"After schools raked in a record number of A grades last spring, educators are bracing themselves for grim news this season: State figures show that more than one-quarter of the state's 2,789 schools could see their grades drop by at least one letter."
State education officials say privately that they are embarrassed by students' shortcomings in science but publicly point to changes the Department of Education is making, including plans to building a math-and-science teacher-training institute. ..."Science may sink school scores".
Florida's students have been tested in science since 2003 on the FCAT, but the scores never counted toward the school grade.
The results have been dismal. Last year, for example, only 35 percent of juniors were proficient.
Why were the scores not counted while Jebbie was in office? Could it be that "Jeb!" wanted to create the impression - gleefully trumpeted by a fawning media - that his educational policies had somehow made a difference?
Charlie's Numbers Through The Roof
"The Quinnipiac University Poll being released today gives Crist an overall approval rating of 69 percent. Only 6 percent disapproved of the new governor's job performance. Even Democrats approved of his performance, by a margin of 65 to 7 percent." "Poll gives Crist high marks" ("Quinnipiac said 77 percent of those surveyed support the governor's plan for doubling the $25,000 homestead exemption.") See also "Poll: Florida loves Charlie".
"Florida has the highest number of confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in the country, according to the Child Welfare League of America. Florida also is No. 1 in the rate of children of color in the system. Not only did the state set a record in 2005 for the number of children to die of child abuse and neglect who were known previously to DCF; according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, the state also hit an all-time high in the number of children taken from their parents." "DCF gets a Pollyanna who also is a realist".
Three Guesses ...
Three guesses as to what the new RNC Chair thinks about Dubya's budget as it relates to Florida, and the first two guesses don't count.
"President Bush's proposed 2008 federal budget pledges $56 million to plug holes in the aging dike that rings Lake Okeechobee. And it contains money for continuing efforts to rescue the Everglades."
But environmentalists say the money for Everglades restoration doesn't go nearly far enough. And with Bush's budget calling for deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid spending, the Democrats who now hold the majority in Congress did little Monday to hide their disdain. ..."Federal budget critics: Give state more". See also "President's budget boosts Everglades, cuts health care for seniors".
Nelson, in criticizing Bush's budget, said, "There would be $76 billion in cuts to Medicare coverage for seniors and the disabled, and $26 billion slashed from Medicaid for the poor. And that's just for starters."
"How Bush's budget treats programs vital to Florida:"
- "Bush would trim the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage for children in moderate-income families."More: "Budget shortfall pinches NASA's long-term plans". On a related note, "America's space program will suffer a serious setback if Congress doesn't undo cuts in a misguided House spending plan. The plan is a stopgap drafted by the House's Democratic leaders to cover the rest of the budget year. It would slash $400-million - more than 10 percent - from the money NASA has been counting on to continue development of a successor to the space shuttle." "NASA boldly goes nowhere".
- "The president proposes raising the [veterans] co-pay for prescription drugs from $8 to $15 and charging new enrollment fees for veterans earning more than $50,000."
- "Bush would cut $300 million from the capital budget for transit, said U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park. Mica, who is unhappy about those cuts ... ."
- "Bush has once again proposed selling 973 acres in Ocala National Forest ... ."
An d The Third Guess Is?:
Florida Senator and RNC Chair (and Bushco lackey) Mel Martinez speaks: "Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida praised the budget ... ."
CD 13 Senate Hearings
"Sarasota County's voting controversy takes the spotlight in Washington this week, when the U.S. Senate holds its first hearing on what happened during the 13th Congressional District election." "Senate to hold hearing on Sarasota voting issue". See also "Sarasota election to garner Senate spotlight".
"Advocates seek more cash for mentally ill inmates".
Political Pulse reports that candidates must qualify on Friday, Feb. 16th, and that "another Democrat is jumping into the race to succeed state Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee. Israel Mercado, a pastor and professor, joins two other Democrats -- and likely more -- scrambling for a shot at the Democratic-leaning seat. Mercado challenged Quinones directly in 2004, losing 52 percent to 48 percent in a high-profile race that featured big spending from both political parties." "The Field to Succeed Quinones Grows".
Charlie Called on His Flip-flop
Scott Maxwell: "Back when he was running for governor, Charlie Crist made national headlines for bucking many of his Republican Party peers by saying he supported embryonic stem-cell research."
The stance served him well politically during the general election, since polls suggest the majority of Americans feel the same way."Crist's changing stands on stem-cell research".
But now, safely in office, Crist has changed his tune.
The governor's new pledge of $20 million for stem-cell research now suddenly comes with restrictions -- banning it from being used on the more controversial embryonic lines.
To hear Crist tell it, he proposed something that would garner wider support, particularly among conservative legislators. ...
So maybe Crist gets credit for making some politically pragmatic strides when it comes to stem-cell research. But if he's really concerned about causing angst, he should probably also worry about causing it for his constituents -- some of whom took him at his word last fall when they decided to give him their votes.
The St Pete Times editorial board gives Charlie a pass: "A wise move on stem cells".
Florida's "Lack of Concern and Foresight"
"A lack of concern and foresight has put Florida behind other states in adapting to energy challenges ... ." "Study: State must stop fueling around". See also "Study: Florida can cut energy consumption".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors:
he problem is this, however: The idea didn't work in December, when Daytona Beach and DeLand were hit by tornadoes and dozens of people lost their homes. FEMA, more than a month after the state requested aid, denied help. That's not partnership; it's rejection (the state is appealing). And of course the partnership idea didn't work at all in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. For all of the federal government's insistence on having localities and states help themselves first, the nature of big natural disasters is such that local and state agencies, no matter how savvy, can be overwhelmed, as they were in the Gulf in 2005. FEMA's catastrophically slow response compounded the problem. More people died as a consequence."FEMA comes through; questions remain". See also "New test. New FEMA?", "Disaster Aid" and "Folks battle debris, hope for help from FEMA".
Regarding last week's tornadoes, FEMA was patting itself on the back for having been "nimble" by having its emergency responders on the ground within 72 hours. Self-congratulations aside, what if the disaster had been of a far greater magnitude? What if state and local officials had been overwhelmed, and people affected couldn't wait three days for help? Would the "partnership" idea still be feasible? The answer to that question is disquieting: We don't know. What we do know is that FEMA deems a 72-hour response adequate. What we also know is that Florida will be hit by a major disaster sooner or later. And that by policy, the federal government cannot mobilize a response immediately and have it in the areas affected within 24 hours (the mobile recovery centers, for example, were lumbering down from Atlanta).
FEMA calls that 24-hour expectation unreasonable. Tell that to the victims of disasters.
Bought And Paid For
"The final tally is in: Charlie Crist spent nearly $20-million in his successful campaign for governor of Florida last fall." "What did it cost to become governor? $20M for Crist".
"Executioners ignored clear signs something was wrong as they administered drugs to a convicted killer who took twice the normal time to die and had chemical burns in his arms, an expert told a panel reviewing Florida's lethal-injection procedures Monday."
Dr. Denise Clark, a physician from Orlando who specializes in vein therapy, testified the executioners who reported trouble pushing a deadly chemical mix into the veins of Angel Nieves Diaz on Dec. 13 should have known their intravenous lines were not properly inserted."Trouble signs were ignored, expert says".
''You would know right away. You would see there is a problem,'' Clark told the panel Monday.
Diaz's execution took 34 minutes -- twice as long as usual -- and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals because the needles were incorrectly inserted through his veins and into the flesh in his arms, a medical examiner reported.
An autopsy found chemical burns in both his arms, and some experts said in interviews that Diaz probably suffered excruciating pain.
"While not as numbing as the tragic and sudden deaths of 20 people, the loss of 17 whooping cranes to Friday's tornadoes reminds us that Mother Nature is not discriminating." "Hearts Break For Lost Cranes, Too".
Yesterday, Crist "appointed a Democratic strategist to the state panel that investigates complaints against politicians and other public officials. Assuming the Republican-controlled Senate signs off, Cheryl Forchilli will join the Florida Commission on Ethics for a term lasting until June 2008." "Crist Names Democratic Strategist to Ethics Panel".
"Environmental groups celebrate Florida’s premier land-conservation program today at the Capitol." "Environmentalists groups celebrate".
Dr. Charles Mahan, the former state health officer who helped create Healthy Start: "'Florida is one of the wealthiest political entities in the history of the world. Yet in some parts of our state, the infant mortality rate is the same as countries in the developing world. We can do better.'" "Healthy Start calls for help to keep babies alive". See also "Infant deaths grip Gadsden Co.".
"Florida Vision Summit."
"Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, are guest speakers." "Advocates for the blind gather in Tallahassee".
"Dean Cannon, speaker-designate of the Florida House, is leaving the Orlando offices of GrayRobinson so that on March 1 he can start running a recruiting and staffing firm called 4 Corner Resources. The change is a significant one. Cannon, after all, will go from practicing land-use and government law at one of the state's largest firms to serving as president of a six-person staffing firm that's less than 2 years old -- a firm that's, frankly, pretty unknown." "Future speaker takes chance on new firm".
"Gov. Charlie Crist returns this morning to storm-ravaged Central Florida to give residents an update on recovery efforts." And to make sure we are suitably impressed,
Crist appears at an 11:00 a.m. press conference at Lady Lake Church of God on Oak Hill Drive, near ground zero for the severe weather that killed 20 and leveled more than 400 homes."Crist returns to storm ravaged counties".
Here's An Idea
A Palm Beach Post editorial today begins with this: "Miami plans to open the Orange Bowl for a party after Fidel Castro dies. Here's an idea: Have a huge cake, with one candle for every year the policy to remove the Cuban dictator didn't work. It will take a big crowd to blow them out." "The real party favor".
From the Values Crowd
"A wheelchair-bound man's appeal of a drug trafficking conviction [and 25-year prison sentence] should be rejected, the state argued in papers filed Monday with the Florida Supreme Court." "Pasco man's appeal in Supreme Court".
This case is an embarrassment to Florida. See this CBS story "CBS News - Zero-Tolerance Causes A Lot Of Pain" as well as the 60 minute transcript: "Prisoner Of Pain, How One Man's Quest For Pain Relief Landed Him in Jail".
The St Pete Times editorial board puts it this way: "When the governor's daughter, Noelle Bush, was found guilty of prescription tampering, she received a referral to a drug treatment program. That kind of proportionate sentencing and balance between a defendant's guilt and punishment also should apply here." "A drug sentence without justice". Here (in .pdf form) the appellate decision on the case; the extraordinary dissent begins at page 16: "Paey v. State".
"State lawmakers are pushing for a grand jury to investigate a scathing audit of Riviera Beach and its Community Redevelopment Agency after a committee meeting on Monday exploded with accusations of wrongdoing between the mayor and city council." "Riviera probe request coming".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board writes that "last week's natural catastrophe in Central Florida and insurance-industry fallout from new state regulation underscore as if with black indelible marker the unsettling fact that our state remains in the midst of a major insurance crisis." "Barely begun".
"Some key state lawmakers want to require Florida girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer." "Florida may require vaccine for girls".
The Flag Thing
Danie Ruth on the flag thing: "Confederate Son Pursues Idea Just As Doomed".
"State schools chief pitches majors".
Romney Locks Down Florida
If early buzz and insider enthusiasm decided elections, Republican Mitt Romney would be well on the way to winning Florida's presidential primary next year."Romney heeds call of Florida".
No presidential contender from either party has responded more vigorously to the likelihood that Florida will be among the earliest presidential primary contests and could play a decisive role in choosing the presidential nominees.
For a little-known underdog up against household names like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, the former Massachusetts governor has done a remarkable job winning over Republican opinion leaders, tapping heavily into Jeb Bush's political network.
"Digging too deep too fast"
The Tampa Trib editors: "It's characteristic of Charlie Crist to set goals and let good people figure out how to attain them. But in recommending that the state spend $32.5 million to change the voting machinery in 15 counties, he is digging too deep too fast, and will likely trade one set of problems for another." "Add Printers And No-Choice Option For Voter Confidence".
The New York Times saw it differently yesterday in "Good Election News From Florida". (via Naked Politics' "NYT gives props to Crist", wherein it is noted that "That's the kind of publicity that could raise the gov's national profile.")
In a guest article in the Miami Herald today, former chair of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Commission and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Miami, Lida Rodríguez-Taseff writes that "if Gov. Charlie Crist's announcement last week that he is recommending that $32.5 million be appropriated to 'establish a paper trail for all votes cast in Florida elections' appeared too good to be true, it's because it is."
Under the governor's proposal, which was long on rhetoric and short on details, the appropriated funds would allegedly be used to ''replace touch-screen voting machines with optical-scan machines in all precincts statewide.'' But read the fine print. Touch screens are not out the door, not by a long shot. Touch screens, retro fitted with printers, would still have to be used for early voting, to accommodate voters with disabilities and, although not stated by the governor, to accommodate citizens who vote in languages other than English. ..."Voting reform needs more than paper trail".
Under the governor's plan, the elephant in the room is the fate of voters with disabilities and non-English-speaking voters.
As Crist conceded during his speech, touch screens would have to remain in use for voters with disabilities so long as there is not another system certified in Florida that can accommodate voters with disabilities (and right now, there is none).
As for non-English-speaking voters, 18 percent of the people in Florida vote in counties that use English, Spanish and Creole. Another 22 percent vote in counties that use English and Spanish. However, the currently certified optical-scan systems that the governor is advocating, while permitting a person to vote in the language of his choice, do not permit that voter to check that ballot and receive feedback to correct errors in a language other than English. Therefore, under the governor's plan, touch screens would have to remain in those Florida counties that vote in more than one language, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
All of this raises the question, if touch-screens are not good enough for you and me to vote on on Election Day, why are they suddenly good enough to accommodate early voters, voters with disabilities and language minorities?
Off Topic: Space Stress
"Astronaut accused of trying to kidnap her rival".
Property Appraiser Fight
Howard Goodman on the Palm Beach vs. Broward County property appraiser fight: "Salvos fly in county property tax war while homeowners take hit".
Never Ending Perk
"Roll Call’s 'Heard on the Hill' column reports that former Congresswoman Katherine Harris is still parking her BMW 645ci convertible in the Cannon House Office Building." "Harris Is Gone But Her Car Is Still There".
Too Much Limbaugh
What's wrong with Fort Lauderdale?
In [Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim] Naugle's world, there is no such thing as an affordable-housing crisis in South Florida, it's just that lazy slobs need to get off the couch to work second and third jobs for the homes they want."Fort Lauderdale mayor adds hot air to global warming fight".
And in Naugle's world, even though he admits there has been global warming and allows the possibility his city could be swamped in 100 years from rising sea levels, he says we're all just innocent bystanders to the forces of nature.
"On this planet God has created all kind of events to test us," said Naugle.
He also chided "environmental whackos" for being alarmist about the issue and the "hate America crowd" for disproportionately blaming the United States.
You mean, by pointing out facts such as the United States producing 23 percent of the world's heat-trapping gases in 2006 despite having less than 5 percent of the Earth's population?
If Naugle wasn't the mayor of Broward County's biggest city, this is the point where I'd put a moratorium on his outrageous statements. Naugle is in his last two years as Fort Lauderdale mayor because of term limits. "Not having the next election to worry about does make you free to speak your mind," said Naugle, 52.
But he has become so enamored with playing the publicity-loving contrarian and getting mentioned by Rush Limbaugh that he has seemingly lost all rational thought.
Harry T. Moore Papers
"Historical preservation workers found a briefcase containing more than a thousand letters, notes and newspaper clippings that were saved and collected by slain civil rights leader Harry T. Moore, Attorney General Bill McCollum said Monday." "Rights leader's files unearthed". See also "Civil rights martyr's lost papers found" and "Briefcase of Moore history returned (with documents)".
Out in the Fields
"Evidence showed that Evans recruited addicts and other vulnerable victims in homeless shelters. He lured them to his Palatka camp with promises of good work and pay. They ended up in virtual slavery, perennially indebted to Evans after he docked their weekly pay for crack, beer and cigarettes. He brazenly rigged a pipe to dump raw sewage from his camp into a tributary of the St. Johns River. How could anyone stoop so low?" "Prison time for exploitive farm boss".
"5 Challengers Target Council Incumbent in Citywide Race".
"Lobbyist Brian Ballard, brother of Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, has joined Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Ballard was named a national and Florida co-chairman for fundraising. Ballard was a key player in the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist." "Ballard Joins McCain".
Remind me, who is Ballard's father-in-law?
"Crist joins his new pals, but bowl party hits snag".
Fasano Has A Point
"Now Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has filed a bill that would prevent bar owners from throwing out patrons who don't buy alcohol. The new bill would slip mistreatment of designated drivers in with discrimination based on race, sex and creed and could affect an establishment's license." "Fasano acts after bar ejects".
We missed this Beth Reinhard column the other day:
In the Bizarro World of Florida politics under new Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republicans sound like Democrats, the Democrats sound like Republicans and everyone gets along famously.Check it out: "Governor and Democrats find cause to agree".