"A controversial plan to allow private contractors to build and operate campsites at state parks came from a push to create private-industry jobs to help Gov. Rick Scott fulfill a campaign promise, according to internal emails exchanged by parks officials earlier this year. As a result, officials rushed out a hastily drafted list of 56 parks where they believed new campsites could work."
Park officials told the public the choices were rooted in their extensive expertise, but internal emails show they knew it was a rush job. In a May 9 email, parks planning chief Albert Gregory wrote that the list of parks was "based on a fast assessment that was done to meet a very short deadline. It involved only two questions: (1) is there a large enough area of uplands in the park to build additional campsites; and (2) how many? It didn’t consider anything else."
"Creation of jobs drove parks plan".
But the push for privately run campgrounds in the publicly owned parks — including spaces for recreational vehicles — ran into serious problems. Officials faced not just vocal opposition from fans of the parks, but also landscape issues and legal questions from federal officials.
In the end, none of the proposed plans will be headed to an advisory committee vote this month. Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione conceded in an interview last week that "we definitely need to do our due diligence a little more."
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Newly released electronic messages from Tallahassee offer an object lesson in why citizens can't leave the future of Florida in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians."
E-mails between Department of Environmental Protection staffers as they rushed to add privately built and run campgrounds to more than 50 state parks reveal an abdication of stewardship to curry favor with a new boss. That's not the mission for the state's environmental protection agency, much less the state park system. Citizen outrage derailed the plan for at least Honeymoon Island State Park. ...
"Profit trumps protection".
[I]t's clear the plan was half-baked from the start, built more on political rhetoric than on sound environmental or recreational policy. That's a surefire way to guarantee Florida's long-term interests aren't being served. Floridians deserve more from their leaders and government, particularly an agency with a title that includes "environmental protection." Going forward, the DEP can expect much more scrutiny of its private campground plans, and it has no one to blame but itself.
Teabaggery to hit home
"The federal debt debate that has divided Congress and disrupted financial markets next could affect state budget writers."
Florida's credit rating appears safe with Standard & Poor's giving it a boost in July and Republican leaders in the Legislature crafting recent budgets with warnings from financial ratings agencies ringing in their ears.
"Debt fight fallout could pinch Florida".
But the debt deal in Congress includes $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion in cuts over the next decade, which could trickle down to Florida where federal spending remains the state budget's largest source of money.
Most of the federal cuts have not been identified — a so-called super committee is tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings.
But at least $917 billion in automatic cuts start next year and could mean less money for programs like highway construction and housing assistance.
One of three Florida families struggling to eat
Another fine Jebacy: "Nearly one out of three Florida families are struggling to put enough food on their tables, according to a new study released on Thursday." "Florida fourth in nation for 'food hardship,' group says".
Rick's mancrush pays off ... for Texas
"A recent announcement from a Florida-based call center to create 500 [call center] jobs at a pair of Texas locations has added another wrinkle to competition between the governors of each state." "Florida company to create 500 jobs — in Texas".
"Post: Allen West says Congress deserves to be criticized for its actions on debt ceiling".
"Gov. Rick Scott says rail would have cost state taxpayers $1 billion to build".
"Medical journal criticizes doctor-gun law, Sinkhole rally planned, Florida company creates 500 jobs in Texas, and PolitiFact checks Scott's rail claim." "Recommended Reading for Friday, August 12".
Miami Mayor's daughter gathers paperwork for FDLE
"Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado’s daughter Raquel, treasurer for his 2009 campaign, said she visited the bank Thursday to gather paperwork requested by law officers who are investigating possible 'campaign-reporting irregularities.'" "Miami Mayor Regalado gathering documents for FDLE campaign-reporting probe".
GOPer-Bagger political stunt hurt Florida
"University of Florida survey of those in real estate business shows a drop in confidence about the outlook for the state. The dip is due to concerns over the bruising political fight over the debt ceiling and unease about unemployment and the direction of the state's economy." "Florida real estate market outlook dips due to political fighting and economic worries".
Lookin' at PIP
"Robin Westcott is creating a working group to look at personal injury protection insurance. She said she is looking for consumers, insurance industry representatives, legislators and health care providers to serve on panel. An ambitious schedule would require group to meet in November and finalize its recommendations before 2012 session." "New insurance consumer advocate getting into battle over no-fault auto insurance".
Bank accused of cheating state pension fund
"Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Bank of New York Mellon, alleging the bank overcharged the state retirement fund by millions of dollars for foreign currency exchange in violation of the Florida False Claims Act."
Note that the suit was the product of a whistleblower's work, not hers:
With the suit, Bondi takes over a whistle-blowers' lawsuit alleging that the bank defrauded Florida's pension fund with a secret markup on billions of dollars, collecting a higher currency-conversion price than it actually got and pocketing the difference. The whistle-blowers filed a similar lawsuit in Virginia."Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sues Bank of New York Mellon over charges for state retirement fund". See also "Florida says bank cheated state pension fund out of millions".
So much for public-private partnerships
"Millions of dollars in 'work force' contracts in Florida are under federal investigation amid allegations that funds were disbursed illegally. The U.S. Department of Labor is reportedly probing 24 regional work force agencies for alleged irregularities that include conflicts of interest by members of the governing boards." "Feds Probe Work Force Boards Over Conflicts of Interest".
Miami's fire union delays mayoral recall decision
"Miami’s fire union delayed a planned vote Wednesday night on whether to support a petition recall of Mayor Tomás Regalado that already has the backing of the city’s police officers. After three and a half hours of debate, leaders of the Miami Association of Firefighters put off the vote until Sept. 14 so they could provide their 1,100 members with more information about the proposal. Union leaders said frustrated firefighters want the mayor out of office, but also questioned whether a mayoral recall would be worthwhile." "Miami fire union delays vote on mayoral recall".
"Easing the persecution of wealthy part-time Florida residents"
Daniel Ruth is on fire: "You know what the problem is with this country? Well I'll tell you what's wrong with this country — convenience store clerks, supermarket cashiers, pool cleaners, shoe salesmen, those dreadfully greedy public school teachers and, well, you."
And that's why you have to admire patriots like Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-What's Mine Is Mine, What's Yours Is Mine Too, who had the courage of a thousand Limbaughs to speak the unspeakable."During last week's Senate floor debate on a nonbinding resolution calling upon the wealthiest citizens to pay more in taxes to help reduce the nation's debt, Hatch, doing his best Amy Winehouse impersonation, said: 'No, no, no.'"
The real freeloaders, Hatch insisted, are the poor and the middle class. "They also need to share some of the responsibility," he noted. After all, they evade their fair share of the tax burden by taking advantage of irresponsible tax breaks for things like, children and mortgages on $100,000 homes.
"You could see the potential for financial Armageddon during a recent vacation down in Sanibel Island where we rented a small cottage for a few days. One evening the Bombshell of the Balkans and I were taking a walk when we stumbled on a massive mansion overlooking San Carlos Bay."
Hatch, who has a net worth between $2 million and $5 million, is also locked in a tough re-election bid back in Utah from the tea party, which also ousted longtime uber conservative Republican Sen. Robert Bennett in 2010 after accusing him of not loving the U.S. Constitution enough.
You know, when your political future is in the hands of a tea party star chamber who thought Robert Bennett was whistling The Internationale in the shower simply because he once said good morning to a Democrat, perhaps you might turn into a lawn jockey for the silk stocking set.
According to the Lee County Property Appraiser's Office, the 13,418-square-foot property, which our cottage owner told us is used as a winter getaway home by a Michigan couple, has an assessed value of $3.6 million.
"Let's do our part to help the swells".
Clearly, if the Marxist in the White House had his way, these poor people might have to downsize to a 13,000-square-foot second home, setting off a domino effect of downsized extra mansions ruining the property values of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. ...
How can anyone be expected to live like this?
So won't you do your part? For your country? For the besieged winter mansion owners of Sanibel/Captiva? For Orrin Hatch? What should we call this? The Free the Fortune 500 Telethon?
If you are a plumber, or paralegal, or insurance adjuster, or machinist, it's not too late to avert a national crisis. Call your senator, or member of Congress or that communist in the White House and tell them you want to pay more in taxes, much more, even it means taking on a second job to do the right thing if it will help ease the persecution of wealthy part-time Florida residents.
Crazies judge Florida second only to Indiana
"Indiana toppled Florida as the leading education-reform state in 2011, according to a competition conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on Thursday."
In a vote by "Ed Reform Idol" [sic] judges as well as in-studio and online audiences, Indiana finished first among five finalists. The other states were Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin."Indiana Bests Florida as Top Education-Reform State".
"Six in the Morning"
Travis Pillow's "Six in the Morning: A six-pack of infobits you might have missed".
Hasner burnishes his crazy bona fides
"This weekend, Gov. Rick Scott and GOP Senate candidate Adam Hasner will speak at RedState Gathering 2011, an event for conservative politicians and organizations who are looking toward the 2012 elections."
This event is sponsored by Heritage Action for America, FreedomWorks, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Let Freedom Ring and South Carolina Fair Tax, organizations that actively promote among other conservative policies a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, strong support for school choice and anti-abortion policies. ...
"Scott, Hasner headed to conservative blog gathering this weekend". See also "Scott, Hasner speaking at same event where Texas Gov. Perry to start presidential run".
[T]he Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, works to enact legislation to support traditional values and lower taxes.
South Carolina Fair Tax supports a plan to replace national income taxes and to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and the 16th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes Congress to collect taxes.
FreedomWorks also calls for less taxes and government, and recently endorsed Adam Hasner, who is running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Hasner, a former state representative, is described on the RedState Gathering web page as “Florida’s next conservative rising star.”
That explains it
"The State Department recently rerouted[*] the approval process for the law’s four most controversial provisions — tighter regulations of third-party voter registration drives, limitations on voter address changes at the polls, a reduction in the number of days of early voting, and a shortening of the shelf life for signatures gathered in support of ballot initiatives."
The decision to change the venue for the process came a week and a few days after the Justice Department sought additional information about three of those provisions, which had drawn specific objections from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters."Before State Department rerouted contested parts of elections bill, feds sought more information".
- - - - - - - - - -
*"The Florida Department of State [withdrew] four of the most controversial provisions of House Bill 1355 — an elections overhaul passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott — from review by the U.S. Justice Department. Instead, a federal court will decide whether the four provisions — which add new restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, shorten the “shelf life” of signatures collected for ballot initiatives, make it more difficult for voters to change their registered addresses on election day and reduce the number of early voting days — hinder minorities’ access to the polls". "Browning withdraws portions of controversial elections law from federal 'preclearance'".
"Advocates of Everglades restoration might have felt as if they won the Florida lottery Thursday." "Jackpot of a News Day in Everglades Restoration World". See also "Florida officials welcome announcement of $100 million to help Everglades".
"Where Men Win Glory"
Although off topic, please click over to "Portraits of Navy SEALs killed in helicopter crash". Related: "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman".
"Round-up of media coverage of redistricting for 8/12". See also "Groups call on lawmakers to finish redistricting work by January".
Teabaggers in a dither
"Religious groups met Thursday night and asked state officials to be more generous with $1 billion in federal foreclosure aid Florida is distributing." "Churches push Florida to expand foreclosure aid".
"Would these jobs meet the Tea Party's litmus test?"
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune editors: "Scott's decision to hire Robin Stublen of Punta Gorda as a 'deputy director of public liaison' is news, but no surprise. It's news because Stublen will be paid $70,000 a year to represent the governor as a 'special assistant' in Southwest Florida — from Sarasota and Charlotte counties down the coast to the Keys."
Stublen and the other special assistants may well provide useful aid to the governor and public, but neither they nor the governor can successfully argue that these positions are essential to government. In other words, would these jobs meet the Tea Party's litmus test?
"State job suits him to a Tea". Meanwhile, "South Fla. Water district lays off dozens".
Lane Wright, Scott's press secretary, said the assistants provide invaluable services and information, and work long and hard for their money.
The same can be said, of course, about legions of public-sector employees who have been subject to pay cuts and berated by many Tea Party members and arch-conservatives.
Perhaps, as a result of this job, Stublen will come to recognize the unfairness of such anti-government demagoguery and the value of the public sector — of which he is now a member.
Teabaggers fight for the right to defecate
"State Rep. Marti Coley has filed legislation again that seeks to repeal a statewide requirement for septic tank inspections. But even some supporters of the repeal are suggesting a different approach may be needed on the issue in the coming year." "Coley again files septic tanks bill but springs protection remains an issue" ("Sharon Witt Glass, public awareness coordinator for Santa Rosa County Tea Party Patriots, said a repeal bill this year may need to include protection for springs.")
"Suspended Tamarac Commissioner [and Democrat] Patricia 'Patte' Atkins-Grad is arguing that she is mentally incompetent to defend herself against public corruption charges." "Suspended commissioner Atkins-Grad says she’s incompetent to stand trial".