Sunday, July 31, 2005


When Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D - Pembroke Pines) sought to get a larger life insurance earlier this year than what she already had, she was denied by AIG after the company asked her husband if they may travel to Israel, according to this article in the Capitol Hill publication The Hill.

According to a letter from the company, “We will be able to reconsider this decision once you have returned from Israel and there are no future plans to travel to any countries of concern.”

The congresswoman from South Florida disputes the designation of Israel as a "country of concern", as it is not listed by the State Department as a terrorist state and has no travel warnings issued for it, and it has a lower intentional death rate than even the USA. And she's going to try to do something about it.

Wasserman-Schultz introduced the Life Insurance Fairness for Travelers Act. Her amendment would bar insurers from discriminating “based upon the intent of [a] person to engage in lawful foreign travel.”


Ya know, working on Sunday really sucks, especially when you're trying to collect past due money on the telephone bill. But at least we don't start until noon, so that gives me time to check out what the editorials are saying around out beloved Sunshine State.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger deals with the Polk County Commission's 4-1 vote last week to raise property taxes for the first time in 12 years. It states that while tax increases are not popular, the money has to come from somewhere after tax cuts on the federal level.

On the northeast end of I-4, the Daytona Beach News Journal apparantly doesn't like President Bush's idea of appointing "strict constitutionalists" to the U.S. Supreme Court, and thus apparantly is opposed to John Roberts' nomination as the newest Associate Justice.

Moving south along the road and through the almost-constant bottleneck, the Orlando Sentinel says that with the new school year beginning, districts must work harder to protect students.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the freeway, the Tampa Tribune laments the fact that Hillsborough County's Charter Review Board has not launched a public debate over the question of a county mayor/manager.

And across Tampa Bay, the St. Petersburg Times comes out against repealing the estate tax, saying that senators "should ask themselves if it is fair to give the very richest Americans a significant tax break while passing on the bill to everyone else."

Down the road, the Sarasota Herald Tribune calls for Southwest Florida's congressional delegation to intervene in the federal government's handling of medical claims related to the now-closed American Beryllium Company plant in Tallevast, which produced weapons parts for the military. The plant exposed workers to beryllium, a toxic metal linked to various illnesses including chronic lung disease.

Skipping up into the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal editorial deals with a proposed per-acre fee to protect the Perdido Key beach mouse, saying that it's more than just protecting a mouse, but that it's presence --- or absence --- tells a lot about the health of the area's dune ecosystem.

In Florida's capitol city, the Tallahassee Democrat notes that the community shouldn't simply work to woo one big company, but would do better to equally support the local businesses that are already there.

Meanwhile, at the eastern end of I-10, the Florida Times Union touts the advantages of improving efficiency in government by constant reevaluation of programmes to serve taxpayers at lower cost.

Florida Today notes that Brevard County property owners will likely get a tax cut next year, but the trade off is that a number of needs will be unmet...sounds like what a number of people in Polk County are asking for.

Skipping over to the home of the University of Florida, the Gainesville Sun looks at Plan East Gainesville, a major idea to improve an area of the city that has traditionally struggled economically. But will the money be available to make it happen?

Just down the road, the Ocala Star Banner is happy that the Marion County Commission and School Board are coming together to discuss a formula for the educational element which will have to be written into the county's comprehensive land-use plan per legislative mandate no later then 2008.

Moving down the Gulf Coast, the Naples News warns against potential tinkering with Florida's Save Our Homes Amendment, which caps annual taxable appraisal at three percent or the cost of living., whichever is lower.

Across the penisula, the editorial in today's Palm Beach Post calls for lawmakers to follow through on their commitment to clean water for residents around Lake Okeechobee by providing the necessary funding instead of just the idea.

Down I-95, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel laments the tragedy of a two car crash in January which killed six people following the release of the final police report listing alcohol and excessive speed as causes, noting that there should be nothing "accidential" about such a flagrant abuse of the law.

And finally, we end in Dade County, where the Miami Herald looks at international economics in suggesting that we should help and encourage China's capitalist tendencies as a means of improving relations between the communist country and the USA.

Enjoy your Sunday...and remember, if your long distance phone bill is behind, you just might get a call from me today! So have your check or credit/debit card ready!


Occasionally over the past months I have noted here of the problems at the Polk County Opportunity Council, the community action agency which provides services to the area's low income families but is best known for operating the Head Start programme throughout much of the county. These problems led to federal auditors checking out the agency, and their Head Start Review Report of PCOC came out recently.

The Lakeland Ledger was assured by PCOC officials that the newspaper would receive a copy of the document, but after broken promises the Ledger finally got it...from federal officials. I can understand why PCOC would not want to give it out.

The report lists 14 areas that PCOC is required to correct in order to not jepordize it's $7.5 million dollars in annual federal Head Start funding. Most of those areas concern poor fiscal management and sloppy recordkeeping with both PCOC and it's property ownership arm, the Heartland Economic Development Authority.

The Florida Department of Community Affairs also has the agency under the microscope in several areas, including:

--- Providing scholarships to students, including the executive director's nephew, with "no record of enrollment or completion of class" or "no record of attendance or completion of class". Also recipients receiving more money than the classes they signed up for cost and lack of proper income verification to prove that they qualified to receive the scholarship.

--- Questionable aspects of a PCOC-sponsored trip for children to a camp in North Carolina, such as not bidding out the bus charter as required, paying for extra miles for the buses prior to the trip, drivers' overtime pay, improperly claiming the expenses as "crisis assistance", and charging parents $50 per person to attend when grant money was available instead.

--- Inaccurate inventories of equipment.

--- Double paying for services such as pest control and janitorial services at PCOC buildings. That's paying the vendor twice for the same job!

--- Poor financial controls. PCOC should maintain a seperate account for three programmes the agency provides, but instead combined them into one account.

--- Improperly accepting cash payments from clients for rent/mortgage assistance.

People getting financial help from PCOC to pay their rents or mortgages paid their portion of housing payments to PCOC instead of their landlords or mortgage companies. PCOC then combined the partial payments with agency money, writing checks for the entire payments. This was done, DCA said, so PCOC could claim the payments as "cash match.

"PCOC has to come up with cash to qualify for matching money. The usual -- and allowable -- way agencies raise matching funds is by soliciting private donations and holding fund-raisers.

"Under no circumstances should cash be received from clients and processed through the agency's fiscal office," the DCA report said.

--- The size of PCOC's board of directors.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


State officials have been wanting for awhile to add toll lanes to Interstate 4 in Orange and Seminole counties, supported by the area's transportation planning agency MetroPlan Orlando.

It ain't gonna happen.

Thanks to a clause slipped into the federal transportation bill by Representative John Mica (R - Winter Park) and passed by both houses of Congress, any idea of toll lanes on the region's busiest freeway were killed. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation next week.


It's time again for the State of Florida's annual Unclaimed Property Auction, which will be held today in Fort Lauderdale. Each year the Florida Department of Financial Services (Yes, Tom Gallagher's department) holds this auction to sell off unclaimed items from safe deposit boxes whose rental is not paid and the person was not located after attempts by the financial institution and the Financial Services department. The proceeds from this sale go into the Principal State School Trust Fund to benefit Florida's public schools. The auction will be Webcast live at Fisher Auction's Web site.

It's interesting what people just forget or die and forget to inform their families they have. Jewelry, stock certificates, coin and bill collections, baseball and football cards, and a number of other items will be sold to the highest bidder.

And there are a lot of people out there that have valuables just waiting to be claimed. You can check for your name or that of a relative through the FDFS' Property Search site. Sadly, nothing for me out there.


The Orlando Sentinel is reporting today that Orange County auditors are looking into ties between Sheriff Kevin Beary and a not-for-profit company he started with taxpayer resources and has paid him $43,000 in consulting fees.

The company, National Domestic Prepardness Coalition Inc. (NDPCI), was formed two years ago by Beary, two sheriff's office employees, and a neurosurgeon who once served as a medical advisor for the sheriff's office. It has gained stature in the homeland security field, developing a method that law-enforcement officers, government agencies and businesses can use to gauge how vulnerable buildings such as courthouses and hospitals are to terrorist attacks. The coalition also trains law-enforcement officers how to use its "assessment model."

Auditors want to know if county funds were used improperly. The Sentinel report mentions:

--- Beary and two Sheriff's Office employees were founding directors of the nonprofit corporation, which drew on at least $174,000 of public resources -- such as travel expenses and salaries -- that were later reimbursed, county records show. The Sheriff's Office employees have worked for the nonprofit coalition even as Beary has pushed for more tax dollars to address a shortage of deputies.
--- Beary insisted during his re-election campaign last year that he had not been paid by the coalition. But weeks after he won the race, he accepted the $43,000 in consulting fees from the nonprofit, according to his financial-disclosure records and a sheriff's spokesman.

--- Though Beary said he cleared the payments he received in advance with state ethics officials, those same state officials say his involvement with the coalition wasn't fully explained.

Not only that, but...

The coalition initially shared office space with the Sheriff's Office, and its publications bore Sheriff's Office telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses. When the coalition received a $654,000 federal grant last year to demonstrate its product, the Sheriff's Office announced that the county -- not the NDPCI -- had received the funds: "Orange County receives $654,383 to demonstrate homeland security assessment model to the rest of the nation," a news release said, making no mention of NDPCI...


Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington has a feature today on Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis (D - Tampa).

He discussed how he disapproves of how Jeb! has attempted to make the federal/state partnership of Medicaid like just another private health care programme.

"Medicaid does need reform, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do that. What Gov. Bush was proposing was to balance the Medicaid budget on the backs of people who depend on Medicaid to stay out of hospitals, stay out of nursing homes, stay in nursing homes...I don't think that's the way you reform Medicaid."

While Florida Republican Party chair Carole Jean Jordan says Davis' congressional record is "unremarkable", one of his collegues in the House notes his reputation of being able to strike agreements that members on both side of the aisle can feel comfortable with.

"He's got tremendous leadership qualities with both forward vision and optimism, but more importantly he works incredibly hard to find the sensible center on policy and to build bipartisan coalitions to get things done," said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, (D-WI).

"He does not fit any ideological pigeon hole, which I think is what makes him so successful and effective as a leader...He's not afraid to take good ideas from the other side and craft that into good policy. And that, I think, is what's desperately needed these days in public service at all levels, from Washington to state government and even locally."

Davis and Kind co-chair the centrist New Democratic Coalition.


The Hillsborough County Commission's vote June 15 to divorce itself from supporting or participating in any event which features gays in a positive light has given some folks a reason to party.

From this morning's St. Petersburg Times:

Key West and Monroe County commissioners have passed proclamations declaring Aug. 12-14 Hillsborough County Pride in Exile Days.
Community leaders are organizing a parade down Duval Street, cocktail parties, a drag queen show and a dramatic re-enactment of the June 15 vote by the Hillsborough commission.

In other words, just another weekend in Key West.

"The point of all this is to show support for everyone in Hillsborough County, but especially for gays and lesbians," said Greg Needham, co-chairman of a group calling itself Key West Cares About Pride. "It will also give them a chance to experience a weekend in a place where gays and lesbians are fully supported by the city and county governments."

I would love to visit the southernmost point in the United States sometime. It seems like a place that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Friday, July 29, 2005


I actually learned about this incident early this morning before leaving for work, and was saddened --- but not totally surprised --- that this despicable type of act could occur here in Polk County.

A gay couple who lives in a mobile home park north of Lakeland had their television and computer stolen Monday night, with their trailer set on fire and the words "Die Fag" spray painted on the front steps.

25-year-old Paul Day has been open about his homosexuality for more than a decade, with he and partner Christopher Robertson being the target of occasional vandals. Rocks thrown through windows, shotgun blasts aimed at their mailbox. But Monday evening's incident went far beyond what has happened before.

While authorities have ruled the fire an arson, they have not decided on treating it as a hate crime. There shouldn't be a second thought on the issue: The apparant evidence clearly screams for it be treated as such.

Patrick Jones with Equality Polk County puts it so well in an e-mail he sent early this morning:

In a Nation, were we look with pride to our exploration of the stars, It makes me wonder why cant we first have pride and peace here on Earth, or in our own lives.

And BTW: Day, who is also asthmatic and now obviously homeless, has been reportedly informed by his landlord that the rent is still to be paid. And the computer which was stolen was filled with information related to Robertson's remodeling business.

Anyone who can help this couple should consider doing so. Click this link to e-mail Patrick Jones with Equality Polk County, who is working with Mssers. Day and Robertson in their recovery.


With the practice of selecting Florida House Speakers years in advance, it's a good idea to take a look at how their businesses have profited during the time they are waiting to ascend to the speaker's chair.

Jeremy Wallace does this in one case for today's Sarasota Herald Tribune.

It seems as though current speaker Allan Bense, who is seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, is a major stockholder and listed as a vice president in the Panama City-based GAC Contractors (their Website was down early this morning...hmmmmmm). As part of the 2001 economic incentive stimulus package, GAC won a $29.7 million contract to build four rest areas in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. Wallace notes that Bense voted for the bill and was a member of a key committee that designated money for the project.

While it isn't illegal for a state lawmaker from being a partner in a company that receives state contracts, it raises the specter of a conflict of interest, especially when the legislator is on a key committee which has direct influence over the amount involved.

Lance de Haven Smith, a political science professor at Florida State University, said it's not uncommon for state legislators, who are part-timers, to have conflicts of interest on votes because they have various businesses back home. But it's rare for a prominent legislator to have direct ties to a company bidding on projects decided on by bureaucrats that rely on the Legislature for funding.

Especially when you know that that legislator is going to be Speaker of the House in a short period of time.


Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms has taken controversial stands in pushing her far-right agenda. She led the move last month for the county commission to ban any support of, or participating in, gay pride events. Now she has led the panel to block funding for a teen educational programme sponsored by Planned Parenthood.

According to this story in the St. Petersburg Times, Source Teen Theatre is a programme in which Tampa teens teach other kids about such things as sexual activity, drugs, gangs, and family violence. It is the only Planned Parenthood programme that the commission had supported, and then only intermittedly. They had requested a modest $39,500 (it's budget is $130,000) from the $8 million available for nonprofit groups in Hillsborough County.

But Commissioner Storms led the move to block any funding for Source Teen Theatre, reportedly expressing her disdain for Planned Parenthood to the organization's local head Barbara Zdravecky. She says that Storms was quite blunt, saying twice "I am prolife, you are prodeath"

While one may not support Planned Parenthood's abortion services, it does have other programmes that help young people, and Source Teen Theatre is one of them. It deserved the support of the commission.


For the life of me, I simply cannot think of any good reason why anyone would want to have sexual relations with a child. There's just something incredibly wrong about the idea.

It seems that at least once a week there's yet another story about an adult --- usually a man, but not always --- being arrested for having or attempting to solicit sex with a kid. There's another story this morning, this time the former president of a Lakeland youth baseball league being busted in Tampa.

The man, who is the president of a local business, allegedly had been communicating in an online chat room with who he thought was a father who was willing to allow his 11 year old daughter meet with the perp for sex. Little did the perp know that the "father" was a St. Lucie County Sheriff's detective. He's now in the Orient Road Jail, charged with soliciting sexual activity with a child, two counts of possession of child pornography, and transmission of child pornography through an electronic device.

If anyone can figure out what the attraction is of wanting to taking advantage of a child like this, let me know.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Last evening I posted news of the suicide death of former Miami City and Dade County Commissioner Arthur E. Teele in the lobby of the Miami Herald building after a phone conversation with Metro columnist Jim DeFede. Teele had recently been indicted on 26 federal charges related to a scheme with an electrical contractor to defraud the local governments by using a front company to win airport contracts worth around $20 million.

In addition to his legal troubles, the Miami alternative weekly New Times last week published a 14 page investigative feature detailing a number of humiliating facts regarding Teele's personal relationships and financial situation.

Within hours, columnist DeFede was sacked by Herald executives after admitting that he had recorded the conversation with Teele just before the former official killed himself without Teele's knowledge or consent. In Florida, that's a third degree felony. A simple laspe in judgement by a seasoned reporter and columnist, but does it justify a termination instead of a suspension?

Unfortunately, yes.

The fact is that DeFede broke the law by not requesting Teele's permission to record the conversation. Also, one has to consider that Teele had asked that the conversation be off the record, but the columnist continued to record regardless. A serious ethical breach, to say the least.

Don't cry for the popular DeFede, though. While it may be awhile, I am certain that he'll land on his feet somewhere. He's good at what he does, and although some newspapers may keep hands off over this incident, DeFede deserves another opportunity somewhere to show that he has learned from the experience. I wish him luck.


The Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas has a great piece today, writing about the Rolling Stones October 19 show at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa...only $99.00 PLUS a $1.75 building facility charge PLUS a $15.35 convenience charge.

Do you REALLY want to pay $116.10 to see these well-past-their-time rockers? Top tickets are $161.75!

Mike also comments on the fact that Mick and da boyz have completely sold out, with this tour sponsored by Ameriquest, and wonders what has happened to the former bad boys of rock 'n roll.

Sixteen years ago, we wanted to get drunk. Now we want no payment on the principal for 10 years. Stay tuned for the 2015 tour: Depends Diapers Presents The Rolling Stones!


The Daytona Beach News Journal reports today that the City Commission there Wednesday reached an apparant agreement to prohibit signs promoting Spring Break and a similar event for Canadian students, but did not issue a similar ban for other events there during the year such as Black College Reunion, Bike Week, and Biketoberfest.

There was no vote taken as the discussion was during a workshop meeting, but beachfront commissioners are pushing for the city to divorce itself from special events. Other commissioners disagreed, citing the $1.3 billion that such events bring to the local economy.

The issue is expected to be officially decided at an upcoming commission meeting.


Taxes are promising to be a HUGE issue in the next couple of races for the Polk County Commission after the panel voted 4-1 Wednesday to raise property taxes as well as levy new taxes to improve roads, parks, and the county library system pending final approval in September.

If you live within one of the cities across Polk, the tax bill is expected to increase approximately 13 percent. If you're like a majority of the county's population who live in unincorporated area, the hit on your wallet would be a hefty 29 percent.

Commissioner Randy Wilkinson was the lone dissenter against the first property tax increase here in 12 years.

The breakdown on the property tax hike is that an additional $1 of every $1,000 of taxable value would pay of road construction and maintainence, an extra 75 cents of every $1,000 of taxable value would go toward park improvements in unincorporated areas of the county, and an extra 50 cents of every $1,000 of taxable value go to libraries. The latter two would only be paid by taxpayers living outside the cities, as city residents already are taxed by their municipality for parks and library services.

It drew a larger than normal crowd of about 250 people to the meeting in Bartow, with many angrily speaking against any hike and one speaker calling the commissioners "carpetbagging, tyrannical Republicans-in-name-only." All five county commissioners are Republicans.

The war is now officially on.


It's interesting to watch lawmakers vie for leadership positions years ahead of time almost immediately after being elected to their first term. Because of term limits and the appearance to avoid in-house squabbles members of the Florida House of Representatives work to get votes from collegues up to five years ahead of time...assuming that the majority party will still be the majority that far ahead of time.

The St. Petersburg Times' Steve Bousquet noted this week that first term State Representative Dean Cannon (R - Winter Park), a Lakeland native, has said that he has enough support from fellow House Republicans to become Speaker in 2010. That's a blow to the ambitions of fellow Representative Anthony Traviesa (R - Tampa), who apparantly was unable to get the Hillsborough County delegation solidly behind him.

FYI: Assuming the GOP retains it's majority that long, Representative Marco Rubio (R - Miami) take the speaker's gavel next year, with Representative Ray Sansom (R - Destin) following in 2008.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Former Miami City Commissioner Arthur E. Teele, recently indicted with an electrical contractor on 26 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, died this evening after shooting himself in the head in the lobby of the Miami Herald building.

Here is the story from the Herald.


Anyone who knows me or has read some of the posts on this blog over the months would likely know that I am not a huge fan of Clear Channel Communications. Also known commonly in the industry as "Cheap Channel", the San Antonio-based radio giant has changed the industry to the despair of many listeners. In many cases, they have ruined the idea of entertaining personalities on the air in exchange of liner card reading air talent...if they have any live air talent on at all! Not to mention lack of "format integrity" in running ads for casinos and hip hop concerts on some of their Gospel/Christian formatted stations!

But in this particular case, if the complaint CCC has filed against a competitor in Panama City is true, I have to stand with them 100%.

Seems as though during Hurricane Dennis, a competing broadcast company --- Double OO Radio Corporation --- allegedly was participating in deliberatly jamming the signal of Clear Channel's WPAP-FM...which happens to be the primary station in the area for the Emergency Alert System, meaning WPAP is responsible for being the main source for broadcasting messages from the National Weather Service and local emergency management offices.

According to this story from WJHG-TV, CCC's chief engineer in the area noticed the interference and tracked it to the Double OO building. With a sheriff's deputy in hand, they went inside the facility and found a transmitter on the air set to WPAP's frequency, causing listeners to hear a hum instead of or over the programming.

That kind of behaviour is inexcusable, especially in a state of emergency, and can get a broadcaster's license(s) pulled in a heartbeat...or at least, a very hefty fine.


Just in case you may have forgotten how far out there some of our fellow citizens are, I am posting this letter to the editor which appeared in today's Lakeland Ledger...and from a doctor in Winter Haven, no less:

In the wake of the London bombings, one fact should become apparent. The people who did this, who destroyed the Trade Towers, once successfully and once in vain, who blew up the trains in Spain and the destroyer U.S.S. Cole all have one thing in common: They were all Muslims, usually fundamentalist Wahabee Muslims.

Having reached that obvious conclusion, everyone worshipping in a mosque becomes a suspect or is linked to a suspect. If we are to reduce the likelihood of further attacks we should target all Muslims for continual surveillance.

Of course, this will arise howls of protest from the liberal civil-libertarian crowd. But as bank robber Willie Sutton said, he robbed banks because "that's where the money is." And you surveil mosques and Muslims because that's where the suicide bombers are. They are not down the street in your local church. That is just common sense police work and not the targeting of minorities.

So, if you know a Muslim or see someone in their garb, pay attention. If you see suspicious behavior, report it. The price of liberty and safety is eternal vigilance.

Someone needs to set this doctor down and give him a real dose of reality.

The vast majority of Muslims in the United States and elsewhere are peace loving people who want to make a better life for themselves and their families. Those who are advocating and practicing murder of innocents or seeking to use violence to establish their own bastardized version of Islam are criminals and should be sought out and punished. The Islam they are practicing is not what is practiced by the great majority of followers of the Prophet.

Those who sympathize with and are seeking to spread that violence here need to be found and dealt with harshly. And that means Muslims who know of such individuals should report their activities. But to just say "Let's target all Muslims for survelliance" is seriously out of line. That's the same type of stereotyping that held many African-Americans back for decades. We're supposed to be a better country than that.


Yesterday, I noted here that an area Wal-Mart manager had asked the Pensacola News Journal to remove it's racks from it's stores and noted that it would no longer sell the newspaper. This was after the manager expressed his disdain for a column written by Mark O'Brien referring to the fact that many Wal-Mart employees qualify for Medicaid or other public health assistance. Executive editor Randy Hammer wrote that the manager in question informed him that the chain would consider removing the ban if O'Brien were fired.

The Miami Herald notes this morning that the company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas has reversed the ban against the News Journal, and said the newspaper should be back in it's stores by the end of the week. No word on if there will be any disciplinary action against Pensacola district manager Bob Hart, who issued the ban.

Thanks to Florida Politics for giving us the heads up! Good to pass along some good news occasionally!


With just over a year to go before a potential Republican primary to decide who would challenge U.S. Senator Bill Nelson's bid for reelection, one has to seriously take polling numbers with a grain of salt. At this early stage, polling results usually just reflect name recognition as current or potential candidates are more concerned with raising money and making appearances at various party "meet and greet" events.

So reading Sarasota Herald Tribune political writer Jeremy Wallace's blog this morning, that's the attitude I take in reading that the GOP-leaning Strategic Vision poll asked registered Republicans who they would pick in a race between Florida House Speaker Allan Bense and Congresswoman Katherine Harris. Harris was the easy winner with 59 percent. Bense earned only 13 percent, with 28 percent undecided.

No great surprise there. Anyone in Florida who follows politics knows who Katherine Harris is. Ask them who the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives is, and that's another story altogether. Just remember, in politics, things change quickly.

Wallace writes that Harris is planning a big rollout for her upcoming Senate campaign next month, with Bense only saying that he would make a decision on wheather to run soon.


The continued legal wrangling over volume issues at Tampa's Ford Ampitheatre has caused one major concert to change venues.

The "Anger Management 3" tour, which features hip hop/rap superstars Eminem and 50 Cent, is moving to the St. Pete Times Forum one day after a judge's ruling that the ampitheatre and owner Clear Channel Entertainment are not exempt from sound regulations.

The outdoor venue has been the source of an ongoing legal battle between Clear Channel and the Hillsborough County Enviromental Protection Commission along with it's neighbours, who have complained that sound coming from the ampitheatre is too loud and annoying. CCC had attempted to claim soverigen immunity, as it leases the land from the Florida State Fair Authority, but the claim was struck down Monday.


Congratulations to Samuel Bennett, a fifth grade teacher at Garner Elementary School in Winter Haven, who was named Florida's Teacher of the Year last night in a ceremony held at Orlando's Hard Rock Live.

Mr. Bennett, who is best known at the school for not only reading stories, but dressing up as characters such as Dr. Seuss' Cat In The Hat or Captain Hook, also started a Single Parents Association support group after realizing that many of the students are from single parent families. He has been at the northwest Winter Haven school for four years.

Florida's new Teacher of the Year won $10,000 for himself, $1,000 for Garner Elementary, and a one year leave of absence to tour the state as the Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education.


Great to have That Florida Blog joining the blogosphere, and the I4J blogroll. Florida seems to have become a hotbed of bloggers, especially in political blogs. My attitude is simply, the more, the better! Welcome aboard!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas is telling those concerned that the likely confirmation of John Roberts as the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court would mean the overturning of Roe -vs- Wade not to least in Florida.

He believes that even if Roberts provides the vote to overturn the 32 year old decision, it simply means that the decision on a woman's right to choose will be fought on the state level once again. In Florida, making abortions illegal would be difficult because of the privacy clause added to the state constitution in 1980 which specifically spells out a right to privacy not done in the U.S. Constitution.

Those opposing abortion could continue trying to chip away at abortion rights through legislation. But this has brought more failures than success, as the courts often block their efforts.

The only way to get a ban is to amend the 1980 privacy amendment. That was done last year when voters approved a parental-notification amendment.

An attempt at an outright ban was considered in 1989 when religious activists contemplated putting a fetus-rights amendment on the ballot.

That was a fiasco and eventually was a factor in Martinez' defeat for reelection.


John Kennedy, the newest columnist in the Orlando Sentinel stable, makes note today of a fundraising push by the Miami-based Christian Family Coalition which ratchets up the tone in favour of it's effort to get an constitutional amendment on the ballot which would ban gay marriages in Florida.

The letter warns against "homosexual extremists in Florida" and assures that if "homosexual marriage is legalized in America," gay indoctrination will occur in schools, gay marriage will be required "in your church," along with a host of other shockers.

The organization's executive director says the language in the letter is accurate and to the point.

Also, the nation's oldest gay civil rights group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is mentioned in the letter as being the "nation's most radical homosexual group".

Hey, I didn't think that working to treat one group of people the same as everyone else and fight discrimination because of one's sexual orientation was so "radical".


Thanks to Mark Lane at FlaBlog for the heads up about this obvious attempt to intimidate the media.

Seems as though Pensacola News Journal columnist Mark O'Brien wrote a piece last month noting that while he --- as many of us --- enjoy the usually lower prices found at Wal-Mart, there is a downside.

Mark discovered some interesting facts from the current best selling book The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Such as the fact that more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees are in a Georgia health care programme which costs taxpayers there nearly $10 million a year. And the fact that a New York Times report found that 31 percent of the patients at a North Carolina hospital were Wal-Mart employees on Medicaid.

Mark's boss, Executive Editor Randy Hammer, noted that the point of the column was actually to show that Pensacola was becoming a Wal-Mart kind of town, "cheap and comfy on the surface, lots of unhappiness and hidden costs underneath."

Well, some in Wal-Mart management didn't like Mr. O'Brien's writing, and asked the News Journal to remove it's racks from it's stores and advised that it would no longer sell the newspaper. Hammer wrote that the area manager informed him that "...if I fired Mark, we could talk about continuing to sell the newspaper at his stores."

I like Hammer's closing remarks in his column which ran in Sunday's edition:

When we stop listening to people on the other side of the fence, when we try to silence and even punish people for thinking differently than we do and raising facts and figures we don't like, well, we won't be red, white and blue anymore.
That's why Mark still has a job and you can't buy a Pensacola News Journal at Wal-Mart anymore.

Randy Hammer, I4J salutes you!

Monday, July 25, 2005


Remember Randall Terry, of Christian Coalition fame who made sure he got plenty of camera time during the Terri Schiavo story? In case you may have forgotten, he's running for the Florida Senate District 8 seat against fellow Republican Jim King.

The Daytona Beach News Journal has a piece on Mr. Terry in today's edition.

No comment needed here. Should be interesting, but King is too powerful a guy to face off against.


I don't make the time to watch CBS Sunday Morning much anymore, to my loss. But yesterday morning I was channel surfing when I came across it and saw a wonderful piece about one of my all time favourite singer/songwriters, Carole King.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of pop music knows that Carole and her then-husband Gerry Goffin wrote numerous hits for a variety of groups and singers over the years, and after they divorced she became a wonderful writer on her own.

Sadly, I lost my Carole King LP collection a number of years ago in a fire, but when I hear a number of her songs from Tapestry, Wrap Around Joy, Rhymes & Reasons, or Fantasy I smile in remembering what --- and who --- those songs mean to me.

It was great to see that, at age 63, she is still sharing her wonderful talents with the world. My budget doesn't allow me the ability to purchase a CD often, but I'll have to remind myself to get her new release, The Living Room Tour.

Rather timely for the time of year, but here's a sampling of her great work, a piece from Rhymes & Reasons written with Charles Larkey:

The First Day In August

On the first day in August
I want to wake up by your side
After sleeping with you
On the last night in July
In the morning
We'll catch the sun rising
And we'll chase it from the mountains
To the bottom of the sea

When the day is over
And the night air comes to chill us
You'll build a fire
And we'll watch the flames dancing

You'll fall asleep
With your arm around my shoulder
And nothing will come between us
On the first night in August
The first day in August


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty notes that the Sarasota congresswoman's loyalty to George W. and Jeb Bush cannot be questioned, especially since what happened in 2000 while she was Secretary of State. But he does seriously question wheather that loyalty is reciprocal.

Rufty looks at Mrs. Harris' apparant willingness to put her own ambitions for a U.S. Senate seat off last year in favour of Bush sweetheart Mel Martinez...and the unspoken deal that she could run this year against Bill Nelson. But with appearances that Florida House Speaker Allan Bense is being courted to make the race, deals may be off the table now.


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson knew he was on the hot list for the Republicans to go after as he is seeking reelection next year. But did he know that the opposition would go negative nearly a year and a half before the election?

Nelson appeared recently with senatorial collegue Barack Obama (D - IL) in the historically African-American community of Eatonville. Shortly afterward the National Republican Senatorial Committee began posting items on it's Web site suggesting that Nelson might be easy on sexual predators:

"Nelson Campaigns With Obama -- Does He Agree With Obama's Record Of Lenience On Sexual Predators?"

"Does Nelson Agree With Obama's Refusal To Support Commonsense Measures To Keep Children Safe?"

The NRSC's intent was to "convict by association", as the pieces listed votes that Obama made as an Illinois state senator on issues like sexual offenders, pornography, and adult businesses near schools.

Nelson responded by saying that Florida voters "are looking for somebody that they perceive in the mainstream. That's where Florida is politically. And so naturally your political enemies paint you as someone that is not in the political mainstream."

Republicans have been trying to raise doubts early on about Senator Nelson's record as a moderate, attempting to lump him with some of the more liberal members of the Senate and questioning wheather he can attract support in North Florida, which has become a strong GOP area in recent elections.

Needless to say, the negative tone from the Republican side will only increase, especially if Katherine Harris officially announces her candidacy as she is expected to do next month. They know that they cannot attack Nelson on many issues head-to-head, so character assassination is the way they apparantly know best.


The state had planned to open bids today for two contracts --- one in North Florida and one in South Florida --- with a total of $3.9 million for companies to provide equipment which would use satellite technology to track sex offenders. However, that's been suspended due to a complaint by one company which says the state's changing the bid specifications put it out of the running.

The St. Petersburg Times' Steve Bousquet looks at the situation, which includes Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was murdered earlier this year and brought a great deal of attention to the issue of sexual predators and children, a company founded by former governor Bob Martinez, and the co-founder of the largest private operator of prisons.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Glancing at Betty Parker's political column in Saturday's Fort Myers News-Press, I noticed that Mayor Jim Humphrey's comments at a recent City Council meeting were being slammed for going well "over the line".

In many cases with city and county commissions, nominations for volunteer advisory boards and commissions are handled as part of it's "consent agenda", where a number of generally minor administrative items requiring approval are done so with a single vote.

With the Fort Myers City Council, one of the items on it's "consent agenda" was the appointment of former planning department employee Brian Bigelow to the city planning board. Bigelow is also the gay partner of the commissioner who appointed him, Warren J. Wright, although the two no longer live together.

While in the past commissioner's spouses and family members have been appointed to volunteer panels without objection, Humphrey made note of the relationship in the televised meeting:

"I understand you are in a committed relationship with Mr. Bigelow. If that's so, it surely appears that's a conflict. It would be similar to me appointing my spouse, or another council member appointing his spouse."

While the appointment was rejected as other commission members had other objections to Bigelow's serving, some of those other members felt the mayor had gone too far with his comments.

"I was taken aback by the mayor's comments," Councilwoman Veronica Shoemaker said. "Those kinds of issues should not be an issue. The mayor kind of went overboard on that. There may be other issues with Mr. Bigelow, but that should not be an issue."

"The mayor shouldn't have gone into all that personal stuff," said Councilman Mike Flanders, whose wife was appointed to another advisory board by Mayor Humphrey.

Sounds like Mr. Mayor embarrassed himself in an obvious attempt to humiliate a collegue, and he should apologize.


I originally learned about this programme yesterday morning on a Tampa news show, and the Lakeland Ledger ran a story about it today. It's an interesting idea, and certainly worthy of anyone with a cellular phone...which just about everyone does today.

It's called "ICE", or "In Case of Emergency". The idea was sparked by a paramedic in Cambridge, UK, and asks people with cell phones to program the number of a family member or significant other that they would want to be called in an emergency into their contact listings, simply marked "ICE". The idea is that having such a number readily available, responders would quickly be able to gather and relay important --- and possibly life-saving --- information about an accident victim.

The programme has quickly spread in the UK especially in the wake of the recent terrorist bombings. The International Association of EMTs and Paramedics is still looking into the idea and have not decided to supporting it. The main concern seems to be about relatives rushing off the phone to get to the accident scene, possibly causing another dangerous situation.

Sounds like an idea worthy of discussion, where the positives of getting needed information that could save a victim's life outweighs any possible negatives.


Of course, you hear about all the major candidates for statewide office, usually well financed and well known across the state, but there are always the "other" candidates that you hear little about. They are individuals with usually one primary issue, generally not known even among many in their own areas, and obviously little financial backing. But they have a reason to run, and I thought that here you could learn a bit about them, as well as the major candidates:

DR. PIOTR BASS (Write-In - Boynton Beach) - Professor of Computer Mathematics at Keiser Career College, and previously at Baypoint Schools in South Florida. Ran for U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate last year.

CAROL CASTAGNERO (D - Lakeland) - Retired Teacher. Ran as the Democratic candidate for State Senate District 15 last year, receiving 39.1% of the vote. Issues mainly focus on scrapping FCAT and reigning in DCF.

CHARLIE CRIST (R - Tampa) - Current Attorney General. Former State Senator and Education Commissioner. Former member, Florida Board of Regents.

JIM DAVIS (D - Tampa) - Current Congressman, District 11. Former State Representative. Attorney.

BERNIE DECASTRO (R - Ocala) - Prison Ministry President. Convicted for a series of drug related crimes and spent 18 years in prison but eventually paroled and received a full pardon from then-Governor Lawton Chiles in 1994.

RICHARD PAUL DEMBINSKY (R - Port Orange) - Wastewater Engineer. Ran as a write-in candidate for District 28 State Representative in 2004, running third to eventual winner Dorothy Hukill (R - Port Orange). Highway safety seems to be his issue of choice after an aunt was killed by a drunk driver.

TOM GALLAGHER (R - Miami) - Current Chief Financial Officer. Former Secretary of the Department of Professional Regulation and State Treasurer. Former State Representative.

JAMIE GANNON (Write-In - Orlando) - Bartender/Actor. Acting credits include roles in Roadkill, Voltage, and Cup of Joe. Focusing mainly on highway construction and education.

PHILLIP J. KENNEDY (D - Crestview) - No information found, only that he is a frequent candidate

MONROE LEE (D - Gainesville) - Paraprofessional Designer. Write-in candidate for Alachua County Commission last year. Probably best known for his 1980 Dodge Ram pickup, which is painted with bright designs. Was fined $5,000 three years ago for practicing architecture without a license.

SCOTT MADDOX (D - Tallahassee) - Former Florida Democratic Party chairman. Former Myor/Commissioner of Tallahassee; the first "strong" mayor in the city's history.

WILFREDO PAPA-ROQUI MANEIRO, II (Write-In - Tallahassee) - Filed to run only a month after the last gubernatorial election in 2002. Calls himself the "Voice of the New Generation, Generation X". No information on his background available.

MICKEY RICHARDSON (Write-In - St. Marks) - No information available.

ROD SMITH (D - Alachua) - Attorney. Current State Senator. Former State Attorney. Adjunct professor at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law.

In Florida, the nominees of each party select their running mate after the primary.

JOE NEGRON (R - Stuart) - Current State Representative.

EVERETT RICE (R - Treasure Island) - Former Pinellas County Sheriff. Former State Representative.

BURT L. SAUNDERS (R - Naples) - Current State Senator. Former State Representative, Collier County Commissioner, Collier County Attorney, and Assistant Dade County Attorney.

MILT BAUGUESS (R - Tallahassee) - Investment Advisor; Insurance Agent

CHARLIE CLARY (R - Destin) - Current State Senator and President Pro Tempore. Architect. Former Destin City Councilman.

ERIC COPELAND (D - Miami) - Attorney; Property Tax Consultant

RANDY JOHNSON (R - Celebration) - Current State Representative. President/CEO, Central Florida Sports Commission. Previous Staff Director, Orange County Commission. Previous Director of Staff/Admiral's Aide, Orlando Naval Training Centre.

TOM LEE (R - Brandon) - Current State Senator/President. Vice President, Sabal Homes of Florida.

DENNIS ROSS (R - Lakeland) - Current State Representative. Attorney.

CHARLES BRONSON (R - Tallahassee) - Current Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Former State Senator. Former Reserve Deputy, Brevard and Dade counties. Formerly managed family cattle business.


While the Lakeland Ledger reprints almost word-for-word the editorial that ran last Sunday in the Gainesville Sun (without giving proper credit, so I have to wonder if the Sun copied it from another source with giving credit as well) lamenting the secrecy of the current administration in Washington, they have an excellent guest editorial by Barbara Stampfl, Library Committee Chair of the Polk County League of Women Voters supporting a Municipal Services Taxing Unit to support the county's library system.

The thirst for water in South Florida which has been a major factor in the current Everglades crisis and ideas to divert water from North Florida are of concern to the editorial board at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The Orlando Sentinel is running the first of three editorials on improving Orange County schools, saying the school board there is foolish not to consider the ideas of a blue ribbon panel on education.

In Jacksonville, the Florida Times Union asks local officials to strive for balance between new development and maintaining historical considerations, using the example of the soon-to-be-closed downtown library as it's example.

Florida Today is asking that a study on public boat access to the Indian River Lagoon not overlook enviromental considerations.

Enviromental issues also are the focus of today's editorial in the Miami Herald, which agrees that beach renourishment is a fact of life in Florida, providing a boon to tourism as well as a buffer against storms.

The Fort Myers News-Press agrees with Circuit Judge James Seals, who is in charge of the 20th District Court's Dependency Court and is working to change the tradition of secrecy in the system.

The Gainesville Sun editorial deals with Florida's soon-to-begin Pre-K programme, noting the fact that only about half of the 150,000 four year olds expected have been signed up.

Collier County's Enviromental Advisory Council is still needed, according to the Naples News. The volunteer panel has come under fire for seemingly dragging it's feet on reviewing a major development plan by one of the area's biggest builders.

There is much we can do to protect ourselves from the growing threat of identity theft, which is the subject of today's editorial in the Ocala Star-Banner.

Predatory contractors and their slave labourer practices in farming camps across Florida are the concern in the St. Petersburg Times, which calls for state and local authorities to be more vigiliant in protecting low-paid labourers, many of whom are homeless or mentally ill.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board's ratings for video games is called into question by the Palm Beach Post in the wake of a recall of the popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas by many stores after the ratings panel changed it's rating from "Mature" (for players 17 and older) to Adults Only.

The Tampa Tribune supports a move to increase property taxes in Temple Terrace by one mil to finance a major downtown redevelopment project.

The International Olympic Committee's decision to scrap women's softball and men's baseball after the 2008 Bejing games is lamented today by the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Up in the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal believes the state education bureaucracy should not slam the door on local school districts cost effective ideas for meeting mandates, but work with them to meet students' needs.

And the Tallahassee Democrat calls for more regional collaboration .

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Thanks in advance to Dave at spacecoastweb: blog for posting this interesting information!

Seems as though the USA and Ireland signed an agreement last week which, although the Department of Justice insists it simply updates existing caveats, goes much further than previously.

Under the new agreement, according to this story in the Irish Examiner newspaper, US investigators --- including CIA operatives --- would be allowed to:

--- Interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy.

--- Ask Irish authorities to track down people in Ireland.

--- Transfer prisoners in Irish custody to the USA.

--- Carry out searches and seizures on behalf of the US government in Ireland.

And it would allow US authorities access to an Irish citizens' confidential bank information. All this must be kept secret by Irish authorities if requested to do so by the US.

Irish Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform Michael McDowell said that "the international community must do everything it can to combat terrorism with every means at its disposal...Ireland will not be found wanting."

The agreement was condemned by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, saying it appears to go even farther than what has been agreed to between countries of the European Union.


It looks as though new Florida Democratic Party chairperson Karen Thurman is making changes in the Tallahassee headquarters.

Reports are that the new party executive director will be Luis Navarro, who is probably best known as the former National Political Director for Service Employees International Union. His salary will reportedly be $180,000 plus benefits annually.

Navarro served as national political director of the John Kerry presidential campaign until he resigned to join the action group America Coming Together. He has also held positions as regional coordinator for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, voter file director for the North Carolina Democratic Party, and administrative assistant to Representatives Vic Fazio (D - CA) and Albert Wynn (D - MD). Mr. Navarro currently holds a seat on the board of Democratic Gain. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in --- what else --- Government and Politics.

Navarro replaces Paige Carter-Smith as Executive Director under former chairman and now gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox. Ms. Carter-Smith now serves as chair of the Leon County Democratic Party.

UPDATE (Saturday, 23 July): Mr. Navarro's appointment as Executive Director was officially announced Friday, as expected. And while his salary turned some heads among the party loyal, his background and expertise in the "big leagues" will hopefully make it worthwhile.

Thanks to Mike at Florida News for giving us the reminder that Mr. Navarro was one of five authors of "The Crossroads Memo", which was written for The Coronado Project, a programme which calls for a new Democratic strategy which explores the voting potential of the growing Hispanic population, especially in the South, Midwest, and Southwest. The link to "The Crossroads Memo" presents the document in full, and is good reading...on Robert C's suggested reading list, as a matter of fact. However, if time and patience is limited, Mike includes the key points of their summary.


There is an excellent article by Victor Manuel Ramos in today's Orlando Sentinel that looks at the problems Hispanics who want to achieve election to political office face throughout Central Florida, and in many cases the same issues that prompted the federal Department of Justice to bring Osceola County into court are seen elsewhere in the region.

This week the DOJ sued Osceola County seeking to change it's at-large election of county commissioners, claiming that it illegally dilutes the voting strength of it's 35 percent Hispanic population and makes it unreasonably difficult for Hispanic candidates to be elected. Speculation is that Osceola's county seat, Kissimmee, may be the feds' next target; it has a Hispanic population of 46 percent.

Some of the issues brought up in the article are:

--- Lack of biliugual ballots. The Hispanic population of most counties in Central Florida is above five percent, which is the federal trigger for requiring bilingual ballots in a minority community's primary language. Presently only Orange and Osceola counties offer bilingual ballots, and Osceola only did so after a previous threat of litigation by the DOJ. Most counties are apparantly waiting until after the 2010 census.

--- At large elections. Generally makes it difficult for minorities to be elected to office. It's legal, as long as it doesn't produce a pattern of discrimination. A number of cities with significant Hispanic populations use such a system to elect city commissioners. Among these are Kissimmee, Apopka, Casselberry, and Pierson.

--- Very low Hispanic voter registration. That speaks for itself, especially in communities which have high Hispanic populations. You can't expect representation if your people don't register and vote! That's the case with any community. While one definate issue is that citizenship continues to be an elusive factor for a number of migrants, especially Mexicans, the percentage of eligible voters who actually register overall is also low.


While the apparant honeymoon continues over President Bush's nominee for the United States Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, Jr., his wife's activities are attracting much attention among those groups active in the debate over abortion.

The New York Times reports this morning that Jane Sullivan Roberts, a Roman Catholic attorney from the Bronx, has been doing pro bono work for an anti-choice group known as Feminists For Life. The story says that according to the organization's president, Serrin Foster, Mrs. Roberts sought them out about a decade ago and offered her services as a lawyer.

Mrs. Roberts served on the board of the organization for four years, and later provided legal services. Ms. Foster said that as an adoptive parent, Mrs. Roberts made contributions that included urging the group to focus more on the needs of biological mothers, and adding a biological mother to the board of directors.

Ms. Foster said Feminists for Life was committed not only to ending abortion, but also to making it "unthinkable" by providing every woman with the assistance she needs. Reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, is a goal, she said, "but not enough."

Senator Edward Kennedy (D - MA) was quoted at a Friday breakfast meeting with reporters that Mrs. Roberts' work "ought to be out of bounds."


As everyone knows, New York Times reporter Judith Miller (A Pulitizer Prize winner, BTW) has spent the past two weeks in jail for failing to refusing to testify before a grand jury and prosecutor who wanted to know who her sources were in connection to the Valerie Plame leak case.

Lucy Morgan of the St. Petersburg Times knows the feeling, to an extent. While she didn't spend a day or night in jail, she was threatened with imprisonment in November, 1973 when she didn't reveal the sources of a story she had written. Bail was posted, and the Times appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Three years later, the jail sentenced was overturned, a limited privilege for reporters was established.

Ms. Morgan believes that, in her NYT collegue's case, a little advocacy is in order.


A really great article appears in this week's Weekly Planet, written by Mitch E. Perry. It deals with the current condition of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party and wheather it can recover. A lot of the story deals with dissention among the ranks within the Democratic Executive Committee there, much of it aimed toward Chairwoman Janee Murphy.

But friends, the problems not only in Hillsborough County, but throughout much of the state, goes much farther than personal conflicts and backbiting. While such behaviour certainly breaks down the local organization and it's effectiveness, it's only part of the overall problem that we must begin now to resolve or ignore to our continued peril.

The county Democratic Executive Committee is supposed to be the LOCAL voice of the Party, concentrating on local issues, recruiting and supporting candidates for local office, and raising funds to provide that support. Too often I've seen much of the attention and support focused on national issues and national candidates at the local level, to the eventual downfall of many good candidates for county commissions, school boards, and other local offices.

It is certainly good and proper for the local party organization to serve as the grass roots voice to inform people about national issues such as the need to protect Social Security, the need for Karl Rove to be fired and/or prosecuted (preferably both), expressing our concerns about SCOTUS nominee John Roberts, Jr., and to begin preparing to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. But we must begin focusing more on issues that directly affect our local citizens such as unbridled development and it's effects/consequences, the need to provide good, clean schools and the tools necessary to provide our young people with a quality education, the need to insure that our lower income and senior citizens have access to good health care at a reasonable cost, and insuring that our community can know about and celebrate the accomplishments that members of every segment of the community have made to it's quality of life...without being targets of official discrimination or disdain.

We must also get involved in so-called "non partisan" races such as those for school boards and city commissions. In many areas local Democratic party organizations have "played by the rules" and not aided Democrats and progressives who have run for those offices. Certainly, our opposition has continued to provide assistance and support to their candidates there, and as a result over the past several years right wing idiologues have basically had a free pass to win election. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I'm sure I'll have more on this later...


I LMAO when I heard this story on radio after work Friday, and had to investigate it further to insure it was the real deal. Sure enough, it's an honest story.

Seems as though Austrian professor Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, considered to be a top lung specialist in the European country, has suggested that people who pick their noses are generally healthier, happier, and better in tune with their bodies. Not only that, but the good doctor says that society should take a new attitude toward nose picking...and get children to take it up.

Now if you thing THAT's something, Dr. Bischinger says that people who eat their boogers is actually healthy for you.

"And eating the dry remains of what you pull out is a great way of strengthening the body's immune system.

"Medically it makes great sense and is a perfectly natural thing to do. In terms of the immune system the nose is a filter in which a great deal of bacteria are collected, and when this mixture arrives in the intestines it works just like a medicine.

"Modern medicine is constantly trying to do the same thing through far more complicated methods, people who pick their nose and eat it get a natural boost to their immune system for free."

Edmonton Sun columnist Mike Jenkinson takes this story and runs with it in a hilararious piece.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Some big names in rock/pop music are coming to Imperial Polk County, and if you're a fan you want to make plans now.

Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult will play The Lakeland Center's Youkey Theatre on August 27. Neil Sedaka will play Cypress Gardens Adventure Park tomorrow evening. Pat Benatar and husband/guitarist Neil Geraldo will be at the Winter Haven park August 13, with Hootie and the Blowfish there on August 20.


The Polk County Opportunity Council, which operates the Head Start and other assistance programmes to Polk County's low income citizens, had to acknowledge Thursday that it's Executive Director, Carolyn Speed, violated federal rules when she purchased a $16,232 Canon copier on a no-bid contract and then accepted a trip to Las Vegas --- including a free spa treatment and Cirque de Soleil tickets --- all on Canon's coin.

Speed, who has been working without a contract since the end of June and is on a month-to-month basis presently, approved three other no-bid contracts during the past year totalling $28,000. And PCOC billed Head Start $150,000 for hurricane damage at a Head Start centre parking lot in Bartow --- work that at least one person said could be done for much less --- and $90,000 for two undamaged portable classrooms in Medulla.

Only earlier this week, the board chairman was smothering Speed with praise, and was saying that she should have a new contract within two months.

"While she's running the agency, we're very supporting of her," Ozell Wilson, the chairman of PCOC's board, said Wednesday. "She's done an outstanding job."

But will she be disciplined in any way for this lack of judgement? That is the question.

According to the story in today's Lakeland Ledger, PCOC has until the end of September to answer and resolve 14 issues primarily regarding lax financial safeguards and procedures in how it runs the federally funded Head Start programme. If the Feds don't like what they hear, they could strip PCOC of it's Head Start programme and the $7.5 million in annual funding...which is the vast majority of the agency's budget. So far, the Ledger reports that PCOC has resolved five of those issues, including it's willingness to have more than one official sign off on some financial transactions.


It seems like...another week, another tropical storm or hurricane. Thankfully, Tropical Storm Franklin should'nt be much of a threat.

The rather ragged looking storm is located off Florida's east coast near the Bahamas, and is expected to gradually make a northerly and then northeasterly turn over the next couple of days.

Of course, folks from the Space Coast through the Carolinas are keeping their eyes out on this storm. Although it isn't expected to gather much strength, sometimes these things are predictable. Mostly, though, a little extra breeze and maybe a better chance of rain for a couple of days.

Let's hope things quiet down for awhile in this area...

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Currently, the 13th Congressional District seat is held by former Secretary of State and now U.S. Senate wannabe Katherine Harris. Who will follow the "Queen of Darkness" into that seat promised to be another hot Democratic primary between Sarasota attorney/author Jan Schneider and retired banker Christine Jennings...but I don't know about that now.

It's still early, but already Jennings has a serious lead when it comes to fundraising. In the first six months of campaigning, Jennings has a war chest of over $130,000 --- including contributions from last year's Democratic president candidate Senator John Kerry (D - MA) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D - CA) --- while Schneider says she has not really begun raising funds yet, with a campaign fund of $145. Ms. Schneider tells the Sarasota Herald-Tribune's Jeremy Wallace that she has been concentrating on meeting with groups such as seniors and veterans to learn more about their issues, and last Friday providing free legal advise to residents of a public housing complex.

Wallace's headline "Schneider: No Time For Politics" seems to question her seriousness of seeking the office, and her lack of work to raise money to this point, quite frankly, makes me wonder as well. In politics, for better or worse, you've got to get the financial support to insure that your message gets out to those whose support you need to get elected. I have to wonder how much longer Ms. Schneider will remain in this race.