Thursday, January 18, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST January 18, 2007

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The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

South Floridian is state's first surgeon general
Gov. Charlie Crist named a South Florida doctor to be the state's firstsurgeon general and health secretary. She backs a controversial health plan.

TALLAHASSEE - Refusing to rule out a big-government, California-style healthinsurance plan for Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday tapped anadmirer of the proposal to be the state's first surgeon general as well asthe state's health secretary.

In announcing the appointment of Dr. Ana M. Viamonte-Ros, a South Floridaphysician and daughter of Cuban immigrants, Crist said she was the perfectfit for his administration and the proposed surgeon general post, apublic-advocacy office that will ''highlight'' and help solve Florida'shealthcare troubles, particularly among children.

Viamonte-Ros, a sixth-generation physician with an extensive social outreachbackground, said she wanted to be a ``spokesperson about issues that areimportant, not necessarily controversial issues, but issues that impact alarge swath of the population.''


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Opponents emerge to protest Martinez as GOP party leader


WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday rejected suggestions that aborder-state rebellion would quash Florida Sen. Mel Martinez's chance ofbecoming chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Several delegates to the committee's winter meeting -- including some fromTexas -- have said they plan to vote against Martinez on Friday to protesthis support for legislation that would give some undocumented migrants achance at citizenship.

''We're pretty confident Mel Martinez will become general chairman,'' WhiteHouse spokesman Tony Snow said. ``You have a handful of people who haveexpressed some concerns, and we will continue to address those . . . But onthe other hand, I don't know that you call it a revolt every time you havepeople who disagree.''


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Sham schools let gifted jocks make the grade


University High School in South Miami-Dade County taught Demetrice Morleyone final lesson last week.

Morley was tossed off the University of Tennessee football team for hisacademic failings. The announcement came Friday with an irony-drenchedstatement from Coach Phillip Fulmer: ``We have university standards thathave to be met, or there will be consequences.''

Those standards were not so apparent two years ago when the universityawarded a scholarship to Demetrice, a Killian High School athlete consideredone of the two most coveted players in the nation. Morley's grades had beenso dismal that it was doubtful whether he would graduate, much less qualifyfor admission to a major university. Until he enrolled in University HighSchool.

University High School didn't burden students with classes. Or classrooms.The school was no more than a two-room office suite on South Dixie Highwayin Palmetto Bay.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Child molester gets 70-year prison term

VIERA - (AP) -- A former Brevard County teacher convicted of molesting aformer student has been sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Daniel Cliatt, 30, faced up to 260 years in prison after rejecting a pleadeal from prosecutors that would have set him free after 34 years in prison.He pleaded guilty in November to 13 counts of sexual battery and childmolestation.

At the sentencing Tuesday, Cliatt apologized to the boy, now 14, and hisfamily.

The boy's mother said she could not forgive Cliatt. ''I don't want hisapology,'' she said. ``I want justice.''

Cliatt was arrested in April 2005 after another teacher at EndeavorElementary School reported seeing the inappropriate encounter between Cliattand the male student.


Editorial: Lake Okeechobee
Water district gives hope for smarter management

Daily News staff

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Water, water everywhere - and not enough places to put it.

That's the dilemma facing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the SouthFlorida Water Management District as they labor to manage how much waterflows into, out of and stays in Lake Okeechobee.

The challenge facing them is huge. Too much water in the lake kills plantsand animals and threatens a dike breach. Too little can have similarenvironmental effects and doesn't leave enough for farmers and utilities.

Lake managers have tried to mitigate those problems by using canals torelease water into the Caloosahatchee River to the west and St. Lucie Riverto the east. Those releases, of course, are blamed for a litany of severeproblems on both coasts, from algae blooms to fish kills.

The root of the problem, of course, is that the Corps and water managementdistrict are trying - futilely, as history has proven - to manage the lakefor too many competing interests: Flood control, agricultural anddevelopment interests, the environment. No matter how water managers try totweak things through pulse releases, maximum height formulas, even thewater-storage improvements called for in the Comprehensive EvergladesRestoration Plan, the lake can't be all things to all people.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Homeless on the Beach


I knew how much Miami Beach had changed in the nearly 20 years I've beenjogging there when I saw the homeless man talking on a cellphone as he layon the sand under a blanket.

He was obviously a working man who could not afford proper housing, judgingby his belongings. Beside him was a good suitcase, a yellow plasticcontainer that either held food or was used for physical necessities, and alarge umbrella for rainy nights.

He is always to be found in the same place on the beach, about 100 yardsnorth of the fire station on Collins Avenue. I've never talked to himbecause, except for the one time I saw him on the phone, he was alwaysasleep when I made my predawn jog. During the day, he is gone.

I have talked to another regular sleeper on the beach whom I erroneouslyassumed to also be a working man because of his schedule. I would see himevery morning showering outside the restroom behind the fire station beforedressing and walking to the bus stop across the street.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Poll: Strong-mayor plan is favored
A poll suggests strong support for a strong-mayor initiative advanced byCounty Mayor Carlos Alvarez, though respondents oppose term limits forcommissioners.


A majority of likely voters say they support Miami-Dade Mayor CarlosAlvarez's drive to create a strong-mayor form of government, a poll releasedWednesday suggests.

The survey by the Metropolitan Center of Florida International Universityfound that 65 percent of those questioned said they either supported orstrongly supported the strong-mayor proposal, which comes up for a vote onTuesday.

Some 23 percent of those surveyed opposed the initiative and 11 percent didnot have an opinion.

The percentage of those supporting the initiative was up slightly from acenter poll released last June in which 62 percent were in favor.


No ambition? Schools have major for you
Palm Beach Post Columnist

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I love this new statewide education plan, optimistically named the FloridaA-Plus-Plus Plan.

Think of it as a surge to the existing Florida A-Plus Plan, which neededsome tweaking to rectify the state's high school graduation rate - 47th inthe nation, according to Education Week magazine.

So, the new plan calls for keeping high school students from dropping out byoffering them a selection of 442 majors.

Yes, 442 majors. Wow!

This is a stroke of genius, because now students will be able to major in"subjects" that sound very much like things they'd be doing if they droppedout.

So why drop out when "school" offers you the same opportunity?



Lauderdale street vendors find that jobs earn them jail

Michael Mayo
News Columnist

January 18, 2007

I've heard of newspaper reporters going to jail, but newspaper vendors?

"This is ridiculous," Stephen Wyman said last week at the corner of BrowardBoulevard and Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. "We're just trying to makea living out here."

The previous day, Wyman got out of the Broward County jail after 26 days. Hewas locked up for Christmas, New Year's and his 57th birthday.

For the last few months, Fort Lauderdale has cracked down on newspapervendors such as Wyman. Many are homeless, some admit to alcohol and drugproblems. Vendors say hawking papers is at least an honest way to makemoney, better than panhandling or worse.

But city officials, led by City Manager George Gretsas and Mayor Jim Naugle,seem hell-bent on taking that option away by enforcing a Florida statutebanning roadway sales.


Officials in Palm Beach County leery of sharing water with Broward

By Andy Reid
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 18, 2007

A proposal to let Broward County share Palm Beach County water threatens totrigger a territorial fight over one of Florida's most coveted resources.

The plan, still in the study phase, would take storm water stored in areservoir near Wellington and direct some of it south to replenish drinkingwater supplies in southern Palm Beach County and Broward County.

State water managers project that the reservoir can collect enough water tomeet its goal of restoring water flows to the Loxahatchee River and stillsupplement urban water supplies to the south.

However, with a drought already forcing watering restrictions on westerngrowers and the spread of development threatening to further strain drinkingwater supplies, Palm Beach County officials and activists alike want to knowwhen to expect "extra" water.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

Commission receives watershed study

Special to The Miami Herald

The future of the controversial South Miami-Dade Watershed Study remainedunclear after a County Commission committee officially received the reportTuesday. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, business people throughoutthe targeted area expressed skepticism about the plan's recommendations.

At recent meetings of the Economic Development Council of South Miami-Dadeand the Palmetto Bay Business Association, members opposed the plan toincrease density along U.S. 1 and debated the accuracy of populationprojections that estimate 204,000 new households for the region by 2050.

''Has anyone done a study as to how many people are exiting Miami-Dade?''Joyce Masso, owner of Al's Lawnmower Sales and Service in Palmetto Bay,asked at the Economic Development Council meeting on Jan. 9. ``They keepsaying the population will double. There is a lot of concern with theincreased density being recommended along U.S. 1. If you're adding morepeople, they'll be using more water.''


Hundreds of S. Florida boaters cited in campaign to protect manatees

By Robert Nolin
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 18, 2007

In reviewing the almost 400 citations from a recently concluded manateeawareness campaign, state wildlife officials Wednesday came across adramatic scenario.

Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. Andy Pallen was among an armada of law officerson the water last weekend when he witnessed just what he and the others wereout to prevent: A boat striking a manatee.

Pallen, head of the city's marine patrol unit, was part of OperationMermaid, a 140-boat, 45-agency campaign aimed at alerting Central and SouthFlorida boaters to the presence of manatees seeking warm water in rivers andcanals during winter. Thousands of boaters were warned and hundreds ofcitations issued.

Pallen was northbound in the Intracoastal Waterway about 11 a.m. Sunday whenhe spotted a 31-foot Sea Ray powerboat motoring south just under theCommercial Boulevard drawbridge. The vessel, operated by a couple in their50s, was within the manatee speed limit. It was also bearing down on amother manatee and calf who had come to the surface for air.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,366017,print.story?coll=sfla-news-palm

Obama's decision is talk of the town

Reaction positive to black senator
By Gregory Lewis
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 18, 2007

The nation's newest political lion is young, gifted and black, but hedoesn't wear his race on his sleeve or carry the burden of the civil rightsmovement on his back.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., simply has the right stuff to run forpresident, said Charlotte Durante, a Delray Beach Realtor.

"He's never stumped for answers," Durante said. "I like his educationalbackground and his diverse background. He seems to be a down-to-earthperson, without airs at all. He appears to be as comfortable talking to ahomeless person as the president of a country."

Much as it has across the nation, Obama's announcement this week that he hasformed an exploratory committee to raise money and begin building a campaignsparked a buzz across South Florida. People throughout Palm Beach, Browardand Miami-Dade counties discussed Obama's move on black talk-radio stationsand in political clubs and classrooms.


FPL sounds support for restricting greenhouse gas emissions
By Kristi E. Swartz

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Florida Power & Light Co. came out Wednesday in support of a federalproposal that would require it and all other utilities to reducegreenhouse-gas emissions.

FPL and five other utilities said they favored a U.S. Senate bill that wouldcap emissions and then start lowering them so that by 2020, they would be 25percent less than projected by the utilities. The bill is sponsored by Sens.Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Tom Carper, D-Del.

"We support mandatory economywide, fair (carbon dioxide) controls thatreward efficient generation, encourage new low-emission technologies andencourage energy conservation," FPL spokesman James Davison said Wednesday.

FPL and the other utilities who announced support for the bill - CalpineCorp. of San Jose, Calif.; Entergy Corp. of New Orleans; Exelon Corp. ofChicago; PG&E Corp. of San Francisco; and Public Service Enterprise Group ofNewark, N.J. - formed an environmental-friendly utility coalition called TheClean Energy Group in 1997.


Gathering consensus aims to control storm
By Michael C. Bender and Dara Kam

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Thursday, January 18, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers in the House and Senate both promised significantrate reductions for homeowners Wednesday while unanimously approvingdifferent versions of property insurance reform.

The differences, including how much homeowners would save, are big enoughthat Senate President Ken Pruitt warned that lawmakers would be workingthrough the weekend. House Speaker Marco Rubio, meanwhile, told his membersthat the two chambers were 95 percent in agreement.

Few times in Florida's modern legislative history has such an importantissue had such consensus," said Rubio, R-Coral Gables.

The two chambers, both controlled by Republicans, did move closer on a planfor the state to provide private companies with additional reinsurance moneyfrom an expanded state Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.


Citizens rate freeze comes with risks
By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 18, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - It seems like a quick and easy way for Florida lawmakers tofulfill a promise and give immediate rate relief to 1.3-million of thestate's policyholders.

The plan: Freeze Citizens Property Insurance rates at the Dec. 31, 2006,level for all of 2007.

Most Citizens policyholders would save at least 25 percent. But the sure fixcould also leave Citizens dangerously underfunded if the state suffers majorhurricane damage and set the stage for a far greater rate hike in 2008.

Bills from both the House and Senate include provisions that would rescindCitizens' Jan. 1 rate hike of 25.6 percent, an increase that was approved bystate regulators in October. The bills also delete language from a lawpassed last year that would have required an additional 55.8 percentincrease effective March 1.


They're all fired up to do ... something
By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist
Published January 17, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - This is weird. For once, there are more citizens thanlobbyists around the Capitol in this week's special session of ourLegislature.

The Legislature is all fired up to do something about Florida's hurricaneinsurance mess, even if the insurance companies don't like it.

The insurance lobbyists, as a result, seem shell-shocked. They hang aroundcommittee meetings listlessly.

Occasionally one of them stands up to protest weakly into the microphone. Heis treated by the lawmakers with all the patience and deference theLegislature usually reserves for bleeding-heart liberals and the Save theCute Little Puppies Club, meaning, not so much.

So, yeah, the Florida Legislature is in full-scale action mode, which is alittle scary.

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