Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Put Florida nature first, not dollars

Gov. Rick Scott's plan to sell surplus public land to raise money to buy land more critical to environmental conservation is acceptable in theory. But the preliminary list of surplus properties is dictated by reaching an arbitrary goal of raising $50 million instead of sound management of public resources. That is the danger of this approach, and the governor and Cabinet should insist on a list based on environmental considerations, not financial calculations.

The list from the Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands includes 169 parcels consisting of 5,331 acres in 67 state parks, forests and wildlife areas. Environmental advocates agree some parcels on the list should be sold. The state often buys all of a seller's property as a part of a negotiated deal — not just what the state had identified as environmentally sensitive. But that's not where the list stops.

As the Tampa Bay Times' Craig Pittman reported, transcripts from the July 15 meeting of the Surplus Lands Initiative's Technical Advisory Group suggest that reaching the $50 million value mark approved by the Legislature is most important. One state consultant told the group — which fretted the state just didn't have that much surplus land — that they need to reset their criteria to hit the fiscal mark.

DEP ended up including, for example, 2,600 acres in the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County that were purchased to protect the aquifer. The land lies in the Green Swamp, home to the headwaters of four rivers. Less than a decade ago, the Tallahassee Democrat reported, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommended adding 12,500 acres to the area. Now, under a new governor, it has joined other state agencies in signing off on declaring the property surplus.

Another example: 400 acres identified in the Wekiwa Springs State Park north of Orlando. Less than a decade ago under Gov. Jeb Bush, the state passed new protections anticipating buying more land to protect the springs but also to create a much-needed wildlife corridor in Central Florida.

It's not the first time the Scott administration has pursued significant changes to valued state lands only to later retreat. Two years ago, after drawing huge opposition to allowing camping at Honeymoon Island State Park in Pinellas County, DEP dropped the plan. Now the public needs to let its voice be heard again. Scott and the Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — should ensure that only truly surplus land is sold to buy other land.

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Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18