This year ends with South Florida’s economy showing strong signs of improvement, particularly in the sale of homes and enjoying an uptick in jobs in tourism and trade. So for the first time since the Great Recession dragged Florida into the doldrums, state and local government coffers are in good shape, though certainly not flush.
All of this should have offered state and local leaders new opportunities in 2012 to protect Florida’s most cherished treasures — from the most vulnerable among us, children, the frail and the infirm, to environmental jewels like the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, which draw millions of visitors to the Sunshine State.
Sadly, in an election year GOP leaders in Tallahassee seemed more concerned about limiting voters’ access to the polls than doing much to improve the lot of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, leaving true reform of assisted living facilities with a record of abuses for another time.
At least there were some signs of improvement for the Everglades and Biscayne Bay.
Here’s our assessment of the Editorial Board’s 2012 goals on those fronts, what was accomplished this year and what remains to get done.
Protecting frail, infirm
Gov. Rick Scott refused to get Florida to participate in creating healthcare exchanges as offered by the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Even though the U.S. Supreme Court found Obamacare constitutional, thus the law of the land, Mr. Scott once again let his tea party ideology block what’s best for Floridians. Ironically, a Republican governor who holds up “states’ rights” as sacrosanct has allowed, through his inaction, for the federal government to take on the job of creating the exchanges that will help Floridians pick their health insurance.
Worse yet, the governor has refused to enroll more Medicaid patients under new federal rules that cover 90 percent of their car for the next few years. Such pound-foolish thinking will result in more poor people going to emergency rooms, costing more money, because they weren’t able to get preventive care through Medicaid though they qualified for it.
On the local front, Jackson Health System’s books have stopped dripping red, thanks to CEO Carlos Migoya and the board making tough calls that raised productivity and spared tax dollars while maintaining quality care.
Saving natural jewels
Miami-Dade County voters not only passed term limits for their county commissioners, they also put into the county’s charter a strong protection for the Everglades by making it tougher to allow new construction past the Urban Development Boundary.
State and federal officials also struck a deal to continue cleaning up polluted water from farms and urban runoff that reaches Florida’s River of Grass.
Projects to deepen PortMiami for larger post-Panamax ships and build a tunnel under Biscayne Bay to move truck traffic off the local roads are underway, though there have been some mistakes by contractors removing mangroves.
As the county begins upgrading its sewer system it should look to shut down forever the 1950’s era sewage treatment plant on Virginia Key. Let’s move that operation far away from the bay, a true jewel.