Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Monday, September 10, 2007

The Univisión Debate: "$100 for scalped tickets"

    "The first presidential debate conducted in Spanish and English marked a history-making moment in American politics Sunday night, though the candidates aimed more at embracing the nation's fastest-growing minority group than in breaking new ground on the issues."
    The event marked a coming of age for the Hispanic community, whose voting population has ballooned 50 percent over the past decade. Univisión anchors Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos asked the questions in Spanish, which were translated into English for the candidates wearing United Nations-style earpieces. Their responses were translated back into Spanish for viewers.

    No major gaffes occurred, but the on-air translation of the candidates' answers into Spanish was spotty at times.

    ''It detracted tremendously from the quality of the debate,'' said Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies at Florida International University. Gamarra, who led a focus group of 19 young Hispanic Democrats who watched the debate, also criticized the candidates for giving vague responses.
    "Democrats try to speak to Hispanics". See also "Dems' bilingual debate 'a historic moment'", "Debate en Español", "Democratic hopefuls turn attention to Latinos", "Immigration tone softens in debate", "Democrats spar at Spanish-language forum", "Debaters spar over Cuba policy", "Miami debate keys on Latinos", "Dems agree on Iraq, immigration" and "Questions were too narrow, say debate's viewers" ("For some members of the audience who watched Sunday night's debate in the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami, getting into the packed auditorium came at a steep price: $100 for scalped tickets to what was otherwise a free event.")

    From yesterday: "Debate prep no easy task" and "Florida's Cubans are key for '08".

    And, as reported yesterday, our favorite Bushco hood ornament is still at it: "His task: Sell Hispanics on GOP" ("Simon Rosenberg, who has studied the Latino electorate and runs the New Democrat Network, a think tank that helped put together today's Democratic forum: 'To be frank, every day Martinez's job is to put lipstick on a pig. It's not a pretty job, but he took it, and now he's got to live with it.'"). Here's "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" trying to put lipstick on those pigs: "Martinez Again Defending GOP Candidates Over Hispanic Outreach". More: "Democrats woo Latinos; GOP takes a pass".

    Stop the "Creaking"

    The St Pete Times editors: "Until Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature acknowledge reality, this state's future will be awfully bleak. The cost to maintain the status quo in public education, universities, social services, transportation and other areas - forget about improvements - is too much for the antiquated tax system to handle. The latest evidence is in the struggle to cut more than $1-billion from the current state budget and in the larger shortfalls projected for the next several years." "Budget cuts won't fix a creaking tax system".

    "An unforeseen consequence"

    "Voters will decide if they would rather switch to a new "super exemption" worth 75 percent of a resident's first $200,000 in assessed value and 15 percent of the next $300,000. Changing the constitution requires 60 percent of the vote. The decision to put the amendment on the ballot was passed in a June special session along party lines, with one Republican voting no. Since then, business groups that generally back the Republican Party have said they will campaign for passage of the amendment. Groups usually aligned with Democrats, including unions and teachers, have said they will push Floridians to vote "no," saying the plan would cut services by cities, counties and school."

    Making the political rounds at a Labor Day picnic, state Rep. Jack Seiler heard the same message from Democratic voters angered by the possible insignificance of their vote in the January presidential primary.

    "They felt like there might be a problem with their vote, so they were saying they wouldn't even go to the polls," said Seiler, D-Wilton Manors.

    That highlights an unforeseen consequence to the Democratic National Committee's decision to declare their members' January primary vote meaningless: The possibility of weakened opposition to the statewide referendum on the same day to dramatically change Florida's property tax system.

    "I was telling them, 'Look, you need to show up and vote,' I think the DNC needs to be aware of that," Seiler said. "To them this is just about party politics. To the state of Florida, it's probably one of the most important referendums we've had in this state in years."
    "Disorder on left may tilt tax vote".

    Bright Futures

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Crist announced last week that he wants to cut 3.6 percent overall from the state budget, but 6.2 percent from the university system's budget. This would happen even as the state devotes nearly $400 million to Bright Futures scholarships, many of which go to average and above-average students and to families that don't need them." "Before university cuts, change Bright Futures".

    Privatization Follies

    "Should Florida lease its lottery to a private company, then turn around and use the proceeds to buy an annuity to replace the regular payments the lottery currently provides? Major New York investment house Lehman Brothers thinks it should and is trying to sell the proposal to Gov. Charlie Crist's office as a way to help the state get out of its budget bind."

    Critics, though, call it a boondoggle that would transfer billions of dollars back and forth for no apparent reason other than to generate millions of dollars in fees for the underwriters involved and as much as $1.8 billion a year in profit for the private vendor.

    "It's obviously good for the private sector," said House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. "It's a huge windfall for whoever gets it. But is it good for Florida?"
    "Critics: Private lottery useless".

    "Rare ranch sale also would leave owners acreage to develop"

    "After 120 years of raising cattle on land now treasured by environmentalists, the Yarborough family is on the verge of selling a big piece of its ranch in a deal that could preserve much of the property but open a major piece for development. If approved Tuesday, the St. Johns River Water Management District will pay $30 million for 5,040 acres -- nearly 8 square miles -- of Yarborough ranch land in east Seminole County and add it to the nearby Little Big Econ State Forest. The price was reduced by nearly $15 million because the family will get to keep valuable development rights. That could lead to homes and offices on 1,349 acres of ranch the Yarboroughs will still own." "Deal would expand state forest land".

    Hsu You

    "Add the Florida Democratic Party and Sen. Bill Nelson to the list of beneficiaries of disgraced Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu." "Nelson shuns money, but state party balks".

    "'Special-interest food fight'"

    "Amid the din of dire warnings, pocketbook appeals and posturing over the death of Florida's no-fault auto insurance law as of Oct. 1, here's a number to keep in mind: $7 million. That's the bare minimum that insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, trial lawyers, HMOs, chiropractors and trade associations with a stake in the law have paid to lobbyists so far this year to make their case in Tallahassee." "Capitol View: Pricey 'special-interest food fight'".

    Here's An Idea

    Scott Maxwell:

    Well, Republicans wised up -- partially. Instead of completely ignoring the state, they've decided to reduce the state's delegates by half. Lame, yes. But only 50 percent lame.

    Democrats, however, are still threatening to ax all of the state's delegates. Now let's take a quick timeout to appreciate the full irony of this threat: Democrats -- the "Count Every Vote" party -- are talking about ignoring the votes of an entire state. Nice.

    So I figure: If your party won't count your vote, join one that will.

    Seriously, Democrats. March down to your elections office and become a Republican.

    That way, come January, you can vote -- for the Republican you like best, the one you dislike the least or, if you wanna be sneaky about it, you can even vote for the Republican that you think would be the easiest for a Democrat to beat in November.

    Whatever way you do it, your vote will count -- at least more than it would as a Democrat if the national folks follow through with their threat.

    What's more, after you vote Republican, you can switch back -- and vote in the regular Democratic primaries in September.
    "Scott Maxwell".

    PBC Scandal

    "Powerhouse lobbyist Hugo Unruh and consulting engineer Dan Shalloway together have invested thousands of dollars in a Costa Rica cattle ranch, a business tie that Unruh never declared when he steered a lucrative government contract to a partnership that included Shalloway and former Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell." "Lobbyist, engineer mired in scandal".

    "Masilotti got a favor for giving up his right to argue his sentence: His brother, Paul, escaped without charges. Newell can argue that he doesn't deserve to be treated like Masilotti. But like Masilotti, Newell took the oath of office and broke it. Like Masilotti, Newell's betrayal happened not once, but three times. Like Masilotti, Newell needs to be shown the consequences of his actions. Masilotti set the standard. Five years, the maximum, is the right sentence for Newell." "Masilotti, Newell".

    FYI: Masilotti is a Republican. Newell "was a longtime Republican who switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year in hopes of boosting his chances for re-election, before the federal investigation derailed his political career." "Ex-Palm Beach County commissioner Warren Newell faces 5 years in prison".

    Randy Schultz: "The former Palm Beach County commissioner will be the last of four crooked county politicians sent to prison. Like Ray Liberti, Tony Masilotti and Jim Exline, Newell sold off his office. The actual charge comes in fancier language, but it means the same thing." "Can levees hold back corruption?".

    "Stand up for the little guy"

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida Democrats should thank Tampa's Victor DiMaio for having the guts to challenge the party's establishment and stand up for the little guy. DiMaio, a political consultant, sued the national and state Democratic parties last week for deciding not to seat Florida delegates at the national convention if the state holds its early primary as planned." "Gutsy Lawsuit For Little Guy Puts Tampa At Center Of Debate".

    "Politically difficult"

    The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "We trust state legislators will consider carefully some of Gov. Charlie Crist's suggestions for easing the state's economic stresses through a combination of spending cuts as well as spending that will stimulate the economy - or at least not be a continual drain on it. Among ideas from his agency heads that the governor is noticeably ignoring is a politically difficult yet administratively solid and financially sensible proposal to move thousands of low-risk inmates in state prisons into work release, substance abuse and educational programs." "Release to work".

    "Back in business"

    "Once a rising star in Tampa Bay area politics, Peter Schorsch appeared to be finished as a campaign consultant this spring."

    In March, Schorsch pleaded no contest to two counts of grand theft and one count of scheming to defraud two candidates and the Greater Tarpon Springs Democratic Club.

    Sentenced to house arrest, probation, community service and restitution, Schorsch was banned from working in politics while on probation. Soon he was accused of violating that, too.

    But in a deal that wiped out his sentence, Schorsch last month was released from the conditions of his probation.

    And he's back in business.

    Schorsch, 31, of St. Petersburg, has a new company called Rogue Political Consulting.
    "Times: Record cleared, consultant's back".


    "Officials from the Miami-Dade public defender's, state attorney's and elections offices were on hand, as well as volunteers from the local American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Aid, to help people who have committed certain nonviolent crimes get their civil rights restored and their records sealed. It was one in a series of outreach efforts by these and other organizations being held around the state since April 5, when Gov. Charlie Crist and two other members of the Clemency Board -- Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink -- voted to revise Florida's Jim Crow-era rules and make it easier for most nonviolent felons to have their rights restored." "Felons seek return of rights at Miami summit".

    Running Government Like A Business

    The Daytona Beach - News Journal editorial board finds " the method surrounding the layoffs at the Clerk of Courts office [was] especially puzzling, and for many of those involved, infuriating.

    The 10 clerks, some of whom worked there as long as 22 years, weren't just laid off. They were treated like employees being summarily fired. They were walked to a room outside their usual offices and told they'd lost their job. Then they were "offered" not to go back to their desks. Other clerk employees would gather their personal belongings and bring them out. No severance was offered anyone. ...

    Yet those who did go back to their desks were escorted by other employees. Again, an added humiliation on top of another. The clerk's rationale -- that the method protected fired employees from being more hurt and frightened than they already were -- isn't convincing. ...

    If there is a season of layoffs ahead, and there is a lesson to be learned from the experience in Flagler, it's that being laid off is traumatic enough. Managers needn't add humiliation to the fright, especially when they claim to trust their employees. Asked if she would do anything different were she faced with another round of lay-offs, Wadsworth said: "I would choose to do it in the afternoon."
    To add insult to injury, the Clerk
    reorganized at the top: Jennifer Barker, the finance director partly tasked with working out the numbers and the layoffs, was promoted to her $95,000-a-year job, with a $19,000 raise, in mid-July. It's a new position. She had been promoted to her previous job, as assistant finance director, with a $6,000 raise, in January.
    "Sledgehammer downsizing".

    "A huge pain for politicians"

    "Cities and counties sell bonds to raise money. These are loans to build things such as sewer plants, roads and buildings. The governments must pledge a source of money to pay off the bonds -- such as resort taxes for convention-center bonds. But the state constitution says voters must give their approval if property taxes are used to secure such debt. This is a huge pain for politicians, in large part because voters have a history of rejecting spending projects." Mike Thomas nevertheless believes "the end result will be a more transparent use of public money. And that always is a good thing." "Court's ruling may end tricky taxing gimmicks".

    Utilities are planning ahead to meet the demands of growth profits

    "Utilities are planning ahead to meet the demands of growth".

    Another "Surge"

    "Sherry Lee, who represents CUTS - Cut Unfair Taxes and Spending - said local budget cuts and the property tax reform measure approved by state lawmakers this year have not done enough to lower residents' tax bills. Many owners are looking to the value adjustment board for relief, she said." "Tax bill challenges expected to surge".

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