Sunday, December 10, 2006


First, please accept my apology for the delay in posting this weekly feature today. Normally this would appear during the morning, but this was my weekend to work, and I was not close to being ready to post before having to leave a bit earlier than normal.

We begin our weekly tour of the state's editorial pages here at home, where the Lakeland Ledger serves up another of it's occasional "Gigs and Garlands" series, offering good and bad mentions to a variety of people and groups for deeds good and bad. Those reveiving good mentions include the Clearwater circuit judge who fined Department of Children and Families chief Lucy Hadi for her agency's failure to deal with mentally ill people in county jails in a timely manner, and the Polk County Commission for endorsing a pilot programme to increase litter removal on 25 county roads.

Juvenile detention is becoming a major issue in Northwest Florida, and there seems to have been a breakdown in communication between local law enforcement officials and the state Department of Juvenile Justice over funding for security at the assessment centres. The Pensacola News Journal says the state should step up and pay for security, as local law enforcement agencies --- already seriously shorthanded in many cases --- can't afford the expense and manpower required.

Today's Tallahassee Democrat opinion page deals with the search for a new president at Florida A & M University. While it says that finding the perfect president is likely not a realistic hope because of the many hats a university leader must wesr today, it offers some ideas as to what a new FAMU president should be in comparing the six candidates.

Another college presidential vacancy is the concern of a newspaper editorial, this time in the Melbourne-based Florida Today. It notes that 32 men and women have applied to become the fifth president of Brevard Community College, and the opinion space urges the search committee to take great care in determining which of them would be the strongest candidates for final consideration to guide the school through it's coming challenges

Continuing east on I-10 to Jacksonville, the Florida Times Union reminds readers that voters approved a bond issue in 2000 to fund construction of a new Duval County Courthouse, but nothing has been done bacause of soaring cost estimates. The newspaper is hoping that 2007 will be the year for some action on the project, and provides some suggestions.

The Gainesville Sun questions the fiscal conservatism of new Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R - Coral Gables) after he loaded up the House staff with Bush administration veterans such as spokesman Jose Fuentes, who will be paid more than the governor's communications director, and ordered the addition of a House members-only dining room in the Capitol.

Today's editorial in the Ocala Star Banner urges Marion County officials to seize the opportunity to enhance fire service in the fast urbanizing area around Ocala by entering into a partnership with the City of Ocala which the newspaper calls the fairest and most economical proposal yet.

Some folks believe that higher education should mean higher accountnability, as in FCAT-like testing for colleges and universities. The Daytona Beach News Journal disagrees, saying that such testing would undermine the whole purpose of higher education, especially that of "expanding students' knowledge beyond their majors or specalities and stimulating research and democratic debate".

The Orlando Sentinel says that ethics reforms should be a top priority for Orange County government, and expresses it's indignation over how Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar was openly mocked by elected officials when he dared to suggest reforms last month. The Sentinel editorial suggests 1) requiring that only individuals, not businesses or committees, can donate to campaigns, 2) follow the example of Alachua County and limit campaign contributions to $250 per person, 3) require open disclosure of any campaign contributions by anyone doing business with or seeking approval from a city or county commission, and 4), require elected officials to abstain from voting on any issue affecting anyone they did business with for up to a year before entering office.

On the Gulf Coast, the Tampa Tribune takes note that a major gateway to the city's downtown area, Ashley Drive, is about to undergo a major transformation with a new art museum, a new children's museum, a Riverwalk, a redesigned boulevard, and a expanded/enlightened Curtis Hinton Park. The editorial's concern is that competing designs pull together in a "striking, functional, and memorable way", and says that Mayor Pam Iorio will need to be like a master conductor who ensures that it happens right.

The St. Petersburg Times has a message for Democratic National Committee Chairman Dr. Howard Dean: Butt Out; Republican Vern Buchanan won the 13th Congressional District race. The newspaper's opinion today is that Democratic challenger Christine Jennings should concede the race, saying that she did accomplished what she set out to do in her initial protest in requesting an audit of the touch screen voting machines in Sarasota County.

And speaking of the disputed 13th District contest, the Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial page weighs in, noting that three lessons have been learned from the experience: 1) Rules governing ballot layout need improvements, despite reforms made five years ago, 2) Administration of elections would be much easier if all of Florida's 67 counties used the same voting technology, and 3) It's time for the state and nation to face the music on touch screen technology.

The holiday season always highlights the need of our neighbours, and the Naples Daily News makes mention that the lengthy wish list shows the need, and the opportunity, for help in the community.

Today's editorial in the Fort Pierce Tribune and other Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers endorses the addition of fluoride to public drinking water in Martin County, and encourages the county commission there to approve the idea when it votes on the issue Tuesday, December 19.

Heading further into South Florida, the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel reminds us that while the property insurance crisis is Topic A, a resolution will not come quickly or cheaply. And while a special legislative session is a step in the right direction, it will remain a work in progress heading into the 2007 regular session.

And still on the insurance issue, the Palm Beach Post takes note that one reason that consumers have received so little help from the Legislature on the subject is that lawmakers have relied primarily on information from the insurance industry. The Post editorial reminds readers that if consumers can hope to get help, objectivity should be at a premimum.

Finally, the Miami Herald editorial describes the Iraq Study Group report released last week as "constructive, sensible, and important" and puts the focus on the big picture regarding our involvment in Iraq. It says that the report's message must be taken to heart by the White House and it's partisan domestic foes.

Better late than never...make it a great week ahead!


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