Much of the past year in South Florida can be traced to Feb. 14, when tragedy struck the Parkland community.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reignited the conversation around gun control and fueled a wave of youth activism across the country. Shooting survivors organized March For Our Lives rallies and challenged NRA-backed lawmakers.
The students’ message is ultimately about healing – epitomized in the original song “Shine” written by MSD drama club students Andrea Peña and Sawyer Garrity: “We’ll get back up again. You may have hurt us. But I promise we’ll be stronger and we’re not going to let you win. We’re putting up a fight.”
The South Florida Roundup looked back at the story of Parkland and other major news from 2018. Host Tom Hudson spoke with a panel of editorial page editors from South Florida’s three major newspapers: The Miami Herald’s Nancy Ancrum, The Palm Beach Post’s Rick Christie and the Sun Sentinel’s Rosemary O’Hara.
On Feb. 14, a gunman took an Uber to his former high school in Broward County. He brought with him an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and unleashed terror. Seventeen people died.
The Florida Legislature responded, passing the first restrictions on guns in years. The new law moved up the age to buy a long gun from 18 to 21. It also addressed school safety, mandating school resource officers in every public school and instituted the guardian program, which allows some school staff to be armed. (The state commission investigating the shooting voted this month to recommend expanding the program.)
O’Hara says the Legislature didn’t go far enough.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that it failed to address banning military-style assault weapons that kill with such greater ferocity than a single bullet,” she said.
The shooting has also brought criticism to Broward's school district and law enforcement. The district admitted the shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had been assigned to the county's controversial disciplinary PROMISE program, and some sheriff’s deputies resigned after facing intense scrutiny.
Close results in three statewide races prompted a dramatic recount – particularly in South Florida.
Broward County was in the center of it all, missing the deadline to turn in its votes in three statewide races by two minutes.
After the elections were finally settled, Broward’s former elections supervisor, Brenda Snipes, said it was time to move on. She had served in that position since 2003.
“I think I have served the purpose that I came here for, which was to provide a credible election product for our voters,” she said days after the Nov. 6 election.
She wound up rescinding her resignation after Gov. Rick Scott suspended and replaced her. This month, she filed a federal lawsuit against Scott and Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. It claims her due process rights were violated and that the law allowing the governor to suspend elected officials is unconstitutional.
Palm Beach County, which also has a history of stretching out elections, was the only other Florida county that didn’t make the recount deadline. The results were delayed because its voting machines broke down.
Christie says he thinks there’s an even larger problem to address over state election law.
“It’s ridiculous to have a county the size of Broward be on the same deadline as the size of Bay [County] and tell them you have the same time to meet this fast deadline,” he said. “That makes no sense whatsoever.”
IMMIGRATION AND LATIN AMERICA
Florida doesn’t have an international land border, but the Trump’s administration crackdown on immigration was felt in South Florida.
This year, the administration announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
“It was a rocky year for immigration advocates,” Ancrum said. “So much of this is because Congress has punted year after year after year, failing to tackle any comprehensive immigration reform. A lot of people are on rocky ground.”
Over the summer, protesters also rallied at a Homestead detention center against the Trump administration’s family separation policies, which were eventually overturned in favor of unification.
News from Latin American was just as present in the region. Cuba got a new leader, and Venezuela continues to face one of the worst economic crises. The UN recently released a report that shows two million more Venezuelans are expected to leave their country next year.