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Florida editorial roundup

November 7, 2018

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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Nov. 6

South Florida Sun Sentinel on U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’ win in the gubernatorial election:

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Going into Election Day, it appeared Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee, had the edge. ... Most polls had shown Gillum ahead, though within the margin of error. And the Democratic turnout during Early Voting and Vote by Mail had surpassed that of Republicans.

But as the night wore on, the numbers fell toward U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and even more so toward Gov. Rick Scott in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Gillum conceded just before 11 p.m. ...

And suddenly, it felt like 2016 all over again, when, after leading in the polls, Hillary Clinton lost to Republican Donald Trump.

We knew, of course, that Gillum started out with a deficit, having won only 34 percent of the Democratic vote in the five-way August primary. DeSantis, by contrast, began with a stronger base, having secured 56 percent of the votes in his party’s primary.

We were concerned that during the primary, because he largely polled in the single digits, Gillum had avoided scrutiny over the FBI investigation in Tallahassee. As you’d expect, DeSantis placed the issue front-and-center during the general election, though Gillum said he’s been told he’s not a target of the investigation.

We also feared that race would be an issue, with Gillum being Florida’s first African-American major party gubernatorial candidate. We had to question whether voters statewide — more than two-thirds of whom are older whites, many of them conservative — would be willing to elect a black man as governor.

Sure enough, race became an issue the day after the primary, when DeSantis warned voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his opponent. It remained an issue throughout, with a lot of talk about dog whistles and other “cotton-pickin” remarks. Republican insiders tell us Gillum turned off a lot of white Democrats, especially in North Florida, who thought he played the race card too often.

But those of us who believe Tallahassee needs a course correction were buoyed by the optimism we saw in Gillum’s campaign. Rather than today’s forced march toward privatizing education, prisons and safety net services, Gillum ran as an unapologetic progressive, ready to stand up for the environment, raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, repeal Stand Your Ground, ban military-style assault weapons and push health care as a basic human right.

It was risky for him to talk about raising taxes on 3 percent of corporations to better fund education. And his talk of abolishing ICE in its present form didn’t sit well with those concerned about immigration and open borders.

DeSantis’ challenge was that he was running to continue what Gov. Scott has done, and maintaining the status quo is not as sexy a message as one of change.

But the economy is always a central issue in elections. And right now, business is good for a lot of people and they want to keep it that way.

So DeSantis went negative, labeling Gillum as a socialist for his views on universal health care and corrupt for taking Hamilton tickets from someone later identified as an FBI Agent. He also said, wrongly so, that Gillum wanted to impose a state income tax.

And once again, fear proved a stronger motivator for voters than the message of a happy warrior.

It was an improbable night, watching a far-left Democrat and a far-right Republican — two very different candidates with vastly different philosophies on governance — go down to the wire. It shows just how purple Florida is.

The outcome represents a devastating blow to Florida’s backbench Democratic party, which needed a win. It doesn’t bode well for Democrats in 2020, either, when President Trump plans to run for re-election.

President Trump’s impact on this race cannot be overstated. He is the reason the then-unknown DeSantis won the Republican primary and his recent rallies clearly helped boost DeSantis’ showing.

There will be more to say about races and ballot questions in coming days.

But for now, it appears Florida’s leadership will remain solidly in Republican hands.

And nearly half of Floridians will continue to feel disenfranchised.

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

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Nov. 6

Orlando Sentinel on affordable housing as DeSantis’ first task:

Greetings, Gov.-elect DeSantis.

Congratulations on your win in Tuesday’s election. We’re confident you’ll live up to your promise to look out for all Floridians, including the good men and women who struggle every day to pay the bills and provide for their families.

They’re the people who power our economy. They make the hotel beds. Prepare the restaurant food. Fix our roofs. Cut our grass. Sell theme park tickets. Drive buses. Care for our elderly.

You talked on the campaign trail about family and expanding opportunity. Helping seniors. Improving educational opportunity. Restoring the Everglades.

OK, but what many families often struggle with the most is putting a roof over their heads. Florida’s red-hot housing market is great news for real-estate agents and banks, but it weighs heavily on custodians, roofers and servers.

They’re sometimes one paycheck away from not having enough money to pay the rent or the mortgage.

The Florida Housing Coalition calculates that one in every four Florida households — nearly 2 million of them — is “housing cost-burdened,” a bit of jargon that means they’re paying more than 30 percent of the family’s income toward housing.

The coalition estimates that 15 percent of Florida’s households — nearly 900,000 — are “severely cost-burdened,” more jargon that means they’re paying at least half their income toward housing.

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Making things worse is the shrinking inventory of rental units made affordable through government support. The Housing Coalition reported that the state lost some 59,000 subsidized housing units — mainly apartments — between 1993 and 2016. And the cost of rent has been rising since 2010.

That’s just the rental market. For many aspiring homebuyers, rising real-estate prices have shattered their dreams of homeownership.

Florida has a mechanism to help these people, but it’s broken.

The William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds — it’s a mouthful — were set up about 25 years ago to promote affordable housing in Florida. They get money from a small surcharge on real-estate deals. The fee is small, but it has added up to $6.2 billion since the trust funds were created in 1992.

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Since 1992, state lawmakers have pilfered the fund of $2.2 billion, nearly all of that since 2003.

For this budget year, with the economy booming, so we’re told, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott still grabbed $182 million from the estimated $314 million that was supposed to help people with housing.

That’s cold.

The good news, Mr. DeSantis, is you’ll soon be in a position to do something about it.

For starters, you can propose a budget that doesn’t rob the housing funds. ...

Senators and representatives from both parties claim they support affordable housing for Florida’s work force. Great. Make them live up to their words.

This is an ideal opportunity to put your beliefs about economic opportunity into practice.

You can make a difference right out of the box and show you’re a governor for everyone.

Online: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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Nov. 7

The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville on health-threatening rising heat:

Have you ever looked at roofers working in the Florida heat and wondered how they do it?

We have, too.

That’s why working in the heat is now being identified as an occupational health issue by Public Citizen, an influential national nonprofit.

In a new report on dangerous heat, Public Citizen states that heat-related injuries and illnesses are increasing in Florida — and across the nation.

“Heat was the leading weather killer in the U.S. over the past 30 years,” according to the report, “and the problem is growing worse due to climate change.”

The report also notes that Florida has one of the highest rates of heat-related hospitalization in America.

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Of course, outdoor workers are not the only ones who are vulnerable as our temperatures get hotter and hotter.

Heat affects children more than most adults; it should already be common sense to know this, but children should not be left in locked cars on hot days.

And seniors often have chronic health conditions that impair normal responses to heat: only last year, eight people between the ages of 70 and 99 died in a Hollywood Hills nursing home when the facility lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

Pregnant women, too, are also at higher risk during extreme heat because they can be prone to dehydration.

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But because they are required to do strenuous physical labor under consistently hot conditions, outdoor workers deserve increased attention; the fact is they are the ones most at risk of heat-related illnesses.

“Many attempt to work through discomfort or illness without complaint,” declares the Public Citizen report, “because they cannot afford to lose work time or fear losing their jobs.”

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Given that — as the report points out — 17 of the hottest 18 years on record have occurred since 2001, the issue of working under extreme heat won’t be going away.

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It’s pretty damning that, as the Public Citizen report notes, less-prosperous nations in Central America have made more progress in protecting outdoor workers than the United States (one of the world’s economic giants).

The trend of rising temperatures isn’t going to change.

But we can and should change how we protect the workers who toil in such heat.

Online: https://www.jacksonville.com/

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