Guns, elections and Florida condos make this week’s list of highs and lows | Editorial
Weekly Florida roundup shows some skewed priorities
Owners of beachfront condos such as the ones along Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale are concerned about their ability to replace their real estate investments in the event of a catastrophe similar to the one that struck the Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
Owners of beachfront condos such as the ones along Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale are concerned about their ability to replace their real estate investments in the event of a catastrophe similar to the one that struck the Champlain Towers South in Surfside. [ MICHAEL LAUGHLIN | South Florida ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published May 28

Making condos safer. Thanks to a well-deserved political backlash, the Florida Legislature reversed course this week and approved a new condominium safety bill. The measure, taken in response to the June collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, which killed 98 people, will better protect the lives and property of more than 2 million condo residents. The bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law on Thursday, comes only months after the Florida Senate derailed a similar measure in the regular legislative session. The new law requires that condos three stories or higher be inspected after 30 years, or after 25 years if within 3 miles of the coast, and re-inspected every 10 years thereafter. Starting in 2025, condo associations will have to set aside money in reserves to cover future repairs. This is a long overdue step in confronting years if not decades of deferred maintenance. And having a better picture of the physical condition of these buildings will give buyers, lenders and insurers more certainty, buffering the condo market. But there also could be sticker-shock in the offing, especially for midlist condos whose residents are stretched from owning a piece of paradise. The Legislature needs to explore new financing tools to help these condos afford necessary repairs. But it shouldn’t backtrack on this promising step to improve condo safety statewide.

Calling out guns. The slaughter Tuesday of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas has sparked a broader awakening in the calls for public safety among several Florida-connected sports teams. This week, the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, who have spring training in Tampa, both devoted their Twitter feeds to deploring the violence and calling out the horrific nature of assault weapons. The teams collaborated to use their reach on social media to offer facts on the impacts of gun violence, which they rightly called “intolerable.” The Rays also announced a $50,000 donation to Everytown Gun Safety’s Support Fund, the largest gun violence prevention organization in America. The Miami Heat had its say earlier this week. In a pre-game announcement Wednesday, the team urged fans to contact U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Florida Republicans, “demanding their support for common sense gun laws” — and telling them they can “make change at the ballot box.” Rubio, who is up for re-election this fall, got bent of out shape, lambasting the “politicizing” of a tragedy. It’s called free speech by people who’ve had enough. These sports teams are lending their influential voices to a commendable cause.

Rookie advice. The Republican partisan that Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed as Florida’s top elections official said this week that more voting changes may be on the way. Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who was at the forefront of some of the most controversial legislation the governor supported, said the state had created enough work for local elections supervisors this election year, “but certainly, after the 2022 election, there will be time to contemplate and see what other improvements we can make.” Improvements? Byrd is wholly unqualified for this job, and the more he stays out of the way, the better. The predecessor he succeeded, Laurel Lee, was widely admired for her organizational skills, and the support and lines of communication she maintained with locally-elected supervisors. They are the professionals who actually conduct elections, and who know first-hand how voting hurdles imposed from Tallahassee can suppress the electorate. Byrd should look, listen and learn, and work to make Florida’s elections in 2022 and beyond at least as smooth and orderly as before he got here.

Johnny can’t read. A child who can’t read by third grade faces a challenging time in continuing his or her education, and improving their lot in life. That’s why a new report by the Tampa Bay Times showing that just over half of Florida’s third-graders performed at or above the passing level on this spring’s statewide reading test is so alarming. The results are essentially the same as a year ago, and to some degree, they reflect the ongoing setbacks from the quarantines and distance-learning forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Statewide, 53% of third-graders scored at or above Level 3, considered a satisfactory or passing mark. That was down from 54% in 2021. Scores were at that level in 2015, but at 58% in 2019. In other words, the problem pre-dates COVID. After all, what’s 58 percent to cheer about? The Florida Department of Education released the information to school districts Wednesday, and included school-by-school scores. This year, 25% of third-graders earned a Level 1 statewide, the lowest score on the five-level range. If the DeSantis administration is done fighting with the schools over masks and teachings on race and sexual identity, maybe it can outline a strategy for improving reading.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.


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