Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The Polk County political scene is beginning to gain attention, as two candidates for the School Board have announced their intentions to run, as well as one County Commission candidate.

Tim Harris, a 54-year-old resource specialist in the district's career education services office, became the first candidate to file papers to run for the District 7 seat currently held by Jack English. English is currently undecided on wheather he will seek reelection. Harris taught for 18 years before moving to his current position, where his primary responsibility is overseeing the annual survey of Polk's high school graduates. District 7 includes much of North Lakeland and Polk City.

Hazel Sellers, currently serving as Chairwoman of the School Board, announced that she will seek reelection to her District 3 seat, which includes the Bartow/Fort Meade area. The 54-year-old Sellers retired in 2002 as a gifted program facilitator after 25 years in the classroom.

And the all-GOP race for the Polk County Commission's District 2 slot just got even more crowded, as Lake Wales avaition businesswoman Betty Hill entered the fray. Ms. Hill recently sold her interest in Phoenix Air, Inc., which owns the World Skydiving Center and Lake Wales Avaition, the fixed base operator at the Lake Wales Airport. She becomes the third challenger to incumbant Randy Wilkinson of Mulberry. Also seeking the seat are Lake Wales insurance adjuster Jonathan David Thornhill and Dave Hallock of Bartow.

Wilkinson has been known throughout his time on the commission for occasional inopportune comments. But he was lauded by the Polk County Republican Executive Committee after casting the only dissenting vote last year among the all-GOP commission against the first property tax increase in 12 years.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty seems to believe so. After all, you can't ignore 124,172 registered Democrats. Or, for that matter, 115,430 registered Republicans. The four major gubernatorial candidates would be ill advised not to make "Imperial Polk" County a key element of their I-4 Corridor strategy.

This could just be the election that begins a resurgence of the Polk County Democratic Party, which during the past decade has seen it's stock fall faster than Enron. Plagued by harsh infighting and weak support for their candidates, there are currently no Democrats in partisan elective positions, and only four in non-partisan posts: Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, Clerk of the Courts Richard Weiss, Public Defender J. Marion Moorman, and Tax Collector Joe Tedder.

The local Democratic organization's situation has improved during the past year, thanks to strong leadership from Dr. William (Bill) Kremer (who recently resigned in preperation to move out of state) and attorney Richard Blank. The party's financial status has improved significantly, and the Executive Committee seems to be working more as a team instead of factions battling for control. Presently, the main problem seems to be finding good candidates willing to challenge locally entrenched incumbants who would enjoy (at least initally) far superior financial advantage.

The governor's race is getting Democrats here in Polk, as elsewhere, excited. Last week's appearance at the local Tiger Bay Club gathering in Bartow by Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa and State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua brought out the party faithful, and Rufty reports this morning that both candidates have attracted supporters from the Polk area.

Among the names from the local Democratic community supporting Davis: Tax Collector Joe Tedder (who served with Davis in the Florida House "back in the day"), former State Representative Tom Mims of Lakeland, and attorney Robin Gibson of Lake Wales (one of the founding leaders in that city's charter school district).

Supporting Smith: Former State Representative Dean Saunders of Lakeland (Saunders' and Smith's wives are related), former State Senator Rick Dantzler of Winter Haven, Clerk of the Courts Richard Weiss, and Ben Hill Griffin III of the citrus/cattle family.

This is not to say that the GOP won't be paying attention here during the next several months. State CFO Tom Gallagher was in Lakeland recently for a fundraiser, and I'm certain that Attorney General Charlie Crist will be a regular in the area as well.

As the saying goes..."The Game Is On". At least, it's beginning to warm up.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Melissa Lyttle / St. Petersburg Times

"Any krewe that would have us, we wouldn't want to be a member of."

---Winter Haven resident Terry Hartley, pictured above, watching the boats participating in the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion Saturday in Tampa.


Beginning our weekly tour here at home, the Lakeland Ledger opinion this morning calls for the Legislature to approve Governor Bush's request for $70 million to be used for strengthening emergency operations centres in 22 counties (including Polk) which do not meet national standards.

The Tampa Tribune is concerned about possible disaster issues, as well. But the main concern is communication, and says that Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Hillsborough County Administrator Pam Bean should be able to talk directly to each other, something currently prohibited by the County Commission unless a commissioner is present.

Across the Bay, the St. Petersburg Times salutes the first open encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate as "a unifying message". The letter serves as a timely rebuke to the cultural warriers by calling for the need to seperate religion and politics and speak of love, charity, and humility.

On the other side of the state along Interstate 4, the Orlando Sentinel calls Mayor Rich Crotty's Innovation Way as a dream concept of forward thinking growth management, but says that four of the seven Orange County commissioners are ready to succumb to developers ready to build before services are ready to handle the expected growth.

In seeking answers to plug the gap between health and income levels, the Daytona Beach News-Journal suggests that Florida look north to West Virginia, whose House of Delegates last week took the first step toward universal health care, as well as other ideas in Michigan and Maryland.

Today's editorial in Florida Today asks state officials to launch an investigation of possible prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Wilton Dedge, who spent 22 years in prison for a rape he did not commit before DNA testing proved his innocence. The probe should look at how prosecutors in the Brevard County State Attorney's office used what turned out to be the dubious testimony of a jailhouse snitch and convicted child rapist to keep Dedge behind bars.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune likes the proposal endorsed recently by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission which would require companies to provide more detailed reports on how much they compensate their top executives, partially responding to calls for greater accountability in corporate boardrooms.

Quick action to pass legislation which would improve miner safety in West Virginia is the subject of the editorial in today's Gainesville Sun. The opinion questions what is taking Congress so long to follow suit, especially considering an investigation by Knight-Ridder newspapers which found shocking lack of consideration for miner safety and lenient/almost nonexistant enforcement of safety rules.

Not far away, the Ocala Star Banner notes that the water supply crisis has reached Marion County, and that Florida can no longer afford to live "cheap and easy" on water as it has for decades, especially with the continued development boom.

Up in the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal calls Governor Bush's idea for a school voucher amendment to the state's constitution not only a daydream, but also a fundamentally ill-conceived solution to what's wrong with Florida's public schools. Such an amendment would allow parents to pull their children out of "failing" schools and send them to private schools at taxpayer expense.

The Tallahassee Democrat editorial this morning opines that provisions to reform Medicaid that will be up for debate in the House of Representatives Tuesday could potentially do more harm than good, especially in the case of middle income elderly people in need of long term care for certain conditions.

Moving along Interstate 10 in North Florida, the Florida Times-Union reminds us that Duval County has a high suicide rate among it's young people ages 10-24, about 15 per year. Only Pinellas County had a higher rate based on figures from 2004. Mental illness screening is one idea which is being considered to help bring down the rates, a problem that many don't want to discuss.

Affordable housing is on the mind of the Fort Myers News-Press editorial writers today, reminding city regulators not to let developers of the Eastwood Village off the hook when it comes to requiring them to build a number of the 1,000 residential units at a price that many working class residents can afford.

A "pipe dream" is the subject of the opinion in today's South Florida Sun Sentinel. By that, we mean Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez's support of a proposal for a 5,000 mile natrual gas pipeline that would cut through the Amazon in a north/south path. The editorial notes that the leftest leader's efforts toward dividing the Western Hemisphere is counterproductive, and such a pipeline would further damage one of the world's most enviromentally sensitive areas.

Just down I-95, the Miami Herald editorial today notes that the state's tough new laws regarding siphoning water from the Everglades set the right priority and reminds officials across South Florida that the days of "business as usual" are over. The new rules will basically require cities and counties throughout the region to find alternative sources of drinking water to support it's continued growth.

My apologies for this not being as complete as usually, but I am working today. Got as much as possible before I have to leave.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D - IL) and Chuck Hagel (R - NE) will discuss the practice and politics of domestic spying, the chances for peace in the Middle East in the wake of Hamas' victory in Palestinian parlimentary elections, and President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address. Also, the roundtable: E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Joe Klein of Time magazine, conservative columnist George Will, and ABC News' Martha Raddatz discuss the week's news.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: President George W. Bush sat down Friday for an exclusive interview with Bob Schieffer, being billed as the only such chat prior to his State of the Union speech.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The future of Middle East peace will be discussed with former President Jimmy Carter. Also, previewing the State of the Union address with White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, U.S. Senators Joseph Biden (D - DE) and Pat Roberts (R - KS). And former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Yes, this is not a typo, and I am taking this straight from the FOX News spot. Chris Wallace will feature an exclusive interview with former presidential candidate and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Dr. Howard Dean. And U.S. Senator John Thune (R - SD) and Congressman Mike Pence (R - IN) with a progress report of the GOP agenda.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist (R - TN). And looking forward to the State of the Union speech with a political roundtable featuring NBC News correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, Washington Post columnist David Broder, Bloomburg News Chief Political Correspondent Roger Simon, and Byron York of the National Review.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Much of this week, I've been doing 13 1/2 hours at the job. Needless to say, it's getting to me, but I've got to do it one more day. No, I'm not being forced to; but when unlimited overtime is being offered, I can't afford at this point to turn it down...you never know when --- or if --- it will be offered again.

So, I got an extra hour or so of sleep this morning, which is why I'm not posting anything here today. Please feel free to check out some of the posts from earlier in the week, and accept my thanks for stopping by. Don't ya be a stranger now, heah?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Wayne Garcia is a former political consultant, and writes an occasional column called Political Whore in Tampa Bay's alternative publication The Weekly Planet. He also appears on various television chat shows across the area. His column this week makes interesting reading.

Garcia spoke with Roy Kaplin recently about religion and politics. Dr. Kaplin, who is a professor of African Studies at the University of South Florida, is the special adviser for the local chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice (originally known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews) and helped put together the Tampa appearance last week by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A few of Kaplin's comments from the interview, with a few of his most important points (IMHO) highlighted:

There is a segment of our society that has been able, because of their diligence and their hard work and their right to do that, [to elect] officials for the specific purpose of implementing their so-called moral agenda or character development scheme, as if it is the only path to righteousness and salvation.

And I find this very distressing.

Some individuals, out of the goodness of their heart and the best intentions in some case, not all but some, they mean well but they do not understand that there are different paths to enlightenment and salvation - if you believe in that. To try and speak on behalf of everybody is a very negative message and it's counterproductive.

This is the great challenge of our society today, and indeed our whole world, because we must learn to respect other points of view.

...how do you get people to understand or respect difference? That's the key. If we don't learn to do that, I don't hold out much hope for civilization.

It's a great nation, but it's not a great Christian nation. It's a very diverse nation, where you have about 6 million Jews, maybe 8 million Muslims, 2.5 million Buddhists, you've got all kinds of people. And they're increasing in numbers, so much so that the white Christians will just be another group at some time in the future.

Multiculturalism is not asking anybody to give up their identity and to blend into anything at all. It's "Keep your identity, be proud of your identity and respect others for their identity." It's to learn about the differences out there. Some of these folks who look very different from you are going to be your boss.

BTW: The Weekly Planet is hosting the next of it's "Political Party" talk show series Monday evening at 7:30 in the Shimberg Playhouse at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Centre. Among those on the panel: Tampa adult entertainment king and political activist Joe Redner, GOP consultant Renee Dabbs, gay rights advocates Rev. Phyllis Hunt and Nadine Smith, and WFTS-TV 28 news anchor Brendan McLaughlin. It's free, and I would think it will be an interesting time for us political geeks. Too bad some of us have to work and won't get to enjoy the event.


I got a bit of a laugh from a piece of Jeremy Wallace's political column in Monday's Sarasota Herald Tribune, which notes that Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith of Alachua is trying to keep some semblance of humour while working to increase his name recognition across the state.

Wallace writes that during a campaign stop last week in Sarasota County, the state senator warmed up the crowd by telling them about what he's been called here and there.

In Lake County, after reading his résumé, an emcee introduced him as "Rod Stewart." In Holmes County, the person introducing him froze and declared: "I can't remember your name."

"I know I struggle for name recognition," Smith told a crowd of more than 100 Democrats.

If you're having name recognition problems, now's the time to have it instead of later. With just over eight months before the party primary, more than half of Democrats are still undecided on the race between Smith and Tampa congressman Jim Davis.


The Internal Revenue Service doesn't take too kindly to people who fail to pay their taxes. Another example of that was realized Wednesday when Richard Hatch, the first winner of Survivor best known for shedding his clothes during the competition and taking the show's "Outwit/Outplay/Outlast" moniker to a high level from the start, was convicted of evading taxes on his $1 million prize and additional monies he earned as co-host of a Boston radio show and from rental properties he owned. He was acquitted on seven bank, mail, and wire fraud charges related to allegations that he misused funds intended for his charity, Horizon Bound.

Hatch was originally offered a deal that in return for pleading guilty of two counts of tax evasion, prosecutors would recommend less than the maximum ten year sentence. After initally agreeing to the deal, he walked away from it, for which the feds responded with a full court press. While the prosecution didn't get everything they wanted, Hatch now faces up to 13 years in prison, and they are also considering adding perjury to the list of charges based on portions of his testimony.

I'm sure that at least a few of his former Survivor 'mates are smiling this morning at the news...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


The evolution of broadcast television continues.

The WB and UPN, two networks which have been struggling for some element of success similiar to that experienced by Fox in it's short history against the older, more established networks, will become one this fall. The new venture will be known as "CW", noting the two owners --- CBS, Inc. and Warner Brothers --- which will each hold a 50 percent stake.

The Tribune Company will give up it's 22.5 percent share in The WB in exchange for a ten year affiliation agreement to air the new network's programming on 16 of it's stations. CW will draw on some of the more successful and/or promising programming from both UPN and The WB.

The WB and UPN have had some successes in their time. UPN boasts "WWE: Smackdown", "Everybody Hates Chris", and "Veronica Mars", while The WB features "Smallville", "Supernatrual", and "Everwood". Much of their ratings hits have been for shows that appeal primarily to a young, mainly minority (read: African-American) audience, which is generally considered more "hip", and thus valuable to advertisers.

In the Tampa Bay area, the new network will be aired by WTOG-TV 44, which is owned by CBS, Inc. Left out in the cold is the WB's current affiliate, WTTA-TV 38.



Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stopped at Georgetown University Law School Tuesday as part of the Bush Administration's efforts to diffuse criticizm of the National Security Agency's domestic spying programme. During his address a group of hooded protesters stood, turning their backs on the AG, as four of them held up the sign above. It's only fitting that they chose a quote attributed from one of the Founding Fathers, paraphrasing the one and only Benjamin Franklin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Scott Wheeler/Lakeland Ledger

Democratic gubernatorial candidates State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua (left) and Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa shake hands before addressing the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County Monday in Bartow. The two rivals agreed on almost every subject, focusing their attacks on Governor Jeb Bush and the GOP-led Legislature.


The newsmagazine Dateline NBC aired a segment on it's Sunday evening programme dealing with supermarket safety, in which it reportedly collected more than 4,000 health inspections from 2004 (the most recent year available) after conducting a random nationwide survey of 1,000 grocery stores owned by ten major national chains. A couple of Florida-based supermarket companies didn't fare too well when all was said and done.

According to the report, the Lakeland-based Publix averaged 22 "critical violations" --- defined as "violations that could make consumers ill" --- for every ten inspections, the third largest number among the chains. Winn-Dixie, based in Jacksonville, averaged 14 "critical violations" for every ten inspections...fifth highest among the ten chains reviewed.

"Dateline" visited two Publix supermarkets in Florida, finding flies crawling over the fruits and vegatables. But the vast majority of "critical violations" dealt with how it stored toxic chemicals.

The findings on Publix was a bit surprising to yours truly. Although I don't usually shop at Publix --- it's prices are usually too high for my po' budget --- I've always found it's stores well kept, clean, and in generally an excellent presentable state. Winn Dixie is about average; I've always liked their prices and selection, although their stores are usually older and generally in slightly less well kept shape than Publix. I do wish there were one nearby, though.

One good thing is that Dateline gave the chains an opportunity to respond to the report. You can see their responses clicking here.


An interesting story in Monday's Tampa Tribune: During Sunday's service at Without Walls International Church, Rev. Randy White announced to his congregants that an investor had offered $100 million to purchase the church. White, who with his wife Paula serve as co-pastors of the nation's second largest Protestant congregation with facilities in Tampa and Lakeland, said that he did not agree to the deal, citing his being uncomfortable with several facets of the proposal.

In addition to requiring the church staff to sign contracts which could be terminated at any time, the deal would require the church to be run more like a business. That, said Rev. White, would have made it more difficult for Without Walls to accomplish many of it's goals, especially working with the poor.

The investor asked that his identity be kept confidential, and quite frankly, I can understand why. It just seems wrong when it looks like someone is wanting to use a church for an investment, which it certainly looks like here.

I've never really gotten what the big deal is with these so-called "megachurches", where it seems that the assistant ministers have assistants of their own and they try to make each service an "event" comprable to a mega-concert or sports game. It just seems that there's more attention on the "bang" than where it really should be: on the message.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Thanks to the Panama City-based blog Ironknee for sharing this. Ed, the blogger in question, is originally from New Orleans, and said that he had received this twice in his e-mail. The picture is a play on remarks made last Monday by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin calling on residents to rebuild a "chocolate city", saying that "It's the way God wants it to be."

Before Hurricane Katrina struck in August, New Orleans has a 67-percent majority African-American population.

Nagin apologized for his choice of words the next day after a firestorm of displeasure by residents and others.


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty has a great piece worth reading today. He spoke recently with former State Representative C. Fred Jones (D - Auburndale), who was known by many as the "Dean of the House" due to his over two decade longevity in the Legislature (before term limits, of course) and knowledge of transportation and community affairs issues.

Jones is a casual student of the early 20th Century Russian Nikolai Kondratieff's "Wave Theory", which notes that economic cycles tended to run in cycles of 50-54 years. He believes that major changes are coming, and economic changes usually mean differing voter attitudes toward ethics, government finances, and elected officials:

"The real moving force in the next few years (in politics) will be the attitude change on the part of the public," Jones said. "In the 1990s it was go, go, go, gotta grow and get rich.

"All of a sudden interest rates went up. Then the social attitude toward business and the economy changed. And when that pendulum swings, everything is under review.

"Corporate leadership and politicians will be held responsible and as this philosophy begins to feed on itself, the public attitude is going to be just as aggressive in that outlook as it was on the upstroke," he said.

It could mean zero tolerance of lobbyist gifts, corporate crime or any of the other scandals that began in a time of affluence when voters and investors were a little more lax in their supervision because times were good.

Jones doesn't think the good times, at least as heady and good as they were, will last.

"We are on the down phase of an economic wave and so the attitude of the public is in change as well," he said.


The St. Petersburg Times' Washington blog Tales From D.C. reports over the weekend that much of Florida's congressional delegation is supporting Roy Blunt (R - MO) in his campaign to become the next Majority Leader, replacing the disgraced Tom DeLay (R - TX). The only two exceptions noted are Tom Feeney (R - Orlando) and Connie Mack (R - Fort Myers), who are backing John Shadegg (R - AZ).

Shadegg is giving up his chairmanship of the House Republican Policy Committee to seek the Majority Leader's position. Among several members looking to replace him heading the committee is Adam Putnam (R - Bartow), considered by many on The Hill as a rising star among the GOP conservatives. Putnam notes a "Whip Team" of 17 representatives, including eight from Florida, who are actively campaigning for him. But that "Whip Team" does not include a distant relative, Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota), although her name does appear on another list of 20 collegues as "Additional Public Supporters".

Sunday, January 22, 2006


There is a group of parishoners from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas in the Tampa Bay area this weekend, and they protested in front of several churches this morning which they believe support homosexuality. They plan to protest tomorrow in front of a high school and the Hillsborough County School District administration building against gay-straight alliance clubs.

That's fine. They have a right to protest and to their opinion. But my question is this: Why would you want to picket at the funeral of a Army soldier who was killed in action in Iraq? That, my friends, is way over the line in my book. The group says that they did so because "America bombed our church with an IED made by fag students at Washburn U. in Topeka. In his retaliatory wrath, God is killing Americans with Muslin IEDs."

And this isn't the first time the group has picketed an American soldier's funeral. From a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reposted on the site of Wausau, WI TV station WAOW on January 7:




This sounds as though they learned from the Pat Robertson School of Hatemongering. They certainly don't worship the same God I and most Christians do. The God we worship is a loving, caring Creator...not the type of Creator they portray.


We begin in Daytona Beach, where the News-Journal looks at school startup dates that keep getting earlier, and the efforts of some in the tourism industry to reverse the trend by requiring uniform startup dates statewide. The opinion today is that legislators should keep hands off an important element of local control.

The Miami Herald editorial notes that the federal government's "wet foot/dry foot" regarding Cuban refugees will be reviewed in the wake of protests after 15 were repatriated recently. The Herald says that noone should be repatriated to face persecution or torture on the island.

Today's editorial in the Pensacola News Journal spotlights the Panhandle city's ties with the U.S. Navy as they celebrate the commissioning of the new Arleigh Burke class destroyer Forrest Sherman this week, the fourth ship commissioning in the past 15 years to be held there. And, as a native Mississippian, I'm proud to say that it was built at the Ingalls Shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula.

This week, details and statistics will be released on the deaths of babies in the Capital City area, and why it continues to have a higher infant death rate than the rest of the state. The Tallahassee Democrat opinion calls on the community to educate and take action toward reversing this unfortunate fact.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger editorial page highlights a new batch of it's occasional "Gigs and Garlands" for deeds good and bad. Among those receiving good mention: The University of South Florida, 57 Polk County teachers who recently qualified for national board certification, and Haines City Police Sgt. Mervin Stewart, the Polk County Police Chiefs Association Officer of the Year.

The confusion regarding the new Medicare Plan D presecription drug programme is on the minds of the editorial team at the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which is urging readers to help their elderly and disabled neighbours through the maze of providers and formularies in making sure they are getting the best deal available for their personal situation.

In another editorial touching on health-related issues, the Tampa Tribune calls on the Legislature to pass a bill which would require hospitals to post it's average wait times, among other recommendations to improve the very ill emergency health situation across Florida.

Today's Orlando Sentinel editorial calls on the U.S. Senate to confirm Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, noting that his resume "may be the strongest of any Supreme Court candidate in decades." and claiming that his opponents have failed to make a substantial case against his being approved to sit on the high court.

The St. Petersburg Times is saying today that the "Save Our Homes" constitutional amendment voters passed in 1992 has benefitted homeowners who can afford to pay higher taxes for their more expensive homes, and that a proposal to make the tax savings transferrable to a new house --- even with a higher tax value --- would make bad tax policy worse.

I mentioned in an earlier post today about efforts to tighten up the "best interest" standard of the parental notification abortion law. Today's editorial in the South Florida Sun Sentinel says that legislators can tinker with the law's language at the risk of having the entire statute being thrown out, but that supporting pregnancy prevention programmes is far better.

Florida Today is concerned about Brevard County's practice of disposing of treated wastewater by pumping it underground, and about the possible effects on sources of drinking water such as the upper Floridan Aquifer. The editorial states that a long term programme is needed to test the county's injection wells and local surf.

On another enviromental issue, the future of Babcock Ranch is the subject of today's opinion in the Fort Myers News-Press. It states that while it is a good idea to keep some agricultrual operations there if the 91,000-plus acre ranch is bought by the state, officials need to remember to keep their priorities right; it was bought to provide the people of Florida with a park to enjoy, and for the preservation of natrual resources such as water and wildlife.

Today's editorial in the Gainesville Sun notes the price of literacy, with the best readers being able to command an average of $28,000 more a year than persons who have trouble with the written word. The editorial had previously appeared in the Lakeland Ledger two weeks prior, but it's still good to encourage our young people to spend more time reading for pleasure to help them comprehend articles and documents.

The continuing "affordable/work-force/attainable" housing crisis in South Florida made some progress last week with West Palm Beach's decision to set terms of engagement for developers and setting a policy which provides incentives for building more affordable units. The Palm Beach Post says that the city started too late to do a great deal of good, but at least Florida cities are beginning to realize they have to get into the game to fix the situation.

The Florida Times Union today is concerned about the lowering of enviromential standards for the St. John's River, and offers several recommendations to protect the river's future. It also says that legislators should hear from Northeast Floridians who believe that the St. John's is as precious as the Everglades.

Teen sex is becoming not only an issue of pregnancy, but also a health crisis. Thus, the launch of an in school abstinence programme through a partnership between the Marion County School District and a Ocala-based ministry. The effort wins a good word today from the Ocala Star Banner editorial page.


Flipping around the national newscasts last evening, I came across a report on the CBS Evening News regarding how the judicial waiver section of Florida's parential notification abortion law has affected the ability of minor girls to terminate their pregnancies. This in the wake of last week's decision by the United States Supreme Court sending New Hampshire's law back to Concord for more work.

Since Florida's judicial waiver section took effect in July, 80 percent (96) of the 120 young girls who have sought the exception from parential notification have received it. Judges are allowed to use three criteria in deciding upon ruling for a waiver: The maturity of the child, evidence of abuse by her parents/guardians, and if the judge feels it is in the best interest of the child to allow her pregnancy to be terminated.

State Representative John Stargel (R - Lakeland) believes the law should be toughened, and stated that position while getting some major face time during the CBS piece.

"I think this is a rubber stamp for violating the parents' constitutional right to know what's going on in their minor child's life...We've gone from a culture of where we had 'Father Knows Best' on TV to 'Father doesn't need to know what's going on in your life'".

The report also noted a CBS News poll showing the 80% of those responding agree that at least one parent should be notified before their minor daughter terminates their pregnancy.

BTW: The Randall Pinkston report mentions at the end that 90 percent of Florida teens do tell their parents before having an abortion.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times writes in his blog The Buzz today that he and three other political reporters were escorted out of a GOP conference today at Lake Buena Vista during a speech in which Governor Bush was urging party activists to spread the word about Republican successes across Florida.

Smith, Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Tallahassee Democrat's Bill Cotterell, and Wendy March of the Tampa Tribune were ejected by Disney security officers and a Orange County sheriff's deputy as the governor was speaking. Afterward, Bush said "I apologize for that if I'm indirectly responsible, which I'm not...I would have loved to have you in there. ... I wouldn't have said anything different if you were there.''

Obviously, someone in the Florida GOP leadership didn't want these "nosy" reporters writing about the Gov's remarks. Why...afraid of a little embarassment when they show how much fiction his speech was filled with???


Accolades today to Barry Friedman of the Lakeland Ledger on the announcement this week that he is being promoted to the newly created position of Director of Online Operations for the New York Times owned newspaper, effective February 1.

Barry is an extremely talented individual who was the force behind the Ledger launching it's Internet presence nearly a decade ago. He's not stopped pushing the envelope while making the Ledger site one of the best print media URLs in Florida. What it lacks in pizzazz and "bells and whistles" it more than makes up for when it comes to quality of content and the relative ease for visitors to get around the site.

While Barry will continue to be responsible for the news content at www.theledger.com, he will take on the additional duty of coordinating the newspaper's Internet advertising operations.

Best wishes and a STANDING O to a truly great fellow on this new opportunity.


A while back I wrote here about how Polk County seems to be the centre of Florida's high school football world, with several top-10 ranked teams here...not to mention the 5A champion Lakeland High School Drednaughts.

It seems that you can also apply that case to high school basketball as well. Looking at the latest Florida Sports Writers Association polls, several Polk teams have done quite well for themselves:

CLASS 5A: 2-Auburndale (17-2)
CLASS 4A: 1 (Tie)-Lake Wales (14-3), 5-Lakeland Kathleen (16-4)
CLASS 2A: 9-Lakeland Christian (13-1)
CLASS 1A: ARV-Lakeland Sonrise Christian

CLASS 5A: 1-Winter Haven (21-1), ARV-Lakeland Lake Gibson
CLASS 3A: ARV-Frostproof
CLASS 2A: 10-Winter Haven All Saints' Academy (14-3), ARV-Lakeland Christian
CLASS 1A: ARV-Lakeland Evangel Christian

ARV - Also receiving votes, but not enough to crack the top ten.

While I'm not a huge basketball fan, I would like to have watched the game a few nights ago between Lake Wales and Lakeland Kathleen, two of the top five teams in 4A boys' hoops. They faced off in a tournament, with the game going into OT.

UPDATE: The Winter Haven Lady Blue Devils are not only known around the Sunshine State, but now have some national mention. This week's USA Today Super 25 prep girls' poll debuts Winter Haven this week at #21. Way to go, girls!

Friday, January 20, 2006


Being from South Mississippi, I make it a point to keep up with what's going on back home. On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R - MS) announced that he would seek a fourth six-year term in the upper chamber, and didn't brush aside talk that he would seek a leadership post among his Republican collegues

It certainly didn't take very long --- two days, to be exact --- for the Magnolia State's junior senator (fellow Republican Thad Cochran has been there longer) to receive his first newspaper endorsement. The Gannett-owned Hattiesburg American called the 64-year old Lott as a strong advocate for Mississippi's interests in Congress and noted that Since Aug. 29, the Magnolia State has fared better than the Pelican State for one reason: leadership. Lott, Cochran, (Mississippi Governor and former Republican National Committee chairman Haley) Barbour and U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., have simply been more effective than their counterparts in Louisiana.

Lott lost his beachfront home in Pascagoula to Hurricane Katrina, and had harsh words early on for former FEMA Director Michael Brown regarding his agency's ineptness in responding to the disaster. While I don't agree with much of his politics on national issues, I will say that when it comes to supportin' the home folks, there are few better at it than Trent Lott. He was my area's congressman before he went to the upper chamber, and there's a reason why he rarely attracted any opposition come election time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa), currently in the running to be Florida's next governor, brings his campaign to Polk County next Monday. He will be attending a fundraising reception at the law office of Ramona L. Blankinship in downtown Lakeland, located at 225 North Kentucky Avenue, from 5:00 - 7:00 PM.

While donations are not required, it is, after all, a fundraising event. The suggested amounts are $100 or $250, and the maximum contributor level by state law is $500 per person, corporation, or partnership. Checks should be made payable to Jim Davis for Governor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The St. Petersburg Times' Washington blog Tales From D.C. is noting that Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) is ready to "come out of the background", announcing last Friday that he is seeking the chairmanship of the House Republican Policy Committee, which is number five on the GOP leadership ladder. The Lakeland Ledger makes mention of it in today's edition.

The panel has been chaired by Rep. John Shadegg (R - AZ), who is now running for Majority Leader to replace the scandalized Tom DeLay (R - TX). Putnam says he is supporting Roy Blunt (R - MO) for the top GOP race.

This committee was originally envisioned as the main forum to consider forward-looking legislative initiatives, the enunciation of official party policies, and the resolution of interjurisdictional policy disputes.


During the past couple of days, I've been working 13 1/2 hour shifts at the call centre, so obviously there hasn't been a great deal of time to share some news with you. I'll be back, so please thumb through some of the previous posts.

Monday, January 16, 2006


With the decision by the federal government to pull back money on the citrus canker eradication programme, legislators promise to battle to increase state funding and changes in protection during the upcoming session.

Bill Rufty of the Lakeland Ledger notes that all four members of the Polk County legislative delegation either gain a significant amount of their livelihood from or have investments in the industry. The late citrus/cattle magnate Ben Hill Griffin, for whom the University of Florida's football stadium is named, has two grandsons currently serving in Tallahassee.

The battle against canker was seeing some progress in South Florida, but a circuit court injunction against the eradication effort combined with the effects of hurricanes spreading the disease further nilled the advantage. Thus, lawmakers are sincerely concerned about the continued viability of Florida's citrus industry. Members of the legislative delegation are meeting with citrus officials to determine what can/should be done to help.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.
Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.

My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe. [...]

If we could kick the mob out of Las Vegas in the 1970s, we can change the culture of Washington and give America a government as good and honest as the people it serves.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D - NV)
From an op-ed piece appearing in Thursday's Houston Chronicle

Thanks to the Democratic National Committee blog site for the heads-up. I, too, thought it most interesting that this piece ran in the hometown newspaper of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - TX), facing charges of money laundering and conspiracy.


For the past several weeks, I have been working as a Member Services Representative for a company that provides the new Medicaid Part D Prescription Drug Plan which began January 1. And let me say that the headline above does not even begin to describe the situation that seniors and low income Americans are facing with this programme.

In some cases, the individuals who will be receiving the assistance through this plan did not bother to read the yellow letter sent in November from the federal Department of Health and Human Services advising them that their drug benefits would be changing. Some, believing it was simply another piece of junk mail, threw it away and didn't bother reading the important information within.

But the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), the federal agency that is coordinating this plan, really screwed things up. In a number of cases, those people who did sign up through Medicaid did not have their information transferred to the various companies providing the Plan D service for their area. Thus, they were/are not in the system, and cannot get their medications through the programme. As a result, some states are stepping in to assist until things are corrected.

Also, reciepents are not being advised that it works much like a HMO in that they cannot necessairly use the pharmacy they want; they have to deal with one contracted with that provider's network. In the case of the company I represent, many of the major national chains are included. But that doesn't help recipents who have been using a small, independent pharmacy for years that may not have signed on to our network. They have to change.

It's really sad to hear elderly and poor people, literally, weeping and in hysterics over their inability to get medication necessary in some cases to sustain life because the government screwed up. The programme is confusing: For the providers, for the pharmacies, for the recepients, and for those of us who have to answer the questions they ask. Let's hope they all get their act together really soon.


I had started to do this feature last Sunday, but the fact that I had to leave for work and issues with the dial-up's speed prevented it from appearing. So, here it is once again after a brief hiatus. Let's see what the newspaper editorial pages across Florida are saying today...

The Lakeland Ledger suggests that the Florence Villa Community Development Corporation should look closer before saying there are "no problems" after the State Attorney's Office issued a report that "no criminal activity has been identified" in the dealings of it's Executive Director (and Winter Haven commissioner) Nathanial Birdsong. The chairman had lent the CDC $31,200.20 to cover payroll during a lean time, but was paid back $5,000 more than he should have been. Birdsong did return the overpayment. But the editorial states other problems that need to be addressed at the organization.

Governor Bush's $565 million, 15-point plan to boost our state's hurricane prepardness deserves support and passages during the upcoming legislative session, so says the Melbourne-based Florida Today.

And speaking of the Gov, as he tries to nail down his legacy in his final term, the architect of "One Florida" is now unveiling a package of $52.4 million in assistance to help boost minority college enrollment...a proposal favoured in the Gainesville Sun's opinion.

Today's Orlando Sentinel editorial calls on more businesses to join an programme started last year in which they provide lower-income workers information on how to file for the Earned Income Tax Credit by filing with volunteer preparrers throughout the metro area. More than 250 businesses participated in the programme last year.

The issue in the Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial page is talk of reconfiguring the powers of the Volusia County Chair. It notes that Floridians have long had a healthy distrust of political power, the true limits of the county charter and the amount of power the chair has will have to be built on respect by all sides...and that will take longer than one calendar year.

Politics is on the mind of the writers of today's opinion in the St. Petersburg Times. It laments State CFO and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher's comments this past week slamming the Florida Supreme Court following it's ruling that using public school money for private school tuition unconstitutional.

Across the bay, the Tampa Tribune deals with the issue of saving the cirtus industry as canker continues to spread. The focus now must be on containment and establishing protocols to deal with the disease, which poses new questions. The Miami Herald also weighs in on the subject.

The Fort Myers News Press has been spotlighting the issue of Lee County's dependency court and the more than 1,000 children currently in it's system. The editorial today asks readers to become involved and make a difference to an abused, neglected, or abandoned child in the Fort Myers area.

Some red flags are waiving on the issue of allowing 140 upscale homes to be built on Black Hammock Island near Jacksonville. It is near the Timucuan Ecologicial and Historical Preserve, and the National Park Service and enviromental groups are concerned of the effects on the pristine area surrounding the island. The Florida Times Union says that tough questions to be asked ahead deserve complete answers as the plan goes to the state for review.

Up in the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal advises that the Escambia County School District has some huge challenges ahead, and that the School Board needs to get a grasp of the complete picture of where the district is, and where it needs to go. And the opinion falls against going to a seven period day until the district has it's finances in order.

Meanwhile, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reminds us that everyone is looking for answers as to what can be done to better protect South Florida's electrical grid or to restore power quicker. Florida Power & Light didn't have answers for lawmakers last week; the utility is waiting for a report from a Dutch engineering firm before they can provide certainty or detail as to what happened in the wake of the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.

Just up the road, the Palm Beach Post editorial calls on police agencies to work across boundries to end the spate of deadly shootings in Riveria Beach and West Palm Beach. This, as Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is reviving the multi-agency Violent Crimes Task Force.

Today's Ocala Star-Banner slams Ocala and Marion County officials for turning a request for a "automatic aid" agreement between it's fire service agencies into a political turf battle. As the editorial notes, For the record, the point is to try and keep people from burning to death.

A couple of other newspapers had site issues. Make it a great Sunday!

Saturday, January 14, 2006


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: U.S. Senators/Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Spector (R - PA) discuss the Alito hearings and the upcoming hearings on domestic spying. George has an interview with outgoing Virginia governor Mark Warner (D). And the roundtable with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney, conservative columnist George Will, and ABC News' Claire Shipman.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: U.S. Senators John McCain (R - AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) and Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune will discuss the Alito hearings, Iraq, and domestic spying.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: A discussion of Iraq's future and the military operation there with U.S. Senators Evan Bayh (D - IN) of the Select Intelligence Committee and Trent Lott (R - MS) of the Select Intelligence Committee, former Republican presidential candidate and Forbes, Inc. president/CEO Stephen Forbes, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and former Clinton White House economic adviser Gene Sperling, Iraqi UN Deputy Permanent Representative Faisal al-Istrabadi, CNN terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergan, Author Steve Coll, and New York Times writer/author James Risen.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: U.S. Senators/Judiciary Committee members Lindsey Graham (R - SC) and Charles Schumer (D - NY) will discuss the Alito hearings. Congressmen Roy Blunt (R - MO), John Boehmer (R - OH), and John Shadegg (R - AZ) will discuss the look at who may replace Congressman Tom DeLay (R - TX) as House Majority Leader (Shadegg announced Friday that he would seek the post). Also an interview with Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project president Harry Johnson. And the roundtable with Fox News Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume, syndicated columnist Mara Liasson, NPR's Juan Williams, and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Former Iraq Ambassador L. Paul Bremer will discuss his new book and what went right --- and wrong --- in our efforts in Iraq. Also, the leagcy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with authors Taylor Branch and Dr. John McWhorter and Childrens Defense Fund founder/president Marian Wright Edelman. It will also feature a clip from the civil rights leader's last appearance on MTP from August, 1967. That was "back in the day" when the show's title was meant literally, only a half hour long featuring one guest being questioned by three media panelists and moderator Lawrence E. Spivak.


Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) and her family are in mouring this weekend after the loss of her father, banker George W. Harris, Jr., who died playing tennis Friday at the Lakeland city tennis complex. He was 71.

Mr. Harris was the chairman and president of the Bartow-area Citrus and Chemical Bank, which was founded by his father-in-law, citrus and cattle magnate Ben Hill Griffin. Harris became the bank's CEO in 1963, when he was only 29 years of age. The bank, true to his word, has remained locally owned...the only one remaining in Polk County.

His daughter had been in South Florida campaigning and was planning to attend the Southeastern University scholarship fundraiser in Lakeland last night when she learned the news. Ms. Harris' campaign staff noted that she was too upset to comment, but her spokesperson released the following statement:

"It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Congresswoman Harris' father, George Harris. Mr. Harris was dearly loved by his family and cherished by his community. He will surely be missed by us all. Congresswoman Harris appreciates the many thoughts and prayers of everyone as she and her family move through this difficult time."

Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) remembered him this way:

"He had known me my whole life," said Putnam, 31. "I grew up around the corner. Fran (the Harris' youngest daughter) was my sister's age and I used to tag along with my sister when they went out to do Girl Scout stuff. Let me tell you, his passing leaves a gaping hole in our community."

And Polk County auto dealer Mike Steadem, who challenged Putnam for his congressional seat two years ago and was a founder of Polk County's Tiger Bay Club chapter, reacted:

"The man always had a smile and was so gracious and accommodating...He was at almost every meeting and thanked me for helping start it, but what I remember most is his dedication to every charity around," Stedem said.

"At a Cancer Walk at Bartow High last year, no one would take the 2-3 a.m. walk. You had to keep it going for 24 hours to raise the money we needed, so I started out walking and lo and behold, right there with me at that time of the morning was George, walking the hour. I just can't think of anything negative that anyone has ever said about him," Stedem said.

Mr. Harris is also survived by his wife, another daughter, a son, and five grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Friday, January 13, 2006


It's not unusual for groups such as the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association to get it's members riled to the point of bombarding network affiliates and sponsors with e-mails and telephone calls in protest of a programme they feel is "indecent" or "inmoral". Often, these urgings come without having viewed one second of the allegedly offensive show, relying only on press reports.

In the case of one NBC show, the AFA and it's friends may have won the fight.

The network had been heavily promoting it's new hour long comedy The Book of Daniel, which premiered in a two hour episode last week. The show centers around an Episcopalian priest named Daniel and his family, all of whom have their own quirks. Daniel is battling an addiction to painkillers, his wife is an alcoholic, his son is a homosexual, his adopted son is a skirtchaser, his teenage daughter was busted for selling weed, and his brother has embezzled church money.

As you might expect, the AFA and friends were unhappy at what they feel is a show that demeans Christianity, and the pressure began before last week's premiere aired. Two affiliates in Little Rock, Arkansas and Terre Haute, Indiana decided not to air the programme. They are both owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, based in Irving, Texas. Since then, stations in Tupelo/Columbus and Meridian, Mississippi have announced they would follow suit tonight, with several others reportedly considering a similar move.

While the AFA and it's friends have the right to express their concerns, they should at least watch the programme before criticizing it.

Personally, I tried to watch some of the show's premiere last week, and tuned out after a few minutes. I didn't have a problem with the content; IMHO it just wasn't that funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Fox News Channel conservative talker Sean Hannity will be visiting Lakeland on Friday as the featured speaker for Southeastern University's scholarship fundraising event, but don't expect to hear a lot about what is said during his hour long presentation.

Hannity's standard contract mandates that media representatives can only watch and photograph the first ten minutes of his address, then be escorted out of the venue. In addition, there will be no media interviews during his time in town, except for a ten minute bit with a reporter from the local Fox affiliate (in this case, Tampa's WTVT-13, which is owned and operated by Fox subsidiary New World Communications).

Officials told the Lakeland Ledger that such restrictions are more common with media personalities due to contractual requirments with their employers and concern for competition.

Southeastern University is a small liberal arts school which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God religious demonination. Hannity's appearance at the President's Scholarship Gala is sold out, and is expected to raise $250,000 for the school's scholarship fund. The event's big money donors --- $10,000 for a table of eight --- will get 16 signed copies of Hannity's latest book, "Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism" among other perks.

Southeastern's decidedly hard right influence was also noted in November when it tapped as it's winter commencement speaker Drayton Nabers, Jr., Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2004 Nabers was chosen to replace Roy Moore, who was removed from the bench for refusing to follow a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's judicial building. Nabers has a strong conservative lean as well, shown in his book "The Case for Character: Looking At Character From A Biblical Perspective".

In the book, Nabers condemns abortion, supports school voucher programs and cites the breakdown of traditional families as the root of what he considers the country's moral collapse.

Kinda like hearing the men chatting it up in the barber shop or feed store when I was a kid in Mississippi, talking about how "them damn n*****s" were going to be the destruction of humanity by wanting a decent education and seeking respect...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Gary Hartfield, new executive director of the embattled Polk County Opportunity Council, told board members Tuesday that some of them became "fans" of his predecessor, and that their blind loyalty hurt the community action agency over time.

Hartfield replaced Carolyn Speed, who was forced to resign in November as the result of a series of issues climaxing in a one year probation from the Florida Department of Community Affairs and calls for the agency to be disbanded.

Members of the board promised to do better in the future, admitting they should have treated Speed and their oversight of her differently. One member, Booker Young, told the Lakeland Ledger that "We were a little too close, a little too friendly" with the previous executive director. "It won't happen again."

While one may "live and learn", the credibility of PCOC will never be restored fully until those members of the board which sat back on their hands --- especially Board Chairman Ozell Wilson --- do the right thing and resign immediately. This is more than Ms. Speed's taking a free trip for signing a contract to purchase a copier. These board members chose to do nothing while Speed and her staff brought the agency to the brink of extinction due to sloppy bookkeeping...and only God above knows what else.

The Polk County Opportunity Council does a lot of great work for the underpriviliged of our area. It provides Head Start classes throughout Polk County, as well as a home weatherization and other programmes. There are a lot of wonderful people who work there. They, the organization's clients, and the people of this area deserve better leadership than that which has come from PCOC's Bartow office.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


All of the major gubernatorial candidates have now submitted their campaign's financial intake for the final quarter of 2005.

Earlier, Democratic contender Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa reported contributions of approximately $505,000, which is the largest quarterly take by any Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the year before election since contribution limits went into effect in the 1994 race. On Friday, challenger State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua reported that his campaign took in $264,000 during the quarter. While Smith's campaign reported cash on hand at around $924,000, Davis' has around $1.1 million.

On the Republican side, Attorney General Charlie Crist raised approximately $1.5 million during the quarter, bringing his total hard cash raised to a record $6.86 million in only seven months. GOP rival State Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher's campaign reported contributions during the quarter of $770,000.

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz notes that Gallagher's campaign will be helped by Fort Lauderdale cardiologist and Bush family friend Dr. Zach Zachariah, named an honourary finance chairman along with former Bush-Cheney finance chairman Tom Petway. Zachariah is considered one of the most elite fundraisers for Republicans in Florida, and his addition should help bring Gallagher's campaign coffers.


I originally saw this story on CNN's Web page early Monday morning, but did not have time to do anything with it. Thankfully, the story is still on the Albuquerque Tribune's site. It's an interesting reminder of the old saying "You know what they say about payback..."

In Fort Sumner, New Mexico recently an 81 year young man caught a mouse inside his home, and decided to dispose of the rodent by tossing it into a pile of burning leaves.

Needless to say, the mouse didn't like the idea much. So, in flames, the mouse escaped from the pile and ran just beneath a window into the man's home...setting the residence on fire. The fire spread up the window and throughout the house, destroying it completely.

"I've seen numerous house fires," village fire department Captain Jim Lyssy said, "but nothing as unique as this one."

It is funny to a certain extent, except for the fact that this elderly man no longer has a home.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Reading Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty's column this morning, I noted that one of Polk County's extreme conservative mavericks passed away recently.

Ray Mattox was a Winter Haven attorney and served in the Florida House of Representatives for 18 years from the mid 1950s until the early 1970s. While the former Democrat (he switched his party affiliation to the GOP shortly after leaving the Legislature) sparked many debates with collegues on issues such as welfare, he was generally respected and considered a person to learn from.

"Even on something he didn't agree with, he would go out of his way to explain the issues to me," (Former legislative collegue and Polk County Commissioner Larry) Libertore said. "He was genuine in his feelings and beliefs and I don't think he ever acted for purely political reasons."

During his time in the Legislature, Mattox was generally known for his support of education, the citrus industry, and law enforcement. His father, Grady Mattox, served as a local justice of the peace and constable in the years after World War II, which likely influenced him to co-sponsor legislation during the early 1970s to establish training standards for law enforcement officers statewide.

A veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, Mattox was also active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and served in a variety of offices within that organization, including State Commander.

I had the opportunity to know him briefly while working at Winter Haven radio station WHNR, where he did a weekly talk show for nearly a year (he also wrote a weekly column for the Winter Haven News Chief as well as children's books). While I certainly did not agree with much of his political philosophy, I always found talking with him to be enlightening and interesting. He always spoke from the heart, and one had to respect that.

Ray Mattox died Thursday of congestive heart failure December 29 at Winter Haven Hospital. He was 78 years of age. His funeral service was held last Tuesday.


Polk County's young chapter of the bipartisan Tiger Bay Club is pulling a coup later this month by having the two primary Democratic gubernatorial rivals on the same dais.

Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa and State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua agreed to appear at the club's January 23 luncheon at Bartow's Peace River Country Club. There will not be a debate, but an opportunity for attendees to hear both men discuss their candidacies and issues.

Lakeland Ledger political writer Bill Rufty noted that while Smith, considered by many to be the underdog in the primary race, accepted right away, Davis' appearance was not confirmed for several weeks.

I saw and heard both men at the recent Florida Democratic Party conference, and was duly impressed. I'm looking to hear more from both men, and wish I could attend the event. Unfortunately, some of us have to work...

Great job by the local Tiger Bay Club chapter, which only formed early last year.


Beginning this morning, state transportation workers will begin installing guardrails in the median of a 22 mile stretch of Interstate 4 in Hillsborough County in an effort to bring down the number of fatalities caused in crossover accidents. The guardrails will be installed from 50th Street in Tampa to the Polk County east of Plant City.

The project, expected to cost approximately $7 million dollars, should be completed in about six months. Since the project will be done in the median, the effect on traffic flow should be minimal.

FDOT has previously done similar work along Florida's Turnpike, which has helped to bring the number of crossover fatalities there down.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


The Associated Press' Tallahassee based reporter Brendan Farrington has a great piece this morning about the Florida cabinet races...and what the people who fill those offices do. A bit of an educative piece for most voters, since many people don't have a clue as to the wide range of responsibilities or the amount of influence the Florida Cabinet offices have.

While the contests for governor and U.S. Senator will dominate the headlines and political discussion, the races down the ballot are just as important...and in some cases, possibly more so. Especially when it comes to the future in Florida politics.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Thanks to the Panama City-based blog Ironknee for the lead...

Monday will see the beginning of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for United States Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito, and the evangelicals are already at work.

According to a story in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, three ministers claim to have entered the Judiciary Committee hearing room on Wednesday, touching "holy oil" on each of the seats where participants, Senate staffers, and the press will sit and praying for each committee member by name.

The announcement came as the trio, which included National Clergy Council president Rev. Ron Schenck, Christian Defense Coalition director Rev. Patrick Mahoney (formerly of Operation Rescue), and Faith and Action general manager Grace Nwachukwu (Schenck is a co-founder of this group with twin brother Paul Chaim Schenck), attempted to enter the hearing room again Wednesday but were barred by Capitol Police from doing so. The ministers read from the Biblical book of Psalms, knelt to recite the Lord's Prayer, and crossed the hearing room door with "holy oil" before leaving.

Rev. Schenck said the acts were the first of a series of prayer meetings which will continue through the confirmation hearings. But while the trio claim that they are not taking sides in the Alito debate, Schenck said that he and Mahoney blessed the same room prior to last year's hearings for now-Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.. That hearing "went very well," Rev. Schenck said.

A little local angle on this story: According to it's Web site, the National Clergy Council's Executive Council includes Rev. Dr. David Anderson of Sarasota's Faith Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Charles Nestor, an Assemblies of God minister now living in Lakeland.