Monday, December 25, 2006


Just a brief posting to apologize for having nothing here for the past several days and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Thanks to some problems with the Florida Department of Revenue in getting child support payments to me --- solely their screwup --- my telephone has been disconnected while I am having to try to keep my finances in order in the meantime. Hopefully I'll be back online within one to two weeks after they get my address corrected and the checks stop being sent back to Tallahassee.

In the meantime, I hope that this finds everyone enjoying their Christmas holiday with family and friends. As I type this I am working, if you want to call it that, manning the phones per client requirment for the stray calls requesting information. The family had a nice holiday breakfast at the home my daughter and her boyfriend share in Lakeland, so that my granddaughter could open her Christmas gifts in front of everyone before I had to come to work. It was a nice time, and everyone got some nice gifts. Thankfully, everyone is in good health, and the granddaughter is recovering well from a bicycle spill which landed her in the ER late last week.

Again, I hope to be back with you very soon. Thanks for stopping by, and keep checking in. In the meantime, make it a wonderful holiday.

"Chains shall He break,
For the slave is our brother;
And in His name,
All oppression shall cease..."

From the hymn "O Holy Night"

Monday, December 11, 2006


Some of you who have been regular visitors to this blog may have read on occasion my mentions of the I-4 Corridor Group. It is an informal association of progressive minded political activists from throughout the I-4 corridor from Tampa/St. Petersburg to Lakeland/Winter Haven to Kissimmee to Orlando and Daytona Beach who for the past several years have met every month to discuss issues and provide means where like-minded people can work together across county lines to elect progressive candidates to public office.

One of the founding members of this group is Fred Williams, a semi-retired pharmacist from Tampa. He's a great fellow who has done a lot of work for candidates over the years, and spent a lot of time, effort, and money to hold our group together during those early days when only a handful of people would show for meetings.

Fred has been in poor health recently, and is back in hospital for treatment. He fell and fractured a verterbre last weekend, had a pacemaker put in Friday and is scheduled today for back surgery. He also has dialysis every other day. I would sincerely ask that everyone who reads this please keep Fred Williams in your thoughts and prayers. If you know Fred, and want to contact him or send a card, here's his contact information:

Fred Williams
c/o St. Joseph's Hospital
Room 405-E
3001 West Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Tampa, Florida 33807
Telephone: (813) 554-8500

I know it's tough for the guy, as he's the type of person who simply hates being not active and doing something. Let's hope he's out and about again real soon.


Sitting down to check out what's in today's Lakeland Ledger, I was pleasantly surprised to see that political columnist Bill Rufty has a feature --- a "Q & A" interview --- with new Polk County Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Simmons.

The former Polk County School Board member was elected to serve as interim chair back in September when predecessor Richard Blank resigned. She was elected permanently at the following meeting in October.

I was surprised because Rufty had done a piece on her following the October election. This time, Ms. Simmons gives her ideas on why and how Democrats have been out of favour locally in recent years. In the November election, the only Democrat elected to a countywide partisan post was Jean Reed to the County Commission. There are actually several other Democrats who serve in countywide positions, such as Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards and Tax Collector Joe G. Tedder (both of whom are former State Representatives), but their current offices are nonpartisan.

It's a tough job, and it won't be easy to handle the various factions who believe that their way is the right way, but Nancy is a longtime teacher who I'm sure can and will use her classroom skills when necessary to keep things from getting out of line.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


First, please accept my apology for the delay in posting this weekly feature today. Normally this would appear during the morning, but this was my weekend to work, and I was not close to being ready to post before having to leave a bit earlier than normal.

We begin our weekly tour of the state's editorial pages here at home, where the Lakeland Ledger serves up another of it's occasional "Gigs and Garlands" series, offering good and bad mentions to a variety of people and groups for deeds good and bad. Those reveiving good mentions include the Clearwater circuit judge who fined Department of Children and Families chief Lucy Hadi for her agency's failure to deal with mentally ill people in county jails in a timely manner, and the Polk County Commission for endorsing a pilot programme to increase litter removal on 25 county roads.

Juvenile detention is becoming a major issue in Northwest Florida, and there seems to have been a breakdown in communication between local law enforcement officials and the state Department of Juvenile Justice over funding for security at the assessment centres. The Pensacola News Journal says the state should step up and pay for security, as local law enforcement agencies --- already seriously shorthanded in many cases --- can't afford the expense and manpower required.

Today's Tallahassee Democrat opinion page deals with the search for a new president at Florida A & M University. While it says that finding the perfect president is likely not a realistic hope because of the many hats a university leader must wesr today, it offers some ideas as to what a new FAMU president should be in comparing the six candidates.

Another college presidential vacancy is the concern of a newspaper editorial, this time in the Melbourne-based Florida Today. It notes that 32 men and women have applied to become the fifth president of Brevard Community College, and the opinion space urges the search committee to take great care in determining which of them would be the strongest candidates for final consideration to guide the school through it's coming challenges

Continuing east on I-10 to Jacksonville, the Florida Times Union reminds readers that voters approved a bond issue in 2000 to fund construction of a new Duval County Courthouse, but nothing has been done bacause of soaring cost estimates. The newspaper is hoping that 2007 will be the year for some action on the project, and provides some suggestions.

The Gainesville Sun questions the fiscal conservatism of new Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R - Coral Gables) after he loaded up the House staff with Bush administration veterans such as spokesman Jose Fuentes, who will be paid more than the governor's communications director, and ordered the addition of a House members-only dining room in the Capitol.

Today's editorial in the Ocala Star Banner urges Marion County officials to seize the opportunity to enhance fire service in the fast urbanizing area around Ocala by entering into a partnership with the City of Ocala which the newspaper calls the fairest and most economical proposal yet.

Some folks believe that higher education should mean higher accountnability, as in FCAT-like testing for colleges and universities. The Daytona Beach News Journal disagrees, saying that such testing would undermine the whole purpose of higher education, especially that of "expanding students' knowledge beyond their majors or specalities and stimulating research and democratic debate".

The Orlando Sentinel says that ethics reforms should be a top priority for Orange County government, and expresses it's indignation over how Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar was openly mocked by elected officials when he dared to suggest reforms last month. The Sentinel editorial suggests 1) requiring that only individuals, not businesses or committees, can donate to campaigns, 2) follow the example of Alachua County and limit campaign contributions to $250 per person, 3) require open disclosure of any campaign contributions by anyone doing business with or seeking approval from a city or county commission, and 4), require elected officials to abstain from voting on any issue affecting anyone they did business with for up to a year before entering office.

On the Gulf Coast, the Tampa Tribune takes note that a major gateway to the city's downtown area, Ashley Drive, is about to undergo a major transformation with a new art museum, a new children's museum, a Riverwalk, a redesigned boulevard, and a expanded/enlightened Curtis Hinton Park. The editorial's concern is that competing designs pull together in a "striking, functional, and memorable way", and says that Mayor Pam Iorio will need to be like a master conductor who ensures that it happens right.

The St. Petersburg Times has a message for Democratic National Committee Chairman Dr. Howard Dean: Butt Out; Republican Vern Buchanan won the 13th Congressional District race. The newspaper's opinion today is that Democratic challenger Christine Jennings should concede the race, saying that she did accomplished what she set out to do in her initial protest in requesting an audit of the touch screen voting machines in Sarasota County.

And speaking of the disputed 13th District contest, the Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial page weighs in, noting that three lessons have been learned from the experience: 1) Rules governing ballot layout need improvements, despite reforms made five years ago, 2) Administration of elections would be much easier if all of Florida's 67 counties used the same voting technology, and 3) It's time for the state and nation to face the music on touch screen technology.

The holiday season always highlights the need of our neighbours, and the Naples Daily News makes mention that the lengthy wish list shows the need, and the opportunity, for help in the community.

Today's editorial in the Fort Pierce Tribune and other Scripps Treasure Coast newspapers endorses the addition of fluoride to public drinking water in Martin County, and encourages the county commission there to approve the idea when it votes on the issue Tuesday, December 19.

Heading further into South Florida, the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel reminds us that while the property insurance crisis is Topic A, a resolution will not come quickly or cheaply. And while a special legislative session is a step in the right direction, it will remain a work in progress heading into the 2007 regular session.

And still on the insurance issue, the Palm Beach Post takes note that one reason that consumers have received so little help from the Legislature on the subject is that lawmakers have relied primarily on information from the insurance industry. The Post editorial reminds readers that if consumers can hope to get help, objectivity should be at a premimum.

Finally, the Miami Herald editorial describes the Iraq Study Group report released last week as "constructive, sensible, and important" and puts the focus on the big picture regarding our involvment in Iraq. It says that the report's message must be taken to heart by the White House and it's partisan domestic foes.

Better late than never...make it a great week ahead!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Some people simply have too much time on their hands. At least, some in the conservative movement who have responded with indignation over the decision of newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison (D - MN), a convert to Islam, to take his oath of office with his hand on the Koran.

In a recent Townhall article right wing columnist and talk show host Dennis Prager is suggesting that Ellison --- who will be the nation's first Islamic Member of Congress --- not be allowed to take his oath on the Koran on the grounds that doing so "undermines American civilization".

But there are a couple of facts that Mr. Ellison and his ilk should be reminded of:

First, when we see pictures of Senators and Members of Congress taking the oath with their hands on a Bible or other book, it is not actually their official oath, but a tradition which dates back to the infancy of photography so that the politicos can have something to print back home. When the members take their actually oath, it is as a group in their respective chambers with noone having their hand on any book.

Secondly, it is not all that unusual for an officeholder to take their oath holding a text other than the Christian Bible. For instance, the late United States Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg took his oath on the high court using a Hebrew Bible, and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle took her oath on a Torah in 2001. Four presidents did not use a Bible in their ceremony: Franklin Pierce affirmed his oath, Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt had no Bibles in their ceremonies, and Lyndon B. Johnson used a missal during his first term.

Third, one should read this excerpt from Article VI of the Constitution, which describes the oaths of office for federal and state officials:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It really should not matter if a public official wants to use a Christian or Hebrew Bible or the Koran to take their oath of office on. As long as an individual is sincere, and is willing to swear or affirm on their holy texts to be faithful in their service, there should not be any complaint.


Congratulations to the Dreadnaughts of Lakeland High School, who won their 45th straight football game and third consecutive 5A state championship 45-42 against Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas at Dolphins Stadium in Miami.

This was the third straight title game against STA, and the fourth in six years these two teams have faced off for all the marbles. That said, you've simply got to give the Raiders team credit for never giving up, and in the process making one of the greatest comebacks in recent prep football memory. STA scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to force the game into overtime, and both teams put the ball into the end zone in the first extra period.

For the uninitiated: In Florida high school football, in an overtime the ball is put on the ten yard line, and each team gets one set of downs to score.

In the second OT, Lakeland scored a field goal. STA gets their set of downs, choosing to gamble for the win on fourth down and try for what would have been the winning touchdown. Instead, the Dreadnaught defense stopped the Raiders inches from the goal line for the victory.

Lakeland star running back Chris Rainey had another spectacular game, rushing for 276 yards and three TDs, but the performance was shadowed by his comments to the Miami Herald earlier in the week, in which he claimed that he was given clothes, jewelry, and money in violation of Florida High School Activities Association rules. While the Polk County School District cleared him, the state association is conducting it's own investigation which could result in LHS being stripped of it's championship as well as having to forfeit some or all it's games this season. And his running off at the mouth could possibly cost him his scholarship to the University of Florida, as he could lose his amateur status.

Regardless of what happens, it was a great game, and another chapter has been written in this blossoming rivalry.

One other note from last night: I listened to much of the second half on WLKF radio, and as someone who was in the radio business for the better part of two decades, I was embarrassed for the two announcers who were calling the game. It was one of the worst sports broadcasts I have ever heard, and I've listened to more than my share of small town Gene Deckerhoff/Mick Hubert wannabees.

For the record, the best high school play-by-play announcer in the local area is Tom Thornburg, who owns WWBF-AM in Bartow and calls the Bartow HS Yellowjackets games.

Friday, December 08, 2006


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: British Prime Minister Tony Blair sits down with George Stephanopoulos to talk about the present and future in Iraq. Also, U.S. Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D - DE / Incoming Foreign Relations Committee Chairman) and Gordon Smith (R - OR) will react to the Iraq Study Group report (the link is to download the .pdf file of the complete report) and it's recommendations. And the roundtable will feature Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson of ABC News, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, and conservative columnist George Will to discuss the ISG report and the day's other political news.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: The question: Have We Lost the War in Iraq? Appearing to provide some answers will be Iraq Study Group co-chairmen Lee H. Hamilton and James A. Baker III, along with U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D - MI / Incoming Armed Services Committee Chairman) and Trent Lott (R - MS / Incoming Minority Whip).

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: Iraq Study Group co-chairmen Hamilton and Baker will appear to discuss the report and it's recommendations. Also appearing: Representatives Jane Harman (D - CA) and Christopher Shays (R - CT), Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Republic of Iraq Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, and New York Times Bagdhad Bureau Chief John Burns.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Hamilton and Baker will appear here as well, along with congressional reaction from U.S. Senators Christopher Dodd (R - CT) and Sam Brownback (R - KS).

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Hamilton and Baker will discuss their group's recommendations. Also discussing where we are and where we go from here regarding Iraq will be former Rumsfeld Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman, Professor Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University's School on International Studies, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, and Washington Post Senior Military Correspondent and author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq Thomas Ricks.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The panel and topics have not been released as of late Friday evening. Please check back here tomorrow for possible updates.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: This week's featured guest is Dr. Howard Dean, 2004 presidential candidate and current Democratic National Committee chairman.


It was decided late Thursday afternoon by Polk County School District officials that there was no credible evidence to show that Lakeland High School running back Chris Rainey accepted money or other renumeration in violation of Florida High School Activities Association rules, so he will be allowed to play in this evening's Class 5A state championship game at Miami's Dolphin Stadium against St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale.

But the issue won't be over quite yet, as the FHSAA will continue it's own investigation into the comments Rainey made to a Miami Herald reporter earlier this week. The Herald had done a fluff piece about how the Dreadnaughts' success of 44 consecutive wins and playing in it's third straight championship game has affected the community, and the interview with the LHS star was a couple of paragraphs within it.

Rainey said a local clothing vendor recently gave him a bag full of sports jerseys and jewelry in exchange for his autograph. Another time, an elderly woman approached him at a restaurant, gave him a hug and handed him a wad of cash.

''I didn't even count it,'' Rainey said. "When I walk around, people are buying me food, giving me money. I'm like, damn, I'm glad I'm Chris Rainey. It's real nice to be me.''

The running back, who has verbally committed to the University of Florida, is now being represented by one of the area's powerful attorneys, Robert Puterbaugh, among whose clients is Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Rainey released a statement through the lawyer Wednesday stating that his comments to the reporter were meant in a joking fashion and not intended to be taken seriously. Puterbaugh has not permitted FHSAA investigators to interview his client at this point.

Puterbaugh is no stranger to sports related cases. Three years ago, the attorney represented former University of Tennessee trainer Jamie Ann Naughright in a defamation of character lawsuit against former UT and current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and three other parties which she claimed he ridiculed her in a book, "Manning: A Father, His Sons, and a Football Legacy". The lawsuit was settled after Polk County Circuit Judge Harvey Kornstein ruled there was enough evidence to bring the case before a jury in Bartow. Details of the settlement were not released due to a confidentiality agreement.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Lakeland certainly likes it's high school football. The Lakeland High Dreadnaughts, currently ranked number one in Florida and in three national prep polls, will take on Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas for the 5A state championship Friday evening at Miami's Dolphin Stadium. It would be the 'Naughts third consecutive title and sixth in 20 years, and the third straight year these two teams have met for the championship.

The Miami Herald featured the Dreadnaughts in an article which ran Tuesday, but it also included some material at least one well known player may regret saying.

From the article:

'People come up to you like, `Hey, great game on Friday,' or, 'Great catch,' '' said senior Paul Wilson, a wide receiver who also will play for UF next year. ``You don't know who they are, but they know who you are.''

Then there are the rewards that come with recognition.
[Star running back Chris] Rainey said a local clothing vendor recently gave him a bag full of sports jerseys and jewelry in exchange for his autograph. Another time, an elderly woman approached him at a restaurant, gave him a hug and handed him a wad of cash.

''I didn't even count it,'' Rainey said. "When I walk around, people are buying me food, giving me money. I'm like, damn, I'm glad I'm Chris Rainey. It's real nice to be me.''

That last comment might come back to bite Rainey on his backside. The Florida High School Activities Association, which oversees prep sports across the state, is investigating. It could threaten his eligibility to play college football at the University of Florida, to which he has verbally committed with several teammates.

As for the vendor, Rainey described an apparant street vendor off of Memorial Boulevard. An excerpt from the Herald interview (link is to a .pdf file):

QUESTION: What's the coolest thing someone has given you?

RAINEY: Clothes. It's the man out there in the field on Saturdays, selling jerseys and all that kind of stuff. And my cousin, because it's right next to my grandma's house, my cousin came in like, 'Hey, this man wants to meet you. He wants you to sign his ball and he'll give you free clothes'. I'm like, 'What?' So I signed the ball and he gave me all kinds of free --- watch, necklace, shoes, clothes

QUESTION: This was all Lakeland gear?

RAINEY: Just regular clothes. It could be anything.

QUESTION: This guy sells clothes at the games?

RAINEY: On Saturday, he sells clothes off Memorial [Boulevard]. You can't miss it. It's on the right. You see jerseys everywhere and stuff like that.

You have to wonder if that guy will be at his usual spot this weekend...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The next couple of weeks will be slamma-jamma on the phone lines where I work, as we are getting into the heart of the open enrollment period for the Medicare Part D prescription drug programmes. While the enrollment period lasts until December 31, Medicare is urging people to make a decision and get enrolled by this coming Friday, December 8. Why?

All applications must be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency which oversees the entire programme. Because of the simple volume of applicaitons they will have to deal with, it can take between two and three weeks for an application to be processed and approved, after which CMS informs the provider, who in turn notifies the applicant by letter that they have been approved. Those who wait until later in December to make up their minds may not have their benefits in place until possibly mid-January, which means they will have to pay out of pocket for their medications until their application has been processed and approved. The benefits will be made retroactive to January 1, but that may not help some poor folks. Making a decision early --- this week --- on who you want to provide your prescription drug benefits could mean the difference of being ready come January 1 or paying out of pocket for awhile.

Another important point: READ THE FORMULARY! The formulary is the list of drugs that a provider will offer as part of their plan. Just because a doctor prescribes a certain medication doesn't mean that 1) it will be covered, or 2) it will be covered at the dosage you may currently take. Oxycontin seems to be the pain drug of choice right now, and the plan that I represent does not include Oxycontin or Oxycodone on it's formulary. The formulary alternative that is being required that members try for a period of 60 days is Morphine Sulfate Solution (MSSR) before Oxycontin/Oxycodone will be considered.

Also, DON'T RELY ON FRIENDS, NEIGHBOURS, OR MEDICARE for your information. Every Part D provider offers packets of information regarding their plans, and it's important that you get the provider's information to get a complete look at how their plans work, what mundane requirements you may have to meet, co-payment and premimum information. Read the information carefully, sitting down if needed with a friend/neighbour/relative to review it to insure a full understanding of the plan. And don't be afraid to call and ask questions if needed.

And one problem that we've come across quite a bit members attempting to enroll mom/dad/grandparents when they don't have the legal right to do so. To do that you MUST have a POWER OF ATTORNEY DOCUMENT FOR HEALTHCARE ISSUES, and you cannot enroll them online or via phone; you must fill out the paper enrollment application and include a copy of the POWER OF ATTORNEY document with the application. To do otherwise is considered forgery.

Just a few basic things to help if you're helping a friend or relative. I'll probably have more here later.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Sunday in Sarasota, more than 500 people came together to protest the continued use of touch screen voting machines and the 18,000-plus undervotes in Sarasota County --- a highly unusual number --- in the 13th Congressional District race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan.

Local and state elections officials have certified Buchanan the winner in what was one of the most negative races in recent memory, but his margin of victory was just over 300 votes. A number of voters have complained about problems with the machines, from having their intended vote count for another candidate to not being able to see the candidates' names on the screen.

Buchanan dismissed the protest as a group of people from outside the area bussed in by liberal special interest groups. And while organizations such as Commom Cause, People for the American Way, and Voter Action did bring supporters from across the state, there were a number of local supporters on hand as well.

I had planned to attend the event, but family issues kept me close to home Sunday. My feeling is that while a revote with a paper trail is the only logicial resolution considering a highly unusual undervote, I simply don't see where a court will order one. This issue will likely have to go before the new House of Representatives, which constitutionally has the final say on these matters.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


We begin this look at the state's editorial pages with the St. Petersburg Times, which takes note of the charges filed in the aftermath of a nine month independent investigation by Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober into the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson at a Bay County sheriff's boot camp. The newspaper states that the end of the investigation and resulting charges has brought some much needed resolution to the family and to all Floridians.

Across the bay, the Tampa Tribune marks the 50th anniversary of the University of South Florida, now the nation's ninth largest university with huge aspirations of entering the elite among research facilities. Yet the opinion states that USF does not receive the respect it deserves from the governor and legislature...or, for that matter, the Board of Governors.

Bus and motor coach safety is the subject of today's editorial in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which calls for Florida and other states to follow the recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board to ban the use of cellular phones by school bus and motor coach drivers. Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia ban cell phone use by school bus drivers while driving, but none ban their use by motor coach drivers, and only California prohibits their use by public transit drivers while behine the wheel.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger says today that there are will be no easy answers to the property insurance crisis when the Legislature meets in Tallahassee for special session January 16, and that Governor-elect Charlie Crist has no magic answers outside of his idea to give insurance companies easier access to the state catastrophic fund after major hurricanes. Thankfully, this was an unusually mild hurricane season, but the Legislature has to be ready when the big ones return.

There's a new police chief in Daytona Beach, and Mike Chitwood's got attitude. So says the Daytona Beach News Journal. Chitwood's ideas have received the support of many neighbourhood associations and energized the DBPD, but not without some controversy. Overall, the newspaper gives him good marks, but notes that he should possibly tone down his love for publicity and forge positive relationships with neighbouring law enforcement leaders.

Today's Orlando Sentinel begins a two-part editorial concerning a new megadevelopment which will be built at the Osceola-Polk county border and how it would likely affect a relatively new wilderness preserve nearby only 14 years ago to help hundreds of threatened plants and critters.

Along the Space Coast in Melbourne, Florida Today believes that the new federally mandated Safe Routes to School programme is a good concept. Florida will receive $29 million through 2009 to help fund the project, and Brevard County will get a piece of that pie beginning in January. But it won't mean a thing unless safety is considered first, including among other things teaching students of proper pedestrian and bicycle safety practices.

The Scripps Research Institute has brought recognition to Palm Beach County as a scientific centre, and now other groups are interested in coming. The Max Planck Society, Germany's leading research group, as well as another yet unnamed organization have expressed interest. But the Palm Beach Post editorial says that the first step must come from the state, and Governor-elect Crist has not said if he will seek state money to help local officials attract the Max Planck group.

Even as some Middle Eastern nations are paying for top flight universities to locate branch campuses there, the squeeze of rising costs and declining government support for higher education is taking it's toll here. The Gainesville Sun will run a series of editorials looking at the financial, political, and demand side trends that threaten to negatively impact access to higher education. Today, it presents an overview of the situation.

Along the same lines, today's Tallahassee Democrat notes that how our state deals with a wide variety of social and economic challenges will make Florida among the most consequential of the 21st century, and that a system of higher education which attracts "the best scholars and students, keeps regional economies humming, produces a highly trained work force, and is affordable and accessible" is essential to the state's success.

Down the road in Ocala, the Star-Banner laments the defeat of Marion County's local road tax last month, and things got a lot worse this past week as the Florida Department of Transportation announced postponment of three major road projects for at least three years due to money issues. The newspaper notes that the Legislature can no longer ignore the state's road work backlog. Noting it won't be easy or cheap, it says that "Sadly, we are skeptical such leadership will occur. And that means our road situation will likely go from bad to worse to..."

Today's editorial in the South Florida Sun Sentinel is critical of officials in the South Florida town of Sunrise. It has a 14-seat suite in the public-funded BankAtlantic Center, and they seem to have difficulty keeping a list of the guests for public records. Although they are not leaglly bound to do so, the Sun Sentinel's idea is simple: Keeping public trust is and should remain paramount.

The Treasure Coast Newspapers are especially bothered about the burglary last week of over $20,000 from St. Peter's Catholic Church in Jupiter, intended to help some of the poor within the area during this holiday season, especially within the area's Hispinac community. They ask readers who may know something about the crime to contact the detective working the case.

For years, there has been talk about an outer beltway in northeast Florida surrounding Jacksonville, but only a small portion of it has been built or is under construction. The Florida Times Union says today that it is time for some bold thinking to put the project on a fast track. It's idea is to charge tolls and establish a independent regional transportation authority, which it says would build the outer beltway within five years.

The Miami Herald doesn't like what Congressman Tom Tancredo (R - CO) had to say recently, that he didn't like the multicultrualism of Miami and South Florida. The Herald says that he's just spitting into a hurricane-force wind because globalization is a fact of life, and that immigrants offer our nation advantages in this 21st Century. Instead of building walls, Congress should channel legal immigrant flows to maximize the benefits to the nation at large.

Taxes is the subject of today's editorial in the Pensacola News Journal, and one item that people are watching is wheather beach leaseowners will have to pay taxes for the homes and businesses they built on the publicly owned land. Leaseowners on Navarre Beach lost their challenge at the Florida Supreme Court, and some believe that if the Escambia County leaseowners lose as well, that could offset mainland taxation.

Make it a great Sunday!

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Florida high school football is quite competitive, and here in Polk County several schools have very good programmes. Three prep teams here reached the state semifinal level, but now only one remains.

Victory Christian Academy of Lakeland lost it's bid to become the Class 1B state champion Friday at Miami's Dolphin Stadium to Tallahassee's FAMU DRS High School Baby Rattlers 14-10, and Bartow was defeated at Glades Central 48-0 in the 3A semifinal round.

Only the Lakeland High Dreadnaughts remain to play for a title, which if successful would be their third consecutive 5A championship. They will travel to Miami next week to take on Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in a matchup of the number one and number three teams in the final 5A poll.

Last night the 'Naughts defeated number two Daytona Beach Mainland 35-24 for their 44th straight victory. They have a remarkable talent in running back Chris Rainey, who last night made touchdown runs of 72, 92, and 57 runs and gained a total of 326 yards on 22 carries. Rainey has a total of 2,166 yards for the year, a school record.

Of all the kudos the running back has received, what Mainland coach John Maronto said after the game was something worth paying attention to:

"I coached against Desmond Howard. I coached against some big-time backs in Ohio,'' Maronto said. ``He reminds me of Desmond Howard (former Heisman winner at Michigan) and I think he's probably a little more explosive.''

BTW: Rainey and six other Dreadnaught seniors have made verbal commitments to the University of Florida.

Friday, December 01, 2006


The St. Petersburg Times political blog The Buzz notes that the Republican Governors Association is holding it's Annual Conference this week in South Florida, and of course Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is not letting this opportunity pass to schmooze his fellow chief executives to gain their support for a likely 2008 presidential run.

Also taking advantage to meet and greet is U.S. Senator John McCain (R - AZ), who is considered by many to be the frontrunner at this early point among Republicans looking to occupy the Oval Office. He hosted a reception last evening in Coral Gables for the GOP governors.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Dr. William H. "Bill" Frist (R - TN) announced he would not run for president in two years, saying he would keep a promise to serve only two terms in the Senate and return home to Tennessee and take a sabbattical from public life. The conservative lawmaker said that in the short term, he would resume his regular medical mission trips around the world, and that he may eventually resume his medical practice.

And it's obvious that Retired NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark is considering another run for the presidency in 2008. In an interview earlier this week with the Associated Press, Clark said he wants to avoid waiting too long to make a decision as was the case in 2004. He entered the Democratic presidential hunt in September, 2003, only four months before the first votes were cast. His only victory in 14 primaries and caucauses was in Oklahoma. Clark was active during the recent election cycle as his WesPAC organization assisted a number of federal and statewide candidates including Democratic Congressman-elect Tim Mahoney in the 16th District.

I supported Wesley Clark two years ago, and would certainly consider supporting him again in 2008 should he decide to run. But IMHO he would need to make a decision very soon and actually get started putting together a campaign and getting on the road to regain some of the name recognition he has lost among the electorate since 2004. Plus, he'll likely be running against some big name candidates such as U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - NY) and possibly Barack Obama (D - IL). It'll definately be a tough climb.