Thursday, August 10, 2006

FLORIDA DIGEST August 10, 2006


Broward Schools

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

August 10, 2006

ISSUE: November bond issue plan dropped.

Now that enough members of the Broward County School Board have come to their senses and dropped plans to put an expensive bond issue for school construction on the November ballot, concerned citizens and taxpayers are left to wonder how this unprofessionally handled proposal could have made it so far that the board actually approved it before ultimately rejecting it.

Superintendent Frank Till had come to the board with a plan to borrow, through the bond issue, $749 million for construction projects. It would have been the largest government loan in the county's history. Yet Till expected the board to approve the proposal based on the flimsiest of justifications. The list of projects was hastily slapped together, contained few details and left little time for debate.

Worse, the plan was based on a poll of only 600 people. However much they may have wanted to get this poll done quickly, the end result was flawed. It was conducted by a registered lobbyist for a school construction company, which leaves a bad taste, and the poll results still have not been released publicly despite promises to do so.

Dr. Till, you and your staff have failed Construction Leadership 101.

Till and some board members have shown extraordinary naiveté by failing to accurately gauge the mood of a public reeling from the impact of higher taxes, insurance and fuel costs. As for the board, it's hard to see how people with such a serious responsibility could be so lax in their oversight of the administration and this proposal.


Human Rights Council Endorses Smith for Governor

By Donald Cavanaugh
Palm Beach County Editor

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (the Council) has announced its endorsement of State Senator Rod Smith for Democratic candidate for Governor in the Sep. 5 primary elections.

“In making endorsement decisions, the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council considers not only how a candidate has supported issues of importance to the gay community, but also how a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County gay community in particular,” said Council treasurer Dan Hall.

“Over the years, both Rod Smith and [U.S. Representative] Jim Davis [Smith’s Democratic primary opponent] have demonstrated sensitivity to the needs of Florida’s gay and lesbian community, and both have actively courted our votes,” said Rand Hoch, Council founder and board member.

“However, Rod Smith has demonstrated leadership on issues of importance to Florida’s gay and lesbian community,” said Hoch.


Gay World Series 2006

Next Week 3,000 Athletes Descend Upon Fort Lauderdale

By Paul Harris

Well, it might not be baseball, but it is the next best thing – Softball. For the week of August 14–19 more than 3,000 athletes and fans from 35 cities will be coming to Fort Lauderdale to watch and take part in the 30th annual Gay Softball World Series. The annual weeklong tournament will crown champions in eight divisions.

The Reverend Grant Lynn Ford will offer the invocation at the Opening Ceremonies on Monday, August 14, at 6pm at the War Memorial Auditorium in Holiday Park. It will be followed by a complete slate of skills contests and “Old-Timers Fame.” There is no charge to attend the opening ceremonies, but be warned that space and seating are limited.

The championship tournament itself starts the following day on Tuesday, August 15 and continues throughout the week at three local softball complexes. The three locations are Brian Piccolo Park, 9501 Sheridan St., Cooper City; Mills Pond Park, 2201 NW 9th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale; and Plantation Sunset Park, 10600 Cleary Blvd, Plantation.

Stand up, Rod
When he was running for State Senator, in 2000, Rod Smith was the victim of a slime attack.

An "independent" political group called the People for a Better Florida, distorted the facts surrounding a nearly 20-year old custody battle between Smith and his ex-wife to brand him a "deadbeat dad."

People for a Better Florida was bankrolled by members of the Florida Medical Association who backed Smith's opponent, physician Bob Casey. Casey was able to say he had no part in the slime attack - that's why cut-out political groups exist, to hide culpability - but he was clearly the intended beneficiary.

Now Rod Smith is running for governor. Another cut-out organization, Florida's Working Families, is attacking primary opponent Jim Davis for missing a vote that supported Israel in its fight against Hezbollah. The intent is clearly to undermine Davis' standing with Jewish voters. Florida's Working Families is reportedly bankrolled by sugar growers who are more worried about Davis' environmental stands than his support for Israel.

Smith, like Casey before him, says he had nothing to do with the ads but defended them as being basically "in context." Davis' supporters have called on Smith to denounce the ads.

We wish he would, as a matter of principle.

Activist got $10,000 for Schiavo work

Etan Horowitz
Sentinel Staff Writer

August 10, 2006

State Senate candidate Randall Terry earned $10,000 last year for roughly two months of work as the spokesman for Terri Schiavo's family, according to a financial-disclosure form filed with the state Division of Elections.

Terry, the anti-abortion activist who is trying to unseat veteran legislator Jim King of Jacksonville in the Sept. 5 Republican primary, defends the payments, saying he was worth every penny as he tried to keep the brain-damaged woman alive. He was paid by the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit set up by Schiavo's parents and siblings.

"My services were worth the investment," Terry said, adding that he also helped plan the family's media strategy. "I would have done it for free in a heartbeat."

In 2003, when Schiavo's feeding tube was first removed and then reinserted after the Florida Legislature passed "Terri's Law," Terry says he was an unpaid adviser.

Threat Level Change for

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

In response to a serious terrorist threat to international aviation security, the Secretary of Homeland Security has elevated the Homeland Security Advisory System Threat Condition to High, or Orange, for all domestic commercial aviation and international flights to destinations other than

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing a series of security measures – some visible and some not visible – to ensure the security of the traveling public and the Nation's transportation system including Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. TSA is immediately implementing following changes to airport screening procedures:


This includes all beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, tooth paste, hair gel,
and other items of similar consistency.

Exceptions: Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is traveling (you may be asked to taste any of these items in front of security officers); prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines.

Beverages must be consumed before boarding any aircraft. They will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.

These measures will be constantly evaluated and updated when circumstances warrant. DHS and its partners have coordinated closely with the air carrier industry, airports, and state and local governments to implement these significant, but necessary, security measures.

Tips for Travelers

Those traveling out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport can assist these agencies in carrying out their important security duties by:

• Packing lightly, without clutter to facilitate easier screening
• Check with your air carrier well before your flight departs for information on when you should arrive at the airport
• Cooperating with TSA personnel at all checkpoints and gates because TSA Security Officers will be checking carry-on baggage at the gate
• Being attentive and vigilant to any suspicious activity.


Broward schools unveil $2 million identity system checks for sex offenders

By Akilah Johnson
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

August 10, 2006

Names of visitors and volunteers -- including parent volunteers -- who seek access to Broward public schools will be run through a federal database of sexual offenders and local court records in an increased effort to protect students.

In the 10 seconds it takes to scan a driver's license or other picture ID, the $2.1 million Security Tracking And Response, or STAR, system checks the U.S. Department of Justice sexual offender list and Broward County Clerk of Courts records.

If the scanner gets a hit, law enforcement is notified. If nothing comes up, the visitor gets a stick-on badge with their name, picture, and reason for being at the school.

"What you can do is know who's on your campus at all times," Joe Melita, director of the district's professional standards and special investigative unit, said Wednesday at the Safety & Security Annual Summit in Sunrise.

The district tested STAR in about 15 schools last year, Melita said. The system has been installed in about 70 percent of the district's 264 schools, and more are set to come on line throughout the year.

This new system keeps a record of who is allowed on campus and who is not. If someone on the deny-entry list tries to gain access to another school, that person is flagged. Because people use aliases, the machine pulls up the sexual offender's picture as well as name.


Poor standing in polls fails to discourage GOP gubernatorial hopeful Gallagher

By Linda Kleindienst
and John Kennedy Tallahassee Bureau

August 10, 2006

He may be down in the polls, but Tom Gallagher isn't ready to be counted out of the race for governor.

"Right now, my head tells me to continue on," Gallagher, the state's chief financial officer, said Wednesday while campaigning in Republican-friendly Lake County.

Gallagher supporters meanwhile moved quickly to counter rumors that he may abandon his primary battle against Attorney General Charlie Crist. Today, he is expected to hold a news conference to end the speculation and lay out plans for the campaign through the Sept. 5 primary.

"We're going to the end of this road. I don't think Tom blinks," said Pete Dunbar, a supporter and advisor who ran Gallagher's 1994 bid for governor. "There are lots of dynamics in this campaign left to play out and most of the campaign money left to be spent."

As of the end of July, Gallagher had raised more than $9.1 million for the race. That's less than the $12.7 million collected by Crist but more than the two leading Democrats combined. Still, Crist has more than $9 million to spend -- more than twice the amount that Gallagher has left in the bank.


Forwarded from Susan Fishkorn
Computer Theft Puts Floridians At Risk
Government Laptop Has Sensitive Data

By Christopher Lee and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 10, 2006; A06

A laptop computer from the inspector general's office at the Department of Transportation was stolen last month, putting the sensitive personal information of nearly 133,000 Florida residents at risk, acting Inspector General Todd J. Zinser said yesterday.

The laptop, assigned to a special agent in the Miami office, was stolen from a government vehicle on July 27 in Doral, Fla., Zinser told Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) yesterday in a letter.

The computer, which requires a password to operate, contains the unencrypted names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses of 42,792 Florida residents who hold a pilot's license; 80,667 people in the Miami-Dade County area who hold a commercial driver's license; and 9,496 people who were issued a personal or commercial driver's license in the Tampa area, the letter said.

"While we do not have reason to believe that the perpetrators targeted the laptop based on any knowledge of its data contents, we are nonetheless taking all possible steps to inform Florida residents," Zinser wrote.


AUGUST 9, 2006

Political Advertisement Paid For By ... ?

Florida's campaign finance laws aim to create transparency in politics. Voters get to know who gave to a candidate and decide whether that matters in deciding whom to support.

But keeping track of who's bankrolling the campaigns is getting trickier.

Independent groups can collect limitless contributions and use them to criticize or promote a candidate. And individuals who
have given the maximum $500 to a candidate can funnel unlimited "soft money" donations to the candidate's party.

Both tactics were used to benefit state Sen. Rod Smith's campaign for governor this week. An innocuous sounding committee, Florida's Working Families, filled mailboxes in South Florida with fliers critical of Smith's opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis.


The Miami Herald
Posted on Wed, Aug. 09, 2006


Shaw, Klein differ on windstorm coverage
Congressional candidates have different approaches to reducing hurricane insurance premiums.

Not a day goes by without a complaint to either U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw or state Sen. Ron Klein about the cost of hurricane insurance premiums.

So in a congressional district that stretches along the Broward coastline north to Jupiter, that expense has become one of the most important pocketbook issues in their campaign.

''We're constantly hearing about that,'' said Shaw's spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho.