- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


June 30

The Tampa Bay Times on university mental health services:

Norm Tripp, a member of the Board of Governors that oversees state universities, appropriately spotlighted the mental health crisis on college campuses last week. He urged school officials during a board meeting to find the money to do more to help students who desperately want the help. The University of South Florida pledges to have additional resources in place this fall, but the entire university system needs to make a sustained effort to meet the growing need for mental health services on campuses throughout the state.

Student demand for mental health services has exploded in recent years, while too many schools across the nation have remained inattentive and unresponsive. In Florida, the number of students receiving services jumped by about 55 percent since the 2008-09 academic year. The number of crisis visits exceeded 9,100 in the 2015-16 academic year, more than double the year before. Counseling centers have not received the additional resources required to keep up, leaving students with longer wait times, shortened or delayed sessions and overworked counselors. Imagine what the demand would be if schools were more aggressive in offering help rather than simply reacting to crisis situations.

The Florida Legislature appears unconcerned and rejected a $14.5 million funding request to add staff to counseling centers. But the 2017-18 state budget does give universities a $173 million overall increase. Tripp has challenged schools to find the money and address the problem. Florida’s universities cannot allow another year to go by with insufficiently staffed and funded counseling centers.

USF provost Ralph Wilcox said the school will tackle the issue, and he deserves credit for recognizing the challenge even if the current plan is light on specifics. USF does not know how many counselors will be hired, but a good starting point would be to focus on the ratio of counselors to students. The industry’s recommended range is one counselor to 1,000 to 1,500 students. Only four of the 12 state universities meet that recommendation, with two barely reaching the mark. For last year, USF was at one counselor for every 2,044 students, and the University of Florida was at one for every 1,660 students. That is problematic, and universities should prioritize funds to fix it.

There should be money available. In addition to the overall budget increase for universities, the Board of Governors awarded more than $500 million in performance-based bonuses to the schools last week. That money is discretionary, so universities could use some of it to improve mental health services. The State University System also should provide incentives to reward schools that devote more resources to mental health services. The board’s strategic plan for the future fails to mention mental health, and none of the board’s 29 metrics to measure future success for universities mentions the issue.

Tripp’s words highlighted the issue, but more can be done by both the entire university system and individual schools. Many students are away from home for the first time and coping with new social environments and challenging assignments. They need to be mentally healthy to succeed on campus and in the classroom, and help needs to be available when those challenges or other issues seem overwhelming.

Online: https://www.tampabay.com/


July 1

The Ledger of Lakeland on the U.S. Conference of Mayors:

The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently wrapped up its convention in Miami Beach, with the chief executives of more than 250 cities gathering to pump up enthusiasm for governing at municipal level. A few major themes emerged during the meeting.

First, in contrast to the constant bickering coming out of Washington, the leaders of America’s city governments struck a bipartisan, we-can-all-get-along tone. Second, juxtaposing themselves with elected leaders in Washington, mayors said they are get-it-done pols on the front lines of developing imaginative solutions to numerous problems confronting constituents. Third, President Donald Trump has taken actions that undercut cities - particularly on immigration, climate change and health care - and must be opposed.

While the upbeat, consensus-building attitude caught the most media attention, we should take it with a grain of salt.

The theme of the event was distinctly dubious of the current politics in the nation’s capital, as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the group’s newly elected president, conveyed in explaining the group’s four-point “Agenda for the Future.”

“From our largest cities and suburban areas to our smallest rural towns, mayors don’t just talk and debate, they provide safer, stronger, healthier, and more inclusive communities. Successful mayors combine real results and transformative vision - delivered in real time. That’s leadership,” Landrieu said in a statement on the conference’s website.

“Unfortunately, what Americans are seeing in Washington isn’t leadership or results for our local communities,” he continued. “Washington could learn a thing or two from American mayors of all regions and all parties. With millions of Americans starved for leadership, they should look past Washington and instead focus on what’s happening outside their kitchen windows.”

Or as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told The Washington Post as the gathering opened, “We have to, as mayors, be one of the forces in this country that focuses on actually getting things done.”

We don’t dispute that Washington, and particularly Capitol Hill, is a place where ideas and sound policy go to die.

And as is evident from time to time in this space, we are big fans of local government, which is where everyday citizens can most affect the direction of government. Polk County has 17 cities and while we don’t always agree with them, we appreciate how hard those mayors, and the city commissioners who serve with them, work every day to try to meet the needs of their constituents.

But based on the news from Miami Beach, some of these mayors should really get over themselves.

For one thing, let’s consider their agenda to make America better.

The plan focuses on safe neighborhoods, infrastructure improvements, modernizing the workforce and creating “equitable” communities.

To make neighborhoods safer, for example, the mayors want more funding for community-oriented policing programs and homeland security grants and to grow the presence of the FBI in their communities.

To fix our decaying infrastructure, they seek a “major infrastructure package” to begin whittling down a $4.6 trillion shortfall in public works needs, a “federal-state-city partnership” to tackle energy, broadband and water and sewer projects, and funding for efforts to fight climate change.

To upgrade the workforce, they advocate a national “living wage,” allow taxpayers to continue deducting local taxes on their federal tax filings and greater cooperation for federal agencies to invest in low-income areas.

To establish “equitable” communities, they recommend increased funding for community development block grants, more money for homeless assistance, and no cuts in, or if possible additional dollars for, public education, public health and public welfare programs.

In short, the mayors, through their rhetoric, maintain Washington does nothing and accomplishes nothing, yet their own agenda is meaningless and pointless unless Washington - meaning taxpayers from far outside their jurisdictions - pays for a sizeable chunk of it.

The session also offered illustrations of sheer audacity. Landrieu, for example, talked about “unity” and “inclusiveness,” but nearly provoked a riot in his town by removing statues dedicated to Confederate Civil War leaders. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel proposed a resolution opposing a bill in Congress that allows states to recognize each other’s concealed weapons laws, even as his city is engulfed in the worst gun-related murder spree in a generation.

As stated, we’re all for local government. And we don’t doubt the mayors’ sincerity in believing that, relative to Congress, they must produce results because they deal closest with the people. But, please, spare us the lectures about dysfunction and disunity until you can stop asking those you say are ruining the country to bankroll your efforts.

Online: https://www.theledger.com/


July 4

Miami Herald recommends refusing the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity’s push for voter data:

Hell, no.

That is the one and only response that the state of Florida should give the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity, which last week requested all 50 states to provide it with information about each and every voter.

Just the very name of this commission, created by executive order by President Trump, is laughable. The subtext of its mission, to suppress some - and only some - voters’ access to the polls is serious, and dangerous.

To be clear, rampant, unbridled vote fraud does not exist.

No matter, at least to the president, who still is fantasizing that he was denied the popular vote in 2016. His commission last week sent a letter to the states asking for a list of the names, party affiliations, addresses and - get this - the voting histories of all voters, if state law allows it to be public. That’s 200 million voters, potentially. How can they trust, amid real cybersecurity and identity theft concerns that the federal government can protect such personal data?

The commission gave secretaries of state about two weeks to provide voter information, including dates of birth, the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers and any information about felony convictions and military status.

The vast majority of states didn’t need two weeks. As of Tuesday, at least 41 states - led by Democrats and Republicans alike - had refused to provide the information. Florida, however, was still undecided. Why?

President Trump created this commission based on a lie - that votes were compromised across the nation. That vote fraud is rampant. That he was robbed.

These assertions have been debunked, even as GOP-controlled state legislatures in several states have taken steps to make it difficult for African Americans, Hispanics and young people - any not in the R column - to cast votes. The courts have struck down unfair voter ID laws. But there is evidence that in some states, the suppression efforts worked, unfortunately.

Let’s be clear about this, too: There is no way that this commission is not going to “find” rampant voter fraud, despite studies to the contrary. This would give states that are so inclined the go-ahead to double down on stifling unfriendly voters’ access to the polls. This would be a disgrace.

Florida has its own insidious history of suppressing the black vote especially, a history of which it should be ashamed. And one that should inform how it moves forward. Ex-felons who have successfully paid their debt to society still have to jump through an unconscionable number hoops to have their voting rights restored. It’s a vestige of Jim Crow unworthy of this state; purges of the voter rolls, under both Govs. Jeb Bush and Rick Scott ensnared African-American Floridians who had every right to vote; curtailing the number of early-voting sites and the hours of operation, forcing interminable lines, especially in black neighborhoods.

It all tracks with what Jim Greer, a former state Republican Party chair, said in a 2012 deposition about a meeting with party leaders: “I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.”

Greer, of course, was facing corruption charges when he spilled these beans. He had every incentive to make himself look good. Still, the state GOP’s actions over the years in the Legislature and the governor’s office bolster his assertions.

This commission is working on behalf of a president who swears he won the popular vote - he didn’t; who sat silent as his more-rabid supporters threatened to intimidate minority voters; who will go to any lengths to thwart the probes into allegations that Russia intervened on his behalf in the 2016 election.

Florida must confront where the true fraud sits.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide