Friday, December 31, 2004

GOODBYE, 2004...WELCOME, 2005!

I hope that everyone enjoys their New Year's celebration, and start 2005 safe and sound. We should always try to make the New Year better than the one just passed.

Saturday, I plan to enjoy a full day of college football on television, and Sunday I have to work during the afternoon/evening. So you may notice light postings here for the next couple of days.



The bickering continues in Polk County between it's two largest hospitals over the need for another open heart/angioplasty centre.

Currently, Lakeland Regional Medical Centre is the only hospital in Polk authorized to do the heart procedures, and Winter Haven Hospital has been anxious to get into the business. WHH convinced the Agency for Health Care Administration that there was a need for another hospital to do heart surgeries, as residents in Eastern Polk County often go to Orlando as Lakeland is too far. Winter Haven Hospital was given a "certificate of need" and plans to begin it's open heart program during 2005.

But LRMC, seeking to maintain it's exclusive hold on such operations, has challenged the part of state law that allowed Winter Haven to receive it's preliminary approval for it's "certificate of need". The Lakeland hospital has appealed a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Davey's ruling that the part of the new law in question is constitutional, and briefs are due by late February.

I say...the more, the merrier. Competition is always good, and LRMC should not fear the idea of it if they truly have faith in their program.

BTW: If Judge Davey's name appears familiar, it probably is. It was his rulings that 1) tried to keep Ralph Nader on the 2004 Presidential Ballot, and 2) Jeb's school voucher program was unconstitutional.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The Scotty's home improvement/hardware chain is soon to be history.

Scotty's, based in Winter Haven and at one time was a major player in Florida's hardware/home improvement industry, has filed papers with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware asking permission for it to liquidate it's remaining merchandise and go out of business.

Owners had filed Chapter 11 reorganization in September, but have not found the necessary financing to remain in business.

Scotty's was founded 80 years ago in Winter Haven by farmer Evanda Hugh Sweet, and eventually grew to a chain of 164 stores in Florida and neighbouring states. It has suffered setbacks since a management team led by President Tom Morris purchased the company from Belgian-based GIB Group. They sold it's headquarters on Recker Highway to a Boca Raton developer who has since turned the facility into a business park including a call centre.

Morris and his team attempted to rebrand Scotty's in recent years by transforming itself into smaller hardware stores of 10,000 square feet or less in mainly smaller towns, leasing any remaining spaces into outlet malls while closing low performing stores. There are now 40 stores and outlet malls remaining. Almost all of the old Scotty's stores in Polk County are now leased out to churches; the only remaining store here is in Haines City.

Between bad business decisions and increased competition from Lowe's and Home Depot, which have entered the market in force over the past decade with much larger selections and lower prices, the demise of Scotty's was inevitible.

The going-out-of-business sale could begin as early as today.


It seems that the Nativity scene which caused such an uproar when it was erected without permission in front of the Neil Combee Administration Building in Bartow may have a second life.

The City of Mulberry, a small town located just south of Lakeland, has sent a letter to the Sunday School class of Bartow's First Baptist Church offering a home to the controversial display on the lawn of it's City Hall.

City Manager Patricia Jackson was quoted in today's Lakeland Ledger as saying that the the city "would be honored to display it at Mulberry City Hall." Her letter stated that the City Commission unanimously agreed that it would be delighted to have the Nativity scene..."

A member of the Sunday School class that put up the display, retired Polk County Sheriff's Office major Marvin Pittman, said they have not seen the letter, but is sure that someone from the class would respond.

The display, which was dismantled Monday when the "Temporary Free Speech Zone" expired at the BOCC offices, is being stored at the home of one of the class members.


School is back in session for Polk County bright and early Monday. Students were originally scheduled to return to class Thursday, January 6, but the hurricanes blew a total of 14 days from the calendar. As a result, make up days were scheduled December 20 and 21. Monday through Wednesday, January 3-5, were also deleted from the Christmas/New Year's holiday to help make up lost time. In addition, a scheduled student holiday February 21 will also be scratched.

Most school districts throughout Florida missed some days due to the hurricane trifecta, but Polk County was one of the hardest hit...and thus, more days were missed here than in most other areas. Some planned family vacations had to be rearranged or scrapped altogether, although the district tried to work with families and staff who had longstanding plans.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Eagle Lake is a small town just south of Winter Haven, a speck along U.S. 17 on the way to Bartow. But recently it has become like, as one resident told the Winter Haven News Chief, "living in a dysfunctional Mayberry."

Eagle Lake's City Council seems to have it's own little soap opera going on, where council members and former officials simply don't get along and resort to all sorts of name calling. It's Vice Mayor is now calling for a rule prohibiting spitting at/on council members after he says former City Manager Linda Weldon did the deed following a council meeting earlier this month.

The alleged incident, which Weldon strongly denies, occured after a disagreement over a "For Sale" sign posted on property owned by a local businessman and a legal situation between council member Suzy Wilson and one of her former collegue Peg Critendon. Critendon has also filed a total of seven ethics complaints against former and current city officials.

Sounds like they're acting like junior high students. All I've got to say is...GROW UP!


We've lost Jerry Orbach. The veteran stage and screen performer, who became best known to many only in the past decade as NYPD Detective Lennie Briscoe on the NBC drama "Law and Order", died Tuesday night after losing his battle with prostate cancer. He was 69.

Orbach often played the tough-guy roles, but could also sing and dance as well. He earned a Tony Award for his performance in "Promises, Promises", and was in the original cast of "The Fantasticks" as the narrator...when it was off-off Broadway. Those were only a couple of his best known stage roles, among many he has done over the years. Some may remember Orbach from his casting in "Dirty Dancing".

Jerry Orbach was one of my favourite television actors in recent years for his work on the "Law and Order" franchise. He recently left the original series and started work as a secondary performer on the new edition, "Law and Order: Trial By Jury", which is expected to premiere in 2005. He was perfect as the wise-ass, seen it all Briscoe, who has his own demons and often has a hard time working within the politically correct enviroment of today's police officer.

Lights on the Broadway marquees are expected to dim for one minute at curtain time tonight.



Looking for a cheap lot to build a home? The Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that the City of Lakeland is selling 25 of it's vacant inner city lots to people who are interested in building and residing in a home there. The lots, appraised at $10,000 - 12,000 each, are available for a $500 deposit with $500 at closing and the remainder in a five year deferred lien which will be forgiven at 20% per full year of owner occupancy.

People who are interested must actually agree to construct and live in a home on the lot; it cannot be rented or leased.

It is an effort to lure families of varying incomes to build in central Lakeland, and to improve previously depressed neighbourhoods. The city has cleared the land and paying all back taxes/fees to get the land title. It is Lakeland's first foray into homesteading.


One of the nicest gifts I got this Christmas was, of all things, a portable CD player. Nothing fancy, one you can buy for maybe $20 at Wal-Mart, but my daughter always seems to pick the right thing.

After a hard day at the office dealing with rude, obnoxious people who are angry because their long distance or local service has been shut down after they didn't bother paying their bill, I like to relax while waiting for my Citrus Connection bus. This will allow me to do that without listening to local right-wing blowhard Lynne Breidenbach or skipping though the FM channels waiting for some decent music to pop up.

My CD collection, small as it is, is rather diverse. The only styles you won't find are country and rap/hip-hop. I tend to enjoy lighter selections. Among the favourites in my collection:

John Tesh / Live At Red Rocks: Say what you want about Tesh, but he is an excellent writer/musician. This is his best work, performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and featuring some of the music he wrote for NBC's 2000 Olympic Games coverage.

Jeff Wayne / War of the Worlds: The Broadway/East End veteran puts together this wonderful musical version of the H.G. Wells classic. It features actor Richard Burton as the journalist who tells the story of the Martian invasion of 19th century England, Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward, and actress/singer Julie Covington .

Chicago / Chicago 18: Mainly a greatest-hits package with a couple of new tunes to spice things up. I have always been a fan of the jazz/rock fusion style served up by bands such as Chicago, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. The only bad thing is that Chicago moved away from it's rocking peak to do a lot of cheesy ballards.

Barry Manilow / Ultimate Manilow: The classic American singer/songwriter. No other description applies here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


The St. Petersburg Times notes today that after he is sworn in January 4, Senator-elect Mel Martinez will be conducting business out of a trailer in the courtyard of the Russell Senate Office Building for at least a couple of months until his permanent office space is assigned and readied.

Quite different from the digs he enjoyed while serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, eh?


The "Temporary Free Speech Zone" in front of the Neil Combee County Administration Building in Bartow is no more. Those items which had been approved for placement there were to have been dismantled by 5:30 PM Monday, but apparantly the Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church --- which had placed the Nativity scene there under cover of darkness without approval and thus started the controveresy --- once again came under cover of darkness and took down their display Sunday night.

Signs promoting the fictional holiday "Festivus" and holiday greetings from 97 Country (WPCV) morning show hosts Tanner & Tom were previously taken down after noone submitted written requests for them to remain. The only other display that remained was from area resident Sheila Darby who put up a sign promoting the ancient prophet Zoroaster; she later gave permission for the gay-rights group Equality Polk County to use her display as well. It was dismantled at the end of business yesterday when the "Temporary Free Speech Zone" expired.

Now a newly created "citizens committee" appointed by the Polk County Commission will assist in developing a policy to prevent such controveresy in the future. It is to report by March 1, and present it's recommendations to the BOCC by April 1.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


If you like driving fast, be especially cautious of those other cars of them could be a Florida Highway Patrol vehicle watching for aggressive or speeding drivers.

Two Mercury Marauders are being used by FHP's Tampa-based Troop C, which includes Polk County; three are assigned to the Orlando-based Troop D.

The unmarked vehicles, donated recently by an unnamed South Florida businessman, boast engines built by a racing company and state-of-the-art video equipment to record drivers to be used in court. That is in addition to the more traditional means of catching speeders and other aggressive drivers, including the use of aircraft to monitor roads and radio information to troopers on the ground.

FHP patrols Interstate 4, but U.S. 27 and State Road 60 will also be watched carefully by the Polk County Sheriff's Office.


As we prepare to enter the New Year, politicos throughout the Sunshine State are making their plans and seriously considering possible runs for statewide office. Over the next several months, you will likely see and hear about potential candidates making the rounds of their respective party leadership and support organizations, getting their names more familiar to possible supporters across Florida.

So far here is the list of potential candidates according to several sources:


Betty Castor: Tampa. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner; Florida Senate, during which she served as President Pro Tempore. Former Education Commissioner; Former President, University of South Florida. Former President/CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Lost to Republican Mel Martinez in nasty election for U.S. Senator to replace retiring Bob Graham, 2004. Educator/Administrator.

Lawton "Bud" Chiles, III: Orlando. Son of former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles. Chairman of Florida Capital, a Coastal Property company; Founder/President of Chiles Communications, a public relations/governmential affairs firm; Former Vice President of HOPE Worldwide, a Philadelphia-based relief organization. Former Chairman of the Florida Enviromential Coalition. Vice Chairman, Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Jim Davis: Tampa. U.S. Congressman, 11th District. National co-chairman, House New Democratic Coalition. Former Member, Florida House of Representatives , during which he served as Majority Leader. Attorney, formerly with firm Bush, Ross, Gardner, Warren, & Rudy, P.A.

Scott Charles Maddox: Tallahassee. Chairman, Florida Democratic Party. Former Commissioner and Mayor, City of Tallahassee. Former President, Florida League of Cities.

Rod Smith: Gainesville. Florida Senate, 14th District. Co-Chair, Democratic Caucus Policy Committee (2002-04). State Attorney, 8th Judicial Circuit (1992-2000). Attorney.


Charlie Crist: St. Petersburg. Florida Attorney General since 2002. Former Education Commissioner (2001-03). Former Deputy Secretary, Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (1999-2001). Former Member, Florida Senate (1992-98). Attorney, formerly with firm Wood & Crist of Tampa.

Tom Gallagher: Madison. Florida Chief Financial Officer (formerly State Treasurer) since 2000; previously elected State Treasurer 1988. Former Education Commissioner (1998-2000). Former Secretary, Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (1987-88). Florida House of Representatives (1974-87).

Toni Jennings: Orlando. Florida Lieutenant Governor since 2003. Florida Senate (1980-2000), including a term as Senate President (1996-2000). Florida House of Representatives (1972-80). Former Chairperson, Workforce Florida, Inc. Former President, Jack Jennings & Sons, an Orlando-based construction firm (1983-2003).



Dennis Ross: Lakeland. Florida House of Representatives, District 63 since 2000. Chairman, Polk County Republican Executive Committee (1992-95). Attorney.


Our Legislature, in passing the new pre-kindergarten law, provided a possible boon to private companies who already provide pre-K services and receive money from the federal government for doing so: They can also bill the state for the same services without having to provide additional or improved service!

The loophole was discovered by Democratic State Representative Lorraine Ausley of Tallahassee, who serves on the Pre K-12 Committee and the Education Council in the House.

But before providers begin celebrating about the chance to do the classic double dip, the Florida Partnership For School Readiness, which handles federal money for low income families, is looking at the situation and could change the formula once the state program is started.

It would certainly help that these things are thought out carefully before sending a bill with this kind of loophole through the Legislature. Now it could have been

Saturday, December 25, 2004


When I came home from work yesterday, my son asked me to look at the loveseat. There was a large box, which instantly brought cheer to my holiday. UPS had come through, although I was not expecting it this soon.

It was my main computer, freshly repaired by the good folks at Gateway. They had replaced the motherboard, CD Drive, and hard drive, so it was in worse shape than I had imagined. I had sent it to Gateway's repair support shop in Dallas after reporting what I had believed was further issues with the power supply (which they had already replaced). So now I have all the features which my backup computer --- an IBM Aptiva using Windows 95 --- could not handle. The IBM has been and remains a good backup for online use and e-mail, but the programs it uses are not compatable with many of those offered with the newer machines.

My son had it most of last night after we installed everything, as he hasn't been able to play his games with the IBM. My daughter and her boyfriend gave him a couple of PlayStation games today, so he's enamoured with those while I get the 'puter.

M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S T O E V E R Y O N E !


As a child growing up in rural Jones County, Mississippi, we didn't get the luxury of enjoying a run in the snow often; it just didn't come our way. Maybe once every few years there might a dusting of maybe a tenth of an inch, enough to hit the ground briefly before it melted away. It is, obviously, a major treat when snow did make it that far south.

Today is not one of those days for the folks back home. But for people further south --- yes, I did say SOUTH --- of the Laurel/Hattiesburg area, a white Christmas is being enjoyed. The radar is showing a good mix of wintery weather near the Mississippi Gulf Coast and west toward New Orleans, with a mix of snow, sleet, and rain. I'm sure the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol isn't too crazy over the thought of folks slippin' and slidin' along I-10, but for the kids and kids at heart, it's a rare treat. Gives the tourists something extra to do when not droppin' their money in the casinos along the beach.

Here in Polk County, it's just rather chilly and rainy all day. No sounds of excited children showing off their new presents in the apartment community today, as everyone is staying warm and dry. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Yesterday at the job, after returning from a quickie lunch, our supervisors looked soooooo grim with an internal e-mail in their hands.

It seems that the payroll, which is usually scheduled to be passed out Thursday afternoons, would not arrive. Due to the severe winter storm which is creating havoc through much of the midwest and central states, Federal Express was not able to deliver on time. We were informed that the payroll package, which is sent from corporate HQ in Houston, was stuck in Memphis, Tennessee as the FAA had grounded all flights into and out of Memphis due to icing conditions.

There's several hundred people that are praying that the FedEx plane get to where it needs to be eventually, and that they can get paid today. Thankfully, my pay is direct deposited, so it was safe (haha) early Thursday morning. Nearly all gone now...but it was there!

UPDATE (12/25 14:19ET): Thankfully for those unfortunate souls who are paid by traditional check, Mother Nature and FedEx came through. The payroll made it early Friday, before lunch at that! So people were hurrying to get those checks cashed in time to do last minute holiday shopping...after all, Wal-Mart closed at 6 PM!

When the delay was originally announced Thursday, management made sure that forms were made available for employees to apply for direct deposit, noting that with the height of the winter weather season approaching, there were no guarantees that this would not occur again.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


The folks at the Polk County Opportunity Council just don't seem to get it right.

Earlier this week, the Bartow City Commission called for an investigation into the community action agency which is mandated to help low income families and operates the Head Start programme locally. This was the latest shot in the running feud over seating the city's designated representative to the PCOC Board of Directors, who has been refused his place at the table.

Now comes word that Executive Director Carolyn Speed accepted a trip to Las Vegas under the guise of a "training conference" six weeks after PCOC signed a no-bid contract to lease Canon's image Runner machine, which retails at $16,236. Ms. Speed's perks from Canon during her two night stay in "Sin City" include:

--- Hotel accomodations at the Four Seasons Hotel, one of the nicest in Vegas with rooms typically running in the neighbourhood of $400 a night.

--- A spa treatment in the resort.

--- Free meals throughout her stay.

--- Tickets to Cirque de Soleil at the Bellagio, one of the hottest shows on the Strip. Tickets run between $99 - 150.

If this, indeed, were a "training conference", wouldn't it be appropriate to send the head of your Information Technology department instead? For the Executive Director, who will likely use the machine on rare occasions (that's what you send your minions for, Carolyn!), it looks more like a nice perk for Canon to say "Thanks" for the no-bid agreement.

The Ledger contacted the Administration for Children and Families regional office in Atlanta, the federal agency which oversees community action agencies such as PCOC, and was told the information was sent to the agency's HQ in Washington.

More deep do-do to come, I'm sure, at PCOC.


As I may not do quite as much posting here over the holiday weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to post my wish for you this holiday season. It's taken from the last verse of Greg Lake's classic holiday tune from 1975, "I Believe In Father Christmas":

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah! Noel! Be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas you get you deserve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Well, with the holidays and the end of the political season --- for now, at least --- I had thought that we would see the amount of blogging action drop considerably. While some bloggers are apparantly taking a rest until after the holidays, a couple of new ones have popped up recently.

I've added Blog de Leon to the blogroll in the right margin. It is a poliblog from within Florida, but exactly where is unknown. Also added is dred, another poliblog based in north Florida. UPDATE: I failed to mention another new blog, J2G, based out of Tampa Bay. It, too, is a new poliblog, as advertised as moderate to left. Dave, thanks for the heads up!

Pay them a visit, as well as the other blogs noted in the blogroll. They represent a variety of viewpoints from throughout Florida, although most of those I link to are based in the Tampa Bay area. Welcome aboard, and we hope to enjoy your posts for a long time to come.


This morning the Polk County Commission will take up the issue of displays being erected on county facilities to hopefully resolve what has become a controversial --- and often humorous --- situation that has come to pass in front of the Neil Combee Administration Building in Bartow.

First, a Sunday School class from First Baptist Church of Bartow erected a Nativity scene last week on the building's lawn without seeking County Commission approval. Then earlier this week a sign appeared reading "Festivus For The Rest of Us", signed by the "Seinfeld Fan Club". "Festivus" is a fictional holiday concevied by characters on the 90s NBC sitcom. Yesterday another sign, simply reading "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays" was erected, believed to be the work of 97 Country WPCV-FM morning guys Rob Tanner and Tom O'Brien.

Now it seems that at least two County Commissioners --- Jack Myers and Randy "Three Square" Wilkinson --- apparantly knew of the Baptists' original plan to erect the Nativity scene before it came to pass last week. Myers says he had heard that a children's class were planning to put up the display, while Wilkinson says he heard about it and drove by the group as it was putting up the scene.

It should be interesting this morning.

UPDATE: The County Commission ruled by a 4-1 vote that the manger scene should remain through Monday as a "temporary public forum", based on the original written request by a Presbyterian minister on behalf of an area ministerial association (which was denied last week for the display to be placed on the lawn of the old courthouse). But the "Festivus" and (alleged) WPCV "Happy Holidays" signs must be removed as there was no written request submitted for them.

So the Baptists got exactly what they wanted. A retired Winter Haven attorney --- a member of Americans United For The Seperation of Church and State --- who had considered asking for an injuction asking for the Nativity scene's immediate removal, decided not to do so as the chances of it being heard before a judge prior to Christmas is slim at best.


Kai Gadison, the four year old child who was beaten and murdered by her mother last week in Orlando, was buried yesterday in a small cemetary in Lake Alfred, just north of Winter Haven in central Polk County. Neither of her parents attended the graveside service. Her mother, Kenya Hill, remaines jailed without bail in Orange County, and father Nathan Gadison is believed to still be in Alabama and did not return to central Florida as expected. He had apparantly abandoned the family before little Kai's tragic demise.

And the Orlando Sentinel noted in yesterday's edition that Ms. Hill misled DCF officials, probation officers, and even her own family. She had promised that she would divorce her husband, who had previously been charged with the abuse of her children, and also that she would stop having children. But her life continued down the slippery slope. There were warning signs all around, but between DCF and the courts, nothing was done to protect the children.

And the Sentinel editorial today calls it an "Avoidable Tragedy". A huge understatement. But now, at her place of rest in quiet Lake Alfred, little Kai is now at peace. While we may mourn her passing, at least she is in a much better place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Friday, I posted that a Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church had erected a Nativity scene on the grounds in front of the Neil Combee County Administration Building, without seeking permission of county officials. This was hours after the County Commission had denied permission to First Presbyterian Church of Bartow to put up a similar display in front of the old County Courthouse.

The idea behind denying religious displays on public property is that once you give approval for one group, you must treat all other religions the same...even groups such as the Wiccans or snake-worshippers. To do otherwise would be to promote or give one one religion preference over another, which would be contrary to our Constitution.

The County Commission has asked the church's pastor to appear before them at their meeting Wednesday to officially request that the Nativity scene remain through the holiday. Even if that request is denied, the county would likely give the church a period of time to remove it...which means it would likely remain through the Christmas weekend.

Now, it seems that person(s) unknown have now placed another display next to the Nativity scene. A sign reading "Festivus For The Rest Of Us" was put up Tuesday, with the signature "Donated to Polk County by the Seinfeld Fan Club".

Festivus is a make-believe holiday created by characters on the 90's NBC sitcom, and is celebrated with a pole, insults, and wrestling.

Happy Festivus!

Monday, December 20, 2004


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty reports today that State Representative Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland) is planning to run in 2006 for the position of Chief Financial Officer, which will likely be vacated when incumbant Tom Gallagher makes his run for Governor.

Ross, a native of Lakeland and attorney whose firm has specialized in workman's compensation cases (representing the employers; he previously worked for the Walt Disney Company in that area), really wanted to run for Attorney General, which is expected to also be vacated with Charlie Crist's intention to run for Governor. The only problem is that per state election law, Ross would have to sever all ties to the law firm he founded nearly a decade ago.

The job of CFO may not sound that exciting, but it has the potential to be an excellent stop on the way to the Governor's office. The Chief Financial Officer also handles the job formerally done by the old Insurance Commissioner, which has helped Gallagher's stature with this year's hurricanes.

There will be more entering the race in the next few months, but Ross is certainly not taking any time. He needs it, as he is not that well known outside his Polk/Hillsborough district. It will take time for him to build a statewide following, so now is certainly now too soon.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


The Orlando Sentinel published an article today after completing a six month investigation of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and it's practice of transfering juvenile offenders from one program to another, often multiple times. This practice often can strech the amount of time an offender can remain in state custody months or even years longer than originally intended by the judge.

Most of the transfers are requested by private providers, which runs nearly 90 percent of the juvenile justice residential system. The transfers cost us millions annually, as when an offender is transferred from one program to another, he/she has to start from scratch. For instance, if a kid is sentenced to a four months program, and he/she is transferred for whatever reason after three months, when he/she goes to the new program the four month clock starts all over again, with no credit for the time already served!

Check out the entire article, as it is truly enlightning.


One of the wonderful things about our nation is it's great diversity. Many races, many religions are represented. And it is always important that while we may not always agree with what our neighbours may believe, we should always be willing to learn and respect other cultures, religions, and beliefs.

But sometimes, we do things in the name of political correctness that can only be described as overreacting.

Of course, for a government entity to allow a Nativity scene or other obvious religious display on public property would open the doors for other groups (for example: Wiccans) to demand the same recognition that may not be seen with the same favour. And once the genie is out of the bottle, watch out!

And I've heard that a number of school programs would not include traditional Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" because of the religious context. There is nothing wrong with maybe adding a Hannakuh song or two into the mix so that the program can be more inclusive, or other pieces that are reflective of other cultures. In one case I read recently, one school on the west coast of Florida would not even allow non-religious songs such as "Deck The Halls" or "Winter Wonderland", so they made the program one of patroitic music.

Now many companies --- including the one I work for --- have barred it's employees from wishing customers "Merry Christmas", or even using the religious neutral "Happy Holidays". If the customer closes with a holiday greeting, we are instructed to say "Thanks, and the same to you." And next year the talk is that there will be no holiday decorations allowed in our call centre due to complaints.

Friends, in some cases it simply borders on the ridiculous. We have to find some middle ground where we can try to enjoy the season, but at the same time be respectful and non-offensive to people who believe differently...and, where it is possible, be more inclusive. Let's all work on it, eh?

And if you want to read an excellent post on this general issue, check out this from Wands's blog Words On A Page. While we may not quite see eye-to-eye on every point, we agree on the vast majority of ideas expressed. I'll give you a taste of it here, because it is important that the conservative right wing theocrats realize this:

I can't disagree with the observation that Christmas is under attack. What I can and do disagree with is the perception that it's those damned, anti-patriotic,anti-Christmas, Liberals that are behind it.

There is a segment of our society out there that is determinded to remove every evidence of Christianity not just from Christmas, but our society in general. These people are not true liberals. By it's very definition, Liberal means generous, openhanded, and open-minded . Therefore it stands to reason no genuine liberal would desire to deny anyone their right to worship or celebrate their religion or their holidays. The liberals I know are not one bit interested in taking Christ out of Christimas.

BTW: Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Orlando Sentinel reports this morning that the Florida Department of Children and Families is changing it's policy on how calls to it's Tallahassee-based Child Abuse Hotline are handled when the call is from a law-enforcement officer, nurse, or child-welfare professional. The change is in response to criticism following the murder of four year old Kai Gadison by her abusive mother earlier this week in near Orlando.

Although the mother was already on probation for child abuse --- a fact of which DCF was well aware --- the agency did nothing when Kenya Hill's probation officer phoned his concern to the hotline about the squalid living conditions in an extended stay motel. It's a clear case of dropping the ball when it really counted, and very likely because of someone's screwup in Tallahassee a child will never see her fifth birthday in Orlando.

It does sound like the operator who took the call is going to take the fall for this incident. The Sentinel quotes DCF's Orlando-area director as saying the agency is investigating how "Kathy", the operator in question, handled the call. "Kathy" is currently being "counseled"...a nice way of saying "her a** is out da door in due time".

As I said a couple of days ago, the vast majority of DCF employees are hard working people who do the best they can under an increasingly hostile enviroment, thanks to Jeb! and his buddies in Tallahassee's eagerness to privatize many of the department's functions. The budgets for all of DCF programs, including child abuse prevention and investigation, is nowhere near where it should be, and in many cases has been slashed considerably. Positions go unfilled or are cut entirely, which means that workloads are nearly impossible to maintain in a reasonable manner. That means, of course, that morale is low and turnover is high. The bottom line is simply seems to me that Jeb! and his sheep in the Capitol don't seem to be serious about helping and/or protecting the state's most vunerable.

The Lakeland Ledger has an excellent editorial in today's edition dealing with the DCF issue.


I've mentioned this a time or two in writing this blog over the past months, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to mention it once again for those who are new, or who may not have heard about the group to this point.

For the past couple of years, a group of generally progressive Democratic activists from throughout West Central Florida have been meeting monthly in Lakeland as a gathering to network and a source of help across county and district boundries. It is at this point an informal organization, so the I-4 Corridor Association (as it is commonly known) does not have officers or bylaws...although the group does plan to formally organize in the next couple of months. The I-4 Group plans to be officially nonpartisan, although it's membership is almost entirely made up of the aforementioned Democratic activists.

It began as a small group of about ten people almost two years ago, and since has grown to an average of 40-50 people attending the monthly meetings held at a Lakeland church. It's regular attendees represent Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando counties, with occasional visitors from other counties throughout central Florida. Semi-retired pharmacist Fred Williams of Tampa, who is one of the founding members of the group, seeks to expans it's membership throughout the I-4 Corridor from Tampa/St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach. As a matter of fact, we were pleased to have had as guests Thursday evening two of the new officers --- including the new Chairman --- of the Osceola County Democratic Executive Committee. They elected an almost clean slate of new officers, including three Hispanics and an African-American. Their new secretary, who was in attendance, has formed a group similar to the I-4 but has formalized it as a not-for-profit, and has spoken to interested parties in Seminole and Orange counties. We are looking forward to be working with her and her collegues across East Central Florida.

Among the accomplishments that the I-4 Group has done in it's short history --- even as an informal gathering --- are providing volunteers that helped work precincts in Orlando to help Buddy Dyer's victory as Orlando mayor, and the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee's FULL SLATE of officers are active I-4 Group members. Among the things we want to do during the next couple of years --- in addition to electing Democrats to political office --- is assist counties across the region which have weak or almost nonexistant DECs to become active and find people in those areas who are willing and able to become involved.

For anyone that is interested in finding out more, the group meets on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 PM in the fellowship hall of First Institutional Baptist Church, 932 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue (at the intersection of Memorial Boulevard) in Lakeland (MAP). For more information, contact Fred Williams toll free in Tampa at (866) 266-4273.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Wary of possible litigation over church-state issues, many governments have refrained from putting displays on public property that could be considered religious in nature. Polk County has followed that general rule.

So how did a Nativity scene all of a sudden appear on the front lawn of the Neil Combee County Administration Building in Bartow? It seems that knowing that the County Commission would not officially approve such a display for the aforementioned reason, a Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church took matters into their own hands and --- without prior notice or permission --- appeared Wednesday night and erected Jesus' birth scene.

Such displays generally pass constitutional muster, only as long as the display is not endorsed or paid for by the government entity. The problem is that if the Commission approves the Nativity scene, it could make the way for various other displays in the future which could find the panel in a difficult position to deny permission for.

The church's pastor has been asked to appear before the County Commission at it's next meeting Wednesday to officially ask permission for the display to remain. But even if they decide to ask the church to remove it, the commission would likely provide a period of time to be done...likely through the holiday.


The continuing story of Bartow community activist David Hallock, the Bartow City Commission, and the Polk County Opportunity Council isn't over yet...even after Mayor Leo Longworth tried to settle the situation with a potential compromise that would satisify all parties.

Hallock, an insurance agent who has served on other board dealing with children and education-related issues, was appointed by the Bartow City Commission to be it's official representative on the board of PCOC, the area community action agency that offers programs for low-income citizens and families and oversees Polk County's Head Start program. .

The PCOC administration wanted Hallock to submit a resume before agreeing to seat him, which angered the city commission. After some back-and-forth, Mayor Longworth offered to provide Hallock's background information showing his experience serving on boards of organizations such as the area's United Way and Early Childhood Resources.

It wasn't good enough.

PCOC's board refused to seat Hallock Thursday, and the chairman said they should not consider it further for at least another year. Which means that the Bartow City Commission can try to push it farther, or simply appoint someone else to it's seat.

The problem seems to be that Hallock was eager to ask tough questions and start looking at the books to see how PCOC was spending the money for Head Start, which is by far it's largest program, to insure that the funds are getting where they are supposed to be benefit the children. Mr. Hallock's questions have merit, as PCOC has a history of controversy. In recent years several employees --- including an executive director --- have been convicted on theft-related charges. And administrators, instead of working to help investigators get rid of the crooks during the investigations, took a defensive attitude and continued their general lack of oversight.

So what is PCOC afraid of? It is clear that Mr. Hallock is well qualified to serve. And he was chosen as the represent the Bartow City Commission as it's official representative on the PCOC Board. Also, earlier this year Haines City Commissioner Horace West complained to his collegues during a meeting that he had never been notified about meetings, although he was the city's official representative on the board.

Maybe it's time for the various governmential entities that provide financial support to PCOC to seriously consider reevaluating their support...or at least demand some serious oversight and review of the agency's operations and finances.

Anyone who is truly concerned should read Winter Haven-based Lakeland Ledger columnist Thomas Roe Oldt from his piece of November 28.


Unfortunately, I had another meeting last night which prevented me from attending Senator Bob Graham's lecture at Florida Southern College. It was my loss, as Senator Graham's loss in the U.S. Senate will be the loss of Florida and all America. All I have not purchased his book "Intellegence Matters" yet, it is at the top of my Christmas list (hint).

The man is simply a wealth of knowledge in the area of national security and intellegence issues, and he can put often complex scenarios into terms where many common people can understand. But he won't be just sitting on the sidelines doing the "talking head" shows, as he has no less than three projects planned:

After he leaves office, Graham said he will work on developing two policy institutes, located
at two as-yet-undisclosed Florida universities. One institute will concentrate on encouraging
young people to choose careers in public service.

The other, expected to be based in Florida and several other states, will be an intelligence
training institute, similar to military academies, where students would learn the languages
and cultures needed in the new intelligence world and then owe service to the government."

And my third project is to develop better learning of the cultures and politics of Latin America,"
he said.


There is a nice piece written in this week's Weekly Planet out of Tampa regarding the Florida blogging scene. Mike at Florida News enjoys mention in the story for his scoop that the Florida Democratic Party registered the domain site for it's chairman in case he decides to run for statewide office. Also quoted was Mark Lane of flablog (Didn't realize he was a columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal). Writer Wayne Garcia also lists several Florida blogs, including Interstate4Jamming...muchos gracias, Wayne!

Thursday, December 16, 2004


You have to wonder if / when the Florida Department of Children and Families will EVER get it right. Even when a probation officer for the mother calls the Child Abuse Hotline to report six children living in squlid conditions in a hotel room filled with garbage, DCF botches the job and deep-sixes the report! The incredible thing is that the mother is already on probation for abusing her children...and the result is that one of the kids ends up dead, and Mommy's in jail for first degree murder with aggraviated chid abuse.

They didn't even bother checking out the report...and this was not just a situation of some nosy neighbour with a bone to pick. This was the mother's actual PROBATION OFFICER from her previous AGGRAVIATED CHILD ABUSE CASE asking DCF to look at the situation!

I fully understand that the vast majority of DCF people do the best they can in their own squlid situation. But since Jeb! has been in place his administration has done nothing but slash and burn that department, in the apparant hopes of eventually privitazing many of it's services. Budget and positions have been eliminated, especially in the field, morale is in the toilet, and workloads are almost impossable. As long as this is the idea that Jeb! and the Legislature has for Children and Families, we'll continue to see disgraceful situations such as what happened in Orlando this week.

A black eye on all of Florida.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Learning the lessons from Barry Bonds and other athletes who --- intentionally or not --- have used illegal steriods to enhance their on-field performance, the Polk County School Board decided to expand it's student athlete drug testing programme to include steriods. To this point it had only been used to test for recreational drugs such as marijuana.

It is a serious issue with high school athletes who yearn to play at "The Swamp" or in some other top line college football program, as it is not only a question of cheating on the field but also the health issues involved in cutting corners to get to primo physical condition.

But after cutting their salaries by $5,000 two years ago to show their support for teacher pay raises, the PCSB determined it has proven it's point. Board members voted yesterday 5-1 to raise their salaries 22 percent to $35, comparison to a beginning teacher in Polk making $30,582 annually and only getting a four percent raise this year. Frank O'Reilly was the only member voting against the raise, favouring a $1,000 raise to $30K. Hazel Sellers did not attend the meeting

BTW: This year's raise was the first time that a starting teacher in Polk County could make $30K or more a year. That was a long time goal of this board, and I certainly applaud them for that. But a number of teachers are heading to Hillsborough, Osceola, or Orange counties where they can earn more, in some cases significantly more.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


It's a quiet day as the temperature drops quickly here in Central Florida. The city's crews have covered all the downtown plants and small trees in preperation for a hard freeze tonight. I thought it would be nice to take a change of pace and bring you some humour, as my daughter forwarded it last night while she was working. I'm sure many of you have probably heard or seen most of these previously, but for those who haven't...enjoy: And keep warm tonight.

ONLY IN AMERICA... drugstores make sick people walk all the way to the back to get their prescriptions, while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front. people order cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet soda. banks leave both doors open but chain the pens to the counters. we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage. we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: "Poli" in Latin means "many" and "tics" means "bloodsucking creatures". they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.


...why the sun lightens our hair but darkens our skin?

...why women can't put on mascara with their mouths closed?

...why you don't ever see the headline 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?

...why "abbreviated" is such is a long word?

...why it is that doctors call what they do "practice"?

...why is lemon juice made with artificial flavour, and dishwashing liquid is made with real lemons?

...why is the person who invests your money called a BROKEr?

...why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called "rush hour"?

...why they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

...if "con" is the opposite of "pro", is Congress the opposite of progress?

...if flying is so safe, then why is the airport building called the terminal?

And you know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff???

Monday, December 13, 2004


I come home from work this afternoon, and guess what? The water connection to the apartment complex we live in --- over 100 units --- has been shut off, aparrantly because the owners forgot to pay the bill! And this is not the first time this has happened, either. A similar situation occured about two months ago, but Lakeland Electric and Water Services reconnected a few hours later after a payment was made.

This time, the shutdown occured before 9:00 this morning. According to one of our neighbours, the office manager --- when stopped as she was hauling ass out of the complex --- said she was on her way to make a payment and grumbled something about this being her last day working here.

As of now, there is a Lakeland Electric truck in the area, but we're still waiting impatiently for the water to start flowing again.

UPDATE: The water is back on as of about 8:00 PM. My understanding is that the payment was made around 9:30 this morning. I guess Lakeland Electric and Water wanted to insure the check wasn't going to bounce before they agreed to restore the service.

It definately left a lot of pissed-off people today. I wonder if the office manager will be back tomorrow. That would make the loss of three property managers in two years. And the name of the complex is about to be changed AGAIN...for the second time in as many years. Another owner, maybe, to treat the complex as simply an investment? Make a few cosmetic improvements to get people interested in leasing, jack up the rents for those already in place, eventually making way to brand it as an "upscale apartment community" where it would take advantage of location (blocks off I-4 and near U.S. 98 and Lakeland Square Mall) to get around $700 - 800/month???

Sunday, December 12, 2004


First, the breaking news, which is no surprise: Former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox has been reelected as Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party during a meeting of it's State Executive Committee today at Lake Buena Vista. The Associated Press is reporting that while the totals are not available, it was noted that Maddox's reelection was "by a wide margin". He was challenged by Doug Courtney, a state committeeman from Flagler County.

The big question now is: How long will Maddox stay? It is widely speculated that he will only stay a year or a year and a half before stepping aside to run for a statewide office, possibly governor.

Speaking of which...with thanks to fellow blogger Florida News:

The Web news site NewsMax noted that the results of a recent poll conducted over five days by Strategic Vision LLC, an Atlanta-based PR/public affairs firm, of registered Florida voters regarding a variety of political issues, including their current preferences for governor in 2006 and president in 2008. Please note that the amount of the sampling and margin of error was not noted in either the NewsMax piece or at the Strategic Vision Political site, so take it for what it may be worth...or not.

Among the registered Republicans participating in the Strategic Vision poll, here are the results of their picks for Governor of Florida:

33% - State Attorney General Charlie Crist
27% - State Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher
19% - Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings
21% - Undecided

Among Democrats:

21% - U.S. Congressman Jim Davis, Tampa
20% - State Senator Rod Smith
18% - State Senator William "Skip" Campbell
15% - Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox
26% - Undecided

And looking even farther ahead to 2008, here is the results of the preferences among Democrats for their presidential candidate?

35% - New York U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
18% - Former Vice President Al Gore
14% - Massachusetts U.S. Senator John Kerry
6% - North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards
5% - Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean
2% - Retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark
2% - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
1% - Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell
1% - Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsak
1% - Indiana U.S. Senator Evan Bayh
15% - Undecided

And among Republicans (NOTE: Where there are two numbers, the one on the right is the percentage when Governor Bush's name is not in the mix if it is different):

39% - Florida Governor Jeb Bush
30% / 33% - Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani
14% / 20% - Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain
2% - Tennessee U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
2% - New York Governor George Pataki
1% - Virginia U.S. Senator George Allen
1% - Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
1% - Nebraska U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel
1% - Colorado Governor Bill Owens
9% / 39% - Undecided


If it's December, then it's another PBS pledge drive. And that means some really good programs scheduled for prime time in order to attract the pledges. Tampa/St. Petersburg is truly blessed to have two good public television stations, WEDU-TV 3 and WUSF-TV 16.

Earlier in the week, there was a wonderful concert featuring Josh Groban, who at only 22 (I believe) just continues to get better while combining classical/operatic works with more contemporary music. It's remarkable that he only started persuing music seriously in high school.

And then last night, they bring out British songstress Sarah Brightman with her "Harem" show, recorded at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel. I have to admit that I was simply blown away at the performance. Ms. Brightman can be Miss Innocent one minute, then become an incredible seductress the very next. And her voice is one of the most beautiful anywhere....and she ain't too bad to look at, either!

That's one of the great things about public television: It is able to present such wonderful performances that it's commercial brethern are either unable or unwilling to...even with all the various cable channels available. And, of course, one has to remember that there are tens of thousands of people unable to afford cable or satellite hookups.


I'm about a week late on this, but it's good news, so that deserves a place here. Last month I noted the case of a Lake Gibson High School student who was expelled for a year after he was caught with a pocketknife at a football game when he was trying to prevent an altercation between a friend and another person. The student had inadvertantly kept the knife strapped to his belt after he had been fishing earlier in the day.

Administrators twice upheld the expulsion. Although a hearing officer later recommended that the penalty be reduced to suspension, then-Superintendent Jim Thornhill chose to ignore it and upheld the explusion yet again. It was later scheduled for appeal to the full seven member school board, but a paperwork snafu in the Bartow administrative office postponed the hearing.

But in her first major decision since taking over the superintendent's job last month, Dr. Gail McKinzie overruled her predecessor and decided to allow the young man back to class, saying that discipline has been imposed on the student. However, Dr. Mckinzie's decision should not be taken as approval of having knives at school, basically that expulsion was too harsh for the situation. The decision was made a couple of days before the rescheduled hearing before the School Board was to take place.

It's always nice to know that common sense eventually prevails. If the School Board allows her enough latitude, she just may work out allright. Dr. McKinzie has been in the area for the past couple of months after relocating from her previous job as superintendent of a smaller district in suburban Chicago, working with Thornhill and the Board in the transition as the district's first appointed superintendent.


Last month, I mentioned the case of Bartow resident Dave Hallock, who was appointed by the Bartow City Commission as it's representative on the Board of Directors of the Polk County Opportunity Council. PCOC is the area's primary Community Action Agency, which provides assistance to low income families and also manages the federal Head Start program locally.

The PCOC administration balked at accepting Mr. Hallock, an insurance agent and community activist, without first requesting his resume. Mr. Hallock refused to do so, and had the backing of the City Commission, who took the position that he is their official representative and the PCOC admistration has no right to question their selection.

Everyone will end up getting what they want: Bartow Mayor Leo Longworth says he will provide a copy of Hallock's background only as a courtesy, PCOC will not place any hurdles to Mr. Hallock's taking his place at the table, and Mr. Hallock will be seated and will begin to ask questions. He has a background in working with childhood education groups and United Way, and wants to look closely at how the Head Start funds are being spent. Head Start is PCOC's largest program by far.

The first thought was that the PCOC administration did not want someone ready to ask a lot or hard questions. The agency has a history of controversy, and has had some of it's people --- including a former Executive Director --- convicted of theft-related charges. This whole episode was a negative for an agency that should be embracing more openness and ready to answer those tough questions. Now we'll see just how ready they are, or if it may be ready to consider shutting it down and choosing a new provider for services that the poor of Polk County need.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Cypress Gardens Adventure Park has been fully open less than a week, and it certainly didn't take the City of Winter Haven long to focus it's annexation eyes on the taxing possibilities. A couple of things may help bring park owner Kent Buescher to the city's side:

--- He would save money by not having to pay the city's 25% surcharge for utility services for non-city residents. Winter Haven provides the water and sewer services for the Cypress Gardens area.

--- And the park already owes the city almost $70,000 for utility servies, not counting a $42,825 deposit. The city didn't bother setting up a service account for Cypress Gardens, and the amount of the debt is being disputed by Buescher.

Of course, a number of other entities will have to sign off on any agreement. The Polk County Commission has a big say, since they provided part of the funding to make the deal making Buescher's purchase happen. The state, various lenders, and equity partners would also have some part in any decision on approving annexation into Winter Haven. But the County Commission's sign off if by no means final, as at least one commissioner is saying he would not vote for it.

When ya got somethin' goin' good, everybody wants a piece of it, and the bigger the piece...the better. Unless, of course, you're in Tampa living near the Ford Ampitheatre.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Allright, I actually watch "The Apprintice". It's really an interesting way of selecting someone to head up one of your businesses. Watching them every single moment. Observing as the contestants work in a team situation to provide the best result. Watching how they handle themselves with their fellow team members, the other contestants, and the business people with whom they deal.

It's been an interesting season to this point, but there was no real surprise that Kelly Perdew, the software executive, and attorney Jennifer Massey would be the two finalists. And I believe that at least most of America realizes that Mr. Perdew will be the new Apprentice when Donald Trump says the two words next Thursday night, "You're HIRED!"

It was made very clear by the four executives who interviewed the four remaining candidates on last night's episode (two were fired) that they all favoured Kelly, citing particularly his military background with his background in leadership as well as taking orders. Also the way the final tasks were going --- Kelly's team was to organize a charity polo match; Jennifer's was a charity basketball match --- Mr. Perdew's group was in the better position when the episode ended last night.

We'll see next week, but I think we know who wins.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Beginning tonight, the Florida High School Activities Association will hold seven high school football championship games at the University of Florida's Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Fourteen teams playing in seven games for seven trophies. And THREE of those teams will be from Polk County.

This afternoon at 1:00, the third-ranked Fort Meade Miners make their fifth trip to Gainesville in six years. They will face top ranked and undefeated Panhandle powerhouse Blountstown for the 1A title in an attempt to break a Red Sox-type jinx that has seen the Miners come away from Gainesville with only the moniker of "runner-up". UPDATE: FORT MEADE WINS THE TITLE 42-38! CONGRATULATIONS MINERS!

Tonight at 7:00, the 4A championship is up for grabs as third-ranked Lakeland Lake Gibson takes on top-ranked defending champ Seffner Armwood in a rematch of their title game from last season. UPDATE: ARMWOOD WILL BRING THE TITLE ONCE AGAIN TO SEFFNER, THIS TIME IN A 49-21 VICTORY. CONGRATULATIONS! THE FIRST TIME EVER A HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOL HAS WON BACK-TO-BACK FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS!

And tomorrow evening at 7:00, the Lakeland Dreadnaughts attempt to cap a perfect season and bring home it's fourth state title when they meet Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas for the 5A championship. Lakeland is well known as having one of the best high school football programs in the southeastern United States, according to some publications specializing in prep sports and recruiting. UPDATE: THE TRADITION CONTINUES! LAKELAND WINS 31-7! CONGRATULATIONS 'NAUGHTS! THAT TWO TITLES FOR POLK COUNTY!!!

In addition to Armwood, Tampa Jefferson will battle Jacksonville Bolles for the 3A trophy as the only other representative from Hillsborough County.

Congratulations to all the participants and their schools. There are a lot of great players in Central Florida, and it just goes to show ya that we still grow 'em good here in Imperial Polk...Bring 'Em On Home!!!


The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Fox News has reached an agreement to become the primary news provider for as many as 172 of Clear Channel Communications' news and talk stations nationwide. The five year cash-only deal reportedly has CCC paying several million dollars annually to Fox for the service instead of the industry standard cash-plus-advertising time. It also reportedly contains options that could increase the number of Clear Channel's station that could become Fox News Radio affiliates.

Fox and CCC both have reputations of having conservative political leanings that show in their respective programming. Talk about companies meant for each other...

Thanks to Dave at spacecoastweb: blog for the heads up.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Thanks to the Miami Herald InfoManiac: WeBlog for the tip:

Z Magazine's online site has an article by Mike Whitney stating that United States troops are using napalm in the Iraqi city of Falluja. The use of napalm weapons has been banned by the United Nations since 1980, but the US admitted that it was used during the siege of Baghdad.

Take time to read the entire piece. Of course, if this is truly the case, we all know that the senior staff will likely place blame on some junior officers or "rogue" soldiers acting without authorization. And we know that is simply a means of covering up for those up the chain of command, especially since we had to admit once using napalm in Baghdad after journalists brought it to light.

Now let's say that if this is really going on, those who gave the orders, from Falluja to Baghdad to the Pentagon to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should be made to pay. When you are dealing with a thug, and you begin acting like a thug, it makes you no better than the thug. It's as simple as that.


A couple of days ago I mentioned the possible race brewing for the chairmanship of Florida's Democratic Party when the newly elected State Executive Committee meets this weekend in Lake Buena Vista.

Scott Maddox, the current chairman and former Mayor of Tallahassee, is believed to be almost certain to offer himself for reelection, but there are grumblings that he may also be considering a run for statewide office --- possibly even governor --- in 2006. If Maddox runs for chairman again, he will be challenged by Flagler County Democratic state committeeman and former town clerk in Palm Coast and Beverly Beach Doug Courtney.

After re-reading my post, I realized that some who may review what I wrote would believe that the post was somewhat anti-Maddox. Please be advised that it was not meant to be that way. To use an old country phrase, "I ain't got no dog in this fight." Although I have never met either gentlemen personally, I have heard much good of both. And Mr. Maddox's accomplishments during his two years as chairman in the areas of fundraising and bringing the party out of debt are well documented.

What I meant by my statements are that either gentleman would serve the Florida Democratic Party well over a four year term of office. But it is a FOUR YEAR TERM. Anyone who considers offering themselves for the office of party chairman should be fully prepared to put their mind, heart, and soul into the job of CHAIRMAN for the full term. If a person if SERIOUSLY considering a run for public office, especially if they do not enjoy high public visibility, then they need to strongly consider making a decision very soon and beginning to make themselves known to the electorate throughout the state RIGHT NOW, so that you can begin getting your message out.

The FDP needs consistancy in it's leadership especially now, not a person who will bail out after a year or a year and a half to pursue the dream of political office. Will he stay and help build the party's foundation further, or will he take the reins only to let go to chase the golden ring? It's a hard decision to make, but it is a decision that Scott Maddox will have to make within the next 48 hours.

Now while we're talking about who may be running for the state's highest office in 2006, here is at least a partial list of Democrats whose names have come up, along with their respective bio or other related links (if available). Please note that I am not commenting on their prospects (or long shot chances) here. To use the Faux News saying TRUTHFULLY, "We Report; You Decide".

Betty Castor: Former U.S. Senate Candidate, 2004; Former President, University of South Florida, 1994-99; Florida Education Commissioner, 1987-93; Florida State Senator, 1976-78, 1982-86; Hillsborough County Commissioner, 1972-76. Teacher by profession. St. Petersburg Times political columnist Adam C. Smith reported today that Ms. Castor is forming a new PAC known as the Campaign For Florida's Future --- usually a baby step for potential statewide candidates; Jeb! formed a similarly named PAC prior to his first campaign --- which would raise funds and allow her name to remain in the statewide political spectrum. And as part of this new group she has brought on some of her campaign staff and will have around $1.4 million available to transfer from her Senate campaign account to the new PAC in January.

Jim Davis: U.S. Representative, Florida 11th District, 1996-Present; Florida House of Representatives, 1988-1996; Attorney by profession; Partner in law firm of Bush, Ross, Gardner, Warren, and Rudy since 1988. Moderate Democrat who is national co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition Here is a link to Project Vote Smart's page on Congressman Davis. You can also click to check on his various interest group ratings, voting record, and other information that you may be interested in.

Daryl Jones: Former candidate, Governor, 2002; Former Florida State Senator, 1992-2002; Nominee of former President Bill Clinton as Secretary of the Air Force; Attorney/Investvent Banker by trade. Colonel, U.S. Air Force Reserve. Organization, Focus on Florida, formed almost immediately after his primary loss to Bill McBride, the intent of which was to keep his name recognition high statewide. It has never really gotten off the ground.

Scott Charles Maddox: Current Chairman, Florida Democratic Party. Tallahassee Mayor, 1995-2000. Tallahassee City Commissioner, 1993-1996 (Until 1997 the mayor was elected from among the members of the City Commission)

Rod Smith: Florida State Senator, 2000-Present. Democratic Caucus Policy Committee Co-Chair, 2002-04; State Attorney, Eighth Judicial Circuit, 1992-2000. Attorney by trade. Here is a link to Project Vote Smart's page on Senator Smith. You can also click to check on his various interest group ratings, voting record, or other information you may be interested in knowing. BTW: Thanks for the person that made note of my leaving Senator Smith's name off here originally; that's what happens when you are working off of memory, and there's a corrupted file in your head (lol).

Monday, December 06, 2004


Friday I mentioned the election the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee had for it's new officers. It went very peaceful, with no controveresy whatsoever. According to Steve Boursquet in the St. Petersburg Times, other local Democratic leadership bodies had the same experience, but not all. At least several party chairs were ousted, a couple in rather heated races. The new leaders have to speak out and take a active role in getting our party back on track; the same for those elected to the State Executive Committee.

Speaking of which, the State Executive Committee members will gather this weekend at Lake Buena Vista and elect a party chairman and representatives to the Democratic National Committee. Party Chariman Scott Maddox needs to make a decision ASAP: If he is serious about possibly running for statewide office in 2006, he needs to abandon running for reelection to his party leadership seat and begin planning for his run NOW. Maddox's only real exposure to the electorate has been as Mayor of Tallahassee and in a failed run for Attorney General in 2002. While he is obviously well known to the Democratic faithful, he needs to begin building name recognition among Republicans as well as rank and file Democrats throughout the state. And being party chairman is a 24/7 job, being the primary fundraiser and cheerleader for all of our candidates and focused for a full four year period. We simply cannot afford to have a chairman for a year; maybe a year and a half and resign. We need someone who we can rely on for the full term.

Don't get me wrong. Scott's been good. But Scott needs to choose one direction or the other...but he can't have it both ways.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Alabama Republican Representative Gerald Allen has filed a bill for consideration next session which would, if passed, ban novels with gay characters from school and university libraries.

The way it's written, the bill would outlaw the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle."

Although Allen said he is filing this bill to "protect children from the homosexual agenda", the end result would include banning such classic works as "The Color Purple", "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", "Brideshead Revisited", and "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

I'm sorry, but this smells of George Wallace and the Nazi book burnings to me. This is truly dangerous and is a taste of what the right wing Republicans truly would like to do if they had their way. One may not agree with the idea involved here --- I, for one, don't care what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom, thank you very much --- but please, the Constitution does provide certain guarantees, such as freedom of speech. Especially in the area of higher education, discussion of differing opinions is paramount to an open educational system.


It was really interesting looking down at the parking lot of the Neil Combee Administration Building in Bartow last evening to see how packed it was at 7:30. It seems that both the Polk County Democrats AND Republicans were holding meetings to reorganize their executive committees and elect officers for the next four years. The Republicans had the Commission chambers on the ground floor, the Democrats had the employee lounge two levels up.

I don't know how the other side did, but the DEC election went off rather well. Here is the press release I penned after arriving home:

Polk County Democratic precinct representatives elected new officers for the local party during an organisational meeting held in the Neil Combee Administrational Building in Bartow, with a retired doctor from Lakeland being tapped as it's leader.

Dr. William (Bill) Kremer, a medical oncologist retired from the Watson Clinic and former medical director with the Good Shepherd Hospice is the new chairman of the local Democratic Party, replacing Winter Haven attorney L. Mark Kaylor. Dr. Kremer, who chaired the Issues and Community Education Committee during the past two years, will be in charge of all Democratic Executive Committee meetings as well as represent the local party to the media and at certain state Democratic functions.

The new Vice Chair will be Mary Nelson of Winter Haven. A retired teacher and administrator, she is currently President of the Democratic Women's Club and was an elected delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Barbara Stampfel of Lakeland will serve as the new Secretary, and Tom Clemmons of Mulberry was reelected to a second term as Treasurer.

The new State Committeewoman will be Caroll Franklin of Winter Haven. Most recently the campaign manager for Jeffrey Siemer's unsuccessful primary campaign for the 12th District congressional seat, Ms. Franklin is a political activist and a retired head emergency room nurse. Her counterpart as State Committeeman is Rev. Alex Harper of Lakeland, pastor of First Baptist Institutional Church who previously served as Sergeant-at-Arms during the previous four years. And replacing Rev. Harper at his former position is the former Vice President, Ron Martin of Fort Meade, a warehouse employee at Bartow's Wal-Mart.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Eliminating the whole concept of precincts? Doing away with a single election day?

It could happen, if an idea by the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections catches on. Of course, it has to receive legislative approval as well.

The whole idea came about because of the success of the "early voting" concept, which was used for the first time in Florida during the recent election. It worked so well that the state SOE association wants to put it to use as part of an overall election reform package that would eventually eliminate the idea of going to a designated precinct to vote, instead having a certain number of voting stations throughout the county open for 11 days that would have enough machines and parking to reduce lines and traffic. The 11 day idea is to ensure that the period includes two weekend periods.

I don't have a problem per se with the basic idea, at least continuing the early voting concept. But in doing so counties want to ensure that the process is open to everyone and that voting stations are set up in areas which are accessable to minorities, the poor, and elderly who may not be able to get there otherwise. This was a significant issue in Duval County (Metro Jacksonville) during the recent election, when originally the only early voting station was at the SOE office in downtown Jacksonville. Only after significant pressure was brought to bear by civil rights organizations, the media, and even Jeb! (not to mention a personal visit from Secretary of State Glenda Hood) did additional early voting stations spring up.

In Polk County, which is rather large in terms of area, there were three early voting stations at the SOE offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, and Lakeland. The poor schmuck in Lake Wales, Hanes City, or Fort Meade had to drive in some cases 20-25 miles if they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, and if the citizen were invalid...out of luck. And we won't even get into the issue of absentee ballots. SOE Lori Edwards is among the best in the business, and her staff is among the most experienced in Central Florida BAR NONE! I've always said that, and always will. But it seems that this idea needs to be looked at some more.

Actually, it's not a new idea. Several other nations do this same thing, spread their election out over a period of several days.