A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — Healthy step for region
The relationship between the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital, the university’s main teaching hospital, is continuing to move in the right direction. The chief executives of USF’s College of Medicine and Tampa General announced last week that both would play overlapping roles at the two institutions. This new level of coordination aligns the strengths of two powerhouses in ways that could make for a healthier and more prosperous region.
The arrangement will give the two executives a voice at both institutions, enabling them to focus their academic, research and clinical assets, and maximize their spending in an era of fast consolidation within the health care industry. Medical school dean Dr. Charles Lockwood will become executive vice president and chief academic officer at TGH, while Tampa General CEO Jim Burkhart will become senior associate dean of the medical school.
The move builds on the fresh start that both leaders have made since replacing their squabbling predecessors in the last year. By sharing seats at the executive level, Lockwood can help shape Tampa General’s academic and research programs. Burkhart can help the university enhance its clinical and research offerings, recruit physicians to the medical school and solicit support for USF through the broader business community.
As Florida prepares to vote on permitting physicians to recommend use of medical marijuana to patients with debilitating conditions, a new report adds another angle to the debate.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found fewer narcotic painkiller overdose deaths in states with medical marijuana laws.
“The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates,” the report stated.
Investigators analyzed death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, a time span in which 13 states adopted cannabis therapy laws.
States with those laws had a decrease in opioid overdose rates by an average of 20 percent a year after medical cannabis legalization, 25 percent by two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Remove obstacles to legal immigration
Although the national debate on immigration is focused exclusively on what to do with illegal entrants along the southern border, the legal immigration must be improved as well.
Case in point: the Kuzmins of DeBary.
As reported by The News-Journal’s Mark Harper, Olexiy Kuzmin left his native Ukraine in February 2013 to seek a better life for his family. He invested most of his money into buying the Genuine Bistro, a failing restaurant in DeBary. While his wife, Maryna, and daughter remained in Ukraine, Kuzmin worked about 120 hours a week to transform the business while also learning to speak English and assimilating into American culture. By investing $100,000 and employing 22 people, he earned a U.S. work visa.
Eventually his wife and child joined him in DeBary, as did Kuzmin’s parents, just as the situation in Ukraine became perilous. The Kuzmins are sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Orange City until Olexiy can find a house.
So far it is a classic immigrant success story. However, Kuzmin’s work visa expires in August 2015, and there are no guarantees he can remain in the United States. He told Harper that more than 100 Genuine Bistro regulars have offered to support him, but it will take more than character witnesses to keep him in his new home.
The Florida Times-Union — Celebrities can help break the silence on mental health
America needs more celebrities to speak out about mental illness.
Like cancer in the past, the shame and isolation involved in mental illness is a roadblock to treatment.
One example that should resonate in Jacksonville’s football-crazed culture comes from Herschel Walker.
On Oct. 14, Walker will be the featured speaker at the release of the major study from Jacksonville Community Council Inc. on mental illness.
His book — titled “Breaking Free” — is an extraordinary account of his experience with multiple personalities (also known as “dissociative identity disorder”).
In reality, Walker’s mental illness actually helped him cope with fear. And for much of his life, it helped him succeed as a fierce competitor in school and athletics.
The Gainesville Sun – The power of solar
Germany gets about as much sun as Alaska, yet it beats sun-soaked Florida and the rest of our country when it comes to solar power.
Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy, twice the percentage in the United States, the New York Times reported this month.
Germany’s renewable energy sources include biomass, solar and wind. While solar panels supply 7 percent of German power, the figure lags at 1 percent in the United States.
Nowhere is the tepid embrace of solar more confounding than in the Sunshine State. Florida ranks third in the nation for solar potential, but 18th for solar capacity installed, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Gainesville Regional Utilities has taken steps to diversity its energy supply and encourage the use of solar, but other Florida utilities have fought regulations pushing them to do the same. Jacksonville utility JEA has called President Obama’s proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 “crazy, unnecessary and unattainable,” the Times-Union reported this week.
The Lakeland Ledger — County Development: Time to Reconsider Impact Fees
When economic times got tough in 2010, the County Commission suspended impact fees on almost every area, leaving taxpayers instead of developers footing the bill for growth. The first moratorium lasted only six months, but it was renewed three more times, leaving the current one in place until July 31.
Now, building is picking up, as evidenced by the 23 percent increase in building permits from July 2013 to July 2014. And that raises the question: Should the commission revisit impact fees early, given the uptick in the economy? Or should it at least figure out what the trigger would be to give developers advance notice they might have to start paying their way again?
First, a primer on impact fees: The county first imposed impact fees so developers would help pay for the cost of providing services necessary to accommodate growth. The fees affect new development because new homes and stores and gas stations and the like mean more people, which means more parks, recreation, fire and other services are needed.
Different types of development pay different kinds of impact fees. For instance, a new home would pay a park fee, but commercial development — like the store or gas station — would not (because it does not create demand for a park). All development pays for things such as roads because everyone uses them.
The Miami Herald — Stopping Ebola
Rarely has the idea of the global village and the mantra that the world is one big neighborhood seemed as real as in the frightening case of the raging Ebola epidemic in Africa.
There was a time, not so long ago, that an outbreak of disease anywhere in the Third World would have seemed far removed from the daily concerns of Americans and the nation’s foreign-policy agenda. Safely protected from foreign plagues by vast oceans, U.S. leaders would not have felt compelled to order a rapid response along the lines announced last week by President Obama as a matter of self-protection.
There might have been a tardy and symbolic response, if any at all, but certainly it would not have been treated as a priority demanding presidential action, complete with a significant military deployment.
What makes Ebola different is the realization that the world is indeed smaller, that modern modes of transportation — with busier travel patterns and habits — have lowered the barriers against infection. In places like Miami, a major port of entry for overseas visitors, the threat is very real, and Ebola is a particularly scary virus.
The Orlando Sentinel — Limit landfill to protect Wekiva
Last year Orange County commissioners denied a request from the operator of a landfill for construction debris — located in the springshed that drains into the ecologically imperiled Wekiva River — to expand its capacity and accept other kinds of trash. Given the landfill’s location near Kelly Park Crossing, a proposed billion-dollar development in Apopka, the denial made sense for both environmental and economic reasons.
But the operator, Mid Florida Materials, later got the decision overturned by a circuit judge, who ordered the request back to commissioners for reconsideration. That reconsideration is set for Tuesday’s commission meeting.
While the judge’s ruling appears to have left commissioners little room for another denial, they can — and should — insist that any expansion of the landfill at least come with more environmental safeguards.
Audubon Florida has proposed some sensible conditions: installing a liner wherever any trash other than construction debris will be dumped, to protect groundwater in the springshed from polluted seepage; and expanding a buffer of native vegetation between the landfill and nearby Golden Gem Road.
It’s true that the state Department of Environmental Protection has approved the landfill’s expansion plan without these conditions. But the DEP’s blessing contradicts its actions on similar requests elsewhere in the state.
Regardless, commissioners shouldn’t neglect their obligation to protect the Wekiva springshed — just because the DEP did.
The Ocala StarBanner — Cybersecurity
In the arcade game Whac-A-Mole, players armed with oversized hammers try to smash fake little critters back into their holes.
Sometimes the player strikes the target, but, more frequently, the mole ducks out of harm’s way … and, in a split second, another creature pops up from a different hole. We have been reminded of this classic amusement while reading about the numerous security breaches in the computer systems of some of America’s best-known retailers — cyber attacks that have exposed not only proprietary data but the information of consumers.
Unfortunately, the results of those breaches aren’t harmless or funny. Companies are exposed to liabilities and the potential loss of business from angry customers. Both the holders and issuers of credit cards are vulnerable to unauthorized charges.
Some of the electronic intrusions have resulted from inadequate or lax security measures. But even companies that attempted to take pre-emptive steps to protect data — Home Depot comes to mind — have had their systems hacked … after their “hammer” struck too late and the invaders exploited a security hole elsewhere. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, after Target Corp. sustained a massive data theft, Home Depot created a task force that was charged with avoiding a similar breach. The home-supply chain spent $7 million on a new information-management system that was methodically tested and installed, in phases, at retail outlets.
The Pensacola News-Journal — Meet Pensacola’s very own poet laureate
Jamey Jones, a fifth-generation Pensacolian, has been named poet laureate of Northwest Florida by the West Florida Literary Federation. Maybe you didn’t know we had a poet laureate, or maybe you wonder why this position is significant.
The role of poet laureate is an honor dating back to ancient times. Always a role of communication, the laureate back then also recorded political events. These days a laureate represents a city, area, state or country, serving as an ambassador for literary arts.
Natasha Tretheway served as the recent U.S. poet laureate, and Charles Wright is stepping into the role next. Tretheway has visited Pensacola at least twice, once reading and speaking at Pensacola State College, and last year at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
Pensacola has had a distinguished line of poets laureate for over 25 years, beginning in 1986 with Adelia Rosasco Soule followed by Leonard A. Temme, Mary Hood, Laurie O’Brien, Henry Langhorne II, and Juliet DeMarko.
Our regional poets laureate have published a variety of writing, not limited to poetry.
A committee that includes members of the West Florida Literary Federation and other local scholars searches, nominates, interviews prospective candidates and finally selects someone to serve our area. The process takes almost a year.
The Palm Beach Post — Leadership needed to protect, preserve local neighborhoods
South Florida was always a tough place to forge a sense of neighborhood and shared community, what with the regular churn of vacationers and seasonal residents.
But a host of trends emerging since the housing market collapsed are making it so much more difficult now.
The Panama City News-Herald — Resting Positions
It can be tough to get a good night’s sleep in Panama City Beach during Spring Break.
It turns out it was also tough to get some ZZZs this summer, especially if one was trying to waste the night away on private property or on public sections of the beach.
Panama City Beach police officers arrested 50 people between Memorial Day and Labor Day for camping or being in a “resting position” on the beach over night. This was more than eight times the amount of arrests for these crimes over the same amount of time last year.
Chief Drew Whitman told The News Herald’s Zack McDonald that it is not against the law to be homeless and that most of the arrests were for trespassing or for violating an ordinance against sleeping in public areas from 1 to 6 a.m.
In a subsequent discussion with The News Herald’s editorial board, Whitman added that officers had the discretion to decide whether to make an arrest in those situations. When asked how often someone got a warning instead of arrested Whitman said it was about 50/50. But he added that a repeat offender almost assuredly spent the night in jail.
The Tallahassee Democrat – Say no to Thrasher
This is an important moment for Florida State University and its Board of Trustees, which is charged with selecting a new president from the finalists for the job.
More is at stake than who will lead the institution; this also is about what kind of place Florida State will become.
All indications suggest the trustees are ready to select former House speaker and current state Sen. John Thrasher, one-time chair of the state Republican Party who also chairs Gov. Rick Scott’s election campaign committee.
The search committee meets Monday to decide if any of the four finalists do not deserve to be forwarded to the trustees, which meets Tuesday to pick FSU’s next president.
The real question before the trustees begin is not with who, but what. That is, what is FSU really?
Is it simply a political prize to be awarded as spoils by victors in political elections? Let’s be honest: Who believes Sen. Thrasher would be considered a serious candidate were someone besides Rick Scott the governor?
Does FSU’s leader truly not need to embrace scientific principles or empirical evidence?
Will it simply be an athletic powerhouse, content to ride the laurels of football national championships?
Will it just be a slave to the cash flowing from corporate givers?
Or can it ever reach its potential as a top public university, doing important work to benefit the nation and humanity?
Sen. Thrasher has had a long and proud political career.
We mean no disrespect to Sen. Thrasher nor to diminish his accomplishments. He is simply the wrong person for this job.
The Tampa Tribune —Teamwork at TGH and USF
It is reassuring to see Tampa General Hospital and the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine strengthen their ties.
Eliminating the long-festering tension between these two essential institutions should improve the region’s health care and economic outlook.
A couple of years ago, local leaders were worried relations were so strained between the medical school and TGH that the relationship could collapse. For a while, it even appeared the residency program for USF students at TGH might be threatened.
But the new leadership at TGH and USF Health seems to have scrubbed away the bad blood.
TGH CEO Jim Burkhart and USF Health Dean Dr. Charles Lockwood announced Thursday that each will serve on each other’s executive teams.
Burkhart will become a senior associate dean at USF Health, and Lockwood will add the title of executive vice president at TGH.
Both will be involved in the other institution’s decision-making process. Such collaboration is critical if the partnership is to reach its potential.
Working together, the innovative medical school and the nationally renowned hospital could become a health-care powerhouse, attracting national attention and generating new enterprises.
The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Center, for instance, is one of the largest employers in Baltimore and attracts patients and research dollars from across the nation.
The new TGH-USF arrangement may not mean the two parties will always agree. But at least they can discuss areas of contention, and there should be no surprise decisions that create lingering ill will.