Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — Diners deserve the truth about ingredients

The public has a right to expect restaurateurs to be honest about the food they serve. But increasingly, amid the trendy farm-to-table movement, deception is what’s for dinner. Several bay area restaurants advertise locally grown or produced food but are dishing up fare from all over the world, sometimes right out of a can. Consumers are paying a premium price for trickery. Restaurants should tell the truth or face punishment for misrepresentation.

In “Farm to Fable,” an investigative report published Sunday in the Tampa Bay Times, food critic Laura Reiley found that 54 bay area restaurants made claims about the origins of their ingredients. Reiley spent months checking the claims, which aim to speak to consumer demands for quality, fresh food with a lower carbon footprint. The Times found that many of the restaurants served food that fell far from matching its billing. The offenders are a who’s who of farm-to-table restaurants. At the Mill in St. Petersburg, the chef said the restaurant’s food came from within a 250-mile radius. But its quail is from Wyoming, and its farmed trout is from Idaho. Fishy fish origins were ferreted out after the Times took samples from area eateries and had them DNA-tested by scientists at the University of South Florida. The Florida blue crab advertised at Tampa’s Pelagia, an Italian restaurant, is actually “swimming blue crab” from the Indian Ocean or West Pacific.

Several farm-to-table restaurants also are duping customers about their relationships with local suppliers, advertising that products came from sources with whom they haven’t done business for some time or not at all.

Not all farm-to-table restaurants are dishonest. Some truthfully disclose their ingredients and their intent to serve local food whenever possible. The Refinery in Tampa takes care not to overstate its locally sourced connections. It claims to buy as much locally as it can — a stand that allows for variables such as the availability of seasonal produce or other market factors. Other restaurants should follow its lead.

Bradenton Herald — Democrats, Republicans need centrist leadership

The Herald report on the poll of Americans regarding the “direction” the U.S. is taking hit home! The “wrong direction” we are on is the direction of hate and divisiveness our politicians have been taking us for a decade or more.

As reported in the article, the dissatisfaction is not associated with income level or ethnic background. It also appears to not be associated with the general economy, which is growing slowly.

Then what is the big issue?

In my opinion, the elephant in the room is the total disregard of the needs and wants of the people. Our “representatives” in both parties have totally surrendered to the wing nuts in their political parties.

Their no-comprise, my way or the highway political dogma approach guarantees that nothing useful can get done. We are fed up with political gridlock and extremism by both parties!

Daytona Beach News-Journal — The challenge of protecting children

There are ghosts haunting every decision that Florida child-abuse investigators make. Ghosts like 4-year-old Ke’Andre Coleman, who died in 2013 in South Daytona after “tortuous” abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. Or Trenton Giachetti, a 4-month-old baby who drowned in Ormond Beach in 2009 after his drug-addicted mother walked away and left him in a bathtub with the water running. Or Corey Joseph Ward of Palm Coast, who was 19 months old and had already been to the hospital twice for head trauma before he died of a third traumatic brain injury in September 2009.

Following a sweeping Miami Herald investigation in 2014 that detailed these cases and hundreds of others across the state, the state Legislature made major changes in the investigation of suspected abuse or neglect. The changes were badly needed: In each of the cases the Herald detailed, there had been prior contact with the state Department of Families and Children or other indicators of abuse — but the state’s actions were too little, too late.

But now there are warning signs of a different kind of crisis. As the number of children removed from their homes steadily increases, the state’s foster-care system is becoming dangerously overburdened. The most recent statistics show that Florida’s child abuse hotline is averaging more than 5,000 calls a month that are deemed worthy of investigation, and more than 20,000 children are in out-of-home care at any given time. Locally, the number of children in foster care has nearly doubled since 2014, as The News-Journal’s Allison Shirk reported.

The overload has already driven the Community Partnership for Children, a not-for-profit agency that oversees child protection in Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties, into a $1.5 million deficit. Community Partnership CEO Mark Jones told Shirk his system is designed to handle about 1,200 children in out-of-home care. It’s serving 1,825. Jones estimates he needs another 60 foster homes in the three-county area.

Florida Times-Union — Curry was right to be bluntly honest about the city’s financial challenges

Jacksonville’s major issues were on full view Monday evening from street level to church pews.

At the Schell-Sweet Center on the Edward Waters College campus, a group of citizens met with police officials to talk as partners in a crime-fighting effort, the Sheriff’s Advisory Council or ShAdCo. Frankly, it was depressing.

Police officials reported something approaching a crime spree in this neighborhood. Murders are up over the same period last year — from seven to 15.

There was a rash of carjackings and burglaries.

There even was a murder on Easter Sunday. The victim was so beloved that many people came forward to speak to police, a rare event.

Florida Today – Here’s what we want from Amendment 1

The people’s agenda here for Amendment 1 doesn’t exactly match the Legislature’s plans for the money reserved for land and water conservation.  So what should people do about that if they want to help the Indian River Lagoon?

Revisit their mandate, for starters.

Readers tell us they thought the constitutional amendment they passed by a 3-1 margin in 2014 would dedicate more money for buying land, cleaning up springs and estuaries and paying state staff who work on those projects. That’s what the ballot language said.

But state lawmakers say Amendment 1 left all the spending discretion to the Legislature – which was also part of the plan.  In 2016-2017, just 10 percent of the $824 million set aside by Amendment 1 will be spent on land acquisition, the latest state budget data show.

Gainesville Sun – Aiming higher for education

Florida’s public colleges and universities have a friend in a high place.

Joe Negron, the state Senate president-designate, has made increased spending for higher education a priority for his two-year term as president, which will begin after the November elections.

Negron says he wants Florida to have “national destination, elite universities.” He’ll embark next week on a tour of the state’s 12 public universities to speak to administration officials and students about their achievements, goals and needs.

Among the questions, however, is whether Negron’s own funding goals — while welcome and necessary — are bold enough to meet the growing needs of the state’s colleges and universities. Another question is whether Negron’s priorities are shared by his legislative colleagues and Gov. Rick Scott.

Lakeland Ledger — We need to know

San Bernardino. Chattanooga. Boston. Fort Hood. Washington. New York City. Paris. Brussels. Each time radicalized Muslim terrorists murder Americans or other Westerners in a terrorist attack we circle back to a familiar question: Why do they hate us?

We struggle to answer that; yet perhaps the “why” is not as important as the “where.”

Time and again, the perpetrators of such killings — whether they occur here or elsewhere in the world — align with the major terrorist strands: ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram. Those groups, despite their individual proclivities and operating in different parts of the globe, are connected through devotion to an ultraconservative sect of Islam known as Wahhabism — which Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, described last year as a “messianic, jihad-extolling form of Sunni fundamentalism whose international expansion has been bankrolled by oil-rich sheikhdoms.”

Chief among those sheikhdoms is Saudi Arabia.

Miami Herald — The Zika virus is worse than we thought

With summertime mosquito season approaching, the Zika virus is beginning to get mighty scary.

In recent years, we’ve had to deal with other insidious threats, including another mosquito-borne disease, the West Nile virus. But Zika is truly sinister. It’s most vulnerable targets are pregnant women and the fetuses they carry, which the virus attacks.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Brazilian doctors’ initial suspicions — that had become widely accepted — that the Zika virus causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly, usually accompanied by brain defects.

Miami-Dade and the rest of the state are particularly vulnerable to Zika because a large part of the population frequently travels to and from affected countries in Latin America — and mosquitoes still fight for dominance in our tropical climate. Currently, Florida leads the nation in the number of Zika infection cases.

Orlando Sentinel — Don’t play politics in Zika fight

Many Americans may have become resigned to political gridlock in the nation’s capital. The Republican leaders who control Congress, and President Obama, reflexively oppose each other’s initiatives. It’s how business doesn’t get done in Washington.

But there should be no patience with partisan brinkmanship when public health is at stake.

It’s been nearly two months since Obama formally requested that Congress appropriate $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus. At the time, there were about 50 confirmed cases in the United States of the illness, which has been linked in Latin America to severe birth defects in infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy.

Congress’ GOP leaders have refused to approve that request. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. cases has climbed to more than 340, including 84 in Florida alone, the highest total of any state.

Ocala StarBanner — Aiming higher for higher ed

Florida’s public colleges and universities have a friend in a high place.

Joe Negron, the state Senate president-designate, has made increased spending for higher education a priority for his two-year term as president, which will begin after the November elections.

Negron says he wants Florida to have “national destination, elite universities.” He’ll embark next week on a tour of the state’s 12 public universities to speak to administration officials and students about their achievements, goals and needs.

Among the questions, however, is whether Negron’s own funding goals — while welcome and necessary — are bold enough to meet the growing needs of the state’s colleges and universities. Another question is whether Negron’s priorities are shared by his legislative colleagues and Gov. Rick Scott.

Pensacola News-Journal — Life after Gallery Night

Many of us love Gallery Night — what it was in the beginning, and what the popular event has come to be. So it’s understandable that many residents are disappointed at the announcement of Gallery Night’s end in September.

But it’s also understandable that the Downtown Improvement Board no longer views the monthly events as ideal, obligatory functions of the governmental body — or the property taxes that finance them.

According to its own mission statement, the DIB “exists to continue the removal of commercial blight, enhance property values, encourage economic development, attract commercial and residential development into the urban core, and beautify Downtown Pensacola.” In other words, its official, established purpose does not explicitly include event management.

Yes, Gallery Nights have attracted people to downtown. Yes, they have helped shape Pensacola. Yes, they continue to be popular events. So if the demand remains, then we encourage members of the private sector to take the wheel, pay the required $8,500-a-pop (for police, insurance, street closures, etc.) and keep the Gallery Night train rolling. DIB Chairman John Peacock said he welcomes the same. He says anyone in the city can pull the same special events permit the DIB did. The DIB created, cultivated, advertised and developed the concept. The hard part should be done. If Gallery Night is of enough value, then shouldn’t the private sector and demands of the market determine that it continue?

Palm Beach Post — Histories that shouldn’t be secret

When President Obama departs for Saudi Arabia, an incubator of the 9/11 attacks, he will leave behind a dispute about government secrecy. The suppression of 28 pages, first from a public congressional inquiry and then from the 2004 report by the national 9/11 Commission, has spared the Saudis embarrassment, which would be mild punishment for complicity in 2,977 murders. When Obama returns, he should keep his promise to release the pages. Then he should further curtail senseless secrecy by countermanding the CIA’s refusal to release its official history of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle.

The nature of the 28 pages pertaining to 9/11 can be inferred from this carefully worded sentence in the commission’s report: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi governmentas an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded (al- Qaeda)” Together, those five italicized words constitute a loophole large enough to fly a hijacked airliner through.

CBS’ “60 Minutes” recently reported that former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chaired the bipartisan joint congressional inquiry into 9/11 intelligence failures, says the pages suggest the existence of a network that supported the hijackers when they were in America. Former Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer, who was a member of the joint inquiry and then of the commission, and who has studied the 28 pages, says they contain “provocative evidence — some verified, and some not” of possible “official Saudi assistance for two of the hijackers who settled in Southern California.” “60 Minutes” said the two Saudi nationals had “extremely limited language skills and no experience with Western culture.” Yet “they managed to get everything they needed, from housing to flight lessons,” after being seen in the company of a diplomat from Saudi Arabia’s Los Angeles consulate.

Before John Lehman was a member of the 9/11 Commission — which unanimously supported release of its report uncensored — he was a member of Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council staff during the Nixon administration and was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. Lehman understands the serious and the spurious arguments connecting secrecy to security. He says the 28 pages contain no “smoking gun,” but he believes that senior Saudi officials knew that Saudis were assisting al-Qaeda.

Panama City News-Herald — Fish Bites: Gourmet pompano within grasp

If any of our local fish has the distinction of being in the gourmet class, I would have to give that distinction to the Florida Pompano.

The recreational size limit is 11 inches to the fork of the tail and the daily bag limit is six per day. The angler is allowed one over 22 inches. The IGFA All-Tackle World Record was caught here in the Panhandle by Barry Huston in St. Joe Bay in October 1999 on a Mirror Lure while he was fishing for speckled trout and weighed eight pounds, 4 ounces.

Growing up in Gulfport, Miss., during my high school years, my mother and I lived in a small house on Hwy. 90, right on the Gulf. And fishing became the complete pleasure of my life. I caught everything from flounder, speckled trout, redfish, cobia and various mackerel. The one thing I never did catch was a pompano. The only pompano caught in our area were caught off one of our barrier islands, Ship Island or Cat Island. I never had a boat so I never had access to pompano.

My mother and I used to take the train from Gulfport to New Orleans to visit her relatives. Our first stop was always at Antoine’s Restaurant where my mother would order pompano en pappillote. That’s French for “paper bag.” A whole pompano with the head, fins, innards and tail removed was covered with a seasoned butter sauce and wrapped in parchment paper. It was then baked at 400-degrees until done. It was a real delicacy and was her treat.

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Cuba bruises, Hollywood identity crisis and LGBT guns: The Splash

It’s harder by the day not to run to my window, stick my head out and scream: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

A 7-foot bull shark attacked a diver off Riviera Beach. A decapitated kitten was found near a Boynton Beach playground. And now we hear Zika virus will wreak havoc in South Florida, cause birth defects and brain damage and can be transmitted through sex. The latter is poetic justice since it’s now legal to shack up in Florida. But, is it worth living together without being married if you can catch Zika?

Hollywood identity crisis. When you hear Hollywood, you think of the star-studded city in California, right? That’s why Commissioner Patty Asseff proposes changing the name of our Hollywood to Hollywood by the Sea for marketing purposes. Gary Stein says dumping the name that has served the Broward city just fine since 1925 would be a shame. I say, if we do change the name, we can do better than Hollywood by the Sea. Given climate change, how about Hollywood in the Sea?

Carnival gets bruises over Cuba cruises. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board calls for South Florida-based Carnival Corporation to table its May 1 maiden voyage to Cuba until Cuba ends a ban on native-born Cuban Americans from arriving by sea. Until then, the board says all American cruise lines, ferry operators and shipping companies should take a time-out on travels to Cuba. What’s next? Carnival hangs up signs that read “No dogs. No Cubans,” like the ones once hung up on apartment and motel buildings in Miami in the 1960s?

Tallahassee Democrat – NIMBY in North Florida

Urban planners and developers have an acronym, “NIMBY,” that describes important undertakings that everyone agrees are badly needed — but “not in my back yard.”

The farther you live from a necessary, unpleasant development, the easier it is to scorn those who object to having some new and unwelcome thing in their parts of town. After all, we all need an airport, a sewage-treatment plant, and a landfill. Maybe a big band shell, six-laning of a highway or manufacturing plant will be good economic stimulus, generating jobs, retail development and property tax revenue for the community.

Yeah, but, well, y’know, let’s put them over there. We don’t need that kind of stuff over here where we live, thanks. And, truth be told, the less-desirable necessities of a community do tend to migrate to the poorer side of the tracks — ostensibly because the land is cheap and plentiful there, but also because the people with influence have the power to steer the underpinnings of urban life away from themselves and their friends.

The effect has been evident in three recent Leon County events. Our understanding of the need for them is inversely proportional to our proximity to them.

Tampa Tribune — Let voters decide Go Hillsborough

Hillsborough County commissioners have scheduled public hearings for the Go Hillsborough transportation plan, and commissioners will likely vote April 27 on whether to allow citizens to decide the fate of the proposal.

It is expected to be a close call. It shouldn’t be.

As two recent polls show, voters understand our inadequate transportation network — with at least an $8 billion backlog of unfunded needs — can make life miserable.

For commissioners to not even allow voters to address the county’s most vexing problem — one that endangers lives, wastes citizens’ time and money and threatens commerce — would be a farce.

Both polls found surprising support for the proposal to increase the sales tax by a half cent for 30 years. The larger poll of likely voters found 65 percent of respondents favored the proposal.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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