Times-Union — City must have a plan ready after homeless resource center closes

Has the Jacksonville Day Resource done an effective job of helping the homeless since being launched as a pilot program in 2013?

It’s a big question that deserves an answer.

Many local advocates for the homeless maintain that the Day Resource Center has done well in meeting the practical needs of those who lack daytime shelter — access to showers, computers, laundry room — while also enabling social workers to do valuable face-to-face outreach with those visiting the downtown facility.

Others, most notably City Councilwoman Lori Boyer, note that no verifiable data has ever been provided that clearly shows the resource center, open merely three days each week, has made a sustainable impact in Jacksonville’s fight against homelessness.

But this much is beyond debate:

Vital stakeholders in the community — including Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration, City Council, homelessness advocates, downtown groups and others — must work together to develop a credible “Plan B” now that the city will close the resource center on Oct. 1.

And the collaboration must start now.

Florida Today – How to think like a four-star general

Ann Dunwoody is known as the first woman to become a four-star general, the U.S. Army’s highest rank. Why and how she got there offers lessons to anyone trying to do better at work, school or life.

Dunwoody successfully managed the largest deployment and redeployment of U.S. forces since World War II. She led a massive modernization of the Army’s global supply chain in the middle of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on ideas from FedEx and other companies. Former Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno called her: “Quite simply the best logistician the Army has ever had.”

Earlier in her career, Dunwoody was one of the first women to graduate from paratrooper school. She earned a master’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

I questioned Dunwoody, now retired, about her experiences, her take on women in combat and some of the leadership lessons in her recently published book “A Higher Standard.” Watch the full interview at FloridaToday.com/opinion.

The Gainesville Sun – Cheers and jeers

Untested rape kits can compound the crime committed, by failing to hold rapists accountable and exonerate innocent suspects.

Experts in the federal government estimate there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in police and crime lab storage facilities throughout the country, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, which advocates for their testing.

Cheer: Officials in Florida and New York City, for working to address that massive backlog. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said this week that she would make a top priority of testing the kits, which contain physical evidence collected from sexual assault victims.

DNA from the kits costs between $800 and $1,000 per kit to test, the Associated Press reported. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is seeking an additional $35 million in funding to hire more DNA analysts and pay them a competitive salary.

Some help is already on the way: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced this week that $38 million seized from international banks that violated U.S. sanctions would be distributed across the United States to eliminate backlogs of untested rape kits.

That includes nearly $1.3 million going to FDLE to test 2,076 kits, almost $2 million to Miami-Dade County to test 2,900 kits, and about $164,000 to the Tallahassee Police Department to test 225 kits.

As The Sun reported, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has submitted all of its untested rape kits to FDLE for testing. The Gainesville Police Department couldn’t provide an estimate of how many rape kits it has in storage.

The Lakeland Ledger — The snark side of a tense relationship

August was a rough month for law enforcement. Across America from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, 16 officers died in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Seven of them were shot, with the most heinous incident being the execution-style shooting of a Houston-area sheriff’s deputy.

We in Polk County have been blessed by having avoided such tragedy in the recent past. But sometimes just a near-miss underscores the seemingly routine threat police face. On Sept. 6 in Winter Haven, Polk County motorcycle Deputy Mike Walsh was jumped and beaten by man he had pulled over for a traffic stop. Were it not for three passers-by who aided him, Walsh might have been added to the roster of the fallen.

Yet we don’t require reports of injurious or deadly outlaw violence to illustrate the erosion of simple respect for those who protect the rest of us. Take a recent incident in South Florida. A clerk at an Arby’s in Pembroke Pines flatly refused to serve food to Sgt. Jennifer Martin because she was a police officer. The clerk, Kenneth Davenport, was suspended but kept his job. Yet his manager, who backed him, was fired, and Arby’s corporate office was forced to apologize.

On any given day in America, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, the police interact with the public more than 100,000 times. Fewer than 2 percent of those occasions involve the police resorting to force, or threatening that. Yet since August 2014, when an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., police critics have successfully woven together individual, local incidents into a national narrative suggesting trigger-happy cops everywhere shoot first and ask questions later.

The Miami Herald — Candidates and lies

Pity the poor American voter, sincerely trying to sort out the issues in the wacky presidential campaign. The record thus far suggests that too much of the overblown rhetoric on the campaign trail is not only so much hot air, but — to put it politely — at variance with the truth.

There’s nothing unusual about candidates telling stretchers occasionally, as when John F. Kennedy won votes by scaring voters in 1960 with dire warnings of an alleged “missile gap” with the Soviets. When the truth emerged, it turned out the gap was fictional. By then, JFK was president.

What’s new today is how often candidates resort to saying things that are not true. Facts and the historical record don’t matter. This seems to have become the default position for candidates racing around the country, uttering false or misleading statements without apology or shame.

Today, JFK’s “missile gap” might have been declared “False” or “Pants on Fire,” by PolitiFact, which has become an indispensable resource for anyone trying to keep track of all the whoppers.

On this score, Donald Trump is in a class by himself. His claim about building an impenetrable wall on our southern border is pure fantasy. But he’s gotten the numbers laughably wrong, too. His claim that there are “30 million, it could be 34 million” illegal immigrants in this country was rated “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact. A closer tally would be 11 million.

Problem is, it’s not only demagogues like Mr. Trump seemingly saying whatever suits them at the moment, but so-called serious candidates, as well. Among them are Democratic frontrunner (for now) Hillary Clinton and Florida’s two favorite sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Orlando Sentinel — Iran expert: Rethink nuclear deal: Front & Center

Congress will pass judgment soon on President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Under the deal with the U.S. and five other world powers, Iran would limit activities that could produce nuclear weapons for up to 15 years in return for relief from sanctions. The president appears to have lined up enough votes to stop Congress from blocking the deal. But in a recent Editorial Board interview, Ray Takeyh, a former top adviser on Iran for the U.S. State Department, called the deal flawed, and urged the White House to renegotiate it. Excerpts of that interview follow. A video of the full interview is at OrlandoSentinel.com/Opinion.

Q: You’ve been critical of the nuclear deal with Iran. What are its flaws?

A: Probably the foremost flaw of the agreement is the idea of a sunset clause, where the restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program really begin to fade at year eight, and then the process of fading continues all along to year 15. … Most arms-control agreements try to reduce the scope of a country’s nuclear capacity. This particular agreement reduces it, stabilizes it, then it envisions a spike, where Iran can move toward industrialization of its nuclear infrastructure, which at the very least, gives it a sneak-out capability toward a weapons program.

Q: Won’t the international resolve to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon collapse if this deal is rejected?

A: We’re not talking about collapsing the deal. A lot of people, including myself, are talking about renegotiating some aspects of this deal, such as the sunset clause; the research and development aspect of the deal, in terms of advanced centrifuges that Iran can introduce; and perhaps a more robust verification plan. … These are sensible propositions, these are advisable, and I think they are necessary.… I suspect if you renegotiate aspects of this agreement, you can sustain the international agreement but at the same time, broaden the domestic base of support that ensures the viability and longevity of the accord. … It’s going to be diplomatically challenging. But I think, ultimately, it’s been done before. … And it should be done in this case.

The Ocala StarBanner — Closing the civil justice gap

There are too many lawyers, yet there isn’t enough legal representation for those who need it.

When someone faces a legal problem with a landlord, a family law issue or other civil disputes, finding and affording the right lawyer can be a challenge. The World Justice Project ranked the United States 65th out of 99 countries in accessibility and affordability of civil justice.

The problem is particularly bad in Florida. An estimated 60 percent of residents can’t afford an attorney to address their legal needs but don’t qualify for legal aid, according to officials with The Florida Bar.

At the same time, there has been a constant drumbeat of news about the difficult job market for recent law-school graduates. Given the massive debt accumulated by those grads, a job in the profession is particularly important to paying the bills.

Technology offers a potential solution, according to Gordon Glover, an Ocala attorney who is president of the Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar. While websites offering legal forms may encourage people to handle legal matters on their own, he said new sites could be created to match lawyers who need work with people who need legal representation.

Technology also means those lawyers can run virtual firms from home, he said, reducing costs to clients. A person spending a fairly small sum to have an attorney help them with a legal matter can save money and problems down the road, he said.

The Pensacola News-Journal — Alcohol laws should be fair

We spent last Sunday in Santa Rosa County looking at the future of Milton. But news last week showed there’s reason to spend more time in the county.

On Thursday, Santa Rosa commissioners made the correct decision to change alcohol sales in Navarre to bring them in line with Navarre Beach. The board, by a 4-1 vote, approved changes to the alcohol ordinance in the south end of the county, equalizing hours of sale between Navarre Beach and Navarre.

Freshman Commissioner Rob Williamson brought the issue before the board. He points out rightly that it’s an unfair economic advantage between businesses on the beach and those along U.S. 98.

Conservatives should applaud the move because it levels the playing field for businesses who already compete with one another with price and location.

We believe this push for fairness should extend to the central part of the county — the bustling and growing Pace-Pea Ridge-Milton corridor — where sales are forbidden on Sunday. It hurts businesses, especially this time of year; today is the NFL opening weekend; and major league baseball is winding down. The playoffs start next month, with several games scheduled for Sundays.

We hope commissioners — and county residents — are swayed by James Sheib, general manager of Helen Back Again in Navarre. In a story about the board’s decision, Kaycee Lagarde quoted Sheib, who said changing the ordinance throughout the county would improve his business to the tune of about $30,000 in additional sales tax from his business and create at least eight new jobs.

“I think it also levels the playing field and brings about fairness to businesses that are operating within this tourist development district,” Sheib said, Lagarde reported.

To those who argue that more access to alcohol will increase drunken driving, we counter that those who drive to Escambia County via U.S. 98 or U.S. 90 and choose to drink then drive home are a bigger danger than someone traveling a few miles from a restaurant to home.

The Palm Beach Post — Democrats, Republicans and mushroom clouds

The Democratic Party has been weak-minded on defense for decades, but with the Iran capitulation, they’ve achieved a new threshold of cowardice and treachery.

While it’s true that an honorable handful of Democrats have resisted the president’s pressure, the overwhelming majority have chosen to go over the cliff with Barack Obama.

Democrats have long tended toward appeasement of aggressors. Throughout the Cold War, they scared themselves — and everyone else — silly conjuring specters of nuclear holocaust. Then-Sen. John Kerry was one of many prominent Democrats who endorsed the “nuclear freeze.” It wasn’t America’s enemies that we should fear, the Democrats argued, but the weapons themselves.

Democrats rejected the insight of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and others that the surest way to prevent war was “peace through strength.” The dumbfounding reality is that the Democrats have never acknowledged that Reagan’s approach succeeded. Instead, with Iran as our chief enemy now, they hope to replay the Cold War so that this time, we fully surrender.

At least the Soviets made it easy for them. Soviet leaders and propagandists of the 1970s and 1980s spoke silkily of their desire for “peaceful coexistence” with the West even as, behind the curtain, they were engaged in every form of subversion, terror, espionage and violence.

Iran, by contrast, doesn’t bother to disguise its hatred for our country. There is no disingenuous talk of coexistence.

The Panama City News-Herald — America’s reckless refuge for Jihad

On the anniversary week of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama is rolling out the welcome mat to tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees. What could go wrong?

There’s no need to hypothesize. Our nation remains utterly incapable of screening out legitimate dreamers from destroyers, liberty-seekers from liberty-stiflers. Indiscriminate asylum and refugee policies rob the truly deserving of an opportunity for freedom — and threaten our national security.

It’s shameful that our leaders in Washington, sworn to uphold and defend our Constitution and our people, suffer chronic amnesia about the fatal consequences of open borders. I’ll keep reprinting my reminders. Maybe someday someone in a position of power will pay heed, throw political correctness out the window, and stop hitting the snooze button.

Have you forgotten? Boston jihadist brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received dubious asylum status through their parents thanks to lax vetting. After entering on short-term tourist visas, their mother and father (an ethnic Chechen Muslim) won asylum and acquired U.S. citizenship. Next, younger son Dzhokhar obtained U.S. citizenship. Older son Tamerlan, whose naturalization application was pending, traveled freely between the U.S. and the jihad recruitment zone of Dagestan, Russia, a year before executing their Boston Marathon massacre. Though they had convinced the U.S. that they faced deadly persecution, the Tsarnaevs’ parents both had returned to their native land and were there when their sons perpetrated their bloody terror rampage.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel – Keep monster trucking rigs off state’s highways

Forget the threat from 18-foot pythons slithering out of the Everglades. Much bigger beasts could be headed our way, prowling Florida roads at 91 feet in length and putting lives at risk.

This new threat? A trucking rig with two 33-foot trailers attached that state officials would be forced to allow on federal highways. A typical single-trailer semi is 74 feet long including its tractor and hitch (called a dolly). Twin 33-foot trailers would add another 17 feet, for a total length equivalent of a nine-story building rumbling down the road.

Florida drivers who have tried to pass trucks pulling tandem 28-foot trailers (already allowed in the state) know such rigs are notoriously squirrelly in high winds. Now add 10 more feet of passing distance.

“Here in Broward County, Port Everglades partnered with Florida DOT and FEC to build an intermodal transfer facility, which serves to bring freight from cargo ships onto rail without clogging up our highways,” Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca told the Sun Sentinel. “Now, we have the trucking industry introducing larger and more dangerous trucks on the roads. It doesn’t make sense here in South Florida, where we have high winds, diverse traffic and pollution issues.”

How can such a risk be forced on states that don’t want it? It’s one of several giveaways to the trucking industry the U.S. House hid in its current transportation spending bill. If enacted by the Senate, the legislation would prohibit a state from banning these mammoth trucks.

The Tallahassee Democrat – The nature business

We’ll admit, Tallahasseeans reflexively get a little nervous when Florida officials start talking about running state government like a business.

It’s not a business. There are things in state administration that business can help with, and certainly business efficiencies can improve public services, but making a buck is not what government is about.

That’s why Floridians should be very wary of the current push by the Department of Environmental Protection to squeeze some profit out of state parks. DEP wouldn’t phrase it quite that way, but what other reason can there be for allowing increased logging, cattle grazing and hunting in the state’s roughly 800,000 acres of park lands?

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson says the concerns of environmentalists and many citizens who enjoy Florida’s natural beauty are overblown. He expressed surprise at “people who are taking very small pieces of information and twisting it into something that it’s simply not.”

Well, if Gov. Rick Scott and his administration did not have such an “anything for a buck” reputation, a lot of people would not believe “DEP” stands for “Don’t Expect Protection.” If the department hadn’t ordered its employees not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming” or “sustainability,” perhaps we wouldn’t have this nagging suspicion that Florida’s fragile environment is in the hands of vandals.

Scott and the Legislature are the guys who looted Amendment 1, the land-acquisition amendment approved by three out of four Florida voters just last November. That’s the “Florida Land and Water Legacy” mandate – put on the ballot and passed over the opposition of state leaders – requiring the state to spend one-third of real estate development taxes for conservation purposes.

The Tampa Tribune — Genshaft’s education and economic successes

Judy Genshaft has enjoyed the longest tenure of any University of South Florida president, and by most measures the university has flourished under her direction.

But often overlooked is how her 15-year leadership also has boosted the local economy.

Improving USF’s academic standing, to be sure, has been the priority, and results have been impressive. The graduation rate, a persistent trouble area, has jumped from 48 percent in 2008 to 67 percent, thanks to university initiatives. The average SAT test scores of incoming freshmen have increased by 159 points, reflecting USF’s growing status.

The Tampa campus, once a barren collection of far-flung buildings, has been transformed into a beautifully landscaped and bustling community.

Also impressive is how Genshaft has tapped USF’s potential as an economic engine. She strengthened its ties to the business community and made it a catalyst for innovation and investment. Former USF President Betty Castor, who served from 1994 to 1999, also deserves credit for highlighting the university’s economic importance. Genshaft expanded that effort.

Genshaft, who has served as chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa Bay Partnership, actively sought to recruit companies to the area, particularly those that needed the resource of a research university.

Indeed, the university has excelled at winning research grants. As the Tribune’s Anastasia Dawson reports, when Genshaft came to USF it brought in about $171.3 million in research funds. Last year that number was $440.5 million — 43rd in the nation among public and private universities.

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected].


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