- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Jan. 18

The Miami Herald on a shooting after the MLK Day parade in Miami:

It’s a testament to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. that so many local residents show up to Miami-Dade’s annual parade and celebration in his honor.

But it’s also an infuriating tragedy that attending the celebration has become for attendees a matter of life and death - proven again on Monday.

Five children and three adults - were shot in a park named in King’s honor following the popular parade. Chaos erupted, everyone ran for cover. Victims were driven to the hospital by friends and family, as ambulances could not get to them right away.

On Tuesday, a clearly angry Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez confirmed that those bullets were fired as part of a gang war. To jar loose information about the shooters, a reward has been upped to $21,000 for tips leading to arrests of the gunmen, he said.

“Enough is enough,” he said of the gun violence that has gripped inner cities here and across the country. “Tell us who did it,” the director asked the public.

Even U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, in town to speak to students, pleaded: “Put your guns down!”

These ardent pleas have echoed those over the years from grieving parents and outraged members of the communities where youth violence has hit the hardest - and where telling the police what you know can also get you killed. These gang members are armed, and if they’re not afraid to shoot a child who gets in the way of an intended target, then they have absolutely no fear of killing anyone who tries to do the right thing.

As the Editorial Board has said in the past, the residents need protection. They need to know that they can speak up in safety. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has the mechanism in place, but residents must believe that it will work. It’s another matter of life and death.

It’s not the first time the MLK Day celebration has been marred by violence in Miami. Twenty years ago, Rickia Isaac, 5, was fatally wounded as she walked home from the parade, hit by stray bullet fired by feuding gunmen. Every year since, her uncle Jerome Starling has issued a public plea before the parade for an end to gun violence.

“For 20 years we’ve pleaded for the community to put down its guns,” Starling said at the latest outbreak of shooting.

While the shooting was under way, scores of ATV riders took to Miami-Dade and Broward streets as part of the Wheel Up, Guns Down campaign, causing their own kind of panic on the roadways. Two riders were killed in separate traffic accidents as they zipped in and out of traffic; 36 riders were arrested and more than 70 ATVs were confiscated. Who won? The towing companies who charged riders about $175 to reclaim each vehicle.

All this on a day to mark Dr. King’s memory. It’s so hard to comprehend that people with beefs would choose a parade to honor this American icon to settle a score.

Stunned by the violence, county officials, led by Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, held a news conference at the park on Tuesday to announce the enhanced reward.

“To end the MLK festivities with gun violence is a dishonor to the memory of our country’s most well-known peaceful freedom fighter and leaves a blemish on our community.”

She’s right. It’s tragic and an embarrassment.

And to end the festivities altogether, as some have suggested, would let the wrong people claim victory.




Jan. 17

The Daytona Beach News-Journal on Gov. Rick Scott’s college affordability plan:

Compared to other states, Florida already offers a bargain in higher education. Gov. Rick Scott wants to make college even more affordable.

Scott last week unveiled proposals to freeze tuition at state colleges (it’s already frozen at state universities), cap fees at colleges and universities, expand Bright Futures scholarships to cover summer classes and eliminate sales taxes on required textbooks.

That sigh of approval you hear is from students and their families, for whom the cost of attending college can be burdensome even at Florida’s discount prices.

Average in-state tuition at Florida universities runs about $6,000 a year, below the national average of $9,650. When you add the costs of attendance, which include room and board, technology and books, Florida’s total swells to $21,000 annually.

That’s over $80,000 to earn a four-year degree - and only 44 percent of undergraduate students at the state’s universities graduate within four years. Of course, additional years cost additional money. The sooner a student graduates, the cheaper his college bill will be.

Thus would Scott’s proposal to have Bright Futures cover the cost of summer school help students graduate either on time or earlier.

Holding the line on tuition and other expenses at the same time also is pocketbook-friendly, not to mention it would provide predictability in planning. Students and families scraping together the money needed to attend won’t have to worry about a price hike in the middle of studies that might force them to withdraw.

And although removing the sales tax from textbooks might save an average of $60 a year, every little bit helps.

Scott’s latest plans reflect his ongoing commitment to make college affordability a priority. Last year he signed into law legislation that requires the Board of Governors to come up with ways to promote college affordability, such as making the costs of textbooks and other course materials publicly available to students before they register for a class, so they can factor that information in when they’re selecting courses. It also requires colleges and universities to adopt policies that will make textbooks more affordable. Previously, he has challenged schools to offer $10,000 degrees, and one year vetoed appropriations at colleges that had raised tuition.

Some institutions haven’t waited for the governor to act. For example, Daytona State College in 2015 voluntarily cut its tuition by 2 percent, and last year it slashed student fees by 3.3 percent. Those moves were aimed at improving its state rankings in student retention, which affect the amount of performance-based funding the school receives. Still, the tuition cut in particular was an extraordinary move, as DSC became the only college in Florida, and one of a few nationwide, to reduce tuition in recent years.

Whether Scott’s package will survive the Legislature unscathed remains to be seen, especially with a tight budget this year and with critics worried the tuition freeze will starve colleges. There is competing legislation that attempts to achieve the same goals through different means. For instance, Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, is sponsoring a bill that would require universities to create a block tuition policy, specifying an in-state and out-of-state fixed price for full-time undergrads with money-saving incentives to help students complete their degrees faster. The measure also would increase incentives for universities to reduce the time and cost of completing a four-year degree. State colleges also would be subject to a new affordability metric.

Regardless of the details, what’s most important and encouraging is that Tallahassee is trying to control costs by holding the line on prices and by ensuring that students don’t buy more than they absolutely have to.




Jan. 13

The SunSentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Obama’s approach to Cuba:

There’s no solution to the half-century old Cuba problem that will satisfy everyone, but we strongly believe President Obama made the right decision to end the troubled “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

For years, the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board has called for an end to a well-meaning but dangerous and unfair policy, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.

Next, we urge Donald Trump not to reverse Obama’s decision when he takes office next week. Trump is eager to undo many of Obama’s executive actions, but this is one that falls in line with Trump’s stance on immigration - even though he will undoubtedly receive pushback from hardliners in his own party.

We feel for Cubans who want to make a better life for themselves in the United States. We also feel for Haitians, Venezuelans and other immigrants from impoverished countries who desperately want to escape to our country.

But it made no sense to have a policy that encouraged citizens of one country to take life-threatening trips to our shores.

Cuban immigration to the United States has skyrocketed in the last few years with anticipation that Obama could end a policy that gave Cubans a special right to remain in our country if they reached our land.

In 2016, 54,000 Cubans migrated to the U.S., according to the Obama administration. That’s an increase from 40,000 in 2015. In 2011, only 7,759 entered the U.S.

For years, you’ve seen images of Cubans arriving on flimsy rafts. Many didn’t make it.

But you probably haven’t seen the thousands of Cubans who are taking dangerous treks through Latin America and Mexico, with the hopes of eventually making it to the United States. Some have fallen prey to human traffickers. It’s counterproductive to encourage them to make these deadly escapes.

We made a special status for Cubans two decades ago so they could escape political persecution in Communist Cuba. In reality, most of the Cubans who have made it to the U.S. in recent years are seeking to improve their economic standing, including medical professionals. Obama also announced the end of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which gave temporary legal status to those people but threatened depleting Cuba of doctors.

We’re disappointed the Cuban government continues to imprison dissidents and restrict personal freedoms to their people. But it doesn’t mean we have any less sympathy for citizens of other Central and South American countries with corrupt governments in disarray.

The next challenge for the Cuban people is fighting for change from within. Fidel Castro is dead and Raul Castro won’t be around forever. Obama was right to open up new relations with Cuba - we can help the Cuban people by showing up to their country and spreading democracy, even if the money in the immediate future lands in the pocket of their unjust government. The worst policy is keeping the island isolated.

Now, the decision is in the hands of Trump, who has positions on the Cuban government and immigration that could contradict each other. Trump has threatened a hardline stance on the Cuban regime and their treatment of dissidents. But if he stays true to his campaign promises on immigration, he won’t reverse Obama’s decision to end the wet foot, dry foot policy.

Trump won the GOP nomination partially on immigration. It’s hard to imagine Trump believes Cubans should be given a free pass to enter the United States without going through the same channels as other immigrants.

That is exactly what he said a year ago, when the Tampa Bay Times pressed him on the wet foot, dry foot policy and he replied: “I don’t think that’s fair,” noting that other people wait years to immigrate here.

Trump’s in a tricky spot. If he reverses Obama’s decision, he reneges on his own campaign promises and contradicts his own beliefs on immigration. If he sticks with Obama’s decision, he angers politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio, who blasted Obama’s decision after it was announced Thursday.

Rubio acknowledged the wet foot, dry foot policy has “led to growing abuses” because of welfare aid. He called for an end to the policy last year. But on Thursday he blasted Obama’s decision because it would return all Cubans, including those politically persecuted, back to the island.

Trump’s national security adviser K.T. McFarland is a hard-liner on foreign policy and transition official Mauricio Claver-Cuoron is a top pro-embargo activist, according to Politico.

There are supporters and opponents of Obama’s decision on both sides of political aisle.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, told Politico that ending the wet foot, dry foot policy “is in our national interest.” Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, disagrees and said in a statement that “we should never deny a Cuban refugee fleeing a brutal regime entry into the United States.”

We also shouldn’t encourage Cubans to flee their country and face a much worse fate on the deadly voyage. Obama made the right call and Trump should wisely let it stand.



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