A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times — DCF should reverse position on LGBT protections
The Department of Children and Families was wrong to discard language in its new policy that would have protected foster children in group homes from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Faced with political pressure, the state backed down precisely when it should have stood up for some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. The DCF should reverse course.
Activists representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community spoke against the DCF’s new policy at a hearing earlier this month in Tallahassee. The agency initially had worked with the activists to craft an antidiscrimination policy that would have resulted in sweeping changes in group homes throughout the state. Proposed changes included bans on discrimination and bullying because of sexual orientation or gender. The new policies also would have prohibited the use of conversion therapies on children. But after receiving letters of protest from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Baptist Children’s Homes, the DCF watered down its policy.
The agency now prohibits discrimination in broad terms such as “race, national origin, religion, gender, disability or any other characteristic.” State officials say the new language better serves all youth in its care rather than a small population with the concerns raised by LGBT activists. That’s illogical. Using precise language to call out specific, abhorrent behavior erases any ambiguity about what is acceptable and what is not. Imprecise language leaves too much up to interpretation.
Bradenton Herald — Parrish needs traffic signal at dangerous U.S. 301/SR 675 intersection
I read with interest all things that are happening around and in Parrish since this is my hometown.
About a month ago, my husband and I attended the Parrish community meeting, where Larry Bustle, Manatee County commissioner, was present. He and another commissioner spoke and answered questions.
Many of these questions were answered vaguely or left unanswered by avoidance. I questioned the safety at the traffic light on U.S. 301 and SR 675.
Would we ever get the “caution” light replaced by a real traffic light? His reply was, “We need to do another traffic survey before this can be addressed.”
Daytona Beach News-Journal — Teacher bonus plan deserves an ‘F’
Florida’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program is flawed in both design and execution.
Established in 2015 by the Legislature and funded again this year to the tune of $49 million, the bonuses are awarded to teachers based in part on the scores they received on the SAT or ACT — standardized tests for college entrance that most took when they were in high school. For many teachers, that was more than a decade ago, and the scores have zero relevance to their qualifications and performance in the classroom.
It’s a silly, useless criterion on which to judge merit. A more apt measure is the program’s requirement that teachers be rated “highly effective.”
Yet, even that has proved to produce an unequal and ineffective distribution of benefits.
Florida Times-Union — Good reasons to support Mayor Curry’s pension solution
Jacksonville must solve its pension crisis to have any kind of quality of life.
The city’s future is literally at stake.
Mayor Lenny Curry is not exaggerating when he makes this point. The city’s budget is being eaten alive by rising pension costs. This year’s $260 million going to pensions will be $280 million next year, then $300 million the following year.
Yet a number of Times-Union readers have offered misguided reasons to oppose the sales tax idea. Their anger and frustration are understandable, but their opposition is not.
Florida Today – Here’s how we’ll grade 2016 candidates
We’ve been pushy lately with your elected leaders.
Our news staff just graded state and county politicians, some harshly, on votes and decisions that affect the Indian River Lagoon. In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed an anti-corruption bill championed for more than a year by me and our editorial staff.
And we’re about to get pushier.
Next, FLORIDA TODAY will begin pressing candidates for county commission, Congress, school board and state House and Senate on a handful of issues that matter most to our readers.
We will press for solutions in a series of live, televised candidate forums just as mail voting starts for the primary and general elections. We will score the candidates issue-by-issue and publish their scores next to our nonpartisan endorsements for the ones who rate best. We will post it all online and repeat our recommendations before early voting and Election Day.
Gainesville Sun – Cheers (not jeers)
April is a great time to live in Gainesville — the weather is usually wonderful and there is plenty to do around town.
But lurking around the corner is a hot spell that suggests a brutal summer to come. The University of Florida is wrapping up its spring semester, which means fewer students clogging the streets but also fewer activities going on.
We’ll stick with an upbeat mood for the moment in presenting only cheers — and no jeers — this week.
Cheer: Anthony Lyons, for shedding the “interim” tag from his Gainesville city manager title.
Lakeland Ledger — For bikers, an inescapable conclusion about wearing a helmet
“Watch for motorcycles” or “Share the road.” Undoubtedly, Polk County motorists have spotted those words, or some derivative slogan, on countless bumper stickers. The inference is that motorcyclists’ lives depend on the vigilance of other drivers. It is good advice.
Yet we would suggest that motorcyclists bear responsibility to “watch” as well. No doubt motorists who are encouraged to be on the lookout for bikers have themselves noted motorcyclists who drive too aggressively — darting in and out of traffic or barreling up lane-dividing lines between cars. Also, drinking and riding is a nasty mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the ratio of drunken motorcyclists killed in accidents surpasses that of all drivers in general.
Suffice to say, relative to motorcycles, it is important that all of us pay closer attention, and avoid the behaviors that can lead to tragedy. That’s because, as a recent Ledger article noted, riding a motorcycle is more dangerous in Florida than anywhere else in the country.
Miami Herald —In Brazil, the real crime is corruption
As Brazil embarks on the wrenching process of possibly booting President Dilma Rousseff from office, here’s some advice from a country that knows something about impeachment: Make sure it’s about serious violations of law, not about politics.
There is, we hasten to say, no comparison between the charges or situations involving former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached by the House of Representatives almost 20 years ago but survived a trial in the Senate, and that of Ms. Rousseff.
He was accused of a dalliance with a White House intern and lying under oath about personal matters. She is accused of violating regulations regarding government finances, a budgetary trick designed to conceal a looming deficit.
On the face of it, these are two very different matters — except for the political impetus driving the impeachment process in both instances.
Orlando Sentinel — GOP system: Rules-based, not rigged
As a self-styled outsider candidate taking on the political establishment, billionaire casino mogul Donald Trump has always been running against the Republican Party to some degree. Lately, though, his efforts to de-legitimize the party and its rules have become more explicit.
His current grousing was prompted by the state GOP convention in Colorado earlier this month, where Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walked away with all 34 delegates. This, to Trump, amounted to highway robbery. Sympathetic bloggers carped that Colorado Republicans had been denied a chance to vote (they voted only in precinct caucuses), and Trump called the GOP nominating process a “rigged, disgusting, dirty system.”
On first glance, Trump’s complaints fit his pattern of blaming someone else each time his campaign has stumbled. The rules governing the nominating process, however, have been clear at least since last October, when each state’s procedures for picking delegates were finalized and revealed to all the candidates. And at the moment the rules seem to be helping Cruz, who is every bit as much an anti-establishment figure as Trump. The difference between the two appears to be that Cruz’s campaign understood what Trump’s ignored. Funny how someone who holds himself out as a masterful deal negotiator would fail to read all the way through the fine print.
Ocala StarBanner — An chance for nomination reform
Given the grueling presidential campaign so far, it hardly seems possible that our country still has more than six months to go before Election Day.
One good thing about the prolonged primary fight is that it has exposed what a terrible system we have to pick our president. The longer that fight drags on, the more voters become aware that the choice is really out of their hands.
While we’ve made progress from the smoke-filled rooms where candidates were once chosen, the current system of selecting delegates is far from being open and transparent. Both Democratic and Republican party officials have created ways to bypass the primaries and caucuses to give party officials power over the selection process.
GOP candidate Donald Trump has brought attention to these problems in recent weeks with his complaints about a “rigged” system. The problem was most clearly illustrated in Colorado, where the Republican Party ditched any pretense of letting voters decide in favor of a process in which delegates were chosen by party insiders.
Pensacola News-Journal — Earth Day is Friday
For many, Earth Day is just another day celebrated for reasons that do not seem to touch their lives.
But here in the Florida Panhandle, it is necessarily so much more. Responsible environmental stewardship is critical to our quality of life and the local economy, reliant on tourism and the region’s unique natural beauty. Effective environmental stewardship is essential to sustained enjoyment of recreational activities, fishing, water sports and others. Most importantly and simply, a healthy environment is crucial to our community’s physical well-being, yours, mine, our neighbors’, friends’ and, dearest to our hearts, our children’s and grandchildren’s, whose future depends on our environmental behavior today.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a monumental challenge for the region, was a reminder of the need for vigilance, wisdom and operational competence in environment management. Achieving an adequate response and recovery program has taken time. Our beaches and marine resources have weathered the crisis; renewal and healing continue. There are grounds for encouragement, but we must work constantly to ensure that such events do not reoccur.
Palm Beach Post — Prince allowed us to embrace our differences
There’s been a seismic shift in my world.
I’m talking a 30th-wedding anniversary, 50th-birthday, my-wife won’t-let-me-eat-(real)-bacon kind of seismic shift.
Prince Rogers Nelson died on Thursday. (As I wrote this on Friday, the official autopsy was underway.) He was 57.
And yes, I am in mourning. As are hundreds of thousands of others in my generation whose eyes he opened with his iconic fashion sense; whose minds he expanded with his lyrics; and whose hearts he stole with his music.
Anyone who’s talked to me long enough knows that I tend to describe my life in two parts: my four years of college; and everything else. From “Little Red Corvette” to “When Doves Cry” to “Controversy,” Prince’s music — arguably more than Michael Jackson’s — marked how many of us came to accept our differences, and even view them as a collective strength.
Panama City News-Herald — Pulitzer shines light on mental hospitals
The news series “Insane. Invisible. In Danger” shed light on the dark realities inside Florida’s mental health hospitals. The accounts of horrific conditions — attributable, in part, due to woefully inadequate funding — attracted the attention of mental-health advocates and some, but not enough, policymakers in the state.
Now, the must-read series — produced by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (sister paper of The News Herald) and Tampa Bay Times, and published last year — has gained a wider audience: On Monday, the work was honored with the most prestigious award in journalism, a Pulitzer Prize, placing the reporting and the issues it tackled in the national limelight.
The award for Investigative Reporting went to Michael Braga of the Herald-Tribune and Anthony Cormier and Leonora LaPeter Anton of the Times. (Cormier formerly worked for The News Herald and Herald-Tribune). We congratulate them for this prize, the efforts that went into this series and their collaboration. They were aided by many editors and reporters as well, all of whom deserve credit for their contributions.
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Wasserman Schultz wrong on payday loans
Florida’s congressional delegation is in rare bipartisan support on an issue. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong issue.
The issue is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s plan to regulate payday loans. Since 7 percent of Floridians must resort to this predatory form of small-dollar credit — nearly the highest rate in the nation — the state delegation should back the push for regulation. Instead, Democrats and Republicans are backing the industry.
The issue has attracted local attention recently because Tim Canova, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary, has criticized the incumbent for her support of HR 4018. It would delay federal regulation for two years and could prevent federal regulation in states like Florida that have created rules for payday lenders. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wasserman Schultz has received $68,000 in contributions from payday lenders.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, sponsored HR 4018, but Wasserman Schultz signed on as a co-sponsor. So did Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s running in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. So did Rep. David Jolly, who’s running in the Republican Senate primary.
Tallahassee Democrat – They make $8.05 an hour in Florida, and they matter
Like some economic experts and your outspoken neighbors, you probably have an opinion about whether the minimum wage should rise.
It’s a complicated issue that must take into account the cost of living and purchasing power in the area where you live and the financial health of small companies there. It’s being debated right now, locally and statewide.
Want to see Floridians — who include working seniors and moms and dads who work multiple low-paid jobs — earn more than the state’s $8.05 minimum wage?
Or do you not support any hike?
Tampa Tribune — Helping Hillsborough’s homeless
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee initiated a homeless initiative six years ago because he understood officers couldn’t “enforce” their way out of the problem.
Instead, he and his team sought to take a comprehensive approach to helping the homeless.
They can be a frequent source of citizens’ complaints when they wander streets, panhandle or take up residence in parks. Officials say some commit crimes, though the offenses are generally minor.
Col. Greg Brown volunteered to take on the task, and the sheriff’s office assigned five deputies countywide to deal with the homeless issue.
The goal is not to put the homeless behind bars, but to get them the help that will allow them to get off the streets.