A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — Times recommends: Charlie Crist for Democrats
The best hope for Florida Democrats to win the race for governor for the first time in two decades is a former Republican. Only Charlie Crist has the financial resources, name recognition and experience to effectively challenge Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. While some Democrats remain uneasy with Crist’s transformation, he is a populist with a genuine affection for the state and a commitment to the issues and values his new political party has long embraced.
Crist, 58, has a resume unmatched in Florida politics: former state senator from St. Petersburg; education commissioner when that job was still an elected Cabinet position; attorney general; governor. He likely would be finishing his second term as governor now if he had not taken an ill-advised run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, miscalculated the strength of the tea party wave within the Republican Party and lost as an independent candidate.
There is a pragmatic calculation to Crist’s switch to the Democratic Party, but there is more to it than ambition. The Republican Party has become so conservative that even former Gov. Jeb Bush has wondered where he fits. Crist cast himself for years as a Reagan Republican and earned the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” from this editorial page for foolishly seeking the return of chain gangs as a state senator in the 1990s. But his values are more in line now with his new political party than his old one.
The Bradenton Herald — Sela Freedom fights against sex slavery in Manatee, Sarasota
The statistics on human trafficking are chilling, and victims’ stories even more so. Southwest Florida is fortunate to have Sarasota-based Selah Freedom offer a life preserver to young women ensnared in prostitution by intimidation, coercion and violence.
The nonprofit organization notes that Manatee County has the highest number of prostitution arrests in the state, with a large number being victims of sex trafficking. The state ranks third in the nation for reports of children forced into the sex trade.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, between 100,000 and 300,000 American children fall into sex slavery every year — an extraordinary and troubling number of youngsters robbed of their lives.
Most disturbing: The average age that girls fall into the sex trade is 12 to 14, the FBI notes. For boys, the age range is even lower — from 11 to 13. Many are runaways trying to escape sex abuse by a relative or acquaintance only to become further victimized.
Selah Freedom’s vital mission includes residential homes to serve women who seek to escape the sex trade and their captors.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal — No time for board games
Senior members of Halifax Health’s medical staff believe they have the prescription for the hospital’s financial challenges: Create a separate board of directors, composed of physicians, to have a greater input on how funds are raised and spent.
That’s strong medicine that would require legislative changes in Tallahassee. The simpler treatment would be consultation — improving dialogue between the current board and doctors.
Dr. Sandra Buchanan, president of the medical staff, recently wrote a letter to her constituents outlining concerns regarding staff representation on the board and its input on financial matters. She notes that revenues from the public hospital’s taxing district have decreased over the last 5-6 years, which has cut funding for indigent care. She also complains that medical staff have been forced to cut costs, which she says has led to less staff and decreased services (although she later told The News-Journal’s Skyler Swisher that patient care hasn’t been affected yet).
Buchanan, representing the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee, advocates increasing compensation for the nursing staff and boosting funding for critical services, especially, she says, those services that only Halifax delivers to the community.
None of that is surprising. Many hospitals around the nation are struggling with these issues, as well as the turmoil and uncertainty in the health care market brought on by the still-unfolding Affordable Care Act.
The Florida Times-Union — Social Security’s troubles aren’t going away
Americans like to talk about Social Security and do nothing about it.
Recent polls show that people don’t want to touch benefits. Yet there are not enough revenues to pay them.
We want our cake and to eat it, too.
The latest report from the Social Security and Medicare trustees provides these updates:
Social Security will be insolvent in 2033, meaning benefits would have to be cut by 23 percent.
Medicare will go insolvent in 2030, which actually is a modest improvement. At that point, resources would fall 15 percent.
The Social Security disability fund will be insolvent in just 2016, which would result in a major benefit cut.
This is called bankruptcy in private life when you don’t have the money to pay your bills.
“Neither Medicare nor Social Security can sustain projected long-run program costs,” the trustees said in their annual report.
The reason for the shortfall is a numbers game: More Americans are aging into retirement, and fewer Americans are working to pay into the trust funds.
We have seen this coming for years, but no one wants to do anything in response to it.
Yet as with paying any debt, the sooner changes are made, the better.
The Gainesville Sun – Muzzling doctors
In a misguided effort to defend the Second Amendment, gun-rights advocates are stomping on the First Amendment.
A state law passed in 2011, known as “Docs vs. Glocks,” restricts physicians from asking patients about guns.
A federal judge found the law unconstitutional in 2012. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled the opposite way. The decision is now being appealed.
The law is part of a troubling trend of lawmakers getting between physicians and patients. Physicians have the right and responsibility to ask about their patients’ health and safety, and follow up those questions with sound advice.
Contrary to National Rifle Association rhetoric, a gun in the home is more likely to harm its occupants than protect them. Research has shown that access to firearms in the home increases the risk of accidental death, homicide and suicide.
The “Docs vs. Glocks” law was inspired by the case of a Marion County woman who was upset that a pediatrician asked whether she owned a gun. When she refused to answer, the pediatrician said he could no longer see her child as a patient.
The Lakeland Ledger — A Conversation With Jonathan Evans
Two years ago, Jonathan Evans was hired as assistant city manager in Haines City. A year later, he was promoted to city manager. At age 32. And that after serving much of his career in recreational services, which still makes him smile. When we caught up with him, he just finished watching kids singing and swinging hula hoops at the city’s community center. His story is an inspirational one, as you’ll see as you read on.
What attracted you to Haines City?
I was seeking an opportunity to take the next step professionally. I did a little research on this community and read its budget document and (saw) its fiscal challenges, and I appreciated the stance from the commission — it wanted to preserve jobs. That intrigued and fascinated me — they really valued the employee.
Do you still feel that way?
Absolutely. Under the leadership of the City Commission and executive management, our employees are our most valuable resource. I’m truly humbled to serve as city manager, and I can’t do anything on a daily basis without the support and dedication of the employees and elected officials who allow us to do our jobs to serve the residents of Haines City.
The Miami Herald — Deep in the heart of Texas
Gov. Rick Scott and a host of state politicians have managed to embarrass themselves and the people of Florida again over an issue many thought had been laid to rest more than 20 years ago when two dozen lawmakers pleaded guilty to failing to disclose free trips from lobbyists.
That scandal included hunting trips to Georgia, Texas and Mexico and eventually led the Legislature to prohibit gifts to themselves worth more than $100. But they cleverly left a loophole that allows lobbyists to give unlimited amounts to political parties, which can funnel the money to the politicians and no one will be the wiser.
Or so they hoped. But recently the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau found that Gov. Scott, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and state House leaders have accepted secret hunting trips to the fabled King Ranch in Texas.
The trips took place over the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch. Since late 2011, U.S. Sugar paid more than $95,000 to the Republican Party of Florida for at least 20 weekend trips — destinations unspecified on public documents — within days of more than a dozen Florida politicians registering for Texas hunting licenses.
Thanks to the party fund-raising loophole, none of this may be a violation of law — which is a scandal in itself — but even that is not completely clear.
The Orlando Sentinel — Florida gains with green policies taking root
Environmental protection in Florida went into a deep freeze after the Great Recession pummeled the state’s economy and voters then elected Gov. Rick “let’s get to work” Scott. Funding for conservation programs took a nose dive, and environmental regulations were relaxed in the name of creating more jobs.
But there are some signs of a thaw under the Scott administration. Florida’s environment will of course be better off if the thaw persists, but so will its economy — and its taxpayers.
Just last month the staff at the St. Johns River Water Management District recommended that its board reject a request from Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach for a permit to pump more than a million gallons a day from the Floridan aquifer to irrigate a cattle-ranching operation in Marion County. The ranch is located near Florida’s iconic Silver Springs and Silver River, both in deep trouble from reduced water flow and pollution.
The district staff explained that the pumping “wound contribute to cumulative harm to the ecology of Silver Springs and the Silver River.” Staff essentially echoed the argument that environmental activists have been making since they began protesting the ranch’s pumping plans at least three years ago.
The district’s board still needs to vote on its staff’s recommendation, and directors could choose to reject it. Also, there are other permit requests pending for the ranch. But until last month, activists feared the district wouldn’t even put a speed bump in the ranch’s path. Now state regulators are on record as concluding that Silver Springs and the Silver River are at risk from excessive groundwater pumping. Ripples from that conclusion could reach other distressed waterways in Florida.
The Ocala StarBanner — Prescription: Expand Medicaid
It’s come down to this: Either Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is wrong about Medicaid expansion, or the vast majority of Floridians are.
Add Florida’s doctors to the long, growing list of proponents calling for the Legislature to approve expanded Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act. The influential Florida Medical Association passed a resolution last week saying it will publicly support expansion.
The FMA thereby joined Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Senate, House Democrats, the Florida Hospital Association, business and labor groups and, according to a recent poll, 67 percent of all Floridians.
That leaves Weatherford and his Republican House majority — along with a minority of Floridians — who contend that Medicaid is flawed and that the federal government can’t be trusted to provide the funds promised for expansion.
Yet, Weatherford has refused to provide an alternative to insure the low-wage workers who would qualify for health coverage under an expanded Medicaid program.
The Pensacola News-Journal — Why does Pensacola need two chambers of commerce?
Hello, I’m the 33 year old President of a local technology company and I’ve been an entrepreneur in Pensacola since the age of 20. Presently, I’ve been working hard as an advocate for economic and workforce development in Pensacola and Escambia County. Because of this, I joined the The Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce. However from time to time I’m asked, “Why in the hell does Pensacola need two chambers of commerce and why do we need one specifically for minorities?”
Before I address that, I would like to give you a little of my back story. I owned a wireless store from 2001-2011 and generated over a million dollars per year in sales in the latter part of that decade. I’ve always been a problem solver and as the store’s owner, I identified a problem with collecting and processing the payments of our prepaid wireless customers. So I created a solution to that problem and in 2011, I turned that solution into its own company — Pay Cell Systems.
In June of 2012, I applied to join the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), an “Incubator” program for technology companies in the local area. The program is a joint effort between Pensacola State College and the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.
Now, back to the question at hand. If you noticed, my company is part of a program that is jointly sponsored by the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. That should have been my opportunity to be invited into the chamber, right? Wrong!
The Palm Beach Post — Paul Krugman:Knowledge Isn’t Power
One of the best insults I’ve ever read came from Ezra Klein, who now is editor in chief of Vox.com. In 2007, he described Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, as “a stupid person’s idea of what a thoughtful person sounds like.”
It’s a funny line, which applies to quite a few public figures. Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a prime current example. But maybe the joke’s on us. After all, such people often dominate policy discourse. And what policy makers don’t know, or worse, what they think they know that isn’t so, can definitely hurt you.
What inspired these gloomy thoughts? Well, I’ve been looking at surveys from the Initiative on Global Markets, based at the University of Chicago. For two years, the initiative has been regularly polling a panel of leading economists, representing a wide spectrum of schools and political leanings, on questions that range from the economics of college athletes to the effectiveness of trade sanctions. It usually turns out that there is much less professional controversy about an issue than the cacophony in the news media might have led you to expect.
This was certainly true of the most recent poll, which asked whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the Obama “stimulus” — reduced unemployment. All but one of those who responded said that it did, a vote of 36 to 1. A follow-up question on whether the stimulus was worth it produced a slightly weaker but still overwhelming 25 to 2 consensus.
The Panama City News-Herald — Bay County needs foster families
One of Bay County’s biggest problems is usually invisible — the need for foster families.
Thanks to drug use, domestic violence and the transient nature of many Bay County residents we have one of the highest removal rates in the state. However, while many of us will see the parents in the news or read their names in the arrest logs, most of us will never see the suffering of their children.
When state officials make the difficult choice to remove a child from a parent, they then work to find a suitable place for the child to live. The child’s journey usually starts with an emergency shelter and they are sometimes placed with a relative. If there are no relatives who are able to take the child in, counselors look to registered foster parents to save the day.
These parents provide the love and stability children need during this difficult time. This week foster parent counselors told us that there are about 50 foster families in Bay County and 365 children who are currently living away from their biological parents.
When there is no room for them in local foster families, local children are sent to foster homes outside of Bay County — as far away as Tallahassee and Pensacola. Moving them out of the county adds another layer of stress on an already stressful situation and forces the children to attend a new school, find new friends and at times deal with a different school curriculum.
The Tallahassee Democrat – Our Opinion: Endorsements
Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll be seeing candidate endorsements in this space. Now would be a good time for us to explain what an endorsement is, how endorsements are made — and, indeed, why endorsements are made.
The mission statement of the Gannett Co., which is the largest newspaper publisher in America and the corporate parent of the Tallahassee Democrat, is:
“To serve the greater good of our nation and the communities we serve.”
The Democrat does that every day through its watchdog journalism and by reporting on the issues that matter most to you. But the greater good also is served when the Democrat, through these Opinion pages as well as through social media, provides a forum for a lively conversation on those important issues.
Having the Editorial Board carefully deliberate and offer endorsements on candidates is a key part of that conversation.
So, how do we arrive at those decisions?
The Tampa Tribune — Flogging corporate deserters
President Obama wants to lash “corporate deserters” — companies that move overseas to avoid U.S. taxes — with penalties and additional regulations.
It is another case of the president trying to pit Americans against one another instead of supporting an economy that would offer more jobs and opportunities for everyone.
“These companies are cherry-picking the rules, and it damages the country’s finances,” the president said in California last week. “It adds to the deficit. It sticks you with the tab to make up for what they are stashing offshore.”
Decrying the lack of “corporate patriotism” may sound good on the campaign stump, but if the president was genuinely interested in keeping American companies from shifting operations overseas, he would attack the country’s tax burden.
The nation’s 35 percent corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrial world, and even though exemptions allow some companies to pay considerably less, the U.S. tax rate remains unduly burdensome, precisely the reason more companies are moving abroad.
As The Wall Street Journal points out, when state taxes are added, the average corporate tax rate in the United States is 40 percent, double the average in Europe.
Small wonder companies look for relief.