- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

July 6

Miami Herald on redistricting:

A Supreme Court decision on redistricting at the end of the last term should give heart to all those people in Florida who for years have tried and failed to make the Legislature deal responsibly and fairly with this all-important political issue.

The court let stand a challenge to Arizona’s method of drawing election districts by assigning the task to an independent commission, thus taking the Legislature out of the picture in the hope of producing a fair electoral map free of the corrupting influence of gerrymandering.

Ideally, the task should be entrusted to elected representatives in state legislatures who reject partisan interests in favor of producing the fairest map possible. Yet it’s doubtful anyone familiar with politics believes this happens.

Redistricting has become, at best, a flawed process designed to work solely in favor of whichever political party has the upper hand. It is a system that allows officeholders to control the rules under which they compete for political power. Not surprisingly, their overriding interest is to look out for themselves and their party. The notion that they do their best to ensure that political representation fairly reflects the electorate and respects existing political boundaries is hopelessly naive.

Enter the independent commissions. Ten states give such commissions a role in congressional redistricting, although California is the only state besides Arizona that has a fully autonomous independent commission …

Floridians have tried and failed by amendment to make the Legislature draw the lines without resorting to partisan gerrymandering. “Fair District” rules adopted by the voters in 2010 were an attempt to improve the system. But in 2012, the process was infiltrated by non-elected Republican Party operatives who “tainted the map with improper partisan intent,” a Leon County Circuit Court judge declared.

Today, five years after voters thought they had sent the Legislature a clear message to remove partisanship from the process, the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters to protest the Legislature’s inability to obey the amendment remains unsettled. A decision by the Florida Supreme Court is expected soon.

Apparently, Florida’s lawmakers just can’t help themselves, no matter what the voters say, no matter how clearly worded the directive in a voter-approved amendment. It’s time, thus, to take the issue out of the Legislature’s hands and create an independent commission in Florida.

No one expects to take politics out of a fundamentally political process. But when the people’s elected representatives prove themselves incapable of doing their job properly, it’s time to let someone else do it.




July 8

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on toll lanes:

The state Department of Transportation’s plans to add express toll lanes to Interstate 275 through Tampa are generating impassioned opposition from residents in the rebounding Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights neighborhoods.

We hope the DOT listens seriously to those concerns. Much has changed for the better in Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights since the initial planning for the road’s widening decades ago. A setback would be appalling.

To be sure, there is a need to move traffic efficiently through Tampa. And built into the road project are transit corridors that would accommodate future mass transit options. Those are needed improvements but should be executed without harming the recovery of those neighborhoods.

It’s a dilemma that must be confronted in dealing with robust population increases and record tourism trends, and in making up for the area’s woeful record of adding mass transit options to the transportation mix.

In its express lanes plan, which has not yet been funded or fully designed, the DOT would widen I-275 and parts of Interstate 4 in each direction by adding express toll lanes, which give motorists the choice of paying a toll to escape congestion on the free lanes.

The so-called “Lexus Lanes” are used in Miami and in other states to relieve traffic.

Under the plan, the toll lanes would be added from I-75 south of Bearss Avenue to Gandy Boulevard; from the I-4 interchange known as Malfunction Junction to the Polk Parkway; and from I-75 north of Bruce B. Downs to south of State Road 674.

Additionally, Malfunction Junction at I-275 and I-4 would be reconfigured and improved.

In Tampa, the work would encroach on established neighborhoods that were devastated by the initial interstate construction. Leaders in the neighborhoods fear the project would be a major threat for their rebounding communities.

But the project has yet to be fully designed, and DOT officials are confident they can mitigate the encroachment.

Debbie Hunt, the director of transportation development for the DOT’s district in Tampa, says the agency will work with the neighborhoods in designing the project. She says the DOT spent decades planning the project and has bought right-of-way to prepare for the work.

Beth Alden, executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, says the work has been accelerated by the DOT and that may have caught people off guard. But she believes the neighborhood concerns can be accommodated … A city is only as strong as its neighborhoods, and the rebirth in Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights is deserving of support rather than a setback.

Minimizing the effects on those neighborhoods should be a priority as the DOT moves forward.




July 8

News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on women’s soccer:

The victory by the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup final Sunday was a fittingly patriotic moment to top off the Fourth of July weekend.

The Americans’ 5-2 defeat of Japan was dominating and historic. They set women’s final records for most goals scored and largest margin of victory. U.S. team captain Carli Lloyd scored an unprecedented three goals in the game’s first 16 minutes. The United States became the first nation to capture three women’s World Cup titles.

The victory was made sweeter by avenging the U.S. women’s excruciating loss to Japan on penalty kicks in the 2011 final.

All that was seen by a record number of people. TV ratings for the Fox broadcast exceeded those for the recent NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup finals. An estimated 17 million viewers tuned in at the 7 p.m. start, and that figure swelled to nearly 23 million in the second half of the match, making it the most-watched soccer game ever on a single American network, and double the number who watched the 2011 final. Telemundo also set a record for most-watched game of a women’s World Cup in U.S. Spanish-language TV.

Soccer is one sport where American women have not only excelled compared to their male counterparts, but have been embraced by the public … Hopefully, that success also will end the inequities that plague women’s soccer.

It started with the playing field at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, which was covered in artificial turf instead of natural grass. Every previous World Cup - men’s and women’s - had been played on the real stuff, and for good reason: It provides a safer, cooler surface than the harder, hotter fake stuff. FIFA, the governing body of international soccer so corrupt it makes the United Nations seem respectable, would never allow the men to play on turf.

Then there’s vast gulf in financials between the men’s and women’s World Cup. Although the $2 million the U.S. Women’s National Team won this year is double the amount Japan won in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, it is only a quarter of the $8 million that men’s teams earned from losing in the first round of last year’s World Cup. The German men’s team earned $35 million for winning it all in 2014.

In total, men’s teams played for a total of $576 million in World Cup prizes last year, compared to the $15 million up for grabs from women’s teams this year.

That is largely because the men’s World Cup is more popular worldwide than the women’s game … The popularity may never be equal, but the gap can be narrowed. FIFA can start by doing more to promote women’s soccer abroad, assuming it can be convinced to do the right thing for once. The strong ratings generated by the U.S. women this year show the potential for substantial growth. That’s worth celebrating as much as the trophy the Americans hoisted Sunday.



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