Adam Smith: "This week offered good news and bad for the Florida Republican Party. First the good news:"
The Bill McCollum gubernatorial campaign offered up internal polling that Democratic Alex Sink so far is showing more hype than momentum: McCollum not only leads Sink among likely Florida voters 41 percent to 33 percent, but voters said the had a more favorable opinion of McCollum (41 percent) than Sink (23 percent) and approved of his job performance (52 percent) as attorney general more than Sink as chief financial officer (38 percent)."Now the bad for Florida Republicans."
It's wise to be skeptical of internal polls released by campaigns, but McCollum's pollster, John McLaughlin, is a respected veteran of Florida politics, and his numbers are similar to other recent public polls. He noted that even among the mere 25 percent of voters who knew enough about both candidates form an opinion of them, McCollum led Sink 46 percent to 41 percent.
In the increasingly diverse, melting pot that makes up the Florida electorate, Republicans continue losing ground among nonwhite voters in Florida. Of the voter registrations since November's election, Democrats had a three-to-one advantage with Hispanic voters and 25-to-one among African-Americans. Overall, nearly 40 percent of registrations since October were Democrats and 26 percent Republicans.More: "McCollum touts his polls, but his party's numbers are slipping".
Republicans are touting an aggressive statewide voter registration and minority outreach push. But it looks likely they'll be fielding an all-white-male field at the top of the ticket while Democrats have a woman for governor and African-American for the Senate.
Sink won't have the media's Bush-worship this time 'round
"One lesson she appears to have learned is to avoid following in her husband's footsteps, although her Republican rivals may use on her the same strategy they used on McBride." "Economy puts Sink in different position than her husband".
Can cut-and-run Charlie pull it off?
Aaron Deslatte writes that "it's becoming obvious that [Crist's] decision to try to trade up his digs in the Governor's Mansion for Capitol Hill will require a master sales job."
Crist justifies his decision to skip a second term by saying Florida's economic problems are prompted by national conditions he can better work to solve in Washington. But supporters acknowledge the move means the governor will leave a mountain of unfinished business in his wake. ...Much more: "Senate run a big test of Gov. Charlie Crist's sales skills".
[A]lthough Crist is the undisputed front-runner for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Orlando, his campaign is a balancing act fraught with peril.
Last week, for example, he flew to children's hospitals in Tampa and South Florida to trumpet a scaled-down KidCare bill that could make it slightly easier for families without health insurance to enroll their children in the program. It was a relatively meager political achievement, but the sort dictated by the tight economic times.
Meanwhile, he also signed two highly controversial bills: one repealing the heart of the state's growth-management laws and another letting tuition at state universities increase by as much as 15 percent annually. But his office announced those in the dead of night, long after the news conferences.
Stop the madness
"Florida, famous for shipping orange juice all over the country, may yet be known for a very different kind of export: criminals. With the inmate population hovering around 100,000 and the state lacking money to build more prisons, the Legislature has given the Corrections Department the authority to ship inmates to other states for the first time." "Florida getting option to ship prison inmates to other states".
RPOFers on the run
"To the average citizen, it sounds like the most boring subject in government - a movement to reform the process of drawing legislative district boundaries."
That movement, however, could reshape Florida politics."Redistricting drive could reshape politics".
Its first result probably would be to help the Democratic Party win seats in the state Legislature and Congress in 2012 and thereafter. But supporters say it's a nonpartisan effort that would go far beyond changing the current political situation.
A petition drive for two constitutional amendments - one for state legislative districts and one for Florida congressional districts - now has about 450,000 of the 635,000 signatures needed for each amendment to get on the 2010 election ballot, organizers say.
"Jailing the mentally ill strains justice"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial Board: "County jails throughout the state house thousands of people with serious mental conditions. Some of them can't maintain a life on the outside -- as soon as they are released, they commit a new, usually petty crime and end up back in jail. Counties pay staggering bills for psychiatric medications and treatment. They struggle to house inmates whose illnesses make them vulnerable (or in isolated cases, dangerous) in the jail's general population." "Florida's failure".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "the bond between school districts and Florida's Legislature is, well, complicated."
Members of the Leon County School Board, and Wayne Blanton, president of the Florida Association of School Boards, repeated as much time and again Tuesday night when the board met for a special budget workshop. Of top concern was how the district will cope with a budget shortfall brought on by the Legislature, though to hear House Speaker Larry Cretul tell it, there's no shortfall."Editorial: It's complicated".
We don' need no stinkin' taxes
Merrett Stierheim, former Miami-Dade County manager and former Miami-Dade Schools superintendent: "After a half a century of cutting-edge public service in Florida, it's depressing to watch this great state slide into second- or third-class status."
Comparing the levels of quality of public services among the 50 states, Florida ranks in the lowest quartiles. For example, in per-capita tax support for public education Florida is either last or at near bottom.Much more here: "Florida's in deep trouble".
Over the past decade an increasingly reckless and irresponsible state Legislature, with questionable or nonexistent leadership from the governor, has kept digging a deeper and deeper hole from which it will be increasingly difficult to extricate ourselves. The lack of statesmanship, respect and sensitivity from lawmakers for our local governments, the closest and most accountable to the people, has been equally disturbing.
"Senate President Jeff Atwater's political biography and fundraising prowess is casting a long shadow in the race for Florida Chief Financial Officer."
Democrats have at least one candidate for every other statewide office up for election in 2010 but haven't settled on a candidate for CFO. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Miami businesswoman Annette Taddeo are considering the job."Senate President Jeff Atwater has yet to draw opponent for Florida Chief Financial Officer".
Taddeo, a favorite of many party insiders, said she'd run if her family agrees, and if she could raise enough money to take on a powerhouse like Atwater.
"Not so fast"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It is obvious why [the Orange County School District,] the nation's 11th-largest public-school system would be eager to remove the scarlet 'S' of segregation tarring its national reputation. Not so fast." "Mission not accomplished".
Just in time
"Churchill Downs Inc. and Calder Race Course broke ground Wednesday on a 104,000-square-foot slots and gaming facility. Churchill Downs says the casino will open early next year before the Super Bowl, which will be played at nearby LandShark Stadium. It will have 1,225 slot machines, three restaurants and valet parking." "Miami-Dade's first casino coming in time for Super Bowl".
Florida's Sons of Confederate Veterans in action
"But the parade had grown controversial after the Sons of Confederate Veterans marched with the Confederate battle flag last Nov. 11. The Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP, along with members of the former Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board, have called for the flag to be banned." "Bring in big guns: Feds offer mediation in Homestead Veteran's Day parade flap".
The Miami Herald editorial board thinks local government should avoid "raising property taxes to cover next year's budget shortfalls". "The last resort".
Remember that "drop like a rock" promise?
"If you think plummeting home values are going to save you money on your property tax bill this year, you might be in for a big surprise. More than two years after Gov. Charlie Crist promised that property taxes would 'drop like a rock,' many homeowners could see their tax bills increase." "Double downer: Property values are down, but taxes may still go up".
Scott Maxwell on what is become a familiar Florida problem, this time it involves one Bill Dillon: "After 27 years in prison, the Brevard County resident was freed — the result of belated tests that proved his DNA wasn't actually on the bloody T-shirt used in his murder conviction."
But finally, at age 49, Dillon was free."Unforgiving law creates new injustice".
It only made sense that he would be compensated for his lost liberty. And last we heard, Dillon was slated to receive $1.35 million — the standard $50,000 a year Florida pays to the wrongfully convicted.
Only he didn't.
In the time that passed since his case dropped out of the headlines, Bill Dillon hasn't gotten a thing from the state that wrongly locked him up.
And unless something changes, he won't.
The reason: Back when he was 19, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance — triggering an exemption to the state's Wrongful Incarceration Act.
At the time, the conviction netted him probation and $150 fine. But now it's costing him more than $1 million.
"U.S. support for ending Cuba's nearly 50-year-old suspension from the Organization of American States has given the Obama administration greater clout in the region at little cost, according to diplomats and experts."
But President Barack Obama's efforts to engage Havana and promote reform on the communist island did not appear greatly advanced by the OAS move because Cuba has no plans to rejoin the organization."US wins clout with OAS deal on Cuba, experts say".
And prospects for improved U.S.-Cuba ties may have been damaged by Friday's federal charges against a former State Department intelligence analyst for allegedly spying for Cuba over a 30-year period.
Is "the sky falling"?
"When Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Monday repealing many of Florida's growth-management requirements, environmental bloggers and newspaper editorial writers screamed that the sky was falling."
They warned that Senate Bill 360 would force taxpayers to shoulder the bill for roads to accommodate sprawling development. Financially strapped local governments would not be able to stop ill-conceived development projects, they said, and state oversight would be lost. ..."Law's impact on roads yet to be determined".
Two provisions of the bill worry environmentalists and other critics: One would exempt developers in large counties from transportation concurrency - the requirement that builders construct road improvements for their developments. The other provision ends state oversight of large construction projects called "Developments of Regional Impact."
Even the Times Union smells a rat: "Crist signs a law that may help builders in Duval. But at what cost?" "More sprawl feared in Legislature's bid to boost Florida economy".
Jane Healy argues that the "New growth law offers big possibilities, and big dangers".
"The issue of 'side letters' offers another window into the new world of openness at Florida's State Board of Administration."
The state has plowed billions of public employees' nest egg dollars into complex, private ventures. Florida has entered into more than 130 "side letters'' with these private investment managers."Another level of secrecy in public investment".
In a growing national scandal, state and federal regulators are investigating whether any of these firms made improper payments to intermediaries to land public pension business in New York state and elsewhere.
Among those under scrutiny is the Carlyle Group, one of the nation's largest private investment firms .
In New York, Carlyle paid millions to a political consultant's firm in exchange for help obtaining investments from the pension fund. Last month, Carlyle agreed to pay $20 million to end an inquiry by New York's attorney general.
Florida has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in at least six deals with Carlyle.*
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* The delightful Carlyle tends to employ "out-of-work political celebrities. In addition to former president George H.W. Bush, they have included onetime Secretary of State James Baker, Defense secretary Frank Carlucci, and British prime minister John Major. A common view of the firm is that it has succeeded by practicing what Michael Lewis, in a 1993 New Republic article, called 'access capitalism.' In other words, old pols beguile investors into giving Carlyle their cash, then the pols find defense companies for Carlyle to buy on the cheap, then the pols cajole the Pentagon into giving these companies big contracts. Big profits result, and Carlyle and its investors make lots of money." Glassman, James K. "Big Deals. David Rubenstein and His Partners Have Made Billions With the Carlyle Group, the World’s Hottest Private Equity Firm. How Have They Made All That Money? Why Are They in Washington?", Washingtonian, June 2006. (.pdf format)
"[W]hen the SBA filed a $682 million claim in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy case in January, the agency did not furnish any of them with copies. Nor did any of them ask for it. And nobody told the public."
The SBA didn't tell the public about the filing of the claim.All this is kinda important, because, you know:
Asked why not, SBA spokesman Dennis MacKee offered two answers. One, the agency generally doesn't provide detailed comment on "imminent legal issues so as to not compromise the legal rights and interests of our participants.''
Two, he said "the basis of our claim'' against Lehman "has been addressed publicly and at trustee meetings.''
In fact, the basis of a claim was discussed at a single trustees meeting — about four months before Lehman declared bankruptcy, and eight months before the $682 million claim was filed.
The bad investment decisions in the Lehman case have cut into pension fund assets and the budgets of hundreds of towns, counties, school districts and state organizations."Florida's top officials never saw copies of a huge claim involving state pension money. Neither did you.".
Thank goodness we have not just one, but two lawyers on the SBA, Crist and McCollum: any lawyer worth his salt knows that when a party (say the State of Florida) has a claim against another party (say Jebbie's Lehman Brothers) the claimant (the putative creditor) is required to file timely "proofs of claim" in bankruptcy court.
Unfortunately, both of these lawyers (one of whom is a serial bar exam flunker) are too busy currying the Jebbite faction of the RPOF (to wit: 90% of it) to be much concerned with anything that might expose "Jeb!" and his shady business dealings. See "McCollum refusing to investigate 'Jeb!'" See also Forbes' "Where Was Jeb?", Bloomberg's "Florida Got Lehman Help Before Run on School's Funds" ("At about the same time, Bush and his new company won a consulting contract from Lehman Brothers, according to Lehman spokesman Randall Whitestone, who declined to say how much Bush is being paid"). More: "The Palm Beach Post calls for investigation of Jebbie".
Still more, from the The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board, back in late 2007: "Did Bush play any role in those investments? 'The answer to your question is an emphatic no,' Bush said in an e-mail message to the St. Petersburg Times. But Floridians and Gov. Charlie Crist [not to mention Florida's sleepy Attorney general] should not take that denial at face value." "Risky investments demand explanation".
Thank goodness for those banjo playin' "conservative activists"
"Claiming that offshore drilling is the answer to the nation's addiction to foreign oil, conservative activists are gearing up a constitutional drive to lift Florida's 20-year-old ban." "Conservative activists trying to overturn offshore-drilling ban".
Fanjul family justice
"One of the country's most powerful sugar companies is trying keep more than 1,400 West Indian cane cutters from suing for back wages by using a 19th century Florida law requiring they each put up bond, an attorney for the workers says."
The lawsuit is the last in a series of wage cases first brought in 1989 against five sugar companies. An attorney for the workers said he expects a state appeals court to rule any day on whether it will hear the workers' argument that the bond is unconstitutional."Cane workers see last chance to recover Florida wages".
The former guest workers say they were regularly underpaid by Osceola Farms Co., a subsidiary of the Fanjul family's Flo-Sun Inc., which also owns Domino Sugar.
Of all places ... Sarasota County?
Jeremy Wallace: "The Republican Party's struggles are showing up in the one place that has been immune from the gains Democrats have made in Sarasota County: the wallet. Through the first three months of 2009, the Sarasota Republican Party posted its rockiest fundraising stretch in years, raising $1,886. It marks the party's worst start to a new election cycle in 10 years. Four years ago, following the last presidential election cycle, the party raised $73,000 going into the first quarter." "GOP in cash crunch".
"Repeatedly and systemically ignored"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Two disturbing facts about the Florida foster care system have emerged following the suicide of a 7-year-old boy on psychiatric drugs. First is the extraordinary prescription rate for children under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families. Second is the alarming revelation that a 2005 law aimed at tackling that problem has been repeatedly and systemically ignored." "Foster care failures".
"It won't reassure the many St. Petersburg voters still uncertain and confused about their mayoral choices, but the election is coming far sooner than most people realize." "Just as St. Petersburg mayoral candidates gear up campaigns, about 60,000 mail-in primary ballots will go out".
Outrageous: workers paid overtime for working overtime
The Zell Corporation flacks apparently have a problem with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1935: the very serious Earl Maucker writes: "Take the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. The City Commission recently learned that about 50 police officers made more than $25,000 each in overtime last year." "Right to know: When should salaries be made public?".
RPOFers running wild in Palm Beach County
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "During the investigation that led to a five-year prison term - now reduced to three years - on corruption charges against Newell*, however, federal prosecutors showed that Mr. Shalloway accepted a $2.4 million "success fee" from the rock pit owners, Palm Beach Aggregates. Mr. Shalloway funneled $366,000 in payments to Newell as bonuses." "An enabler of corruption".
Randy Schultz: "Since January, when McCarty announced that she would resign and plead guilty, people have asked me to compare the three felonious ex-commissioners. I pegged Tony Masilotti early on as a potential self-serving sleazebag. Warren Newell would veer back and forth from civic-minded public servant to whiny, self-serving weasel. The weasel finally won. That would have been my bet." "McCarty's 'special' downfall".
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BTW, the disgraced "Newell was elected four times as a Republican, but switched his registration to Democrat [in 2007] with an eye on the 2008 election." "Sides emerge to fill Newell vacancy".