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Florida editorial roundup

October 8, 2013
Associated Press

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Oct. 5

The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on fresh water battle:

Florida is suing Georgia over consuming too much of the fresh water that should be flowing to the Panhandle.

The legal action asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take significant steps such as capping Georgia's water use at 1992 levels.

If only Florida was as serious about its own water use.

The dispute with Georgia relates to withdrawals from Lake Lanier, a reservoir on the Chattahoochee River that provides water to the Atlanta area. The river is part of a system that forms the Apalachicola River, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico.

Low levels caused by Atlanta's excessive consumption have increased salinity in Apalachicola Bay, killing oysters and devastating the seafood industry there. Florida is seeking an equitable distribution of the water in the system.

"Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia's unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

Scott deserves credit for pursuing the lawsuit. Hopefully he'll treat Florida's water use with a similar level of seriousness when lawmakers next pursue legislation protecting springs.

Scott's statement focused on the economic impact of reduced freshwater flows on the oyster industry and that region's economy. The reduction of spring flows from groundwater withdrawals has a similar potential to harm tourism and the natural resources in our region.

Atlanta's unsustainable use of surface water threatens our state's environment and economy. Florida's use of groundwater poses the same threats, and we don't need the Supreme Court to step in to address the issue.



Oct. 7

Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on FAMU's presidential search:

Florida A&M University's on-again, off-again search for its next president is on again, trustees chairman Solomon Badger declared last week.

No trustees questioned the decision, as some did in March when Mr. Badger abruptly ended the trustees' nationwide search to find FAMU's next president following the sudden resignation of James Ammons in July 2012.

Badger was correct in suspending that search in March. There were simply too many uncertain issues at hand, the most critical being FAMU's uphill battle to reverse its probationary status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

But now we must assume that Badger and the trustees have a good feeling about the recent SACS review team visit, which will report back to the full SACS board on FAMU's status. A vote is expected in December.

In reopening the presidential search, Badger and trustees are breaking with their previous public statement of suspending the search until January 2014.

We hope this is a decision to which Mr. Badger and the trustees each have given considerable thought.

Based on the university's prestige and history, the presidency of Florida A&M University is one of the most important such openings nationwide. The decision also comes at a time when many colleges and universities are struggling with sagging enrollment, a more complex financial aid system and a changing political landscape in governing state universities in Florida and across the country.

With that in mind, the trustees need to make it clear that Larry Robinson, who has served as interim president since Dr. Ammons' resignation, will be allowed to apply for the position, if he's so inclined.

Badger and the board had agreed that Dr. Robinson would not be eligible to seek the permanent spot when they appointed him interim. But a lot has changed in the past 15 months under Dr. Robinson's leadership. He has helped restore FAMU's credibility with the Board of Governors, overseen FAMU's anti-hazing initiatives and directed its response to SACS.

The national alumni association also has urged trustees to allow Dr. Robinson to be considered for the permanent position, and even Badger has said he's impressed by Dr. Robinson's leadership.

If Dr. Robinson wants to pursue the permanent post, trustees should be united in approving that request immediately.

That would be fair not only to Dr. Robinson and the national alumni association, but also to the top-shelf candidates considering putting their names in the ring.



Oct. 8

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on gerrymandering into gridlock:

In 1812, Gov. Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, signed a law that created new legislative districts that, in the eyes of some people, appeared to be shaped like a salamander.

From that observation, it was one short step to the emergence of a new word that quickly became commonplace in American politics, gerrymander. ...

In their drive to sabotage not just Obamacare but the president they blame for the 2010 adoption of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the legislation's actual name), some politicians insist they are simply acting on behalf of the American people.

"The American people don't want a government shutdown, and they don't want Obamacare," one House Republican leader declared flatly. "We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown."

But let's be realistic. ...

These politicians are anything but dumb, so they know what satisfies their constituents.

Indeed, some elected officials appear to translate their constituents' preferences, which perhaps they honestly embrace, into a questionable national consensus.

(In one recent poll, a majority of those questioned expressed utter contempt for "Obamacare" while cheerfully approving "The Affordable Care Act," even though they're exactly the same thing.)

Gerrymandering remains widespread in the United States (Democrats have been just as guilty as Republicans), and its use enables the majority in any state legislature to establish Congressional voting districts that are precisely tailored to its political agenda. If the shapes of the resulting districts sometimes are baffling, if not downright illogical from any other standpoint than partisan advantage, then they're simply mimicking the infamous 19th century scheme of Gov. Gerry. Today's American voters deserve better. And today's consequences are much more critical.

What the United States needs is for both political parties in every state to cast aside gerrymandering and accept the wisdom of the 1964 Supreme Court ruling that made clear the fallacies of the practice.

If that were to happen, we might see an end to the irrationalities that are so abundant on Capitol Hill in today's political climate.




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