Sunday, August 26, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST August 26, 2007

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The New York Times

August 26, 2007
Democrats Take a Tough Line on Florida Primary

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 - The Democratic National Committee, threatening to takethe toughest line possible, voted Saturday to refuse to seat any FloridaDemocrat at the Democratic presidential convention in 2008 if the stateparty did not delay the date of its 2008 primary to conform to the party'snominating calendar.

The committee gave Florida Democrats 30 days to propose a primary date thatconformed with Democratic rules prohibiting all but four states from holdingtheir primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5. But Florida leaders, who seemedstunned by a near-unanimous vote and the severity of the punishment, saidthey were doubtful they could come up with an alternative.

They said they were bound by the vote of the Republican-controlled StateLegislature, which set the primary for Jan. 29.

Beyond what is emerging as a clear embarrassment for the party, thepractical results of this dispute were unclear. To a considerable extent, itcould prove to be little more than a reminder of how little authority theparty appears to have over its nominating process this year.

Florida Democratic leaders said they were resistant to bowing to the party'sdemands, having already refused twice. And assuming the party has apresumptive nominee by the time the convention is seated in Denver nextyear, it will be the nominee - not party officials - who would have thepower to resolve a dispute over who is seated.


The Washington Post

DNC Strips Florida Of 2008 Delegates
No Convention Slots Unless Later Primary Is Set
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 26, 2007; A01

The Democratic National Committee sought to seize control of its unravelingnominating process yesterday, rejecting pleas from state party leaders andcracking down on Florida for scheduling a Jan. 29 presidential primary.

The DNC's rules and bylaws committee, which enforces party rules, votedyesterday morning to strip Florida of all its delegates to the 2008Democratic National Convention in Denver -- the harshest penalty at itsdisposal.

The penalty will not take effect for 30 days, and rules committee membersurged officials from the nation's fourth-most-populous state to use the timeto schedule a later statewide caucus and thus regain its delegates.

By making an object lesson of Florida, Democrats hope to squelch otherstates' efforts to move their voting earlier, which have created chaos inthe primary structure that the national party has established. But thedecision to sanction such a pivotal, vote-rich state has risks.

The party punished Delaware in 1996 for similar rules violations. ButFlorida, a mega-state that has played a pivotal role in the past twopresidential elections, is different. The clash leaves the presidentialcandidates in limbo about how to campaign there.

Asked what Hillary Rodham Clinton's plans are for the state, Harold Ickes, aDNC member and adviser to the New York senator, said, "I don't thinkanyone's going to answer that question, or cross that bridge, until we seewhat happens in the next 30 days."

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), said, "Hopefully,in the next 30 days, Florida and the DNC can reach agreement so Florida'sdelegates can contribute to the nomination contest."

Florida's state party chair, Karen L. Thurman, showed no signs of backingdown yesterday. The former congresswoman said she will consult with stateDemocrats but added that she expects all the presidential candidates toignore the national party's edict and campaign vigorously in advance of theSunshine State's primary.

"Whether you get a delegate or don't get a delegate, a vote is a vote," adefiant Thurman said. "That is what Floridians are going to say is

The DNC rules stipulate that states that have not been granted a specialwaiver must schedule presidential nominating contests after Feb. 5.

"Rules are rules," said DNC member Garry S. Shays, of California, at themeeting. "California abided by them, and Florida should, as well. To ignorethem would open the door to chaos."

Donna Brazile, a member of the rules committee who argued for a swift andharsh punishment for Florida, said states' desire to be more relevant in thenominating process does not excuse violations of rules intended to make thesystem fair for everyone.

"I understand how states crave to be first. I understand that they'reenvious of the role that Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally played,"said Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. "The truth is, wehad a process. . . . We're going to back these rules."

Though the DNC's action was well-telegraphed, it came after emotional pleasfrom state party leaders, who blamed the initial selection of the date onRepublicans who control the legislature. Thurman said she and her staffspent "countless hours" trying to persuade the legislature to pick anotherdate.

Jon Ausman, a DNC member from Florida, begged his colleagues to make anexception for Florida because of those efforts.

"We're asking you for mercy, not judgment," Ausman said.

The rules committee was largely unmoved; only one member -- Florida's AllanKatz -- voted against imposing the sanctions.

Under the caucus alternative proposed yesterday, voters could still go tothe polls on Jan. 29 to express their preferences for a presidentialnominee, but the results would be ceremonial, much like the results of theRepublican straw poll held in Ames, Iowa, this month.

"It's essentially a beauty contest. . . . There are no delegates now," saidAlexis Herman, co-chair of the rules committee.

Thurman and other state leaders said there are several problems with thecaucus suggestion.

She said a caucus could cost the state party as much as $8 million -- moneyshe said the party and its benefactors do not have. She said a caucus in astate the size of Florida would be impractical and would have the effect ofallowing far fewer people to participate.

State party officials also said they prefer to keep the official voting onJan. 29 because a property tax initiative they hope to defeat will be on theballot that day. Turning the Democratic presidential primary into ameaningless event would probably mean lower turnout among the party'sfaithful and make it harder to defeat the initiative, they said.

"Defeating a horrible referendum on Jan. 29 . . . is a top priority forevery constituent group I am aware of," said Terrie Brady, a DNC member andformer chair of the Florida state party.

Thurman declined to say whether she or state officials are likely to file alawsuit against the national party, as was suggested by Sen. Bill Nelson(D-Fla.) during a conference call Friday.

"Yeah, this is emotional for me, and it should be," she said. Asked whethershe thought Florida had been treated fairly, she said, "We'll see in 30days."

Both political parties have struggled over the years to determine how bestto nominate their presidential candidates.

Iowa and New Hampshire have dominated that process since the late 1960s, inpart by arguing that their relatively small size allows candidates to havemore personal contact with voters. But in recent years, larger states andthose with more ethnic diversity have argued that they should be at thefront of the process, too. This year, those pressures have pushedpresidential voting earlier than ever.

"I think this whole system is goofy. It's all out of kilter," Ickes said. "Ithink we start way too early."

Alice Germond, a West Virginia member of the DNC, said that "the process isstill a mess."

The national parties face the prospect of further confrontations: SouthCarolina Republicans have moved their primary to Jan. 19, a decision thatmay force New Hampshire and Iowa to vote earlier in January. And Michigan'slegislature is on the verge of approving a Jan. 15 date -- a move that wouldviolate the same Democratic rule that Florida faces punishment for breaking.

The Michigan Republican State Committee voted yesterday to endorse the newdate.

"Moving up the primary will make Michigan the first major industrial stateto hold a presidential primary and will give our voters a chance to educatethe next president of the United States about Michigan and its specificissues," state GOP Chairman Saulius "Saul" Anuzis said in a statement.


The New York Times

August 24, 2007
Hebrew Charter School Spurs Dispute in Florida

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Aug. 23 - The new public school at 2620 Hollywood Boulevardstands out despite its plain gray facade. Called the Ben Gamla CharterSchool, it is run by an Orthodox rabbi, serves kosher lunches andconcentrates on teaching Hebrew.

About 400 students started classes at Ben Gamla this week amid causticdebate over whether a public school can teach Hebrew without touchingJudaism and the unconstitutional side of the church-state divide. Theconflict intensified Wednesday, when the Broward County School Board orderedBen Gamla to suspend Hebrew lessons because its curriculum - the thirdproposed by the school - referred to a Web site that mentioned religion.

Opponents say that it is impossible to teach Hebrew - and aspects of Jewishculture - outside a religious context, and that Ben Gamla, billed as thenation's first Hebrew-English charter school, violates one of its paramountlegal and political boundaries.

But supporters say the school is no different from hundreds of others aroundthe country with dual-language programs, whose popularity has soared inethnically diverse states like Florida.

"It's not a religious school," said Peter Deutsch, a former Democraticmember of Congress from Florida who started Ben Gamla and hopes to replicateit in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. "South Florida is one of the largestHebrew-speaking communities in the world outside Israel, so there are lotsof really good reasons to try to create a program like this here."

The battle over Ben Gamla parallels one in New York over Khalil GibranInternational Academy, a new public school that will focus on Arabiclanguage and culture. But some who have followed the evolution of bothschools say Ben Gamla could prove more problematic. As a charter school thatreceives public money but is exempt from certain rules, they say, it issubject to less oversight.


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1 comment:

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