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  1. Florida Politics

Romano: Give me sanctuary from nonsense politics

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran's political committee is spending scads of money to air a commercial that highlights Kathryn Steinle's death. [YouTube]
Published Jan. 31, 2018

Kathryn Steinle's death in San Francisco was senseless — and heartbreaking. It was also 30 months ago, and 3,000 miles away.

Since that July day in 2015 when Steinle was killed by an errant ricochet of a bullet, there have been roughly 2,700 murders in Florida.

So tell me:

Were none of those murder victims worthy of a commercial?

Are none of the circumstances surrounding these daily killings in Florida — domestic violence, lack of mental health funding, proliferation of illegally obtained firearms — worthy of a politician's crusade?

I ask only because Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran's political committee is spending scads of money to air a commercial that highlights Steinle's death.

The commercial implies that an illegal immigrant targeted a young woman, when the truth is the defendant was not convicted of shooting Steinle because she was hit inadvertently when a bullet ricocheted from 78 feet away.

But I don't think Corcoran is motivated by accuracy. I think he's driven by ambition.

Corcoran is considering a run for governor, and instead of an intelligent discussion of complex issues in Florida, he would rather scare people with a misleading commercial about a polarizing case on the other side of the country.

That might also explain why he recently sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking officials to investigate St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for operating a sanctuary city.

Never mind that Corcoran is referring to an ill-advised statement Kriseman made a year ago, and later clarified. And never mind that Kriseman has nothing to do with notifying the federal government about immigrants being detained in jails because that job falls on Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Corcoran cares only about creating a boogeyman for his campaign. So St. Petersburg becomes a sanctuary city, even if everyone agrees that characterization is bogus.

The insinuation is that Pinellas neighborhoods are more dangerous because violent immigrants are roaming our streets. Except the numbers don't back that up.

Of the 10 most populous counties in Florida, Pinellas had the lowest murder rate per capita in 2015-16, the last two years numbers are available from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But why let facts ruin a good campaign slogan?

The truth is, both Republicans and Democrats have gone off the rails here. Republicans accuse liberals of harboring violent criminals, and Democrats rush to accuse conservatives of being racists. Meanwhile, the overwhelming number of violent crimes in Florida are committed by U.S. citizens. And that's a problem state leaders could actually work on.

There is wide agreement that Florida is one of the worst, if not the worst, state for funding mental health issues. If Tallahassee was so adamant about public safety, lawmakers would devote more money to prevent the next John Jonchuck.

You could make the same case for drug and alcohol rehab. And overworked and underpaid social workers trying to protect children from deadly caregivers. Not to mention illegal gun sales.

The point is we have problems that need solving, including the immigration crisis.

Let's stop the commercials, and start the conversation.

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