Sunday, October 14, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST October 14, 2007

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Two legislators seek to expand anti-discrimination law

Democrats want to add sexual orientation
By Mark Hollis
October 14, 2007

Two Democratic state legislators from Palm Beach County have filed billsthat would prohibit discrimination in Florida based on sexual orientation inemployment, housing and public accommodations.

The measures, which the sponsors say will face strong opposition in theRepublican-led Legislature, would expand state law that provides legalrecourse for people maligned based on their age, color, disability, maritalstatus, national origin, race and religion.

State Sen. Ted Deutch and Rep. Kelly Skidmore, both of Boca Raton, aresponsoring the bills, which they hope to be heard in the spring 2008 regularlegislative session. The bills are similar, though Skidmore's also addressesdiscrimination based on "gender identity or expression."

Several Florida counties and cities, including West Palm Beach and LakeWorth, have enacted ordinances offering similar protections.

Rand Hoch, an attorney and president of the Palm Beach County Human RightsCouncil, which sought the legislation, said the bill would spread thoseprotections statewide. "Every Floridian, no matter where they live, shouldhave the same rights," he said.

more . . . . .


Remarks on Web site target Wilton Manors police chief, gay residents

By Elizabeth Baier
October 14, 2007

It started with a vague question about Wilton Manors Police Chief RichardPerez that implied he played favorites.

Though it did not mention him by name, the May 9 posting on the city's forumon, a Web site for law enforcement agencies that encouragesfrank discussion, quickly changed the way officers in the small Browardcommunity vent and communicate.

Writers have called the Wilton Manors Police Department a "HORRIBLE place towork" and described the agency as "filled with backstabbing, 'yes' men &women, fear, intimidation and retaliation."

The initial author of the "Where to start ..." message board, identifiedonly by the name "Lovin the Manors," started what is now one of the longestthread of comments posted to the 48 topics on the city's forum.

As of Saturday, the thread had been viewed 5,098 times and readers had added101 comments.

more . . . . .


Fort Lauderdale will pursue putting power lines underground

City seeks help of utility consultant
By Brittany Wallman
October 14, 2007

Fort Lauderdale

Imagine a city with no power lines, no power poles, and with trees free togrow into a thick canopy. In this city, if a strong wind blew, a Category 1hurricane, for example, the lights in the homes wouldn't go out. Thegenerator would not be needed. Life would go on, with electricity poweringit.

This is the dream city that Fort Lauderdale's elected officials are talkingabout, as they discuss the possibility of moving power lines underground.

The cost to homeowners is unknown. Officials from Florida Power & Light Co.estimated the city would spend $300 million putting its lines underground.But the city would also have to work with Comcast and AT&T to have theirlines buried as well.

The City Commission voted 4-1 at the Oct. 2 meeting, with Mayor Jim Naugle dissenting, to go back out for competitive bids for a utility consultant tohelp the city move forward. Only one qualified bidder responded the firsttime, and commissioners want to try again. Commissioners also agreed thecity should start negotiating with FPL about the utility's franchiseagreement, which ends in 2009.

Commissioners hope a consultant can help them decide how to go about buryingthe lines from FPL, Comcast and AT&T, and also assess the value of FPL'ssystem in Fort Lauderdale, in case the city opts to purchase it and hire adifferent company to run it. Commissioners also want to know whether theutility boxes could be buried underground.

more . . . .



Humane approach works better than crackdown in immigration crisisSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

October 14, 2007

ISSUE: Towns that penalize renting to or hiring illegal immigrants arerethinking the strategy.

For all those who think the answer to illegal immigration is barringemployers and landlords from hiring or renting to undocumented workers, lookno further than Riverside, N.J.

Last year, the factory town passed just such an ordinance - one of a growingnumber across the country to do so. And its impact was crippling, eventhough the law was never enforced.

Within months, according to a The New York Times story, hundreds ofimmigrants fled, and with them went much of the traffic and noise thatfollowed them there. But so did Riverside's economic stability.

Without immigrant workers or clientele, many businesses closed , and thetown's budget strained under the cost of fighting off legal challenges tothe ordinance. To get some relief, Riverside rescinded the measure.



The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Oct. 14, 2007

Lawmakers miss rare chance to fix property-tax

The last time state lawmakers celebrated a property-tax fix, they botchedthe job so badly that a circuit-court judge ruled that the measure could notbe put on the ballot. After meeting in special session last week, with theurgency of a football team needing a fourth-quarter miracle, lawmakers againare celebrating a potential property-tax fix. Don't uncork the champagnejust yet. The deal they're considering has the look of a desperation passthat could end up in the stands.

Superficially, the proposed deal is appealing, even though the cuts wouldfall far short of expectations. Renters and low-income seniors would get abreak. Homeowners would get portability and doubled homestead exemptions.Schools would be exempt from any additional tax cuts. Save Our Homes wouldbe spared. And first-time home buyers would get a break on the market valueof their new home. What's not to like about this deal?

Long-lasting solutions

As with any major reconfiguration of a basic tax structure, the devil is inthe details. As always, there will be consequences to every change made. Achange that helps one group, hurts another. A push here produces a blipthere. Finding the right balance isn't simply a matter of giving selectconstituent groups a break.

This is why it would be smarter for lawmakers to take a deep breath, silencetheir egos and let the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission do its job. Thecommission is uniquely qualified to handle tax and budget issues, and --fortuitously -- the group convened this year in rare, once-every-20-yearssessions. The commission's year-long, deliberative process is designed toproduce a more-lasting solution to difficult tax and policy issues.



The Miami Herald



For the next several years, Weston's high school students will graduate froma school burdened with more than twice the population it was meant to hold.Weston's Cypress Bay High was built to house 3,000 students, but its studentbody is 5,500. Of those, 4,000 are on the school's main campus and 1,500ninth-graders attend portable classrooms in Sunrise.

Blame the Broward County School Board, which should have chosen a site for anew high school by now. The board has dithered over choosing a home for HighSchool MMM. In partial defense of the School Board, there is somejustification: Broward is close to build-out. Few large parcels areavailable for development; wetlands must be protected; and costs areprohibitive.

It doesn't take a genius to know that the problem is here to stay. The boardencountered the same dilemma when choosing High School LLL's site, its lastforay into this area. The board and district administration need to startseeking alternatives to the sprawling campuses associated with high schools.So far, however, board members have shown no inclination to think outsidethe box. They refused, for instance, to consider building a multilevel highschool over a parking garage on the parking lot of Cypress Bay High.

On Wednesday, the School Board got a thorough presentation on the tworemaining sites for High School MMM -- a parcel on Southwest 36th Street andthe future Southwest 196th Avenue on the western edge of Weston and 60 acreson a golf course at Bonaventure Country Club on Bonaventure Boulevard.



St. Petersburg Times

Colleges' open doors starting to swing shut

Published October 12, 2007

Not many businesses could serve more customers on last year's budget, butthat's what Florida community colleges are expected to do. Predictably, thestudents are the ones who pay the price.

This year, as economic strains grip the state, some 50,000 new students arepouring into the state's 28 community colleges. The problem is that some ofthe doors will be closed to them. Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville,for example, won't be offering some upper-level science courses.Pasco-Hernando Community College is struggling to provide enough remedialcourses and has cut back on library hours.

"We don't want to close the open door, because that's our mission," saysPasco-Hernando president Katherine Johnson. "(But) you can only hire so manyfaculty. We're pretty maxed out as far as our ability to assist students."

As state higher education policy goes, this is criminal. The universitiesalready have been forced to freeze enrollment because of repeated statebudget cuts over the past decade. That alone puts more pressure on communitycolleges, as high school seniors explore their other options. So whathappens when the doors to community college are also forced to close? Whathappens when the nursing student can't get the science course necessary forgraduation because it is full?

In cutting college funding this week, lawmakers are blaming economicconditions and the $1.1-billion state budget shortfall. Higher education hasbeen getting what former Gov. Jeb Bush once called budgetary "crumbs" evenwhen times were good. The very formula the Legislature uses, which basesfunding on previous years' enrollment, ignores the cyclical nature ofcommunity colleges. When the economy is rough, workers often look to improvetheir skills to qualify for better jobs. They often do so at a communitycollege.

When the open-door institutions are faced with the prospect of closingdoors, Florida is shortchanging both its students and its economic future.


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