Sunday, June 17, 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: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18