The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 30, 1998 · Page 15
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 15

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, March 30, 1998
Page 15
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16A THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, MARCH 30, 1998 11? The Palm Beach Post TOM GR'FFRIDA. Publisher EDWARD SEARS, Editor LON DANIELSON, General Manager TOM O'HARA, Managing Editor RANDY SCHULTZ, Editor of the Editorial Page JAN TUCKWOOD, Associate Editor LARRY KLINE, T Advertising LARRY S1EDI.IK, VP & Treasurer GAI.E HOWDEN, Director, Community Relations TOM HIGHFIEU), VP Circulation IJNDA MURPI IY, Director, Human Resources BOB BALFE, Director, Production KEN WALTERS, Director, Marketing and Research Halfhearted Israeli offer keeps PLO from dance EXPENSIVE HA5IT Political revenge knows no bounds H srael has made an offer to the li Palestinians. That's news. Israel hasn't made much of an offer. That isn't news. At their best, negotiations toward peace in the Middle East are a slow dance. For more than a year, however, the dance floor has been empty. Israel has refused even to discuss the next stage of withdrawal from occupied West Bank territory, blaming the delay on what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Palestine Liberation Organization's refusal to stop terrorism, while PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat has accused Israel of not wanting to negotiate at all. Then last week, Israel proposed a withdrawal or "redeployment," as the government likes to call it from between 10.5 percent and 12 percent of the West Bank. Mr. Arafat and American officials had wanted something more like 13 percent, especially since two deadlines set out in the Oslo agreement for turning over territory have passed without Israel complying and a third is a few months away. Mr. Netanyahu tried to sell the offer by saying that while it involves less land, the plan would turn over territory that adjoins land the Palestinians control. All along, the Palestinians have suspected that Israel would relinquish land only in pockets that the PLO could not form into a separate state. In the Middle East, as in South Florida, real estate is location, location, location. President Clinton thought enough of the offer to send negotiator Dennis Ross to Israel. He met all weekend with that moved the lines on the computer models of the state's voting population. So why would they want to do it again? The short answer: They won't be therfc in 2002 to do it again. Term limits will havfe forced them out, unless they find a House member to swap seats with. The noisiest supporters of term limits to get rid of (gasp!) "career" politicians didn't lift a finger to take away redistricting, which is how career politicians advance their careers. 1 After the vote by the commission, meeting in the Senate chamber, there was a little victory dance by two people who had TALLAHASSEE The 2002 session of the Florida Legislature will be a circus of self-protection, self-aggran dizement and selfishness. That's a safer prediction than my 1998 Kentucky Derby bet will turn out to be. Last week, the Constitution Revision Commission frittered away the chance to avoid that when members turned down an amendment to have reapportionment of congressional districts and redistricting of legislative seats done by a bipartisan group with no seats to win or lose personally. Lawmakers won't submit such an amendment to voters, and a reapportionment commission is a good-government issue, not the kind of thing to attract the big bucks necessary to Tom Blackburn make the ballot by citizens' initiative. Lawmakers kept power to create their own election boundaries because 15 of the 18 constitution commissioners appointed by House Speaker Dan Webster and Sen ate President Toni Jennings, including Sen. Jennings herself, voted against change. Sen. Jim Scott, R-Fort Lauderdale, a Jennings appointee, led the argument against the amendment. Don t think an independent commission would be nonpo-litical, he said. It would have eight Democrats and eight Republicans, and the minority-party members would get together to take away as much as they could, and the majority would fight them. In addition, he argued, the legislature 120 House members and 40 senators President Clinton thought enough of it to dispatch an envoy, although Israel is far from meeting the Oslo goals. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Arafat, but prospects remained bleak. Realistically, the U.S. cannot specify an agreement, at least in public. Israel would reject it, if only to underscore that the country doesn't act to please America. The Palestinians would assume it was a deal favorable to Israel and try to bargain it up, thus driving away the Israelis. Clearly, however, Mr. Ross was trying to persuade Mr. Netanyahu to sweeten the offer with more land. The Palestinians have total control over only 3 percent of the West Bank. They share control with Israel in 24 percent. By this point, however, Oslo negotiators assumed the Palestinians would have control over about 60 percent of the West Bank and that negotiations over the final stages would be near. Mr. Netanyahu wants to skip all the intermediate withdrawals Israel has failed to make and proceed to the final step. That, however, would turn Oslo commitments into negotiating points, to the Palestinians' disadvantage. Had Israel come close to complying with the Oslo agreements, this offer might look good. But Mr. Netanyahu campaigned against Oslo, and his government still gives the impression of being content to wait on the side until the Palestinians offer to dance. money, the DEP budget is a fair guess. DEP points out that, among other things, the involvement of two departments in managing property would lead to "decreased efficiency, blurred lines of authority and responsibility (and) increased duplication of effort. The House and Senate agriculture committees have approved the plan The Senate bill (SB 840) is on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting of the ways and means committee, and the House bill (HB 3671) probably will be taken up Thursday by the general government appropriations committee. South Florida Water Management District lobbyist Sally McPherson said Rep. Sembler will agree to amend his bill to refer to "forestry resource management" rather than "timber management" saving trees and not just cutting them and to allow DEP to keep on managing the land. That, she said, would make the bill acceptable. Anything less would be unacceptable. Floridians did not put up P2000 money to subsidize the timber industry. fl LEGISLATURE A preservation sellout Deen waicning irom the gallery. Rep. John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, and Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, celebrated. Rep. Thrasher, who is likely to be speaker in 1999 and 2000, will be term-limited out of the House but could move to the Senate. Rep. Feeney, because he restarted an 8-year clock when he came back to the House after being Jeb Bush's running mate in 1994, has a good shot to be speaker. As voters saw in '94, Rep. Feeney is ineffably lightheaded. But after term limits clean out the House, he'll be one of Florida's facsimiles of an elder statesman. ; He seemed overjoyed at the prospect '' of doing unto the Democrats in 2002 what they did to his party in 1992. Of course, one of the reasons his party figures to be in a position to do unto Democrats is all the i things the Democrats did unto it. J If lawmakers knew what's really good f for them, they'd be dangerous. But they 1 usually gang up to prevent what would be j good for them. , Tom Blackburn is an editorial writer fot The Palm Beach Post. Media analysts turn tragedy into trend 1 wo bad bills would turn over land bought under the Preservation 2000 program to the timber in- ; dustry and make taxpayers pay for the privilege. That's after the taxpayers paid for the land in the first place. Sen. Charles Bronson, R-Indian Harbor Beach, and Rep. Charles Sembler, R-Sebastian, have filed bills to require that plans to manage state lands include a study of logging and that the , Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Environmental Protection, . manage the logging. Agriculture would be reimbursed for its costs plus 10 percent of logging income. "This bill violates the public trust in that it clearly changes the direction of management from conservation and . recreation to revenue-generating activities," said Judy Hancock, public lands chair for the Florida Sierra Club. "Most of the lands that would be considered" were bought with bonds sold under the state's Preservation 2000 program, Ms. Hancock said, "based on the public's understanding that the bonds were sold to purchase conservation, preservation and recreation lands." On top of that, the state would have to come up with money to reimburse Agriculture for its costs of managing the lands, something the state never has done adequately for DEP. While neither bill says where the state will get that The Constitution Revision Commission lost the chance to have legislators do Floridians ' business in 2002, rather than fight over redistricting. is more attuned to local conditions around the state than any 17 commissioners could be. Two things can be said about his argument. One, it is sincere. Sen. Scott truly believes the body he has been part of for 22 years is the closest thing possible to the mind of Florida. The second is, though, that it misses the point. Yes, redrawing district maps will be political, no matter who does it. If reapportionment by the legislature were only a case of the D's vs. the R's, there would be no need to get someone else to do it. But when lawmakers do it, it's not only political. It's personal. They are choosing the people who will vote for them. That's democracy turned backward. And among lawmakers, it isn't only about parties. It's also about power who is close to the House speaker and speaker-designate, and who can cut deals with or run over lawmakers who would logically get a neighborhood he wants in his district. More than that, it's about careers. Redistricting turns the legislature's year into nothing for the public because there is time only for the self. The only incumbent lawmakers on the revision commission, Sens. Jennings and Scott, saw the ugliness and heard fellow Republicans complain that the majority party monopolized the mouse Details were sketchy, but everyone jumped in anyway, offering standard responses. Guns, television violence and the popular culture in general all drew early and predictable abuse. One of the Jonesboro boys admired gangs, rap music and Beavis and Butt-Head, thus opening three other familiar lines of analysis. Some commentators seemed eager to blame parents or the Jonesboro school, but the school quickly reported that the two boys had clean records, and reporters turned up no evidence of bad parenting. A reporter for a major newspaper couldn't resist applying her gender theories: The boys may have been influenced by the "many men" who stalk or kill their wives and girlfriends. The "Southern culture" theory seemed to blanket TV coverage for an hour or two, then play itself out Researchers report that homicides associated with a personal grievance are four times more common in the South than in the Midwest In response. Southern politicians tended to argue that violence is a product of the national culture (translation: we are tired of hearing that violence is a Southern problem). Geoffrey Canada, a child expert speaking on ABC's Good Morning America, said that children's access to guns "turns this issue from a 13-year-old and 11 -year -old who have a chip on their shoulder . . . into murderers." Children's access to guns makes me nervous, too, but so do commentators of the this U.S. Let allegiance be to kids Most of the avalanche of analysis after the Jonesboro massacre seemed as unsatisfactory as my own. Why did it happen? Nobody seemed to have much of a clue. fter the shootines in lonesboro. ! Ark., I gave an unsuccessful dnve-time interview to a St. Louis radio talk show. The co-hosts were professional, polite and single-minded. They seemed to think that gun control was the obvious main topic of the day. When I strayed to talk about something else, they gently steered me back to guns and the gun culture. Well, yes, I said, gun control is important, but you can kill people in many ways. One of the pubescent killers had been flashing a knife the day before he might just as well have slaughtered a few classmates with a machete. Would we then be talking about machete culture? John Leo This was a "yes, but" point, and yes-buts do not play well on talk shows. The only thing worse in the modern radio interview is to ramble on about "many factors." "There are many other factors," I said, causing many Midwest ern drivers to grope for the dial on their car radios. For the benefit of any remaining listeners, I talked about the movement to teach adolescents impulse control so they won't go directly from anger to violence. These programs are valuable. Teaching the habit of restraint in a culture that seems overly devoted to impulse is important work. But in the middle of this argument, I realized it had almost nothing to do with Jonesboro. The killings there were clear ly premeditated and coldblooded, not the result of sudden unchecked rage. Most of the avalanche of analysis seemed as unsatisfactory as my own. Why did the massacre happen? Nobody seemed to have much of a clue. who speak as though guns themselves turn innocents into killers. In the South and West, hundreds of thousands of children grow up hunting with rifles and never shoot anybody. Many talking heads spoke about the phenomenon of school violence, but other analysts pointed out that school vkh lence is rare and decreasing. Ninety percent of American schools report no violence at all. Perhaps inevitably, some of the com mentary made the shooters seem to be ; helpless victims of an irresistible popular ; culture. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he wasn't sure "we could expect a . whole lot else in a culture where these ; children are exposed to tens of thousands ' murders on television and in movies. ' Does all this instant opining have." redeeming social value? Alas, the mod" ern media are set up for the rapid collection of emphatic guesses on the-causes of disturbing news. Yes, it's fair ta criticize the popular culture for depicting,, violence as cool, effective and emotional-ly satisfying. But almost automatically, media now turn tragedies into trends, individual acts into pop symbols of de cline. We no longer think it's unusual for far-off commentators to explain the acf tions of children they never met, or even heard of a week ago. Some of us think is social commentary. The rest of us think it's blather. John Leo is a contributing editor lo News & World Report ealth, social services and law enforcement leaders are hoping to learn from the deaths of chil dren in Palm Beach County. But egos and allegiances are getting in the way. For months, the group of professionals prosecutors, detectives, social and medical workers has discussed starting a review committee to investigate all deaths of children younger than 12. The review would look at suspected child abuse, deaths from disease, drownings and other accidents. The Quantum Foundation agreed to pay for the investigations. Last week, foundation officials said the county's health department would be in charge of the money, not Home Safe, the private, not-for-profit agency that did much of the organizational work. The foundation made a good choice, giving the responsibility to a public agency accountable to taxpayers. State Attorney Barry Krischer, however, argued for Home Safe, calling it merely a center where victims of suspected child . abuse are taken for interviews and examinations. Thus, it has no conflict in any of the cases where children died. Mr. Krischer pointed out, correctly, that both the Department of Children and Families and the health department have potential conflicts because some of the children may have been in foster care or been treated at a county health clinic. The well-meaning Mr. Krischer. What the planned reviews of children 's deaths uncover is more important than which agency is to be in charge. however, has a conflict himself. He is both the county's chief prosecutor and a board member of Home Safe. The Quantum Foundation's president, Jeannette McGill Corbett, was right. What the reviews uncover is more important to Palm Beach County than which organization is in charge, and the committee has work to do. It needs to probe cases in which children died "accidentally," masking negligence or intentional harm. It needs to look for trends that can help the public prevent other deaths such as making swimming pools safer or keeping toxic materials away from the home. It needs to look for trends such as what health officials recently discovered in Port St. Lucie: inordinate numbers of children dying of cancer. The committee needs support and representation from all organizations that deal with children: the health department, the sheriff s office and social services agencies. And it needs Mr. Krischer as state attorney, not as a board member of Home Safe.

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