Thursday, October 04, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST October 3, 2007

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Fort Lauderdale: Writers in group to get free feedback
October 3, 2007

The Stonewall Library and Archives will launch its annual four-sessionwriting group, Writers Get Heard, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The workshops will give writers, from beginners to advanced, a chance to getimmediate feedback on their work, including fiction, nonfiction or poetry.

The library, at 1717 N. Andrews Ave., boasts the largest private collectionof gay and lesbian writings, video and historical documents in theSoutheastern United States.

Bruce Rosenzweig, a former writing instructor at SUNY/Albany and St. ThomasUniversity in Miami, will serve as the workshop facilitator.

The writing group is free and open to the public. Call 954-763-8565.


Fort Lauderdale OKs 42-story condo next to Stranahan House

By Brittany Wallman
October 3, 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE Under threat of multimillion-dollar lawsuits, citycommissioners voted 3-2 late Tuesday night to allow the controversial IconLas Olas condo to be built next to the historic Stranahan House.

A previous City Commission had approved the Icon condo on the Hyde ParkMarket site, but that was threatened by a court decision. Commissioners wereordered by the courts to consider whether the tower should receive a"certificate of appropriateness" to build on land that has been declaredhistoric and is next to a historic property.

Stranahan House supporters hoped the historic angle would help them achievewhat multiple lawsuits and years of passionate fighting have failed to bringso far - a denial of the 42-story tower they don't want next door.

Commissioner Christine Teel, a longtime supporter of Stranahan House,nevertheless said the "die was cast" when a previous City Commission votedto allow it.

"I don't see us backing out of it now," she said.

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Florida cities, counties may appeal ruling on mandatory tax cuts

Worried cities, counties consider unified court appeal
By Scott Wyman
October 3, 2007

While public attention has focused on a state judge's decision to kill aJanuary referendum overhauling property taxes, local officials areincreasingly concerned another part of that ruling strips them of controlover raising money to pay for everything from police protection to parks.

In last week's ruling out of Tallahassee, a Leon County circuit court judgedeclared legislators did not violate the state constitution when theyordered local governments to roll back taxes to at least last year's levels.County and city leaders see the judge's decisions as giving the Legislatureunlimited control over local property taxes and fear upcoming legislativesessions will require larger and larger cuts.

Weston Mayor Eric Hersh, who sued the state over the tax plans, soon willdecide whether to appeal that part of the decision, and worried county andcity officials are considering joining the fight. Hersh's lawyer said localgovernments and their state associations, which stayed out of the originalcase, are considering getting involved.

It would be the second appeal stemming from the judge's ruling. Secretary ofState Kurt Browning said Wednesday he will appeal the part of the rulingoverturning the Jan. 29 ballot issue.

"Every legislative session, they could wreak havoc on our budget," County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman said. "It will create a great degree ofuncertainty and difficulty in developing a budget. They could go back andkeep reducing us without amending the constitution."

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State Farm to cut Florida home insurance rates by 9 percent, pay rebates

Average drop is 9 percent; refunds also to be paid
By Kathy Bushouse
October 3, 2007

State Farm bowed to pressure from Florida officials by agreeing Tuesday tocut customers' home insurance prices. The agreement also says State Farmcan't drop a homeowner policy because someone doesn't buy automobile or lifeinsurance from them.

The state Office of Insurance Regulation launched an investigation intoFlorida's largest private property and auto insurer recently after thecompany made a series of moves, including plans proposed this summer to dropproperty policies of 50,000 customers who live within two miles of thebeach.

The agreement calls for State Farm Florida to trim property insurance ratesby 2 percent, saving policyholders $23 million on top of another recent7-percent price cut. The insurer also must return millions the insurerovercharged customers.

With the state sending a strong message to State Farm, other companies aretaking notice.

Though the state insurance department has the power to issue subpoenas toinvestigate companies, "the systematic use of subpoenas that the governorseems to be directing is unusual," said William Stander, assistant vicepresident and regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurers Associationof America, an insurance trade group.

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State panelist seeks job of interim Broward sheriff

Posted on Wed, Oct. 03, 2007

A member of the Florida Commission on Human Relations who has tried tohelped the Broward County judiciary improve diversity awareness has appliedfor the post of interim Broward sheriff.

Shahrukh Dhanji is the most recent of 13 applicants seeking to fill thesheriff's job until the November 2008 election. Gov. Charlie Crist has notindicated when he will appoint an interim sheriff.

Dhanji is a consultant who makes real estate investments and previouslyserved in the U.S Naval Reserve. The 40-year-old Coconut Creek resident is aDemocrat.

''I am able to bridge the two different political parties,'' Dhanji said.``I think I am a consensus builder.''

Crist appointed Maj. Al Lamberti as acting sheriff in September after KenJenne resigned. Jenne pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion.

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Bill to ban gay bias stalls

Posted on Wed, Oct. 03, 2007

Legislation to criminalize workplace discrimination against gays, lesbiansand bisexuals -- but not cross-dressers or people who have had sex-changesurgery -- has stalled in the House of Representatives after an impassionedoutcry against excluding anyone from the bill.

''We are one community, and we demand protections for all of us, and nothingelse will suffice,'' said Matt Foreman, executive director of the NationalGay and Lesbian Task Force.

House Democrats said while they have the votes to pass a bill banningworkplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, they do nothave the votes if so-called transgender people are included.

''There is more resistance to protection for people who are transgender thanfor people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual,'' Democratic Rep. Barney Franksaid in a statement. ``This is not a good fact, but ignoring bad facts is abad way to get legislation passed.''

Frank said having the votes to pass a bill banning discrimination againstgays, lesbians and bisexuals is historic. Republicans had not permittedvotes on similar measures while they controlled the House in past years.

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