Sunday, March 18, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST March 18, 2007

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The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Mar. 17, 2007
Authorities say man was killed because he was gay

Authorities are investigating the killing of a central Florida man as a hatecrime after interviews with people who knew him revealed he was gay,officials said.

William David Brown Jr., 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21, were being held withoutbond in the Polk County Jail Saturday after being charged with first degreemurder in connection to Ryan Keith Skipper's death, authorities said.

They are also charged with the armed robbery of Skipper's car and computer.f convicted of murder, the two men would be eligible for the death penaltyunder Florida law.

The body of the 25-year-old Winter Haven man was found on a rural road inWahneta early Wednesday morning, said Polk County Sheriff's spokeswomanDonna Wood. He had been stabbed about 20 times, she said.

A witness came forward and said Skipper was killed because he made anadvance toward Brown, Wood said.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Mar. 16, 2007
Cities, counties aren't the culprit

This year, Tallahassee's whipping boy is local government, a convenienttarget for state lawmakers to point to as the cause for rising propertytaxes. The mantra is: Counties and cities larded up their budgets with theproperty-tax windfall of the five-year housing boom. Legislators are goingto force them to tighten their belts by bringing tax relief to propertyowners. Problem solved.

If only it were that simple. Floridians who rely on local governments forpolice and fire-rescue responders, running water and a host of otherservices should not be beguiled by this Tallahassee blame-game. Yes,equitable property-tax relief is necessary, but whacking cities' andcounties' budgets for that relief will only create other problems.Scapegoating local governments is also hypocritical of a Legislature thatlikes to dump state-program costs onto counties.

Higher tax bills

The truth is, since 1999, many local commissioners have taken advantage ofthe increase in taxes that came with rising property values to lower millagerates at which residents are taxed. Sure, they could afford to do thisbecause, even with lower rates, property owners were paying higher taxbills. Since 1999, local governments and school boards have taken in anadditional $11.4 billion. It is this windfall that made local governmentsfat, say legislators.

But a study by a respected Orlando economist shows much less lard than ispresumed in the budgets of counties and cities. The biggest share of that$11.4 billion increase -- $672 million -- went to expanding police forcesand other law-enforcement resources. Remember, the real-estate boom hikedlocal populations, too.

And, like their residents, local governments paid $200 million more forhigher fuel costs and $126 million more for insurance, according to HankFishkind's study, commissioned by the Florida Association of Counties.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,6183762,print.story

HIV cases drop in S. Florida

Trend linked to education campaigns
By Bob LaMendola
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 18, 2007

Partly because of one-on-one talks in barbershops and coin laundries, newcases of HIV infections fell by 8 to 13 percent last year in South Florida,health officials said.

Grassroots education campaigns by community groups and institutions appearto be making an impact on the spread of the virus in one of the nation'sepicenters for it, according to state figures released Tuesday.

"You can't know for sure but hopefully that's a result of preventionefforts," said David Begley, chairman of the Palm Beach County HIV CareCouncil. "Hopefully some of it is sinking in."

Broward reported 880 people newly infected with HIV, down 12 percent. PalmBeach County had 361, down eight percent. Miami-Dade had 1,203, down 13percent. Statewide, cases fell 5 percent.

The drop continues a downward trend since 2002, the peak for HIV cases inthe state and South Florida. The three counties for years have ranked in thenation's top 10 in HIV/AIDS cases per capita.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 18, 2007
Property taxes: a guide for our readers

One of the most important issues the state Legislature is considering thissession is cutting property taxes.

After two weeks of debate over how to do it, lawmakers have proposed foursolutions, and one more, from the Florida Senate, is expected to roll outthis week.

But with every new idea, the issue gets murkier and the explanations moreconfusing. Even House Speaker Marco Rubio, the West Miami legislator wholaunched the House's controversial plan, concedes much of the confusionstems from the reality that ``it is a very difficult issue to report andexplain.''

To cut through the clutter, here is a Miami Herald property tax primer, withanswers to some of the most commonly asked questions. The accompanying chartcompares the four proposals moving through the Legislature.

For questions and answers, see the guide on page 18A.

Q.What is the problem with the property tax system in Florida?A. Supporters of overhauling the system -- Gov. Charlie Crist among them --say that property taxes have become onerous for many Floridians. They say:

. Property taxes have risen faster than people's ability to pay. Forexample, property taxes rose 100 percent for the average Floridian in thepast six years, while personal income rose 44 percent.

. The real-estate boom filled local government coffers with extra cash, morethan they need to meet reasonable expenses.


Come Help the Florida GLBT Caucus Celebrate PrideFest in Palm BeachCounty

We need your help for PrideFest of the Palm Beaches 2007

The Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus will be participating in the 14th annualPrideFest of the Palm Beaches, March 24 & 25 at Bryant Park in Lake Worth.

The Caucus will have an information booth at the festival both days and willbe participating in the Grand Parade on Sunday.

We need volunteers to help with the booth on both days and would like asmany as possible to join us in the Grand Parade. We will have a decked-outtruck in the parade for those who are unable to walk the route.

We must staff the booth between 12 noon and 8 pm on Saturday and between 12noon and 6 pm on Sunday.

Kick-off for the parade is 12 noon on Sunday. You should be there for theparade no later than 11:30 am. We will need people to staff the booth fromnoon on Sunday who do not wish to participate in the parade.

If you can give us an hour or two on either day it would greatly help oureffort. Visit the PrideFest website for more information.
Tickets are $6.

If you can help, please drop Kevin Muth an email at

See you at PrideFest.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,2579280,print.story?coll=sfl-news-browardcomm

How much do city employees make?
Fort Lauderdale releases annual Top 100 list

By Brittany Wallman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 18, 2007

Fort Lauderdale - They might be the highest paid servants around.

They are the public servants of Fort Lauderdale City Hall.

The newly released Top 100 Highest Paid City Employees list -- an annualtradition since the mid-1980s -- lets taxpayers know just how much they'repaying the city manager, or how big the budget director's paycheck is,compared with a police captain's.

The Top 100 is a public record available at City Hall from the head ofpublic information, Ted Lawson, who is No. 49 on the list. (Salary:$110,614. Total compensation including pension: $159,390.)

In the No. 1 position for the fourth year in a row is City Attorney HarryStewart. His base pay, as of Dec. 31, 2006, was $231,650. Add his longevitypay, Social Security contributions, pension, vehicle allowance and medicalinsurance, and the total hits $329,452. Stewart is the only city employee tosurpass $300,000 in total compensation.


Gov. Crist's Accuser Is A Study In Contrasts

Published: Mar 18, 2007

It has the makings of a daytime TV talk show: She says the baby is his; hedenies it.

Only this time, he is Charlie Crist, chief executive of Florida, three timesa winner in statewide elections and a man who may someday have presidentialaspirations.

She is Rebecca O'Dell Townsend, who remains largely unknown despite the wideattention given her claim that Crist fathered a girl she gave up foradoption in 1989.

Who is the woman who drew the governor into this "he said, she said"?Interviews with acquaintances and a review of information available on herpresent a study in contrasts.

Townsend inserted herself into a partisan political fight on the eve ofSeptember's Republican primary by making her claim about Crist. Now, shedeclines to talk about it: "Nothing that's been printed that I know of istrue," she said Wednesday.


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