Round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

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A compilation of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers.

Tampa Bay TimesEditorial: Crack down on corporate welfare 

On top of billions of dollars in tax incentives that state and local governments offer businesses to relocate or expand, there is another unwarranted gift from taxpayers that major corporations have been enjoying: tax-exempt bonds. State and local governments are increasingly issuing these bonds on behalf of private corporations. The money has financed major building projects for oil and gas companies, a golf resort and even the construction of banks. As Congress debates how to reduce the federal deficit, cracking down on this corporate welfare would be a good place to start. 

Tax-exempt bonds are intended to help finance large-scale public works projects such as roads, bridges and schools. Bond buyers get a lower interest rate, and in exchange the investors don’t pay taxes on the interest. This kind of tax break is an invisible way to reduce federal revenues, exacerbating the federal deficit. But it is justified when it goes toward public infrastructure. 

Bradenton HeraldSunshine laws critical to keeping government in check

Today marks the beginning of national Sunshine Week, designed to spark discussions across the country about the significance of open government and freedom of information. The twin cornerstones of an accountable and transparent democracy help ensure government of the people by the people, and, most importantly, for the people — and not the power brokers, outright crooks and other self-serving conspirators.

Citizens who are engaged in their communities in one way or another earn our deep respect — whether through direct involvement with neighborhood associations or fire district boards, attendance at county commission or school board meetings, or home monitoring of government via the Internet, newspapers and other information sources. Civic engagement is vital to a healthy democracy.

The Daytona Beach News-JournalDaytona Beach area needs good data on tourism

As the steady hum of motorbikes arrives during Bike Week 2013, local tourism officials are applying some long overdue science to the numbers behind the big events that help drive Daytona Beach’s tourism-based economy.

Daytona Beach needs accurate and up-to-date numbers for its examination of tourism in the area. Too much is at stake in the debates over the future of tourism to rely on anecdotes and assumptions.

So it’s welcome news that the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has ordered four new studies from Daytona Beach-based Mid-Florida Marketing and Research Inc.

The Lakeland Ledger Open Government In Polk: Let the Sun Shine

A black hole is an object in space whose gravity is so strong that it sucks in and absorbs everything nearby. Nothing escapes, not even light — thus the darkness and the name.

A figurative open-government black hole has been found in Florida. It is centered in Polk County and encompasses the county’s two largest cities: Lakeland in the west and Winter Haven in the east.

From this region of governmental darkness, details and documents of important city operations have been so fully obfuscated that the Lakeland Police Department’s lawyer told The Ledger that a report requested by case number was not related to the subject of the case, Bernardo Copeland Jr. of Lakeland. Only when the newspaper sent a photograph of the report’s cover sheet, showing Copeland’s name, did the department admit that the case involved him.

The Miami HeraldSewage solution requires public access

The battle between Miami-Dade County and federal and state environmental regulators over fixing the county’s decrepit sewage system has gone on so long that concerns about rising sea levels have now entered the fray.

When the county and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection entered into consent decrees in 1994 and 1995 that outlined the county’s upgrade of its sewage and water treatment system to stop toxic leaks, the effects of global warming were not very common topics outside of scientific circles.

But now, 18 years later, with the county still not in compliance with those two consent decrees, and with the two sides negotiating yet a new agreement, the specter of an encroaching Atlantic Ocean onto Miami-Dade’s shoreline looms over the talks. Environmental groups have urged that the negotiators abandon a plan to upgrade the aging, outdated — and flood-vulnerable — Virginia Key sewage-treatment plant and replace it with a facility located much further inland.

The Orlando SentinelTextgate shows leaders’ contempt for sunshine

On this Sunshine Sunday, when the Sentinel and newspapers across the state spotlight Florida’s proud tradition of open government, here’s a riddle:

What’s more outrageous than government officials flouting their legal duty to conduct the public’s business openly?

Answer: Sticking taxpayers with the legal bills for those same officials if they get caught.

That’s the scenario looming in Orange County. Commissioners, in a surprise move, voted in a Sept. 11 meeting to derail a paid sick-time initiative that had been endorsed on petitions by more than 50,000 county residents. Afterward, several commissioners and county officials deleted their cellphone text messages, including some they had exchanged with lobbyists opposed to the initiative.

The group behind the initiative, Citizens for a Greater Orange County, sued the commissioners, accusing them of violating Florida’s open-records and open-meetings requirements. Those requirements have been in state law for decades, and were enshrined in the state constitution by voters in 1992.

The Tampa Tribune–  Making progress at Citizens

Citizens Property Insurance is a fiscal time bomb, and as is customary bills seeking to revamp it have been offered this legislative session.

But state lawmakers should give new Citizens’ CEO Barry Gilway a chance to continue his reforms and not disrupt the progress that is being made to shrink what was intended to be the insurer of last resort but has mushroomed into the state’s biggest property insurer.

The Legislature should approve the measure Gilway is requesting to help put more Citizens’ policies in the private market but not attempt any major changes this year.

Clearly, Citizens remains vastly overextended, and all ratepayers would be on the hook to make up any shortages should a disaster strike.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.