"Florida Democrats have attended many a Jefferson-Jackson dinner where the flow of cocktails was crucial to keeping the mood upbeat."
But 1,000 activists and elected officials at the state party's annual gathering on Saturday were buzzed before they even arrived, intoxicated by having a popular president in the White House, a 694,000-voter edge in statewide registration, and opportunities to challenge the GOP's hold on state government in 2010."Florida Democrats -- at Fontainebleau Hotel-- get behind Alex Sink". See also "Notes from Dems JJ dinner".
Meek alone ... or is he?
"Gelber told a crowd of 1,100 Democratic Party supporters that he is leaving the Senate race in order to help unify the party. ... That leaves U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek as the top Democratic candidate for the seat Republican Mel Martinez is leaving after one term." "Gelber drops out of Fla. Senate race". See also "Miami Beach: Gelber drops U.S. Senate bid".
Meek may have a party crasher: "Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville considers run for Senate".
"Alex Sink was about as low-key as she could be when she got in the governor's race, but her first major event since then was quite the opposite."
Sink addressed a crowd of about 1,100 Democratic Party activists and supporters a little more than two weeks after simply issuing a press release saying she was running for governor. She was greeted with an extended ovation before making her first major address as a candidate for the state's top office."Fla. Democrats rally around Sink for governor". See also "Florida status quo has to change, Alex Sink tells Democratic Party activists". More: "Sink: Growth management bill is 'ugly pig'".
The no primary problem
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist had barely announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate before insiders from both political parties decided to anoint their gubernatorial nominees — Attorney General Bill McCollum for the Republicans and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for the Democrats.Healy takes us through the questions she thinks need to be andwered here: "Here's why voters are the victims as governor's race solidifies".
This may be good from a political fundraising perspective, saving all the money for the 2010 general election. But it hurts the voters. Without a challenge from someone within their own party, candidates get away with taking fewer stands on important issues. Voters ought to rebel and insist that the candidates answer some tough questions.
Dean Cannon, Ronda Storms and their ilk ...
... just don't get it.
"A group of activists intend to launch a petition initiative to place the issue of offshore oil drilling before voters in 2010. FloridaOil.org plans to ask Florida voters to lift the state ban and kick-start a new offshore drilling industry for the state."
The state House embraced a plan to lift the 20-year ban on drilling in Florida waters this spring after Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, attached the proposal late in the session to a more modest drilling bill. But the legislation hit a wall in the state Senate, where President Jeff Atwater, R-Palm Beach, refused to bring it to a vote because it had not received a full vetting in his chamber. Cannon and other lawmakers say they intend to improve the plan and bring it back next spring."Group wants offshore drilling on ballot".
If they do, they'll receive a positive reception in the Senate, predicted Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, who supports the concept.
Say it ain't so, Alcee ...
"Taxpayers foot bill for Hastings’ $25k Lexus".
No wonder Charlie's skipping out
"The taxable value of property in Palm Beach County plummeted by 13.5 percent in the past year, confirming last month's announcement that the county and its municipalities are likely enduring their worst plunge since the Great Depression - or perhaps the 19th century." "Palm Beach County's 13.5-percent tax roll plunge may be worst since 1800s".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Facing a five-year prison sentence on Thursday, Mary McCarty argues that her crimes deserve just one year. So much for the contrite McCarty who after resigning her Palm Beach County Commission seat in January proclaimed, 'I get it.' She gets it as long as she doesn't have to serve it." "The max for McCarty, too". Joel Engelhardt: "All about Mary, after all".
Randy Schultz asks: "How can any Palm Beach County commissioners, after all that has happened over the last three years, remain in denial about public outrage?" "Make it 'Clean County'".
"Depends on what your definition of 'tax' is"
"When he signed a $66.5 billion spending plan last week, Gov. Charlie Crist stopped just short of bragging about maintaining most state programs without resorting to a tax increase. But that claim depends on what your definition of 'tax' is. Virtually every Floridian, from drivers to users of state parks to smokers - will pay more next year to raise Florida's revenue by more than $2.2 billion." "Floridians set to pay $2B more".
Slash and burn
"Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock will be forced to cut 66 employees from her staff in order to close next year's $7.1 million budget shortfall, her office announced Saturday." "Clerk's office axes 66 workers to meet budget requirement".
"A fight over Cuba's possible readmission into the Organization of American States is set to dominate the group's meeting this week in Honduras and may put Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an uncomfortable position."
With numerous Latin American countries pushing to reverse the 1962 expulsion of the communist island nation from the bloc, the Obama administration's willingness to engage with Cuba will be tested at the session that Clinton plans to attend on Tuesday."Fight over Cuba to dominate OAS meeting".
U.S. officials say they are ready to support lifting the resolution that suspended Cuba from the 34-country group but they insist on tying the island's readmission to democratic reforms under a charter the organization adopted in 2001.
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Federal transportation officials are scrambling to figure out who should get $8 billion allocated by Congress for high-speed passenger trains. Monday on this page we will present a strong case that a Tampa-Orlando connection deserves to be among the first projects approved. Today we look at a more basic issue of why taxpayers should invest so much money to begin building a network of very fast trains." "Fast trains efficient on right routes".
But the The Orlando Sentinel editorial board points out that Florida isn't ready for prime time:
Most anyone who attended last week's high-speed-rail workshop in Orlando came away excited. Giddy, even. If Florida were to host one of the systems the federal government is looking to invest in, they were told, the state would reap some monstrous dividends: at least 25,000 new jobs, relief for its congested highways and airports, and benefits galore for the environment."What we think: High-speed rail? Not so fast".
But Florida's really not a strong candidate for high-speed rail. Not now, anyway, according to several federal transportation officials. Much as we would love to hop aboard dreamy 110-mph trains connecting Orlando to Miami and Tampa, that's just not going to happen until Florida takes more practical steps to fill in some glaring gaps in the transportation services it currently offers the public.
For one, it needs to make SunRail — the commuter-train service designed for Central Florida — a reality. And it's got to ensure the viability of Tri-Rail, currently serving commuters from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. It's essential because without local commuter-rail systems also running residents to their jobs and homes in those areas, high-speed rail really has no business moving people from one metropolitan area to the next.
Imagine a bullet train pulling into a terminal in Orlando — an Orlando that doesn't also operate commuter- or light-rail service. Most passengers would find themselves facing cumbersome connections to whatever might be their next destination. If they're spending almost as much time traveling in the Orlando area as it took them to get there from Fort Lauderdale, for example, it'll kill the whole point of riding the zippy train to Orlando in the first place.
Other applicants for billions of dollars of federal money that would seed high-speed-rail systems don't face that problem: Only three of 27 metro areas wishing to be served by high-speed trains don't have their own fixed-transit systems that would connect to them. Two of the three are in Florida: Orlando and Tampa.
"Florida's stale schools"
Mike Thomas: "Florida's stale schools hurt minority kids".
Muzzling local government officials
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Why would the Legislature want to muzzle local government officials?"
Easy. To keep them from criticizing state lawmakers' penchant for putting property tax cuts on the statewide ballot."Don't muzzle local officials".
These proposals invariably pass, making legislators look like heroes, but the consequences for local governments charged with providing public safety and education, fire protection and trash hauling can be severe to local residents.
Local governments should not be treated like dangerous animals in need of a muzzle. Local officials have a right to speak up and to spend public money if necessary on public education campaigns to let voters know exactly what they will be voting on.
That's why the Florida League of Cities is asking Gov. Charlie Crist to veto SB 216. He should. This bill would make it illegal for city or county officials or government employees to comment on or mount an information campaign about ballot issues, everything from local-option sales-tax proposals to state constitutional amendment questions.
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "In Volusia County's ongoing water woes, no party can honestly claim clean hands."
Local cities put their desire for uncontrolled growth above environmental needs. County officials waffled when they should have taken a strong lead. The St. Johns River Water Management District has always talked tough about conservation and intra-county cooperation -- but when the district issued generous water-consumption permits to key East Volusia cities, it undermined a burgeoning effort to create a countywide water authority with bite. And when voters had the chance to mandate better water management in 2006, they blinked, rejecting a provision that would give a countywide water board authority over well fields."Cloudy water future".
Maxwell to the defense
Scott Maxwell wants us to know that all Republicans are not (always) wingnut toads; he wants us all to know that "many party leaders — including Central Florida's two highest-profile congressional Republicans — not only ignored Limbaugh and the other hyperpartisan pundits, they actually praised the president's pick." "Conservatives are right to reject rush to judgment of Sotomayor".
Is Pruitt in the Sansom-Richburg mix?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Leon County grand jury asked itself a very important question: Why did former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, slip $6 million into the budget to build an airplane hangar for Northwest Florida State College?"
The grand jury already had decided that the cover story - the college would use it to train emergency workers - was bogus. So, why would Rep. Sansom and former college President James Richburg finagle the money? The real answer, grand jurors decided, was to help Jay Odom, a developer, jet service owner and big donor to Rep. Sansom and the GOP.Is Pruitt in the Sansom-Richburg mix?
One 2007 e-mail from Richburg to Sansom contains the cryptic reference that "the project began with us in Port Saint Lucy (sic) on our visit to Senator Pruitt two years ago." Sen. Ken Pruitt, who has consulted an attorney, remembers the meeting in "broad context." He says they didn't discuss the $6 million hangar request but did talk in general about planning for a Homeland Security/Public Safety facility at Indian River State College. That facility will open this fall."Sansom case an indictment of Tallahassee".