"Forgive John McCain if he returns to Florida on Monday with a swagger. His summer-long drumbeat for more offshore drilling gave way to a rallying cry at the Republican convention and pushed reluctant Democrats in Congress into a corner. He's widened his lead in statewide polls over Democrat Barack Obama to between five and eight percentage points." "Visiting Florida, McCain seems to have a wider lead".
"Neither bold nor creative"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Crist and the state Department of Transportation are moving ahead with plans to lease Alligator Alley to private investors."
Florida would get a huge infusion of cash upfront, with which it can fasttrack funding of needed transportation projects in Broward and Collier counties. The state also would get a revenue stream that could help alleviate future budget setbacks and dwindling federal highway dollars. Does this make the deal worth it? We don't think so. ..."Alligator Alley a cash-and-carry deal".
Gov. Crist and the DOT are being praised by some transportation officials and free-market thinkers -- who see the project as a model -- for their bold and creative thinking. Truth is, there isn't much that is bold or creative about turning over a 78-mile highway in excellent condition to private investors.
RPOFer suppression scheme in full bloom
"Critics say thousands of Florida voters may be denied the chance to participate in this year's presidential election because of a new state law designed to crack down on voter fraud. The law, which went into effect last week, creates a more stringent standard for verifying voter information. Democrats, and other groups that unsuccessfully sued the state over the law, contend it creates new bureaucratic barriers that could disproportionately keep many minority voters from casting a ballot." "Law could deny people right to vote, critics say".
Drag a dollar bill thru a gated community ...
... and you never know what'll turn up: "The new head of the leading voucher group in Florida is a former teachers-union leader ..."
He was hired by John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman who rivals former Gov. Jeb Bush as Florida's most influential voucher advocate."Former foes of vouchers adjust stand".
Tuthill isn't the only new blood at the Florida School Choice Fund.
Joining him as communications director is Jon East, a former St. Petersburg Times editorial writer. Until his retirement last week, East for years was a persistent critic of vouchers.
"Image is tarnished"
"Even the most ardent Republicans concede their party's image is tarnished, and the Democratic image is on the upswing. That trend is more than clear in Central Florida. After trending Republican for years, registration numbers show that the region is going in the opposite direction. Even staunchly Republican Seminole County has seen an increase in Democrats. It's now 56 percent to 44 percent Republicans, as opposed to 60-40 in 2000. Will that result in Democratic gains in November? In three key Central Florida races, that's still an open and complicated question."
The complications include Keller and Feeney. See hat she means: "Will Democrats' advantages translate into wins locally?".
"Weathering political headwinds and an economy in tailspin, Gov. Charlie Crist remains a well-liked figure cutting across traditional partisan divides as he approaches the two-year mark of his governorship. But after an eventful summer, during which Florida’s bachelor governor got engaged and landed on the short list for the Republican vice presidential nomination, Crist now faces new challenges." "Gov. Crist still popular despite state’s economic downturn".
"The Democratic Party ... has finally streaked ahead"
"The Democratic Party, which for decades badly trailed the GOP among Hispanic registered voters in Florida, has finally streaked ahead of the Republicans as the two parties race for the finish line of the November elections." "New Hispanic voters helping Democrats catch up".
"Get ready to see a lot of the candidates". See also "GOP notables to join McCain for rally at arena" and "McCain, Obama will return to Florida to campaign".
"'Other evolving options'"
"Putting bleak budget numbers before the Florida Legislature's money managers, Gov. Charlie Crist coined a three-word term that Republicans and Democrats will debate hotly until the economy improves."
The Legislative Budget Commission last week signed off on Crist's request to take $672.4 million out of the state's rainy-day reserve right away. But another $795 million is needed to balance the books of a $1.4-billion revenue shortage."Florida lawmakers trying to bolster state revenue may turn to bipartisanship".
Crist said the remainder will be scrounged together after the Nov. 4 election with "other evolving options" — three little words that mean vastly different things on opposite sides of the partisan divide.
"Proposed amendments a mix of sensible and senseless"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "When the Florida Supreme Court struck down a misleading 'tax-swap' amendment and two proposals designed to bulldoze a path for taxpayer-funded religious education this month, it stripped much of the controversy from the slate of proposed constitutional amendments voters will see in November. " "Constitutional questions".
Randy Schultz: "It's impressive to see big-time political power on display, especially when it's displayed so skillfully."
The power in this case belongs to Florida Crystals, one of the two big sugar growers in the Everglades. Florida Crystals is part of Flo-Sun Inc., the $2.5 billion conglomerate based in West Palm Beach that, among other things, grows sugar, refines sugar (think Domino brand), produces renewable energy and owns the luxurious Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic. Flo-Sun, controlled by the Fanjul family of Palm Beach, is a world and national player. Brothers Alfonso (Democrats) and Pepe (Republicans) donate to both parties and get their calls returned."Suddenly, it wasn't about doing a favor for a powerful company. "
It was about doing a favor for downtrodden people. A few representatives from environmental groups warned that rushing on an inland port could upset Everglades restoration, which the $1.75 billion buyout of U.S. Sugar is supposed to help. They might as well have been atheists at a revival."Any deal will be a sweet one". See also "Hendry, rancher pitch 6,000-acre site for 'inland port'".
So the commissioners backed the concept of an inland port. They didn't designate the Florida Crystals property as the preferred site, but right now, that's the only site proposed. If we don't act now, commissioners said, Martin County could get the port. And, no, it isn't that big of a deal for Florida Crystals.
Until they got to the part about ... you know ...
"Crist said paperwork was extensive while being a contender for McCain's vice-president pick". There's been surprisingly little - actually none - coverage of the whispering campaign that Charlie faced.
The Maitland Housewife
... tells us about "when science lost out to pork." "U.S. took a pass on Big Bang, now we're stuck with NASA's Big Bust".
"'Crist unconstitutionally exceeded his power last year'"
"The Florida Supreme Court voted 6-1 late Thursday to deny a request by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe for another shot at arguing the case that threw out the state's multimillion-dollar gambling compact over slot machines. The ruling makes final the high court's July decision invalidating the agreement signed by the governor that allows the tribe to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines and banked card games at its seven casinos in exchange for paying the state at least $100 million a year."Seminole gaming pact now in Legislature's hands". See also "Attorney General Wants Seminoles To Shut Down Games".
"In January, voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that was aimed at reining in the growth of property taxes. One portion of Amendment 1 limited annual increases in the assessed value of non-homestead properties to 10 percent a year for everything but school taxes. Many commercial property owners may wonder why their assessed values have doubled. One little-noticed aspect of the amendment was that while extra protections for homestead owners went into effect immediately, the 10 percent cap is not effective until next year. This comes at a time when the values of some commercial properties are rising, while values of most residential properties have dropped." "Tax bills show up, higher than expected".
Credit, where credit is due ...
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board thinks a tax increase might be the way to fix local public transportation "Commissioners should look to gas tax to revive Lynx".
"The danger of shortsightednes"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "But a financial transfer that escaped widespread scrutiny Wednesday — the same day that lawmakers approved a $672 million transfer from reserve funds to fill part of a big hole in the state budget — illustrates the danger of shortsightedness." "Bright future?".
All Idiots is Local ...
... or sumthin' like that: "Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman is proposing renaming the county Moral Courage Award after the late Ralph Hughes, a political supporter of Norman and other conservative Republicans on the County Commission." "Moral Courage Award May Get New Name".
News Blast from the Zell Corporation
On a slow news day, why not waste a little ink slamming public employees' "cushy benefits". Can never go wrong makin' the boss man happy.
This is simply ignorant:
In defending the cushy benefits that [Orange] county employees receive -- like vacation days that can be carried over year to year [holy cow!] and double-dipping pensions -- officials argued that they were justified because their employees don't get bonuses like they do in some private businesses. Apparently, when it comes to hitting up taxpayers, any rationalization is fair game now."How's that again?"
Wonders never cease
"Florida fuel supply not affected by Ike".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Predictably, grousing greeted the decision earlier this month to dump water from Lake Okeechobee. ... Just last week, Lake O levels surged to about 15 feet for the first time in more than two years, following two tropical storms, Fay and Hanna. To not release water as Ike threatened would have been reckless." "Smart to lower Lake O's levels".