"Frustration" Mounting Over Recovery Effort
"Frustration with the slow pace of the federal recovery effort mounted Sunday as night fell a third time since tornadoes left DeLand and New Smyrna Beach neighborhoods reduced to piles of rubble." More:
No FEMA trailers are scheduled to come to Florida to provide temporary housing -- as Volusia County officials had originally thought -- because the state has not requested direct housing aid ... ."Officials stew over lack of aid". Nevertheless,
FEMA and state emergency managers opened a disaster recovery center Sunday near Lady Lake to hand out aid and provide counseling. As of Sunday, 10 trucks of water, two trucks of tarps and 10 trucks of ice were sent to the area, state officials said."Tornado victims try to stay optimistic ahead of long cleanup".
About 200 FEMA workers were in the area, spokesman James McIntyre said. The agency also sent emergency supplies such as generators, water, tarps and packaged meals, but the state had its own inventory and hadn't asked for help, he said. He said the state hadn't requested temporary trailer homes either. A spokesman for the state's Department of Emergency Management, Mike Stone, said it was too early to talk about requests for trailer homes, though those could be asked for after officials determine temporary and long-term housing needs.
About 50 National Guard troops, residents and volunteers [including 50 low-risk uniformed jail inmates] were working in the cleanup.
Volusia County residents ain't thrilled with FEMA anyway; recall that "FEMA denied requests for federal aid for hundreds of Volusia County residents who lost their homes" when "severe storms, including at least one tornado, ...blew through Central Florida on Christmas".
Charlie Folds, The Trib Applauds
"Democrats accused Crist of reneging on a campaign promise. A better assessment is that he bowed to political reality. His decision creates the compromise needed to gain legislative support for funding medical research that could some day produce cures for chronic diseases and devastating injuries." "Crist Takes Prudent Stem-Cell Stand".
The fact remains that Crist reneged (called flip-flopping when a Dem does it) on a campaign promise that, among others, was central to his portraying himself to swing voters as a "moderate".
The Palm Beach Post editors:
On the big issue of embryonic stem-cell research, Gov. Crist doesn't sound like candidate Crist. That's not good for the state."Too slow on stem cells".
Candidate Crist spoke boldly of his support for research on cells from human embryos, a position shared by his Democratic opponent. ...
Gov. Crist argues that he's not abandoning his campaign stand, merely moving toward it in steps. That's not the kind of leadership he has offered on insurance. He also faces a deadline - November 2008 - when voters could be asked to choose between competing ballot questions. Resolving the issue now could keep stem-cell research out of the state constitution.
The war of words between the Broward and Palm Beach County Property Appraisers exposes a crucial component of the property tax imbroligio:
[Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary] Nikolits has maintained that state law requires him to appraise land at its "highest and best use," even if that means a waterfront mom-and-pop business is taxed as though it's a towering condominium."Differences in land appraisals fuel showdown; taxpayers rebel".
[Broward County Property Appraiser Lori] Parrish has her own interpretation.
She looks at a number of factors, including the income a property makes, when deciding a property's value. Under her method, the mom-and-pop shop could be assessed based on how much it makes each year, not what it could be sold for in the future.
So who's right? It ultimately may be up to the courts to decide.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board acknowledges that Charlie's property tax blather operates to "make Crist seem to rescue taxpayers." At the same time, Crist's proposals are
potentially reckless. All this as the real estate market has, by all appearances, cooled so much that prices haven't just stabilized -- they've fallen. That doesn't mean it's the wrong time to reform the property tax system. But Crist's plan just isn't the right reform. If anything, falling prices make this a propitious time to remove the 3 percent cap altogether, as the effects would be muted by market forces. Enshrining the cap across the board in the name of equity is a step backward from what could have been two steps forward -- for equity and long-term fiscal stability."A cap on government".
The Flag Thing
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editors believe the "Confederate flag doesn't belong on state license tag" "Divisive by design".
"A commission hears more testimony today on Florida’s method for executing prisoners." "Execution commission meets for second time »".
"Schoolchildren, sharpen your pencils. The annual round of FCAT testing begins Tuesday against the backdrop of a tougher than ever system of rating the performance of Florida's public schools." "Florida starts new round of school tests".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Clearly, Florida's concealed-weapons law needs to be tougher. It is among the weakest in the country. All but two states --Alaska and Vermont -- make it harder to pack a concealed pistol." "Fix the law".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors are cautiously optimistic about the election reform discussion:
Yet it took Florida more than six years to arrive at this point -- six years of bickering, of willfully ignoring experts who warned of deep security flaws, of forcing the state's most conscientious elections officials into decisions they didn't want to make."Paper trail".
If Thursday's announcement by Gov. Charlie Crist is any indication, this is the beginning of the end of Florida's elections nightmare that started with the infamous and antiquated punch-card balloting system used in a handful of Florida counties and ended with some counties opting for a machine that registered votes through a digital keypad. Even before the paperless machines were installed in Florida, security experts had conducted tests showing that the machines could be easily "hacked," with no visible trace of tampering. Florida's gubernatorial election also saw mechanical problems, like a touch pad that slipped out of place, recording votes for one candidate when they'd been cast for another. And finally, courts are still trying to resolve the curious results of a west Florida congressional race, where a handful of heavily Democratic precincts showed a baffling pattern of vote-skipping -- throwing the race, by the narrowest of margins, to the Republican candidate. Paper ballots would have made it clear whether voters actually skipped over the race, or attempted to vote for either Christine Jennings or Vern Buchanan.
"One young whooping crane survived last week's storm that killed 17 other cranes, which were led south last fall from Wisconsin by ultralight aircraft, an organizer said Sunday. Organizers originally thought all 18 birds had perished in the storms that moved in late Thursday." "Crane survives storm that killed 17 others".
"Whoever is elected mayor of Tampa will be responsible for steering the city through four years of development, property tax debates and projects." "Winner To Walk Tightrope". See also "Tampa Residents Can Skip Lines, Cast Ballots By Mail".
"A non-profit research group puts Florida’s energy needs under the microscope this morning at a Tallahassee press conference." "Group to look at Florida's energy future".
The Tallahassee Democrat editors note that "it must be a first in Florida history for a governor to propose a state budget that's less than the current year's. Yet Gov. Charlie Crist's recommendations to the Legislature for $71.5 billion in spending is 3-percent less than the 2006-07 budget. That's due to lower-than-expected growth in tax collections - primarily real-estate slowdowns that hit downstate more harshly than here in the capital." Some features of the Guv's proposed budget:
- A 4.1-percent increase to the university system overall is good, but it's still not enough to keep up with growth. Given recent reports that don't speak at all highly of our state's national ranking in higher ed, lawmakers are obligated to do better at pumping up these 11 fierce economic engines, our universities."Batter up".
- The governor has put $20 million into grants for stem-cell research, for example, but it would be limited to lines other than the controversial embryonic stem cells. This is a shift in Mr. Crist's campaign pledge to support the kind of research that's considered most promising, embryonic.
- State employees, most of whom live in this region, can breathe a sigh of relief that there will be no increase in health insurance premiums, and Mr. Crist is offering a 2.44-percent across-the-board salary increase. That's down from the 3 percent they got last October, but the proposal also includes allocations for merit increases of up to 10 percent for up to the top 10 percent of performers in each agency. This approach always rankles the rank and file who, in recent years quite justifiably, are suspicious that political loyalty is the kind of "merit" that gets rewarded.
"Florida's shocking infant mortality rate" and other KidNews
At 10:30 this morning, children’s advocates and health experts will "'urge Governor Crist and the new state Legislature to help combat Florida's shocking infant mortality rate and other negative child health indicators by fully funding Healthy Start and ending the wait for services,'" "Children's advocates press for more funding".
On a related issue, the Sun-Sentinel editors:
State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, has filed a bill to establish a "children and youth cabinet" that would be chaired by the governor and include several agencies, including the Departments of Children & Families, Education, Health and Juvenile Justice. ..."Child Welfare".
The idea coincides with a new initiative by the Children's Welfare League of America, which wants to stem the flow of foster youths that end up in the criminal justice system as juvenile delinquents. This League initiative needs the cooperation of both the Departments of Children & Families and Juvenile Justice in order to succeed. The League, and other nonprofits working with children and youth, will benefit from a more collaborative state government.
Improved interagency cooperation is key here. Youth today face problems that an individual agency would be hard pressed to confront without sharing the information and resources of other departments. The task is to get state leaders and top administrators out of their separate bureaucratic worlds and on the same page in seeking innovative solutions.
Rich is on the right track.
On the kids' insurance front, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board is concerned: "The last time Florida lawmakers felt the urge to 'fix' the state's subsidized health-insurance program for needy children, they scribbled a prescription that damaged the patient's health. So it's a bit worrisome to hear talk of the Legislature searching for another cure for KidCare's troubles." "Careful with KidCare".