Christie: Parkland students getting a hard lesson about #thoughtsandprayers in Tallahassee

Buses pick up the kids to take them back to West Boca. West Boca High School students walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board quickly published an emotionally raw piece aimed at political leaders’ typically empty statements following such a tragedy.

The editorial focused specifically on the well-worn, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of this tragic shooting,” or something to that effect. From the White House to the U.S. Senate to the Florida Governors Mansion, the tweets came fast and furious.

Feeling much the same emotion, the Editorial Board told them, “With all due respect, save it.” What we need is action, not thoughts and prayers.

RELATED: Scott holds Parkland shooting meetings; House rejects assault gun ban

Well, in the ensuing week, the Editorial Board was criticized by a handful but lauded by many for saying, as one reader put it, “what needed to be said.” And it appears that sentiment has become part of the anthem of Stoneman Douglas High students as they’ve made their way to Tallahassee to meet with state lawmakers today.

Sarah Lopez, a tenth grade West Boca High School student who walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday cries as she stands in front of a memorial. She said it took her 4 hours to walk there and “there was nothing to compare to the feeling that you can change things”. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

They will rightly demand action. But as the House of Representatives showed them on Tuesday, they likely won’t get the action they want. The chamber, by a resounding 71-36 vote, said “no” to even discussing a proposed bill to ban the deadly AR-15 military-style assault weapon reportedly used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14.

But whether the students are successful at turning a Legislature that is culturally and financially in sync with the gun lobby is not the point.

This is an eye-opening experience for them (and the parents of the state’s other 2.8 million students) about how Florida politics works. This is better than anything they could have learned in a Civics class. And what matters is what they do with this experience. Starting today.

Following is the Post’s Feb. 15 editorial in its entirety:

Editorial: Thoughts and prayers won’t stop these mass shootings

Save the thoughts and prayers. We need action. Now.

There was another mass shooting in the United States Wednesday afternoon. This one was at a school. The 18th shooting at a school this year, a year that is not yet 7 weeks old, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Law enforcement authorities said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and shot and killed 17 people, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Cruz, who was apparently expelled from the high school last year, is in police custody. But why he committed this heinous act is still a mystery.

It could have been far worse if not for the textbook way in which law enforcement — including Parkland Police and Coconut Creek — handled this horrific incident, according to various experts. That was likely due to the sad fact that police nationwide have run this drill so many times since Columbine and Sandy Hook.

On Wednesday, as then, our political leaders were quick to send their thoughts and prayers to everyone involved.

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted: “Just spoke with @POTUS about shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My thoughts and prayers are with the students, their families and the entire community. We will continue to receive briefings from law enforcement and issue updates.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tweeted: “Prayers for all the students, teachers and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. And to our first responders, be safe and godspeed.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement: “Praying for everyone involved in today’s shooting … I am on the way with my victim advocates and we will be available in full force to help all victims and their families with any services they need.”

With all due respect, save it.

What these grieving parents and students need is for you to finally enact some common-sense gun control legislation, rather than continuing to loosen gun laws and make these terrible shootings more likely.

You can stop trying to allow guns on Florida school and college campuses. You can stop gutting the state’s concealed weapons laws. You can pony up the money for more school police.

No fewer than 150,000 American public school students have gone through one of these tragedies. Even if they weren’t physically wounded, they now carry the psychological scars of watching a classmate bleed out in front of them.

“I thought this was a drill we were supposed to have,” teacher Melissa Fallowski, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, her voice still shaking. “Society failed us today.”

Yes. Yes, it did.

Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Friday in memory of the 17 people killed in a shooting. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

The issue of whether to take down monuments to the Confederacy is a hot, divisive topic.

From Louisiana to Virginia to yes, Florida, debates are raging in cities and counties over strong, deep-seeded feelings for or against the statues, plaques and graveyards set aside by Confederate supporters decades ago.

Speaking of graveyards, for instance, West Palm Beach in May began wrestling with one of its own when it came to a monument to Confederate soldiers that’s been at Woodlawn Cemetery since 1941.

As pieces of history honoring the Confederacy fell from city to city, the issue caught fire here, West Palm Beach. Why? Because standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

A Confederate statue is seen in a small park in Tampa. The Hillsborough County Commission on July 19 is revisiting its vote not to remove the 106-year-old monument. (AP Photo/Tamara Lush)

Florida was pro-South in the Civil War and the third state to secede. After the war, the bankrupt state started to attract migration through tourism, which is why it’s common to find Union and Confederate veterans buried at places like Woodlawn.

But the issue of Woodlawn is especially sensitive for blacks in West Palm Beach because they weren’t allowed to be buried in the cemetery until 1966 when, under pressure, the City Commission approved it. Under the old rule, 69 white victims of the 1928 hurricane were buried at Woodlawn while 674 black victims were dumped into a mass grave at 25th Street and Tamarind Avenue.

So in May, William McCray, a black resident and well-known commission gadfly, demanded the removal of the monument.

But again, while the cemetery is public property, the monument is privately owned by the United Daughters of The Confederacy. And a local spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1599 said the city should back off.

“This honors the men who were buried there,” Jimmy Shirley told the Post’s Tony Doris. “It’s where it’s supposed to be.”

He said the Confederate’s history deserves to be told along with the Union’s side. Children should know fully about the U.S. Civil War to understand the foundations of the country, so to take down the monument would be misguided and wrong, he said.

The statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stewart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Shirley’s not alone in that thinking. And the issue from finding its way onto the Post Opinion pages. As with the following Letter to the Editor published on July 21:

Erasing Confederacy is form of prejudice

It’s easy to look back and say slavery is bad, because under no circumstances would we in this day condone someone enslaving another person. However, it was the way of the South and it is part of our history.

It is absurd to put Southern slave owners in the same category as Nazis and Japanese soldiers. The Confederates were trying to preserve their lifestyle. It doesn’t compare to the intentional atrocities committed by the Japanese and Germans during World War II.

Erasing traces of the Confederacy is committing a form of prejudice exhibiting the very behavior people are protesting.

LANA COMPTON, WEST PALM BEACH

We also had letters with the opposite view:

Confederates’ ‘duty’ was not honorable

Regarding the letter titled, “Statues honor men who did their duty” (June 28), the writer seeks to create an equivalence between a Confederate soldier to whom she is related, yet possibly never met, to conscripted soldiers like my grandfather who fought the Japanese in World War II, while also condemning General Sherman who, also, did his duty.

This equivalency is absurd and insulting. The writer’s great-grandfather committed treason and then, like most Confederates, cut a deal when the Union forced them to disavow the Confederacy or die.

What did Confederates fight for? The right to use people as chattel. She fails to acknowledge how fighting for the Confederacy was acting in approval of slavery despite her great-grandfather not owning slaves.

Doing your duty means putting your life on hold to fight for a cause greater than yourself that is on the side of humanity. Union soldiers can claim that moral high ground, as can Allied soldiers from World War II.

Confederates and conscripted Nazi soldiers who “did their duty” during WWII do not get these same honors.

DANIEL TRIA, LAKE WORTH

In the case of West Palm, the city’s law department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument.

Take our poll, and tell us where do you stand on this issue:

Goodman: Once smoke clears, medical pot could be session’s big winner

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, right, answers questions on medical marijuana on the Senate floor during a special session of the Legislature Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

 

UPDATE 3:15 PM: The Senate passed its bill for regulating medical marijuana early this afternoon.

“This legislation demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by fully and faithfully implementing the constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters last November,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “The legislation also affirms our commitment to local control by allowing local governments to regulate the location of dispensing facilities. In addition, the legislation enhances research opportunities that will allow scientists and physicians to study and improve this medicine for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses.”

***

The rest of the Florida Legislature’s special session may be blowing up, but when the smoke clears, the only real achievement might be — of all things — a bill on regulating medical marijuana.

The air is thick with irony. Medical marijuana was absent from the agenda when Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders announced the special session last week. The assemblage in Tallahassee was supposed to rubber-stamp behind-the-scenes deals on education and economic development. Those compromises have fallen apart, according to a number of reports on Thursday night, and speculation has turned to how the chambers can possibly bridge their differences by today’s deadline for the session — and if not, what then?

But in the brief, three-day session, the House and Senate managed to find the compromises on medical marijuana that eluded them during the 60-day regular session, when they bickered over the number of companies that would be licensed to grow, process, distribute and sell the drug, which became legal when 71 percent of voters approved Amendment 2 in November, legalizing medical cannabis for a large number of patients with debilitating illnesses.

Medical marijuana legislation has emerged as possibly the only issue garnering compromise during this tumultuous special session. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS)

One major sticking point remains. A majority of lawmakers still insists on forbidding the smoking of the substance, arguing that smoking makes it impossible for patients to get a set dose of the drug and is inherently unhealthy. Vaping and edibles are OK.

But the primary backer of the amendment, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, is promising to sue, saying that voters always believed that smoking was part of the deal.

One oddity in the bill is a gift to the state’s ailing citrus industry: the Florida Department of Health is supposed to give preferential treatment to companies that promise to convert orange juice factories and other citrus-processing facilities into marijuana grow sites. Democrats, who have little power in the Legislature, have rightly voiced outrage.

“It’s clear the language is written to benefit specific groups and specific companies,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “They know who is going to benefit. We don’t. And they are writing a bill that benefits these groups.” (Times/Herald)

Scott and legislative leaders added medical marijuana to the special session earlier this week after enduring withering criticism that they were snubbing the people’s will by palming off responsibility for setting regulations to the health department, which has a history of taking too long and being too restrictive in getting medical marijuana to patients in pain.

Legislators from the House and Senate scrambled to reach a compromise.

The News Service of Florida explains:

The compromise (SB 8-A, HB 5A) would add 10 new medical-marijuana operators to the seven vendors already operating in Florida. The Department of Health would have to grant the new licenses by Oct. 3. The highly coveted licenses go to businesses that are responsible for growing, processing and distributing pot.

The vendors would each be allowed to operate up to 25 dispensaries — and possibly more — throughout Florida. The maximum number of retail outlets in each of five regions of the state would be based on population.

Marijuana operators also could purchase dispensary “slots” from other vendors, meaning they could potentially exceed the 25-storefront cap.

The cap on dispensaries — which would end in 2020 — and the number of medical-marijuana operator licenses would increase as the number of patients eligible for the cannabis treatment grows.

The Department of Health has issued licenses after lawmakers in 2014 passed a measure that allowed non-euphoric cannabis for some patients, such as children with severe forms of epilepsy. Lawmakers in 2016 allowed full-blown marijuana for terminally ill patients, but the November constitutional amendment legalized pot for patients with a wide range of conditions.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has been a staunch supporter of legalizing marijuana for medical use.

All in all, it’s a good step forward. And there’s a bonus. The legislation calls for a medical marijuana research and education center to be set up to conduct “rigorous scientific research” on the too-little-verified properties of cannabis as a pain-killer or healer. It’s to be at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.

Excellent. The more facts, the better.

Here’s a look at how legalizing medical marijuana, as well as recreational marijuana, is crossing the nation.  (Source: High Supplies)

Goodman: Mayors of West Palm, Delray Beach defy Trump on climate change. Good for them.

Lake Trail lives up to its name at Seaspray Avenue as flooding aggravated by the supermoon caused wet walking in Palm Beach Tuesday, November 15, 2016. (Lannis Waters / Daily News)

UPDATE – JUNE 5, 8:40 P.M.

The number of Climate Mayors has grown to 211, representing a combined population of 54 million Americans.

Two more Florida cities have now signed on to the list: Kissimmee and South Miami.

****

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein deserve praise — and their citizens’ thanks — for standing up with 184 other mayors for the Paris Climate Agreement despite President Donald Trump’s wrong-headed renunciation of the global pact.

The two mayors from Palm Beach County joined the so-called Climate Mayors, a group that stretches from Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti to New York’s Bill de Blasio, in making a strong response to Trump’s withdrawal from the accords of 195 nations to curb the planet’s warming from the burning of fossil fuels.

“As 186 Mayors representing 40 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” the Climate Mayors declared  Thursday, adding:

We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice.

It’s a remarkable show of resolve. And it’s been matched by the governors of California, New York and Washington who’ve said they’re starting an alliance of states to stick to their own greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

Jeri Muoio

The California stance is particularly significant. The Golden State’s economy is the size of France‘s; just by maintaining its clean-air standards on cars and trucks, which are tougher than federal standards and followed by 12 other states, our most populous state will do much to counter the effect of Trump’s withdrawal.

California’s economic growth outpaces that of the U.S. as a whole, by the way — giving the lie to Trump’s basic claim that stringent climate regulations are the enemy of jobs and prosperity.

The defiance to Trump’s shortsightedness doesn’t end there. Major corporations, including Hewlett-Packard and Mars Inc., have also said they will forge ahead with their emission-reducing targets.

And there’s Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, who is spearheading an effort to take all these pledges from American cities, states and companies and submit them to the United Nations to be recognized along with the nations that have signed on to the Paris Accords. Bloomberg also pledged $15 million from his philanthropy to pay the equivalent of the U.S. share of the accord’s operating budget.

Cary Glickstein

“The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets,” Bloomberg said.

“Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it. That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the U.S. have been sending.”

Suddenly, the resistance has a new look. It’s not just protesters taking to the streets against the Trump regime. It’s states, cities and Fortune 500 companies defying a U.S. policy that throws science to the trash heap, plays hell with the future and self-mutilates America’s international standing.

As The Guardian explains:

The Paris accord commits countries to holding global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, which will require global emissions to be cut to net zero by the second half of the century.

Scientists have warned that a failure to curb dangerous climate change will lead to sea level rises, more intense storms and flooding, more extreme droughts, water shortages and heat waves as well as massive loss of wildlife and reduction in crop yields, potentially sparking conflict and mass migration.

Few regions are more at risk than Florida, making part-time Palm Beacher Trump’s obtuseness all the more infuriating, and the Palm Beach County mayors’ defiance all the more welcome.

Mayors from a number of other Florida cities also signed onto the Climate Mayors list: Those of Apalachiola, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando, South Miami, St. Petersburg, Sunrise, Surfside, Tallahassee and Tampa.

In some ways, this shouldn’t be so surprising. Some 69 percent of Americans polled in November that the U.S. should participate in the Paris agreement. That includes about half of self-identified Trump voters. Majorities in every state, including 60 percent of Floridians, said America should stick with the Paris pact.

Climate change is real — and if this resistance to Trump’s decision is any indication, there is an avid public appetite to fight back against the efforts by the fossil fuel industry, some conservatives and now, shamefully, the White House to play ostrich while the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise.

That last fact means that Florida — and Palm Beach County, in particular —  should be a leader in this fight. These mayors are setting a fine example.