Saturday, February 17, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST February 17, 2007

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Will $22 million help more children find stable homes through adoption?

By Georgia East
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 17, 2007

Adoption may become easier and less costly under a proposal by Gov. CharlieCrist.

He wants to create an Office of Adoption and Child Protection, headed by aChief Child Advocate who would be responsible for coordinating andstreamlining adoption efforts statewide.

Crist is asking that all parents who adopt children in state care get anannual $3,000 subsidy, until that child turns 18. Children with specialneeds, who already get a state subsidy of about $3,600 a year, would seethat increase to about $5,000.

Special needs children, defined by the state as "difficult to place,"include children who are 8 or older, physically or emotionally handicapped,of black or mixed race, or belong to a sibling group that will staytogether.

"You have grandparents who want to do it but can't afford to adopt," saidRuth Dorce, director of foster care at CHOICES, Children and FamiliesConsortium, in Pompano Beach.

Currently, there is no cost to adopt children in state care and theycontinue to get Medicaid. But other expenses, such as child care and sometherapy costs, drain pockets.


South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
Posted February 17 2007,0,3214073.story?coll=sfla-news-editorial

ISSUE: Many unaware of rules on providing student information to themilitary.

The U.S. military is strained, recruitment is hurting and many worry that adraft is inevitable, especially with America at war. So the federalgovernment has logically pinned some of its hopes on an early marketingeffort of sorts, requiring high schools to release the names and contactinformation of juniors and seniors to military recruiters.

Some parents welcome the thought, knowing their child is getting briefed ona vital career option. Others don't want the government marketing a riskyfuture to their still-impressionable youngster.

It's a debate the No Child Left Behind Act suggests belongs in the Americanhome. The 2002 law requires the information's release, but it allows parentsto opt out of the disclosure. Fair enough.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Feb. 17, 2007


Gay mayor reaches out to Hardaway

The mayor of North Miami offered former Heat star Tim Hardaway an invitationto spend some time with a gay couple.


As the firestorm continued over Tim Hardaway's anti-gay remarks on radio,the mayor of North Miami, who is gay, invited the ex-Heat star to spend aday with him.

On Friday, Hardaway accepted, the mayor said.

''We're just trying to show him that there are living, breathing people thatjust happen to be gay,'' said North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns, who lives withhis partner of 23 years and an adopted daughter.

He's still working out details of the visit with Hardaway's representativesand expects they will make a joint announcement on Monday, Burns said.

The plan is for Hardaway to join Burns and his family for a routine weekdayat the mayor's office and home -- doing things like dropping off Burns'child at school, meeting with constituents and dinner with the family.

Hardaway has been hit hard since the broadcast on the local AM radio station790 The Ticket, in which he said, ''I don't like to be around gay people''and ``it shouldn't be in the U.S. or the world.''

Although he apologized within hours, the NBA canceled his remainingappearances at this weekend's All-Star festivities in Las Vegas, and he lostat least two major endorsement deals.


The Miami Herald

Turnout ploy may misfire in marriage vote


A sked this week whether the Republican Party of Florida would continue tobankroll a proposed ban on gay marriage, Gov. Charlie Crist said the party'smoney ``can be spent on other things that may be more pressing, likeelections.''

But to anyone familiar with how these ballot measures play out across thecountry, influencing elections is exactly the point.

While leaders of anti-gay initiatives in Florida and elsewhere are truebelievers in their cause, their pitch is much broader: to boost Republicannational and statewide politicians who also happen to be on the ballot. Withthe first wide-open presidential election in more than half a century, thestakes couldn't be higher.


''The marriage amendment will bring people out to vote who are pro-family,traditional values voters,'' said Orlando lawyer John Stemberger, who isspearheading the petition drive to put gay marriage up for a vote in 2008.``We're going to have to have the most robust, well-funded effort in thecountry.''


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Feb. 17, 2007

Hardaway a bigot

Anytime someone like Tim Hardaway directs comments toward a group of people,we yell ''bigot'' -- and we should. But let's not confuse discriminationagainst a group of people with aversion to a repulsive lifestyle.I don't hate gays. However, gay friends and relatives know that I amrepulsed by the act of homosexuality. I don't hate supermodels, but I amopposed to bulimia. I view homosexuality and bulimia in the same light. Bothare self-destructive, abnormal behaviors. I don't hate the person trapped inhomosexuality or bulimia, but I would not want to be in his or her shoes.

Contrary to NBA star John Amaechi's comments, homosexuals should not beafforded the same considerations, rights and privileges as ethnic groups.Discrimination against race or creed is wrong. It is morally unacceptable totolerate gay behavior.
TIMOTHY BROWN, Merritt Island


Posted on Sat, Feb. 17, 2007

Oliphant is cleared in botched '02 vote

Closing an embarrassing chapter in Broward election history, former
Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant was cleared of all charges.

The Florida Elections Commission officially dropped charges and finesagainst former Broward Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant on Friday,sealing the book on the four-year saga sparked by the botched 2002 primary.

Her attorney, Henry Hunter, cheered, saying she was exonerated.

''This is it for the Elections Commission,'' Hunter said. ``This is it.Miriam clearly wins.''

For the most part, Broward has ceased Oliphant-bashing. Many of her firedmanagers have moved on to other careers or were rehired by Oliphant'ssuccessor, Brenda Snipes. And election observers say they are more focusedon reforms needed before the 2008 presidential election, and that Oliphantis just one symbol of the woes that led to calls for change.

The Elections Commission on Friday ratified a decision it reluctantly madein November to accept the findings of an administrative law judge and dropthe charges, deciding that it couldn't prove its original 2004 charge thatshe ''willfully'' botched the election.


Posted on Sat, Feb. 17, 2007

Pollution cleanup costs for Lake Okeechobee rise
South Florida water managers now estimate that it could cost as much as $1.1billion to cleanse phosphorus-laden Lake Okeechobee.

WEST PALM BEACH-- (AP) -- Cleaning up pollution in Lake Okeechobee couldcost as much as $1.1 billion, about three times more than previousestimates, water management officials estimated.

The South Florida Water Management District board sent the latest version ofthe plan to the Legislature with a 7-0 vote Thursday. In 2004, officialsestimated the project would cost $360 million, but that plan didn't includesome new features in the latest proposed cleanup.

The lake sits at the head of the Everglades, and its polluted waters can besent through canals into the fragile wetlands when lake levels rise. TheOkeechobee cleanup cost is separate from the estimated $10.5 billion federaland state Everglades restoration plan.


Social conservatives losing faith in values of Crist, '08 hopefuls
By Brian E. Crowley

Palm Beach Post Political Editor
Saturday, February 17, 2007

ORLANDO — Catholic, conservative and concerned, former Florida ChristianCoalition leader Pat Neal says many social conservatives are "a littledisappointed" in the state's new governor and worried about the comingpresidential election.

After years of the reliable social conservatism of President Bush and hisbrother, former Gov. Jeb Bush, self-described "values voters" wonder aboutthe future of their agenda.

While the Bushes have been vocal supporters of banning gay marriage,appointing conservative judges, opposing gay adoptions and a host of otherissues dear to social conservatives, there is a fear that all they aregetting is lip service from the presidential candidates.

This weekend, two of the top Republican candidates, former MassachusettsGov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain, will meet privately withreligious leaders who are attending the National Religious Broadcastersconvention here to reassure them.


Jeb Bush steers advisers toward Romney
By Brendan Farrington, Associated Press Writer | February 16, 2007

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. --Jeb Bush, who hasn't publicly picked a favorite in theRepublican presidential race, privately is talking up the candidacy of MittRomney and steering some of his closest advisers to the campaign.

The former Florida governor has said repeatedly he won't be a candidate in2008 despite encouragement from his father, the former president, and hisbrother, the current one. But Jeb Bush's support, even tacit, would becritical in the state that decided the 2000 presidential election.

"Governor Bush said, 'Before you commit, I want you to meet Mitt Romney. Heis the kind of guy you will like no matter what,'" said former Lt. Gov. ToniJennings. "The governor was very candid about the fact that he really likedthis guy."

Jennings, the woman Bush chose as his lieutenant governor, is one of severalformer Bush confidantes in the Romney camp. Others include his hand-picked,former state party chairman Al Cardenas, and Sally Bradshaw, Bush's formercampaign manager and chief of staff.


Surplus of bureaucracy
Palm Beach Post Editorial
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration expects a nearly $110million budget surplus. So, why does Florida's Agency for Persons withDisabilities have a waiting list of 13,000 families?

AHCA told the Legislative Budget Commission last month that the agency'sprojected $108.5 million surplus is in the "Hospital Inpatient Services"category. The disabilities agency's waiting list is for 13,489 people withautism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, Prader Willi syndrome, spinabifida, along with others at high risk of being diagnosed with adevelopmental disability, awaiting aHome and Community-Based Services waiver through Medicaid.

But spare the bureaucratic explanation of the two different agencies havingdifferent pockets of money to serve different pockets of the population.Forget the rule against "appropriating non-recurring funds" for "recurring"needs. In the plain language that Gov. Crist favors, one agency setup to help Floridians has millions more than it needs. Another agency set upto help Floridians needs millions more. And the two agencies already are entwined. AHCAdevelops and enforces Medicaid policies and handles payments for manyservices the disabilities agency provides.

In recent years, it's been the disabilities agency that sits on millionswhile would-be clients languish on waiting lists. APD prefers to hype thenumber of clients served: more than 48,000 in 2005-2006. That means littleto the families who qualified for services six years ago and are just nowbeing contacted.


February 17, 2007

Tourism numbers slow to rise

Florida tourism was up in 2006, but not as much as state officials wanted.

Despite a weak third quarter, the number of visitors grew by 1.2 percent to84.6 million, officials said Friday. It was the fifth straight year ofincreases after a 5 percent drop following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Officials with Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, said itwasn't enough.

"Although visitation increased 1 percent in 2006, the state depends on avisitation increase of 4 percent or 5 percent each year to strengthenFlorida's economic future," Visit Florida president and CEO Bud Nocera said.

Visit Florida is trying to drum up support in the legislature for moreadvertising money. The agency is requesting $59 million, more than doublethe $24.7 million in tax money it currently gets.

Tourism officials say the cost of advertising has grown, and Florida'sgetting outspent by Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Visitor numbers were up 4.9 percent last year and 6.8 percent the yearbefore, but increased only .9 percent in 2003.

Visit Florida warned the state was poised for an annual decrease after437,000 fewer people came in the third quarter. But the state rebounded witha 9.5 percent increase in the fourth quarter over 2005.


The state can't execute
Palm Beach Post Editorial
Saturday, February 17, 2007

Florida pays an executioner $150. On the street, that amount wouldn't buy avery professional killing. It's no different when the state pays.

Testifying a week ago in Tampa before a special panel, the executioner whobotched the Dec. 13 lethal injection of Angel Nieves Diaz said, "I have nomedical training or qualifications." That would explain why needles thatwere supposed to go into Diaz's veins instead went into his soft tissue.

The poison thus took far longer to be absorbed. The death that was supposedto take about 15 minutes took twice that time. There were chemical burns onboth of Diaz's arms.

This is where people might ask, How long did it take for the topless-barmanager Diaz murdered in 1979 to die? The question is understandable butirrelevant. Like the other 37 states that allow capital punishment, Floridacan't subject any condemned inmate - no matter how heinous the crime - tocruel and unusual punishment. Anything less than a quick, clinical deathviolates that constitutional standard.

After the Diaz execution, Gov. Bush convened this panel to examine Florida'smethod of lethal injection. Florida is not alone. Ten other states arereviewing their lethal injection procedures because of problems. This panelcould recommend changes to the Legislature before the March session. Fornow, all executions are on hold.


Lavender Writes presents

Love Gone Bad
An Open Mic Fiction Reading

Borders Books and Music
2240 E. Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

Saturday, February 17, 8pm

Readers sign-up at

Funding for this program is provided in part by the Broward County Board ofCounty Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council.

Lavender Writes, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, providesservice and support to lesbian and gay writers by sponsoring writingworkshops, developing public forums for writers to present their work andoffering assistance with publication. Non-gay writers and readers are alsowelcome to participate.

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