Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Sen. Marco Rubio co-sponsoring a resolution calling for increased media diversity:
Now more than ever America needs to widen the range of voices that are heard during our national conversations – and broaden the perspectives that are shared from across the spectrum of responsible and constructive ideologies.
And make no mistake: this also applies to America’s media, which must continue to make room for more chairs at the table when it comes to diversity. For example:
— A 2018 report by the Columbia Journalism Review found that while minorities were nearly 40% of America’s total population, they made up less than 17% of the staff in print and online newsrooms across the country.
— A 2018 analysis by the Pew Research Center found that while non-Hispanic whites made up 65% of the employees in all of America’s occupations and industries combined, they accounted for 77% of the workforce in America’s newspaper, broadcast and internet publishing industries.
Such statistics are more than mere dry figures; they speak loudly to the fact that there are valuable viewpoints that are underrepresented in or missing from our national dialogue – and that our country continues to pay a price for this lack of inclusion.
That’s why Republican Sen. Marco Rubio should be applauded for once again co-sponsoring a bipartisan resolution that calls for increased diversity in the media.
Rubio and Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada initially introduced the resolution in 2019, and the two senators recently did so again to reinforce Congress’ desire to work with media outlets and others around the country to promote more diversity in America’s newsrooms.
In an email to the Herald-Tribune Editorial Board, Rubio – native of South Florida – offered an eloquent take on why he has become a champion for media diversity.
“It is impossible to grow up and live in Miami,” Rubio stated, “and not appreciate the important role that small, diverse local media outlets play in creating a sense of community, preserving local culture and ensuring that Americans are exposed to a broad range of political and personal perspectives.”
All of these attributes, Rubio added, “are critical in an age of media consolidation and social alienation. I am grateful that there is bipartisan support for diversity in the media, and I will continue working with my colleagues to raise this critical issue.”
It’s an honorable and worthwhile effort to take on, and Florida’s senior senator deserves praise from all who understand how greater diversity in America’s media can enrich America as a whole.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal on the Florida Legislature's priorities as its annual session convenes:
The opening day of Florida’s annual legislative session is meant to offer a road map for the next nine weeks — letting Floridians know where their lawmakers are headed and what big issues should emerge. This year, those major priorities — including dealing with the impact of the coronavirus, getting Florida’s economy back on track, evaluating how far behind K-12 students are and fixing a critically broken unemployment system — seem obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.
And with Florida’s House, Senate and governor’s office all dominated by Republicans, you’d expect the opening-day speeches to be a hymn to harmony. They were anything but.
Senate President Wilton Simpson started off the day’s ceremonies — which played to largely empty galleries due to coronavirus concerns — with a fairly routine speech that touched on many of the big issues including the uncertainty still dogging Florida’s budget-building process,as the state waits to hear how much federal relief money it might receive.
He added a rallying cry to change the way new employees enroll in Florida’s pension system, which is currently projected to have an “unfunded liability” of about $36 billion. That’s a number that’s hard to argue with, but finding the right solution won’t be easy: If the state eases new hires out of the system, it could hasten a meltdown. But it’s good that the conversation has at least started, and that Simpson seems focused on the issues.
ENOUGH WITH THE CHEST-THUMPING
By comparison, House Speaker Chris Sprowls went full-on culture warrior, though we’ll give him credit for keeping it short: He promised his speech would be only four minutes, and actually spoke for just a few minutes longer than that. But in that time, he offered little of substance, speaking of a “new conservative agenda” that sounded a great deal like the old conservative agenda, and warning lawmakers to be careful who they believe: “A lot has been written and said about this session that starts today. And much more will be written and said in the days and weeks to come. Most of it is nonsense. Nearly all of it is wrong.”
Some of the same themes took more concrete form when it was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ turn to speak. DeSantis is still pushing a narrative that Florida needs a slew of legislation aimed at stopping riot violence that it saw very little of, fixing voting problems that never took place and doing battle against big tech firms like Facebook that he accused of stifling conservative speech. These would be pointless initiatives in any year, but in 2021, the Legislature certainly doesn’t have time to waste on such nonsense.
DeSantis also spent a large segment of his speech, including a video clip, dwelling on his long-standing assertion that his coronavirus policies weren’t getting the credit they deserved. He pointed to the fact that Florida, which abandoned many of its lockdown protocols months before other states, ranks solidly in the middle of national rankings when it comes to infections and deaths from COVID-19. And he vowed that Florida would never again take the same kind of drastic action it took in the first few months of the coronavirus, calling Florida “a beacon of light to those who yearn for freedom.”
We can’t be quite as chipper as DeSantis is; in a state the size of Florida, the boast “We’re No. 27 and No. 28” translates into 1.9 million infections and nearly 31,000 people dead.
Florida should be doing better. But DeSantis has a point: If all the criticisms thrown at him over the past several months were valid, the state should have been hit much harder. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a second look at the governor’s handling of coronavirus. If we were off-base, we’ll say so. In the meantime, we’d welcome the governor to talk directly with Floridians through our pages. We’ll start by linking the text of his speech on our Opinion page.
PLENTY OF TIME LEFT
As first days go, this one was underwhelming — and not just because of the lack of pomp and circumstance that can be so entertaining. But there are 59 days left. That’s plenty of time to dial down the political posturing and put the needs of Floridians first.
We hope that’s what lawmakers decide to do.
The Orlando Sentinel on Florida's moves to restrict owning or breeding nonnative reptiles:
For state government, the danger posed by exotic reptiles has been harder to spot than a Burmese python hiding in the brush.
But at last, the state’s wildlife commission has opened its eyes and decided to crack down on nonnative snakes and lizards whose presence in Florida ranges from destructive to deadly.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted last week to restrict owning or breeding pythons, anacondas, iguanas, tegus and Nile monitors — none of which have any legitimate place in Florida except in zoos and research facilities.
As delighted as we are — the Sentinel’s Editorial Board has been advocating tougher rules for more than a decade — these common-sense changes come far too late for exotic species that have been allowed to establish breeding colonies in many parts of the state.
Florida has long been the wild West of exotics, best known for allowing Burmese pythons to overrun the Everglades and essentially wipe out the native populations of rabbits, raccoons, opossums and foxes, according to a federal study.
The state’s leniency also has allowed just about anyone who takes a notion to buy and own a pet tegu. Native to Argentina, these black-and-white lizards grow to nearly 5 feet long and have a diet that includes the eggs of birds and reptiles that nest on the ground, like alligators, gopher tortoises and sea turtles.
Tegus have established breeding colonies in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Charlotte counties, and possibly St. Lucie County. They’ve been sighted on the loose in Central Florida and as far north as Georgia.
The primary reason tegus, iguanas and pythons have infested parts of Florida is because people buy them as pets and then release them — possibly realizing they’ve made a terrible decision in owning a pet like a python that can easily become 10 feet long and capable of squeezing a child to death.
The state wildlife commission’s decision prohibits Floridians from owning or breeding those animals. People who already own one of the newly restricted snakes or lizards can keep them until they die, so long as they get a permit and a transponder chip so the animal can be identified. So no one is confiscating anything. Owners just have to meet new standards, which includes better cages.
Commercial breeders get some breathing room to continue doing business for a few years.
This will not placate the reptile-selling industry. They’ve been fighting stricter regulations for years, apparently in denial about their role in the environmental devastation of Everglades wildlife.
A Tampa Bay Times report said reptile retailers pointed out the new rule “does nothing to reduce the current wild animal populations...”
In other words, the snake’s out of the bag, so why bother? That’s not a hard rhetorical question to answer: So irresponsible owners don’t set loose more of their pets — including species that haven’t yet gotten established in Florida’s environment — after their purchases become too boring or too scary.
The retailers also warn of an emerging black market in exotic reptiles because of these rules. Also not hard: As with so many other things, that’s why we have law enforcement.
These arguments aren’t made in good faith, they’re the product of personal financial benefit, and we’re glad this Fish and Wildlife Commission had the courage to stand up and finally do what’s needed doing for decades.
We applaud them, particularly FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto, who said, “Let’s take a bold stance. We have to put our foot down. The time has come, and we hope other states will follow.”
Much of the damage already is done. The Everglades will likely never be rid of Burmese pythons, and the wildlife that once thrived there will likely never recover.
But we might yet be able to rid our state of tegus and prevent species like green anacondas from becoming part of the landscape.
Florida has this wildlife commission to thank for watching out for the well-being of Florida’s environment, instead of watching out for an industry’s profits at the environment’s expense.