Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Scott's climate change denial is a joke — and not funny

Gov. Rick Scott turned Florida into a national laughingstock last week with reports that his administration had barred any official mention of "climate change." Raising the funny meter on late-night TV is one thing. It's another to live and work in a flat, low-lying coastal state where the chief executive is in such denial about the real-life impacts of rising sea levels, worsening air pollution and damage to water and fisheries from man-made carbon emissions. Scott is sticking his head in the sand instead of working to protect it, and it's time he was honest and proactive in addressing these threats.

In a series of reports last week, the Florida Center for Investigate Reporting detailed how the Department of Environmental Protection had been ordered not to use terms "climate change" or "global warming" in any official communications, according to public records and former DEP employees and consultants. A former agency attorney said the message was communicated to staff by superiors after Scott took office in 2011.

A consultant on a Miami coral reef restoration project said DEP employees were so "skittish" about the unwritten rule that "they wouldn't even talk about it." One former DEP employee in Miami said she was instructed last year that "sea level rise was to be referred to as 'nuisance flooding.' " The policy reportedly filtered through other agencies, from the departments of health to transportation, whose areas of responsibility are also affected by pollutants, water levels and other climate-related impacts. That doesn't happen by accident.

Scott had an opportunity to clear the air last week, but as usual he dodged the question and issued a blanket denial that any such order exists. As if on script, every agency questioned from the governor's office on down issued almost a verbatim statement: "There's no policy on this." One day, this administration will quit insulting the intelligence of Floridians and recognize that robotic repeating of the same generic statement does not make it true.

These agencies don't need a policy when the governor made clear early on, as he said in 2011: "I've not been convinced that there's any made-made climate change." It was an irresponsible statement that signaled to every branch of government under Scott's autocratic management that "climate change" was not to be mentioned, much less acted upon.

This mentality has spawned a recklessness in the Legislature that goes hand-in-hand with the governor's thinking. Beyond slashing the water management districts and fast-tracking the permitting process, lawmakers are moving this year to block the state's cooperation in developing new clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration. The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, defended the action Thursday in a committee hearing, declaring: "CO2 is not — in my opinion — is not a pollutant."

This denial of basic science doesn't help a coastal state struggling to provide water, control flooding and preserve its natural resources. And it doesn't help the governor as he jets across the country asking the nation's corporate leaders to move and invest here. The tone flows from the top, and the governor needs to acknowledge that climate change is real, that humans are behind the major impacts and that the state has an obligation to foster an honest dialogue on the solutions.

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Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18