Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


UPDATE: Every morning we review and individually digest Florida political news articles, editorials and punditry. Our sister site, FLA Politics was selected by Campaigns & Elections as one of only ten state blogs in the nation
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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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Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Sunday, May 17, 2009

McCollum: the best they can do?

    Bill March writes that "Democrats are giddy over the coming race between Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollum, their best shot in a decade at winning the governorship and ceasing to be an irrelevant minority in Florida government."
    To them and many pundits, Sink seems a clear front-runner - a fresh face who won a statewide race in 2006 in her first try for public office, with the demographic edge of gender plus a business background.

    The surge in Democratic voter registration and turnout that helped Barack Obama win the state has Sink backers sensing a win.

    But polls and political history are more sobering.

    They suggest neither candidate can claim to be the front-runner in a race that experts consider a toss-up.

    They expect a hard-fought slog between an interesting newcomer and a toughened veteran, who will both raise and spend vast sums.

    "Alex Sink has impressed many pundits, and right now her stock is high," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

    Florida Attorney General McCollum, meanwhile, "has not shaken his 'loser' image with the punditocracy," Sabato said.

    Nonetheless, he said, "Anyone handicapping the race this early is foolhardy. I'll call it a toss-up."
    "Race for governor seen as a toss-up". Mike Thomas touting the RPOFer line earlier in the week: "Career makes campaign tricky for Alex Sink".

    Indeed, Aaron Deslatte writes that "when Attorney General Bill McCollum jumps into the 2010 governor's race in downtown Orlando on Monday morning, Republicans could question whether the Brooksville native — and 10-term congressman from Longwood — can hold his Central Florida home turf in a general election." After all,
    in the 2004 presidential race, Orange County delivered a measly [?] 815-vote advantage to Democrat John Kerry. Last year, Barack Obama carried the county by 86,100 votes over Republican John McCain — the largest shift in vote totals in Florida. And through April, Democrats had built a 274,000-to-192,000 advantage in registered voters in Orange.

    "Orange County is not a swing county anymore," said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. "That genie is out of the bottle as far as Republicans are concerned ... If that happens on a larger scale, it would change politics in Florida." ...

    In a broad swath of 22 counties, from Flagler on the northeast to Charlotte on the southwest, Democratic "performance" — Obama's margins against McCain, compared to Kerry's against George W. Bush — improved by 340,000 votes in 2008. The Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando media markets showed the largest voter shift toward the Democrat of any of the state's metro areas.
    "Can McCollum count on his old home turf?".


    "Stiff competition in Florida's 2010 political races". Related "South Florida legislators may be in running for state's chief financial officer, attorney general".

    Senate slog

    Scott Maxwell: "It'll be Kendrick Meek vs. Charlie Crist. How do I know this?"

    Because Meek has the kind of smarts and charisma voters said they wanted in last year's presidential race.

    Because the other Democrat is just another cog in the Tallahassee machine.

    Because the alleged social conservative in the race is an unproven lightweight.

    Because the proven conservative who could win seems more interested in grousing from the sidelines than getting in the race himself.

    And because people just always seem to underestimate Charlie Crist.
    "Here's a breakdown on how the Senate race is shaping up:" "Kendrick Meek vs. Charlie Crist in Senate race".

    Rubio ready to kick and scream

    Yesterday: "Republican backlash brews" and "Underdog Marco Rubio not shying from tough fight".

    Myriam Marquez had this earlier in the week: "Crist's GOP tent too quick to snub Rubio".

    Good luck

    Troxler: "Last week, we invited your suggestions for fixing Florida's broken state Legislature. Your responses were swift, intelligent and enthusiastic — and sometimes surprising." "Readers' smart ideas for fixing Legislature".


    "Florida's 2009 legislative wrap-up: Carving out a budget". see also "Proposals that didn't fly: What state lawmakers failed to pass". Related: "What you could play where, if Seminoles agree to gambling deal" and "Legislature passed bills on tobacco taxes, property insurance and health care".

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: ain't happy: "Florida Legislature's leaders and letdowns for 2009".


    "Democrats fear [AG] primary "Armageddon"".

    Fool's gold

    "As governments grapple with sinking revenues and ballooning budget deficits, the idea of outsourcing is gaining steam."

    Public employee unions argue that ceding control of vital public services will mean less accountability to residents. They say contractors may not be as willing to respond to emergencies. And they worry that when the economy recovers, their cities will be understaffed because it can take time to collect bids and approve contracts.
    "Some Broward cities consider privatizing services to save money".

    Them union folks might have a point - Most recently, in Miami-Dade: "Allegations that Wackenhut was doctoring timesheets and leaving county transit stations unguarded go back to a whistleblower's civil lawsuit filed in 2005. The county auditor found evidence of overbilling in 2006 and released a report in 2008. In early April, County Manager George Burgess said the Palm Beach Gardens-based company should be barred from doing business with Miami-Dade."

    Nevertheless, RPOFers love doling out contracts: Paul Krugman explainedthat our Jebbie was "an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, his bold experiment has been a success, at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."

    "Nips and tucks do nothing ..."

    The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Florida lawmakers again refused to try to fix major flaws in how property is taxed in this state. Instead they are offering voters next year a chance to reduce a small part of the inequity for targeted taxpayers."

    The Legislature is offering a constitutional amendment for voter approval in 2010 that would give a tax incentive to people who haven't owned a home in eight years. Don't ask where the eight years comes from; it's arbitrary.

    It means that a qualified buyer of a full-time residence next year would get an extra property-tax exemption of 25 percent of the home's value. The break phases out over five years.

    The same measure would cap increases in the taxable value of businesses, apartments and other property not eligible for a homestead exemption to 5 percent a year (down from 10), except for school taxes. The increase in the taxable value of homesteads has long been capped at 3 percent a year.

    There's no need to decide now how you'll vote in 18 months, but it's not too early to think about how these nips and tucks do nothing to improve the ugly asymmetry of Florida's tax structure.
    "Property-tax tweaks won't bring equity".

    "Why Gov. Crist wants to be Sen. Crist in 2011"

    Randy Schultz: "No Republican in the Senate or House, of course, mentioned the $5 billion gorilla in the chamber. Without the federal stimulus money that got all of three Republican votes in Congress - and no votes in the House - Sen. Atwater, and House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, would have had to cut $5 billion more or find that much in new taxes or 'fees' or 'surcharges.' Horrible would have looked pretty good when they finished."

    The Legislature also has to replace the federal stimulus money that will stop after next year's budget. Most of the gift from Washington went for what the bean counters call "recurring expenses" - education and health care. Basically, this Legislature is borrowing from future Legislatures, meaning the taxpayers.

    What does it mean to you? Florida's once-impressive financial rating is starting to look like an orange that has citrus canker. In April, the Moody's rating service placed Florida on notice for a possible downgrade. Obviously, the lousy economy was a big reason. But Moody's didn't let Florida off the hook.

    Among the state's other problems: "Failure to prepare a reasonable plan to restore budgetary structural balance" and "General Revenue Fund surpluses were essentially drawn down during the course of the last three fiscal years with increasing reliance on the use of non-recurring revenues in fiscal year 2009." (That's the trust fund and reserve fund raiding we discussed.)

    A downgrade would force up Florida's debt cost. Moody's offers some tips to head off a downgrade. Florida would have to shore up those reserves and craft a more realistic budget. The warnings include "increased reliance on one-time solutions to balance budget" and "lack of a reasonable plan to restore reserves." Uh-oh. That's why Gov. Crist wants to be Sen. Crist in 2011.
    "Delusion in Tallahassee".


    "In the escalating showdown between Miami-Dade County and Wackenhut Corp., former congresswoman Carrie Meek is on both sides."

    She lobbies for Miami-Dade, which is accusing Wackenhut of bilking the county out of $3.4 million. And she lobbies for Wackenhut, which is suing the county for $20 million in damages.
    "Carrie Meek seeks to remain a lobbyist in Miami-Dade security contract debate".

    "An insidious effort to dismantle growth management"

    The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "There can be no question that an insidious effort to dismantle growth management is bad for the state when both the Hillsborough County Commission and 1000 Friends of Florida are asking Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the legislation. The commission rarely stands up to developers, and 1000 Friends is a stalwart supporter of smart community planning. But they are aligned this time against SB 360, which would create more traffic jams and urban sprawl. Crist should stand up to the pressures from the development community and veto this bill, which would be particularly harmful to the Tampa Bay area." "Enough of This".


    "Miami-Dade legislators returned home with a long list of victories in a difficult budget year." "Lawmakers tout wins for Dade".

    "Wasn't a good year for open records"

    The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "It wasn't a good year for open records. The Legislature this year passed eight of some 50 to 60 proposed exemptions to Florida's public records law, twice as many new exemptions as last year." "Dealing in secrecy".

    "Never enter a roundabout without a wingman"

    Dan Moffett on driving in Florida:

    # Do not make eye contact on the interstate. It will be interpreted either as a sign of aggression or of weakness, and both are potentially problematic. ...

    # Do not believe turn signals. In 49 states, drivers use turn signals to indicate their intentions. In Florida, a turn signal is used as a diversion to lure competing vehicles out of position. Believe a turn when you see one.

    # Do not assume the rule of law at four-way stops, and forget all you know about rules of order. Florida is the only state where it's theoretically possible for four simultaneously arriving motorists to spend eternity at a four-way stop trying to sort out who should have the right of way. Hand gestures have been known to go on for days in this high-stakes game of chicken.

    # Do not attempt to understand traffic-calming strategies. It is far too technically nuanced for the layman. Engineers spend a lifetime studying where to install bumps onto a perfectly flat street and how to place concrete planters in harm's way. You can't hope to understand it.

    # Never enter a roundabout without a wingman.

    # Forget all you know about 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positioning. It used to refer to where the driver's hands should grip the wheel. Now, it's where weapons are most likely to be found under the seats.

    # Do not believe the directions from online mapping services. Florida suffers from a shortage of distinct street names, which makes computer searches prone to large margins of error. Thousands of streets share the names of palm, flamingo, ocean, sea, etc. The difference between Coconut Row, Coconut Street, Coconut Boulevard, Coconut Avenue, Coconut Place and Coconut Terrace can spell the difference between life and death. ...

    # Disregard travel distances; consider only travel times. ...

    # Above all, if it gets to be too much, seek the help of a trained professional:

    Call a cab.
    Much more here: "Florida road trip rules".


    Jane Healy: Finally, 3 glimmers of hope in taking control of growth.

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