Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida needs another Reubin Askew

Florida needs more leaders like Reubin Askew. The former governor, who died Thursday at 85, had a long-term vision for this state and pursued it with integrity, determination and no worries about his political future. He stood up to powerful forces as he tackled difficult issues ranging from school desegregation to tax reform, and Floridians trusted his judgment and followed his lead.

Askew served as governor from 1971 to 1979, and his high ethical standards set him apart in the era of Watergate in Washington and scandals in Tallahassee that eroded the public's trust in government. He ranks behind only LeRoy Collins among the state's greatest governors, and many of his accomplishments remain in place today.

Perhaps most significant is the 1976 Sunshine Amendment, which Askew persuaded voters to approve after the Legislature rejected his call for ethics reform. The constitutional amendment requires elected officials to disclose their financial interests so that Floridians can better recognize when public office is at risk of being used for private gain. Those financial disclosure requirements, combined with strong open meetings and public records laws that Askew championed as a state legislator, are the Sunshine State's best tools for holding government accountable.

Too many of Askew's other successes that served the state well for decades have been eroded. He created the water management districts, and Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have decimated them. He advocated for stronger growth management and review of large developments of regional impact, and they have been gutted and compromised. He created a nonpartisan system of screening applicants for judicial appointments, and that process has become more politicized.

Progressive tax reform has been off the agenda in this state for years. Askew successfully argued for a fairer tax system and a corporate tax. Scott has been working to kill the corporate tax altogether. It is hard to imagine anyone in Tallahassee today standing up to the lobbyists and explaining to voters why businesses should contribute more to the future of the state rather than constantly demand tax breaks in return for jobs.

Askew served as governor well before the digital age and 24-hour news cycles. He dropped out of the 1988 U.S. Senate race because he could not stand spending so much time raising campaign money, and the amount of campaign cash then sounds quaint compared to the tens of millions raised now. Third-party groups that air countless television ads also could easily drown out a candidate as independent and candid as Askew.

Yet Florida desperately needs more leaders like Askew with the vision, intellect and perseverance to rise above partisan politics and special interests to lead this state in a better direction. It needs leaders who do not fear personal attacks from outside groups. It needs leaders who trust Floridians enough to tell them the truth about what needs to be done and how to do it. They would have to spread their message using modern campaign techniques, from fundraising to tweeting. But Reubin Askew should be a role model for those who still believe in the power and the promise of public office to make a positive difference for future generations.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18