Our digest and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
"Florida leads the nation in job losses"
"Florida leads the nation in job losses as the state's collapsing construction market fuels unemployment." "Florida jobless rate the worst in nation". See also "Fla. unemployment at highest rate in more than 13 years" and "Job picture is bleakest in 13 years".
"Soaring job losses and a sour economy"
"Florida faces a $1.76 billion revenue shortfall over the next 10 months, state economists predicted Friday, because of rising gas prices, soaring job losses and a sour economy." "Florida's revenue expected to fall for third year in a row".
Florida's system of public finance is of course a house of cards built by pusillanimous hacks owned and operated by the no-taxes under any circumstances crowd (a/k/a the Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Florida, and their ilk). With no backstop (and independent income stream), we get exactly what the Chamber of Commerce and AIF paid for: "State revenue estimate $1.8B short", "Sagging economy punches $1.8B hole in Fla. budget", "State economic picture getting bleaker" and "Florida faces $1.5 billion budget deficit".
"Florida — unlike the federal government — can't run a deficit. Crist's options:"
• Tap into reserve funds. The Legislature has given him authority to withdraw from the state's post-hurricane recovery fund or its health care endowment. About $1.6-billion is available."Florida's budget lacking, economists say".
• Make permanent an executive order cutting allocations to state agencies 4 percent, saving up to $1-billion.
• Call the Legislature into a special session to cut the budget, though that option would meet resistance in an election year.
And what exactly is Mr. happy face's "plan" to fix all this?: "Fla. revenue estimate down, Crist eyes reserves". See also "Crist looks to tap about $2 billion in reserves to offset loss of revenue" and "Economy looks worse as Crist touts new plan".
As Bill Cotterell observes, "Crist's record at putting his political career on the line for difficult, needed things is not going to rank him with LeRoy Collins or Reubin Askew in Florida history books. Remember, the first new law this guy signed was an 'anti-murder act' — courageously standing up to that large and influential pro-murder crowd." "A real leader would tell us what he'd tax".
The elephant in the room - the employees of Florida's newspaper companies have yet to ask a real simple question: Why is Florida's system of public financing too inadequate to weather this storm? Who is responsible?
Charlie "talking out of both sides of his mouth, as he often does"
Bill Maxwell: "Crist is talking out of both sides of his mouth, as he often does. This is the first time a Florida governor has ordered a review of a state attorney's report in such a case. Does this mean that Crist will order similar reviews whenever, or if, other white police officers shoot black civilians? I hope that Crist's action is an earnest search for the truth rather than an act of political calculus." "Code of silence poisons case".
Daniel Ruth's take: ""Race-Baiting Chum-Churning Alive And Well".This is your RPOF
"The Hillsborough County Republican Party has chosen Rachel Burgin, legislative assistant to state Rep. Anthony 'Trey' Traviesa, to replace Traviesa on the November ballot for the 56th District seat."
Party leaders chose Burgin this afternoon after interviewing nine candidates for the post. Burgin, 26, is a former assistant to Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair and is studying at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C."Traviesa's Aide Tapped To Run For His District 56 Seat".
Mickey is a RPOFer?
"Walt Disney World has limited its ban on employee guns at work to the giant resort's main property only -- and with that move Friday received the blessing of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum."
How nice of Bill to give his "blessing".
Disney was a backer of McCollum's 2006 campaign for attorney general. The company and more than a dozen executives wrote checks to McCollum during the race, funneling more than $5,000 to his campaign. The contributing executives included Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World, and Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney also gave more than $520,000 in money and goods during the 2006 campaign to the Republican Party of Florida, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help get McCollum elected."Disney relaxes restrictions on workers' guns".
Here's a solution - cut taxes
"A national Republican pollster warned Florida GOP activists that public sentiment is running against their party on key economic issues Friday and said the presidential race is going to be incredibly close." "Fla. GOP warned public opinion low".
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "The campaign to get Amendment 5 off the November ballot went one-for-three in court on Thursday, but that was enough. With luck, it will be enough to survive any appeal." "Strike one, and done?".
"Mark Herron, a Tallahassee attorney who represents Vote Yes on 5 for Property Tax Relief Inc., said proponents will ask the First District Court of Appeal to either hand the case directly to the Supreme Court or to hear it on an emergency basis. The measure is supported by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Association of Realtors, a group that has pledged to put up $1 million for a campaign." "Supporters of Amendment 5 say they'll appeal ruling to remove measure from ballot".
Just do it Charlie ... select "Ricky" (his real name)
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Crist makes no appointment more important than that of a Supreme Court justice, and he has every right to demand a larger, more diverse pool of nominees."
Charles Canady, for example, is an appellate judge nominated for Cantero's seat. But Canady got his judgeship from Gov. Jeb Bush, after serving as Bush's general counsel and defending school vouchers in court and after eight years as a highly partisan congressman who in 1999 helped run impeachment hearings against President Clinton. Similarly, Ricky Polston, nominated for Bell's seat, is an appellate judge appointed by Bush. It seems hardly coincidental that Polston was the lone dissenter in a three-judge panel ruling against Bush's vouchers. Polston's dissent ran 34 pages."For Supreme Court, demand diversity".
"Barack Obama intends to use a huge organization involving "thousands" of volunteers, along with thousands of new voters, to win Florida, his campaign manager told some of those volunteers during a trip to Florida this week. David Plouffe, head of the Obama campaign, made a swing through Tallahassee on Thursday evening and Friday, holding a conference call for campaign volunteers, a fundraiser at the home of a supporter and a news conference call for reporters Friday." "Obama: Zeal Will Win State".
"The Tampa Bay region has no greater problem than its congested and outdated transportation system. For two decades, political leaders throughout Tampa Bay have acknowledged that commuter rail must play a role if the growing region is to maintain its quality of life and diversify and grow its economy. Yet all the talk and costly studies have failed to drive a single spike into the ground; even a rudimentary rail system is at least another decade away. That's why Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio's plan to jump-start rail is encouraging." "Give rail a jump-start".
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., met with elected officials from Lake County Thursday to discuss a range of issues." "Nelson discusses issues with Lake County leaders".
The slum lord speaks
Sam Zell simply can't support a candidate who supports "mandating paid vacations and pensions for all Americans, and boosting Social Security and Medicare benefits without regard to the funding problems in those programs". "We think: The incumbent and his Democratic opponent from 2006 are the best choices for voters".
Background: "There's never been a wider, more competitive field of Democrats fighting to kick Republican U.S. Rep. Ric Keller out of Congress." "For Democrats, there's no dearth of candidates to unseat U.S. Rep. Ric Keller". See also "A 5th term, or a fresh face: Keller, Long face off in Republican primary".
"Congressional District 25 is beginning to heat"
"The race for Congressional District 25 is beginning to heat up on the west coast. While the snipes and accusations have been flying for awhile in Miami-Dade County, where the majority of constituents reside, disputes are now finding their way over to Collier County. Two weeks ago, Democratic candidate Joe Garcia, D-Miami, held a conference call, accusing incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, of refusing to debate him." "DBarbs fly between congressional candidates over debate".
"Independent congressional candidate Ben Graber said Friday that he wants a judge to remove U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler from the Nov. 4 ballot." "South Florida: Challenger sues to have Wexler cut from ballot".
St Pete City Council: "This race has a shift made more notable because Darden Rice is gay, which clashes with the religious beliefs of some of her African-American backers. And Rice's opponent in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary is Rene Flowers, who in 1999 became the first black woman elected to the St. Petersburg City Council"
Darden Rice came close in 2005 to winning a seat on the St. Petersburg City Council representing a majority African-American district, despite her acknowledged failure to establish broad support from black leaders."Surprising alliances revealed in race".
Now, several of the city's black political operators who backed her opponent, Earnest Williams, three years ago are supporting Rice, who is white, in her campaign for the County Commission.
It's a shift made more notable because Rice is gay, which clashes with the religious beliefs of some of her African-American backers. And Rice's opponent in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary is Rene Flowers, who in 1999 became the first black woman elected to the St. Petersburg City Council.
"As with so many fish species, the health of the gulf's grouper populations is not what it should be. Red grouper is already under an annual quota for commercial fishing, and federal regulators are poised to limit annual catches of gag grouper as well." "Stressed fish stocks and diners".
"Crist tapped a one-time political foe to replace outgoing Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth. George Sheldon, Butterworth's long-time right-hand man and until now assistant secretary of the maligned agency, will take over as interim secretary, Crist announced this morning." "Crist picks former foe as interim DCF chief".
Missed this the other day from The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Record numbers of people are discovering their neighborhood libraries, and that's good news." "Imagine that: Libraries are cool again".