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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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The Blog for Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"A summer cliffhanger"

    William March: "It's awkward enough for Crist to be choosing a temporary occupant for an office he's running for himself. He's likely to get much of the credit, or blame, from the public and the conservative base of his own party for his appointee's actions. In addition, his choice must please conflicting constituencies."
    A state Republican Party meeting last weekend in Orlando showed what Crist is up against.

    The county chairmen's caucus passed a resolution giving Crist a recipe for his appointee: someone who favors the "sanctity of life" and opposes any further economic stimulus package, President Barack Obama's health care reform initiative, the cap-and-trade legislation on energy and global warming, and marriage rights for same-sex couples.
    "Meanwhile, even though Rubio lags far behind Crist in fundraising and polls, he looks strong among the party activists."
    At the Orlando meeting, judging by lapel stickers and shows of support, "If you didn't know any better and walked in, you would have thought it was a dead-heat race," said Pasco Chairman Randy Maggard.

    That could be a problem for Crist, who will "want some continuity between the perspective of the person he appoints and himself," said University of Florida political scientist Richard Conley, a Republican.

    "The base, the party activists, want one thing, but successful statewide tend to be more center-right than the base of the party wants. I don't think it's a winning situation," Conley said. "I don't see there's any benefit."
    "Crist's political future tied to Senate choice".

    Josh Hafenbrack writes: "Florida's political universe is on tenterhooks, with a decision due within days on a summer cliffhanger:"
    Who will Gov. Charlie Crist name to the U.S. Senate?

    No announcement is on Crist's schedule for today, but the governor said Tuesday he expects to name an interim replacement for retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., by week's end. Candidates and others say they expect Florida's newest senator to be announced even sooner, by Thursday.

    Who will get the nod is anybody's guess, although it will come from a shortlist of eight applicants. Crist said Tuesday he hasn't narrowed that list, which doesn't feature a clear front-runner or household name in Florida politics. Each choice carries risks and rewards.
    More: "Senate replacement pick imminent".


    "By opening more former Everglades land to new industry, Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday decided the lure of jobs was worth a likely legal fight with environmentalists. The commission voted to change its development rules and allow industrial uses on 318 acres south of South Bay owned by sugar giant Florida Crystals. The land is part of hundreds of thousands of acres of former Everglades that was drained to make way for agriculture." "Palm Beach County gives Big Sugar, new industry a boost in Glades".

    "Wish list"

    "For the first time in 20 years, the governor and Cabinet on Tuesday approved a priority list for the nation's largest environmental land-buying program without any new money to pay for it." "Cabinet OKs Florida Forever wish list".

    Raw political courage

    "Crist comes out against FPL rate hike".

    "A little less hogwash"

    Geoff Chiles: "As I sat down to read my morning paper last week over a bowl of cereal, I caught a story in the Tallahassee Democrat that turned my breakfast sour."

    As I read the headline — "Crist touts gains in Fla. education" (news article, Aug. 19) — I was initially excited and interested in reading about how education has improved in Florida, because that's the goal of my organization [Worst To First], too. The Lawton Chiles Leadership Corps and Worst To First are pulling together people from all over Florida to improve the way we educate our kids, and we appreciate the work that people all over Florida are doing to reach that goal. ...

    So I did a little more research and found an article from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy Web site that did a better job of explaining the Education Week rankings.

    So to the governor, I want to say: I look forward to having a little more milk in my cereal and a little less hogwash.
    "Gains in K-12 education? Let's look a bit closer".

    Alan Stonecipher, communications director for the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy in Tallahassee, explains:
    Recent news reports and comments by state legislators maintain that, as the St. Petersburg Times put it, "Florida ranks No. 10 among states in education quality, according to the latest annual report card from the highly regarded Education Week newspaper."

    A State Board of Education member echoed the point last week when he "pointed out Florida's ranking as 10th in the country for quality of education by Education Week."

    So after recording dismal rankings among the states for years in comparisons of education success, how is Florida suddenly 10th best in the nation?

    Unfortunately, it's not.
    "We're No. 10? What 'education quality' study really said".

    Back at the ranch: The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida has no plan yet for what to do when the federal aid dries up after next school year." "A tough test on schools".

    Health care fight

    Bill Cotterell: "Hundreds of Tallahasseeans jammed City Hall to ask their congressman and two local doctors Tuesday night whether the government can fix the nation's health-care system — or really needs to."

    This doesn't precisely qualify as going out on a limb: U.S. Rep. Allen

    Boyd restated his opposition to the main House health-care bill in its current form, saying a successful plan [1] must preserve patient choice of doctors, [2] extend coverage to most of the 48 million uninsured, [3] restrain growth of medical costs and [4] not raise the federal deficit.
    "Forum becomes debate over health-care reform".

    Rep. Jeff Miller "is an opponent of the so-called "public option" in the health care debate, which would allow for a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private plans." "News-Journal: Miller's constituency gives him an earful".

    Meantime, "U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told a gathering of area business leaders and public officials Tuesday that he has urged the White House to take an 'incremental approach' toward solving the national health care crisis, as opposed to 'going for the whole ball of wax.' Attempting to push through a sweeping health care reform bill at this time likely would be doomed to failure, said Nelson, D-Fla." "Sen. Nelson: Go slow on health-care reform".

    Florida below average

    "SAT scores out: State average below nation's".

    "Florida's shame -- nutrient-loaded rivers green as grass"

    Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Florida's current standard states, "

    "In no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of aquatic flora and fauna." Yet the Florida Deptartment of Environmental Protection noted in a report last year that half of the state's rivers and most of its lakes had poor water quality, largely attributed to nutrient overload. The state's 2009 report indicates that 900 square miles of Florida's estuaries (25 percent of the total) are impaired. Inland, Lake Okeechobee is a seething mass of blue-green algae much of the year. Last month, Christopher Point Creek, a tributary of the St. Johns River, looked like split-pea soup from an algae bloom fueled by nutrient pollution. So much for the standard, a vague guideline, lacking enforceable numeric limits.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, long aware of Florida's nutrient poisoning, left the job of controlling it to the state. Late in the last decade, the agency gave Florida regulators a 2004 deadline to set quantifiable nutrient limits. The state dawdled, though it spent tens of millions of dollars to determine the effects of nutrients on aquatic life. The EPA didn't press further. The agency under George W. Bush instead directed Florida and other states to prepare plans for controlling nutrients, without deadlines, clearly an industry-friendly stall. ...

    For 10 years now, Florida regulators have fiddled as a favor to growers and developers while more fresh waters turned putrid green and coastal tides reddened with fish-killing algae. Governors and lawmakers, favoring commerce over conservation, have been complicit. The EPA had the authority under the Clean Water Act to enforce limits, but sat on its hands. The travesty won't end right away. It will be more than a year (October 2010) before freshwater nutrient limits are finalized, and a year after that before rules are in place for coastal waters. After that, Floridians shouldn't have to wait for conservationists to sue to have those rules enforced. A developer seeking a wetland destruction permit ought to be told in plain numbers up front how much nutrient pollution will be allowed in the stormwater runoff from the development. And the closer to zero the better.

    In a state much favored with surface water, it shouldn't require citizens suing their government to assure those waters run clean. Florida's commerce can prosper without destroying its springs, lakes, rivers and estuaries. That is the point of the federal law, after all.
    "Choking on pea soup".

    Entrepreneurs in action

    "When Florida Power & Light chief Armando Olivera was asked Tuesday whether he and company executives would be willing to give up a pay raise to help struggling consumers with their bills, he offered a short answer:"

    "No," he said, "because that would be short-sighted."

    Olivera, who as FPL's CEO is paid $3.6 million a year, told state regulators that although the economy is tight, executive pay is crucial to the successful operation of the company and the pay packages offered by FPL are justified.
    "FPL chief says his $3.6 million pay is justified".

    No wonder Olivera is so smug

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Ryder Rudd may or may not deserve to be fired as a utility regulator for ethical reasons, but he deserves to be fired for sheer stupidity. ... Mr. Rudd is an analyst and lobbyist for the PSC. Over the weekend, he telephoned some of the commissioners with a little problem."

    Mr. Rudd has been working on two big issues involving FPL: the rate request and the company's natural gas pipeline. A hearing on the pipeline was held last month. In May, however, Mr. Rudd had attended a Kentucky Derby party at the Palm Beach Gardens home of Ed Tancer, FPL's top lawyer. Mr. Rudd lives in Tallahassee, but, as he told The Miami Herald, he had been traveling in the area and stopped "briefly" at the party. Why? "I do as much information gathering as possible. It was a good opportunity to meet people who are pushing some of the issues I'm following."

    It might have been a good opportunity to drink a mint julep. It might have been a good opportunity to pick Mine That Bird in the party pool and make a killing on the 50-1 shot. But "information gathering"? Mr. Rudd sounded like former Florida political diva Katherine Harris. After the Orlando Sentinel caught the U.S. Senate candidate in April 2006 having a $2,800 dinner with a man seeking a government contract, Ms. Harris said that she would reimburse the restaurant $100 for her "appetizer and beverage."
    "A very dim bulb at the PSC".

    "Just the tip of the cessberg"

    Scott Maxwell:

    I used to think our state capital was a cesspool.

    But now I'm beginning to think that a cesspool would look like DeLeon Springs compared to the mess of special-interest-funded pay-for-play that envelops our state capital.

    Sansom, you may remember, lost his speakership after it was revealed that he'd funneled money to a community college — which then rewarded him with a six-figure job.

    But it turns out: That was just the tip of the cessberg.
    Maxwell continues:
    Perhaps just as stomach-turning as the spending has been the feigned outrage.

    Gov. Charlie Crist, for example, called Sansom's expenses "unbelievable" and "an embarrassment."

    Either Charlie has no shame, or he's still jet-lagged from last year's $430,000 European vacation. You remember that "trade mission," right?

    So we have the guy who racked up a $1,300 mini-bar bill expressing disgust about another guy who spent $839 at Starbucks.
    "Sansom case shows how deep Tallahassee cesspool is".

    Mickey's a Republican

    "The recession may have scaled back the number of zeros on some checks, but the usual suspects are still busy on the campaign trail, with the bulk of dollars from big local companies going to the Republican Party of Florida, which has controlled the governor's mansion and the Legislature since 1999."

    In March, [Walt Disney World] hosted a fundraiser for Adam Putnam, the Republican congressman from Bartow who is running for commissioner of agriculture against Lake County Republican state Sen. Carey Baker. Scott Maddox, the former leader of the state Democratic Party and ex-mayor of Tallahassee, is the Democratic candidate.

    Putnam's campaign records show he took in $39,000 the day of the fundraiser, including $500 checks (the maximum contribution allowed to a candidate from an individual or company) from a number of Disney executives, including President Meg Crofton.

    Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger described the company as an "early supporter" of Putnam.
    "Disney has not officially taken a position in the governor's race."
    So far Disney has given $500 to Sink and $5,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Disney has not yet contributed directly to McCollum, but has given more than $78,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

    Universal Orlando — through its companies and Universal City Development Partners — has given more than $130,000 toward 2010 races, including $118,000 in meals, rooms and tickets to the Republican Party for an event in February and $1,000 to McCollum. Universal also gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and $500 to Sink.
    "Beth Kassab: Businesses open wallets for 2010 political races".

    "Turnout was about 4.7 percent"

    "Bernard wins with 60.5 percent in state House 84 special election".

    Another blow to what's left of Florida journalism

    "Creative Loafing, the snarky alternative newspaper chain, will soon be in the hands of a New York-based private equity firm. Atalaya Capital Management, the New York investment firm, blew away the only other bidder for Creative Loafing in a Tuesday morning auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa. Atalaya bid $5 million for Creative Loafing, its six weekly newspapers and several Web sites." "Creative Loafing's publisher may lose chain of weeklies today".

    'Ya think?

    Michael Putney: "You can't call for 1,700 county employees to lose their jobs and the remainder to take a 5-percent salary cut when your employees are getting fatter pay checks." "Roll back outrageous pay raises".

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