Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Miami Herald on a grand jury investigation into conditions and practices of Florida’s juvenile justice system:
A Miami Herald investigation that exposed savage and systemic abuses against youths in Florida’s juvenile justice system has rightly sparked judicial review.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle says she will ask a grand jury to probe conditions and practices in the state’s juvenile lockups. That’s a welcome pledge, and one that must be followed with action.
Grand juries act as the conscience of the community. The shocking revelations in the Herald’s Fight Club series demand accountability.
This probe should end the careers of public employees who were supposed to be caretakers but turned into state-paid abusers.
“Children and youth are the most vulnerable of all of us,” Fernández Rundle said at a news conference. “We have an inherent responsibility to them - to take care of them and protect their quality of life.”
True, except we sometimes fall down on the job.
The Herald investigation, led by reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D. S. Burch, revealed a broad range of abuses and lapses in the system, including the hiring of youth workers with criminal records and histories of violence and even sexual misconduct.
The reporters obtained shocking security video of teens in detention encouraged by guards to beat each other up - a sort of outsourcing of discipline by staff.
Guards egged them on and rewarded them with snacks.
The series also highlighted the troubling history of medical neglect by officers, youth workers and even nurses assigned to youth programs.
In fact, the newspaper’s investigation was triggered by the 2015 death of Elord Revolte, a 17-year-old who had been detained on an armed robbery charge.
Elord was savagely beaten by a dozen peers. Why? He stood up without permission to get a milk carton.
Other teens later said an officer ordered the brutal attack. The officer denied it.
The state attorney’s office declined to press charges against both the youths who attacked Elord and the officer accused of inciting them. Not enough evidence to put a case together. The officer remains on the job.
The medical examiner, who ruled Revolte’s death a homicide, said he died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and chest.
Now, this will be the third grand jury empaneled in the last 15 years to look into the state’s juvenile detention system.
In the past, grand juries have helped clean house at the DJJ.
In 2003, another grand jury brought down the agency’s top administrator and two dozen employees because their negligence allowed a teen to die of a burst appendix.
Grand juries - made up of average people assigned to laser-focus on a specific problem in a community - have recommend meaningful reform in issues like homelessness, police shootings and voter fraud.
The Miami Herald series will give them plenty of fodder.
Let’s hope it translates into substantive changes in the state’s juvenile justice system.
The Florida Times-Union on a fight during a game between the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars:
A few Seattle Seahawks players - and a few obnoxious fans - tried to ruin a great Jacksonville Jaguars win on Sunday.
It’s customary when the outcome is settled for the winning quarterback to take a knee while the clock winds down.
But Sunday, Seattle defensive star Michael Bennett dove at the knees of Jaguars center Brandon Linder, a tactic that could have seriously injured Linder. Bennett was supposedly trying to strip the football, which is legal.
Nevertheless, this was the ultimate cheap shot and broke every official rule of sportsmanship and the unwritten rules among the brotherhood of football players. Football is a tough game that often results in injuries similar to those from car accidents.
A brawl broke out with Seahawks tackle Sheldon Richardson throwing a punch. After the second kneeldown, Seattle tackle Quinton Jefferson was ejected. Meanwhile, the Jaguars kept their composure in admirable fashion.
But a few Jags fans behaved poorly.
One fan threw a bottle at Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett after his earlier touchdown, Times-Union reporter Ryan O’Halloran reported.
And after the kneeldowns, several fans threw debris at Jefferson.
This all calls for tough action.
The Jags have promised that the offending fans, once identified, will be suspended from attending games.
But the NFL has so far decided not to severely discipline Bennett or the other Seahawks responsible for the on-field mayhem.
The Jaguars are entering good times that haven’t been seen around here in some years.
It shouldn’t be spoiled by a handful of misbehaving players and fans.
Tampa Bay Times on the impacts from a tax cut:
As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade to pay for tax cuts that tilt toward businesses and the wealthy. In ways both big and small, the fallout would be felt throughout the region and the state in ways that would hurt local communities, families and the cultural and political fabric of public life. Among the many provisions that should be rejected:
. Softening the ban on churches and charities engaging in politics. The House bill follows through on President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to overhaul the Johnson Amendment and let religious leaders and nonprofits endorse political candidates. The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation calculates the change could mean $1.7 billion a year now contributed to political committees could be steered to churches instead. That is absolutely the wrong direction, and churches and charities should be institutions that bring people together rather than further divide them into political camps.
As the Tampa Bay Times’ Tracey McManus reports, the Church of Scientology could use the change to further exert its destructive influence in Clearwater and Pinellas County. Scientology, which owns more than $200 million in property in Clearwater, does not need additional levers to pull. This is one of the many examples of how Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, voted against the interests of this community when he voted for the House tax cuts.
If Congress really wants churches and charities to engage in endorsing political candidates, it should revoke the tax exemption for those groups.
. Eliminating tax-exempt bonds to build or renovate stadiums. As the Times’ Steve Contorno reports, that could add millions to the cost of a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. It also would make it more expensive to improve existing facilities such as Raymond James Stadium and spring training facilities that stimulate the local economy. The Joint Committee on Taxation projects eliminating the exemption would save the federal government $200 million over the next decade, but local taxpayers would wind up covering those costs one way or another.
This provision in the House bill makes for a good sound bite, but it’s shortsighted. It would make it more difficult for Tampa Bay to protect its investments in publicly owned stadiums, and it would make it even harder to keep Major League Baseball in the region.
. Eliminating private activity bonds. Eliminating private activity bonds would increase the cost of borrowing money for big infrastructure projects for community amenities such as airports, colleges and universities, ports and nonprofit hospitals. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates eliminating these bonds would save the federal government nearly $39 billion over 10 years.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, a member of the conference committee resolving the differences between the House and Senate bills, says this change would add $263 million to Tampa International Airport’s plan to use these bonds for construction projects. Now bonds are expected to be issued soon to lock in the tax exemption. Adding such costs to important public works projects that benefit an entire community in order to lower the cost of tax cuts would be a mistake.
. Eliminating or reducing tax credits. Affordable housing tax credits, historic preservation tax credits and others are all on the table. As Castor points out, the Hillsborough County Housing Finance Authority has financed more than 5,000 rental units in Tampa and the county using affordable housing tax credits. Historic preservation tax credits were used to help finance the renovation of Tampa’s former federal courthouse. Metropolitan Ministries used the New Market Tax Credit to help redevelop a blighted area and create a large facility for feeding and helping homeless families. None of these tax credits are worth sacrificing to help pay for tax cuts for big businesses and the wealthy.
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