Round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

in Uncategorized by

A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers.

Tampa Bay TimesOn immigration reform, go beyond the border 

As Washington postures and a former Florida governor enters the fray, the reality of dysfunctional U.S. immigration policy continues to play out in communities like Animas, N.M., and El Paso, Texas. The experiences there underscore that border security alone will never be enough. President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, need to continue to push for a comprehensive and rational immigration policy that also deals with the 11 million illegal immigrants already here. 

Security at the border between the United States and Mexico is far from perfect. The motivated and the ingenious still find ways to cross illegally, and many bring contraband. But there are far fewer of them, due to a near doubling of investment on border security since 2005 to $11.7 billion. As theTampa Bay Times‘ Alex Leary reported last week, increased enforcement now nets just one-third the illegal immigrants it did in 2000. Residents of border areas have seen the impact, including a decrease in crime. But 18-foot barricades now divide what were once cross-border communities. Local American businesses lament the loss of Mexican customers and the difficulty moving goods across the border. And there’s less available labor. There’s been a social toll as well, with an untold number of families divided. One young man who earned good money helping to build the fence in 2007 told Leary, “Let’s move on to other immigration issues.” 

Bradenton HeraldLatest audit of Manatee County school budget finds ‘significant deficiencies’ 

While the Manatee County school district isn’t so cash strapped that the use of paper clips must be authorized in writing, fresh disclosures of budgeting failures are disconcerting. The latest findings are contained in an external audit performed by the certified public accounting firm Mauldin & Jenkins. The Herald obtained a draft of the report ahead of the March 25 school board meeting, at which time the final report is expected to be discussed. 

We want to be positive here about a recovery from the depths of last year’s $3.4 million budget deficit, but this lengthy external audit lists a litany of errors with some findings identified as a “significant deficiency.” Under the budget heading, the draft states: “Therefore, we recommend that the district comply with State Board of Education rules and exercise sound fiscal management by maintaining a balanced budget.” 

Daytona Beach News-Journal Forget so-called gray area; shut down Internet cafes

A sweeping state and federal investigation that triggered the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll should also drive efforts to put an end to so-called Internet cafes.

Many of these establishments appear to be fronts for illegal gambling. Lawmakers should note that Carroll’s association with a major player in the $1 billion Internet sweepstakes industry in Florida stopped her once-promising political career in its tracks.

The 53-year-old Carroll resigned last week after she was interviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in connection with the probe of Allied Veterans of the World, a St. Augustine-based organization that operates Internet cafes all over Florida.

The Lakeland LedgerConstitutional Requirement: Enforce Florida Class Size

Florida’s legislators complain too often that citizen-initiative constitutional amendments clutter the state constitution with issues that should be matters of law. In short, they write the laws. Butt out; leave it to them.

Members of the state House of Representatives provided a perfect example last week of why they engender so much distrust among the citizenry, and why the voters of Florida feel compelled to take matters into their own hands — repeatedly for the issue of class size.

The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to ease off public school maximum class sizes that voters approved in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2010. That action followed a Feb. 20 approval by the Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on a 12-1 vote.

The Miami HeraldNew World Pope

For a church that moves at a snail’s pace when it comes to change and measures time in centuries and millenia, the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina to become leader of the world’s Roman Catholics is both a momentous event and a radical — and welcome — departure from custom.

Pope Francis I, as he will be known, is something new in the tradition-bound Catholic Church — the first non-European pontiff since the 8th Century, the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis. It is unusual for the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church to break down so many barriers at one time, but this may be a way for the College of Cardinals to acknowledge that loyalty to tradition does not mean standing still in the face of changing times and new challenges.

Orlando SentinelNow it’s up to lawmakers to outlaw Internet cafes

A spectacular criminal case targeting an Internet cafe company cost Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll her job this past week, but the scandal surrounding the company in Tallahassee doesn’t stop at her office.

Carroll quit because a consulting firm she co-owned had worked for Allied Veterans of the World — a misleading as well as grandiose name — while she was still a state lawmaker in 2009 and 2010. But numerous other lawmakers also took money from the St. Augustine-based company, in the form of campaign contributions.

Those lawmakers, now running from Allied Veterans at cheetah speed, can head in the direction of redemption by finally banning Internet cafes.

“Internet cafes” is another misnomer; they’re really strip-mall casinos that hook customers with virtual slot machines. Allied Veterans and other operators have exploited a loophole in state law that allows businesses to offer “sweepstakes.” Unlike other forms of gambling in Florida, they’ve never been approved by voters or lawmakers.

Tampa TribuneTime to get serious about transit

If you support better mobility in this urban area, and if you understand the importance of the distinctive and rewarding development that modern transportation options can attract, now would be a useful time to speak up.

Serious private conversations are resuming in Tampa over the possibility of an additional sales tax for bus, rail, road and possibly trail improvements. Transit advocates hope this talk will inspire elected leaders to also have a serious discussion about giving the public a sales tax referendum in 2014 to talk about.

On March 20, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe will lead fellow commissioners in a discussion of transportation realities, including how to attract the best employers, how to make the Tampa area a more appealing place to live, and perhaps even how to afford to catch up to longstanding shortfalls in local transportation funding.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.