- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Feb. 11

Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on state ban on Cuban research making no sense:

Florida is the only state in the nation that prohibits its university professors and students from collaborating with researchers and educators in Cuba.

The destructive law hurts Florida’s scientists without penalizing Cuba.

As the Tribune’s Paul Guzzo reports, a Florida Senate bill adopted in 2006 forbids the use of any money connected to a state university to be used for travel to nations on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, which includes Cuba.

The island nation is a socialist dictatorship but hardly a serious threat to the United States.

Yet the legislation treats the neighboring nation as though this were the Cold War era.

The law doesn’t just handicap researchers. It also prevents Florida students from pursuing education opportunities in Cuba. Students from across the nation - or those from private institutions - can participate in studies in Cuba. Only students at Florida’s schools are kept from interacting with Cubans.

This punishes Floridians, not the Cuban government.

Lawmakers should revisit the issue and see that Florida’s sanctions against the free exchange of ideas and research is a policy more appropriate for a totalitarian state, not a democracy.

Online:

http://tbo.com

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Feb. 10

Miami Herald on push for building soccer stadium:

OK, showtime’s over, the klieg lights have gone dark, the curtain’s come down, the warm handshakes have cooled and the buff guy with the skinny tie is outta here.

It’s official: Soccer legend David Beckham is bringing a Major League Soccer expansion team to Miami - if …

And that if is a big one. All that Mr. Beckham and his investors need is a stadium somewhere in greater Miami. It’s that simple. Now that all the hoopla surrounding Mr. Beckham’s presence has gone quiet, the hard part looms. The franchise needs to find a stadium location, and if it is publicly owned property, city of Miami and Miami-Dade County leaders must ensure that they have the taxpayers’ back. A lot of residents think that they’ve been stabbed in it before. And they’re right.

But so far, so good. Mr. Beckham has assured elected officials and taxpayers that he is not asking the public to pay for a stadium. “We don’t want public funding,” he said last week at a reception/cheerleading rally at the Perez Art Museum Miami. “We will fund the stadium ourselves.”

Music to our ears, so far.

Beckman must have Googled “Marlins Stadium” and “Mayor Carlos Alvarez” and “Oops!” If he did, he learned that Miami-Dade residents’ tolerance for publicly funded stadiums is probably at an all-time low.

They have been down this road before, and have been left holding the bag.

Soccer is extremely popular in South Florida. In August 2011, the game in which Chivas of Guadalajara beat FC Barcelona - 4-1 - drew more than 70,000 people to Sun Life Stadium, a record-setting crowd for a match in Florida.

So far, there are six locations that could be in play as the new stadium site. Each one has advantages and drawbacks.

Clearly, there’s a long road ahead. With the Marlins, elected leaders acted out of fear. With soccer, they can’t be blinded by the dazzle. It’s time for them to just be cautious, questioning and smart.

Online:

http://www.miamiherald.com

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Feb. 8

News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., on Department of Juvenile Justice costing a burden for counties:

As the state and Florida counties battle over who should pay for juvenile detention facilities, we are worried that at-risk youth will be the ones caught in the crossfire and not receive the necessary help and support.

As the wrangling continues between the state and counties, there is one constant - Florida has a juvenile crime problem. The state’s incarceration rate for youths is higher than 10 of the most populated states, exceeding the national rate by 40 percent. In 2012, there were more than 58,000 arrested.

No agency, or individual should be able to defy a court order. Despite DJJ facing a $54 million deficit because of the judgments and cuts in Medicaid funding, Gov. Rick Scott must get control. DJJ faces enormous financial challenges for a young crime population that is among the largest in the country.

There are solutions and they start with prevention and treatment through active community-based outreach programs and more tolerance for misdemeanor offenses.

It started to spiral out of control in 2004. That’s when the Legislature mandated that counties share in the costs for juvenile secure detention. This only applied to nonfiscally constrained counties, those that were able to afford it. T

In 2008-09, juvenile justice changed the rules without changing the statute. It billed counties for all secure detention days except those incurred while a child awaited assignment to a residential facility. The counties went to court and judges said the DJJ’s rules were “internally inconsistent and not supported by facts or logic.”

We support the Florida Association of Counties position on seeking a stronger statute that focuses on a better business model and structured payment plan that does not allow for interpretation. The state must continue to look at community-based sanctions or citations that keep children from long stays in these facilities, costing counties more than $200 a day for each child. The average length of stay in the 21 secured facilities is 12 days, according to DJJ.

The Florida Association of Counties is bringing this issue front and center during the 2014 legislative session, and it should. The funding system is broken. State and county leaders must find sensible ways to distribute the costs. The winners here must be the kids.

Online:

http://www.news-press.com