Thursday, June 30, 2005


Former statewide prosecutor Melanie Ann Hines released her preliminary report on fiscal issues at the Florida Democratic Party today, and it said that while there was no fraud involved, former chairman Scott Maddox and former party executive director Paige Carter-Smith made poor hiring decisions resulting in accounting problems.

The Tallahassee Democrat quotes from the report:

"We know that the responsibility for the management of the payroll system was assigned to an individual who had no prior experience in that specific task, ... who appeared not to have been trained in that duty" and who had only a "rudimentary understanding of the process."

That individual refers to Comptroller Debbie Griffin-Bruton, who has submitted her resignation effective today.

Another question, having to do with over $926,000 in funds unaccounted for, was resolved. The reason for the problem was found in a series of accounting missteps, including an incomplete data entry of over a million dollars.

Ms. Hines mentioned that Maddox cooperated fully with the investigation.

New chairperson Karen Thurman announced a five point programme to restore confidence in the state Democrats' efforts:

--- Correcting any past accounting or bookkeeping errors.

--- Establish and maintain "best practices" financial procedures with appropriate controls, checks and balances.

--- Establish a corporate government structure.

--- Create a Select Committee to review and advise party leadership on financial procedures and auditing.

--- Provide a new confidence to openness and accountability.


As I mentioned in a post earlier this morning, the past couple of weeks have not been kind to Scott Maddox. I shall not go into the details of what he has been through, but you can read them on my posts from June 22, June 23, June 24, June 28, June 29, and today.

Needless to say, as these various issues came up during his dual tenure as chairman of both the Florida Democratic Party and Leon County Democratic Executive Committee, there are a lot of pundits who are saying that Maddox should "pack it in" for this race; that he simply cannot recover from this amount of controversy.

Many would say that as the "captain of the ship" when these issues came about, Maddox is ultimately responsible for what goes on during his watch, directly involved or not, fair or unfair. It's certainly true that the person at the top gets to take the credit when things go well, but must also accept the blame when things don't.

I say: Don't count Scott Maddox out yet. And I say that being personally undecided on which of the three major Democratic candidates to support, as I still need to hear plenty more from all of them on issues that concern me.

His state comptroller/Leon DEC treasurer (she did double duty as well) screwed up, likely due to personal and professional stress added by her husband's diagnosis with being in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and his eventual placement in a long term care facility. Most of the problems landed in her office, and she failed to either file the necessary paperwork on time (Leon County DEC) or notify Maddox of tax issues with the IRS.

Maddox is a young man with a charismatic presentation, and he can excite a crowd of liberal partisans almost as well as many televangelists. He's still the best known among the Democratic candidates statewide, and is still hauling in money in amounts larger than expected...the most important thing needed to maintain a successful statewide campaign.'s over a year until the primary. That means that in all likelyhood the "mainstream media" across Florida will turn to other campaigns and other candidates, unless some new controversy creeps into Maddox's camp.

Of course, the GOP will not forget, and will make a point of focusing on these issues if Maddox wins the primary and faces off against a Katherine Harris in November. But that's over a year away, plenty of time to perfect talking points and bounce off any possible questions, as well as reflect and remind voters of Mrs. Harris' role in 2000.

There's still a looooonnnnng way to go, friends.


Sunday, I mentioned that the University of Florida's alumni magazine UF Today included Charley Johns among it's " 81 Gators You Should Know". The former governor and state senator during his tenue in public office advocated segregation, and formed what became known as the "Johns Committee" which targeted opponents of segregation and later gays in the state's education system. The committee's tactics included survellance, interrogation, intercepting mail, and threats. Needless to say, the inclusion of John in the magazine's list angered many alumni and gay rights advocates.

UF Alumni Association director Randy Talbot Wednesday issued a public apology for John's inclusion in a letter to the Gainesville Sun, saying the decision was "contrary to the support of diversity at our university."

UF Today
acknowledged in the list every Florida governor who attended the university, although Johns was actually enrolled for only two months during the 1950s.

Magazine editor Liesl O'Dell said that the intent of the feature was not to honour those individuals listed, but to raise awareness about standout graduates from a variety of backgrounds.

Talbot said that "We need to do a better job of researching our stories in the future."


As if Scott Maddox and the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee had taken enough, it seems as though it's a case of piling on now as more negative news comes from Tallahassee.

Maddox held a dual role until earlier this year as chairman of both the Florida Democratic Party and the Leon County DEC. The recent issues regarding finances and IRS liens are well documented, so I won't rehash all that here. But an Associated Press story this morning makes note of still another problem that occured during Maddox's watch.

County political party organizations are required by Florida Statutes to post a bond and file an audit with the Supervisor of Elections annually. The Leon County SOE office notes that the local DEC failed to do so. The statute does not spell out penalties for not filing the bond and audit, but it adds to the embarassing news which has plagued the Maddox campaign.


It's not that unusual for business people to "play both sides of the aisle", contributing money and efforts to both Democratic and Republican politicians. With corporate types, that's standard practice in many cases to insure that they are not ignored by whichever political party happens to be in power.

But it was rather odd to read in Scott Maxwell's Orlando Sentinel column this morning that attorney John Morgan, who is well known for his "For the People" television and radio ads, is supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. Morgan was hoping to raise $100,000 for the Attorney General from a gathering at his home in Lake Mary last evening.

The lawyer is well known as a major fund raiser for Democratic candidates, but told Maxwell that while Crist "is very conservative, he is truly the consumer's friend."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released it's latest Florida poll today, and it confirms an earlier Mason-Dixon poll showing incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson with a sizable lead over Congresswoman and probable Republican candidate Katherine Harris...but there is reason for Nelson to be concerned.

According to the survey of 1,248 registered Florida voters (including 423 registered Democrats; 477 registered Republicans) conducted June 22-26, Nelson leads Harris by a margin of 50-38 percent. No surprise that Democrats heavily support Nelson (80-11 percent) and Republicans heavily support Harris (72-15 percent). Among Independents, Nelson gets the sizable nod, 61-27 percent.

But the concern comes by looking at the question, "Bill Nelson is up for reelection in 2006. Would you like to see Bill Nelson re-elected Senator, or would you like to see someone else elected Senator?" The result there is tight, with 38 percent saying they would like to see Nelson re-elected, and 37 percent saying they would like to see someone else. Twenty-five percent have no opinion, or have not decided. That trend has been consistant since December, and will probably give more fuel to those seeking to find another GOP candidate instead of Mrs. Harris.

However, among Republicans, Harris continues to be the sizable favourite among 54 percent of those surveyed, compared to only ten percent for Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) and six percent for Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City). A rather large 26 percent is undecided.

When asked about head-to-head battles, Nelson leads in all areas of the state with the only difference being that in a Nelson-Harris race Ms. Harris would take her home area, Southwest Florida.

UPDATE: Florida Politics, one of the best blogs of it's type in the state, predicts Bense will be in the race, and that Ms. Harris will "hand Mr. Bense his derriere." That scenario would be an embarrassment to the Bush Brothers, whose political operatives have reportedly been speaking to Mr. Bense about running. It also would have the potential of sparking a GOP bloodbath in Florida. Most among us Democrats say we fight each other to get ready to fight the opposition, but this type of situation in the state Republican Party could be nasty, not to mention a huge drain on the sizable campaign account that Harris would hope to wait to use in a general election race.

And speaking of Ms. Harris, Jeremy Wallace's political blogroll from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes today that Ed Rollins, one of the late Ronald Reagan's top political advisers and was his national campaign chairman for the 1984 reelection, has bene helping for congresswoman organize her campaign for the past couple of weeks.

Looking at the governor's race, Attorney General Charlie Crist holds a sizable lead over Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher among Republicans, and the trend since February shows that lead has increased. Among all respondents, the two men are virtually tied with Gallagher holding a 33-32 percent lead.

Among Democrats, Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) leads Scott Maddox 24-16 percent. The trend since February shows Maddox's numbers have fallen slightly after a sharp spike up in April, while Smith's have remained stable. The numbers for State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua) have fallen by more than half, from 16 percent in April to only seven percent in this survey. The number of undecideds has risen sharply as a result, to 48 percent.


I have been meaning to update the blogroll for some time, adding new links and removing those that have been idle for some time or have changed URL addresses. A couple of items worth noting:

--- The addition of Tampa Film Fan, a blog which focuses on new films and the movie scene in the Tampa Bay area. I'm looking forward to seeing Laura's take on the new motion picture take on War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Actually, the best version of the H.G. Wells classic is the musical presentation released in 1978 by Jeff Wayne, son of singer/actor/musical producer Jerry Wayne. The project featured the vocal talents of Richard Burton as the Journalist who tells the story of the Marsian invasion, as well as the performances of David Essex, London West End stage star Julie Covington, Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott, and Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward. While it is a musical treatment, it remains fairly true to the original story.

--- A couple of finds thanks to Tommy at Sticks of Fire: One new blog from the Davis Islands area, Driving Down the Highway of Life in a Dodge, an interesting site featuring personal observations, and a blog for drama addicts at Tampa Bay Drama King.

--- Laura's Place is a reconstituted blog which used to be known as simply This Space For Rent, and the address has been moved to be a part of her personal Web site. Also changing addresses is the Weblog for former Tampa Bay radio talk show host Bob Lassiter

--- A couple of sites have been dropped because there has been no activity at them for at least a few weeks, so I have to presume that they have ended their blogging efforts, at least for now.

It's always good to know that the Tampa Bay area --- and the I-4 Corridor in general --- has become such an active area for blogs of all types.

And on a more personal note, thanks to a couple of fellow bloggers at Florida Politics and Florida News for their positive mentions recently. I am honored to be noticed by them, both fine blogs on their own, and appreciate the notices.


There's blood in the water, and the Florida press is swarming around former Florida Democratic Party chairman and present gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox.

Here's the latest news.

The Maddox campaign released a letter Tuesday from his friend, FDP Controller and Leon County Democratic Party Treasurer Debbie Griffin-Bruton, acknowledging that due to personal and professional stress she did not tell Maddox of the financial problems on both the state and county level. Maddox also served as Leon County party chairman.

The result was a lien being placed by the Internal Revenue Service on the state party for failing to pay withholding and Social Security taxes taken out of employees' paychecks, and a $10,500 fine by the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office against the local party for submitting a campaign financial statement three weeks late.

In the letter, Griffin-Bruton said that the work was more that she had expected, and that her husband had been diagnoised with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Saying that her spouse's care had placed a drain on her time and resources, Griffin-Bruton eventually placed him in a long term care facility. She also said in the letter that she would resign her positions as state party comptroller and Leon County party treasurer at the end of this month...which is tomorrow.

The Brutons have been friends with Maddox for a number of years. Debbie Griffin-Bruton worked for Maddox as financial director of Tallahassee's Parks and Recreation Department while he was mayor, and he brought her onto the state party staff when he became chairman. She lives in her home, which she and her husband sold to Maddox's Spectrum Resources nearly three years ago. Maddox had allowed them to stay paying only a modest rent, which was waived completely after John Bruton's placement into long-term care.

The home figures into today's additional bit:

Maddox, who owns a number of investment properties around Tallahassee through his Spectrum Resources firm, apparantly did not update his mailing address when he moved into a new home last year. The result: An overdue tax bill on Griffin-Bruton's home of $2,632.47. Maddox told the Tallahassee Democrat that the bill was paid Monday, which I4J confirmed with an online search on the Leon County Tax Collector's site. He apparantly had one other piece of property on which the taxes were deliquent under his own name, but was paid in February. His other properties are apparantly in order with the Leon County tax office.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


While enjoying a day off from work after collecting late telephone payments over the weekend, I was enjoying this morning's USA Today when coming across an interesting story in the Sports section.

Apparently there are seven potential buyer groups for the Washington Nationals baseball team. The Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, are currently owned by Major League Baseball until one of them --- or another yet unknown --- gets the approval for buying the team. It seems that one of the groups includes billionaire financier George Soros, best known for his very liberal support of various organizations who worked to defeat President Bush last the tune of approximately $20 million dollars.

Republicans in Congress are deciding that it's payback time for Mr. Soros, and have indicated to Major League Baseball that they would seriously consider repealing the sport's antitrust exemption if Soros is involved in the eventual purchase of the Nationals.

House Republican Chairman Tom Davis (R - VA), who chairs the House Government Reform Committee and chaired the recent congressional hearings on steriods in sports, told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call:

"I think Major League Baseball understands the stakes...I don't think they want to get involved in the political fights."

Providing the counterpoint was House Democratic Policy Committee Charman George Miller (D - CA):

"Tom Davis should be charged with an error for this abusive political power play.
"It should be offensive not just to Democrats, but to all voting Americans that Republicans might manipulate the legislative process for partisan purposes in response to the potential purchase of a baseball team by someone who does not support the current Republican agenda."

“Even baseball, apparently, is not off limits to the overreaching of the Republicans, who believe that winning an election means dictating the political beliefs and actions of all major institutions in this country.

“It is bad enough that they are trying to cut funding for Big Bird and censor public broadcasting. But now Republicans are threatening Major League Baseball with legislative retaliation if the league lets Soros’ group purchase a team. That is an abuse of power and I would hope that Republican leaders would stay out of the game and let the league decide who is eligible or not to own one of its teams."

Agreed! Can't we agree to stop acting like spoiled children and keep politics out of sports. It's one of the few places --- especially within the Beltway --- that individuals who can agree to disagree on every other issue can at least come together as friends and enjoy an evening of action without the aura of business overhead. Hey, if George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton can be friends and boat and play golf together at Bush's summer home in Maine...there is some hope out there...

BTW: Right now, the Nationals lead the National League East by 2 1/2 games over my personal favourite team, the Atlanta Braves. Nice what finally having a real home can do.


I usually don't include such items here, but after reading this sent to me via e-mail from my sister this morning I felt the need to share it with you. Some of you may have seen this before, but for those who have not, enjoy.

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1846,
John F. Kennedy was born in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both men were particularly concerned with civil rights.
Both their wives lost children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot to death on a Friday.
Both were shot in the head.

Abraham Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy.
John F. Kennedy's secretary was named Lincoln.

Both Presidents were assassinated by Southerners.
Both Presidents were succeeded by Southerners...named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who shot Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both assassins' names are composed of 15 letters.

There's more...

Lincoln was shot at the theatre named 'Ford'.
Kennedy was shot while riding in a 'Lincoln' limosuine...made by 'Ford'.

Lincoln's assassin shot the President in a theatre, then ran and hid in a warehouse.
Kennedy's assassin shot the President from a warehouse, then ran and hid in a theatre.

And here's the kicker...

The week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.
The week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

How's THAT for coincidences?


The past couple of weeks have not been kind for former Florida Democratic Party chairman and current gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox.

First came to light the party's having a lien placed on it by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay income and Social Security taxes which had been withheld from it's employees paychecks. Then comes concerns from some within the leadership over $900,000+ in funds which are reportedly unaccounted for, although most say there was likely no theft involved and that the funds will be found.

Now in today's St. Petersburg Times, political columnist Adam C. Smith notes that bookkeeping issues were an issue during Maddox's watch when he served as chairman of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee.

In December, the Leon County DEC paid a $10,500 fine to the county elections office on December 16 --- more than the local party organization reportedly spent for the entire year --- for filing a required campaign report three weeks late last October. The state party comptroller, Debbie Griffin-Bruton, also was the Leon County Democratic Party treasurer. Maddox had brought her on after working under his watch as Finance Superintendent for the City of Tallahassee's Parks and Recreation Department.

A couple of other problems with this is 1), only weeks afterward Maddox signed a form certifying that the local party had neither raised or spent money during the period, apparantly not mentioning the fine, and 2) many members of the Leon County DEC were never made aware of the fine.

While the issue with the form may have been a simple oversight, it is a third degree felony to deliberately submit false information on a campaign report...a HUGE NO-NO that can get not only the chairman, but the county party into a LOT more trouble. We'll leave the issue of wheather it was deliberate to others.

That said, I will note here that a fine of such a large amount --- $10,500 --- for filing a report late does seem quite heavy. That type of penalty might be appropriate for a situation where the person or organization was chronically late or if it were proven that the delay was deliberate for some underhanded purpose, but the amount seems heavy-handed.

But there is definately NO EXCUSE not to inform the DEC members of the fine. The members of the Democratic Executive Committee represent the rank-and-file party membership in their respective precients, and many work quite hard to raise funds and support the candidates and issues in their local area. They are true partners in the effort, and to not admit an occurance of this nature shows a huge lack of respect and lack of trust in the membership which trusted Maddox to elect him to a leadership role.

Back to the IRS issue: The lien has been removed, and the FDP has placed a copy of the release form on it's Web site with a message from current chairperson Karen Thurman noting that the forensic review team is continuing it's work and that a preliminary report should be released mid-week.


A victory Monday for Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards in the battle with political activist Dewey Smith and his Home Rule Charter Committee, as Circuit Judge John Laurent ruled that petitions submitted to change the charter to cut in half the salaries of the county's top elected officials do not have to be recounted.

Smith, whose other petitions to reduce the power and limit terms of those officials were approved, has been represented in the legal wars by former Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd of Plant City. They are considering a possible appeal of Laurent's decision, and Smith says he has not ruled out beginning a new petition drive on the pay issue.

The Home Rule Charter Committee wants to make changes to the Polk County Charter which would make the constitutional officers --- Supervisor of Elections, Clerk of the Courts, Tax Collector, and Sheriff --- in effect elected department heads under the control of the Board of County Commissioners. In addition, their terms would be limited to eight years. Voters will decide these two issues at next year's general election.

The petition drive battle has to do with questions of "massive fraud" by the paid petition collectors. SOE Edwards even saw her signature several times, although she says she never signs any petitions for fear of conflict of interest issues.

Monday, June 27, 2005


The Miss America Organization announced today that it's pagent will not be held this year, at least not during it's traditional mid-September spot.

The scholarship pagent, which was originally scheduled during September as a means of extending Atlantic City's tourist season during the pre-casino days, will be held in January, 2006. It lost it's network television contract with ABC after several years of severely declining ratings, but just signed a deal with....COUNTRY MUSIC TELEVISION (CMT)!

CMT, which is one of the MTV networks, has signed an agreement to air the pagent in 2006 and 2007, with options through 2011.

Talk about an odd matching? Maybe have Dwight Yoakam singing "There She Is"?


While many in the media are calling the Supreme Court of the United States split in it's two decisions today regarding displays of the Ten Commandments, I believe that it actually set some middle ground based on the context that such displays are done.

In the case of Van Orden -v- Perry, the Commandments are displayed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol in Austin along with 21 historical markers and 17 monuments. The marker had been donated to the state 40 years ago by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that such a display is not unconstitutional as it was not an overtly religious symbol in the context that it was one of a number of monuments on the grounds.

However, in another 5-4 vote the Court decided in McCreary County, Kentucky -vs- American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, et al that the Ten Commandments displayed in two courthouses run afoul of the seperation of church and state. In this case, the counties in question, according to the decision:

"...adopted nearly identical resolutions calling for a more extensive exhibit meant to show that the Commandments are Kentucky's "precedent legal code." The resolutions noted several grounds for taking that position, including the state legislature's acknowledgement of Christ as the "Prince of Ethics.""

Here, the display was definately had a more religious meaning, and the Court was correct to rule against the counties.

A couple of years ago here in Polk County, a Baptist preacher raised funds with help from the American Heritage Foundation to have a monunemt constructed and placed in the lobby of the county administration building in Bartow. The ACLU originally has serious doubts about what has become known as the "Heritage Rock", as did I, but withdrew it's objections once it was placed. The display includes the Ten Commandments as well as inscriptions of several historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, the Mayflower Compact, and the Magna Carta. In this case, the Commandments are not given any more or less prominance, so the historical context is preserved and there is no overt religious statement being made.

There's nothing wrong in showing the Commandments in a public place, as long as they are displayed in such a historical context and not intended, as was apparantly the case in Kentucky and Alabama, as a means of government to show favour of one religion over another. We have to remember that now, as when the nation was born, we are a highly diverse people that have wide ranging beliefs, and we should acknowledge and respect that diversity.


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty reports this morning that State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland) will officially withdraw his candidacy for state Chief Financial Officer, although there was no mention of when.

Ross, who owns a majority partnership in his Polk County law firm, would have to sell if he were elected. He told Rufty that in that type of scenario any potential buyer, knowing that he was being forced to sell, could demand a much lower price...which, obviously, he would not want to accept.

As for other political options, Ross could run for another two year term for the District 63 seat which also includes a portion of Hillsborough County, but he told Rufty that such a case would not be fair to others who have made plans based on Ross' decision to seek the CFO spot. Lakeland City Commissioner and insurance agent Seth McKeel has already announced his candidacy for Ross' seat, with others ready to run for McKeel's commission seat.

Don't count Ross out yet. He is reportedly still looking for an appropriate statewide office to run for, but due to the divestisture rules it cannot be Governor or a Cabinet office. Lieutenant Governor Ross, maybe? He'll have to do some serious buddying up for such consideration.


Mark Lane of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, who folks throughout the blogosphere know as the author of Flablog, wrote a fine column Sunday looking at the election law changes and what they mean to us. He also expresses the hope that Jeb! will veto the law eliminating the second primary

But Mr. Lane reminds us of one fact of life regarding Florida and elections:

Like New England weather, if you don't like Florida's election laws, just wait a bit.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


Thanks to Ed at the Panama City-based blog Ironknee for making note of one of the more harmful effects of Florida's Medicaid "reform". It mentions a statement from the Website of the American Psychiatric Association on behalf of the president of the Florida Psychiatric Society and the APA's medical director warning that the state's enactment of new Medicaid legislation puts people with mental illness at serious risk.

Read this carefully (emphasis mine):

The unprecedented and most harmful aspect of the law is a requirement that -- each year -- a patient must first fail on the cheapest mandated medications before the patient is given access to the medication his or her physician believes is optimal, even where the patient has been successfully treated with the physician-chosen medication.

Talk about dangerous...and this is only one part of the so-called "reform". Think about what this and other changes may mean for the rest of us!

Thanks again, Ed, for bringing it to our attention. Now if your area's legislator --- House Speaker and possible U.S. Senate candidate Allan Bense --- would listen!


There will be a number of Floridians who will be upset to know that the University of Florida's alumni magazine UF Today, in naming 81 standout alumni in it's current edition, includes a former state senator and governor whose legacy includes being an advocate of segregation and forming a legislative committee to stamp out homosexuality at Florida colleges.

According to this story written by Amy Reinink of the Gainesville Sun, alums and gay rights groups are slamming UF Today for including Charley Johns among it's standouts.

Johns, who was born in Starke, was serving as Senate President in 1953 when he became governor upon the death of then-chief executive Daniel Thomas McCarty. He eventually lost a special election held two years later to complete McCarty's term. He was lauded by the magazine for his efforts during his public career to reform the state's prison system and ending tolls on state highways.

His legacy was tainted primarily due to what became known as the Johns Committee, officially known at the time as the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, which existed from 1956 to it's disbanding in 1964.

The eight member joint legislative panel originally targeted the NAACP and desegregationists and their supporters, often labeling them as Communists or Socialists. After a legal challenge, the committee changed it's focus to what it deemed a homosexual threat on Florida's college campuses. It used a variety of tactics including survellience, interrogation, and threats to get information on gays in the public education system. By 1963 the committee had credited itself with the dismissal of 39 professors and the revocation of 71 teaching certificates, along with the expulsion of about 50 UF students. It eventually issued a report known as the "Purple Pamphlet" because of the colour of it's cover --- officially it was titled "Homosexuality and Citizenship In Florida".

Johns died in 1990 at the age of 84.

To learn more about the Johns Committee and it's legacy, check out this Web site.

Chris Brazda, spokesman for the UF Foundation and UF Alumni Association, said the magazine article acknowledged among those on the list every Florida governor who attended the University of Florida. Johns only attended the Gainesville school for just over two months, enrolling on September 17, 1953 and withdrawing November 23.

The UF Today piece, entitled "Gators You Should Know", provides only one or two sentences on each of the 81 alums without providing any detail on the individuals. The mention of Johns does acknowledge that he was a leader of the so-called "Pork Chop Gang", a group of 20 conservative legislators who supported segregation.


Today's editorial in the Lakeland Ledger reminds us that legislative leaders have only had mixed success in running for higher office. As everyone knows, Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) has announced he is running for State Chief Financial Officer, and House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

In Northwest Florida, the Pensacola News Journal lauds Governor Bush for his efforts to bring stormwater regulation and wetlands protection in the area to the same level as the rest of the state, and calls on the Legislature to approve the Enviromental Resource Permitting programme to come to Northwest Florida.

Meanwhile, several hundred miles in South Florida, the Miami Herald focuses on Iraq, and says "Enough of the spin." The idea is that the Bush administration's failure to speak candidly about the level of insurgency in Iraq is eroding public confidence in our military mission there. And the Herald is not the only newspaper editorializing on the subject; this morning's Gainesville Sun says it's time for an exit strategy before the issue of Iraq tears the nation apart in a way not seen since Vietnam.

In Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida Sun Sentinel looks at the action this past week regarding the USA Patriot Act, and says that the legislation should be reviewed to spot provisions that protect Americans and those that do not "based on hard facts and the best advise available."

Today's Palm Beach Post criticizes the governor for his signing into law this past week measures that limit early voting to a maximum of eight hours daily during weekdays and eight hours total on weekends, shifted more power over elections from the independently elected county supervisors of elections to the Secretary of State's office, and raised significantly the spending cap for statewide races.

Up the coast still to Melbourne, the editorial board at Florida Today calls on Congress to scrap the President's idea to basically privitaze Social Security and consider possibilities to make the retirement programme solvent, such as raising the cap on wages that can be taxed, raise the wage tax, and putting all state and local workers into the system.

Moving up I-95 further, the Daytona Beach News-Journal opines that more needs to be done to protect the security of consumer records, especially when looking at recent events where credit card and other records were apparantly stolen.

In Jacksonville, the strongly conservative Florida Times-Union stands against a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit desecration of the American flag. It says that the proposal is one example that "the worst of legislation springs from the best of intentions." The St. Petersburg Times editorial board also weighs in, saying that "Forcing respect for the flag through law, which is the aim of the Flag Desecration Amendment, is the way of repressive regimes. America's promise has always been that allegiance would never be forced and political dissent would be protected, even in its most offensive forms. That is our nation's greatest legacy." (emphasis mine)

The Tallahassee Democrat is concentrating on a local issue in it's editorial today, criticizing Leon County commissioners from communicating discreetly among themselves during meetings, which --- if it has to do with public business --- is technically a violation of the Government in the Sunshine Law.

Also focusing on a local issue is the Fort Myers News-Press, which notes that irresponsibility by owners is fueling a growing problem in Lee County: The wild cat population there has blossomed to between 250,000 and 400,000, according to animal control officials, presenting a potential health problem.

The Naples News editorial this morning laments the fact that "Immokalee registeres an HIV/AIDS rate three times the norm for Florida, and six times that of Collier County as a whole."

A congratulatory word and praise for a local legislator is the opinion expressed in today's Ocala Star-Banner. It lauds State Representative Larry Cretul (R - Ocala) for his efforts for focusing on more local issues. He was one of six receipants of the "County Champion Award" given by the Florida Association of Counties.

The Orlando Sentinel opinion is that gubernatorial candidates would be wrong to oppose the governor's A+ plan for Florida schools, and made special note for the three major Democratic candidates by mentioning that GOP candidates Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher --- both former education commissioners --- have voiced strong support for the governor's policies.

The editorial in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes that the idea of due process protections for prisioners being held at the military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is long overdue, and that Congress is shirking it's duty by defying the Supreme Court...which has ruled that foreign prisoners being held there are entitled to access to the U.S. court system.

And the Tampa Tribune laments the recent announcements that Greyhound Bush Lines and Amtrak would discontinue service to a number of smaller towns across Florida, saying that the decisions hurt those small towns and many working class people who depended on those options for affordable long distance travel.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


In today's Palm Beach Post, political columnist George Bennett writes about Randall Terry, the anti-choice activist who co-founded Operation Rescue, who announced this week that he is challenging State Senate President Jim King (R - Jacksonville) in next year's election.

Terry tells Mr. Bennett that he "...don't want to be a protester. I want to be a statesman.", saying that his in-your-face days are over.

That didn't seem to be the case only a couple of months ago, when he was getting plenty of face time as a "spokesperson" for Terri Schiavo's parents in their efforts to prevent her feeding tube from being removed.

He also says:

"When I was leading Operation Rescue, I was in my 20s...There are things that I have said that make me wince now because that's not who I am now. I'm in my 40s. I'm in my mid-40s. I've mellowed. Hopefully I've matured."

"Some of my rhetoric was a little too strident and I did not give people the benefit of the doubt."

"I'm just not angry. I was an angry young man before. I'm a more musical young man now. I'm not middle-aged yet."

First, I'm 47, like Terry, and I'll readily admit that I'm in the "middle-aged" catagory. Get used to it, Terry.

His chances against King are slim at best. Check out my piece on him from March.


Remember during the search for Saddam Hussein and his cronies in Iraq, playing cards were distributed with their pictures in the hope that someone would recognize one or more of them and turn them in? That idea has now come to Polk County, Florida.

Polk County Crime Stoppers is funding the printing of 5,000 decks of cards which will be distributed mainly in the county's two jails in Bartow and Frostproof and will feature local fugitives and unsolved homicide cases. Others will be made available to the public. The hope is that an inmate will recognize a familiar face or an old murder case and help authorities toward solving it.

So what's the incentive into "ratting out" someone? Crime Stoppers says that possibly the cash rewards available may be incentive enough.

The idea came from a detention sergeant with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, and it is the first time in Central Florida this has been done. Jails in Metro Orlando distribute cards with the local Crime Stoppers phone number, but do not highlight specific cases or fugitives.


St. Petersburg Times political columnist Adam C. Smith basically asks that question in today's column, noting that Jeb! is pushing the likelyhood of Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) making a run for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat. A couple of quotes from Jeb!:

"I have a lot of respect for Allan Bense. I really do think he is a well-qualified guy."

"I have respect for Katherine Harris. I've had a closer working relationship with Allan."

The idea is that Harris, thanks to her role as Secretary of State and co-chair of President Bush's 2000 campaign in Florida, continues to this day as a polarizing force in state politics. A recent Mason-Dixon survey shows that Nelson would handily win a head-to-head contest with Harris --- 53 to 36 percent --- and that only 69 percent of Republicans said they would vote for her, significantly below the level of support that both Bushes had winning their elections. Not only that, but 30 percent of respondants said they have an unfavourable opinion of Ms. Harris, actually higher than two years ago.

Jeb's role in touting Bense goes against tradition for governors to remain neutral in their party's primary races. But Jeb and his brother are significantly concerned about Harris' candidacy and it's effect on other races on the ballot --- especially the governor's race --- in looking for other options.

They're not the only ones. Brian Nick of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not ruling out the possibility of his group supporting a candidate in a GOP primary race, telling Smith "We're going to do what's necessary to win."

It really doesn't matter, 'cause either would have an uphill battle at best against Nelson. While the Democratic incumbant isn't the most colourful guy or greatest campaigner, he's generally done well and is not a polarizing figure like Harris. And Bense will have to do one heckuva job to get name familiarity across Florida out of the "Redneck Rivera" to even come close to challenging Nelson.

You should also check out this column by Peter A. Brown in Friday's Orlando Sentinel, who says that "If she is half as smart as her Harvard graduate degree suggests, she should be pretty frightened already."

Friday, June 24, 2005


This weekend will mark the end of an era in American religion, as the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham begins what is being noted as his last USA "crusade" in the city where he came onto the national scene, New York City.

Billy Graham has become over the past six decades one of the best known and highly respected Christian leaders in the world. Many people call Dr. Graham "America's Preacher" because of his long tenure, multimedia ministries, and his ability to minister to ten American presidents from all ends of the political spectrum.

While many so-called Christian leaders talk more about politics and which candidate or party their followers should support, Billy Graham has for the most part shunned political activism in order that the focus can be kept on his message...following the teachings of the Bible and saving souls for Christ. However, he did note during an interview with Brian Williams for NBC Nightly News --- which broadcast from the crusade site in Queens --- that he is a Democrat.

Graham was a pioneer in using media for his ministry. His weekly "Hour of Decision" radio programme and prime time television specials --- which often ran over three nights and highlighted excerpts from his various crusades --- were extremely popular for many years. His evangalistic association started it's own motion picture studio, World Wide Pictures, to produce films to advance the ministry's work.

Dr. Graham also was a pioneer in accountability for religious organizations as one of the founders of the Evangalical Council for Financial Accountability in 1979.

When the last strains of "Just As I Am", the hymn that is traditionally sung when Graham gives the invitation for those who want to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour, are played on Sunday, a part of Americana will be gone, returning to the mountains of North Carolina to live his remaining days in peace. May God bless him.


The Supreme Court of the United States came on the side of government and private developers in a 5-4 decision Thursday, ruling that government can use it's power of eminent domain to seize private property to make room for private development projects to boost the local economy and increase the tax base.

The decision (.pdf file) came in a case from New London, CT where 15 homeowners were challenging the decision by city officials to force them from their property to make room for a project which will include a hotel, office complexes, and a marina along the Thames River near a new corporate headquarters and research plant for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. This was a major case in deciding just how far governmental entities can go in using it's eminent domain powers to revitalize areas. Such powers have been used previously, most notably in New York's Times Square and the Inner Harbour area of Baltimore, but in those cases the areas seized were deemed to be blighted, which was not the situation in New London.

The majority: Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, David Hackett Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer.

The minority: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

Although the Constitution's Fifth Amendment mandates that "just compensation" is paid and the property is converted to a "public use", and although the minority in this case consists of most of the justices who I usually disagree with harshly, I have to say that they are correct here that the majority of the Court went too far. I believe that "public use" means infastructure such as roads, parks, schools, and not to benefit private developers. While Justice Stevens wrote that "Promoting economic development is a...longstanding function of government.", one has to ask now "At what cost?"

This case may have serious consequences here in Florida, as development continues as a fierce pace. This case should scare the Hell out of anyone who lives near an area being considered for a major development, as this gives city and county commissions much wider latitude to say "We're taking your property; here's your move out!" I have to agree with Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, who wrote:

“The specter of condemnation hangs over all property,” she intoned. “Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory.”


Governor Jeb! certainly didn't waste much time in piling on the Florida Democratic Party in the wake of it's current financial issues, calling the party organization "pathetic" and saying he was "saddened" by the decline of the opposition party.

Jeb! may be speaking too quickly.

New chairwoman and former congresswoman Karen Thurman has arranged for financial assistance from the national party office, as well as other means to resolve the roughly $200,000 lien placed on the state party by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay payroll and Social Security taxes withheld from employees' checks.

While there's not excuse for something like this --- and it very well could be a bookkeeping snafu and an office employee putting the wrong letter in the wrong place --- Jeb is in no place to be throwing garbage. Over his years in office, the gov has had more than his share of administrative lapses, and as the captain of the ship he needs to take responsibility. And to hear Jeb! say he is "saddened" is laughable at best. I'm sure he and some of his cronies enjoyed a drink or two or three Wednesday evening upon learning of the situation at Demo HQ.

This, too, shall pass.


No great surprise here: Florida Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) has decided to enter an increasingly crowded GOP primary race for Chief Financial Officer.

Lee announced his bid Thursday for the office, which regulates insurance and banking, as well as pays the state's bills. More importantly, the CFO is a member of the state Cabinet with the Governor, Attorney General, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and has a voice in setting state policy in a number of other areas.

Four other Republican legislators are seeking the office: State Senator Charlie Clary (R - Destin), State Representative Randy Johnson (R - Celebration), State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland), and Tallahassee investment advisor Milt Bauguess However, Ross may withdraw soon due to a legal opinion that he would have to close his Polk County-based legal practice if he won.

On the Democratic side, Miami attorney and political activist Eric Copeland has entered the CFO race. Among other names being touted as possible candidates are Alex Sink of Tampa, a former bank executive and wife of former gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, State Representative Kenneth Alan "Bill" Gottlieb (D - Hollywood), and State Senator Al Lawson (D - Tallahassee).

That means that the 2006 legislative session should be quite interesting, not only because it is an election year, but especially with Lee's announcement, and House Speaker Allan Bense's (R - Panama City) increasing likelyhood of entering what would be a GOP primary race for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat and both men leading their chambers, that will certainly have to play into what issues will be on the front burner for consideration.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


The St. Petersburg Times didn't waste any time in are seriously questioning the legacy of former Florida Democratic Party Chairman and current gubernatorial candidate Scott Maddox in the wake of an Internal Revenue Service lien for not paying payroll and Social Security taxes which had been deducted from employees' checks. The Times notes in today's editorial:

But as his successor, former congresswoman Karen Thurman, is discovering, tax delinquency is not Maddox's only legacy. She sought the job at a time when people were questioning how Maddox, while party chairman, could pocket $10,000 to sit next to a developer in a Leon County Commission meeting. She was asked to investigate a cozy contract Maddox gave his former spokeswoman, Allie Merzer. Now Thurman has party officials asking about $900,000 that seems to have vanished in a pile of illegible financial records.

And it closes:

The state Democratic Party wasn't exactly a finely tuned engine when Maddox took the wheel, but the IRS wasn't putting it up on blocks either.

That last sentence may have been typed a bit soon. Chairwoman Thurman has arranged $100,000 in backing from the national party office, about half the amount that the IRS is seeking, including penalties. The other half would come from the $98,000 which the IRS has frozen with the lien, and $19,000 from a recently closed bank account.

However, Thurman spoke Wednesday with county party leaders in a conference call, and slammed Maddox herself, according to this article from today's Tallahassee Democrat. When asked about IRS warnings over the past year or two, she said:

"You don't even want to go there. I can tell you that according to the audit that was done, the internal controls in this office were absolutely, unequivocally the worst. And so how one piece of paper was passed to another and how information was disseminated is way beyond me."

That last remark had to do with Maddox's statement that a certified letter from IRS was misplaced/lost on his last day as chairman, after he left for the Orlando meeting where Thurman was elected to replace him. Maddox resigned his party chairmanship in order to run for governor.

Former statewide prosecutor Melanie Ann Hines, who now works with the Berger Singerman law firm's Tallahassee office, has been brought on to determine what happened, and to look into approximately $926,000 that is reportedly accounted for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


The American Film Institute announced the result of it's recent survey to determine the top 100 quotes in the history of American movies. The poll was conducted of over 1500 leaders from throughout the industry, including critics and historians, and included 400 nominated movie quotes (but jurors could write in up to five quotes not included in the list).

Lyrics from songs were not eliglble, and jurors were asked to consider the quote, it's cultural impact, and historical legacy.

The Top 10:

10) "You talking to me?" - Robert DeNiro, Taxi Driver (1976)

09) "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." - Bette Davis, All About Eve (1950)

08) "May the Force be with you." - Harrison Ford, Star Wars (1977)

07) "All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close up." - Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard (1950)

06) "Go Ahead. Make my day." - Clint Eastwood, Sudden Impact (1983)

05) "Here's looking at you, kid." - Humphery Bogart, Casablanca (1942)

04) "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." - Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz (1939)

03) "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." - Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront (1954)

02) "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse" - Al Pacino, The Godfather (1972)

...and the number one quote in American movie history....

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." - Clark Gable, Gone With the Wind (1939)

For those who are interested, here is the .pdf version of the's 103 pages, but includes not only the picture from which it comes and the actor, but screenwriters, director and producer information.


Remember Randall Terry, the brash founder of the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue who many of us heard incessantly during the Terri Schiavo case?

Well, get ready to hear more from him over the next few months, as he has filed to challenge Florida Senate President and fellow Republican Jim King for his Jacksonville/northeast coast district seat.

According to Palm Beach Post political writer George Bennett, Terry announced his interest in the race last month, but waited to reportedly gauge the level of support before diving in. He opened a campaign account May 31, which allows him to begin accepting contributions.

I made note of Randall Terry and his contridictory, hypocritical means in March on this blog while he was serving as one of the spokespersons for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents. Included are some veeeeeeery interesting quotes and links to information about his more personal controversies. I would rather see a Democrat in that seat, but I'll take Jim King any day over this slimeball.


With the Florida Democratic Party, if it ain't one crisis to be faced, it's another. That has been the recent history of the state party organization, as it has faced --- and survived --- one financial crunch after another. This time, it's the IRS that is carrying the billy club.

It seems that for at least a couple of years the FDP didn't pay federal payroll or Social Security taxes which had been withheld from party employees, a HUGE NO-NO! As a result, on May 12 the IRS filed a $190,000 lien against the organization, which has now mushroomed with penalties to more than $200,000.

Not only that, party officials have now ordered an independent audit to determine what happened to more than $900,000 which is unaccounted for.

This is potentially catastrophic to the gubernatorial candidacy of former Tallahassee mayor and party chairman Scott Maddox, under whose watch these occured. He has reportedly assured new chairwoman Karen Thurman that he had left the FDP financially sound when he resigned earlier this year to run for office.

The question of large amounts of unaccounted funds is not new. Maddox was asked about that the day Ms. Thurman was elected chair, and simply said that audits found everything fine.

This is a extremely troubling situation which I'm almost certain that our opposition will try to take advantage of. I agree with Hillsborough County DEC Chairwoman Janee Murphy, who told the St. Petersburg Times "We can't go out there and battle the Republicans or anything else until we get our house in order."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


My folks back home in Neshoba County, Mississippi had me concerned for awhile. Yesterday, after the trial of Edgar Ray Killen went to the jury, they returned to inform the judge that they were deadlocked 6-6. For awhile, I thought Killen would walk out of the courthouse free again, but Hizzoner Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon told the panel to continue their deliberations, and today the reputed Klansman/parttime Baptist preacher/accused leader of the KKK group which murdered three civil rights workers near Philadelphia during the "Freedom Summer" of 1964 was convicted...of manslaughter, instead of the murder charge he was originally brought forth for.

The conviction came 41 years to the day that James Cheney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were shot at close range and eventually buried in an earthen dam.

It wasn't the murder conviction that many were probably looking for, but a conviction, regardless. He will be sentenced Thursday morning to between one and ten years on each of the three counts. That means what amounts to a life sentence for the 80-year-old Killen at the Mississippi State Penitentary at Parchman, where in all likelihood he would have to be kept in protective custody away from the other inmates --- the majority of whom are African-American --- for his own safety.

The only thing I can hang my head over is that there are still people who are misinformed over the Klan. Former Philadelphia mayor Harlan Majure, who testified as a character witness for Killen, said during his time on the stand that the KKK did some good things and that, as far as he knew, the Klan was "a peaceful organization".

Justice still prevails, although in this case it came 41 years too late.


Anyone who has driven along I-4 in Polk County over the past 2 1/2 years has had to deal with construction issues as the major Central Florida route connecting Tampa with Orlando and Daytona Beach was being expanded.

Word is now that the project should be complete by the end of the year, with some sections of what will be a six lane freeway opening this week. The first stretch --- 26 miles from U.S. 98 in Lakeland to the Osceola County Line --- should be opened Friday. Then early next week, westbound drivers from County Road 557 to U.S. 98 will have a third lane. The remaining westbound section from ChampionsGate to CR557 should be ready in approximately three weeks.

The final portion to be readied will be the section from U.S. 98 to Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland.

The advantages will be added guard rails and extra shoulder space to pull over, and the speed limit will return to 65MPH from the current construction limit of 55.

There will still be some work being done in the meantime, as improvements are being made to several interchanges along the route.

But don't think that this marks the end of it. The long term goal is to eventually make I-4 a ten lane highway, which means it won't be long before FDOT gets ready to do it all again.


The latest poll numbers are out in the U.S. Senate race.

A survey by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, conducted by phone with 625 likely voters throughout Florida June 14-16 for Tampa's Media General news properties (WFLA-TV 8 and The Tampa Tribune), is showing that if the election were held today and was between Congresswoman Katherine Harris and incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson, an unusually large number of Republicans would support Nelson.

Overall, 53 percent of respondants said they would vote for Nelson, with 36 percent saying they would support Harris. But among Republicans, only 69 percent said they would vote for Harris, which is well below the level of support for Governor Jeb Bush or his brother, the President, in their elections. The margin of error is plus/minus four percent.

The percentage of voters with an unfavourable opinion of the Sarasota congresswoman --- 30 percent --- is actually three points higher than it was two years ago, her first year in Congress. Only ten percent of those surveyed say they have an unfavourable opinion of Nelson.

The incumbant leads Harris in every region of the state, including North Florida, which has skewed heavily for the GOP in recent elections. Nelson's lead in the Gulf Coast region --- Harris' home area --- is seven percent.

These results should be reason for concern among Republicans, and should spur more interest to those seeking another candidate, such as state House Speaker Alan Bense or Senate President Tom Lee.


Terri Schiavo was finally buried Monday in a Clearwater cemetary, but the storm surrounding her continues on.

Husband Michael Schiavo has previously said that Terri would be interred in their native Pennsylvania, but in an unexpected change of direction he had her remains buried in Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had wanted her buried locally and were relieved that Michael did not follow through on his vow to bury her out of state.

But Michael still gets the last word, as his wife's grave marker shows.

Noted as a "BELOVED WIFE", the marker shows "DEPARTED THIS EARTH FEBRUARY 25, 1990", which was actually the day she collapsed into what would be a "persistant vegatative state". She actually died March 31, nearly two weeks after a tube which provided her nutrition was removed. It was the climax of a seven year legal battle between Michael and the Schindlers. The marker does note "AT PEACE MARCH 31, 2005. I KEPT MY PROMISE".

The Schindlers' attorney, David Gibbs, calls the grave marker "a slap in the face" to the parents, and "insulting to the family".

Monday, June 20, 2005


The best wishes for a quick recovery and return to the airwaves from I4J to long time, popular Tampa Bay radio personality Mason Dixon, who was severely injured Saturday in an auto accident while heading home after a remote broadcast for his station, WRBQ-FM "Oldies 104.7".

Dixon, who has been a part of the local radio scene for over a quarter century, was driving on Mobley Road in north Hillsborough County in his beloved classic 1971 Dodge Charger convertable when it was struck by a 19 year old driving an SUV. It was believed she had left her lane, and in overcompensating to correct T-boned Dixon's vehicle, nearly slicing it in half.

The well known and respected broadcaster, who has been involved with a variety of local charities in his career, was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he remains in intensive care and expects to remain there for at least a couple of more days. His spleen was removed, and doctors reinflated his left lung, which was punctured in the wreck.

Our best to Mason, his beloved wife, Pat Crawford, and his two daughters. A lot of central Floridians will be praying for all of them as he recovers, and look forward to hearing Mason back on the airwaves real soon.


In politics, appearances mean everything. So according to today's column by Jeremy Wallace in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) was scheduled to hold a fund raising event for her U.S. Senate campaign at Signatures, a Washington-area restaurant once owned by controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff. You may recognize the name as that of the fellow tied to Tom DeLay and who reportedly made disparaging comments about Native Americans even as he took considerable amounts of money as the lobbyist for several tribes (he's currently under federal investigation for his dealings with some of their casino interests).

Well, once the Washington Post noted the fundraiser and it's location, Harris campaign people went into crisis mode. Within days of the story appearing in the Post, the site was changed to another restaurant, Tosca. No explanation was given for the move. The Post got a copy of the invitation, which noted that the event is being hosted by John Meridith with the National Nursey & Landscape Association.


Tuesday is officially the first day of summer. Not that it matters much, because this is Florida, and it feels like summertime quite April!? Especially for those folks in the northwest Panhandle, where the heat index was well above 100 at times last week.

The first day of summer means that Tuesday will be the longest period of daylight, with sunrise in Lakeland at 6:34 AM and sunset at 8:29 PM.


Three election laws are scheduled to be signed today by our governor Jeb!, and the chance of a fourth being signed is still uncertain, though likely.

The measures would:

--- Significantly raise the spending cap for gubernatorial and Cabinet races. The cap for gubernatorial races would rise from the 2002 limit of $6.34 million to $20 million, and the cap on Cabinet-level races would rise from $2.5 million four years ago to $10 million for next year's race.

--- Limit early voting to eight hours a day, including weekends. Election supervisors would be given the flexibility of choosing what their hours would be, but must be within the frame of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM and must be the same times daily.

--- Doubles the "no solicitation" zones at polling places from the current 50 feet to 100 feet.

--- Keeps most information on absentee ballot applications confidential.

But Jeb! apparantly has not decided on --- and has until June 29 to veto --- a measure that would eliminate runoff primary elections. If he does not veto the bill, it will become law without his signature.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


St. Petersburg Times Capitol Bureau Chief Lucy Morgan reports this weekend that Florida's two U.S. Senators, Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson, have decided to work together on the issue of reviewing federal judiciary appointments.

Nelson and Martinez announced on Friday at a St. Pete reunion of Leadership Florida members that they would reform a commission similar to one used when Bob Graham and Connie Mack, III were serving together where the panel would submit recommendations for federal judges and marshalls, which pending agreement by both senators would be forwarded to the White House.

Normally the privilege of such nominations would fall to the senator whose party is in the White House, in this case, Martinez. But the two senators say they believe they can work together in supporting a nominee, and Martinez says he will not forward a name if his collegue has serious objections to that person.

The two senators say that once the commission has been formed, they will interview persons who have been recommended and determine who will be nominated.


Being Sunday and a slow news weekend locally, the Lakeland Ledger is remembering jazz greats Nat and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, who on this day 50 years ago entered Cafe Bohemia in New York's Greenwich Village and into music history (NPR's Jazz Profiles has the date in early July).

Nat was born in Tampa; his brother in Tallahassee, where the family moved to teach at Florida A&M University. But there is a local angle to this story. Nat Adderley moved to Lakeland for the last 25 years of his life. He taught music theory at Florida Southern College until poor health caused by diabetes forced him into retirement. He died on January 2, 2000 at 68 years of age.

It's a great piece as one of a three story contribution. The other stories deal with the new Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, which is part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center arts program (and includes some conversation with Nat's son, a career musician based in the Big Apple), and the personal experience of Ledger photojournalist Rick Runion, whose former band FreeTime (he's no longer listed on the band's lineup) was invited to play with Nat Adderely at the Ybor City Jazz Festival in Tampa after hearing their first gig at Florida Southern's Child of the Sun jazz fest. Ledger music reviewer Bill Dean, who wrote the other pieces, also includes some suggested albums and reading material for those interested in learning --- and hearing --- more about the Adderley Brothers.


Starting close to home, the Lakeland Ledger state that Florida's U.S. House and Senate delegation deserves a ride on the bandwagon after last week's agreement that the current ban on oil and natrual gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is not currently in danger. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune also weighs in on the subject, saying that Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez must keep guard against drilling advocates.

The subject of affordable housing is noted in the Orlando Sentinel editorial, which states that government and business have a role toward creating more of it in the area. A similar concern is given by the Ocala Star-Banner editorial, which calls for county commissioners to accept the recommendations of Marion County Community Services director Evelyn Rusciolelli to raise price ceilings under the state's SHIP housing assistance program.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune takes Clear Channel Entertainment to task regarding the Ford Ampitheatre noise controversy, and says that CCE should keep it's word to resolve concerns of it's residential neighbours or the Hillsborough County Enviromental Protection Commission should seek litigation or legislation for relief.

Across Tampa Bay, the St. Petersburg Times criticizes the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission for it's continued prosecution of Hillsborough County Judge Gregory Holder on what it calls "dubious charges of plagiarism" for allegedly cribbing a paper for a military course (Holder is a member of the Air Force Reserve)...although the Air Force has dropped any charges against him and there are questions as to if this is a frameup for Holder's cooperation with a federal investigation of corruption within the Hillsborough County judiciary.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal is calling for an independent, non-partisan commission to be formed which would redraw Florida's congressional and legislative district boundries. This idea was pushed by former Education Commissioner and U.S. Senatorial candidate Betty Castor, whose Campaign for Florida's Future is continuing to promote such a panel.

The proposed firing of Duval County Health Department director Dr. Jeffery Goldhagen by state officials because of an apparant conflict for accepting $25,000 for teaching two years at the University of North Florida is seen by the Florida Times-Union editorial board as a dramatic lack of interest in Jacksonville by state health department officials. The decision on Goldhagen's future is being reconsidered.

Florida Today calls on Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker to accept recommendations to his department's policy on the surveillance of peaceful protests as made by the local ACLU chapter in addition to revisions which will take effect tomorrow. The revisions toughen previous rules under which deputies secretly spied on, photographed, and created dossiers on individuals who were actively protesting Bush administration policies after 9/11.

The Fort Myers News Press laments the closing off of areas where All Terrain Vehicles can legally operate, calling for more room for ATVs while toughening enforcement of laws against street operation and trespassing.

The request by Key West restaurant Sloppy Joe's (which touts itself as Ernest Hemmingway's eatery of choice) for an exemption on the state ban on smoking laws for such establishments is not a good idea, according to the Gainesville Sun editorial. I noted earlier in the week of another restaurant seeking a similar exemption in Venice.

Today's Miami Herald opinion is that foes of tyranny can find inspiration in the case of Myanmarise opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is spending her 60th birthday under house arrest in the military run Asian state.

The Naples Daily News looks at the FCAT results for Collier County's schools, noting that it gives the community an accountability snapshot. Over half of it's 44 schools graded A or B, with no F schools.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale opines that while competition heats up for a slice of aerospace business, especially with private business to become a bigger part of the picture and other states begin actively luring companies and making major investments to do it, Florida should not shy away but compete aggressively to maintain it's position of America's "Space Central".