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

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

Tampa Bay Times — Times recommends: Alex Sink for U.S. House

The race to succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young is not one of subtleties. Republican David Jolly, a former Young aide and Washington lobbyist, faithfully recites his party’s most conservative views and is clearly more about what he opposes than what he supports. Democrat Alex Sink, the state’s former chief financial officer, supports health care and financial reforms embraced by the Obama administration and has suggestions for improving them. The candidates agree on delaying soaring flood insurance premium increases while reforming the system. But on almost everything else, Sink reflects the mainstream values of Pinellas voters and has a record of the bipartisanship that Washington needs to start working again.

These are not the candidates who were expected to seek to succeed Young, who served more than four decades in the House and died in October. More prominent Republicans with experience in public office passed up the race, and Sink moved from Hillsborough to run. Libertarian Party candidate Lucas Overby, who was planning to run before Young died, also is on the March 11 special election ballot.

Jolly, 41, casts himself as Young’s logical heir. But no one can bring home the hundreds of millions in federal dollars that Young did, and Jolly is a more hard-edged conservative than his former boss. Young supported a combination of spending cuts and public investments to reduce the federal deficit; Jolly only wants to cut. Young was hesitant to militarily intervene in the crisis in Syria; Jolly has no qualms about intervening. Young had a regional view of Tampa Bay; Jolly offers a pinched Pinellas view as he mischaracterizes Sink as an outsider.

The Bradenton Herald — A setback for reasonable flood insurance rate hike delay

In some quarters, partisanship in the GOP-dominated U.S. House of Representatives got blamed for the defeat of a measure that would have approved a bipartisan Senate measure to delay flood insurance reform. But that sensible postponement was attached to unrelated legislation that Republicans found not only objectionable but possibly poisonous to the vital flood measure.

Longboat Key Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan is a co-sponsor of House legislation to achieve similar goals as the Senate measure, and his office states unequivocally that he is committed to achieving his bill to the floor of the chamber by month’s end.

“There is no bigger issue on our radar than flood insurance,” Max Goodman, one of Buchanan’s key aides, told this Editorial Board Friday. “This is a fragile issue.”

While the two votes last week to reject consideration of packaged legislation that included the Senate delay in flood premium increases went along party lines, Goodman said Buchanan continues to work with Democrats to ensure relief to homeowners facing crippling insurance premiums. This is not a partisan issue for sure, it’s an economic issue.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Spaceport hearing should focus on real issues

A public hearing this week will likely turn up the rhetoric between those who support development of a privately run spaceport in southeastern Volusia County and those who fear such a development could damage the Indian River Lagoon system.

Advice to everyone involved: stick to the facts.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which must license spaceports, is in the process of studying the proposal, by Space Florida, to build a 200-acre private spaceport in Volusia County. The FAA will hold two meetings to allow public comment. The first is at 5 p.m. Tuesday at New Smyrna Beach High School. The second is at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Eastern Florida State College in Titusville.

Space Florida’s basic proposal is to establish two vertical launch pads which could bring up to 12 launches per year, and 12 fire engine tests. The area is known as Shiloh, west of Kennedy Parkway and south of Oak Hill. It is within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The Florida Times-Union — Deepen channel, grow economy, protect the river

Jacksonville has too many natural advantages to allow its port to wither.

If the St. Johns River is not deepened, the port will lose business and Northeast Florida will lose the growth of its most promising economic asset.

As the westernmost port on the East Coast of the United States, Jacksonville has important geographic advantages.

With rail and highway connections, Jacksonville is a natural for logistics. A new rail transfer facility will give JaxPort better opportunity to compete for business in the Midwest. More than 60 million people are within a one-day truck drive.


But many of these advantages will be lost if the port does not remain competitive.

That means deepening the channel to keep up with newer, larger ships.

Ships are getting larger in general.

In fact, 43 percent of the container vessels on order will require channel depth of 47 feet to 50 feet, reports Martin Associates, drafters of JaxPort’s new strategic plan.

If the river bed is not deepened, the port will lose current container businesses. The local economy will go backward. The loss of business won’t be recovered until 2035.

Even if the channel were deepened to 45 feet, the amount funded by the federal government, the port would not be competitive. 

The Gainesville Sun – A better GRU board

A new governing body should be created to oversee Gainesville Regional Utilities, but the proposals so far have been flawed.

A better model has been sitting under our noses all along: The Alachua County Library District’s board, which includes city and county commissioners.

There are compelling reasons to move oversight of GRU from the Gainesville City Commission to a new board. They include a lack of representation for the roughly 30 percent of electric customers living in the unincorporated county and the conflict of interest created by GRU’s annual transfer to city coffers.

Including county representatives would help ensure decisions on the transfer and rates are made in the best interests of all utility customers. A new structure should also allow for members selected due to their expertise in overseeing an increasingly complex utility.

The Lakeland Ledger — Lakeland Police Scandals: No Need For Royal Treatment

If the Lakeland City Commission treated City Manager Doug Thomas with the respect he deserves, City Commissioner Keith Merritt said in a commission meeting Monday, commissioners would reserve critical comments about him or his work for private, individual discussions. Such dirty laundry would not be aired before the commission as a whole — not before the public, which elected them.

“Commissioners, to say I am distraught over the direction we are taking is really an understatement,” Merritt said.

“We have a form of government in which we have a strong city manager. About a month ago, we voted 7-0 — unanimously — in support of our city manager, and he has made decisions based upon that vote of confidence,” he said.

“And for us to question his decision-making at the dais, as opposed to private conversation, in which we might differ with his managerial decisions, is certainly inconsistent with our vote,” Merritt said.

The Miami Herald — Thwarted again

Just a few days after raising the hopes of immigration reform advocates who believed Republicans in the House of Representatives were finally ready to act, Speaker John Boehner dashed those expectations on Thursday by declaring his party is unwilling to take action this year.

That may be smart short-term politics, but it spells long-term disaster for a Republican Party with a serious demographic problem.

Earlier, Congressional Republicans made a significant, if belated, policy change on immigration reform at the start of the new legislative year, moving all the way from “Hell, No!” to “Maybe so.” The party issued a statement of principles that signaled it was at long last ready to negotiate a deal.

Granted, Republicans’ version of reform had a fatal flaw — a failure to include a path to citizenship — but it signaled a willingness to move forward, albeit slowly and cautiously. The party has rejected the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate last year, but the newly issued principles at least offered a piecemeal approach, which is better than outright rejection.

Suddenly, a deal of some kind, even in an election year, seemed possible — until Mr. Boehner slammed on the brakes, offering the weakest of excuses.

The Orlando Sentinel — Embrace leaders’ plans for cleaner government

When talking about his plans for education in Florida, former Gov. Jeb Bush would say, “Reform is never finished and success is never final.”

Recently, state Senate President Don Gaetz invoked that aphorism to apply it to another area where it belongs: ethics in government. Gaetz was explaining why he and House Speaker Will Weatherford chose to include ethics reform among their legislative priorities for the second year in a row.

It’s a wise choice. There’s much more to be done to raise ethical standards for public officials in Florida. According to a 2012 report from Integrity Florida, a nonprofit government watchdog, Florida led all states in public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010.

Higher ethical standards will deliver a cleaner, more accountable government. And they’ll inspire more public confidence in public officials — a good reason for lawmakers to embrace another round of reforms.

The Ocala StarBanner —Reclaiming our springs

2014 just might go down as the year in which rising public concern over the declining health of our springs finally reaches critical mass.

The Star-Banner’s recent “Fragile Springs” series has certainly helped to elevate the conversation about water and Florida’s future to its rightful place at center stage. Day after day, the stories drove home two points: Our fabulous springs are in a world of hurt. And we are failing the test to preserve and protect our priceless blue-water gems.

Language structures any debate, so let’s be clear: It’s simply inaccurate to say that our springs are dying. Dying is what happens when old trees fall down in the forest. That’s the cycle of nature.

“Dying” is too soft a word to describe what’s happening to our springs. The reality is that we are killing our springs. The fact that none of us wanted this to happen doesn’t excuse our responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

The Pensacola News-Journal —Derrick Brooks shapes Pensacola

Welcome to Pensacola: Pro sports capital of America. There may be no other place in the country that has produced the number and caliber of professional athletes that our city has. Don Sutton, Jerry Pate, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley, Reggie Evans, Emmitt Smith, Roy Jones Jr., Justin Gatlin, Josh Sitton, Trent Richardson … the list would seem to be without end if we hadn’t come to know all the athletes by heart.

And because we nurture such a tremendous concentration of talent in our little piece of the Panhandle, we’re often treated to weeks when our hometown boys seize nationwide headlines. Such was the case last week when Gulf Breeze High’s Doug Baldwin became our town’s newest Super Bowl champion.

And just a day before Baldwin’s triumph, yet another homegrown NFL star achieved a feat even tougher, rarer and more distinguished than winning the league’s greatest of games – Washington High School’s Derrick Brooks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Palm Beach Post —CBO report on ACA means U.S. workers to have more freedom

Never ones to let facts get in their way, critics of the Affordable Care Act have seized on the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office to spread yet another lie about the law. “Obamacare To Print Even More Pink Slips,” read an email from the Senate Republican conference. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted, “Obamacare will cost our nation about 2.5 million jobs.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tweeted that the law is “expected to destroy 2.3 million jobs.”

The truth is the CBO estimates that people will choose to work less because of the law not that they will lose jobs they’d like to keep. And that’s a good thing. It means the law will give Americans more freedom because they will not be locked into a job because they need the health care benefits.

“CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked … almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive,” says the report. “The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor.”

In other words, no jobs will be lost or destroyed. But more parents will choose to stay home with their newborns, more workers will retire early and more will work fewer hours because they will no longer need a job to get health insurance. Critics, though, are taking this lemonade and trying to turn it into lemons.

The Panama City News-Herald — Progress, not perfection

When it comes to developing a long-dormant property, Panama City officials and downtown business owners should choose progress over perfection.

The former Marie Hotel has sat vacant on the corner of Harrison Avenue and 5th Street for more than 30 years, reflecting not only economic downturns but also proving to be impervious to real estate booms. However, the locally owned Royal American company has proposed turning the building into 80 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors.

Usually a city would jump at such a chance to renovate a property that has been an eyesore — and has not been contributing to the tax base — for so long.
But the Marie project is coming at a time when the city has grand plans for revitalizing the downtown corridor. It begins with redeveloping the Panama City marina. Officials also envision a reinvigorated downtown becoming a magnet for fulltime residents to live and work. That would be another reliable source of traffic for retailers and restaurateurs, and perhaps would entice other businesses to locate downtown.

The city and downtown merchants see Royal American’s plan for the Marie as being incompatible with that vision. Their ideal downtown clientele would be younger, employable and with more disposable income than the retirees living on fixed incomes who would occupy the affordable housing project. Some also worry about crime associated with low-income housing.

The Tallahassee Democrat – Don’t forget R&B’s influence on The Beatles

It seems as if everywhere you turn these days, we’re reminded about the strong influence The Beatles had on our lives. Specials are airing on the 50th anniversary of the band’s arrival in the U.S. and the group’s historic appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 50 years ago today.

The critics would say that’s old history, time has moved on and so has music. Those are pretty naïve thoughts for anyone, like me, who grew up a major fan of The Beatles. And, while I can’t recite every detail of every Beatles’ album, perhaps like my two Mark colleagues, Hinson and Hohmeister, I can hold my own in conversations about The Beatles, their songs and their influence.

It occurs to me that they were my first real entre into rock ’n’ roll, followed by an interest that remains today in details like McCartney’s affinity for the Hofner bass or Lennon’s choice of the Epiphone. From their earliest music on, there were too many classics to list (“In My Life”), the production work on Sgt. Pepper (“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” was a favorite), being introduced to Ravi Shankar and the sitar, wire-rim glasses, going through the whole “Paul is Dead” trip, the “White Album” (you didn’t need the gimmicks if you had the goods inside), learning more about Abbey Road, that “yes” moment with the addition of Billy Preston’s soulful influence on keyboards. Later came the solo efforts.

Yes, The Beatles really did offer a ticket to ride.

The Tampa Tribune —Tribune endorsement: David Jolly for U.S. House District 13

Voters should ignore the distortions and name calling in the negative TV advertising for the District 13 congressional race and instead focus on which candidate is better prepared to represent constituents.

Republican David Jolly is a former aide and general counsel to the late C.W. “Bill” Young who has worked in Washington as a lobbyist and consultant, owned businesses and is vice president of a private equity company in Clearwater. He is a Dunedin native familiar with the district and with the inner workings of Washington.

Democrat Alex Sink is the state’s former chief financial officer and once ran the Florida operations for what is now Bank of America. She has served on state government accountability and education commissions and nearly defeated Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial race. She moved from her Thonotosassa home after announcing her candidacy and now lives in the Pinellas County district she hopes to represent.

Both candidates are smart and capable, but we give the nod to Jolly because of his experience working with Young and his more conservative views.

We also worry about a complete loss of legislative balance if enough Democrats are elected in this fall’s midterm election to have a majority in the House, leaving a single party to control the Senate, the House and the White House. District 13 is a relatively rare “swing” district, where voters are evenly divided.


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.