A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — Work together to cut arrests for petty crimes
The St. Petersburg City Council has wisely decided to pause in its march toward creating a civil citation program that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and other minor offenses. The council members delayed their vote to give Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri time to complete a proposal for a countywide prearrest diversion program. This was the right call. The city and county are working toward the same important goal, and they should agree on how to proceed on such an important policy issue so the community has consistency and clarity.
In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the City Council delayed a vote on a proposal to create a civil citation program that would reduce arrests for minor crimes such as littering, petty theft, disorderly conduct and possession of small amounts of marijuana. The council was reacting, in part, to pleas from law enforcement officials such as police Chief Tony Holloway, who favors a single measure that would address the issue for the entire county. The council has led on this issue from the beginning, first by introducing the issue and later by seeing the need for a coordinated effort beyond the city limits.
Bradenton Herald — Cruise to Cuba marks progress on several fronts
President Barack Obama correctly sensed that engagement with Cuba is the best way to change the Castro regime’s behavior. A cruise ship docking in Havana, whose passengers include Cuban-Americans, is the latest concrete example of a policy that succeeds in forcing change by working with Cuba, not freezing it out. The Cuban people will be the ultimate winners.
Carrying more than 700 passengers, Carnival Corp.’s Adonia had a smooth 90-mile trip across the Florida Straits, arriving in Havana on Monday as hundreds of Cubans watched from shore. But the voyage was almost scuttled before it began.
Cuba had originally insisted that Cuba-born passengers would not be able to enter port. Facing fierce criticism from both U.S. officials and the Cuban-American community, Carnival threatened to delay any voyages until the matter was resolved.
Then late last week, Cuban authorities lifted their decades-old restriction. The Adonia will make calls at two more Cuban ports before returning to Miami next week, the first of many voyages to come.
Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia profits from Orlando’s boom
In recent years, local tourism officials have convened focus groups in Houston and Charlotte, North Carolina. They put on a marketing blitz in New York City to capitalize on JetBlue’s new service to Daytona Beach. They’ve worked to boost visitors from England and Canada; there’s even some talk about emerging tourism from China.
Those efforts are working. Daytona Beach-area officials were “dancing in the aisles” this week over March tourism numbers that showed a staggering 25 percent increase in revenue compared to last year. But even as they cast a wider net for visitors, local tourism leaders are keeping their eyes on an asset that’s much closer: Orlando, and specifically, the theme-park region that is, once again for 2016, the No. 1 tourist destination in the United States — and an easy drive away for Volusia beaches and other local attractions. That’s a smart move: Volusia County should continue to challenge Brevard County’s quest to be the premiere beach destination for the 66-million-plus people who visited Orlando-area theme parks or attended conventions there last year.
Florida Times-Union — Cheers: Walk to defeat ALS is a rousing success
Cheers to all of the generous people who came out to make the recent Jacksonville Walk to Defeat ALS a success!
In all, 1,619 participants took part in the walk, which began at the Seven Bridges Grille restaurant near Tinsletown.
The event raised $330,064 to back the fight against ALS — the acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease that affects the nerve cells and muscles.
The great turnout was heartwarming because the event — which had a fun, tropical theme — took place during a steady rainstorm that caused some festivities to be moved indoors.
Florida Today – Trump’s GOP won’t be party of no
Of all the Republican pillars smashed to shards by Donald Trump’s wrecking ball, the most fundamental repudiation is this: The presidential nominee for the “party of no” will likely be the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal.
With a big Indiana win behind him, a 34-point lead in the latest poll of California and Ted Cruz out of the race, Trump appears to have lost nothing and perhaps has gained much by talking constantly about the need for deals. It’s possible, in fact, to view his entire campaign as one big opening bid. Making deals is his core identity and, like so many things he says and does, completely counter to the GOP line.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to make Barack Obama a one-term president, but even in Obama’s second term he has stuck to the strategy that failed: opposing nearly anything Obama wants. The result is mostly paralysis, even in areas where there is common ground.
Gainesville Sun – Cheers and jeers
Our community showed its great generosity during a whirlwind charity event this week.
Cheer: More than 1,400 donors across the area, for contributing around $286,000 during the Amazing Give.
The Community Foundation of North Central Florida put together the 24-hour fundraising campaign, bringing together nearly 50 nonprofits for the effort. People donated to their favorite nonprofits, with the groups getting additional grants based on meeting different fundraising goals.
Around $282,000 was collected when the event officially ended Tuesday at 6 p.m., but additional money has since been taken in. The groups collecting the highest amount of donations included the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and the Alachua County Humane Society.
Lakeland Ledger — Speaking of pot, let’s do so
In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, cut off and surrounded by Union forces and exhausted from four years of war, exchanged a series of notes with his Union counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, inquiring about a possible surrender. In replies to Grant’s letters, issued within 48 hours of their war-ending meeting at Appomattox Courthouse, Lee maintained that while he did not share Grant’s assessment that his situation was hopeless, he did say he reciprocated Grant’s “desire to avoid useless effusion of blood” and agreed that “the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all.”
For those same reasons, many across America believe it’s time to call a truce in the four-decade-old War on Drugs, particularly when it comes to marijuana.
Miami Herald — Where’s Congress on Zika? Nowhere!
More than 100 days after the first cases of Zika were reported in Florida, leaders of Congress stubbornly continue to turn a deaf ear to pleas for additional federal funding. The indifference shown by lawmakers in the face of an identifiable health threat is both impossible to ignore and hard to fathom.
President Obama wants $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, and he’s drawn rare — and commendable — bipartisan support from Florida’s two U.S. senators.
Democrat Bill Nelson calls the spread of Zika in Florida a “full-blown crisis.” Republican Marco Rubio has been equally emphatic: “It is the obligation of the federal government to keep our people safe, and this is an imminent and real threat to the public safety and security of our nation and our people.”
Both have beseeched colleagues to support additional funding. Yet Congress has resisted this plea for help since February, when President Obama first sought emergency aid.
Orlando Sentinel — Don’t lessen manatee protections
Many Floridians love manatees. Maybe it’s because the slow-moving giants are gentle reminders of the state’s natural wonders. And maybe it’s because we recognize that as the manatee’s survival goes, so goes coastal Florida.
For proof, look no farther than the Brevard County‘s Indian River Lagoon, a popular manatee thoroughfare. A toxic algae outbreak there in March was so severe it killed thousands of fish, creating a smelly environmental disaster. Past blooms of algae — fueled by fertilizer runoff and septic tank leaks — have led to a collapse of the food chain, killing manatees and other marine life.
Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, yielding to pressure from property-rights groups, has proposed reducing the level of protection manatees now get from the federal government. The bureaucratic process is known as “downlisting” the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” It may not sound like a big step, but it is.
The federal government considers a species endangered when it is in imminent risk of extinction. Then federal agencies work with state and local governments to put protective measures in place. For manatees, that includes creating marked sanctuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and setting speed limits for boats in waters where manatees congregate.
Ocala StarBanner — Answers needed on Sabal Trail
The proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline would traverse 30 miles of western Marion County and travel within less than a mile of Rainbow Springs and then go under the Withlacoochee River. Yet, according to a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the County Commission, local officials “are unable to find specific details associated with (Sabal Trail’s) analysis of the Marion County portion of the project.”
In the letter, the commission is asking the Corps to conduct an “independent supplemental environmental impact statement” to answer a litany of questions about the massive project, which will run 515 miles from central Alabama to Osceola County, south of Orlando. The pipeline, most of which is 36-inch pipe, would pass through a dozen Florida counties and pass near or under a significant number of important waterways, including the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Withlacoochee rivers. Yet, Sabal Trail is woefully short on details in its report on what steps it would take to protect these natural treasures. The same goes for Rainbow Springs.
Pensacola News-Journal — Bayview Cross: A shallow fight along bayou’s shore
We wholeheartedly endorse meaningful legal battles in defense of constitutional liberties — but the suit filed over the Bayview Cross is not one of them.
The PNJ’s Will Isern reported last week that the “two Washington, D.C., groups that last year threatened to sue the city of Pensacola if it did not remove the large white cross at Bayview Park have now followed through with that threat, filing a complaint Wednesday in federal court.
“The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit on behalf of four Pensacola residents.”
Palm Beach Post — Trump would need to sway broader group of voters in November
Nomination within his grasp, Donald Trump would need to win over a broader group of voters in November beyond those who have helped clear the Republican presidential field for him.
As a whole, voters in the general election will be younger, more likely to be female and vastly more diverse than the predominantly white groups of the Republican primaries. In recent elections, those sets of voters have leaned sharply toward the Democrats.
To counter the Democrats’ advantage among women, young people and black, Latino and Asian-American voters, Trump will have to maximize his support among whites — especially white men — to levels rarely seen.
Panama City News-Herald — Veep sweepstakes fantasy league draft choices
It’s been a tough month for Ted Cruz. In an odd and desperate turn of events, Ted Cruz threw up a Hail Mary by naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate. This would’ve put her “just a heartbeat away” from never being the vice president – had Cruz not abandoned his bid after a crushing loss in Indiana.
She wanted to become the first person to lose twice in the same presidential election. Ted Cruz naming his VP when he did was a bit like the Atlanta Braves naming where they are going to have their World Series victory parade.
He picked Carly in a hasty manner. It was a three-question vetting process: 1. Are you a woman? 2. How would you be working with Lucifer in the flesh? 3. Are you good at suffering humiliating losses?
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Put school construction on firmer ground
At state and local levels — including Broward and Palm Beach counties — too much that is not constructive is going on with school construction.
Or, in the case of Broward, too much is not going on at all. As the Sun Sentinel reported, nine approved school renovation projects have languished because district staff failed to put the work out for bid.
Those projects, budgeted at more than $25 million and approved before voters passed an $800 million bond issue in November 2014, include work on leaking roofs, balky air-conditioning and library expansion.
Meanwhile, the bond-issue projects also lag. The district has offered excuses that, frankly, amount to bureaucratic blah blah blah. It is a blessing to have construction funds in this increasingly anti-tax, anti-government atmosphere. Not spending those funds on time and on budget is a sure way to lose voter trust.
Tallahassee Democrat – Don’t trivialize Sunland’s history as fun ghost story
The first time I visited Sunland Tallahassee was in 1977. I was a young, enthusiastic public information officer with the state, responsible for press contact in the Tallahassee district, which included Sunland and four other state institutions.
My tour began on a top floor. It was filled with cage-like metal cribs. The staff person brought us to one specific crib, to help us appreciate the challenges of her job – and, no doubt, for the shock value.
Inside, was an infant whose brain was outside his skull, a condition call exencephaly. He would die soon. It was a mind-jarring introduction to the facility.