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Sunday’s editorial pages

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St. Petersburg Times – Poor Stewards Of Our Money: “As St. Petersburg Times staff writer Bill Varian details in today’s Perspective, many local governments went on a binge when times were good, expanding their budgets, giving generous raises, building new facilities and hiring to staff them. And now that times are bad, the choices and the cutbacks are far worse than they would have been had governments been more fiscally circumspect. In the boom times, government failed to plan for a future that wasn’t as bright as the present. Even when governments are flush with cash, elected officials need to remember how to say no. It may be easy to say yes to outsized raises in good times. That doesn’t make it right. The same is true of new services, buildings and staff. There is nothing inherently wrong with enhancing reasonable government services, so long as decisionmakers look ahead and figure out how they will pay the salaries of the staff in that new facility — whether it’s a fire station, library or park — when times turn sour. But to spend money just because it’s coming in is folly, pure and simple. That’s especially true given the state’s history of boom and bust cycles, which should make preparing for a bust second nature.”

Daytona Beach News-Journal – Hometown Democracy: “We will not support Amendment 4, though our sympathies lie with its authors’ intention to restore sanity to Florida’s comprehensive planning and loosen developers’ steely grip on this state. Amendment 4 is unlikely to achieve those goals. It instead could make a bigger mess of community planning. It would reduce what has at least been a negotiated permitting process between developers and professional public planners to an up-or-down gamble between developers and their opponents, with too many of Florida’s natural assets and the livability of Florida communities at stake…There are lots of laws on the books that could protect our beautiful state — if the power brokers wanted it that way.” Power brokers or not, those laws are there to be enforced and expanded, too, if the voters want it that way. They have but to elect local officials with the guts to say no to bad development plans and legislators willing to have that honest conversation about growth. Fat chance? If voters can’t accomplish that, there’s little hope they would be any more successful at managing growth wisely through the ballot.”

Lakeland Ledger – Prescription Drug Abuse: Polk’s No. 1 Killer: “Pharmaceuticals are killing people hand over fist in this county,” Sheriff Grady Judd told The Ledger on Tuesday. “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t work two, three, four, five deaths – and pharmaceuticals are killing them.” A 2008 report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission says the top-three drugs that caused deaths last year were: – Oxycodone, a powerful narcotic painkiller (941 deaths). – Benzodiazepines, sedative-hypnotic drugs that include Xanax and Valium (929 deaths). – Methadone, a narcotic painkiller known for its role in heroin detoxification, now often prescribed as a replacement for oxycodone (693 deaths). Not until No. 4 on the list does an illegal drug appear: cocaine (648 deaths). Judd says a law is needed to allow pharmacies to cross-check with one another via a database that flags customers with repetitive prescriptions.”

Orlando Sentinel – Absence Of Leadership: “Merging government departments of Orlando and Orange County could save taxpayers millions, actually improve services and even work to generate more revenue by spurring economic development. But there was Mr. [Orange County Mayor Rich] Crotty, saying the other day that he’s all for looking at ways to consolidate the two governments, except that, because he only has a year and a half remaining in office, the issue’s best left to others. Mr. [Orlando Mayor Buddy] Dyer took the opportunity to reiterate his opposition to joining government operations. He said it’s not his highest priority, not on par with getting commuter rail and improving the city’s budget. Who’s the greater letdown? Mr. Crotty for his disingenuous cheer for consolidating services, or Mr. Dyer, for his unambiguous rejection of the concept? It’s close, each showing no interest in taking a leadership role on the issue. But we find the residents of Metro Orlando the certain losers.”

Tallahassee Democrat – Try Again: “While it may seem a long way off until another legislative session enlivens the capital city, for champions of serious prison reform as it relates to mental illness and substance abuse, the education of lawmakers and support of the public cannot resume too soon.”

Tampa Tribune – Reducing Abuse Of State Pensions: “Few lawmakers have the stomach for it, but additional reforms do need to be made. Some workers have gamed the system by working huge amounts of overtime in their final few years to qualify for a much larger lifetime pension. That abuse should stop. Lawmakers should look into how the state can afford to pay 6.5 percent guaranteed interest on money employees invest in the deferred retirement program at a time the federal funds rate is near zero. Now that financial conditions have changed, the Legislature should put the brakes on the benefits train.”

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.

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