Tuesday, February 20, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST February 20, 2007

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From Manuel Rodriguez
Program Manager
HIV/AIDS Health Education
Broward County Health Department
780 SW 24th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
Phone: 954-467-4796
Email: Manuel_Rodriguez@doh.state.fl.us

Re-energizing HIV prevention in the Gay Community of Broward

We did it.

Last night’s Condom Mania event at Georgie’s Alibi will be remembered. Withconfidence, we can say the event was extremely successful. This event wasproduced in only two weeks and was the result of the creativity and thecommitment of many, of most of you. Activists, all the HIV preventionproviders, business owners, entertainers and the Broward County HealthDepartment, worked as one.

Last night everyone was engaged. The level of audience participationsurpassed our expectations. Their participation tells us the gay communitywants events in which everyone can be involved. People want to be engaged,participate, and voice their opinion about HIV prevention. We must bemindful of the lessons learned at last night’s event, so we can translatethem into future educational efforts to continue reaching the gay community.

Several people must be recognized. I would like to highlight theparticipation, talent and wit of Tiffany Arieagus. We could not have done itwithout Tiffany. We must mention the commitment and generosity of GeorgeKessinger and all the staff at the Alibi. We recognize the involvement ofMichael Rejner, by showing new progressive activism, in which collaborationis the base for the advancement of common goals in HIV Prevention. Also allthe Broward HIV Prevention providers –funded or not- by the Department ofHealth actively participated.

To close, we want to share some highlights of our efforts just this pastweek:

The new Broward County Health Department condom distribution campaign “Takeme, I am free” was unveiled. This campaign has a dual role. It promotescondom use and promotes Broward County prevention providers. Starting today,10,000 palm cards will be distributed. We will see this campaign grow andinvite all of you to be part of it.

As a result of the campaign, 4 new businesses have signed up to be condomdistribution points in Wilton Manors. (Georgie’s Alibi, Java Boys, Humpy’sPizza and Richard’s Hair Studio).

The Condom Mania event at The Alibi had an approximate attendance of 400,throughout the night.

Condom use myths were dispelled and a renewed urgency of condom use in thegay community was established.

All the staff at Georgie’s Alibi wore the “Take me, I am Free” t-shirts. Atotal of 144 shirts (donated by the Alibi) were distributed, as part of thecommunity mobilization campaign.

500 safer sex packages and 2,000 condoms were distributed last night.

HIV Prevention Providers were showcased: The PALS Project/GLCC, ProjectFusion of Hispanic Unity, M Project of Broward House, Red Hispana Florida,Care Resource and The Broward County Health Department programs.

Data was collected from the crowd on surveys asking opinion of the event.Data shows an overwhelming support for this kind of prevention efforts inthe gay community.

As previously stated, more than 25,000 condoms were distributed to localguesthouses on February 13 through the Broward County Health Department“Safe Fun in the Sun” an HIV prevention campaign exclusively designed toreach gay visitors to our area.

As we celebrate our accomplishment of this past week, the Broward CountyHealth Department looks forward to future projects and collaborations withour community partners. It was a pleasure to have coordinated these effortsfor our community.


Florida News


Lobbying fees run in millions
Firms with GOP roots dominate the highest paid.
Published February 20, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Lobbyists with Republican roots topped the charts Monday with multimillion-dollar fees collected in 2006, the first year legislative lobbyists had to report the fees Florida businesses pay them to influence lawmakers.

Reports for the final quarter of 2006 indicate that the biggest fees went to Southern Strategy Group, Smith & Ballard and Ronald L. Book. The three firms each reported more than $4-million in fees for long lists of clients.

Although dozens of lobbyists reported earning fees that totaled more than $1-million last year, the big money went, as expected, to those who have cultivated GOP members in both houses.

Although lobbyists have filed two lawsuits challenging the new disclosure law, the 2,800 lobbyists who work the legislative hallways apparently have reported as required. Opponents contend the disclosure law is a violation of privacy and could place lobbyists in harm's way if criminals see how much money they make.

U.S. District Judge Stephan P. Mickle has ruled that lobbying firms have no right of privacy and could not reasonably argue that those who attempt to influence legislation should be given protection from such laws.


The Sun-Sentinel


Ethics complaint filed against Palm Beach County commissioner
By Andy Reid
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 20, 2007

Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson faces a complaint before the state ethics commission over his developer-backed fundraising for stem cell research.

Aaronson confirmed Monday that one-time political ally Frank Behrman filed an ethics complaint over his role as chairman of a committee raising money to try to force a statewide vote on supporting embryonic stem cell research.

Home builders and other real estate interests provided more than half of the $351,112 Aaronson's political committee has raised in support of the controversial but potentially lifesaving research.

Behrman and other critics have questioned whether developers' donations to Aaronson's cause could be seen as a way to influence his votes on the County Commission.

Violating state ethics laws can result in fines or removal from office.




Plan would end tax on homestead property
Published February 20, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - House Republicans are developing a proposal to eliminate property taxes for all homesteads while increasing the sales tax by a few pennies to make up the difference.

The plan, which has quietly gained favor among House leaders in recent days but lacks detail and has yet to be announced, also calls for capping property taxes on businesses, second homes and other nonhomestead property.

The cap would likely be tied to population growth and inflation.

"Everyone's pretty excited about it," Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said after emerging from a property tax summit in the House on Monday afternoon.

Property taxes promise to be the most challenging issue in the Legislature's upcoming session, in part because of the inequities in the current system, which favors long-term homeowners over new residents while pushing more of the burden on nonhomestead property.

An increasing number of lawmakers feel the best remedy is to simply get rid of property taxes homestead owners pay to schools, cities, counties and special taxing districts. The idea is contained in House Speaker Marco Rubio's book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future.




Wind policies may be cut just as hurricanes loom
By Michael C. Bender

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — The clock could soon start ticking again for Floridians who thought Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet had saved their windstorm policies for at least one more hurricane season.

Insurance companies can resume the process of canceling coverage next month, according to a clarifying order issued Monday by state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. It takes at least 100 days to drop a property insurance policy under Florida law.

The latest development means tens of thousands of homeowners could be scrambling for insurance once hurricane season begins June 1.

McCarty's order was applauded in insurance circles and prompted the Florida Insurance Council to drop its lawsuit Monday in a state appeals court challenging Crist's emergency rule.




Schools set to link with county for fast path to 'Net
By Don Jordan
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Forget about chalk.

Streaming media, videoconferencing and online multimedia teaching programs will be possible in Palm Beach County classrooms when the district starts plugging into the county government's vast high-speed Internet network this week.

The school board is expected to approve an agreement Wednesday between the district and county that eventually will connect every school and administrative building to the county's expansive underground network of fiber optic cable. The deal will create faster Internet connections throughout the school district and provide the county with added revenue.

"This is a first; the network currently is restricted to county agencies," said Steve Bordelon, director of information systems services for the county, adding that the deal is "not unique, but it is relatively rare."

The program will start immediately with a pilot project at five West Palm Beach-area schools: Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Bak Middle School of the Arts, Conniston Middle and Belvedere and Palmetto elementaries. The schools were selected based on their proximity to sections of the county's nearly 500 miles of underground cable, Bordelon said.

The district is using maps of the cable system to make plans for adding schools to the network.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Mon, Feb. 19, 2007

Five vying to lead Miami-Dade teachers union


United Teachers of Dade president Karen Aronowitz is up for reelection this week. But unlike her predecessor, who went two decades without opposition, four other teachers have stepped up to run against her, the latest sign that UTD's fledgling democracy is starting to blossom.

Wednesday's election will be the first conducted independently by UTD since long-time union boss Pat Tornillo was sent to prison in 2004 for spending union funds to finance his lavish lifestyle. Tornillo ran unopposed for the last half of his more than four decades as president.

The 2004 race, in which high school English teacher Karen Aronowitz was elected, was overseen by the American Federation of Teachers, UTD's parent group, to ensure its validity.

In the 21 months since taking office, Aronowitz has led efforts opposing changes to the class-size amendment, sued the school district over a controversial performance pay plan and negotiated a guaranteed three-year contract.

''The big thing for me is that we now have a contract where we aren't negotiating yearly for salaries,'' she said Monday. ``Teacher salaries become a bill like any other.''




DEP: Public's turn to ask about Glades power plant
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Florida Power & Light Co. application for a coal-fired power plant in Glades County has generated much interest throughout South Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection would like to let citizens know about opportunities for public input throughout the application process for these types of facilities.

Building a power plant in Florida involves participants from all levels of government, and the governor and Cabinet have the responsibility for making the final decision on the project. Once a power company submits an application to build a power plant, DEP coordinates the application review by state agencies such as the Department of Community Affairs and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, regional organizations such as the water management districts and regional planning councils, and local governments. The public is encouraged to participate in the process, and state law provides a variety of opportunities for public involvement.

There will be a public meeting today in Glades County (6 to 9 p.m. at the Doyle Conner Building in Moore Haven. Its purpose is for the local government to further inform the public about the proposed power plant, obtain comments and formulate the county's recommendation regarding the proposed power plant. Department staff will be in attendance.

The public also may communicate comments and concerns at any point during the process to any agencies involved in the application review, including local government. Citizens also may write to DEP. Visit www.dep.state.fl.us/siting for additional information on proposed power plant projects.


The Sun-Sentinel


South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

February 20, 2007

ISSUE: New ethics rules don't seem so ethical.

The 110th Congress is insulting the people's intelligence. The people shouldn't stand for it.

The new, Democratic-controlled national legislature rolled into office on a wave of public revulsion over the corruption of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress. Now it's giving people reason to wonder whether their votes made any difference.

You be the judge. New ethics rules forbid lobbyists from giving gifts such as free meals to lawmakers. But there's a loophole. It allows lobbyists to donate money to a political fund-raising committee, which then pays the expenses for lawmakers to attend lavish fund-raisers, hunting and fishing trips, musical concerts, Broadway shows, parties on Miami's South Beach, and on and on.

They must take us all for idiots.

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., has been one of the beneficiaries, enjoying a weekend at the Yacht and Beach Club resort at Walt Disney World. All it took to help pay for his fun was a lobbyist's $5,000 donation to a political action committee. The same amount bought U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a fun time at a Super Bowl party in Miami.

It's a sad fact of life that politicians need to raise money. But the way it should work is that if you agree with a politician's stance on the issues, you donate to enable him to do the work you both believe in. Instead, one hand washes the other, and both hands have lots of fun.

It's enough to make voters lose confidence. It's one thing to look at a Republican Congress, find it corrupt, and turn to the Democrats. But what happens when the Democrats turn out to be equally corrupt?


The Sun-Sentinel


Weapons Law
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

February 20, 2007

ISSUE: Law enforcement weighs in on Florida's flawed concealed weapons law.

Maybe law enforcement officials will have better luck going head-to-head with the gun lobby. They want to change Florida's concealed weapons law, and the hope here is that they'll succeed.

The Florida Fraternal Order of Police, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association recognize the problem. Current gun licensing eligibility rules are just too loose. Some type of change is necessary, they say.

A recent investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel helped raise their ire. The newspaper found a licensing process riddled with loopholes that have allowed more than 1,400 Floridians to possess concealed weapons permits even though they pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, including assault, burglary, manslaughter and sexual battery.

Law enforcement officials are open to improvements, tightening the rules but allowing for an appeals process for those who have had their permits either denied or revoked. It's a start at change.


The Sun-Sentinel


Pedestrian by choice wants enforcement of road rules

Mia Venster
Fort Lauderdale

February 20, 2007

I am a full-time pedestrian since 2000, by choice. I choose to live near my place of employment and not too far from the beach and consider myself lucky to have that choice. I am not poor, nor am I someone who walks and bikes to places because I drink alcohol.

The contents of your article are vague statistics. Your readers' responses, however, reflect reality.

I live on one of the isles, off Las Olas Boulevard, where new developments are ongoing. The street has become a race track and is devoid of sidewalks.

I maneuver toward my downtown job via the alleys, where interacting with more and more homeless people, often with beer in their hand, is much safer and more relaxing than negotiating selfish drivers who see me as a second-class citizen. I rarely spot police cars monitoring careless drivers. When I do see them, they exit the streets of the multimillion-dollar residences, or are leisurely biking along the downtown Riverwalk.

And while your article is well received by us, pedestrians and bicycle riders, we would have rather seen a "rules and regulations of the road" article, addressed to all of us living in this what used to be paradise.


The Sun-Sentinel


Shuttle bus driver blamed in fatal airport crash has poor driving record
By Scott Wyman, Marlene Naanes and Macollvie Jean-Francois
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
February 20, 2007

Fort Lauderdale -- The surviving driver of a fatal collision late Sunday between two airport shuttles had a poorer driving record than allowed under the Broward County contract with the bus operator and was working overtime during his sixth consecutive day on the job, according to records and interviews.

Two people died and eight were injured when an employee shuttle crossed the median on South Perimeter Road and crashed head-on into another bus shortly after 11 p.m., the Broward Sheriff's Office said. Killed were Jameer Fyzool, 71, a maintenance worker who planned to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary next week, and George Pitter, 64, a bus driver who worked nights so he could stay home during the day with his 8-year-old son and grandchildren.

From his hospital bed at Broward General Medical Center on Monday, Jackson Aristide said he was driving the bus identified by authorities as crossing the median. He said he has no memory of the accident on the roadway that circles Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Aristide said he was not tired at the time and was horrified when he heard about the deaths and injuries.

"This shouldn't have happened to me," Aristide said. "I'm so used to driving, to me it's like drinking a glass of water."


The Sun-Sentinel


Sen. Clinton to visit Miami, Hollywood today
By Madeline BarĂ³ Diaz
Miami Bureau

February 20, 2007

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, will make campaign stops in South Florida today to meet with community leaders and attend fundraisers.

It is the first visit to South Florida by Clinton, a senator from New York and wife of former president Bill Clinton, since she announced last month that she was running for president. She made her first campaign visit to Florida shortly after declaring her candidacy, when she met with leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Naples.

Today she will participate in a "Conversation with Community Leaders" at the Joseph Caleb Center, at 5400 NW 22nd Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami.

A "couple hundred" community leaders have been invited to attend, according to Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee. The host is U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami.

Clinton also will attend fundraisers in Miami, Hollywood and Tampa.


The Sun-Sentinel


GOP won't hold presidential straw poll at Orlando convention
By John Kennedy
Tallahassee Bureau

February 20, 2007

Tallahassee · The Florida Republican Party said Monday it will not conduct a presidential straw poll at its convention in Orlando this fall but has cut a deal to host a nationally televised debate among contenders for the party's nomination.

State GOP Chairman Jim Greer said the debate also will showcase Florida and Gov. Charlie Crist.

The convention will take place Oct. 20-21. FOX News has agreed to broadcast the presidential debate during TV's prime time on the convention's final night, state party and network officials said.

The structure of the two-day convention, which Greer said was reached following discussions with Crist and state party officials, ends several weeks of behind-the-scenes jockeying by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Republican contenders currently most active in Florida.

Romney, who is drawing a number of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's allies to his campaign, was widely viewed as supporting a straw poll.

In Florida, McCain has picked up some former Bush allies, but also forged inroads with Crist by campaigning with him before his primary victory over rival Tom Gallagher.


The Washington Post


Florida's Big Hurricane Gamble
To Cut Insurance Rates, State Pledges Billions for Future Claims

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 20, 2007; A02

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- In this hurricane-battered state, living near the coast has always been a gamble.

In recent years, though, the estimated storm risks soared, and homeowners' insurance premiums doubled and tripled beyond what anyone deemed tolerable.

Now the entire state is in on a vast meteorological wager.

Last month, state legislators voted in an emergency session to lower insurance rates, primarily in South Florida, by pledging tens of billions in public money to affected homeowners if a major hurricane or two strikes again.

Since neither the state's catastrophe fund nor the state-chartered insurance company has anywhere near enough money on hand to pay the claims they may now be required to pay after a major hurricane, the measure is considered a gamble, even by proponents.

"We all need to pray to the hurricane gods," said state Sen. Steven Geller, who represents this beachfront condo city and negotiated a portion of the bill. "Yes, we're taking a risk. But what were our options?"

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