Wednesday, August 31, 2005


With oil production shut down in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of Hurricane Katrina, gas prices have already taken a big jump within the past 48 hours.

CNN noted this afternoon that in the Atlanta area, unleaded self-service prices reached $3.55/gallon in some places, and one expert is saying $4.00/gallon is not out of the question soon. Meanwhile, President Bush's decision to authorize making petrol available from the nation's strategic reserves caused prices for sweet crude for October delivery to drop $1.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange to $69.55/barrel.


Mike Thomas in today's Orlando Sentinel makes some excellent points on the lessons we should learn from the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.

1) When authorities say you should evacuate, DO IT!

"If you can get out of Harrison County, get out of Harrison County." That quote was made early Sunday by the county's emergency management director, Joe Spraggins. A number of people simply failed to heed the warning, and more than 100 people have reportedly lost their lives as a result with many more expected to be found. And, of course, there are thousands in New Orleans that are wishing now that they had left when they had the opportunity.

Mr. Thomas writes:

Ironically, Mississippi had been conducting a survey about hurricane evacuation. This came about because fewer residents had evacuated for Hurricane Dennis in July than had evacuated for Hurricane Ivan last September.

Neither storm hit Mississippi, setting up the classic cry-wolf syndrome.

The survey contained bad news for officials trying to get people to evacuate before Katrina.

" . . . the general public is very tired and weary of evacuations," Robert Latham, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said Friday. "We are worried many people will not evacuate.

"Disaster officials are in a huge bind. If they evacuate early enough for everyone to get out, then that gives the storm time to change track and go elsewhere. If they hold off, then that doesn't give people enough time to go elsewhere.

Friends, there is a reason why even voluntary evacuations are issued. It's to give residents time to get out, because there is a probability that dangerous conditions will affect an area.

2) Officials and developers need to be responsible in planning new projects.

While people like the idea of living along the coast, Mike notes that:

Hurricanes run in cycles, and we have entered a stormy phase. More and bigger hurricanes are predicted in upcoming decades. The sea level is rising, and shore lines are receding, making them all the more dangerous.

Meanwhile, coastal development is booming, putting more people in harm's way. Katrina was not a freak storm. It was a harbinger.


Of course, the national news media is all over what is going on in the aftermath of the hurricane. But usually the best option is to hear it from the people who bring you the news every day in the affected region.

Many of the radio and television stations in the hardest hit areas are, obviously, off the air due to the damage to their facilities or lack of power. However, there are a few broadcasters who are reporting on what's going on in their area. Please understand that live coverage may not always be available. Here's a few:

WWL-TV 4: New Orleans, Louisiana's CBS affiliate. Generally considered by many to have the best hurricane coverage in the region and has a long tradition of excellence in that area. The anchors have been operating from studios in Baton Rouge borrowed from Louisiana State University since early Monday due to lack of power and threat of water to their French Quarter studios.

WAPT-TV 16: Jackson, Mississippi's ABC affiliate. Click on "Live Video: Katrina Coverage" slightly under the "Lead Story" banner on the left side of the page.

WJTV-TV 12: Jackson, Mississippi's CBS affiliate. If their news set looks slightly familiar, it's owned by Media General, which also owns Tampa Bay's WFLA-TV 8.

WTOK-TV 11: The ABC affiliate in Meridian, Mississippi. Scroll to near the centre of the page and click on "Hurricane Katrina Live Coverage".

WKRG-TV 5: Mobile, Alabama's CBS affiliate (Windows Media Player)

WDSU-TV 6: NBC's affiliate in New Orleans, Louisiana

And how is the story playing out beyond the US?

CTV (Canada): Click on "CTV News with Lisa LaFlamme for Tuesday, August 30, 2005" link on the top right corner of the page.

ABC (Australia): Click on "Related Video" link on the top right of the page.

BBC (United Kingdom): On the right of the page, click on "Video and Audio" link slightly under the "Hurricane Katrina" sub-banner. There are several options for reports you can view, including one from when Katrina struck South Florida last week.


Officials are saying that the 30,000-plus New Orleanians who had been sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome and nine other "shelters of last resort" during and after Hurricane Katrina will be taken to Houston, with the 40-year-old Houston Astrodome serving as their shelter.

With conditions worsening, and the Superdome becoming more dangerous with no electricity, water, or sewer and toilets backing --- in addition to the holes in the roof --- Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said she wants to have the city of New Orleans completely evacuated within two days.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas officials are also in discussions with Jefferson County officials about using Beaumont's Ford Center for longterm shelter.

The Astrodome's schedule has been cleared through December, and Harris County, which operates the domed stadium which formerlly was home to the Houston Oilers NFL team and Houston Astros baseball club, will be reimbursed by FEMA.


When something like Hurricane Katrina strikes, it affects everyone regardless of fame, wealth, or position. That became very clear over the past couple of days.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Packers quarterback Brett Farve learned Tuesday that his mother, brother, and other relatives survived, spending Monday night in the attic of his mother's home in the small Hancock County, Mississippi community of Kiln after it filled with water. They were able to escape Tuesday to another relative's home after the water receeded slightly. His mother's home was destroyed and will likely have to be bulldozed. Farve has still to make contact with his wife and children who live just outside Hattiesburg, about 70 miles inland from Kiln.

Congressman Gene Taylor (D - MS), who represents much of south and coastal Mississippi, lost his home in Bay St. Louis, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. He knows first hand about search and rescue as a veteran of the Coast Guard, skippering a vessel and receiving two letters of commendation --- one for the Commendant of the USCG --- for actions during his service.

And Senator Trent Lott (R - MS) lost his family home in Pascagoula. He also has a home in Washington and his wife owns a residence in Jackson.

And bits of history are now gone forever. Beauvoir, the final home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis located just off the beach in Biloxi, was virtually destroyed. The home was built in 1854 and has withstood numerous hurricanes, including 1969's devestating Camille. "It now has been reduced to rubble and the frame of a house", the Clarion-Ledger notes.

While much of the media attention is, understandably, focused on the coastal communities which were hit hardest, the destruction is felt even in Hattiesburg, nearly 90 miles inland. The city of nearly 40,000 people has suffered widespread damage and is virtually shut down, and some are saying that even there it could be as long as two weeks before power could be restored. The Hattiesburg American notes that there has been looting there as well, and police departments from other areas have been assigned to back up local law enforcement and secure the city. The major medical facility, Forrest General Hospital, is reportedly running low on water and is rationing food and has closed it's doors to only patients, staff, and families. The other local hospital, Wesley Medical Centre, is running normally except is not scheduling surgeries.

I've been getting some of my information from, of all places, a sports board. Eagle Talk, normally filled with excited comments in anticipation of the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles' football season, is instead filled with messages of information, questions, and concern from posters from throughout the Southeast and beyond.

One excerpt from that board:

From "USMCane", who stayed in Hattiesburg until after the storm passed, then escaped to Natchez:

Monday morning right at 8:00 we lost power. About 10-11ish, the weather started to pick up drastically. At about 12:15, we started to hit the eye wall. This storm's power was AMAZING! I can't even begin to describe the power of this storm. After a long morning, i was finally able to get out of my apartment at about 3:30 or 4:00.

We soon went for a short ride around Hattiesburg. The destruction was devastating. Muggshots, Stricks, and Crecent City (popular restaurant/bars) all have very severe damage. Trees are down EVERYWHERE. WDAM (Laurel/Hattiesburg's NBC affiliate) reported that the best case for restoration of power in Hattiesburg is 2 weeks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


While Pensacola didn't feel the full brunt of Katrina, it certainly did get some of it's effects. With wind gusts measured as high as 69 MPH, there were some reports of flooding, and an estimated 70 percent of electric customers in Escambia County were in the dark.

Pensacola Beach Blog gives a perspective of what it was like.


Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat noted Monday that more than 31,000 financial disclosure forms have been sent to various state and local government officials from the Florida Commission on Ethics, and Thursday is the deadline for the information to be returned. As of late last week, 653 people had failed to do so, and after Thursday face $25-a-day fines.

Form 1, which most of the affected state employees file, does not require disclosure of income amounts. It's just a list of real property, secondary sources of income - like major customers and clients of any outside businesses - along with types of investments and liabilities an employee holds.

Form 6, filed by elected officials and major appointees, goes into a lot more detail, with dollar amounts and net-worth requirements.

And what does the Ethics Commission do with all this information? Not much. It just keeps the forms on file so any citizen can look at it. Chances are, nobody will.

But knowing it's out there can keep people honest. As they say around the Capitol, sunshine is the best disinfectant.


While Hurricane Katrina did not directly affect Central Florida with winds and rain, she is certainly having an effect in other ways.

The Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that the city-owned electric utility is low on the natrual gas burned in many of it's generators, and that the two natrual gas pipelines into Florida which run from Mobile Bay, Alabama are stingy with supplies. Lakeland Electric has reportedly purchased gas from Texas which should arrive today, but customers are being asked to conserve electricity.

The utility has 11 large volume customers who receive a discount for their willingness to purchase expensive power or to be shut down during power shortages. Those 11 customers received a scare Monday when they were informed that their service would be shut down, but were spared with Lakeland Electric was able to purchase power for them from Florida Power & nearly four times the normal cost. Those 11 customers will bear the cost of nearly $400 per killowatt hour.

Lakeland Electric is already one of the highest priced utilities in Florida, and that issue is promising to be the centre of the municipal races here this year.

Meanwhile, some people interviewed by the Ledger are predicting higher prices at the gas pump as early as this weekend due to Gulf of Mexico oil drilling being halted as a result of the storm. One person interviewed predicted $3.00 per gallon by this weekend. It may not be quite that significant a hike, but it's coming regardless.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Covering the devestation of Hurricane Katrina has reporters working beats they don't usually cover, and in some cases reporting for sister media outlets.

Betty Parker, whose normal area of expertise is political columnist for the Fort Myers News-Press, has been reporting on Katrina's wrath for parent company Gannett's Mississippi newspapers, the Hattiesburg American and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Her story on effects in my home area of Hattiesburg were noted as being covered "from outside the region because telephone and e-mail service have been disrupted". I'm sure she is only one of a number of staffers from throughout Gannett's nationwide chain of papers sent to back up local reporters in the affected areas.

I have a number of family members in the Hattiesburg - Laurel area of southeast Mississippi, and it's fustrating to try to get information from that area. There are no television or radio stations in the Pine Belt that offer streaming audio (and most of the stations would be off air anyway due to power outages), and while the American is doing as well as can be expected, information is slow but to be expected considering the circumstances. Katrina's centre passed very near Hattiesburg earlier this afternoon.

I hope they're OK.

And speaking of reporters covering the storm, here's a link to an interesting piece written by Executive Editor Keith Magill of the Houma Courier in Louisiana. Just one example of how a weekend can change soooooo much sooooo soon.


While much of the attention regarding Hurricane Katrina is centered on New Orleans and it's surrounding area, the now Catagory 4 storm is having it's effects felt in Florida.

Emergency management officials have ordered mandatory evacuations of low lying areas in the Big Bend area of the Panhandle, affecting coastal residents of Taylor, Franklin, and Wakulla counties.

The National Weather Service had predected 5-to-8 foot storm surges related to Katrina at high tide early this morning, which would be nearly comparable to that experienced during Dennis.

The death toll from Katrina has now reached a total of ten. In addition to seven who perished when the hurricane struck southeast Florida Thursday, three residents of a New Orleans nursing home apparantly died Sunday while being evacuated on a school bus to a Baton Rouge church. Many on the bus were determined to be suffering from dehydration. The normally 1 1/2 hour trip between New Orleans and the state capitol took several hours as traffic was in near gridlock.

And the storm will certainly have an effect on what you pay at the gas pump. With more than 40 percent of crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico shut down, U.S. oil prices surged to new records...$70.80 a barrel.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Although Hurricane Katrina is no longer a concern for the Florida Panhandle, we're still likely to feel it's effects through showers and thunderstorms today across the Tampa Bay region from her outer bands.

It's now a powerful Catagory 5 storm with highest sustained winds of 160 MPH, making a beeline for the New Orleans metropolitan area...and it could get even stronger. The last time such a powerful hurricane hit the central Gulf Coast was 36 years ago this month, when Camille devestated Mississippi.

The concern for New Orleans is that much of the metro area is below sea level, and has a complex system of pumps, levees, and canals that protect it. However, a storm with the potential punch of Katrina giving the Big Easy a direct hit would be nothing short of catastrophic that could even make Andrew's effect on South Florida look minor in comparision.

I'm still watching it closely, because my home area --- the Pine Belt region of Southeast Mississippi --- would be in the northeast quadrant, traditionally the most devestating part of a hurricane. And the forecast track puts that area close to the centre as it begins a north-to-northeast curve after landfall. I spoke with my sister who lives near Seminary, slightly north of Hattiesburg, and urged her to leave with family ASAP. She lives in a mobile home, but she feels comfortable as it is tied down rather well and on blocks. Not the best place to be during a hurricane, even one which may weaken before getting that far north. I did urge her to at least prepare with nonperishable food, batteries, ice,
and to be ready for several days without power (she lives in a rural area...real country!).

Those of you who are interested in keeping up with the storm should click on WWL-TV 4, New Orleans' CBS affiliate. It is the only station in the area providing live streaming of it's continious coverage of Katrina. WWL has a long tradition of being the best among media outlets when it comes to weather coverage...and of what I've seen, it's upholding it's excellent reputation.


The current real estate boom throughout Florida has developers foaming at the mouth, and plans are in place for new homes at a pace not seen in over 20 years, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

With about 1,000 moving to Central Florida daily, as many as 70,000 new homes have been proposed throughout the region this year alone. That is causing some concern for people hoping to preserve enviromentally sensitive lands. Included on the list: the basin of creeks and rivers flowing through Osceola County and on to the Everglades; desert scrublands of Polk County; and the watery wilderness of the St. Johns River in Orange and Seminole counties.

The Sentinel notes some of the major developments planned for the region:

Along the east side, the Viera community near Melbourne already has approval for 18,945 homes. Its developer filed a preliminary request in July for an additional 13,279 homes in an area extending to near St. Johns River wetlands.

On the west side, a developer of the Karlton project in south Lake County wants to build as many as 5,000 homes. The community would border the Four Corners area, where development has four counties hard-pressed to provide services.

A much-watched test case for how well growth can be managed are five proposed communities that would fill much of the gap between Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Tohopekaliga in northern Osceola County. Early plans call for nearly 32,000 homes and an extensive road network, a new expressway and a new interchange with Florida's Turnpike.

Some of that area, particularly near the Kissimmee and St. Cloud city limits, already has seen urban invasion. But much of the land remains untouched.

To the west of where Kissimmee Park Road crosses Florida's Turnpike, 7,000 homes are proposed for the Edgewater development.

Today, that landscape takes in pasture, palmetto patches and citrus groves where wild turkeys and sandhill cranes forage. Dirt roads buzz with grasshoppers, and cans nailed to fence posts are riddled with bullet holes.

Of course, we can't prevent growth...but we can control it and preserve areas which are enviromentally sensitive and important so that even the newcomers to our area can enjoy at least part of the reason that Florida is so attractive to them in the first place.


We begin in the Panhandle, where the Pensacola News Journal lauds a site selection committee of a new wastewater treatment plant for it's decision in resolving many of the toughest questions on the technical, enviromental, and some political issues. But it calls on the Pensacola City Council and Escambia County Commission to step up if needed to help pay for the project.

In the state capitol, the Tallahassee Democrat opinion today is to disagree with the state's subsidy known as Citizens Property Insurance protecting those who choose to invest in Florida beachfront property, and that those who do should admit they are high-risk investors prepared to accept the consequences when hurricanes come across the state.

Moving along I-10 east, the Florida Times Union is concerned at Florida's infant mortality rate, which has risen between 2000 and 2002 while the national rate has decreased. Especially troubling is the infant mortality rate for Jacksonville-Duval County at 10.5 deaths per 1,000, significantly higher than the rest of the state and highest among other metropolitian areas statewide.

Rising gas prices is on the minds of everyone, but as the new term begins for colleges and universities, the Gainesville Sun notes the rising price of textbooks and the debate it has sparked. The piece also gives advise for enterprising students to possibly cut their costs.

Down the road, this morning's editorial in the Ocala Star-Banner applauds the NCAA on it's ruling regarding Florida State University's usage of it's Seminole nickname and symbols in postseason championship events. Now it calls on the organization to reverse the policy which caused the firestorm in the first place. The Sarasota Herald Tribune also weighs in on the issue, reminding FSU to ensure that it's depiction of it's mascot is accurate and respectful.

Skipping over to the east coast, economic development in the aviation and space technology industries in the Orlando/Daytona Beach region is the subject of today's opinion in the Daytona Beach News Journal. It touts the key educational link as being Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, and it's proposed 140 acre aeronautical/aerospace research park near it's campus.

Moving along I-4, the Orlando Sentinel laments former State Transportation Secretary Jose Abreu for quietly signing agreements allowing billboards which were technically destroyed during last year's hurricanes to be rebuilt in violation of the federal Highway Beautification Act.

Florida Today makes the point that while the Florida Power & Light rate freeze is welcome news to consumers, it is only a short reprieve and calls for significant change at the Florida Public Service Commission noting that the agency is much too cozy with the companies it is supposed to regulate:

--- Requiring PSC members to be administrative law judges, working under strict judicial ethical codes.

--- Replacing the current nomination procedure, which is now twisted by political contributions and influence.

--- Setting up a truly independent public counsel under the state Attorney General's office, with enough staff to vigorously represent citizens.

Today's editorial in the Palm Beach Post calls on the Florida Commission on Ethics to do a better job in investigating allegations that Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty accepted improper gifts from lobbyists and developers who had business before the board.

The battle continues over oil and gas development off Florida's coast, and this morning's South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial encourages readers to use the Interior Department's public comment period through October 11th to make their views known in opposition to drilling and that the current ban not be lifted.

Just down the road, the Miami Herald calls Florida's greenbelt law "an egregious example of greed and irresponsibility", noting that while the 1959 law was intended to preserve agricultrual and ranch lands, the weak law allowed tax breaks to developers who turned such lands into strip malls, warehouses, and housing. The Herald calls on the Legislature to strengthen the law to truly protect agricultrual land.

I-75 improvements are on the minds of the editorial board at the Naples Daily News, who question the need of an interchange at Coconut Road added as a $10 million "earmarked" addition to the congressional transportation bill.

Redistricting reform is the subject of today's editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, which believes that while one of the three petitions aimed at producing fairer political boundries may be scrapped (it is six words too long per state statute), the other two are still worth fighting for.

And The Tampa Tribune is calling for more concern by policymakers as homeowners insurance rates continue to skyrocket and companies leave the Sunshine State or announce they will no longer write policies for certain types of insurance.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Earlier this month, I noted a Tampa Tribune story that Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee had filed a lawsuit seeking to learn the identity of several sheriff's office employees alleged to have posted messages on, a Web site co-founded by a retired Tampa police officer. Apparantly, Sheriff Gee was unhappy at the content of several posts which allegedly included vulgar references about women, racist remarks, and disparaging remarks about homosexuals.

Sheriff Gee had served subpoenas on the webmasters of the message board to provide the Internet protocols of posters believed to be HCSO employees.

But Circuit Judge William Levens ruled against the sheriff, saying that "It is my belief that the Constitution trumps the rules of civil procedure...Historically, we have had a number of unpopular ideas put out in the mainstream by anonymous writers.'' In his ruling, Levens called it one of the "messy parts" of constitutional rights.

The HCSO says it will appeal.


Wayne Garcia in this week's Weekly Planet Tampa Bay has an interesting piece on what he calls "The Bipartisan Screw Job": Florida's crazy political boundries.

Anyone who questions the need for an independent, bipartisan commission to take over drawing congressional and legislative districts should read this carefully.


Lucy Morgan in today's St. Petersburg Times remembers former Pasco County Circuit Judge and congressman Richard Kelly, who died recently in a small Montana town.

Kelly was a controversial figure as a judge, and ended up serving time in prison for his role in the Abscam FBI sting operation against congressmen who allegedly accepted bribes.

He was 81.

Friday, August 26, 2005


The Polk County Republican Executive Committee, as expected, voted 30-4 last evening to send letters to four of the five county commissioners --- all Republicans --- reprimanding them for tenatively approving property tax increases for road construction and maintainence, libriaries, and parks.

Normally, I would be enjoying the idea of the local GOP taking such a rare move against their own. But in this case, the REC is wrong.

While the size of the tax increase is a bit large --- nearly 30 percent for residents of the county's unincorporated areas, and probably too much of an increase at once --- it represents the first such hike in over a decade. During that time Polk County has fallen seriously behind in building and maintaining the necessary infastructure to handle the amount of growth it has experienced.

This is more than just an issue of money. It's a classic question of what kind of quality of life do Polk Countians want. The improvements and additions to the infastructure which would come about through this increase would not only benefit the vast majority of residents, it will also help attract new business that would also help pay the tab. To quote Microsoft co-founder/Chairman Bill Gates as I did last week:

"It's a positive R and D (research and development) environment and a state where the talent enjoys coming and working there and raising kids in that location."

While politicos love to throw money and tax incentives at businesses to attract companies to an area, Mr. Gates remarks show that a good quality of life --- and that would include good roads, schools, libraries, parks --- shows that an area cares about it's citizens.

Noone likes to pay taxes. But the current situation could have been avoided if the previous commissioners had made the hard decisions in previous years.


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson spoke to a group of about 100 people this week at Manatee Community College, focusing his remarks on opposing oil drilling off the Florida coast and expressing his fustration with rising gas prices.

Sarasota Herald Tribune political reporter Jeremy Wallace reports in his Political Insider blog that Nelson called on President Bush to force oil companies to freeze gas prices as he did following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks so that consumers can have a break at the pump.

Not making any mention of probable Republican challenger Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) during his visit, the Democratic incumbant kept to safe political issues. Nelson also remarked on the price of prescription drugs continuing to rise, the increasing number of uninsured drivers, and his ideas to require automakers to increase fuel effiency.


Hurricane Katrina struck South Florida with a vengence Thursday. While only a Catagory 1 storm, she make a name for herself, with four people dead --- three from falling trees --- and over a million people without power in Dade and Broward counties.

The good news is that after landfall, Katrina made a slight curve south, and the effects of a high pressure system just off the Atlantic coast will keep the hurricane far enough away to only provide minimal effects to our neck o' the woods, and thankfully not nearly the amount of rain as initially feared. The only significant changes made here on account of Katrina is that four Polk County high school football games were rescheduled; one from Thursday to tonight, and three will now be played Monday night.

It looks as though the Panhandle will feel the brunt of Katrina's wrath Sunday/Monday, by which time she should become a Catagory 2 storm. Here's hoping that the folks up there learn from the situation yesterday in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and prepare accordingly. Just another reminder that you simply don't take any tropical storm or hurricane for granted.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


The Lakeland High School Drednaughts football team are good...darn good...last season's Florida 5A champions. But NUMBER ONE IN THE NATION!?!?

That's right! Coach Bill Castle's crew was selected for the top of the USA Today Super 25 prep football teams nationwide. A huge bump up from 18th, which is where the 'Naughts ended their undefeated season last year.

LHS has a winning tradition, with 23 consecutive winning seasons, a 60 game regular season winning streak between 1996 and 2001, and four state championships. Among Drednaught alums in the NFL is Carolina Panthers running back Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ronnie Ghent, and former Houston Oilers lineman David Williams.

Congratulations to the hometown 'Naughts, and best wishes on the upcoming season...which begins tomorrow night (unless Katrina interferes) against Naples.


At it's meeting tonight, the Polk County Republican Executive Committee is expected to send a letter of reprimand to four of the five County Commissioners for favouring a major property tax increase.

Late last month, the commission approved an increase of property taxes by $1 for every $1,000 taxable value to be used for road construction and maintainance. In addition, the panel voted increases for residents living in unincorporated areas of 75 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value for park improvements and 50 cents for every $1,000 of taxable value to be used toward libraries.

The letters of reprimand would go to commissioners Bob English, Sam Johnson, Jack Myers, and Paul Senft. Only commissioner Randy Wilkinson, who was the lone vote against the increases, escapes the rebuke of the GOP committee. All five members of the County Commission are Republicans.

Party chairman and Lakeland attorney Eric Allen declined to use the term "censure" for the letters, saying the word has certain legal connotations. But he noted that many in the REC wanted to express their displeasure over the commissioners' votes. Some citizens have threatened to sue over the increase, which would become final unless two of the commissioners change their minds before a final vote. One conservative radio talk host interviewed a leader of the state organization "Ax The Tax", whose site has included a page for the Polk County issue.

According to the Lakeland Ledger story:

In the draft letter that will be considered tonight, Republicans use the term "tergiversation," which means abandoning one's principals or the act of abandoning a party or a cause.

Tergiversation? That's a new word to me! Gotta start reading the dictionary more often!

Former county Republican chairman Allen Sale said committee members are upset over what they perceive is a change in campaign promises.

Sale said the four ran in 2004 on the promise that they could solve all the problems without raising taxes.

While the amount of the increase seems quite high, Polk County needs to improve it's infastructure to keep up with the area's fast paced growth. Without the combination of the increased property tax --- the first such hike in 11 years --- and higher impact fees for new construction, we will simply fall behind in what is needed to benefit all of our citizens.


Scott Maxwell makes note in his Orlando Sentinel column today that Congressman Dave Weldon (R - Indialantic), for all his conservative politickin', is one rock 'n rollin' guitarist. And September 18, he's headin' to suburban Chicago and will share the stage with one of the most famous pot smokin' liberals in the world of music...Willie Nelson!

Weldon and some House collegues who have formed a band called the Second Amendments, will be playing Farm Aid, the annual concert that Nelson co-founded to help raise awareness and funds to keep family farmers on their land. Among the other artists scheduled to appear: John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Los Lonely Boys, and Emmylou Harris.

Maxwell writes: As for Nelson's politics, Weldon said: "Well, I did have a little bit of concern. But we really do need to support our agriculture, because they're under a lot of pressure from foreign imports."

BTW: Weldon plays bass in the bipartisan band. The other members of the Second Amendments are:

Collin Peterson (D - Minnesota): Guitar, vocals
Kenny Hulshof (R - Missouri): Drums
Thad McCotter (R - Michigan): Lead guitar
Jon Porter (R - Nevada): Keyboards

And supposedly they're fairly good, if this article from the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill is any indication.


According to the St. Petersburg Times, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Marva Crenshaw has ruled in favour of Sheriff David Gee in his efforts to identify HCSO employees who have posted on a message board at, a law enforcement forum. He now has the authority to serve subpoenas to the Web site's operator, take depositions, and attempt to identify anonymous posters.

The sheriff's legal action sought to prevent from posting comments which violates the department's code of conduct, and to identify employees who he said posted false, crude, and revealing messages about the HCSO. Some of the posts allegedly contain racist language and insults toward homosexuals. HCSO policy prohibits employees from publicly criticizing the agency, using profanity or vulgarity in public, and divulging information or making public statements without permission.

However, Crenshaw ruled against Gee's motion to prevent in advance postings to the site, saying that such action would constitute prior restraint which is prevented by the Constitution


An interesting path for Tropical Storm Katrina over the weekend. She is predicted to cross into South Florida as early as tonight, exit the Gulf Coast Saturday, and then instead of a westerly track into the Gulf of Mexico is expected to head north toward the Panhandle. For us here in the Tampa Bay region, that doesn't mean a lot of wind (thankfully) but lots of rain, and more rain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Thou shall not kill.
--- Exodus 20:13

Televangalist Pat Robertson has done it once again, running off at the mouth. During his 700 Club broadcast last night, the political preacher suggested that American operatives "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

“We have the ability to take him (Chavez) out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”

“We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,” he continued. “It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

The founder of the Christian Coalition of America seems to have forgotten a couple of things: First, political assassination has been illegal since President Gerald R. Ford signed an executive order making it so in the mid 1970s. Second, that kinda talk causes one who is claiming to be a minister of the Gospels to lose his or her credibility in that if he has such credibility as a Christian minister remaining after his previous rantings.

Not that I'm a huge fan of Hugo Chavez...I'm certainly not. He readily embraces Communism and has a mutual admiration society with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But Robertson's comments were highly inappropriate. Maybe he should read the Holy Bible a bit more.

U P D A T E: Robertson apoligized for his remarks in a written statement earlier today.

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time."


As I've mentioned here a time or two prior, it has been a very wet summer for some areas of southern Polk County. Several areas around Lake Wales and Frostproof have been suffering from severe flooding caused by record lake levels and extremely heavy rainfall the past couple of months. A number of residents have had to evacuate for the past couple of weeks after water entered their homes.

Jeb! finally declared Polk County a disaster area today because of the situation, following Monday's declaration by the County Commission of a state of emergency. And things could get worse this weekend. With Tropical Storm Katrina threatening to cross South Florida this weekend, Polk would experience the outer feeder bands which mean plenty of rain.

Those folks in South Polk certainly don't need any more grief. As I mentioned here yesterday, some of the homes that have been flooded have also been burglarized, with residents noting the thieves took whatever they could boat out...mostly small appliances.

Keep 'em in your thoughts and prayers.


It's been awfully quiet on the tropical storm front recently, but all of a sudden there's reason to be concerned. A tropical depression has all of a sudden popped up and is almost ready to be named Katrina. The models generally show what would become a tropical storm by later today crossing South Florida by Friday, and eventually becoming a hurricane after it enters the Gulf of Mexico around Fort Myers Saturday.

A Tropical Storm Warning has been posted for the Central and Northwest Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the east coast of Florida from Vero Beach to Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys.

Mustang Bobby...keep your umbrella handy!


The St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz is noting that retired Tampa bank executive Alex Sink is almost ready to join the race for State Chief Financial Officer, the post being vacated by Tom Gallagher, who is running for governor.

Ms. Sink is the wife of 2002 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride. This has apparantly been on the agenda for awhile, but her entry into the race has been delayed due to hip replacement surgery.

She would face Miami property tax consultant Eric Copeland, who entered the race early, in a Democratic primary. Republicans in the race are Tallahassee investment advisor Milt Bauguess, State Senator Charlie Clary (R - Destin), State Representative Randy Johnson (R - Celebration), Senate President/home builder Tom Lee (R - Brandon), and State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland)


Daytona Beach Community College has contracted with an area Christian radio broadcaster, Port Orange-based Cornerstone Broadcasting, to be it's primary news outlet in the event of an emergency for students and staff to learn about closures and other changes. The arrangement allows Cornerstone to use one of the towers of DBCC's television station in exchange for Cornerstone's radio stations to give the school priority in airing information on the top and bottom of every hour in a crisis.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports this morning that the arrangement has caused some concern that during a crisis students and staff would be the captive audience of evangalical preaching and programmes such as Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family.

The City of Palm Coast has a similar arrangement with Cornerstone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Everyone knows Katherine Harris and her pivotal dual role in the 2000 presidential election. Not only was she Secretary of State, she was also co-chair of President Bush's Florida campaign. A little conflict of interest.

Not as many people know Clay Roberts. He was the state election director under Mrs. Harris during the firestorm of controveresy surrounding the election. He has been serving as an executive deputy under Attorney General Charlie Crist, but has is one of six finalists for a new judgeship in the Tallahassee area, according to Orlando Sentinel columnists John Kennedy and Jason Garcia. He was nominated by the Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.


The efforts of the Campaign for Florida's Future to change how political boundries are drawn have run into a snag, according to Joni James' story in today's St. Petersburg Times.

There are three petitions to amend Florida's Constitution. One would create a 15 member commission appointed by legislative leaders and the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court to draw boundries for legislative and congressional districts. Another would require that the panel convene in time to draw new districts in time for the 2008 elections. Those apparantly have no problem.

The third petition, which would require that districts not be drawn to favour any one political party or candidate, has 81 words. State law requires that such initiatives have no more then 75.

Although the language was approved by the Secretary of State's office, before it can get on the ballot it would have to also receive approval of the Florida Supreme Court, and election law specialists say that would likely be where the problem arises.


Was watching one of the area television newscasts last evening, and was really saddened to see just how low some thieving bastards will go.

There are a couple of neighbourhoods in and around Lake Wales that have been flooded in recent weeks, caused by record high levels of the lakes nearby plus the occasional heavy rainfalls that the area has experienced. Some have had to leave their homes; others are sticking it out, dealing with snakes, alligators, fish, and whatever else. Now, they have thieves.

During the past week or so, there have apparantly had cases of burglars cruising up on boats and taking whatever they can carry out, mostly small appliances. Some residents have begun keeping an eye on the neighbourhood, and have said that strangers will enter the area claiming to be fishing...but with no poles or other equipment.

These folks are going through a lot, and to be experiencing this as well...when the predators are eventually caught, they need to serve some hard time.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I enjoy reading the Panama City-based blog Ironknee. Blogmaster Ed Deluzain usually has some very thoughtful posts, especially when it comes to his Catholic faith.

Today Ed notes that he had dinner this evening with a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, who he described as "ultraconservative until recently". He has now come to the belief that American troops should be pulled out of Iraq now.

I probably would not go quite that far, but it is time to begin serious planning on reducing the number of military personnel there. To simply pull up and run now would 1) almost surely spark civil/religious war, and 2) destabilize the region even more than it already is now. I like what Senator Russ Feingold (D - WI) said Sunday on Meet the Press, where he opined that " was time to at least put on the table an idea, get the discussion going, break the taboo and say, 'Look, let's see if we can remove the troops after we succeed with a series of steps by the end of December 2006. Let's see if we can have a target date that will work'."

Interesting to know that even an "ultraconservative" military man can change his belief...


Just read on the Mississippi-based political blog Magnolia Politics that State Representative Jamie Franks (D - Mooreville), who chairs the House Select Committee on Gasoline Prices and Alternative Fuels, is scheduling hearings throughout the state to investigate why gas prices seem to be going up almost daily.

He told the Tupelo-based North Mississippi Daily Journal, "With our powers to investigate and to subpoena and with the attorney general's prosecutorial powers, hopefully we can have an impact. A lot of people said there was nothing that can be done about big tobacco companies. You see what happened to them."

Joe doesn't seem to think that anything can be done on the state level. I tend to agree, but at least they are willing to try to put some heat on the oil companies to explain themselves. Good luck.


Tallahassee Democrat Capitol Bureau Chief Nancy Cook Lauer writes today from Seattle that two Florida legislators attending the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual conference who don't usually agree on much do agree that an independent commission is not needed to redraw political boundries.

Representatives Curtis Richardson (D - Tallahassee) and J. Dudley Goodlette (R - Naples) attended a debate on the issue Thursday at the NCSL gathering.

Richardson's concern is that African-Americans would have less of a voice with an independent commission, and that their number --- currently 22 among the state's 160 lawmakers --- could be reduced. Goodlette, meanwhile, simply said that "I believe the Legislature should continue to establish districts - that's what we're elected to do."

The push for such a commission is led by the Committee for Fair Elections. Among those involved are former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former Education Commissioner and University of South Florida president Betty Castor, former Florida Comptroller Bob Milligan, and former judge and Seminole County Attorney Thom Rumberger. It's a move that I strongly support, because the Legislature has seemed to be more concerned with covering it's own backside and protecting their own positions. Such a body could work well and form districts that would insure as much as possible that all minorities, including Hispanics and blacks, are insured a place at the table.


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty slams the young'uns who are seemingly making some of the decisions on the U.S. Senate campaign of Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) today:

It is perhaps a lesson that inexperienced or untried campaign workers not only should not be allowed to run heavy equipment, but should not be allowed to run the big rigs of a campaign either -- at least until they grow some common sense.

Young campaign workers without life experiences or an understanding of ethics can hurt a candidate worse than all the negative campaigning in the world.

Here's the scene: It is a glorious day to start a senatorial campaign -- sunny day, children, a school. The candidate is touting the virtues of education and the importance of educating our children. Harris is expounding some of the education issues she hit on during her time in Congress and in the Florida Senate. The press, of course, is eating it up.

Then it is over. The camera lights go off, the children leave and a couple of school mothers come out of the school in Manatee County mad as heck.

It seems there was a misperception here.

The school did not give permission for the campaign to use its facilities or its children for Harris' Senate campaign kickoff.

So some bright-eyed, freshly scrubbed campaign worker posed the candidate on the right of way and bused in the children.

A sharp reporter from WMNF radio, who stayed behind, begins recording and taking notes. A Harris staff member says the press misunderstood. Misunderstood? You pose in front of a school with students not from that school and the press misunderstood?

Well, she said when pressed, it wasn't the media's fault. (Glory be).

Rufty reminds anyone considering a run for office of some excellent advise:

But maybe candidates, who ultimately will receive the blame, can begin by making their people repeat that shopworn phrase: "Honesty is the best policy.
"If that doesn't work, how about the following for the staffer in the Harris campaign that came up with the school scam: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first strive to deceive."


The Palm Beach Post reports this morning that Yasmine Drautz spent the night in jail Saturday after laying in some heavy handed blows to the face of her husband, Lake Worth mayor Marc Drautz. She was charged with simple domestic battery, and state records show it was her first arrest. The police reports notes that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.

Marc Drautz was elected in March over longtime incumbant Rodney Romano. He called police at 7:34 PM saying his wife had attacked him and that he possibly had a broken nose. Drautz told officers that his spouse had attacked him twice before. According to the Post report, Nathan Lasseur, a family friend who was present, told police the two had been fighting over their child, yelling, when Drautz told his wife he would not let her see their child anymore. There was some mutual pushing and shoving and then she punched him, police said Lasseur told them.

Sounds like when she talks, he'd better listen and say "Yes, Ma'am" to avoid another Mike Tyson can o'whupass.


Few people know who Dean Cannon is. But in five years, he'll be among the most powerful people in Florida Government...Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. That is, unless death, incredible blunder, or the Democrats regaining control of the chamber occur first.

Cannon (R - Winter Park) has gathered enough pledges from his collegues in the House to become the Speaker in 2010, and the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell has some insights into how it was done.

But the attorney says it didn't necessairly impress his collegues at the law firm GrayRobinson:

But to hear him tell it, when Cannon told the senior partners that he'd won the race, they responded: "Good job. Now get back in your office and keep up your billable hours."

Sunday, August 21, 2005


(Thanks to Florida politiX for the heads up)

State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith (D - Alachua) spoke this past week to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, and some of his remarks were rather interesting considering how early it is in the campaign and that on a couple of questions was unusually blunt.

While he does not mention Democratic rival Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) directly on the stump, he told the Times editorial board that he is better equipped to attract support in strongly conservative North Florida, which has voted overwhemingly Republican in recent elections and that his track record shows he would be a more effective governor.

"I think there's a stark difference in the kind of leadership Rod Smith and Jim Davis will provide," the state senator and former prosecutor told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. "I think that I've made a much bigger difference wherever I've been...I think Jim will follow the exact pattern that Democratic candidates have always followed in this state."

Smith also showed his hand at how he would challenge potential Republican rivals:

When Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, stresses family values, Smith said he'll debate him about how Republican leaders are valuing families when they cut investment taxes for wealthy Floridians while the state ranks toward the bottom of education funding lists, on children covered by health insurance, graduation rates and teacher pay.

When Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, Florida's attorney general, stresses keeping Floridians safe, Smith, who prosecuted serial killer Danny Rolling, says he'll eagerly debate why community policing dollars are being cut and prosecutors and public defenders are not being funded adequately.

To the editorial board, Smith said he can compete with Gallagher and Crist in parts of the state where Republicans are often stronger.

"I don't think that Gallagher and Crist can translate in North Florida like Jeb Bush did and certainly not like George Bush did. They're not seen as two good ol' boys, and that will make a big difference in a part of the state that's been voting overwhelmingly Republican in recent times - despite their demonstrable economic disadvantage," he said. "When you drive through Baker County and you find the only thing new in front of their trailer and besides their broken down pickup is a big W sign, it's amazing to me, when they've just talked about outsourcing the mental health facility there."

One area that Smith may have lost some support with are strong liberal/progressives after they read that he told the Times that he would support Judge John G. Roberts' confirmation to the United States Supreme Court.

"I haven't seen anything that says . . . he is ethically challenged or that he's intellectually inadequate," the former prosecutor said. "Right now, I would have no reason to disqualify him other than I don't agree with positions he holds, and that doesn't drive me in judicial decisions."


Thanks to the Mississippi political blog Magnolia Politics for the picture. He was lamenting that four days prior a station near his home in Starkville was selling gas for $2.25/gallon; as of Saturday it was $2.56/gallon...and there had not been a refueling of the station during the period.

And speaking of the Magnolia State, the Jackson Free Press has a great interview with one of Mississippi's greatest governors, William Winter. He is known as the state's "education governor", and helped bring it across the threshold into the "New South"...quite a feat for a former segregationist who learned the lessons of brotherhood, regardless of race, while in the service of his country in the United States Army.

I consider Winter, now 82 years young and still practicing law in Jackson, Mississippi's equivilant to Lawton Chiles.


I enjoy watching the news on Tampa's NBC affiliate, WFLA-TV 8, but there must be something in the water there, as four of their staffers are "with child". It doesn't seem that long ago when early morning co-anchor Gayle Guyardo was about to give birth, but she's almost ready to have another daughter within a couple of months. Also on that same newscast, their Metro Networks traffic reporter gave birth about four months ago. Now, consumer reporter/5:30 co-anchor Stacie Schaible is also pregnant, as is weekend/substitute meterologist Jennifer Hill, sports anchor Dave Reynolds' spouse Holly gave birth to their first son in March. And the WFLA/Tampa Tribune online presence's Clarisa Gerlach gave birth last week.

Just an interesting coincidence. Congratulations and best wishes to all the families involved. Of course, it'll be interesting what the posts would read like in about 18 years or so when those young, darling youngsters will want to borrow the automobile or go to the late night feature (haha)

BTW: Mrs. Guyardo, Mrs. Schaible, and Mrs. Gerlach are all posting online journals of their experiences during pregnancy.


Tampa Tribune political writer William March looks at Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) and his early efforts in the race to become the next Governor of Florida.

While he is easily the best known of the three major Democratic candidates and has a ready-made base in the Tampa Bay area, his fundraising efforts are only slightly above those of State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua). And early polls, which are little more than a show of the candidates' name recognition, have Davis with a ten percent lead, nearly half of the Democrats surveyed are still undecided.

The article also notes that Smith has been working hard at building support in Davis' backyard, visiting the Tampa Bay area at least once a week for the past three weeks


The Pensacola News Journal notes today that former Panhandle congressman and current MSNBC talk host Joe Scarborough has ended several days of speculation by saying that he would not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Bill Nelson.

It has been widely reported over the past week that some key Republicans have approached Scarborough about possibly running. They are fearful that the only major GOP candidate thusfar, former Florida Secretary of State and current congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota), is still too much of a lightning rod for Democrats and progressives to be a viable contender in next year's election.

Scarborough said he came to the decision after discussions with his family, noting that his return to public life should remain on hold until after his two teenage sons (who are 14 and 17) graduate from high school. His comments in recent days seemingly telegraphed that he did not really have the heart to "take the plunge", specifically noting that he told the Sarasota Herald Tribune's political writer Jeremy Wallace that he was "leaning against" running and that he had met with party officials "out of respect".

That makes at least six Republicans who have been approached and who have turned down efforts to challenge Harris. Retired General Tommy Franks, Florida Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon), Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City), Sarasota businessman/GOP activist Vern Buchanan (he's running for Harris' congressional seat), and Chief Financial Officer/gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher have all reportedly been sought. Congressman Mark Foley (R - West Palm Beach) has also said he has had meetings about his possibly running, and has only said that he would consider the thought.


We begin this morning in South Florida, where the Miami Herald makes note that as gas prices continue upward, energy conservation includes reining in those gas guzzlin' SUVs. BTW: The Lakeland Ledger top-of-the-fold headline Saturday was noting how gas prices in Polk County flew upward an average of 24 cents in one week.

Up I-95 in Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board advises those considering retirement may want to consider ways to stay employed as part of your planning, as Social Security reform has become such a political football.

The Palm Beach Post opinion this morning criticizes a plan which the Palm Beach County Commission will vote on Monday on the guise of "protecting rural character" in proposed development areas of the west county which, in fact, would have the opposite effect such as sharply increasing the area's urban density.

Meanwhile, along the Gulf Coast, the Naples Daily News was short and sweet in it's salute of the news that a toll booth operator in Lee County had been arrested and charged with stealing.

Up in Melbourne, Florida Today notes that as NASA's woes over the space shuttle programme continue, the agency is almost out of chances to reestablish credibility with the public and Congress.

The Orlando Sentinel's editorial looks to Lake County today, opining that with the departure of Groveland City Manager Jason Yarborough and his aggresive pro-growth agenda, it's time the municipality gets a new manager more concerned about it's residents.

Locally, the Lakeland Ledger is in a "told you so" mood today, noting that Polk County officials kept quiet about a moratorium on new building permits in areas of North Lakeland and on issuing certificates of occupancy in five subdivisions because the five-year-old Northwest Waste Water Treatment Plant is near capacity. And the same issues could cause a similar situation in the Bartow area sooner rather than later.

In the St. Petersburg Times, it's editorial looks as the irony of how the InterAmerican Press Association --- an organization which has defended the rights of journalists across Latin America --- has recently sent a support team to the USA concerned about the situation with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, jailed for contempt for failing to reveal her sources in the naming of Valerie Plame.

Meanwhile, the Sarasota Herald Tribune is concerned about the threats to marine life along the Florida Gulf Coast, of which the current red tide problem is but only one.

The Gainesville Sun calls Florida's lax rules on lobbyists the state's "shame", and legislators will, apparantly, have to be shamed into taking lobbying reform seriously during it's next session.

Nearby, the Ocala Star-Banner is hoping that Marion County commissioners will follow through on their promise to be tough on developers as they enter three days of hearings for major changes to it's comprehensive land-use plan.

Looking at North Florida, Jacksonville's Florida Times Union editorial is disturbed by the recent United States Supreme Court decision allowing government to use it's eminent domain powers to take private property for private development, but it's pleased that the decision has launched efforts by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make the decision moot.

The Pensacola News Journal opinion is that the federal Enviromental Protection Agency has apparantly forgotten it's mission in deciding on the cheapest alternative for cleaning a Superfund site near Pensacola, calling the programme now "bankrupt --- both fiscally and morally".

And the Tallahassee Democrat would like to see a return to the strong Chancellor of the state's university system that has been weakened significantally in recent years.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


I should have known better. My son talked me into going to a park north of town this afternoon to watch our neighbour play JV youth football.

Big mistake! It was like freakin' HADES today! And I'm burned to a crisp. The temp was up to 95, with the heat index (feels like temp) around 105 degrees.

Staying inside the rest of the weekend!


Last evening was the Greater Haines City Chamber of Commerce's annual Pig Roast, one of those events which is a "must do" for many area and state politicians. Sadly, I didn't get to go; the $50 ticket was a bit too rich for my po' boy blood, although I hope the barbeque was rather that price, it had better be!

But Lakeland Ledger writer Michael Freeman was there (he's also editor of the Four Corners area's weekly The Reporter, also published by the Ledger), and notes that among those attending were U.S. Senate wannabe and current Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota). In addition to inviting all parties to join her team, the former Florida Secretary of State slammed incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson for not having much to show for during his tenure in office.

"My opponent, Senator Nelson, has been around for 30 years but hasn't accomplished much," she said. "The record shows that his voting record is more liberal than the senators from New York, (Democrats Hillary) Clinton and (Charles) Schumer. That may be fine in New York, but it's not where Florida is."

She may want to look over the record a bit more carefully. Nelson's way more moderate than she wants to give him credit for.

Meanwhile, GOP gubernatorial candidate and current Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher was slamming judges who bypass the judiciary to redefine marriage, saying he would support a ballot referendum defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

And Democratic gubernatorial candidate State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua) focused on education, saying that not enough money was being put into the system resulting in overcrowded classrooms and low test scores.

Smith also provided the quote of the day, regarding his low name recognition:

"When I first got into this race, nobody knew my name. I saw one poll that had me with 4 percent. The problem was, the poll had a 5 percent margin of error."


Fort Myers News Press political columnist Betty Parker reports today that Congressman Connie Mack, IV (R - Fort Myers) and his wife Ann are heading for "The Big D". The announcement was made Friday from Mack's office. No other information was provided, and the statement simply asked that people respect their privacy.


The St. Petersburg Times' Lucy Morgan is enjoying the more comfortable weather and sights of Seattle this week (lucky devil!), keeping an eye on the Florida legislators who are there attending the National Conference of State Legislators. And she heard from one of the most influential businessmen in America --- if not the world --- that tax incentives which local and state leaders love to throw at businesses to relocate to their area is not the main thing that attract tech minds and savvy businesspeople there.

Microsoft chairman/co-founder Bill Gates told the gathering Friday that "K-12 and university education trump all others in attracting new business...It's a positive R and D (research and development) environment and a state where the talent enjoys coming and working there and raising kids in that location."

Sounds to me like an area that puts it's money into good schools, parks and recreation facilities, a good cultrual life, and promotes diversity has a better chance to attract new business than an area which simply throws money at a company in incentives. Maybe our city and county leaders here in Polk County could learn something from Mr. Gates' comments.

The world's most famous college dropout also told those in attendance that immigration restrictions imposed after the 9/11 attacks are affecting the flow of great minds to America. Gates said that the nation needs a balance between the needs of national security and the need to continue the flow of great minds to our universities.

And you know where legislators are, lobbyists will follow...and they're in Seattle for this conference, as Ms. Morgan noticed.

BTW: For those of you who are continiously peed off like I am about all the spam we get in our'll be interested to know that even Bill Gates gets spammed.

"I was offered a college degree on the Internet, and another one offered to pay all my legal costs for a few dollars a month," Gates joked.


The Berkeley, California-based nonpartisan Bay Area Center For Voting Research released a study Thursday which rated the most conservative and liberal cities in America, and you may be surprised at some of the rankings.

The study examined voting patterns in the 2004 presidential election of 237 cities with populations over 100,000. One thing that it showed clearly is that the most liberal cities in America tend to have higher African-American populations, while the most conservative tend to be white, middle class.

Among Florida cities, Hialeah was fourth among the most conservative cities nationwide, with Cape Coral 16th, Clearwater 20th, and Jacksonville at 36th.

On the other side of the spectrum, Tallahassee was 65th among the most liberal cities, Hollywood 73rd, Fort Lauderdale 86th, and Pembroke Pines 89th. Orlando ranked 104th, St. Petersburg 105th, and Tampa 108th.

Miami was, basically in the middle: 120th among most liberal cities, 118th on the conservative list.

The five most liberal cities in America:
1. Detroit, Michigan
2. Gary, Indiana
3. Berkeley, California
4. Washington, DC
5. Oakland, California

The five most conservative cities:
1. Provo, Utah
2. Lubbock, Texas
3. Abilene, Texas
4. Hialeah, Florida
5. Plano, Texas

Friday, August 19, 2005


The Sarasota Herald Tribune's Jeremy Wallace has more to the Joe Scarborough story in his column today. He writes that the television talk host is "leaning against" running for the U.S. Senate, and will go to Washington next week to discuss a possible candidacy "out of respect".

Hey, he simply doesn't have the heart for a campaign now. Just say it! Especially a possible bruising primary campaign that could possibly tear the Florida Republican Party apart and leave the eventual GOP nominee vunerable against Bill Nelson in the general election. And I do take his word for it that he wants to wait until his sons are out of high school. When you aren't there much of the time watching your kids grow up and all of a sudden they're almost gone, you tend to want to make up for what you've lost. You can't really, but...