A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — Times recommends: Three new faces for School Board
Now more than ever, the Hillsborough County School Board must focus on providing a higher quality education for its more than 200,000 students. The School Board will help overhaul areas ranging from student transportation to teacher evaluations and implement the new Florida Standards, the state’s version of the Common Core Standards. There are two open seats and one incumbent seeking re-election. These races are nonpartisan and are open to all county voters in the Aug. 26 primary.
Michelle Popp Shimberg
District 2, south county
Michelle Popp Shimberg has demonstrated an 18-year commitment to Hillsborough’s public schools through volunteer work, including serving on the School Board’s Citizen Advisory Committee. Now she wants to do something more about the challenges facing the district. Shimberg, 51, wants to focus on closing the achievement gap and providing increased vocational opportunities for students who are seeking to join the work force after high school graduation rather than attend college.
Shimberg’s opponents have run previously for the board. Sally A. Harris, 64, owns a preschool in South Tampa and has worked with special needs children. Michael Weston, 58, is a former high school math teacher who ran for a countywide seat in 2012.
Both Harris and Weston have solid criticisms of the district and good ideas about how to move it forward. Harris wants to improve education in the earliest grades and sees herself as a one-term board member. It’s hard to imagine her agenda could be accomplished in a single term. Weston wants more accountability and transparency from the district administration. But he can be argumentative and dismissive of opposing ideas, which would diminish his effectiveness on a seven-member board.
The Bradenton Herald — Time for public to scour Manatee County school district budget
As the Manatee County school district moves into a new year, the preliminary budget holds several striking improvements that continue the recovery from financial mismanagement under the previous administration.
For the first time since the 2009-2010 school year, the district will meet the state-mandated 3 percent fund balance, with a projected reserve of $12.5 million in the 2014-2015 budget.
Had the state Department of Education not assessed $5.9 million in restoration costs this year for fiscal failures dating back to 2005, the district would be ending this budget cycle with about a $10 million surplus, but now that reserve figures to be between $3 million and $4 million.
That’s quite an achievement considering the district began the year with an $8.6 million deficit caused by previous overspending.
The 2014-2015 draft budget of $372 million remains tentative until the state confirms the district’s allocation. The district anticipates $19 million more than last year, a bonanza for the recovery.
Still, the district cut spending in the administrative side of the equation while leaving education spending intact — certainly good news for the continued improvements in student achievement, school grades and district’s state ranking.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal —Uncover the truth about monstrous acts
The unfolding case of Matthew Graziotti is a journey into the abyss.
The 43-year-old former middle school teacher was arrested on July 14 after an FBI search of his Edgewater home allegedly revealed thousands of images of child pornography on his computer involving prepubescent males. One folder was reportedly titled “personally known.” At a hearing Thursday in federal court in Orlando, he pleaded not guilty to charges of production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography.
The details of the alleged crimes are stomach-turning and mind-numbing. Your heart breaks for the victims and their families. It’s impossible to fully comprehend the revulsion and anger the parents are feeling.
It’s chilling to think how far the tentacles might have reached.
Graziotti had worked at Warner Christian Academy, a private school in South Daytona, for nine years, teaching fifth- to eighth-grade classes. He also was director of the school’s summer day camp. In addition, he was an adult volunteer leader in the Cub Scouts; he volunteered to help supervise children at the Edgewater Alliance Church; and he was a volunteer at Edgewater Public School.
The Florida Times-Union — New FSCJ president has helped revive the college
During a recent session with the Times-Union editorial board, Florida State College at Jacksonville President Cynthia Bioteau offered a blunt description of the challenges she’s faced since taking over.
Bioteau said when she took charge of FSCJ in January, it was like walking into a chaotic surgical triage unit and becoming immediately consumed with “stopping the bleeding” going on everywhere.
The comparison was apt.
Prior to Bioteau’s arrival, FSCJ had become bloodied by dysfunctional leadership, complacent oversight, poor transparency, lack of accountability, low employee morale and a financial aid program so poorly administered that it led the U.S. Department of Education to demand the college repay millions in student grant and loan money that had been improperly distributed.
“We’ve had to tackle quite a few things,” Bioteau said regarding her first six months at FSCJ.
And she’s tackled them well.
The Gainesville Sun – Release the records
A Leon County judge found that Republican lawmakers and consultants “made a mockery” out of a redistricting process that was supposed to be open and transparent.
Yet even though Judge Terry Lewis struck down two congressional districts with his decision this month, the public is still being kept in the dark about the process in which those districts were drawn.
The public and media were barred from the courtroom during the presentation of a key piece of evidence, which remains under seal: hundreds of pages of documents from GOP consultant Pat Bainter of the Gainesville firm Data Targeting.
Now the First Amendment Foundation and a coalition of news organizations including the Halifax Media Group, owner of The Sun, are pressing for the records to be released. The Florida Supreme Court should do so to allow the public to better understand Lewis’ ruling.
The judge wrote that the documents were “very helpful” to him in reaching the decision. The documents “evidenced a conspiracy to influence and manipulate the Legislature” into violating the state constitution, Lewis wrote.
The Lakeland Ledger — A Conversation With Cauney Bamberg
Cauney Bamberg has been the executive director of the Watson Clinic Foundation for the past 10 years. She says serving the foundation combines her interest in charitable work with outreach in the community she’s grown up in and loves. The Lakeland native now lives in Winter Haven, so she refers to herself as a “Polk County girl.” We recently chatted with Bamberg about her work. Following is an edited version of our conversation.
What is your role at Watson Clinic Foundation?
As the executive director, it’s my job to ensure we are doing everything in our power to promote community wellness through education, research, community service and outreach. We are proud of a long line of collaborations, and one of our most recent was funding and working closely with the Lakeland Rotary on the deployment of AEDs in Lakeland Police Department cruisers.
Did something happen in your life to make you passionate about this cause?
My father passed away as the result of sudden cardiac arrest. I held him in my arms as he took his last breath. As EMS arrived on the scene and began the process of using CPR and an AED, I realized and carried the burden of wondering at a very young age how much I might have possibly made a difference if I had known either of those facts or had the skills taught to me.
The Miami Herald — Israel’s challenge
When Hamas decided to initiate rocket attacks on Israel, it invited the furious reprisal that began earlier this month. Three times since 2006, Israel has responded to aerial assaults on its citizens with fierce counter-attacks, and each time the fighting has come to an inconclusive end that allows its enemies to replenish their arsenals and start planning for the next round.
For that reason, Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously rejected a U.S. proposal for a ceasefire on Friday, though Israel agreed to a 12-hour pause for Saturday. The images from the funerals of Israeli troops are heart-rending. The scenes of horror and destruction in Gaza, gut-wrenching. No one could wish for the people of Gaza to endure prolonged misery.
But it was Hamas that wished for the fighting. First, by attacking Israel, and then by rejecting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal because it wanted its own narrow demands addressed first. That included lifting border restrictions and the release of dozens of former prisoners Israel rearrested in a crackdown on the West Bank after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.
Throughout the fighting, Hamas has used the civilian population of Gaza as hostages. That is one big reason the terrorist group has worn out its welcome there. It uses populated areas to fire deadly rockets into Israel. U.N. officials have also said they twice found Hamas using abandoned schools to conceal dozens of rockets.
The refusal to agree to a cease-fire more than one week ago, along with the discovery of an extensive network of tunnels leading into Israel, triggered the Israeli ground assault and the determination of its government to achieve a twofold aim: Destroy the tunnels and degrade Hamas’ arsenal to render it ineffective.
The Orlando Sentinel — An extra hour for kids’ reading: Time well spent
Comedian Steve Martin hatched a national catchphrase in the ’70s — well, excuuuuuse me!
Nostalgia doesn’t inspire that recollection. Rather, the phrase seems fitting given the chorus of faultfinding the Sentinel’s Leslie Postal recently reported has risen up over the extra hour 33 Central Florida schools must add to the school day this year for rigorous reading instruction.
You can imagine Sen. David Simmons, the Altamonte Springs Republican who wisely has championed the effort as Martin: So, we have scores of at-risk kids who need to bolster the skill that’s central to scholastic success. Yet, because of the slight inconvenience a longer day will cause, you’re condemning the cure?
Well, excuuuuuse me!
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Extra time not only is a proven way for remedying learning deficits, it also helps catch lagging learners and helps them drop back into education before frustration leads them to drop out.
National studies have shown the strategy makes the grade. Kids saddled with low-income backgrounds and low achievement often enjoy the biggest boost.
If that wasn’t enough evidence, the Sunshine State has produced similar shiny results.
The Ocala StarBanner — A power play
As plans progress to put a natural gas pipeline through North Central Florida, including Marion County, there are a number of questions that must be answered about the project but one that stands out.
Does the state really need a new pipeline to supply more power plants?
The need appears to be more about the profits of major energy providers than the interests of the public. At hearings last week before the Florida Public Service Commission, big utilities such as Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light pushed to gut programs that promote energy conservation and solar. They’d rather just keep building power plants.
The reason is simple: Power plants make them money, and reduced electric use costs them money. For their customers, however, the reverse is true.
But the public wasn’t able to make that case to the ironically named Public Service Commission, which refused to allow public comment at last week’s hearings. It’s no surprise, then, that the commission has given its blessing to the natural gas pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must now decide whether the pipeline should be built and what route it should take.
The Pensacola News-Journal — Reduce speed, traffic on Bayfront Parkway
The city of Pensacola is right on target with the plan to reduce the speed and volume of traffic on Bayfront Parkway.
Mr. McCormick (“Don’t narrow Bayfront Parkway, Letters, July 16) is entitled to his opinion and desire to see six lanes of traffic buzzing through our revitalized downtown, but I believe that a promenade/baywalk stretching along our beautiful bayfront exposure makes more sense to attract new residents and visitors.
I am not interested in providing a speedway for those who only want to get through quickly and have no interest in participating in our wonderful downtown. There are plenty of alternative routes to travel through Pensacola in an easterly or westerly direction, and reducing the lanes on Bayfront Parkway will encourage these “get through quickers” to find these alternatives. As for the trucks, they can also slow down and join in the one-lane traffic.
And comparing traffic circumstances on the “Three Mile Bridge” with Bayfront Parkway is a stretch. The bridge has 10 or 20 times the traffic as Bayfront Parkway. And when those “get through quickers“ find alternatives, there will be even less traffic on our bayfront! Just sayin’. Go city of Pensacola – you’re headed in the right direction!
The Palm Beach Post — Deep-pocketed suit endangers manatee’s status
Manatees don’t have lobbyists or legal teams. But billionaires apparently do.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has just announced plans to review the Florida manatee’s place on the endangered species list, indicating it may downgrade the sea cow’s status to “threatened” — despite the fact that record numbers of manatees were killed last year.
The Panama City News-Herald — No reason to be bored in Northwest Florida
While we are not yet to the dog days of summer, we are at least in the puppy days of warm but not yet scorching heat mixed with a short, strong thunderstorm on some afternoons.
For children and parents, the novelty of days without school and associated activities has probably evaporated. Those of us who were lucky enough to have one parent at home during the summer can still hear their voices even as we work away sunny days in our offices.
“Go outside and play,” was one favorite parental response to the summer doldrums. Another was encouragement to get a job and thereby stop bugging hardworking adults for cash to fund trips to the movies, the comic book store or the local video game emporium.
What we wouldn’t give, sometimes, to be a jobless kid again with a summer stretched out before us that we could make our own. Of course, if history is any guide, we would probably spend most of it sleeping until noon and then on a couch watching daytime television — but maybe, just maybe, we could cram in another summer of joy and mischief.
The Tallahassee Democrat – Jonah Goldberg: UN a club in need of higher standards
As legend has it, Groucho Marx sent the Friars Club a telegram that read, “Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”
At least the Friars Club had standards. What to make of the United Nations? It has a single criterion for membership: existence.
Admittedly, this is an unattainable standard for such fictional realms as Westeros, Erewhon, Kreplakistan and numerous locales from the TV series “MacGyver” (Gnubia, Kabulstan et al.). But if you’re a nation-state that actually exists, you’re a shoe-in, like Kate Upton trying to get into a nightclub or a Kennedy applying to Harvard.
There are other, more exclusive organizations around the globe. Many are important, but most of them have fairly uninspiring membership requirements, too. The most common are regional outfits based on geography, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the African Union or the European Union. And there are plenty of economic clubs, such as OPEC and the G-8. Although the G-8 is essentially back to being the G-7 these days because Russia was kicked out, at least temporarily, for general evilness.
The Tampa Tribune — Tribune endorsements: Sprowls, Sarnoff, Latvala, Young in House primary races
Education, insurance costs and protections for the state’s freshwater springs are just a few of the issues state lawmakers are expected to tackle during the next legislative session. Pinellas County voters will have plenty of choices on the Aug. 26 primary ballot when deciding who they want to represent them in Tallahassee.
Races are being held in state House District 65 in northern Pinellas, in House District 67 in the eastern half of central Pinellas, and in House District 68 in an area stretching north of downtown St. Petersburg. In two of the races, Republicans are hoping to elect a candidate who can unseat incumbent Democrats in the November general election. In the other race, two Republicans and three Democrats are running to represent their party in the November general election.
A tax attorney and a state prosecutor are running in the Republican primary to face Rep. Carl Zimmermann, the Democratic incumbent.
Chris Sprowls, 30, is a state prosecutor for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office who beat cancer as a teenager. He says he’ll work to develop jobs and a more vibrant economy. He wants to target pill mills that promote addiction, thinks the state should find better health care solutions, and wants to make sure the county’s coastline and parks are protected.
He doesn’t think the state should accept federal money for Medicaid expansion, and is against expanded gambling in the state because of the potential effects on tourism and crime. He’s lined up an impressive list of endorsements from local and state Republican officeholders.
Both candidates bring intelligence and passion to the race. And both are running on conservative platforms. But Sprowls is the more polished candidate and appears ready to serve on day one if elected. In the Republican primary for state House District 65, the Tribune endorses Chris Sprowls.