Note to Readers: my apologies for bringing yesterday's news to you today; an HTML error on my part prevented publication yesterday.
"Jeb!" Hits The Road Today
"After months of avoiding any talk of his legacy, denying his lame duck status and brushing aside reporters' questions about his future, the final chapter of Gov. Jeb Bush's two-term administration came sharply to a close Thursday in his last scheduled public appearance. Less than 24 hours before Bush and his wife, Columba, leave the Governor's Mansion permanently, the couple oversaw the dedication of a 734-square-foot library addition to the mansion built in their honor and to the formal unveiling of his gubernatorial portrait." "Reluctantly, Gov. Bush reflects on time in office". See also "Governor's portrait unveiled", "The Simple Things in Life" and "Jeb's official portrait unveiled".
"And the [Quinnipiac University] poll found that slightly more than half of Floridians think Bill Nelson is doing a good job in the U.S. Senate while only 42 percent think Mel Martinez is doing a good job." "Latte Drinking Republicans?".
"Gov.-elect Charlie Crist and newly appointed state management secretary Kevin Hyde dismissed concerns about potential conflicts of interest over Hyde's law firm's representation of a company that the state is investigating."
Foley & Lardner, the Jacksonville firm for whom Hyde works, is representing Convergys Corp., which is under investigation for losing personnel data."Crist, Hyde see no conflict on Convergys case".
Crist said Monday that Hyde has had no role in the Convergys case while working at Foley & Lardner.
The state started a $350 million contract with Convergys in 2002 to outsource human resources, payroll and benefits processing for more than 120,000 employees.
However, a subcontractor is believed to have outsourced the information to India and much of it has been lost - including employees' Social Security numbers, medical records and other personal information. ...
Hyde said his work at Foley & Lardner never veered close to the Convergys case and that he notified Crist's transition team of the possible conflict.
CD 13 Audit Continues
"A state inquiry into whether the 18,000 undervotes in the District 13 congressional election were caused by a voting machine malfunction began its final phase Thursday."
State elections officials pulled computer chips from a random sample of Sarasota County's iVotronic voting machines for analysis."State Pulls Chips From Machines".
The source code on those chips will be compared to the code the manufacturer, Electronic Systems and Software Inc., has on file with Florida's Division of Elections to ensure there are no discrepancies or modifications, said DOE spokesman Sterling Ivy.
First DCA Catches A Break
"Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters Thursday he won't fill the vacancy on the First District Court of Appeal, leaving that for Gov.-elect Charlie Crist." "Crist's Xmas Gift: Bush to Let Him Pick Judge".
"Jeb!" Finds The Cash
"Bush announced plans to add new beds to treat inmates with psychiatric problems and eliminate a long backlog in service that has stirred controversy." Jebbie's "decision, to be approved by a legislative budget commission in early January, comes as Lucy Hadi, chief of the state Department of Children & Families, was threatened with jail time and a fine after her agency failed to shift a number of jail inmates deemed incapable of standing trial over to state psychiatric hospitals for treatment." "Lawmakers OK $16.6M for new beds for mentally ill inmates". See also "Plan may ease backlog of mentally ill inmates" and "Deal will move mentally ill from jails to hospitals".
"Time and again, the Florida Department of Children and Families requested enough money to keep mentally ill prisoners out of jail. And nearly every time, Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Legislature said no. Suddenly, that's a problem." "Rush for treatment".
"Regulators on Thursday approved a 16 percent increase for the homeowners insurance rates that USAA charges its 200,000 Florida policyholders." "Regulators approve rate increase for USAA homeowners insurance holders".
"Crist promises political affiliation plays no part in how he'll fill his administration -- but political philosophy it is on the mind of top transition advisers." "Crist looking to fill jobs".
"Environmentalists cheered Republican Gov.-elect Charlie Crist's choices Thursday for new leaders of the agencies responsible for protecting Florida's environment and overseeing growth management."
Michael W. Sole was named secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Tom Pelham, 63, returns to a job in charge of the Department of Community Affairs, which is the state's land planning agency.Crist's picks for environmental posts praised". See also "" and Crist's picks bring experience"Crist praised for 'outside the box' environmental appointees".
"I know both men personally and, speaking from my organization's perspective of deep concern for the health of our nation's Everglades, Gov.-elect Charlie Crist could not have made a better choice," said Thom Rumberger, chairman of Everglades Trust, an advocacy group. ...
Linda Young, who heads the Clean Water Network and has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration's environmental record, applauded Pelham's selection as ''an absolute dream choice'' and was optimistic about Sole.
No surprise that Thom Rumberger "cheered" Charlie; after all, he is the same Thom Rumberger who was "a major fundraiser for Bush", and who was "Chairman of the Florida Lawyers for President Bush in the 1988 and 1992 Presidential Campaigns, Florida General Counsel for the George Bush Presidential Campaigns of 1988 and 1992, and Florida General Counsel for the Bob Dole Presidential Campaign."
The Tallahassee Dem likes Pelham: "With his selection by Gov.-elect Charlie Crist to the post he formerly held, Mr. Pelham is once again in a position to have an important effect on Florida's future. Mr. Crist's choice - and timing - couldn't be better." "Top choice".
On a related note, Crist "received an unusual kudos from the Sierra Club for keeping Diana Sawaya-Crane on as his deputy Cabinet aide. Crist became a dues-paying member of the Sierra Club earlier this year."
The Other Castro
"Raul Castro signaled a new leadership style in comments published Thursday, promising fewer speeches, more power sharing, and a willingness to hear different views as he fills in for his 'irreplaceable' brother Fidel." "Raul Castro signals more openness to divergent ideas than Fidel". Meanwhile, "when it comes to Cuba policy, the Bush administration keeps backpedaling toward the past." "Cuba Policy".
"In a spiteful mood, seven Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday voted as a majority to override Mayor Carlos Alvarez's veto of two measures making it tougher for citizens to petition their government. The commission is unhappy with two recent petition drives -- a measure calling for a vote on a strong-mayor proposal and another for a recall vote for Commissioner Natacha Seijas." "Straight to the point".
"A federal court on Thursday loosened restrictions on corporations, unions and other special interest groups that run political advertising in peak election season. The 2-1 ruling said groups may mention candidates by name in commercials as long as they are trying to influence public policy, rather than sway an election. The ruling came in a challenge to the so-called McCain-Feingold law designed to reduce the influence of big money in political campaigns. The law banned groups from using unrestricted money to run advertisements that name candidates two months before a general election or one month before a primary." "Judicial panel rules issue ads OK during elections".
"Democrats in the Florida Senate are raising money to help re-elect fellow Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin, the Orlando legislator convicted earlier this year of felony grand theft." "Democrats solicit cash for Siplin in '08".
"Hurricane season is gone. But it has left behind many unhappy homeowners without storm shutters complaining that their contractors have vanished, gone bankrupt or are way behind scheduleHurricane season is gone. But it has left behind many unhappy homeowners without storm shutters complaining that their contractors have vanished, gone bankrupt or are way behind schedule." "Delays, fraud hound those who want storm protection".
"Will It Really Be Different This Time?"
Brian Crowley reminds us that, like Charlie, Jebbie "pledge[d] to have the most open government in Florida’s history." "Will It Really Be Different This Time?".
The Wal-Mart Effect
"Wal-Mart enjoys a strong reputation with Florida shoppers -- one that might even influence their vote in the 2008 presidential election." "Pols beware: Floridians love giant retailer Wal-Mart". See also "Who's Better: Bush, Nelson, Martinez...or Wal-Mart?"
"Florida added 321,697 residents in 2006, according to population estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau. In sheer numbers, that puts the Sunshine State second only to Texas in new residents, but many of the new Texans are former Louisianians chased there by Hurricane Katrina." "Florida population continues to grow". See also "Florida growth goes from wild to mild" ("Population experts point to economic factors that are cooling the Sunshine State's appeal.")
Doing The Right Thing
"Florida health officials are not letting new Medicaid rules risk the health of infants born to illegal immigrants. Because of this stance, neither infants nor the medical professionals who care for them in Florida will suffer needlessly." "Florida Does Right By Babies".
"Make room for another name on Doug Guetzloe's ever-growing list of unlikely political bedfellows: Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, a longtime political adversary."
Crotty, widely considered the region's most powerful elected official, acknowledged this week that he met privately in August with the controversial anti-tax activist to discuss an ethics complaint."When Crotty met Guetzloe: Mayor sought old foe's advice".
The meeting at Guetzloe's office took place several weeks before Orlando's political establishment was rocked by revelations that hundreds of thousands of dollars had flowed to Guetzloe's consulting firm from a client list studded with prominent individuals and institutions.
Crotty was not a Guetzloe client, but the mayor wanted Guetzloe's help to find out who was behind a complaint filed against Crotty with the state Ethics Commission over his private dealings with prominent land developer Daryl Carter.
The county mayor said he had heard the former chairman of the Ethics Commission -- Richard Spears -- had solicited Guetzloe to file a complaint against Crotty and that Guetzloe had declined.
"Is this justice?"
"Former Palm Beach County Commission Chairman Tony Masilotti, at the center of a web of insider deals, faces up to five years in prison. Two associates, developer Daniel Miteff and attorney Bill Boose, are fighting prosecution and could end up in prison for much longer. Other Masilotti allies have not been charged at all. Is this justice?" "In Masilotti case, more than guilty are guilty".
"Attorney General-elect Bill McCollum announced the first appointments of his senior management team Thursday." "McCollum Names Senior Management Team".
"Insurance reform, a new child adoption agency and anti-murder legislation top Charlie Crist's priorities as he prepares to become Florida governor. The governor-elect's game plan is a work still in progress as he also develops a playbook for his first 100 days in office." "Crist crafts his 100-day plan".
"What happened to Florida's economy on Gov. Jeb Bush's eight-year watch could be told by numbers:"
-- Good ones, like almost 1.4 million more jobs in Florida now than when he took office. And a jobless rate that hit an all-time low of 3 percent during his tenure. It's a touch higher now, but still well below the national rate."Bush legacy: jobs, homes, science -- and insurance bills".
-- Bad ones, like a strikingly higher cost of living, mostly because of skyrocketing home insurance costs that Bush seemed powerless to do anything about. And property taxes that have increased as property values have gone up, and as local governments have provided the school buildings and services to match population growth, another hallmark of the Bush years.
-- And numbers not yet clear in what they mean, like hundreds of jobs and the promise of more in what Bush calls the "knowledge economy." They're jobs brought by Bush's drive to shift Florida away from low-wage tourism-reliant work to a tomorrow where the stereotypical Florida worker wears a lab coat instead of a Disney character costume.
Optimistic About Charlie
Palm Beach Post Editorial Writer Elisa Cramer: "Maybe it's the magic of Christmas, that time of year when hope visits even unexpectedly, when renewal peeks around the calendar."
Not to be maudlin or anything, but ... I think Gov.-elect Charlie Crist might not be bad for Florida."Is it the season, or is it Crist?".
I know, I know. He hasn't even been sworn in yet. And, no, I did not vote for Mr. Crist, who ran his Republican primary campaign trying to out-Jeb his opponent. And, yes, I thought his selection of state Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, as his running mate further signaled that Floridians would be in for a continuation of Gov. Bush's ideological policies on everything from public schools to stem-cell research to ex-felons' civil rights to teen pregnancy. And, of course, all of that still is possible.
But ... I am encouraged by what Mr. Crist has done since being elected Nov. 7.
Cuban "Political Juice"
It was just a few short days ago that the Drive-by Bloviators of the Right-Wing Talking-Head Chattering Class were harrumphing away in glee when federal authorities swept through meatpacking plants across the country to haul away illegal immigrants who were caught red-handed being gainfully employed. ..."A Dangerous Game Of 'Survivor'".
Yet, Cubans entering this country every bit as illegally as Mexicans crossing the border enjoy special legal status largely because of the political power of South Florida's Cuban community.
By this perverse logic, if a Cuban and a Mexican entered a bank at the same time to rob it, the Cuban would be given a pardon - and a toaster - while the Mexican would go to prison for life.
Well, wielding political juice is very American, too.