Saturday, June 16, 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: 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