Saturday, December 31, 2005


One of the byproducts of term limits for Florida legislators is that those ambitious enough to give it a try have to begin running for leadership posts almost before they have moved into their office in Tallahassee.

Thus we may be seeing a showdown between two Polk County Republicans who plan to run for Senate President in 2010.

According to Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty on Monday, State Senator Paula Dockery (R - Lakeland) had originally planned to seek the senate's top office in 2008. However, the numbers were apparantly running against her, and local collegue Senator J.D. Alexander (R - Lake Wales) advised her to drop out and threw his support behind eventual winner Senator J. Alex Villalobos (R - Miami).

Dockery is continuing her efferts toward becoming Senate President in 2010, but now...Alexander is now running as well. From Rufty's column this past Monday:

Dockery is even more effusive about her campaign this time. There is a quiet, behind-the-scenes feeling by Dockery and her supporters that Alexander abandoned her in her run for the post for the 2008 term.

Alexander said he left only when it became apparent to him that she did not have the votes to win and that she would not follow his advice on her election run.

This time, Dockery said, she will make it.

"Yes, indeed I am running for president in 2010," she said. "I am very excited about it and it is very promising."

Left unsaid by either senator is the tension that is building, but both said the campaign will not keep them from working together for Polk County. It is a characteristic that most successful politicians manage: smiles and cooperation on the outside despite any seething going on inside.


It's fairly unusual to have a tropical storm in the northern Atlantic nearly a month after the official hurricane season has ended, but we have one now in Tropical Storm Zeta, the 27th named storm of this already record year.

It apparantly formed late Thursday nearly 1100 miles southwest of the Azores. The storm, with highest sustained winds of only 60 miles per hour, is currently moving northwest with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest or more to the west. Most of the television meterologists are predicting that Zeta will eventually weaken with a couple of days, so the only threat it presents is to shipping interests


It promises to be an interesting new year, to say the least. The job which I recently began is handling customer service calls for a provider with the new Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Plan, which begins tomorrow. The supervisors mentioned prospects of unlimited overtime, something which would normally be rare for our type of work.

Needless to say, I'm jumping at the prospect of mo' money, and plan to be working double shifts tomorrow and Monday --- from 8:00 AM until 12:00 Midnight each day.

I can tell already that there will likely be a lot of calls from a lot of unhappy patients who either received incorrect information or were confused on how the plan works. And I'm afraid that more than a few who identified themselves as "dual enrollees" --- patients who receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits and would not pay a monthly premimum or deductable but only pay a very small amount per prescription --- are not, in fact, dual enrollees but answered in confusion.

Pray fo' me!

Friday, December 30, 2005


All the Sunday talk shows are doing reviews of the year soon-to-be-past with a view into the crystal ball for 2006. Airtimes may be different than usual, as affiliates may choose to broadcast holiday special programming.

ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Terry Moran subs for George this week. The featured guest will be General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The roundtable will include conservative columnist George Will, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Sarah Lawrence College Middle Eastern studies professor Fawaz Gerges, and ABC News correspondents (unnamed)

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: No announcement posted at present.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: Secretary of Health & Human Services Mike Leavitt will discuss the prospects for a bird flu pandemic. Also scheduled: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R - IN), Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D - IL), and former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Senators Mitch McConnell (R - KY) and Charles Schumer (D - NY) will discuss prospects for the upcoming year politically, while Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk and Vanguard Group founder John C. Bogle will look ahead financially. And the roundtable discussion featuring the Washington Times' Bill Sammon, Cici Connolly of the Washington Post, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio.

NBC / Meet The Press: Featuring presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jon Meacham of Newsweek, William Safire of The New York Times, and Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post.


Thankfully, my computer is back home, where it belongs. After an almost month long stint with the "Geek Squad", I got to pick up my beloved machine this evening after work. Therefore, you'll get to read much more on this blog as I attempt to catch up on what I've wanted to say but have not had the access to do so.

I hope your weekend will be a good one.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

From the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 1-20

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


My training ends today, and I begin my regular duties at the new job tomorrow. It's interesting, to say the least, but that means that until my computer is repaired and back home, there may not be any new posts for several days.

With that in mind, I would like to thank everyone who has visited this spot during the past year, and hope that you will make time to visit regularly in the new year. It is my wish that you all have a wonderful holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate, and that the upcoming new year will be filled with joy and good tidings.

I posted this last year, and felt it appropriate that I should do so again. It is the last verse from Greg Lake's 1975 holiday piece, "I Believe In Father Christmas":

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

Saturday, December 17, 2005


And you thought you'd heard it all...

First, Tampa's adult entertainment king Joe Redner "comes out of the closet" (believe it if you will) claiming that he is gay in order to press his court challenge to Hillsborough County's decision barring county government from acknowledging or participating in gay pride events. Redner's announcement is an attempt to protect his standing in the litigation as one who would be personally affected by the county's policy.

Personally, I highly doubt that Redner is homosexual. I had a chance to watch and listen to several interviews he did during the past week on various Tampa Bay area programmes, and he did an excellent job of dancing around the question without specifically addressing the issue of his sexual orientation. But give the man credit for standing up for his beliefs.

Now we hear that Redner's (not to mention most progressives') nemesis on the Hillsborough County Commission, Ronda Storms, is reportedly telling her supporters that she will run for the Florida Senate seat being vacated by Senate President Tom Lee (R - Tampa) who is (I believe) term limited.



I received an interesting e-mail today from Kenneth, who has an excellent idea. Since he asked me to share this with other interested "liberal, progressive, Democratic, or Green bloggers" in Florida, I am sharing this with you here. I'm sure that Kenneth would appreciate hearing from anyone in the Sunshine State interested in becoming part of this endeavour.

Announcing the formation of the Sunshine State Progressive Blogger's Association (the name is debatable at this point and I'm open to suggestions. I do want to use progressive, though, instead of Democrat -- to open it up to a broader community -- and prefer Progressive because I don't want to scare people off -- more explanation as to why that's important below).

I'm inviting all progressive, liberal, Democratic, Green other leftist bloggers in Florida to join this organization which will have the following goals:

1. Community -- Going back to a conversation Mustang Bobby (of Bark Bark Woof Woof fame down in Miami) and I had a while back, this organization would provide a social outlet for leftist bloggers around the state -- a way for us to meet each other and get to know people with similar interests and build a community. This could include meet-ups and conventions.

2. Web presence -- Establish a web site and blog to deal with Florida politics and political issues and would be open to contributions by all members.

3. Media presence -- The organization could be built into a legitimate presence in the Florida media landscape. As an official organization, we could push for press credentials and legitimate access to politicians, parties and interest groups in Florida. We would also focus on getting media coverage of our activities and projects in order to further the goals we are trying to accomplish.

4. The Florida Elections Project -- Establish an online clearinghouse for all information related to statewide and national elections for officials from Florida. Our project could keep an eye on districts and redistricting, liberal, moderate and conservative candidates, media coverage and analysis of various races and districts.

5. Candidate Forums -- As an established official organization, we could attract candidates to come and present their agenda to us in hopes of attracting blog coverage, potential fund-raising and the like. We could also partner with or work with like-minded organizations for a synergy effect, particularly with non-Democratic organizations and youth organizations and help provide a more progressive voice to the politicians of Florida.

6. Activism -- Provide a way for individual bloggers (and readers) to get more involved in important issues in Florida through the sharing of action alerts, news stories and analysis and by partnering with progressive interest groups and parties in Florida for an easier way to share information.

7. Whatever else we can think of, all with the overall goal of moving Florida politics and policies in a more progressive direction.

All of this is debatable, these are just the ideas I came up with off the top of my head or by brainstorming with the wife. Let me know what you think, if you're interested and if you'd be willing to help out, even if it is just in the idea stage. I'm serious about this and I'm going to make it happen, but I need your help and your ideas.

You can check out the earliest version of the website here:

This web site is a wiki that any member can update and expand, while the other part of the site -- the blog -- will be up by sometime this weekend.

This really sounds like a great idea. While most of the mainstream media generally disparages bloggers, our numbers continue to grow and gain influence. Hell, even a number of "mainstream" media sources have gotten into the idea. Just read the St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz sometime; it's one of the best of it's kind anywhere run by a news organization. And politicos have come to see bloggers as a rich new area to spread their message.

I, for one, will do as much as possible to help this new endeavour. While I won't get my computer back until approximately the end of this month (under repair by the Geek Squad), and I'm still stuck with posting from the Lakeland Public Library, count me in.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Thanks to Dave at spacecoastweb for the heads up.

Capitol Hill Blue reported last Friday that during a meeting last month with Republican congressional leaders regarding renewing some of the more controversial portions of the Patriot Act, President Bush copped a first class attitude. From Doug Thompson's report of December 9:

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

Thompson wrote that the outburst was confirmed by at least three individuals who were present for the meeting.

Bush is not the only one who disparages the document which, for nearly 230 years, has been the defining cornerstone of our government. Again, from Mr. Thompson:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says he cringes when someone calls the Constitution a “living document.”

“"Oh, how I hate the phrase we have—a 'living document,’” Scalia says. “We now have a Constitution that means whatever we want it to mean. The Constitution is not a living organism, for Pete's sake.”

As a judge, Scalia says, “I don't have to prove that the Constitution is perfect; I just have to prove that it's better than anything else.”

Interesting to hear such (dis)respect for the document which every federal official --- including the President --- takes an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend".


Thanks to a fellow Polk County DEC member, who forwarded this piece to me today. I thought you might enjoy it:


WASHINGTON --- Congress today announced that the office of President of the United States of America will be outsourced to India as of January 12, 2006.

The move is being made to save the President's $400,000 yearly salary, and also a record $521 billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead the office has incurred during the last five years.

"We believe this is a wise move financially. The cost savings should be significant," stated Congressman Thomas Reynolds (R-WA). Reynolds, with the aid of the Government Accounting Office, has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively. "We cannot expect to remain competitive on the world stage with the current level of cash outlay," Reynolds noted.

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of his termination. Preparations for the job move have been underway for sometime. Gurvinder Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will assume the office of President January 12, 2006.

Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his Indian parents were vacationing at Niagara Falls (The American side), thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month but with no health coverage or other benefits.

It is believed that Mr. Singh will be able to handle his job responsibilities without a support staff. Due to the time difference between the US and India, he will be working primarily at night, when few US Government offices will be open. "Working nights will allow me to keep my day job at the American Express call center,"stated Mr. Singh in an exclusive interview. "I am excited about this position. I always hoped I would be President someday."

A Congressional spokesperson noted that while Mr. Singh may not be fully aware of all the issues involved in the office of President, this should not be a problem because Bush was not familiar with the issues either. Mr. Singh will rely upon a script tree that will enable him to respond effectively to most topics of concern. Using these canned responses, he can address common concerns without having to understand the underlying issues at all.

"We know these scripting tools work," stated the spokesperson. "President Bush has used them successfully for years." Mr. Singh may have problems with the Texas drawl, but lately Bush has abandoned the "down home" persona in his effort to appear intelligent and on top of the Katrina situation.

Bush will receive health coverage, expenses, and salary until his final day of employment. Following a two week waiting period, he will be eligible for $240 a week unemployment for 13 weeks. Unfortunately he will not be eligible forMedicaid, as his unemployment benefits will exceed the allowed limit.

Mr. Bush has been provided the outplacement services of Manpower, Inc. to help him write a résumé and prepare for his upcoming job transition. According to Manpower, Mr. Bush may have difficulties in securing a new position due to limited practical work experience. A greeter position at Wal-Mart was suggested due to Bush's extensive experience shaking hands and phony smile.

Another possibility is Bush's re-enlistment in the Texas Air National Guard. His prior records are conspicuously vague but should he choose this option, he would likely be stationed in Waco, Texas for a month before being sent to Iraq, a country he has visited. "I've been there, I know all about Iraq," stated Mr. Bush, who gained invaluable knowledge of the country in a visit to the Baghdad Airport's terminal and gift shop.

Sources in Baghdad and Falluja say Mr. Bush would receive a warm reception from local Iraqis. They have asked to be provided with details of his arrival so that they might arrange an appropriate welcome.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Was saddened to hear that Richard Pryor passed away over the weekend. I remember listening to his party albums in my teen years (while my parents were out, of course) and laughing at his roles in some of the nearly 40 movies that he played in. I was also unaware that he was one of the writers of Mel Brooks' 1974 classic film "Blazing Saddles". He also helped to inspire many of today's comedians.

I thought that it was classy that at the end of his monologue on The Tonight Show last night, Jay Leno took a few moments to remember his friend and fellow comedian. Richard Pryor will be truly missed. RIP.


One of the best known morning drive radio personalities of recent Tampa Bay history, "Bubba the Love Sponge", has announced that he will be back on the air starting in January. His programme will be heard afternoons on the same Sirius Satellite Radio channel as shock jock king Howard Stern.

"Bubba" was a highly successful --- and controversial --- morning jock for years in Tampa Bay until he was sacked by employer Clear Channel Communications after a then-record $755,000 in FCC fines for indecent content on his programme. He was lured by Stern, the former New York-based "King of All Media", who has control of two Sirius channels as part of his half-billion dollar five year deal.

But two questions remain:

1) How much will satellite radio grow over the next five years? Siruis is banking much of it's financial future on Stern and how successful his two channels will become.

2) Will the freedom that "Bubba", Stern, and company are expecting from their being out of the regular broadcast spectrum last much longer? The FCC and Congress are already looking long and hard at extending their rules on content to cable television and satellite radio. That, of course, would be a disaster for their brand of "shock radio", and would bring them back under the realm of government oversight that they sought to escape.

While I'm not a fan of "Bubba" or Stern, I wish them both well in their new endeavour. And for those who don't like their brand of humour...the wonderful thing about radio and television in America is the wide variety of options available. That's what the tuner and/or the on/off switch are for. The last time I researched, the Tampa Bay radio market alone has NINE religious radio stations, not to mention (I believe) THREE religious televisions stations. Maybe those folks should be watching Benny Hinn or Jim Bakker instead.


It's always great when you are able to get a big name speaker to address your school's graduation class. Polk Community College landed a bit of a coup when it scheduled U.S. Senator Bill Nelson to be the featured speaker at it's winter commencement ceremony Friday in Lakeland.

However, the PCC board was slightly concerned during it's meeting last Friday, according to Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty. It seems that the father of Nelson's likely election opponent, Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota), is George Harris. He is the president of the Bartow-based Citrus and Chemical Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in the area (and one of the only remaining locally owned), and has been a huge benefactor for the community college over the years.

While the board did not believe that PCC President Larry Durrence was playing politics with scheduling Nelson, they apparantly noted that the timing was not great...and suggested that Ms. Harris be scheduled to speak at the spring commencment.

By then, the college will be in the hands of a new leader. Durrance is retiring, and the board unanimously selected Dr. Eileen Holden from eight finalists as PCC's new president effectively in February. Dr. Holden is currently Broward Community College's Vice President of Academic Affairs and Technical Education.


As you may know, my power supply blew out last week. I discovered Monday that it has been shipped to the service centre, and will likely not be returned before the end of the month. Until then, I'll be doing these posts from the library or work.

I certainly appreciate your patience and the good words recently. Please visit often.


Was at Disney's Contemporary Resort over the weekend for the Florida Democratic Party's conference. Of course, I didn't get to hear the featured speakers such as John Edwards or Barack Obama; tickets for the meal events were WAY above my poverty-level budget. But a few thoughts, anyway.

Both the gubernatorial candidates were impressive when they addressed the gathering on Saturday morning. I was especially impressed with State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua), who gave an excellent presentation. Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) was also very good, although his speech seemed to go slightly over the top in a couple of places. Both candidates went all out to get their names out to those in attendance. Officially, though, I am still neutral; I want to hear more from both men before making a decision. I will day that either gentleman would make an excellent governor for Florida.

The other statewide candidate to really make a push during the gathering of party officials and activists was State Senator Walter G. "Skip" Campbell (D - Tamarac), who is seeking the office of Attorney General being vacated by Republican incumbant Charlie Crist. He also spoke well during the session, and hosted a reception during the evening. CFO candidate Alex Sink, although she spoke to the delegates Satuday morning, was mainly "under the radar" with no campaign materials or other presence. Agriculture/Consumer Services Commissioner candidate Eric Copeland also spoke, but was only visible for a time after the session to meet and greet. Neither Sink and Copeland have any primary opposition.

I had a chance to speak briefly with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson during the Campbell reception, and met his lovely daughter. She recently earned her Master's degree from Georgetown University, and I understand is an extremely talented singer. He certainly helped get the delegates excited during his time at the podium Saturday morning.

And Congressman Barney Frank (D - MA) amused and enlightened those in attendance.

While there was not as much to see and do as in previous party gatherings (at least for those of use on very limited budgets), it was a good way to begin the push toward the 2006 mid-term election.

Friday, December 09, 2005


The Lakeland Ledger is reporting this evening that the American Civil Liberties Union and two other plantiffs have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tampa, challenging the requirments to use the so-called "free speech zone" in front of the Neil Combee County Administration Building in Bartow.

The issue was sparked by a Bartow church's Sunday School class erected a Nativity scene without permission. Later a Lakeland radio station placed a display there, and a sign wishing for "Festivus for the rest of us".

Polk County's Board of County Commissioners eventually established requirments for use of the "free speech zone", which includes purchasing a $500,000 insurance policy. Other requirments include no commercial or obscene references, and a 21 day advance notice.

The ACLU was denied permission to place a display on the site because of the insurance policy requirment. Also acting as plantiffs in the lawsuit are the Humanist Association of Tampa and a Lakeland resident.


I'll be spending much of Saturday, and hopefully Sunday, at the Florida Democratic Party conference at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista. It should be an interesting couple of days with the lineup of speakers and statewide Democratic candidates addressing the delegates.

Am working tonight, so obviously unable to be in attendance to hear Democratic National Committee chairman and 2004 presidential candidate Dr. Howard Dean and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D - MD).

On the agenda for Saturday are Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack speaking at the breakfast. Vilsack has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the White House in 2008. Former North Carolina U.S. Senator and 2004 Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards will address the lunch, with one of the brightest Democratic stars on the national scene, U.S. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, featured for the dinner.

In addition to the national notables in attendance Saturday, the general session will feature the major statewide candidates for next year's election making their pitch and (hopefully) getting the delegates' excitement to a higher level. The most anticipated speeches are expected to be from gubernatorial candidates Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) and State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua). There are a lot of undecided Democrats out there, according to many of the recent polls, that Davis and Smith are hoping to impress during the weekend.

Sunday's breakfast will see another possible presidential candidate, Virginia Governor Mark Warner, speaking to the delegates.

Unfortunately, I was hoping to get into one of the training sessions scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but was informed that they are all filled. Was especially interested in the Earned Media and Communications session for two reasons. I am the media liaision for the Polk County Democratic Party, and the description also mentions how to deal with alternative media such as blogs.

I'm looking forward to the event, and will try to have a report early next week.

In the meantime, I'm hoping that the Geek Squad has my 'puter ready this weekend. I had to take it in after the power supply went bad, which is the reason for my lack of posts over the past few days. As the old saying goes, if it ain't one thing...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I'm off the 'Net once again. It seems as though the power supply on my Gateway decided to blow out late Sunday night while my son was surfing, so I have to send the machine out for an appointment with the Geek Squad. It'll probably be a couple of days before we have the 'puter back, so please bear with us.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I didn't get to do this last week because, as you may know, I didn't have an online connection. It's only a dial-up setup now, so it takes a bit longer, but here we are again to check out what the editorial writers across the Sunshine State are thinking about on this first Sunday in December. The holiday season may be on their minds, but it apparantly does not show up in their opinions today...

Starting at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which believes that "New horizions deserve a closer look" as NASA prepares --- pending White House approval --- to launch an unmanned mission next month to Pluto.

As the Legislature prepares for it's special session this week to approve Governor Bush's plan to begin turning over Medicaid to private health management companies in Broward and Duval counties, the St. Petersburg Times says there are other issues that should be addressed, such as writing slot machine rules for Broward County, requiring lobbyists to disclose their fees, and compensating Wilton Dedge, who spent 22 years in prision for a crime he did not commit. As for the Medicaid experiment, the opinion is that the Legislature should not expand the idea without considerable evaluation and further approval.

The Tallahassee Democrat says that special sessions should only deal with issues that cannot wait until the regular session which begins in March, but that the Medicaid reform issue is one that cannot wait.

The Lakeland Ledger editorial deals with the Florida Department of Transportation's removing several major road projects statewide from their plan, citing funding issues. The Ledger calls on the Legislature to either redirect existing money to needed transportation projects, or raise the gasoline tax which was but ten cents a gallon last year.

The Legislature is also on the minds of the editorial team at Florida Today in Melbourne, accusing the Republican leadership --- specifically Senator Daniel Webster (R - Winter Garden) and Representative David Simmons (R - Longwood), who are leading the effort --- of using an effort asking voters to "clean up" the state Constitution as "a bald-faced end run around the will of the people, in service to special-interest fat cats who lavish donations on those who do their bidding." After all, legislators cannot touch the Constitution, but by the electorate approving changing constitutional amendments into laws the body can then change them to fit their will.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune joins in the debate over the use of Tasers by law enforcement officers, saying that police and the public need to know more about the potential health effects on those who the weapon are used on.

Today's Orlando Sentinel opinion is that state and local officials should form a regional land buying authority with appropriate taxing ability to take enviromentially sensitive lands away from the threat of the area's rapid development and preserve natrual buffers around urban areas.

And enviromential issues --- specifically, the condition of Lake Okeechobee and the complexity of solving the problems related to it --- is addressed by the Fort Myers News Press editorial as officials from nine counties will meet this week. It notes that finding answers will be difficult because of the different concerns between coastal counties and those surrounding the lake who depend on sugar farming for much of their economy.

The future of the Social Security programme is the subject of today's editorial in the Tampa Tribune. It slams members of Congress of both parties for refusing to face the realities that the upcoming shortfall of funding demands immediate attention, since they have spent the trust fund intended for Social Security on other issues.

A New York case of a teacher at a Catholic-affiliated school who was fired for becoming pregnant and informing officials there that she had no intention of marrying the father gets noticed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is being championed by the ACLU, and the Sun Sentinel believes that the organization should drop it's challenge, as it notes that the teacher clearly violated her contract requiring her to uphold Church teachings as well as her teacher personnel handbook which spelled out what was required.

The Palm Beach Post offers criticism of the West Palm Beach city commission for it's apparant unconcern regarding the City Center project as estimates of the cost to the public continue to climb.

Plans to close some schools and redraw boundries in the Escambia County School District will be, undoubtably, emotional and controvisial. The Pensacola News Journal notes that decisions to be made won't be easy, but that school board members have to consider the interests of the district as a whole.

The Miami Herald today calls on the Florida Department of Children and Families to release the $8 million needed to fully fund the Independent Living programme in Dade and Monroe counties, which helps young adults who have aged out of the state's foster care system.


The stuff really hit the fan this week at the Bartow headquarters of the Polk County Opportunity Council. That is the agency which runs Polk County's Head Start programme and also provides a variety of assistance to low income citizens in the area. PCOC has been in the spotlight for several months due to several instances of poor judgement by it's management and board, as well as it's financial records being either nonexistant or almost impossible to decipher.

On Monday, investigators from the federal Inspector General's office arrived in Bartow to begin reviewing records for the past two years. The IG's office became involved as PCOC accepts federal funds to finance many of it's programmes. They will attempt to do what the agency's own auditors could not do...try to track the flow of money during that period.

Meanwhile, only seven of the 13 board members --- barely a quorum --- gave Executive Director Carolyn Speed a choice to either submit her resignation by the end of the day or be terminated. Although her letter was not submitted until the next morning, the Lakeland Ledger reported that it was accepted, and her seperation is noted as a voluntary resignation.

Ms. Speed was cited for signing off on several no-bid contracts which violated federal and agency regulations, most notably one with Canon for a big ticket copier for which she received an all expense paid trip to Las Vegas (including tickets to Cirque de Soleil) under the guise of a "training session".

Also Monday, Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) told the local Tiger Bay Club that other agencies should begin preparing to take over the services that PCOC currently provides. Putnam said that even with Speed's departure, it still doesn't change the basic problems with the agency. From Tuesday's Ledger:

"This does not solve anything. It is an important step, but the Iowa audit noted that the problems lie with the PCOC board as much as with the director...There are fundamental problems when the board cannot understand the financial statements prepared by its own staff,"

The Iowa audit Putnam referred to was a report on PCOC's management (.pdf file / Adobe Reader required) submitted by Mid Iowa Community Action in October and November.

And on top of all of this, ten of the 13 members of PCOC's board of directors who participated in a closed door session on September 15 now face civil charges of violating Florida's Government In The Sunshine Law. During their meeting that day while discussing Ms. Speed's future with the agency, the board retreated to a conference room for over an hour. After the private session, the board returned to it's public meeting and voted to give the executive director a letter of admonishment for the Las Vegas trip.

In the 10 complaint affidavits, Dugas wrote that Florida's Sunshine Law applies to a public board's discussions and formal actions and that the law applies to any gathering of two or more members of the board.

PCOC officials said they were exempt from the law because they were discussing business with two lawyers.

"The law also applies to any discussions between the board and their attorneys unless a legislative exemption applies," Dugas wrote.

Legislative exemptions include discussions of a lawsuit settlement.

By law, even with an exemption, a closed-door meeting of a public board must be recorded. But no tape of the secret Sept. 15 meeting exists

The State Attorney's office decided on only civil charges as evidence of criminal intent is required to press for criminal penalities. Therefore, the maximum penalty they will face is a $500 fine.

The drama continues...

Saturday, December 03, 2005


It's nice to be able to blog again from my own homestead. The local telephone company, with whom I was planning to get my online service through, has been slow getting my software to me, so this afternoon I signed on, at least temporairly, through another service where I could get back online right away.

Thanks for the nice words, and I should warn you that the posts will be somewhat sporadic --- at least not as many on as regular basis as had been previously --- as this is a dial up connection.

There have been a few stories from this neck o'the woods during the past week, and I do plan to comment on those in the next day or two. So check here regularly.