FLORIDA POLITICS
Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary

 

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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a 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 Sunday, May 27, 2012

Florida's "homegrown extremism — and those who export it"

    Stephen Goldstein writes that "Apathy is the mother of all extremism. When good, well-intentioned people sit on the sidelines — watching politics as though it were a spectator sport or gullibly believing everything they hear — bad things happen to all of us, everywhere."
    So, moderate, reasonable Floridians of all political persuasions — Independents, Republicans, Democrats, splinter groups, you name it--unite and atone for your passivity! Too many of you have not been politically active and have not even bothered to vote. You have been out-to-lunch for too long. You have treated elections as though they don't have consequences. You have allowed extremist candidates to be elected. So, all of you need to work to consign divisive candidates and the groups that support them to the ash heap of history.

    In 2010, tea party candidate Rick Scott would never have been elected governor if more centrist-minded voters had understood, or paid attention to, his extremist ideology and what he was really out to accomplish. As a result of their indifference or wilful ignorance, we are now living through the callous dismantling and privatizing of state government. There's no telling where it will lead, what damage it will do, or how we'll be able to recover from it.
    Goldstein continues:
    Also in 2010, Florida voters elected Marco Rubio a U.S. senator, whose campaign was heavily financed with out-of-state money. Ever since, he has done what Mitch McConnell has told him to do, like abusing the filibuster to block the Obama agenda. Putting party over people, his opposition to the DREAM Act hurts innocent, undocumented Floridians, his own version of it falling far short of the mark.

    Also in 2010, voters in South Florida elected tea-party favorite Allen West to Congress. With millions in contributions from people around the country, he hasn't represented the views of the vast majority of his constituents. Instead, he's raised millions — telling Democrats to "get the hell out of the U.S.," likening them to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, claiming that Congress is full of communists.

    Gov. Rick Scott got one thing right when he made "Let's get to work" his campaign theme. In 2012, Floridians need to wake up and save themselves, and the nation, by adopting a two-pronged strategy to move the country back from intransigence and gridlock to bipartisanship and consensus-building. We need to call a halt to our homegrown extremism — and those who export it.
    See what Goldstein means here: "Apathy is the enemy of electorate".


    Just politics

    There were "some interesting faces last week at a St. Petersburg fundraising reception for former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who is running for state attorney in the Palm Beach area: former Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida GOP finance chairman A.K. Desai. Separately, both explained their presence at the Democratic fundraiser at Cassis American Brasserie the same way: 'He's a friend.'" "Bipartisanship?"


    "Flush with profits, FPL wants to increase rates"

    "Flush with profits, a rising stock price and escalating dividends, Florida’s largest electric company wants to increase rates on 4.6 million customers next year and raise the cap on its profit margin." "FPL rate increase likely".


    "Just what Florida needs — another gun law controversy"

    The Sun Sentinel bemoan, "Just what Florida needs — another gun law controversy."

    The latest one involves Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman facing a 20-year sentence for firing a gun into a wall during a domestic dispute with her husband. She invoked the "Stand Your Ground" law, but a judge threw the claim out. A jury later found her guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and now Alexander's family, friends and legal advocates are calling attention to her case by pushing Florida's 10-20-Life gun law onto the public's consciousness.
    "Another gun law draws ire".


    "Bowing down at the almighty altar of FCAT"

    Unlike most of Florida's alleged journalists, Scott Maxwell actually has the courage to point out the obvious: "To fully appreciate how deeply flawed Tallahassee's approach to public education is, you must look beyond the recent news of abysmal FCAT scores — and look at how we got here."

    You see, FCAT was supposed to be a simple fix for a complicated problem.

    If we could just get our students to pass this standardized test, supposedly everything would be swell.

    So we cut back everything from science curriculum to art classes to focus on these tests.

    And we spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars paying companies to develop and grade them.

    Teachers were no longer trusted to teach.

    Everyone was made to bow down at the almighty altar of FCAT.

    Yet this year — after more than a decade of FCAT obsession — more than 70 percent of our fourth-graders flunked the writing test.

    We saw similarly sorry results in eighth and 10th grades. Third-graders posted the lowest reading scores in years. Math scores dropped as well.

    This can mean one of only two things:

    Either the test-centered method of teaching is a failure.

    Or the test itself is a failure.

    There really is no option C.

    Yet all I'm hearing from state officials is excuses — such as maybe the teachers didn't understand what was expected of them.

    Hogwash.

    You guys contrived this system.
    Unfortunately, Maxwell - ever the loyal Trib-man - closes with a bone for the teacher-haters, writing that
    merit pay is a must.
    "FCAT failures show test-obsessed teaching falls short".

    Seriously, Mr. Maxwell, are we to quantify the "merit" of a given teacher?


    Charter school investigation

    "A charter school in Seminole County is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights after a complaint alleging the school refused to admit a handicapped student." "Office for Civil Rights investigates Seminole charter school".


    "America's broken 'machinery of death'"

    Robyn E. Blumner writes that,

    If you're reading this in a comfortable, middle-class home, what happened to Carlos DeLuna almost certainly could never happen to you. But everyone should care about DeLuna's story because it lays bare America's broken "machinery of death," to quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. After decades on the bench, Blackmun finally stopped upholding death sentences. He said the potential for error is too great in a system "fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice and mistake.''

    DeLuna was a poor, Hispanic "nobody" with a criminal record who was executed in Texas for a crime he didn't commit. Had DeLuna enjoyed some scintilla of status, wealth or power, he likely would have been exonerated and the real murderer charged. But the system in Texas does not go out of its way for people like DeLuna. He was put to death in 1989 for the 1983 knife slaying of Wanda Lopez at a convenience store where she worked in Corpus Christi, Texas.

    When DeLuna was arrested a short time after the murder, there wasn't a microscopic drop of blood on his clothes or shoes, despite a crime scene where Lopez's blood was splattered on walls and pooled on the floor. A man's bloody footprint at the scene was never measured by detectives to find a match.

    Had police, prosecutors or defense lawyers done their job, they would have quickly uncovered evidence pointing to Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez was a knife-toting violent felon who told multiple witnesses that he had committed the Lopez crime. But no one seriously investigated DeLuna's unflappable protestations of innocence or his later claims that Hernandez was the culprit, leaving Hernandez free to brutalize others. Hernandez eventually died in prison in 1999 of cirrhosis. ...

    DeLuna was put to death by a fallible system. Whatever you might think of capital punishment, at least everyone should be on the side of never executing the innocent. DeLuna is but one example of justice gone wrong.
    "When the state kills the innocent".


    Student loan interest rates to double

    "With average student debt in Florida already topping $21,000, moves that Congress and the State University System make, or don't make, in June could go a long way toward deciding the future depth of the red ink."

    A doubling of interest rates on federal student loans is slated to occur July 1 unless Congress acts. If Congress doesn't act, it could cost Florida students an additional $443 million annually.

    The State University System's Board of Governors also will decide tuition rates for Florida's 11 public universities next month. Gov. Rick Scott has said he opposes tuition hikes, partly out of concern for the IOUs piled up by students.
    "College students may bear the price of politics with higher loans".


    Taxpayers stuck with lobbying tab

    The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Taxpayers already are paying for an army to fight for their governments' interests in Tallahassee — their local officials, and their legislators. Every community is represented by at least one representative and one senator. Larger cities and counties have entire delegations to their name. Instead of picking up the five- or six-figure cost of a lobbying contract, mayors, commissioners and council members should pick up the phone and reach out to their elected representatives." "Taxpayers shouldn't get stuck with lobbying tab".


    Jebbie laff riot

    "Florida insiders name Jeb Bush as Romney's best vice president choice".


    "'Hyperventilating' media coverage"?

    "Supporters of uncapped rates for new Citizens insurance customers have complained about the 'hyperventilating' media coverage the plan has received, but insist such moves are necessary to protect Floridians from something really bad - assessments." "Citizens has $19.5 billion after six storm-free seasons".


    "The petition route"

    Anthony Man: "Candidates who go the petition route also tout it as a sign that they have significant grassroots support, giving them an advantage in the election. Political party leaders say it's oversold." "Candidates brag about voter signatures".


    "Ethical prosecutors have nothing to fear"

    The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Change public records laws so no evidence becomes public until a trial starts would erode public confidence in the criminal justice system and make it more difficult to hold prosecutors accountable for their actions. Ethical prosecutors and police officers have nothing to fear from openness." "Evidence belongs in the sunshine".


    Tuff guy

    "LeMieux's tough talk".


    "Unlawful practice of law"

    "Two South Florida immigration attorneys have filed a complaint with the Florida Bar against a prominent Palm Beach County Democratic Party official, charging that he defrauded immigrants by falsely claiming to be working with the two attorneys and collecting fees without their knowledge."

    Aileen Josephs of West Palm Beach and Cynthia Arevalo of Aventura have accused Clarence Shahid Freeman, the president of the City of Boynton Beach Democratic Club and a member of the county's Democratic Executive Committee, with unlawful practice of law.
    "Lawyers: Democratic Party exec bilked immigrants".


    "Florida panther has a more secure path to roam"

    The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Thanks to a last-minute South Florida land deal, the Florida panther has a more secure path to roam beyond its quickly shrinking home. Conservation easements on 1,270 acres in Glades County provide a crucial link for the official state animal to travel north, away from development. This deal is a model for future efforts to protect Florida wildlife, encouraging private owners to preserve land while costing the state virtually nothing in a time of tightening belts." "Protecting wildlife with clever deals".


    "Hypocrisy and Orwellian double-talk"

    The Miami Herald editorial board: "Even by the standards of Cuban diplomacy — a web of deceit and cover for espionage — the performance of the Castro representive before the Geneva-based Convention on Torture last week has been a mind-lowing exercise in hypocrisy and Orwellian double-talk." "Lies, damned lies and Cuban ‘diplomacy’".


    "Political fallout from sexual discrimination complaint"

    William March: "Former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon will seek to return to the Senate, running for the seat being vacated by Ronda Storms as she jumps into the property appraiser’s race, Lee announced Friday."

    The moves by Lee and Storms were the first political fallout from the sexual discrimination complaint affecting Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner, but there could be more.

    As rumors flew around the county this week about potential effects from Turner’s dispute, other Republicans were said to be interested in seeking the property appraiser’s office, or in seeking Storms’ Senate seat.

    “What’s interesting will be the scramble,” said local Republican political consultant April Schiff.

    Schiff noted talk that state Reps. Rachel Burgin and Shawn Harrison might also be interested in the Senate seat, “and that starts dominoes falling.”

    However, Lee’s dominant name in eastern Hillsborough County politics could scare off other ambitious Republicans.
    "Tom Lee to seek Fla. Senate seat vacated by Ronda Storms".


    "Just another regression to the mean"

    Aaron Deslatte counsels our globe trotting Governor that

    There needs to be a market for the product you are selling. Ask the real-estate hucksters and politicians who have been selling Florida for a long time.

    The United States is saturated right now with places where companies can find cheap, unskilled labor without Florida's regulatory rigmarole necessitated by our dwindling water supplies, imperiled species, polluted estuaries, rivers and springs, and shrinking Everglades.

    The governor appears to be on a crash course to use the second half of his first term to slice away at those regulations – his office has targeted 1,100 for repeal – but his ambitions for improving the quality of the labor pool are more limited.

    "We have so much to brag about. We need to learn how to brag," Scott told the Enterprise Florida's board of directors earlier this month. "What I want to brag about in the near future is that we are the number one place – not to visit for Disney -- for families to have jobs."

    But chest-thumping, however well-intentioned, doesn't help launch Florida into the "knowledge-based economy" politicians have been touting for the last two decades. You don't cut $1.35 billion from public school classrooms, restore roughly $900 million the next year -- and call it even. Not if you want laid-off, high-skilled Hewlett-Packard employees to move here with their families, or if you expect today's students to develop into high-skilled workers.

    Although Florida's unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.7 percent in April, that was largely because approximately 28,000 workers dropped out of the labor force. The state added a whopping 4,000 jobs during April. At the same time, 17,000 working-age people moved into the state.

    The state's economists have said for the last three years that Florida would add workers faster than it would add jobs, and that this would slow our return to pre-recession employment levels.

    Scott deserves credit for abandoning the politically untenable position he took his first year – slashing public education because school districts and state government had dared to rely on federal stimulus dollars to stay afloat.

    But you can't also slash $300 million from an already hamstrung university system and then sell the CEO of Dell on moving his company here. Researchers are leaving Florida's universities for higher-paying gigs elsewhere.

    Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz plan to make higher-education reform a hallmark of their two-year tenure. They're helping Scott now with a 'task force" aimed at "reforming" higher education in Florida. They may want to start by hiring faculty.

    House Speaker Dean Cannon, in his session-opening speech last January, warned legislators about a "race to mediocrity" among Florida's universities. Lawmakers then passed a budget that depleted university reserves and created a 12th state university that nobody yet knows how to finance.

    Just another regression to the mean.
    "Rick Scott needs a better product to sell".


    The rules are different

    "When the number of child deaths by abuse and neglect fell dramatically, it looked like Floridians were improving their parenting skills and DCF was doing a better job. But there is another explanation." "Child-neglect deaths fall — as Florida redefines child neglect".


    Florida's "motel families"

    "In the shadow of the 30,000-acre Walt Disney World Resort, the Hampton family lives in a 300-square-foot motel room packed with possessions left over from a better life." "Osceola motel families: New face of homeless kids in Florida".


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