Sunday, February 25, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST February 25, 2007

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Writes of passage: From sex story readings to online courses, gay writersgroup helps scribes sharpen literary swords

By Jesse Monteagudo
Friday, February 23, 2007

The audience giggled and gasped as Jackie Grady read her graphicallydetailed story about the gastrointestinal attack she endured while watchingthe excruciatingly long movie “Titanic” on a “dream date” that turned into anightmare.

Grady was one of several gay and lesbian writers who gathered at the Bordersbookstore in Fort Lauderdale Feb. 17 for “Love Gone Bad,” a reading ofmostly fictional stories sponsored by Lavender Writes, a local gay andlesbian writers group.

Besides Grady, the other local scribes included Richard Mayora, AndreiFabricant and Steve Pollack. Lavender Writes President Mauro Montoyamoderated the event. The writers shared their stories of bad break-ups,psycho exes from hell and the worst first dates in history.

Many people think of South Florida as a cultural wasteland, but that’s notreally the case anymore, especially when it comes to authors. Though Miamiand Fort Lauderdale are no match for the likes of Boston, New York City, NewOrleans and San Francisco, many writers flock to these parts for the samereasons as other folks do. Once they get here, they continue to producenovels, short stories, poems and plays.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,2202204,print.story?coll=sfla-news-broward

Democrats eager to seize presidency
Party leaders positive about 2008 election
By Anthony Man
Political Writer

February 25, 2007

WESTON · Still riding high from their party's successes last year, more than600 Broward Democrats gathered Saturday for an evening of gossip, strategyand handicapping the contenders hoping to capture the presidency in 2008.

With many already savoring the prospect of a national Democratic victorynext year, the mood among the politicians, activists and donors waseuphoric. And it spanned generations, occupations and philosophies.

"This is a fantastic year," said Christian Chiari, president of the BrowardYoung Democrats. "We have a fantastic collection of candidates."

Mitch Ceasar, the county Democratic chairman, said this year is unlike othersimilar points between elections. "There's more energy. More excitement,more anticipation in the next election earlier than ever before," he said.

Sheriff Ken Jenne, a decades-long leader in state and local politics, saidthe field of presidential hopefuls is his party's best in 30 years. He saidthe best parallel to Democratic strength at this point in the presidentialselection process is what happened in the late 1970s "when [Ronald] Reaganstarted running and beat the pants off us."


The Sun-Sentinel,0,763783,print.story?coll=sfl-news-browardcomm

Oakland Park race for Seat 2 stays calm
By Elizabeth Baier
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 25, 2007

Oakland Park · Residents who may be used to highly contested elections areexperiencing an unusually calm race between two candidates who want to win aCity Commission seat.

Incumbent Commissioner Allegra Webb Murphy faces competition from RogerMann, a 34-year resident determined not to let his troubled campaign historythwart his political ambition. The two candidates are vying to win Seat 2 inthe nonpartisan March 13 election, as flooding, affordable housing and lowertaxes remain among the city's main challenges.

No one is running against Mayor Steve Arnst for Seat 3.

Murphy touts a record of promoting capital-improvement projects and helpingthe city get almost $10 million in federal and state grants for drainageimprovements. She beat Mann in 2003, becoming the first African-Americanelected official in Oakland Park in more than a decade, something she sayshas helped the city's predominantly black neighborhoods, includingHarlem-McBride, feel less forgotten.

"Oakland Park was a very sleepy little town," said Murphy, 72, a retiredpublic schoolteacher. "Now, I think we are a city on the move. We'veexpanded our parks. We've started a performing arts program. We have somenew businesses. And we're redesigning our neighborhoods to make them moreattractive."

Murphy, a Democrat who works as a full-time city commissioner, has focusedon capital improvement projects, including completing drainage work in theKimberly Lakes neighborhood; developing the Community Redevelopment Agencyand expanding the Carter G. Woodson Park in the Harlem-McBride neighborhood.She supports financing sewers for the Rock Island and Garden Acresneighborhoods, the only two areas in the city that still use septic tanks.

Murphy and Mann both are operating grassroots campaigns, going door-to-doorto reach residents and voters.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,2375846,print.story?coll=sfla-news-palm

Palm Beach County plans to build local anti-terror group
By Leon Fooksman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 25, 2007

They don't carry guns, flash badges or conduct investigations.

But store supervisors, hotel general managers and farming executives in PalmBeach County soon will be part of a new campaign to prevent terroristattacks.

Businesspeople this spring will begin forming a nine-member council to learntechniques on spotting plots in the making, and then pass that informationon to potentially thousands of workers in their fields. The council membersalso will receive sensitive police information concerning threats to theirindustries.

Before long, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office hopes everyone fromutility workers to phone operators to truck drivers will be alert to signsthat something may be amiss as they drive through neighborhoods, crisscrossmalls, visit office buildings and pass major traffic intersections.

"We can't do it alone," said Maj. Daniel McBride, commander of the Sheriff'sOffice homeland security bureau, which devised the initiative. "We have agap in homeland security."


The Sun-Sentinel,0,2337877,print.story?coll=sfla-florida-front

No break for renters in GOP tax reform plan
GOP proposal would add to burden, tenants say
By Jamie Malernee and Ken Kaye
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 25, 2007

At 22, Shannon Fleming can't afford to buy her own place.

She has little recourse if her landlord raises her rent.

And now, if a new tax proposal is passed, the Fort Lauderdale residentcomplains, homeowners are going to reap a tax bonus financed, in part, bytenants like her, for whom the only certain change will be higher sales taxon everyday items like gas and clothing.

"It's not fair to everybody else," said Fleming, a medical servicetechnician with the Coast Guard, who shares her apartment with roommates topay the $2,100-a-month rent.

For the 850,000 people like Fleming who live in rentals across Broward andPalm Beach County, Florida's recent property tax debate has largely passedthem by -- until now. The most recent redesign, proposed last week by HouseRepublican leaders, caught their attention because of its potential impacton their pocketbooks.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,3056644,print.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

February 25, 2007

ISSUE: FEC freight corridorcould become passenger line.

Sure is crowded in South Florida. But guess what? In 20 years, it'll be halfagain as crowded. That's what the population projections show.

So, there will simply have to be better ways to move people and goods aroundthe region, or our future will be one of grotesque traffic gridlock andconsequent economic decline. We desperately need a first-class regional masstransit system.

Acquisition of the Florida East Coast Railway freight corridor for commutertrain service would be a huge step in that direction. It would enable trainsto run right through the downtowns of the region's coastal cities, providingan alternative to the automobile for the many new residents flocking todowntown high-rises.

It also would enable further transit-oriented, mixed-use development allalong the corridor, which would improve prospects for affordable housing andalso give the poor and working class a less expensive transportationoption -- not to mention the energy savings. Recruitment of the types ofworkers the region can't do without -- police officers, firefighters, nursesand the like -- also would become easier.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Feb. 25, 2007

Stadium giveaway idea won't go away


Yikes. It's baaaaack.

Like movie ghoul Freddy Krueger, the Florida Marlins Stadium scam refuses todie.

Republican leaders in the new Legislature have enthusiastically exhumed theoft-snuffed plan to throw away $60 million of public funds on a Major LeagueBaseball park in South Florida.

Forget that the state is already shelling out $60 million in sales tax''rebates'' to Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, ostensibly for havingrenovated his football stadium to accommodate the Marlins.

Huizenga wants the Marlins out (though he'll keep the money, thank you verymuch), and the Marlins want a new stadium. Every year they come toTallahassee begging for tax dollars, and up to now they've been shut out.

The big obstacle was Jeb Bush, who peevishly opposed spending public fundson professional sports palaces. In 2005, Senate President Tom Lee actuallyuttered the term ''corporate welfare'' when discussing the money grab, andhe helped send it to its deserved doom.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Feb. 25, 2007

Rule change threatens healthcare safety net

Hospitals in Florida and other states with large poor and uninsuredpopulations face a devastating loss of federal funding if a rule changeproposed by Medicaid administrators is adopted. Congress should intervene toprevent a healthcare disaster. Medicaid officials say the new rule willforce states to increase their Medicaid funding to cover the losses. But atbest that is a risky gamble; at worst it is an abandonment of federalresponsibility.

The rule would change the funding formulas by which hospitals are reimbursedfor treating the poor. It would exclude local contributions that have beenused to increase states' federal-funding match. The change would cutbillions of dollars in healthcare costs from the federal budget.

In Florida, hospitals would lose $4.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds overfive years, according to the Florida Hospital Association. This translatesto a funding cut of $300 million next year in South Florida alone. By farthe hardest hit would be Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami-Dade's safety-nethospital, which estimates it will lose $125 million annually.

Many delay treatment

How does a public hospital that provides the bulk of Miami-Dade's charitycare contend with a shortfall of this magnitude? Fewer services would beinevitable, Jackson CEO Marvin O'Quinn says. Already-lengthy emergency-roomwaits will be stretched even longer; and some people may not get treated.Medical decisions would be difficult: Does a hospital cut a transplantprogram, primary care or doctors' salaries?


Bill still burns over loss, so Hillary will be here
Published February 25, 2007

With Democrats looking increasingly strong in the West, Midwest andNortheast, we can think of at least three reasons Democratic presidentialcontenders might consider writing off Florida in 2008: Bill McBride, JohnKerry and Jim Davis. None of the top-of-the-ticket Democrats came especiallyclose to winning Florida in 2002, 2004 or 2006.

But the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign insists Florida is a toppriority for the Democratic front-runner, and it's rather personal for theClintons. Bill Clinton to this day is peeved he didn't carry the SunshineState in 1992 (he did in '96) and that he didn't spend the final stretch ofthe campaign in Florida.

"If you listen to him, instead of going to North Carolina the last tripbefore 1992, he would've won here," former Democratic National Committeechairman Terry McAuliffe says in a Political Connections interview airingtoday on Bay News 9. "I talked to him the other day about it. It still burnshim that he didn't carry Florida in 1992. ... (Sen. Clinton's) got two veryimportant advisers - one Bill Clinton and the other me - who both todaybelieve Florida is a state we can win."

McAuliffe, who took heat for pumping so much national money behind BillMcBride's lopsided loss to Jeb Bush in 2002, said Kerry wasted months beforesetting up a coordinated campaign operation in Florida in 2004.


Crist urges $90 million for rivers, lake
By Rachel Simmonsen
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 24, 2007

STUART — Gov. Charlie Crist toured the St. Lucie River by pontoon boatFriday, then called for an increase in spending for the river, which he saidhas improved in a year but "can be even better."

Crist's proposed budget calls for $40 million to be split between the St.Lucie and the Caloosahatchee rivers to the west of Lake Okeechobee. Anadditional $50 million would be spent on restoration projects related to thelake.

The proposed funding comes as environmental officials announced plans tofocus more restoration efforts north of the lake, something St. Lucie Riveractivists have advocated for years.

"They were right," said Carol Wehle, executive director of the South FloridaWater Management District, who accompanied Crist on his river tour.

St. Lucie River activists long have blamed massive discharges from LakeOkeechobee for flooding the river with polluted fresh water that killsoysters and sea grasses and has led to toxic algae blooms in the past.Development north of the lake adds to the pollution and high levels of waterin the lake by increasing stormwater runoff, according to the activists.


Review of lethal injection complete

A panel says the state can do better and will submit suggestions to Gov.Crist this week.
Published February 25, 2007

TAMPA - A commission that has studied Florida's lethal injection proceduresacknowledged Saturday that what happened to Angel Diaz likely will happenagain.

But the panelists said the Department of Corrections can be better preparedto handle a similar situation. After a seven-hour meeting Saturday, theywill make recommendations to Gov. Charlie Crist this week.

Diaz, condemned for the 1979 murder of a Miami bar manager, took nearlytwice as long as normal to die during his Dec. 13 execution. An autopsyshowed needles tore through Diaz's veins, spilling lethal chemicals into hisflesh and creating the possibility of suffering prohibited by theConstitution. He suffered foot-long burns on each arm.

The panel found that execution team members made a series of errors thatstrayed from state protocols. But the commission also decided that theprotocols need to offer more detailed instructions on how to identifyproblems and cope with them.

"We know for sure that this is going to happen again," said panelist HarryK. Singletary, a former state corrections secretary. "But what we aretelling the governor is when it happens again, here's what we think theDepartment of Corrections should do."

The panel also suggested Crist review whether the state should considereliminating one drug in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail. Somepanelists wondered if the second drug, which causes paralysis, is necessary.The drug prevents inmates from involuntarily shuddering while they aredying.


Crist's chain reaction continues
By Dan Moffett
Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's hard to imagine that someone who earned the nickname "Chain GangCharlie" would take up the cause of restoring the civil rights of ex-felons.

But after only six weeks in office, Gov. Crist has certified himself as aman of surprises who has given Democrats more than they could have gottenfrom one of their own.

The governor has taken on the insurance industry his predecessor protected,called for an end to touch-screen voting, proposed changes for a publiceducation system his predecessor said was perfect and asked the Legislatureto approve $20 million for stem-cell research - limited research, but onstem cells just the same. Democrat Jim Davis campaigned on all of the abovebut couldn't have delivered as much had he won in November.

Last week, Gov. Crist said he'd make good on a campaign promise of his ownto restore automatically the rights of felons who have completed theirsentences. He said he is considering making the change unilaterally, byexecutive order, bypassing a Legislature that has ignored the issueliterally for more than a century.


February 25, 2007

Our view: Overhaul the FCAT

Gov. Crist must buck status quo with real reform for high-stakes testBrevard County students have performed well historically on the FloridaComprehensive Assessment Test.

We expect no less this week as they take reading, math and science portionsof the test.
Nonetheless, the way the FCAT is used needs fundamental change, and there'snew hope for that this year.

Gov. Charlie Crist has shown himself willing to buck a dangerous status quoon critical issues such as insurance.

He should buck it on FCAT policy as well, and the first step is obvious:
Keep what's good:


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