- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Sept. 21

News Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on USSSA deal:

A proposal to use local tax dollars to lure an amateur athletics group to Daytona Beach has almost as many moving parts as the organization does sports.

And not nearly enough time to unsort them all.

The United States Specialty Sports Association, which sanctions tournaments nationwide in a dozen amateur sports, from baseball and softball to golf, martial arts and wrestling, is exploring the possibility of moving its headquarters from Kissimmee, where it has resided since 2003. Not surprisingly, it has drawn considerable interest from several cities, including Daytona Beach.

The USSSA would bring not only its headquarters to its new home, but also the 51 tournaments year-round it currently plays at Osceola County Stadium and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orange County. According to the group, those events generated more than 96,000 hotel room nights in Central Florida. That’s a significant economic impact.

Volusia County Councilman Josh Wagner has led efforts to land the USSSA in Daytona Beach. He has pitched a $20 million package that involves building 12 to 16 ball fields, along with space for the USSSA headquarters and its hall of fame. A fourth of the costs - $5 million - would be paid with county ECHO funds, state grants and other sources. The remaining $15 million would be financed by bonds guaranteed by bed-tax revenues.

The USSSA would manage the ball fields rent-free under a 20-year lease as long as its events generate at least 100,000 hotel room nights per year. Revenues from bed taxes imposed on those hotel rooms and an $8-to-$10-per-night rebate collected from those rooms would be used to pay down the bond debt, which would require annual payments of $1.15 million to $1.2 million over 20 years.

Public funds can be used judiciously for economic development - only after the projects have been properly vetted and taxpayers are protected (see: One Daytona, Trader Joe’s). The USSSA might eventually fall into that category; it’s worth investigating further. But the county should not cut corners to meet the organization’s short deadline. Only fools rush in.




Sept. 24

Gainesville (Florida) Sun on planning for change:

As the planet warms, some U.S. cities will fare better than others and might see “climate change migrants” moving there.

That’s the contention of a New York Times story this week, in which scientists predicted that regions such as the Pacific Northwest and even Alaska will be more attractive as the consequences of climate change become more pronounced.

The news isn’t so good for the Sunshine State, according to University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor Clifford E. Mass.

As sea levels rise in the decades ahead, “if there’s ground zero for where you don’t want to be, Florida is it,” Mass said.

Yet as the Times reported, that hasn’t stopped people from moving to Florida.

“What we see is that people are actually moving into harm’s way,” said Thomas Peterson, principal scientist for the National Climatic Data Center. “They’re moving from relatively safe places in the Midwest to places along the Florida coast, where the risk has been increasing.”

This week’s United Nations climate summit featured some progress in addressing climate change, but also showed that state and local officials can’t wait for world leaders to act. As the Times story suggested, Florida faces some of the nation’s most significant challenges in the decades ahead.

A warming planet and rising sea levels pose a particular threat to an already scorching state where 80 percent of residents live or work in coastal counties. Yet Florida’s most prominent political leaders refuse to even acknowledge climate change is real, much less start planning for it.

After being criticized for initially declining to do so, Gov. Rick Scott last month met with five of Florida’s top climate scientists. They explained to him that the state faced such threats as 2 feet of sea level rise - as some projections have happening by 2048 - swallowing much of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and nearly all of the state’s barrier islands.

Floridians can’t afford to wait to plan for climate change. If officials are going to sit on their hands, it is up to average citizens to join with researchers in planning for rising temperatures and sea levels in our particularly vulnerable state.




Sept. 20

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on verdict in Scotland:

By a substantial margin - and with a huge voter (84 percent) turnout - the people of Scotland voted Thursday to remain in the United Kingdom their country had formed with England in 1707.

Independence advocates were naturally disappointed but took the outcome gracefully.

“I accept the verdict of the people,” Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and longtime promoter of independence, said. “And I call on all the people of Scotland to accept the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”

However, Salmond later announced he is stepping down as head of the Scottish government.

The outcome was a huge gift to Prime Minister David Cameron, whose job might have been in peril had the Scots voted to go their own way.

“The people of Scotland have spoken, and it is a clear result,” Cameron declared in London. “They have kept our country of four nations together.”

But there will still be important changes in how the United Kingdom operates. Cameron said the new laws he had promised in his almost frantic pro-union campaign will be “honored in full.”

One change may be the creation of an English parliament with powers similar to those that Scotland and Wales gained through the process known as “devolution” in the 1990s.

As things stand now, the Scots and Welsh can settle their own issues in their own legislatures, but there’s no similar power accorded the English.

With his promises, he had infuriated members of his own cost-conscious Conservative Party and so in seeking to enact these reforms Cameron may face substantial hurdles.

However, the leaders of all three parties that dominate British politics had joined Cameron in his effort to persuade the Scots to stick with the union.

The referendum drew the most international attention to Scotland since the Loch Ness monster was supposedly sighted in 1933.

But independence turned out to be just as illusory as the legendary monster.



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