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

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Tampa Bay Times –Editorial: Good pick for Hillsborough tourism chief 

Santiago Corrada is a good choice to head Tampa Bay & Co., Hillsborough County’s tourism bureau. He is an energetic and personable leader whose history in Florida government should bring a rounded approach and some much-needed openness to the publicly financed, privately run agency. 

Corrada was selected Tuesday after an opaque search that came nowhere close toward meeting the nonprofit’s assurances that the hiring would be transparent. Still, he is well-suited for the job. As the troubleshooter for two Tampa mayors, Pam Iorio and Bob Buckhorn, Corrada has had a leading role in turning around troubled operations and putting on the city’s signature events. 

The Bradenton Herald –Communitywide effort vital to defusing Manatee County gangs 

Once the mounting threat of gangs exploded into the public’s consciousness with the 2007 shooting death of a 9-year-old during a senseless confrontation, Manatee County took a variety of positive and successful steps to combat the problem. Now more must be done in the memory of Stacy Williams III, hit by a stray bullet during that gang dispute six years ago, and other victims of these criminal bands. 

In first devising a strategy against gangs, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office came up with a ground-breaking approach — building cases under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, which allows prosecutions of defendants involved in criminal activity as a member of an organized group. Past and present crimes can be evidence of that, and hefty prison sentences often result. 

Over the past six years, five successful RICO investigations took down 55 Manatee County gang members from at least three organizations. In addition, two SUR-13 gang members pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges just last week. 

Daytona Beach News Journal – State job market rebounds, but some anxiety lingers 

Unemployment is down in Florida, Volusia County and Flagler County. This is cause for renewed optimism about the economy, but our optimism should still be of the cautious variety. 

After an 18-month downturn now known as the “Great Recession,” followed by at least three years of disappointing recovery statistics, the state, the region and the nation are gaining economic steam. 

Yet some statistics indicate the national economy remains sluggish. It’s moving in the right direction, but not at the rates Americans are accustomed to, especially after a recession. 

The Lakeland Ledger –Florida Polytechnic University: Beacon of Brightness 

Grayness at the dawn of 2013 outlined a lonely time at Florida Polytechnic University. Eyes around Florida were watching to see if the polytechnic could shine as the 12th state university. 

In January, its board of trustees was finally operating with a full complement of 11.

On Feb. 20, the chairman of the State University System’s Board of Governors wrote to poly board of trustees Chairman Rob Gidel, asking him to appear before the governors in March. Not only did Dean Colson, chairman of the governors, seek an update of the polytechnic’s progress but justification for a request for an additional $25 million in funding, which was withdrawn subsequently. 

The Miami Herald –Florida Housing Finance Corp. must stop stalling and help homeowners 

It will come as news to many homeowners facing the loss of their homes that Florida has a huge fund of money available to help those facing foreclosure, and a deadline of Dec. 31, 2017 by which to spend it. And at the rate the state is going, many homeowners in trouble who might be eligible for assistance will be left out on the street when the program shuts down. 

The money comes from the unfairly maligned federal TARP program, which pumped $700 billion into banks and housing markets to keep the economy from collapsing. A small part of that consisted of $7.8 billion in an assistance project called the Hardest Hit Fund. 

The fund is designed to help homeowners in 18 states, including Florida, and the District of Columbia stay in their homes when threatened with foreclosure. Florida’s share comes to just over $1 billion. Essentially, the money is meant to go to unemployed homeowners or those who have jobs but don’t earn enough to pay their mortgage — although the terms of eligibility are belatedly being expanded. 

The Orlando Sentinel – Lawmakers must seize chance to save springs

It’s hard to figure what goes on in the heads — and hearts — of Florida’s lawmakers.

For months, the Sentinel and other state newspapers have published alarming reports on the rapidly deteriorating health of Florida’s incomparable natural springs. Many are dying because of pollution and excessive groundwater pumping. Once crystal clear, they’re now clouded with algae and weeds. 

In recent months, thousands of Floridians have flocked to rallies to save the springs and signed petitions urging lawmakers to take action. Former Gov. Bob Graham has been leading the charge. 

Yet halfway through the 2013 legislative session, proposals in the Senate and House to launch a serious rescue mission for springs are drowning in committee. 

The Orlando Sentinel –Letters to the Editor: Public court flawed, poverty, distracted drivers

Mike Rice, the former Rutgers coach, was fired — according to Mike Bianchi in his Thursday column — not because Rice abused his players but because “you and I and the governor of New Jersey and everybody across the country found out about his abusive behavior.” 

I find that assessment appalling. How disturbing that a man’s career is ended due to the opinion of folks who don’t know the facts and do not know the man at all. 

Once again, the court of public opinion has made a decision it has no right to make. I agree that the video of the coach hitting and kicking his players is repulsive and would naturally offend nearly everyone. However, there must be more to Rice than that video. 

The Tampa Tribune – Confronting foreclosure tsunami 

It seems counter-intuitive that the state’s foreclosure crisis continues unabated at the same time the housing market is making a comeback. But that’s exactly what is happening. Despite rising housing prices and a jump in construction starts across the state, the number of foreclosure filings continues to climb in Florida.

That’s why two bills being considered by lawmakers in Tallahassee deserve support. Although not perfect, they appear to be well-meaning attempts to stanch the foreclosure backlog while preserving the rights of homeowners. There is a provision in one that is harmful to the newspaper industry that, naturally, we hope is dropped. But the bills thoughtfully address a formidable challenge.

In a recent RealtyTrac report, the state distinguished itself in a number of unflattering ways. 

The Ocala Star Banner – Editorial: Trust fund distrust

When you make a promise, keep it — especially when it involves taxpayers’ money. 

This simple rule is one legislators conveniently forget when they balance the state budget by dipping into trust funds that were set up for specific purposes. 

Each of these trust funds is composed of revenues that are supposed to be aimed at specific purposes, ranging from health care to affordable housing to old tire disposal. The revenue sources for the trust funds evolved in a way that rationally connects the fee payers to the benefits of the trust fund. 

The Palm Beach Post –Why is Abruzzo targeting Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics? 

State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, is a man who believes in coincidences. At least, he expects Palm Beach County residents to believe in them. 

Five days after his friend and assistant was passed over for a position directing the county’s commission on ethics, Sen. Abruzzo used his influence to sic state auditors on the tiny agency, a bizarre, nearly unprecedented move that smacks of retribution and political intimidation. But when one of the five commission members called him out publicly on Thursday, Sen. Abruzzo pleaded innocence. He asked state auditors to investigate, he claimed, before his staffer and longtime friend was officially passed over for the job. 

Perhaps we have born witness to a coincidence of epic proportions. Sen. Abruzzo is just one of 160 legislators who might have asked the auditing branch to investigate. His assistant, Philip Massa, is – given the size of the American workforce – just one of some 150 million potential applicants for the position. That these pals happened to have significant dealings with the same five-person agency, and so close together in time, is remarkable.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.