A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — Temporary measures in Iraq, redux
President Barack Obama laid out a compelling but narrow interest in resuming American airstrikes Friday in Iraq. American military airpower is — for the moment at least — the only deterrent preventing the continued slaughter of Iraqi Christians and other minorities at the hands of a Sunni extremist offshoot of al-Qaida, and the United States should intervene to save tens of thousands of otherwise doomed civilians. But the administration needs to be up front about what this bombing campaign can and cannot accomplish, because Americans will not support a new undefined adventure.
Friday’s airstrikes came only hours after Obama announced he had authorized new military and humanitarian support for as many as 40,000 Christian and Kurdish religious minorities who are under siege in northern Iraq. The refugees flooded to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region after fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ordered them to convert to Islam or face execution. The militants have been pushing forward for days, summarily executing scores of people and trapping thousands in the mountains without food and water. Iraq’s human rights ministry said Friday that several hundred women from the Yazidi minority had been taken captive by ISIS militants — many of them the widows of male refugees the fighters killed.
The U.S. airstrikes will help protect American diplomats and military forces stationed near Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region. The aerial presence will also protect U.S. cargo planes as they fly low over the war zone to drop food, water, medicines and other supplies to refugees who are dying from heat, hunger and dehydration. The show of force is a display of unity with Kurdish peshmerga troops, who stepped up to fight the militants after Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and U.S.-issued weapons as ISIS advanced.
The American campaign could ease the immediate suffering, stabilize the refugee situation, buy the Kurds time, downgrade ISIS’s military capabilities and even create political breathing room in the capital, Baghdad, to negotiate the ouster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the establishment of a new unity government. But while Obama insists the United States won’t return with boots on the ground, any aerial campaign runs the risk of U.S. flyers being downed in hostile territory. And to what level must the sectarian killing subside for this humanitarian mission to be brought to an end?
The Bradenton Herald — Manatee County commissioner errs on trying to silence public commenting
The latest dustup from the dais of the Board of Manatee County Commissioners brings to mind an old saying: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Elected officials and politicians should expect to be recipients of pointed remarks from the public, especially at open meetings that allow citizen comments. Time limits on public responses should be expected, too, else meetings get out of hand with citizens going on and on with political statements and personal grievances.
A suggestion by county commission Chairman Larry Bustle that individuals be limited to a total of 10 minutes per meeting — while maintaining the current three-minute cutoff per single agenda item — did not gain traction among his fellow commissioners. Rules do not set a maximum time span per meeting.
“Just let people speak,” Commissioner John Chappie said during Thursday’s meeting.
Yes, indeed, citizens should not be muzzled.
Bustle got mixed up in clashes with several speakers recently, with one last week ending when the chairman had the microphone turned off after a resident surpassed the three-minute limit and kept talking.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Homeless issue requires support, due diligence
One month away from receiving a report from a national expert on Volusia County homelessness, local officials are displaying encouraging signs that progress can be made on solving the problem.
In March, Daytona Beach hired Robert Marbut, a Texas-based consultant who has helped communities, including several in Florida, develop strategies for addressing homelessness. For the past several months he has been researching the local homeless population, including living among them on the streets. He has seen who they are, where they live, how they survive and what services they can access.
In September he will deliver a report to the city detailing the homeless situation and recommend solutions designed to lift people out of their predicament instead of perpetuating it. He’s likely to propose, as he has done with other communities, creating a centralized, one-stop-shop facility away from the downtown. His approach doesn’t just relocate the problem, though. It is supposed to ameliorate it.
Marbut has emphasized that homelessness is a multifaceted issue that requires the cooperation of numerous social service agencies as well as local governments. It can’t be viewed as just one city’s problem, but rather as a community-wide challenge.
It’s therefore good to see municipalities stepping up in advance of Marbut’s report and planning to set aside funds to build and support a comprehensive homeless shelter and aid facility, if that is determined to be the correct course of action.
The Florida Times-Union — Cheers: UNF grad honored for volunteer spirit
In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, Ashchi did extensive work with UNF’s Interfaith Center, served as a mentor for the national Youth Core, led training events and workshops on youth leadership across our country and won an award for her tireless efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking in Jacksonville.
Ashchi is also taking part in a humanitarian-oriented trip to India where she will attend the World Women’s Congress.
With such an inspiring record of service, it’s no wonder why Ashchi received UNF’s Senior Service award during the school’s recent summer commencement.
The award is given by UNF’s alumni association to honor outstanding volunteer service by a graduating senior.
Congratulations to Ashchi for her passion for volunteerism!
The Gainesville Sun – Election antics
The Justice Department doesn’t have to exaggerate Florida’s antics with elections to make the case for voter suppression.
In a July 21 letter to Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was “deeply disturbed” that barriers to voting have repeatedly been added during Scott’s tenure.
Holder rightly criticized Florida for measures such as restricting voting rights of ex-felons, a questionable purge of voting rolls, and limits on early voting that have since been reversed.
But one item in the letter is not like the others. Holder wrote that Gainesville sought to use the University of Florida’s Reitz Union as an early-voting site in an attempt to avoid long lines at the polls. Scott’s secretary of state denied the request.
The reality is that state lawmakers excluded educational facilities when they expanded early-voting sites in 2013. Were they trying to suppress the student vote? Perhaps. But students haven’t exactly made the case that they need a campus early-voting site. While there have been long lines for presidential elections, just 50 students voted at the Reitz Union in the latest city election.
The Lakeland Ledger — A Conversation With Sherrie Nickell
Sherrie Nickell served as superintendent of Polk County schools from 2010 to 2012. She left the position to care for her husband, who had been diagnosed with rapidly progressing dementia. Sadly, her husband of 27 years passed away June 4. She retains her passion for education and is putting that to good use to educate people about dementia.
What do people dealing with a loved one who has dementia face daily?
Dementia is a horrible disease that robs a person of his personality, his ability to remember wonderful memories and his ability to communicate effectively and live independently. Each day is marked by the slow but steady loss of the person.
What toll does it take not only on the sufferer, but also on other family members and friends?
Initially, a person who receives a dementia diagnosis struggles with depression and a strong sense of loss. After a point, the person with dementia no longer realizes that he is slowly failing. But for those who love him, the cost is great. It’s as if someone is slowly drowning in a sea of forgetfulness, yet nothing can be done to turn the situation around or even to slow the progression. There is a profound sense of sadness and disbelief as one struggles to absorb the new reality and faces the inevitable outcome.
The Miami Herald — The Herald recommends: For attorney general, Democratic primary
Democrats George Sheldon and Perry Thurston, who are competing for the party’s nomination for attorney general, share similar views on a host of issues. Mainly, they agree that Republican Pam Bondi is doing a poor job of representing average Floridians as the state’s chief law-enforcement officer and should be replaced.
Both Democrats see the powerful office, with its 500 attorneys, as an advocate for consumers and a force for protecting the public from widespread scams, corporate wrongdoing and the degradation of Florida’s environment, as well as enforcing the law.
In separate interviews with the Editorial Board, both said the office traditionally functioned that way under both Democrats and Republicans, until Ms. Bondi took it in a more political direction. Both cited her aggressive efforts to support the gay-marriage ban as a waste of state resources designed principally to curry political favor with conservatives.
Mr. Sheldon noted that even Republicans Charlie Crist and Bill McCollum, when they held the office, had intervened in utility-rate cases at the state level on behalf of consumers. That kind of pro-consumer activity ceased under Ms. Bondi, he lamented.
The Orlando Sentinel —Central Florida is so good at bad parking lots
If you’ve spent time hating on the parking lot at Trader Joe’s in Winter Park this summer, I have one question for you: Have you ever driven anywhere else in Central Florida?
This region is blanketed with horrible parking lots.
I’d go as far as to say that bad parking is one of the things Central Florida does best.
We have world-class theme parks. Gorgeous lakes and rivers. Killer hotel spas. And parking lots that can make your pulse race faster than a spin on Universal’s new Escape from Gringotts.
So while the junk foodies are becoming more enraged with every lap around the lot at Trader Joe’s and the newly opened Shake Shack, they should know they are in good company.
The things we hate about parking lots can be broken down into four easy categories:
The colossal shopping center. Waterford Lakes in east Orlando is the poster child. The place has 5,427 parking spaces, so finding a spot isn’t the problem. It’s the design, stupid. Or make that stupid design.
At Waterford Lakes the sidewalks often end, leaving shoppers to hike expansive deserts of pavement to get from one big-box retailer to another. One mom tried to make it on foot from Best Buy to Target and was never heard from again, though a single Vera Bradley flip-flop matching her description turned up in 2012.
But seriously, Waterford can be terrifying.
The Ocala StarBanner — Redoing redistricting
The Florida election process is a mess — again.
In the tradition of the hanging chads of the 2000 recount and the long lines of 2012 caused by the Legislature’s excessively long ballot questions, Florida faces the prospect that the November elections could be impacted by a judge’s rejection of the congressional redistricting map.
And Florida’s legislative leaders have no one to blame but themselves.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis of Tallahassee, in a July 10 decision on a lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters and other groups, said Republican political operatives “made a mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting.”
Lewis found, among other misdeeds, that:
A legislative staffer gave a Republican operative redistricting maps two weeks before they became public.
A proposed congressional map was filed under a fraudulent name.
Legislators deleted emails and documents related to redistricting even though they knew a lawsuit was likely.
Legislative leaders met secretly with political operatives to discuss strategy.
The Pensacola News-Journal — John Legg: Master ‘Five C’s’ of education this school year
As summer comes to a close and school doors get ready to open, one needs to simply walk into our classrooms to see how much has changed and continues to change in Florida’s educational system. Today students must learn not only the three R’s but also master the five C’s: creativity, content, customization, collaboration, and character.
Now, more than ever, our students need to utilize their creativity. The rigid, traditional methods of problem solving are insufficient. Today’s economy requires an ability to process and understand multiple variables. Students must ask probing questions, consider options, investigate, test ideas, fail, learn, adapt, try again, and succeed.
Content matters, and it must be rigorous. More will be expected from our students as they pursue higher education or careers. No longer are classmates merely competing with one another. They are now being compared to their peers statewide, across the county, and around the globe. As Florida moves to elevate standards, it is essential that rigor be heighten in our classrooms. Content must be mastered by students in order to be competitive.
Collaboration is also essential, not just in the classroom but in the workplace. The days of listening to the “sage on the stage” has come and gone. Today’s students must work to identify problems, formulate solutions, build consensus and discover…together.
The Palm Beach Post —Steady, reliable leadership makes Deutch best choice
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, is facing challenger Emmanuel Morel, a retired U.S. Department of Labor investigator, in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary race to represent Florida’s 21st Congressional District.
The Post is endorsing Ted Deutch because of his steady and reliable leadership since 2010 on tough issues including campaign finance, immigration reform and foreign policy, and because of his willingness to work across the aisle with Republicans on common-ground issues that matter to his constituents.
The Panama City News-Herald — Put sunshine, sense into redistricting
Even measured against the grubby standard of business-as-usual, the 2012 redistricting process was a shabby, secretive mess. Just months after voters mandated new, more ethical standards for redrawing district lines, legislative leaders were looking to bend the rules and hide their tracks. The result: Two congressional districts will have to be reconfigured (a process likely to impact voters in Volusia and Flagler counties).
Even worse, lawmakers are still fighting to keep secret the process that produced those flawed districts and determined congressional boundaries across Florida.
During the trial over the district lines, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis sealed the courtroom while lawyers went through documents relating to consulting work performed by Pat Bainter, a Gainesville-based GOP consultant. Bainter would like those documents permanently sealed. It’s the kind of request that should make Florida voters very suspicious, especially in light of Lewis’ finding that the documents “evidenced a conspiracy to influence and manipulate the Legislature” and represented a “secret, organized campaign” to subvert the will of voters. Lewis specifically found that the collaboration between lawmakers and the consultants amounted to a “shadow redistricting process.”
Floridians deserve to know just how bad it got. That’s why Halifax Media Group — parent company of The News Herald and several other Florida papers — is part of a coalition of newspapers asking the Florida Supreme Court to unseal those records. The court should agree, and quickly, making the information public before legislators embark on the process of redefining the affected districts.
The Tallahassee Democrat – School Board, District 1
Sometimes in a candidate endorsement, a newspaper’s editorial board will exclaim over a bright, fresh face on the scene — and then endorse the incumbent and encourage the newcomer to try again some other day.
It’s the easy way out when the incumbent is a solid candidate with a good record of public service.
Now, though, it’s the newcomer’s time as the Tallahassee Democrat endorses Alva Swafford Striplin for the Leon County School Board, District 1.
Ms. Striplin is running against Forrest Van Camp, who was elected to the School Board in 2008 to fill the unexpired term of Sheila Costigan and was re-elected in 2010.
The Leon County school district has been hit recently with allegations that there was favoritism in the bidding process for school construction. Some projects were split to bypass a requirement for competitive bidding, a few employees have claimed whistleblower status, and the FBI may be investigating.
Through all of this has loomed the question: Where was the School Board?
The Tampa Tribune — Attacking evil in Iraq
The Obama administration’s wobbly foreign policy is often and rightly criticized, but in authorizing military action against the ruthless Sunni jihadists surging through Iraq the president did what had to be done.
It would have been irresponsible to not respond forcefully as the insurgents gained territory at a rapid pace — while also demonstrating unbridled brutality.
American jets yesterday delivered two air strikes on Islamist militants outside the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, where the United States maintains a consulate and considerable personnel. The operations are being directed by Central Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, and are being supported by MacDill’s 6th Air Mobility Wing refueling tankers.
The developments in Iraq gave special significance to the Change of Command Ceremony on Friday morning at MacDill. Retiring Col. Scott DeThomas, who’s done a superb job during his two years here, turned over the leadership of the mobility wing and the base command to Col. Daniel H. Tulley.
The event underscored the critical role MacDill plays in the nation’s defense.