Sunday, April 22, 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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
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