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Florida editorial roundup

August 30, 2017

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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Aug. 29

The Palm Beach Post recommends a replacement for one of Florida’s statues in the U.S. Capitol:

State Sen. Perry Thurston has the right idea in pushing for a likeness of educator and civil rights pioneer Mary McCleod Bethune to replace Florida’s statue in the U.S. Capitol of a second-tier Confederate general who spent all his adult life outside the state.

Every state is entitled to place statues of two of its most venerated citizens in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. One of the Florida sculptures is of John Gorrie, the Florida doctor who invented an early form of air-conditioning, probably the single biggest boon to Florida’s growth, ever.

The other is of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who was born in St. Augustine but fought all his Civil War battles outside the state and spent his post-war years as an educator in Tennessee, where he died and is buried. He is best known, if it can be called that, for being the last Confederate general to surrender.

This is not a partisan issue. Last year, the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature voted to remove the Smith statue, which was installed in 1922, when segregation was the rule of the South; eight other Confederates are enshrined with him in the Capitol of the country they battled to maintain the South’s right to enslave black people.

But the Legislature hasn’t yet decided which Floridian should take the general’s place. Lots of names have been suggested: Walt Disney, Henry Flagler, Zora Neale Hurston, Thomas Edison, John Ringling, Chief Osceola. In addition to Bethune, top contenders include Everglades preservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix founder George Jenkins Jr.

But Thurston, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, is promoting the best candidate in Bethune, the daughter of former slaves who founded a school for black girls in Daytona Beach that became Bethune-Cookman University, and who later became a civil rights adviser to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

As Thurston said in a recently penned op-ed: “Bethune’s life and values illustrate the best of Florida. Choosing her likeness for the Hall would send a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity.”

Choosing her would also break a shameful barrier in a Capitol collection of mostly white men. Although a native Hawaiian, six Native Americans and two Hispanics are depicted, the representations include no black people.

Thurston has drafted a resolution backing Bethune for the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January. A previous proposal during the contentious 2017 session made it through the Senate but got nowhere in the House.

At the same time as the Legislature decides on a substitute for the bronze Rebel general, it should heed calls from Democrats and the Florida NAACP to relocate a Confederate statue monument that stands on the state Capitol grounds in Tallahassee. Gov. Rick Scott says this should be a decision for the Legislature — which starts holding pre-session committee meetings as soon as Sept. 12.

The Tallahassee monument, erected in 1992, lists Civil War battles fought by Confederate soldiers from Leon County. Those sacrifices shouldn’t be forgotten. But the tribute belongs in a museum, not the seat of state government in the 21st century.

On this point, we agree with Chis King, a Winter Park businessman who is one of the Democratic candidates for governor: “To those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history.”

Far better that we celebrate a woman whose devotion to education — and whose faith that a subjugated and underestimated people could rise and achieve — embodies the real promise of America.

Online: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/

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Aug. 26

The Sun Sentinel on the Trump administration’s sanctuary city policy:

The Trump administration’s campaign against “sanctuary cities” probably isn’t legal, and it certainly isn’t helpful on the issue of immigration.

In a memo last May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defined “sanctuary city” — descriptions of which have shifted — as any local government that “willfully refuses to comply” with a section of immigration law that requires local government to share information about individuals’ immigration status with federal officials. Sessions said the departments of Justice and Homeland Security could withhold grants from governments that don’t comply.

The courts have sided mostly against the administration. Miami-Dade County caved quickly when President Trump announced the crackdown in an executive order five days after taking office. After a Haitian national facing deportation for traffic violations challenged the county’s decision, Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that only the federal government can enforce immigration law.

Hirsch’s ruling is binding only in his court. In April, however, U.S. District Judge William Orrick blocked the crackdown from taking effect nationwide. Orrick reiterated his position in a hearing last month, after the Department of Justice argued that Sessions’ memo had narrowed the program’s focus from Trump’s vague order. This month, a federal judge in Texas dismissed a lawsuit by that state against Travis County, which had ignored the state legislature’s ban on sanctuary cities.

As in the Miami-Dade case, the legal issue is alleged federal government overreach. Though administration officials have said they want only status reports, Orrick said the government could further demand that counties and cities detain jail inmates for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Texas argued, with help from DOJ lawyers, that the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law allows states to prohibit sanctuary cities. This year, the Florida House passed a bill similar to the one in Texas, but it died in the Senate.

Trump and Sessions claim the sanctuary cities policy can prevent crimes committed by people who are in the country illegally. Trump often cites the July 2015 murder of Kathryn Steinle. She was killed in San Francisco by a Mexican national who had been deported five times. San Francisco was one of the first sanctuary cities.

Despite that tragedy — which a bureaucratic mix-up might have allowed to happen — anecdotes don’t always justify a policy. The libertarian Cato Institute released a study in March showing that the incarceration rate for illegal immigrants was roughly half that for U.S. citizens.

The rate would be even lower, Cato said, without factoring in the crime of illegal entry. It’s a misdemeanor for the first violation and a felony after that. The New York Times used data from the Migration Policy Institute to show that the felony rate for illegal immigrants is more than 50 percent lower than it is for citizens.

Pushback also has come from school districts. Broward and Palm Beach counties require a warrant for ICE agents to enter a school or show up at the site of a school-related activity. Both districts want schools to be safe places for students, rather than have them caught up in immigration politics.

Having children in school better serves the community than seeking to deport them. Two decades ago, after Congress got tough on immigration status, South Florida principals reported that some students were in class one day and gone the next.

Similarly, local law enforcement officials generally agree that their communities benefit from a focus on crime, not immigration status. Writing last March for The Los Angeles Times, Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum listed several examples of illegal immigrants helping police.

In Tucson, Arizona, a man prevented the kidnapping of children in a car. In Los Angeles, another man helped police arrest a gang member. Both men cooperated, police said, because they did not have to fear deportation.

“Sanctuary cities,” Wexler wrote, “are hardly sanctuaries for any criminals. Because of the trust and cooperation they have developed with undocumented immigrants, police in these cities are often able to identify, arrest and prosecute dangerous offenders who might otherwise still be on the streets victimizing residents — both citizens and undocumented immigrants.”

Local governments can’t solve the country’s immigration problems. Only Washington can, but progress remains stalled.

The 2013 comprehensive bill that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support didn’t get even a hearing in the Republican-controlled House. As a presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, ran from that legislation he helped to craft and embraced punishment for sanctuary cities.

Last week, Trump vowed to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t approve a down payment on his wall with Mexico, even though most Americans oppose the project and more people here illegally have overstayed visas, not crossed from Mexico.

Congress should willfully refuse to comply with Trump. Then lawmakers should write immigration reform legislation that makes sanctuary cities obsolete.

Online: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/

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Aug. 21

The Miami Herald on a hotel worker union’s proposal to hotels to provide transportation for workers:

Transportation is the No. 1 problem in Miami-Dade — that’s news to no one.

Miami Beach seems to bear the brunt of the challenge. Daily traffic jams trap and torture residents, tourists and people trying to get to work at the fun capital.

A Miami Herald series on housekeepers in Miami Beach in May, offered a glimpse into how trying life can be for those who take public transportation or drive a car to work there.

Some hotel housekeepers reported taking two to three buses to get from the mainland to the Beach. Their commutes could stretch to three hours or more — one way — depending on traffic and the reliability of buses.

Those who drive to work too often have to circle the streets for long periods for a parking spot — or give up and spend $20 for the day at a lot.

A new way of making it to work may be in sight for the thousands of Beach hospitality workers. And that’s welcome news.

It all rests on a proposed ballot initiative offered up by union Unite Here Local 355, the only hotel worker union in Miami-Dade. Their initiative seeks to have some large hotels in Miami Beach provide transportation for their employees through monthly transit passes, ride-sharing credits or van-pool shuttles, the Miami Herald reported this week.

The plan requires almost 4,500 signatures from registered Miami Beach voters before it can start the process of landing on the city’s ballot.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told the Editorial Board on Monday he loves the idea and sees it as a win-win for hotel employees, residents and the hotels in Mid-Beach, where the proposal would be launched.

“I think it’s an innovative, exciting idea that would help both our workers and help reduce traffic on Miami Beach. I don’t see why the large hotels would be against it,” the mayor said.

We like the idea, too, but need to know more.

The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association did not comment for the Herald’s Aug. 20 story. But it needs to, soon. First, it’s a chance to show some of the industry’s overburdened workers just how highly they are valued. Second, it’s an opportunity to make a counter-pitch, to actually work with the union to come up with innovative solutions that work for all sides.

Under Unite Here’s proposal, only large hotels in Mid-Beach — on Collins Avenue between 23rd and 63rd Streets — with more than 250 rooms would be affected — 11 properties in all. The union chose the area because it is home to some of the largest hotels in the Beach, including the 1,504-room Fontainebleau and 631-room Eden Roc, and employs about 6,000 hotel workers.

Only hotel employees who work an average of at least 10 hours per week, and who aren’t offered parking by their employers within a quarter mile of a hotel, would be eligible to receive supplemental parking credits. Hotels would be required to offer a transit card for public transportation — including the bus, Metrorail or Metromover — equal to the cost of Miami-Dade Transit’s monthly EasyCard — about $112.

Alternatively, credits equal to that same amount could be offered for travel via car services such as Uber or for van transport services.

Miami-Dade’s traffic woes will not be solved with one magic bullet, and that is why initiatives like this — small fixes with real-world impact — are imperative to the overall solution that’s so desperately needed.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/

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