- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Jan. 22

Miami Herald on the government shutdown stopgap and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:

The Democrats blinked, but they still have their eye on a bigger prize. Meanwhile, DREAMers have to keep on dreaming.

Based on Senate President Mitch McConnell’s pledge to address the fate of the up to 800,000 young immigrants, Democrats voted to end the three-day shutdown before more serious damage was done. President Trump signed the bill Monday night.

The DREAMers and their heart-rending stories have gotten the lion’s share of publicity recently. But so much more was at stake: The short-term budget agreement extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program - CHIP - for six years. That’s extremely important. Nationally, CHIP covers almost 9 million children. In Florida alone, almost 375,000 children are enrolled in this program each year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But Congress let CHIP funding lapse almost four months ago. Then Republicans held it hostage in the budget negotiations.

Still left unresolved is dealing with the epidemic of opioid use across the country and keeping community health centers whole, to name just a few urgent issues.

While some have criticized President Trump for keeping a low profile for the three days of the shutdown, we think he did himself and the Republicans a huge favor by staying out of it. After all, he ultimately hijacked what could have been a surprisingly bipartisan process and injected vulgar and bigoted commentary about some immigrants.

Trump has vacillated on the DREAMers, campaigning on wiping out President Obama’s executive order letting young adults brought here illegally as children stay in this country. Recently, he pivoted, saying, almost as persuasively, that he wants to help them through a “bill of love” and offer them legal status. All the while, hardliner Stephen Miller, his mean-spirited senior policy adviser is dead-set against showing love or any other kind of leniency toward immigrants.

Maybe, the president is genuinely ambivalent. Maybe it’s part of President Art-of-the-Deal’s negotiation strategy. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said that getting Trump to make a definitive decision is like “negotiating with Jell-O.”

Then there’s the ad. On Jan. 20, Trump’s reelection campaign released - on the anniversary of his inauguration, no less - a 30-second spot that says the Democrats will be “complicit” in murders committed by illegal immigrants. No matter that evidence shows that legal and undocumented immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to commit crime.

For Trump, it’s the virulent fear-mongering that counts.

The Democrats’ power play to lock in a solution to the immigration status of DREAMers in the original budget deal has stalled. Republicans adroitly accused them of supporting the federal government’s shutdown to demand a solution for undocumented residents. As usual, the Democrats have a messaging problem. Though on the side of right, Republicans use the optics to say otherwise.

If there’s no bipartisan agreement that the president can live with - and, most important, that lets him claim victory - then the threat of another shutdown in a couple weeks is real. So is the lack of trust that McConnell will keep his pledge.

Democrats and those Republicans - who, like the majority of Americans, want to throw the DREAMers a lifeline - have their work cut out for them.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com


Jan. 22

Sarasota Herald-Tribune on protecting Florida land:

Although 75 percent of Florida voters - including 78 percent in Sarasota County and 76 percent in Manatee - supported constitutional Amendment 1 in 2014, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have failed to fulfill the voters’ intent.

If pending bills are approved during the Legislature’s ongoing annual session, state senators and representatives will finally begin to do what an overwhelming majority of voters clearly wanted.

Amendment 1 was intended to reinstate funding for Florida Forever, the state’s once-premier program for acquiring and protecting environmentally valuable land.

The ballot language stated that the amendment would require the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to “acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites.”

During the statewide debate over the initiative, Florida Forever was clearly and repeatedly identified as the most efficient tool for acquiring, restoring, improving and managing the environmental assets listed in the amendment.

That made sense. Florida Forever’s acquisitions face rigorous examination by scientists, preservation experts and members of the public. Acquisitions can occur through outright, “fee-simple” purchase or through the purchase of conservation easements designed to protect the land in perpetuity while allowing it to remain in private ownership. Both methods have proved effective.

Yet the Legislature allocated nothing for Florida Forever last year, and “zeroed out” funding the previous two years.

It’s true that the Legislature proposes to fund land-acquisition and water-protection projects directly, as opposed to using Florida Forever as a conduit. But there are valid concerns that such expenditures supplant, rather than supplement, Florida Forever.

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year through documentary stamps paid on real-estate transactions. It makes sense to use this revenue source because it is substantially linked to new development in Florida, which brings jobs and fuels economic activity but also increases the need for setting aside additional lands and taking steps to protect waterways, wetlands and aquifers that provide potable water to current and new residents alike.

Senate Bill 370, filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, a North Florida Republican, calls for allocating $100 million to Florida Forever in 2018-19. The legislation has been approved in committees and awaits a vote on the floor of the Senate. (The bill would also prevent trust fund dollars from being spent on salaries for state employees who don’t directly work on conservation.)

A companion bill in the House (1353) - filed by Halsey Beshears, another North Florida Republican, and Loranne Ausley, a Leon County Democrat - is in a subcommittee. Both bills have been endorsed by the credible 1000 Friends of Florida organization.

The House has been even stingier than the Senate on Florida Forever, though it did pass a bill last year calling for incremental increases starting this year.

It has taken long enough for the Legislature to fulfill the intent of voters. Start now.

Online: http://www.heraldtribune.com


Jan. 23

The Florida Times-Union on a proposal for Jacksonville’s zoo that could help waterfront communities deal with storms and climate change:

A proposal to create a “living shoreline” at Jacksonville’s zoo could provide welcome information for waterfront communities hoping to deal effectively with climate change and devastating storms.

And for an area such as Northeast Florida, hit hard by Hurricane Irma’s storm surges last year, the project could result in extremely timely knowledge.

It’s only four months, after all, before the state’s hurricane season rears its head again. It’s already expected to be a doozy.

But while the zoo project has drawn rave reviews, including support from past City Councils, it’s been six long years since it was proposed. Never could the city seem to find the $165,000 needed to cover its cost.

This year’s the project’s luck may change as a pot of money from a trust fund made up of fines collected from polluters has now been targeted as a source of cash.

Let’s hope the project can finally move forward as it’s a benefit to the entire community.

The proposal in question is an ingenious undertaking to build a more true-to-nature shoreline to protect the 180 feet of the zoo’s Trout River shoreline from water turbulence that can range from normal wave action to storm surges.

Instead of unsightly concrete bulkheads or rip rap seen along much waterfront property, the Zoo’s new shoreline would consist of the types of things nature itself created to stabilize waterfronts.

The zoo’s waterfront would include offshore “reef balls” that could also serve as home to aquatic life, where new reefs could be started to slow down waves.

Closer to shore, bags of oyster shells would be stacked to resemble an honest-to-goodness natural barrier system, complete with openings to permit manatees and other animals to swim closer to shore.

The shore itself would be stabilized with extra soil and plants becoming places that would further decrease the impact of watery surges while they offer habitat for other creatures.

A boardwalk would give visitors a chance to view the “living shoreline” up close and, hopefully, give them ideas about how waterfront communities, homes and businesses can be protected naturally and not artificially.

The project seems like a definite win-win.

It’s a win for the zoo, which will have a nature shoreline to blend more closely with its progressive and eco-friendly stance.

It’s also a win for the city and its residents, both of which could begin adopting this natural strategy to protect shores.

Everyone involved - the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, Jacksonville’s Public Works Department and anyone else whose support is needed - must get on board and move the project forward.

Six years is too long to wait for an idea whose time, with climate change, is definitely here.

The Trump administration’s attack on protected natural areas is continuing with plans to alter dedicated marine monuments to make way for greater commercial fishing and other uses.

This newest broadside comes after the president signed two proclamations in December to roll back the sizes of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Reductions to other land-based monuments are still being considered.

Of great concern environmentally, however, is the presence on that list of three marine monuments, two in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. All three would either be shrunk or opened to commercial uses that might devastate their delicate ecosystems.

The former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, told the Guardian the trio of monuments is unique in their diversity.

The national monument in Florida’s ocean, the Atlantic, is sensitive, with dense forests of deep-sea corals.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, located off Cape Code, is also an important migratory route for the endangered right whale.

“They are undersea treasures,” she said. “There are plenty of other places in the ocean to fish.”

And fisheries groups that have supported the expansion of fishing rights into protected waters so they can increase their catches may be disingenuous. In the Pacific, for example, tuna catches have doubled recently, evidence that the monuments may be actually protecting key breeding ecosystems.

The fire now being directed at the marine monuments has been launched by the trigger finger of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a man with a history of opposing legislation designed to safeguard the environment.

It would certainly be a shame if Zinke and the administration had their way regarding these three marine monuments.

They are prized ecosystems.

They are places that deserve our protection.

Online: http://jacksonville.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