Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel on state gaps in mental-health treatment:
After the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., some gun control opponents argued for better tracking and treatment of Americans suffering from mental illness instead of any new limits on firearms. It would be easy — and maybe accurate in some cases — to dismiss this call as a diversionary tactic from those who never want to give up their assault weapons.
But as a recent, hideous murder in Orlando made all too clear, serious gaps in mental-health care can be a menace to public safety. This issue demands a spot on the post-Newtown agenda, along with other priorities, including sensible gun limits.
The Orlando murder took place at a McDonald's on Christmas night. It was a random, brutal and senseless act. Jerry Tyson, a convicted killer with a history of mental illness, allegedly took the life of Steven Lang, who was in a wheelchair, when Lang refused to hand over his pocket change to Tyson.
There were no guns involved in this atrocity. Police say Tyson pulled a butcher knife and fatally stabbed Lang in the gut.
Records show Tyson has been treated for mental illness for at least 20 years. In 2000, he stabbed another man to death. He then underwent seven years of treatment at a state hospital and the Osceola County Jail before pleading no contest to manslaughter in 2007 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. ...
Yet when he was released from prison on Dec. 20 — he got credit on his sentence for his time under treatment — Tyson got a bus ticket home to Orlando and instructions to report to his probation officer within 24 hours. He never did. Five days later, Lang was dead.
A state corrections spokeswoman told the Sentinel that the department makes plans for mentally ill inmates to get treatment in their communities before they are released. However, the state has no authority to force them to follow those plans. ...
Recently, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported that Florida ranks 48th among the 50 states in per capita funding for mental health, spending less than a third of the national average.
Yet earlier this year, determined to hit rock bottom, lawmakers cut funding for mental-health treatment.
All Floridians who suffer from mental illness need access to the treatment they need. But it's especially crucial for those with a history of violence. ...
The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on the state's DEP:
Now it's the Department of Environmental Posturing.
The management ethic at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection under the leadership of former shipyard executive Herschel Vinyard is a triumph of message over substance: If you keep saying that you are protecting the environment, you don't actually have to do it.
Thus, Herschel has surrounded himself with a cadre of executives who formerly made a living helping industries avoid DEP regulations.
And in a master stroke, the department has laid off 58 veteran employees who were apparently too serious about doing their jobs.
The layoffs, DEP press secretary Patrick Gillespie told the Tampa Bay Times, presumably without blushing, were not political, but rather to ensure that "staffing levels are reflected by workloads and supporting the mission of protecting the environment."
Under Gov. Rick Scott, environmental regulation and the protection of Florida's much abused water resources has become a joke. Scott has gutted growth management laws, fought off federal water quality regulations, stripped the water management districts of funding and, now, purged the DEP of its most senior and experienced regulators.
"They want to essentially turn the agency over to the regulated industries," Jerry Phillips, former DEP attorney, told the Times.
The Department of Environmental Posturing is functioning precisely as Scott intends, and it will continue to do so until Floridians begin to elect politicians who are stewards of the environment, not stooges for industry and developers.
The Miami Herald on South Florida goals:
As we wrap up 2012, we look back on the Herald Editorial Board's goals for building a vibrant South Florida.
The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling — which allowed unlimited amounts of funds from billionaires, corporations and labor unions to flow to outside stealth groups (without any transparency or accountability) — has degenerated political discourse. Can a new Congress fix what the court has broken?
In Florida, the Republican-led Legislature made a blatant attempt to snuff out the votes of people more likely to pick Democrats (college students and minorities among them). The unintended consequences: a "revolt" with voters heading to the polls in droves. Republicans lost their supermajority in the Legislature and President Barack Obama won Florida. ...
Gov. Rick Scott, who refused to extend the shortened early voting period, succeeded only in making Florida a national punch line.
Miami must get its financial house in order. The city has failed to meet its own fiscal-integrity standards, and the numbers keep changing with "surprise" surplus dollars — in the millions — found unexpectedly. Moody's gave some of the city's outstanding bond obligations a negative outlook, while giving a below-average rating to an impending bond issue. ...
What is taking the Justice Department so long to complete its investigation of police shootings in Miami? A new police chief has improved the situation, but several cops have become entangled in unethical or illegal activities. A tough review of the city's training policies and zero tolerance for misbehavior are needed. ...
Investments in education pay off. That's a lesson Scott seems to be learning as he pushed to restore some of the K-12 funding that he previously cut. Still, higher education is struggling because it remains underfunded, too, at a time when potential students are being turned away.