A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — St. Petersburg commits unforced errors on stadium site search

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has a curious way of building public enthusiasm to invest in a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. First his chief of staff insults North Pinellas fans by suggesting Oldsmar may as well be in Georgia. Then the mayor brushes off Sen. Jack Latvala’s request to include county leaders on a committee charged with generating more business support for the Rays. This is no way to create the broad coalition required to build an expensive new stadium and persuade the team to remain in the region.

The stadium site search has gotten off to an uneven start since the St. Petersburg City Council finally signed off on an agreement negotiated by Kriseman and the Rays to let the team explore potential stadium sites in two counties. In Hillsborough, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan and a handful of others are meeting in private and it is unclear how they would come up with the public money to help build a stadium. In Pinellas, county commissioners are conspicuously quiet and the baseball committee created by Kriseman and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce is focused on generating sponsorships and ticket sales for the Rays and promoting the Trop site. Some committee members are frustrated, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg sounds less than thrilled about the progress.

Bradenton Herald — Manatee County impact fee hikes pale in comparison with neighbors

Does this sound familiar? County commissioners declare that developers and builders should pay their fair share for the construction of new roads based on the additional traffic that new developments produce. This scenario is playing out across the state as counties come up with new and higher fee schedules with the attendant push-back from home building, real estate and commercial interests.

In Manatee County in December, developers and builders objected to the commission’s adoption of a fee schedule that implements a consultant’s recommendation at 80 percent the first year, 90 percent the second and 100 percent the third year. In expressing their opposition, the impact fee foes claimed there were “significant failings” in the consultant’s study, this about a company that has conducted more than 900 such studies across the country.

The exact amount of the fee depends on the size, use and location of new residential and commercial construction. The county is only reinstating impact fees close to the levels assessed in 2006 before the real estate industry collapsed, and commissioners reduced fees to help keep builders in business.

Daytona Beach News-Journal —  Nightmare attack challenges community

It’s a story out of a nightmare. On April 21, the family of 32-year-old Arenthius Jenkins say they were frantically trying to have him admitted for psychiatric evaluation — describing him as hallucinating and paranoid — only to be turned away by hospital officials.

The next day, family members filled out paperwork to have him taken into custody, but by the time a judge signed off around 3 p.m., it was too late. Two hours earlier, Daytona Beach police had responded to the 200 block of Jefferson Street and found Jenkins holding two bloody hammers. Nearby were 60-year-old Billy Ford and 55-year-old Terrence Gross of Port Orange, both badly beaten. Ford has since died of his injuries.

What happened? The answer to that question — and all the questions packed inside it — should be pursued with no patience for excuses.

Florida Times-Union — Polishing up the downtown Emerald Necklace

A century has passed since architect Henry Klutho began championing the idea of creating an “Emerald Necklace” of parks and waterways that would surround the city’s urban core.

Over the decades, many attempts would be planned and started to create a necklace of greenery that includes Hogans and McCoys creeks.

A new era began in 2014 when Groundworks, an international nonprofit that utilizes private and public partnerships, was enticed into the city by then-Mayor Alvin Brown. Initially sights were set on redeveloping Hogans Creek, but now the vision includes much more.

Like Klutho, Groundworks’ concept is to connect the city’s urban communities with a series of parks that will allow residents access to public spaces and trails.

Florida Today –  Crisafulli: Lagoon ‘F’ grades unfair, missed muck efforts

I am deeply disappointed in the approach taken by FLORIDA TODAY in its recent coverage of the Indian River Lagoon. Perhaps that was the goal of the paper: to agitate and incite. Anger sells, as is plainly seen in the daily barbs and insults traded in the presidential campaigns by both parties. Whether for political purposes or commercial gain, insults may grab attention, but they do little to solve problems.

That is not to say that action is not warranted. As a seventh-generation Floridian, the health and well-being of our water and natural resources are matters of great importance to me. This is the community where my family has lived and worked for decades, where I have chosen to raise my family, and where I hope my children will raise their families.

Long before the horrendous fish kill captured headlines, I was working with lawmakers within this delegation and across our state to increase funding to restore the Indian River Lagoon and surrounding water bodies and address the water quality and supply challenges facing Florida in a comprehensive, science-based manner.

Gainesville Sun – More work needed on rape kit law

Gov. Rick Scott shared a rare moment of personal experience the other day when he signed the legislation intended to help whittle down Florida’s large backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

The governor mentioned that his daughter, when a college student in Dallas, had once called him after being slipped a mickey at a party. She wound up hospitalized, Scott recalled, but fortunately was not sexually assaulted. “That was a scary time,” he said. Indeed. Let’s hope no parent ever has to entertain such angst.

But we know, unfortunately, some low-lifes like the one who drugged Scott’s daughter will succeed in violating victims, and the best we can do in those situations is to get rape kits into the hands of state crime analysts more quickly and put perpetrators behind bars sooner.

The new law seeks to accomplish that by requiring law enforcement agencies to send such kits to the labs within 30 days of the assault being reported, with the results reported back within 120 days.

Lakeland Ledger — Hard to define but, once gone, easily understood

During a speech to the House of Commons at the dawn of the Cold War, Sir Winston Churchill, one of the most skillful rhetoricians of his or any other era, defended the people’s right to demand that their lawmakers submit to their will, and not vice versa. “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe,” Churchill told the House in 1947. “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Truly, democracy as practiced in America, and much of the West, is flawed. But considering the alternatives, we’ll take it.

Churchill, were he with us today, might say the same for economic systems. Capitalism is not always perfect, fair or ever-growing, but surely it is far superior to whatever ranks second.

Yet as The Washington Post reported earlier this week many young Americans disagree. Citing a poll by Harvard University, the Post announced that the so-called millennial generation has, apparently, issued a “rejection of the basic principles of the U.S. economy.”

Miami Herald — Foreign policy by Donald Trump

First, Donald Trump, the clear Republican front-runner, accused President Barack Obama of a “reckless, rudderless and aimless” foreign policy that has weakened America.

Then, he gave a rambling, vague and incoherent speech Wednesday full of platitudes and contradictions, and suggested he would undermine international alliances that have helped keep America safe since World War II.

Three days after he gave what was billed as a major foreign policy address, what Mr. Trump uttered is still troubling.

Voters looking for reassurances about Mr. Trump as commander in chief can’t feel that much more comfortable. Our longtime allies certainly won’t be reassured. In fact, both allies and enemies should be concerned.

Orlando Sentinel — Don’t block limits on payday loans

Florida’s congressional delegation is in rare bipartisan accord on an issue. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong position.

The issue is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s plan to regulate payday loans. Since 7 percent of Floridians must resort to this predatory form of small-dollar credit — nearly the highest rate in the nation — the state delegation should back the push for regulation. Instead, Democrats and Republicans are backing the industry.

The issue has attracted attention in South Florida recently because Tim Canova, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston in the Democratic primary, has criticized the incumbent for her support of House Resolution 4018. It would delay federal regulation for two years and could prevent federal regulation in states like Florida that have created rules for payday lenders. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wasserman Schultz has received $68,000 in contributions from payday lenders.

Ocala StarBanner — Election line-up sends a message

Time and again we read and hear about how the 2016 election campaign is unlike any in memory, largely because of Donald Trump’s unexpected success in winning support from disenchanted, disenfranchised voters who are tired of government not addressing the nation’s major problems.

But the voter displeasure is not only aimed at those representing us Washington. That came through loud and clear Wednesday night in Ocala at the community’s first major candidate forum of the election season. The forum, sponsored by the new Marion Coalition for Effective Government, featured 21 candidates running for countywide office — School Board, County Commission, superintendent of schools and sheriff.

The sheer number of candidates for these local seats is impressive. It is hard to remember when Marion County last saw so many incumbents faced with so many challengers. Both School Board seats are contested. The three County Commission contests — in District 1, 3 and 5 — each have at least four candidates. The superintendent of schools post is being sought by three candidates, while four men are running for sheriff. And in every race, except County Commission District 3, which is being vacated by Stan McClain, an incumbent is trying to hold on to his or her job at a time when there is widespread disaffection for “insiders.”

Pensacola News-Journal — Help break the cycle of abuse

At least four U.S. children die every day from abuse and neglect.

This sobering statistic breaks my heart.

Despite my 20 years in the child welfare field, I still feel pain, sadness and distress for the babies, toddlers and children who’ve endured far more pain that anyone ever should. Each time I provide comfort to a hurting child, I recommit myself to keeping our community’s children safe.

Alongside my devoted colleagues at Children’s Home Society of Florida, we’re striving to do just that.

You see, not every parent is equipped with a strong support system to lean on. While many of us understand the dangers of physically punishing a small child, or of releasing frustration by shaking a crying baby, others may not.

Palm Beach Post — Clinton and Democratic leaders turn their focus to November swing states

As Hillary Clinton increasingly turns her attention to a general election against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, her campaign and fellow Democrats have begun in earnest to bolster staff and campaign organizations in key battleground states.

In Virginia, Ohio and Florida — the three biggest swing states in the last election — the Clinton campaign is teaming up with state and national Democratic organizations to build voter files, organize thousands of volunteers, register tens of thousands of voters and raise the funds necessary to compete against a Republican opponent.

And in the first concrete sign that Clinton’s general-election effort has gone beyond planning, the Democratic National Committee has begun transferring money raised jointly with the Clinton campaign to state committees to help fund the effort, according to Democrats with knowledge of the financial strategy.

Panama City News-Herald — Mr. Fowhand’s ripple effect lives on

Counting the number of lives touched and enriched by Ellis Fowhand’s 102 years on this earth could be equated to the “butterfly effect,” the idea that every small cause can have a ripple effect that could never have been foreseen or calculated.

Mr. Fowhand’s ripples sometimes turned into waves, there were always new pebbles being tossed into the pond to keep the ripples moving, always a wing aflutter in someone’s life. There are more “Mr. Fowhand stories” than there are people who have met him.

I have three.

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Reveal Saudi details in 9-11 report

You can’t handle the truth.

That’s the message both the Bush and Obama White Houses have telegraphed to Americans regarding a 28-page section of a 2002 congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The section, which addresses whether Saudi Arabia was involved in the attacks, has been labeled classified and has never been made available to the public.

President George W. Bush said releasing it would damage national security by revealing intelligence “sources and methods.” President Barack Obama has kept up that wall of secrecy. But it’s past time for that wall to come down.

The overriding reason for keeping the section locked in a room in the U.S. Capitol appears to be diplomatic sensitivity, not national security. The U.S. has a strategically vital, yet volatile, alliance with Saudi Arabia, whose leaders have angrily denied that they provided any official support for the 9/11 hijackers — 15 of 19 of whom were Saudis.

Tallahassee Democrat – Local politics Zing!s

Bob Graham should retire gracefully with his integrity in tact -every vote his daughter makes takes away from his legacy. It’s like Leroy Collins having a daughter who works undo the ’64 voting rights act.

Obama is on course to become the fourth worst president, in terms of national economies, ever. Don’t know how he avoided rock bottom. Hasn’t had even one year of 3 percent growth! Bet Jimmy Carter’s relieved.

Facebook, the invasive privacy manipulator, spent $16 million for armed guards for Czar Mark Zuckerberg, a guy who doesn’t see the need for the common person to have a means of armed self-defense. OK, I will accept $16 million as an alternative means to that end, Markie.

Why is our governor trying to attract the kind of companies that would come here only because they could pay lower salaries?

Tampa Tribune — Encouraging words from Emera executive

The announcement that a Canadian power company had reached a deal to take over Tampa-based TECO Energy understandably alarmed many residents.

After all, TECO, founded in 1899, is an economic pillar in the region, one with a long history of being a good corporate citizen and supporting numerous good causes.

So it was heartening the other day to hear Rob Bennett of Emera Inc., which is in the process of acquiring TECO Energy, emphasize his company’s commitment to community involvement.

It also was encouraging to hear Bennett, speaking to local business leaders at the Florida Economic Forum Luncheon, stress the importance of transitioning to clean fuels.

Mitch Perry Report for 4.29.16 – Trib frowns on Go Hillsborough vote

Good morning, y’all.

Regular readers of this column may note that it’s being posted a little later this morning. Not to get into Too Much Information, but let’s just say I think when I read Arianna Huffington write that you must have 7/8 hours a sleep every night, well, one can certainly aspire to that.

Rumor has it that Tampa attorney Bob Buesing will declare his candidacy as a Democrat for the newly created Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County on Monday. Local Dems believe this is a winnable seat, though Dana Young is formidable.

Alan Grayson has become the 8th co-sponsor of David Jolly’s Stop Act, and why not? Jolly said he would be happy if Grayson endorsed his measure that would ban federal office holders from fundraising, and would allow him to continue to do so this year.

We’ve skimmed through the editorial pages of the Trib, Times and La Gaceta this morning, giving their post-mortem on Wednesday night’s no vote on Go Hillsborough by the Board of County Commissioners.

“We hope Hillsborough voters remember the pathetic lack of leadership by the majority of the Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday night,” the Trib writes today.

The column goes on to describe the board’s vote as “a shameful performance, with flip-flops and half-baked proposals.”

A couple of thoughts on that: Though in our role as a reporter we never had an opinion on the merits of the proposal,  let’s just say that it would have been interesting to cover this discussion for the next six months.

But the idea that Hillsborough voters will punish those commissioners who voted no? That’s dubious because A) the public seemed to be damn divided on the issue, and B) With the exception of Neil Brickfield and Nancy Rostock going down in 2012 in Pinellas County due to their votes on fluoride, rarely have I seen Tampa Bay/Florida voters ever vote against a lawmaker because of a particular position. Or wouldn’t we see a number of Republicans in the Legislature lose their gigs for opposing Medicaid expansion.

In other news..

Activists in Tampa yesterday denounced the aforementioned House Republican Dana Young for supporting a controversial anti-abortion bill in the Legislature earlier this year.

The Florida Congressional delegation, led by Sarasota’s Vern Buchanan, received an update on the heroin crisis in the U.S. Buchanan represents Manatee County, the number one spot in the state for heroin deaths in 2014.

Renee Flowers has given a ringing endorsement to HD 70 candidate Wengay Newton.

The Day After: The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce says they’re “disappointed” that the Board of County Commissioners voted to deny Hillsborough voters the chance to weigh in on the Go Hillsborough initiative on Wednesday night.

And Florida Congressman (and Dem Senate candidate) Alan Grayson in introducing the “Zombie Property Act of 2015.”

Former Tampa Bay Times reporter Anne Lindberg joining Extensive Enterprises Media

Former longtime Tampa Bay Times reporter Anne Lindberg is returning to local reporting, joining Extensive Enterprises Media.

Lindberg will primarily cover Pinellas County government and politics in her new gig. She spent 23 years with the Times before leaving the paper in 2015. During that time, she covered a number of local governments and events in a variety of Pinellas cities.

“If there is anyone who knows Pinellas government and politics better than Anne, I have yet to meet them,” Extensive Enterprises’ Peter Schorsch said Monday night. “The truth is, I told Anne she was hired before she could ask for a job; her insights and reporting are just that valuable.”

Lindberg spent the past nine months working for the city of Pinellas Park as the communications and marketing manager.

“I have always loved being a reporter and could not pass up the opportunity to work with Peter and his team in this new medium,” Lindberg said. “I am excited by the possibilities.”

A Charleston, South Carolina native, Lindberg graduated from Clemson University with a BS in Zoology, from the University of South Carolina with a JD, and received her Masters degree in journalism from USC.



Justice Dept. says Tampa Police Dept.’s citation of black cyclists wasn’t discriminatory, but also wasn’t effective in stopping crime

(Updated) The Tampa Police Department’s policy of stopping and citing black bicyclists was not discriminatory, concluded a report issued Tuesday by the Justice Department.

“The bottom-line appears to be that the TPD ‘burdened’ Black bicyclists by disproportionately stopping them in the name of ‘benefiting’ Black communities by increasing their public safety,” the report says. “Yet, our analyses indicate that the TPD’s bicycle enforcement did not produce a community benefit in terms of bicycle safety, bicycle theft, or crime generally but did burden individual bicyclists, particularly Black bicyclists in high crime areas of Tampa.”

However, that’s not to say that the report found that the TPD’s tactics were effective.

The 82-page report, by the Dept. of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), was distributed to the media at a news conference held at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown Tampa. Its release comes slightly over a year after the TPD’s disproportionate rates toward citing black bicyclists for infractions was made public in an expose by Tampa Bay Times reporters Alexandra Zayas and Kameel Stanley. That story reported that the TPD had written more bike tickets from 2012-2014 than the police departments of the cities of St. Petersburg, Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando combined, and that eight of 10 were black. That’s despite the fact that blacks made up just 26 percent of the city’s population.

The TPD said that the reason for the high level of citations was threefold: 1) To improve bicycle safety; 2) to reduce bicycle theft, and 3) to prevent crimes in high-crime areas using the stops are part of a proactive police strategy.

“Our assessments show that those goals of the program were not met,” said Ron Davis, Director of the COPS program. “The data did not validate any three of those reasons offered why the stops were conducted.” He went on to say that his investigative team found that the stops were not effective in reducing crime, they were not effective in recovering stolen bicycles or preventing bike thefts, and they were not effective in increasing bicycle safety.

“What it did do, unintentionally, is to have a disparate impact on people of color riding bikes in Tampa, and it would also strain the relationship between the police and the community,” Davis added.

That strain hasn’t faded away by any stretch. It led to members of the community to demand that the TPD create a citizens’ review board to monitor police procedures and policies, though many of those same citizens are unsatisfied with that review board’s powers or how its members were selecting, leading to a current petition drive to make it tougher.

The report lists a number of findings and recommendations. Among them are to reduce the number of such bicycle stops; more details about why a TPD officer makes such a bicycle stop; that the TPD should monitor the racial disparities in bicycle stops at the department and district levels, as well as the individual office level.

Although then Chief Jane Castor disputed the implications that the TPD employed racial discrimination in the bike ticketing policies, she and Mayor Bob Buckhorn reached out to the DOJ’s COPS program less than two weeks after the story’s publication.

Davis said that the idea of how law enforcement agencies fight crime while ensuring that there not be disparate outcomes is a challenge being faced by every major city in the U.S. was a reason to conduct the yearlong investigation. “This is a national challenge, and in that regard, Tampa is not unique.”

Davis said Chief Castor and Mayor Buckhorn were to be commended for asking for such help.

“It’s been a long year,” admitted Chief Eric Ward, who succeeded Castor less than a month after the Times story hit the press. He said the department had already made some corrections that the report calls for, such as capturing the ethnicities of the cycles cited (previously it only listed those as being black or white). He said the recommendations in the report would only make his department stronger.

The Times also reported last year that TPD officers were rewarded by the number of arrests made. Ward said that policy has been “retooled,” with “stuff” that officers are doing in the community now being captured.

“We welcome this,” added Buckhorn about the report. “Our job moving forward is how we implement these recommendations to be a better police department.”

The mayor was unrepentant when asked if some of those unfairly cited were due an apology.

“I’m never going to apologize for being aggressive in the crime fight. It’s just not going to happen,” he said, acknowledging that while he thinks most people in the community appreciated the tactics. “I don’ think it warrants an apology, but I do think it warrants corrective action.”

As Council members Lisa Montelione and Guido Maniscalco observed the news conference. Buckhorn said that it would be his duty, and not the council’s, to make sure the recommendations in the report were followed by the TPD.

Montelione said she would offer an apology. “Those individuals who feel that they did not deserve the treatment they got should be apologized to,” she said.

“Those individuals who feel that they did not deserve the treatment they got should be apologized to,” she said.

“I don’t want to say this has been a good, positive learning experience, but we have facts on paper here that they can look at going forward, and I think this will all be very positive,” said Maniscalco.

Across the street from the U.S. Attorney’s Office stood four Black Lives Matter activists, who were upset that they were not allowed into the press conference, while other activists were.

“We see this as an opportunity to have tough conversations with the TPD and our community members in how we can build better practices with the TPD with the community’s input,” said Tim Heberlein, political director of Organize Now!

U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley concluded the news conference by emphasizing that while other police departments are being placed under consent decrees by the Department of Justice for actions that they’ve committed, which was decidedly not the case with the Tampa Police Department.

“This is a situation where there was no discriminatory intent,” Bentley said. “There’s been no findings of civil rights violation. The TPD invited COPS to come in and do an analysis and make recommendations,” as he thanked the mayor and police chief.

The ACLU weighed in later Tuesday:

“We are grateful for the DOJ COPS review which validates what the ACLU and Tampa’s Black community have said all along: that the Tampa Police Department’s bicycle stops disproportionately targeted poor Black communities, stigmatizing young Black people with no benefit toward disrupting and preventing serious crimes,” said ACLU of Florida staff attorney Adam Tebrugge.

“Parents and young people impacted by this policy have been saying for years that, whatever their intent, the Tampa Police Department bicycle stop program failed to promote public safety and unjustifiably targeted and stigmatized Black youth,” Tebrugge added. “The report outlines several recommendations and goals going forward which will improve relations between the community and the police department tasked with protecting it that were broken down by the bicycle stop program. We are especially pleased with the recommendations about increasing public transparency and collecting and reporting data on police stops.

“We look forward to working with city leaders and the community to ensure that these recommendations are implemented in a way that fosters mutual trust and respect between citizens and police.”

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — DCF should reverse position on LGBT protections

The Department of Children and Families was wrong to discard language in its new policy that would have protected foster children in group homes from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Faced with political pressure, the state backed down precisely when it should have stood up for some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. The DCF should reverse course.

Activists representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community spoke against the DCF’s new policy at a hearing earlier this month in Tallahassee. The agency initially had worked with the activists to craft an antidiscrimination policy that would have resulted in sweeping changes in group homes throughout the state. Proposed changes included bans on discrimination and bullying because of sexual orientation or gender. The new policies also would have prohibited the use of conversion therapies on children. But after receiving letters of protest from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Baptist Children’s Homes, the DCF watered down its policy.

The agency now prohibits discrimination in broad terms such as “race, national origin, religion, gender, disability or any other characteristic.” State officials say the new language better serves all youth in its care rather than a small population with the concerns raised by LGBT activists. That’s illogical. Using precise language to call out specific, abhorrent behavior erases any ambiguity about what is acceptable and what is not. Imprecise language leaves too much up to interpretation.

Bradenton Herald — Parrish needs traffic signal at dangerous U.S. 301/SR 675 intersection

I read with interest all things that are happening around and in Parrish since this is my hometown.

About a month ago, my husband and I attended the Parrish community meeting, where Larry Bustle, Manatee County commissioner, was present. He and another commissioner spoke and answered questions.

Many of these questions were answered vaguely or left unanswered by avoidance. I questioned the safety at the traffic light on U.S. 301 and SR 675.

Would we ever get the “caution” light replaced by a real traffic light? His reply was, “We need to do another traffic survey before this can be addressed.”

Daytona Beach News-Journal — Teacher bonus plan deserves an ‘F’

Florida’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program is flawed in both design and execution.

Established in 2015 by the Legislature and funded again this year to the tune of $49 million, the bonuses are awarded to teachers based in part on the scores they received on the SAT or ACT — standardized tests for college entrance that most took when they were in high school. For many teachers, that was more than a decade ago, and the scores have zero relevance to their qualifications and performance in the classroom.

It’s a silly, useless criterion on which to judge merit. A more apt measure is the program’s requirement that teachers be rated “highly effective.”

Yet, even that has proved to produce an unequal and ineffective distribution of benefits.

Florida Times-Union — Good reasons to support Mayor Curry’s pension solution

Jacksonville must solve its pension crisis to have any kind of quality of life.

The city’s future is literally at stake.

Mayor Lenny Curry is not exaggerating when he makes this point. The city’s budget is being eaten alive by rising pension costs. This year’s $260 million going to pensions will be $280 million next year, then $300 million the following year.

Yet a number of Times-Union readers have offered misguided reasons to oppose the sales tax idea. Their anger and frustration are understandable, but their opposition is not.

Florida Today – Here’s how we’ll grade 2016 candidates

We’ve been pushy lately with your elected leaders.

Our news staff just graded state and county politicians, some harshly, on votes and decisions that affect the Indian River Lagoon. In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed an anti-corruption bill championed for more than a year by me and our editorial staff.

And we’re about to get pushier.

Next, FLORIDA TODAY will begin pressing candidates for county commission, Congress, school board and state House and Senate on a handful of issues that matter most to our readers.

We will press for solutions in a series of live, televised candidate forums just as mail voting starts for the primary and general elections. We will score the candidates issue-by-issue and publish their scores next to our nonpartisan endorsements for the ones who rate best. We will post it all online and repeat our recommendations before early voting and Election Day.

Gainesville Sun – Cheers (not jeers)

April is a great time to live in Gainesville — the weather is usually wonderful and there is plenty to do around town.

But lurking around the corner is a hot spell that suggests a brutal summer to come. The University of Florida is wrapping up its spring semester, which means fewer students clogging the streets but also fewer activities going on.

We’ll stick with an upbeat mood for the moment in presenting only cheers — and no jeers — this week.

Cheer: Anthony Lyons, for shedding the “interim” tag from his Gainesville city manager title.

Lakeland Ledger — For bikers, an inescapable conclusion about wearing a helmet

“Watch for motorcycles” or “Share the road.” Undoubtedly, Polk County motorists have spotted those words, or some derivative slogan, on countless bumper stickers. The inference is that motorcyclists’ lives depend on the vigilance of other drivers. It is good advice.

Yet we would suggest that motorcyclists bear responsibility to “watch” as well. No doubt motorists who are encouraged to be on the lookout for bikers have themselves noted motorcyclists who drive too aggressively — darting in and out of traffic or barreling up lane-dividing lines between cars. Also, drinking and riding is a nasty mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the ratio of drunken motorcyclists killed in accidents surpasses that of all drivers in general.

Suffice to say, relative to motorcycles, it is important that all of us pay closer attention, and avoid the behaviors that can lead to tragedy. That’s because, as a recent Ledger article noted, riding a motorcycle is more dangerous in Florida than anywhere else in the country.

Miami Herald —In Brazil, the real crime is corruption

As Brazil embarks on the wrenching process of possibly booting President Dilma Rousseff from office, here’s some advice from a country that knows something about impeachment: Make sure it’s about serious violations of law, not about politics.

There is, we hasten to say, no comparison between the charges or situations involving former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached by the House of Representatives almost 20 years ago but survived a trial in the Senate, and that of Ms. Rousseff.

He was accused of a dalliance with a White House intern and lying under oath about personal matters. She is accused of violating regulations regarding government finances, a budgetary trick designed to conceal a looming deficit.

On the face of it, these are two very different matters — except for the political impetus driving the impeachment process in both instances.

Orlando Sentinel — GOP system: Rules-based, not rigged

As a self-styled outsider candidate taking on the political establishment, billionaire casino mogul Donald Trump has always been running against the Republican Party to some degree. Lately, though, his efforts to de-legitimize the party and its rules have become more explicit.

His current grousing was prompted by the state GOP convention in Colorado earlier this month, where Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walked away with all 34 delegates. This, to Trump, amounted to highway robbery. Sympathetic bloggers carped that Colorado Republicans had been denied a chance to vote (they voted only in precinct caucuses), and Trump called the GOP nominating process a “rigged, disgusting, dirty system.”

On first glance, Trump’s complaints fit his pattern of blaming someone else each time his campaign has stumbled. The rules governing the nominating process, however, have been clear at least since last October, when each state’s procedures for picking delegates were finalized and revealed to all the candidates. And at the moment the rules seem to be helping Cruz, who is every bit as much an anti-establishment figure as Trump. The difference between the two appears to be that Cruz’s campaign understood what Trump’s ignored. Funny how someone who holds himself out as a masterful deal negotiator would fail to read all the way through the fine print.

Ocala StarBanner — An chance for nomination reform

Given the grueling presidential campaign so far, it hardly seems possible that our country still has more than six months to go before Election Day.

One good thing about the prolonged primary fight is that it has exposed what a terrible system we have to pick our president. The longer that fight drags on, the more voters become aware that the choice is really out of their hands.

While we’ve made progress from the smoke-filled rooms where candidates were once chosen, the current system of selecting delegates is far from being open and transparent. Both Democratic and Republican party officials have created ways to bypass the primaries and caucuses to give party officials power over the selection process.

GOP candidate Donald Trump has brought attention to these problems in recent weeks with his complaints about a “rigged” system. The problem was most clearly illustrated in Colorado, where the Republican Party ditched any pretense of letting voters decide in favor of a process in which delegates were chosen by party insiders.

Pensacola News-Journal — Earth Day is Friday

For many, Earth Day is just another day celebrated for reasons that do not seem to touch their lives.

But here in the Florida Panhandle, it is necessarily so much more. Responsible environmental stewardship is critical to our quality of life and the local economy, reliant on tourism and the region’s unique natural beauty. Effective environmental stewardship is essential to sustained enjoyment of recreational activities, fishing, water sports and others. Most importantly and simply, a healthy environment is crucial to our community’s physical well-being, yours, mine, our neighbors’, friends’ and, dearest to our hearts, our children’s and grandchildren’s, whose future depends on our environmental behavior today.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a monumental challenge for the region, was a reminder of the need for vigilance, wisdom and operational competence in environment management. Achieving an adequate response and recovery program has taken time. Our beaches and marine resources have weathered the crisis; renewal and healing continue. There are grounds for encouragement, but we must work constantly to ensure that such events do not reoccur.

Palm Beach Post — Prince allowed us to embrace our differences

There’s been a seismic shift in my world.

I’m talking a 30th-wedding anniversary, 50th-birthday, my-wife won’t-let-me-eat-(real)-bacon kind of seismic shift.

Prince Rogers Nelson died on Thursday. (As I wrote this on Friday, the official autopsy was underway.) He was 57.

And yes, I am in mourning. As are hundreds of thousands of others in my generation whose eyes he opened with his iconic fashion sense; whose minds he expanded with his lyrics; and whose hearts he stole with his music.

Anyone who’s talked to me long enough knows that I tend to describe my life in two parts: my four years of college; and everything else. From “Little Red Corvette” to “When Doves Cry” to “Controversy,” Prince’s music — arguably more than Michael Jackson’s — marked how many of us came to accept our differences, and even view them as a collective strength.

Panama City News-Herald — Pulitzer shines light on mental hospitals

The news series “Insane. Invisible. In Danger” shed light on the dark realities inside Florida’s mental health hospitals. The accounts of horrific conditions — attributable, in part, due to woefully inadequate funding — attracted the attention of mental-health advocates and some, but not enough, policymakers in the state.

Now, the must-read series — produced by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (sister paper of The News Herald) and Tampa Bay Times, and published last year — has gained a wider audience: On Monday, the work was honored with the most prestigious award in journalism, a Pulitzer Prize, placing the reporting and the issues it tackled in the national limelight.

The award for Investigative Reporting went to Michael Braga of the Herald-Tribune and Anthony Cormier and Leonora LaPeter Anton of the Times. (Cormier formerly worked for The News Herald and Herald-Tribune). We congratulate them for this prize, the efforts that went into this series and their collaboration. They were aided by many editors and reporters as well, all of whom deserve credit for their contributions.

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Wasserman Schultz wrong on payday loans

Florida’s congressional delegation is in rare bipartisan support on an issue. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong issue.

The issue is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s plan to regulate payday loans. Since 7 percent of Floridians must resort to this predatory form of small-dollar credit — nearly the highest rate in the nation — the state delegation should back the push for regulation. Instead, Democrats and Republicans are backing the industry.

The issue has attracted local attention recently because Tim Canova, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary, has criticized the incumbent for her support of HR 4018. It would delay federal regulation for two years and could prevent federal regulation in states like Florida that have created rules for payday lenders. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wasserman Schultz has received $68,000 in contributions from payday lenders.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, sponsored HR 4018, but Wasserman Schultz signed on as a co-sponsor. So did Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s running in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. So did Rep. David Jolly, who’s running in the Republican Senate primary.

Tallahassee Democrat – They make $8.05 an hour in Florida, and they matter

Like some economic experts and your outspoken neighbors, you probably have an opinion about whether the minimum wage should rise.

It’s a complicated issue that must take into account the cost of living and purchasing power in the area where you live and the financial health of small companies there. It’s being debated right now, locally and statewide.

Want to see Floridians — who include working seniors and moms and dads who work multiple low-paid jobs — earn more than the state’s $8.05 minimum wage?

Or do you not support any hike?

Tampa Tribune — Helping Hillsborough’s homeless

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee initiated a homeless initiative six years ago because he understood officers couldn’t “enforce” their way out of the problem.

Instead, he and his team sought to take a comprehensive approach to helping the homeless.

They can be a frequent source of citizens’ complaints when they wander streets, panhandle or take up residence in parks. Officials say some commit crimes, though the offenses are generally minor.

Col. Greg Brown volunteered to take on the task, and the sheriff’s office assigned five deputies countywide to deal with the homeless issue.

The goal is not to put the homeless behind bars, but to get them the help that will allow them to get off the streets.

Tampa Bay Times sells St. Petersburg headquarters, will remain in building as tenant

The Tampa Bay Times has sold its downtown St. Petersburg headquarters.

The Times Publishing Company, which produces the newspaper, announced Friday it sold its St. Petersburg headquarters to 490 First Avenue Owner LLC, a venture of Convergent Capital Partners and Denholtz Associates. The sale price was $19 million.

The newspaper has a 15-year lease and will remain a tenant of the building, occupying nearly half the building. The building will continue to bear the newspaper’s name.

“With this sale, we are able to continue contributing to the vitality of downtown St. Petersburg. We are very pleased that the Times will remain a tenant and maintain its significant presence in the area,” said Times CFO Jana Jones in a statement.

The newspaper’s Tampa office on Ashley Street is located in a building owned by Denholtz Associates that also bears the paper’s name.

“Our relationship with the Times and with the Tampa Bay community spans two decades and is part of what made this deal possible,” said Steven Denholtz, CEO of Denholtz Associates, in a statement announcing the sale. “We look forward to the modernization of the Times headquarters building and to continuing to build a strong relationship with the entire community.”

Denholtz Associates is a privately held, fully integrated real estate development, investment and management company. The company actively targets multi-tenant office and industrial properties. The firm has offices throughout Florida, as well as in Chicago and New Jersey.

Convergent Capital Partners LLC is a privately owned real estate private equity firm headquartered in Tampa. Since October 2008, it has acquired over $530 million of retail, office, hotel, residential, and mixed-use real estate assets and commercial mortgage debt.

“Convergent is excited to make another significant investment in downtown St. Pete.  The construction and redevelopment activity is continuing to strengthen the city’s position as a place to live, work, and play,” said Santosh Govindaraju, CEO of Convergent Capital Partners.  “The Tampa Bay Times and the high-quality team at this award-winning newspaper are a very important part of our Tampa Bay community, and we look forward to being a part of their growth in the years ahead.”

Several other newspapers have sold their buildings or put them up for sale, including the Tampa Tribune and Miami Herald. The company has sold three other properties in recent months.

Mitch Perry Report for 4.19.16 – Bernie Sanders goes after Hillary Clinton for violating campaign finance laws

Welcome to April 19, the 23rd anniversary of the Waco siege and the 21st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

And now today’s NY state primary, which, by the shape of things, could be pretty anti-climactic. Donald Trump‘s victory is a given, and right now most polls have Bernie Sanders down by double-digits to Hillary Clinton.

The Sanders campaign made news yesterday by going public with a complaint that has been big on the Internets over the past couple of weeks in BernieWorld — that being the charge that Clinton has violated campaign finance laws with the use of a joint fundraising committee set up with the Democratic National Committee.

An attorney for Sanders contacted the DNC and said that this joint committee appeared to be improperly subsidizing her campaign by paying Clinton staffers with funds from the committee and cited other alleged violations as well.

The deal is this: wealthy donors can give $356,100 annually to the Hillary Victory Fund, the largest joint fundraising committee of its kind, according to The Washington Post. The contributions are then distributed proportionally among the campaign, the DNC, and state parties.

But the Post reported that before distributing out its proceeds, “the victory fund has spent millions on direct mail and online ads seeking small donors to support Clinton’s campaign. The victory fund also sponsors Clinton’s online store, allowing donors who have already given the maximum to her campaign to purchase Hillary lapel pins, caps or car magnets, with their money benefiting the party.”

The questionable outlays “have grown to staggering magnitudes” and “can no longer be ignored,” writes Brad Deutsch, Sanders’ attorney.

The expenditures on advertising and fundraising are at best “an impermissible in-kind contribution from the DNC and the participating state party committees” to Clinton’s presidential campaign, the letter says. “At worst, using funds received from large-dollar donors who have already contributed the $2,700 maximum to HFA [Hillary for America] may represent an excessive contribution to HFA from these individuals.”

Robbie Mook, Hillary’s campaign manager, was furious in his response.

“This accusation is false,” he said in a statement. “They’re questioning our joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, which allows us to support Democrats running up and down the ticket — the same fundraising structure used by President Obama in 2008 and 2012.”

Look goes on to say that “this latest incident is part of a troubling pattern of behavior — occurring just as Bernie’s mathematical odds of winning the nomination dwindle toward zero — in which Sanders and his team are not just debating us on issues (which we all agree is perfectly fair), but rather attacking Hillary Clinton’s character, integrity, and motivations.”

At the risk of sounding trite, these two camps are really, really growing bitter. Some say this doesn’t reach the vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps in ’08, but actually to me, it’s worse. I don’t remember up to 25 percent of Clinton supporters saying they wouldn’t vote for Obama (though I do remember many of those “Pumas” saying they would back John McCain).

And a programming note: I’ll be interviewing Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson on WMNF 88.5 FM radio at noon. Please listen!

In other news …

Congrats to Tampa Bay Times reporters Leonora LaPeter AntonCara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Garter and Michael La Forgia for their Pulitzer Prizes that were awarded Monday.

Activists opposing the Go Hillsborough half-cent sales tax are already gearing up to lobby against the proposal when Hillsborough County Commissioners vote on whether to put it on the ballot next week.

Want to celebrate tonight’s expected Donald Trump blowout in the Empire State with like-minded supporters? Go to Channelside, my friend.

Bill Nelson has some friendly advice for his Senate colleague Marco Rubio regarding his rant last week about an amendment failing to get passed in the Senate.

And Kathy Castor issued praise for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that came before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.


Tampa Bay Times takes home two Pulitzer Prizes

The Tampa Bay Times took home not one, but two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday.

Their investigation into Pinellas County public schools, “Failure Factories,” took the Pulitzer for Local Reporting.

The investigation, researched and reported by Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Garter and Michael La Forgia showed how the school district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black. The five schools in South St. Petersburg are falling at rates far worse than almost any other schools in Florida.

It’s the latest – and the most prestigious – award for the reporters. The series previously won the Philip Meyer award (administered through Investigative Reporters and Editors at the Missouri School of Journalism), the National Press Foundation’s Innovation in Journalism Award, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism (administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University) and the IRE Award (Investigative Reporters and Editors).

But that wasn’t all for the Times.

A joint investigation between the Times Leonora LePeter Anton and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Michael Braga and Anthony Cormier that looked into Florida’s mental health hospitals called, “Insane. Invisible. In Danger,” took the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Those reporters won the first Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting from the  the National Press Foundation last week. It was also a recent finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ journalism competition.

“Today, we celebrate journalism that makes a difference in our community,” said Neil Brown, editor of the Times, said in a statement. “In recent years, the excitement of technological change combined with the pain of the Recession has prompted newsrooms like ours to re-imagine how we approach news and how we deliver it. But what we have never had to re-imagine is our mission: to do work that helps people and holds the powerful to account. That was true 50 years ago, that’s absolutely true today. You can see it in the power of each of these stories.” “I couldn’t be more proud of the Times journalists who produced this important work. And we’re not done. We won’t let up.”

Other Pulitzer winners include Lin-Manuel Miranda winning the Drama Pulitzer for “Hamilton,” and the New Yorker’s William Finnegan for his memoir, “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.”

The Times last won a Pulitzer in 2014, when reporters Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia were the winners for Local Reporting for their investigation into the Hillsborough County Homeless Recovery Program. It is their 11th and 12 Pulitzers.

Here’s the complete list of winners, announced on Monday afternoon.


Will ‘Failure Factories’ win the Times another Pulitzer Prize?

Readers of the Tampa Bay Times online and print editions read every day that the paper has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes.

Will that number increase to 11 later today?

Failure Factories,” the Times’ investigation into Pinellas County public schools, has won a slew of prestigious national awards since its publication last summer, but the Pulitzer is the big one, and it undoubtedly will be given strong consideration.

The investigation, researched and reported by Cara FitzpatrickLisa GarterMichael LaForgia and Nathalie Lash, showed how the school district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black. The five schools in South St. Petersburg are falling at rates far worse than almost any other schools in Florida.

In the wake of the series’ publication, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan flew to St. Petersburg with John King, his successor, to visit Campbell Park. During the visit, Duncan called the plight of the five schools a “man-made” disaster and said the School Board had committed “education malpractice.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Pinellas County School District systematically discriminates against black children.

Among the awards the series has collected include winning the Philip Meyer award (administered through Investigative Reporters and Editors at the Missouri School of Journalism), the National Press Foundation’s Innovation in Journalism Award, the Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism (administered by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University) and the IRE Award (Investigative Reporters and Editors).

The Times last won a Pulitzer in 2014, when reporters Will Hobson and LaForgia were the winners for Local Reporting for their investigation into the Hillsborough County Homeless Recovery Program.

Editorial writers Tim Nickens and Daniel Ruth were honored in 2013 for their “diligent campaign,” as the Pulitzer judges wrote, which helped reverse the decision by the Pinellas County Commission to eliminate fluoride from the county’s water supply.

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners and Nominated Finalists will be announced Monday, April 18, at 3 p.m. in the World Room, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University, New York City. This will be the 100th announcement of the Prizes.

Questions raised on possible Tampa Trib sale

Then there was one. Maybe.

Facing an expiring lease and the outsourcing of its printing operations to rival Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune may be coming up for sale.

In a recent report, Noah Pransky of WTSP suggests that 121-year-old daily could be sold, even though its Los Angeles-based owner has not been forthcoming.

“Guys see below there is a leak here somewhere this is bs,” wrote Revolution Capital Group founder and managing partner Robert Loring Jr. in response to 10 Investigates.

Revolution bought the Tribune and its building in 2012 for $9.5 million. Last year, the firm sold the real estate for $17.75 million and made a five-year deal with the Times to handle the Trib’s printing.

Rumors of a possible merger between the Tampa Bay’s two major newspapers is nothing new. Talk of a Times/Tribune consolidation have been circulating for years, Pransky notes.

“This sort of speculation arises periodically,” Times published Paul Tash told WTSP. “We never indulge it or contribute to it.”

But time is running out for the Trib, which is actively looking for a new location for its operations and staff. And the need to move hundreds of staff members makes a sale much more appealing.

“To have an ownership group from California that owns just this one paper (is) pretty unusual,” says Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for Poynter Institute for Media Studies, the nonprofit which owns the Times. Edwards emphasized to Pransky that there were no plans for consolidation, but would not be surprised if the Trib was sold soon.

Pairing up the Times and Trib would leave the Tampa Bay area with one less outlet for editorial content and viewpoints, and fewer reporters to keep an eye for government overreach.

“There’s always some advantage to the reader in having competition, Edmonds said. “And two different news staffs out there.”

Pransky also raises the possibility another major newspaper chain will purchase the Trib. If that happens, it would likely be in the $5 to $10 million range, according to Edmonds. Another option would be an outside purchase, similar to the acquisition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Red Sox owner John Henry’s purchase of the Boston Globe, of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune being picked up by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Such “benevolent billionaires” could express interest in purchasing a daily newspaper like the Trib, despite it not showing a regular profit.