Florida editorial roundup
Posted October 12
Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville on how Floridians reacted to Hurricane Matthew:
As we clean up, repair or simply recover from Hurricane Matthew's effects, let's celebrate the collective strength shown throughout our state and city in our moment of extreme vulnerability.
Florida was historically luck that no hurricane had made a direct hit on the state since 2005. Duval County especially had been lucky with only Hurricane Dora in 1964 directly hitting the area.
Now is the time to consider what lessons we learned, to prepare better the next time and be thankful that the hurricane stayed off the coast.
Meanwhile, let us celebrate:
GOVERNOR, MAYORSTEP UP
The leadership displayed by Gov. Rick Scott and Mayor Lenny Curry as the fierce, deadly hurricane ominously made its way toward and through Florida and Jacksonville. Scott and Curry consistently struck the right tone as they bluntly urge citizens to view the approaching hurricane as a serious safety threat — and take responsibility for making proper steps to prepare for it.
Scott and Curry were decisive, firm and yes, reassuring, figures during hours and days of crisis.
FIRST RESPONDERS COME THROUGH
The devoted service shown by first responders, utility workers and emergency volunteers throughout the First Coast — police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, American Red Cross staffers and many more — who kept huge numbers of residents safe and out of harm's way while clearly risking theirability to remain either. That's their job, of course, and they train year round for this. nevertheless, they are in harm's way while the rest of us flee.
The retail workers, big-business owners and small entrepreneurs — from grocery store employees to the downtown Monroe Street barber who was determined to take care of customers for as long as possible as Hurricane Matthew drew near. They made personal sacrifices to allow others to buy item, make preparations or simply cling to some reeds of normal life amid the scary uncertainty of a potential natural catastrophe. Citizens who forget that last item often desperately looked forany store that still was open. What a relief when they found one. And what appreciation for the retail workers who stayed on the job.
The inspiring spirit of countless citizens — whether in residential neighborhoods or apartment complexes, in gas-station lines and congested store aisles, on busy commercial streets or remote roads — who embraced selflessness over selfishness during Hurricane Matthew. They checked on older neighbors, assisted total strangers, used chainsaws to clear streets blocked by fallen limbs, offered extra supplies to those unable to properly prepare and exuded a sense of "we're all in this together" calm that was unshakable even as the rain and wind became heavier and harsher. In short, these citizens never stopped looking out for each other rather than taking the easier path of simply looking out for themselves.
The dedication of our region's news media, including reporters, editors, photographers, production personnel, distribution workers and others at The Florida Times-Union, who balanced thoughts about their personal well-being with a relentless determination to fulfill their professional duties to keep our community fully informed and aware in the wake of the hurricane. The news media run into harm's way, as well, especially photographers.
The fact that while Hurricane Matthew left numerous homes and areas battered, flooded and otherwise in need of all manner of physical, tangible repair, it did nothing to destroy the deep intangibles that are precious and invaluable for keeping both our state, region and city strong.
A sense of community.
A sense of humanity.
A sense of unity to confront a common threat we have no power to control or even truly predict, but must find a way to overcome — together.
The winds, rain and force of Hurricane Matthew were fearsome.
But let's celebrate the fact that the bonds that make us proud of who are — as citizens of this state, region and city — were just as formidable.
The News Herald of Panama City on the heroin epidemic:
Heroin use has become a nationwide epidemic, and Bay County is not immune.
Over the past month, the presence of heroin has made the news, like the sentencing of Stephen Martin Combs, 32, to 10 years in prison for charges including trafficking in heroin. He was arrested last year after the overdose death of Justin Roberts.
Authorities say the use of heroin here — increasingly laced with the synthetic painkiller fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 time more potent than morphine — waxes and wanes depending upon how successful they are in keeping dealers off the streets. But they are realistic and know that while the arrest of one dealer may slow the tide, it continues to rise.
Since March, heroin and fentanyl have claimed the lives of eight people in Bay County alone, with countless others being rescued from the edge of an overdose by emergency responders armed with antidotes, officials reported
But the heroin surge is not unique to our region. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimated some 435,000 Americans used heroin in 2014 (the latest statistics available), nearly triple what it was just seven years earlier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, says 2 out of every 100 Americans are addicted to heroin, and last year more than 10,000 deaths nationwide were blamed on heroin overdoses. And while Florida has a massive problem on its hands, Illinois and Ohio have been identified by the CDC as hot spots for overdose deaths.
Ironically, most experts say the rise of heroin use and its associated deaths is a result of unintended consequences, linked in part to a government crackdown on the prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin. When states such as Florida started cracking down on so-called pill mills and tracking doctors' dispensing of the prescription painkillers, those who had become addicted to the prescription painkillers turned to heroin as a similar and equally effective substitute. Plus, it is easily available and, amazingly, 80 percent cheaper on the street than the pain pills.
So what to do? Babies are being born addicted. Burglaries and other thefts are rising as addicts seek to feed their habits. The American Society of Addiction Medicine says drug overdoses are now the nation's leading cause of accidental death.
Certainly it is imperative that we have more treatment programs. Congress has authorized $181 million — far less than President Obama requested. But it is a start.
There also needs to be stepped-up public awareness and more access to overdose antidotes. Meanwhile, law enforcement like we have seen this month in our own area must continue to be aggressive.
Finally, while policymakers and police address the crisis, each of us should be vigilant in looking for signs of opioid abuse among friends and family. Because heroin use is more than an epidemic, it is increasingly a killer in our midst.
The Gainesville Sun on the "One Mill for Schools" initiative:
The One Mill for Schools initiative supports programs that inspire students, prepare them for their future careers and provide them with the technology needed to succeed.
The initiative, previously passed in 2008 and 2012, is again before voters this November. The Sun joins groups across the community in supporting the continuation of this critical measure to maintain the quality of our schools and make up for inadequate funding from Tallahassee.
The One Mill initiative provides funding for academic and career/tech magnet programs, classroom technology, elementary art and music programs, guidance counselors, media specialists and middle and high school band and chorus programs.
Back in 2008, the Great Recession caused cuts that included art and music classes and media-specialist positions in school libraries. Community members stepped up in approving a one mill property tax increase to restore these and other vital programs.
Our community has seen the results in the continued quality of school music and band programs, as shown in achievements such as state championships won by Buchholz, Gainesville and Santa Fe high school marching bands in recent years. But the value of these programs goes beyond such accolades, as they instill values such as commitment, collaboration and self-discipline in students.
Art programs similarly cause students to be excited about their educations and inspire creativity that leads to innovation. If Gainesville aspires to be an entrepreneurial hub, there is no better recipe than teaching students to express themselves creatively and giving them access to the technology also provided through the One Mill initiative.
Not all students are going to create high-tech startups, so programs that teach the skills needed to land quality jobs are essential. The One Mill measure funds magnet programs that do just that, including the Academy of Criminal Justice at Newberry High School, the Institute of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School and professional academies from early childhood education to fire and emergency medical services at Loften High School.
The One Mill initiative pays for teachers in these programs as well as guidance counselors and guarantees a nurse remains in every school if the federal funding to support them is cut. In all, about 170 teachers and technicians are funded through the initiative.
The measure costs the average homeowner just $7 a month in property taxes, raising between $11 million to $13 million in each of the four years it lasts. A citizen's board provides oversight on all spending.
Whether you have a child in Alachua County public schools, the initiative is an investment worth making. Schools are a key part of what defines quality of life, attracting and keeping people in our community who contribute to its economic well-being. Property values are tied to the quality of schools.
Unfortunately we can't rely on the state Legislature to provide adequate funding for our schools. The state continues to receive failing grades for school spending from independent groups, which have found Florida ranks among states that spend the fewest dollars on education per student.
Alachua County voters have twice before committed to fill the gap and maintain the quality of local schools. Let's make it a third time and pass the One Mill for Schools initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot. Our schools, students and community as a whole will be better off for it.