Thursday, November 15, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST November 15, 2007

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More bad news on AIDS

November 15, 2007

ISSUE: Health officials release new statistics on an old problem.

Call it a new statistic on a sadly familiar story: 1in 22 bisexual and gaymen in Florida have the AIDS virus, an infection rate that dwarfs any othergroup. The rate is even higher in South Florida. Unfortunately, that's nosurprise.

High HIV/AIDS rates are nothing new in South Florida. Gay or straight,black, brown or white - it really doesn't matter. The persistent presence ofthe AIDS virus gives this region an unwanted distinction as one of thenation's epicenters for the disease.

Credit the Florida Department of Health with crunching the numbers in areport that is the first of its type to try to quantify the impact of thedisease on gay men. The estimates paint a particularly disturbing trend inthe black community statewide, where the infection rate among black bisexualand gay men is a startling 1in 12 rate.

Some AIDS activists already have quibbled with the state's estimates,insisting that the study may have underestimated the amount of HIV/AIDSamong gays. The figures may not be perfect, but they are alarming,nevertheless.

Unfortunately, they also point out a deadly disconnect: not enough gay menpractice safe sex. The excuses are many - whether it's the abuse of partydrugs to the cavalier attitude that new medications have made HIV moremanageable - but they simply don't make sense given the risks associatedwith unprotected sex.

Government grants for education and prevention programs haven't kept pacewith the need for new approaches to spread the word about this deadlydisease. That must change. Still, those efforts won't work unlessindividuals take greater responsibility by either abstaining from sex or byconsciously taking precautions before engaging in the act.

Until then, expect more bad news from an enduring epidemic.

BOTTOM LINE: It'll take a lot more personal responsibility to curb Florida'sAIDS virus rates.


City should not abandon retirement plan

November 15, 2007
By Bruce A. Larkin

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission's recent action closing the GeneralEmployees Retirement System to new employees is the latest example of thecity's steadily eroding human resource management program. It was oncerecognized as a leader whose goal was "to be the best city of its size." Inrecent years, the city seems to have embraced "we're no worse than anyoneelse" as its vision.

Sadly, the general employee unions were complicit in this decision, givingup their most valuable employee benefit for what in relative terms is"pennies on the dollar"- slightly higher wage increases over the 3-yearcontract.

The defined benefit retirement system will be replaced for new employeeswith a defined contribution plan. A DC plan (e.g. a 401 plan) provides anindividual investment account for each employee. Interestingly the federalgovernment never intended 401 plans to replace pensions but rather viewedthem as supplemental, tax-incentive thrift plans. In the case of the city,new hires will not only be denied participation in the DB pension plan, theywill no longer receive death or long-term disability benefits either. Bothwere part of the DB plan.

In a DB plan, an employee's retirement benefit is determined by a formulabased on years of service and final average salary. In private sector DBplans, which have been steadily declining over the last two decades,employees typically do not contribute, just the employer. That is not truein the public sector; Fort Lauderdale general employees contribute 6 percentof their salary into the DB plan.

That money, along with the city's contribution, goes into a trust fundmanaged by a board of trustees. The trustees invest those funds, whichcurrently exceed $350 million. For the year ended Sept. 30, the trust'sinvestment return was 16.6 percent, better than 81 percent of public pensionfunds nationally. So, if the DB plan has done so well, why did thecommission eliminate it? The commissioners complain the DB is too costly.For example, when the stock market went down in 2001 and 2002, the city'scontribution went up. Those higher costs might have been more manageable hadthe city commission created reserves for such an eventuality from savingsrealized during exceptional investment years when city DB contributionsdeclined as a percent of payroll. Of course they did not. They freely spentthose windfalls and existing reserves.

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Palm Beach County School Board approves charter high school for studentswith autism
Board also votes to lead challenge against state approvals

By Rhonda J. Miller
November 15, 2007


The Palm Beach County School Board approved a charter high school forstudents with autism to open in 2009-10, but denied four other charterapplications at its meeting Wednesday at Rosenwald Elementary.

The School Board also voted to be the lead district in the legal challengeby the Florida School Boards Association to oppose the existence of theFlorida Schools of Excellence Commission, an appointed state-level boardgiven the shared right to approve and monitor charter schools. Districtsopposing the commission argue that the state constitution gives local,elected school boards control of charters within their borders.

Two proposed county charter schools, Dots Success Academy and Life SkillsPalm Springs Inc., have applied to the Schools of Excellence Commission,commission Executive Director Rudy Rodriguez said.

The proposed legal action also aims to wrestle back school districts'exclusive authority to approve charter schools within their boundaries. Thestate Department of Education denied that right to 35 school districts inthe past two months, approving only Polk, Sarasota and Orange counties tohave such authority.

"We're the only district that's been designated by the state as an Adistrict for three consecutive years," School Board Chairman Bill Grahamsaid. "If we were denied, what higher qualification would you have to have?"

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Special 'Phych' jails planned

Posted on Thu, Nov. 15, 2007

Crammed four strong, men at the Miami-Dade Jail stare out of plexiglasscells that are the size of a bathroom. The cells are lighted 24 hours a dayfor security. They shiver in the chilly, Clorox-stung air, wearingjail-issue robes - patterned after X-ray vests - that barely cover theirnude bodies. On the ninth floor - a mental hospital with bars - mattresses,bed sheets and underwear can be suicide tools.

The men sleep on metal bunks, are given food through a bolted slot and arelet out of their cells twice a week to be sprayed with a hose attached to aconcrete wall.

"It's really unbelievable, a gulag, " said Judge Steven Leifman, associate administrative judge of the Miami-Dade County Court who runs the county'smental health project.

But South Florida, long a bellwether for the nation's social ills, now ispoised to become a trend-setter for what many consider a significant socialservice reform: leaders in both Miami-Dade and Broward are designing whatcould be among the first county jails ever to be built specifically forinmates with chronic and severe mental illness.

For decades, Miami has warehoused some 1,200 mentally ill inmates at itsjail each day. Broward's jail dispensed psychiatric drugs to an average of1,211 inmates each day last year, nearly one-fifth the jail's population.The jails are, in essence, the state's largest asylums.

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Familiar faces and toil await Jenne in prison

Posted on Thu, Nov. 15, 2007

Soon after his sentencing in federal court on Friday, convicted ex-BrowardSheriff Ken Jenne will probably be assigned to a minimum-security prison inFlorida.

He will have to put in a 40-hour workweek doing laundry, cleanup or foodpreparation at far below minimum wage -- 12 to 40 cents an hour. He will getthree square meals a day and be able to work out and play on a prisonsoftball team.

But Jenne, 60, a lawyer who once reigned as political king of Broward Countyand lived a comfortable suburban life, is about to enter a world whereeveryone is treated the same for breaking the law.

''Because he is former law enforcement, they will have some kind of notationin his file,'' said Felicia Ponce, spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau ofPrisons. ``But because you're law enforcement doesn't mean you get specialprivileges.''

In September, Jenne agreed to plead guilty to mail-fraud conspiracy andtax-evasion charges stemming from his outside business activities whileserving as Broward sheriff for almost a decade. He could be sent to prisonfor 18 to 24 months under federal sentencing guidelines cited in his pleaagreement.

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Drug Labs Busted In Family Neighborhoods
Operation Drug Lab Busters Discovers Numerous Labs

POSTED: 7:01 am EST November 15, 2007

MIAMI -- A command post set up at the Snapper Creek Service Plaza on theFlorida Turnpike was home base for a drug takedown operation dubbed"Operation Drug Lab Busters."

The operations, which focused on west and southwest Miami Dade, nabbed 1,200pounds of marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine and a bevy of firearmsincluding an AK- 47.

"What we think is really significant is that so many labs are up andoperating," said Director Robert Parker of the Miami-Dade police department.

But just as significant, according to Parker, is that so many of these labsare operating in what he called quiet family communities.

He said it is the number of laboratories taken down in Wednesday's operationthat was so astonishing.

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32nd Broward County Fair brings games, rides, color

By Jose de Wit
November 15, 2007


Just a week ago, the grounds were bare around Fort Lauderdale Stadium.Today, those grounds are tightly packed with hulking steel amusement rides,bright stuffed animals exploding out of carnival booths and colored signshawking all varieties of fried foods.

At 5 p.m. today, the Broward County Fair will open for its 32nd year ofFerris wheels, funnel cakes and 4-H exhibits. It runs through Nov. 25 and isexpected to draw about 250,000 people.

Accommodating that crowd amounts to building a small city, and it takesabout two days.

Vendors and ride operators started streaming into town early in the week, asteady march of trucks, trailers and RVs. But before they could unpack asingle screw from any of the fair's 100-plus rides, games and food stands,they had to wait until Joseph Gargano got the lay of the land.

Gargano is responsible for the fair's layout, and he has it down to ascience.

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Stranahan House loses key appeal on planned condo tower

By Brittany Wallman
November 15, 2007


Still riding high after a favorable court ruling two weeks ago, StranahanHouse advocates were knocked back to earth Wednesday when the same appealscourt torpedoed a key part of their case against a proposed condo tower nextdoor.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach ruled Wednesday thatthere had been no "miscarriage of justice" in Broward Circuit Court whenJudge Robert Lance Andrews rejected two Stranahan House challenges to theproposed Icon high-rise.

The ruling moved the city, the Stranahan House and the hopeful developers ofIcon one step closer to resolving a construction conflict that's spannednine years.

Stranahan House had appealed the City Commission's 2004 legal settlementthat would allow the tower to rise on the old Hyde Park Market site, as wellas the City Commission's subsequent site plan approval of Icon.

Both appeals by Stranahan House and Friends of the Park at Stranahan Housewere denied by Andrews, and the higher court agreed.

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Lavender Writes and Tuesday's Angels Present:
A World AIDS Day Reading
An Open Mic Event for People Whose Lives Have Been Impacted by AIDS

Saturday, December 1, 8 p.m.
Borders Books and Music
2240 E. Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

In Honor of World AIDS Day, Lavender Writes and Tuesday's Angels are hostingan Open Mic Reading to highlight the writing of people with HIV/AIDS andothers whose lives have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. All people are welcometo share their fiction, poetry or prose at this free event. Lavender WritesPresident Mauro Montoya will MC. The event will be held at Borders Booksand Music, 2240 E. Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday,December 1 at 8 p.m.

2007 is the 20th Year of World AIDS Day, an international campaign to raiseawareness on issues pertaining to HIV and AIDS. In the Lavender Writestradition, we expect themes and tones of the readings to span the spectrumfrom thoughtful to angry to humorous to heart-warming to sarcastic. Allwriters, published and unpublished, are invited to read their work. Writersshould sign-up at Audience members can just showup. Writers and audience members gather in the Borders Cafe after thereading for coffee, snacks and conversation.

This event is part of The Next Generation, a series of free fiction writingworkshops and public readings for gay and lesbian writers. Non-gay writersand readers are also welcome to participate. The Next Generation is acollaborative project of Lavender Writes, the Broward County LibrariesDivision, Borders Books and Music and author Karen Dale Wolman. Funding forthis program is provided in part by the Broward County Board of CountyCommissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council. LavenderWrites, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, provides service andsupport to lesbian and gay writers by sponsoring writing workshops,developing public forums for writers to present their work and offeringassistance with publication. Joining us in presenting this World AIDS Dayevent is Tuesday's Angels, which provides emergency financial assistance toneedy clients who qualify with HIV/AIDS in Broward County.


Forwarded from GLCCSF - Ft. Lauderdale

Go to the website, above, for the following articles:

Galleria Mall - Men of Style - Ft. Lauderdale - You're invited to attend a'four-for-one' fundraiser! You got it - eat, drink, shop and recognize five'Men of Style' at the Galleria Mall, next Thursday night, Nov. 29, from6:00-9:00PM. This great shopping event (with special offers!) is sponsoredby 25 participating retailers benefiting the GLCC and four other charities.It all begins at the registration area at the mall entrance of Macy's. Treatyourself to a night of food, drink and loads of fun - 'eye' candy andstylish makeovers! Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the event. For moredetails and ticket sales call 954-564-1036 or visit The Galleria's GuestServices Desk.


We've got it all from A to Z! Bric-a- Brac, Nick-Knacks for Adam andZachary-- and Alicia and Zelda! From Antiques to Pet Adoptions-from Trash tore-created Treasures, this gigantic Flea Market will be held at the GLCCindoors and out, next Saturday, Dec 1, from 8:00AM-2:00PM This is theholiday shopping event of the year!... Sorry, vendor spaces are sold out.

A Special Holiday Market will be held at the GLCC-- indoors and out-- onDecember 15th. Here's your chance to find that last minute treasure for thatspecial one or two or crowd on your list! Vendor spaces are still availableand must be paid for in advance - call the GLCC and ask for Nicole or Janetfor more information (954-463-9005).

The GLCC will once again host a community potluck on Thanksgiving Day,Thursday - November 22, 2007. The event is free and open to the community.Guests may bring a potluck dish but it is not mandatory. Once again thisyear, we have been very fortunate to receive covered dishes donated by theChurch of the Holy SpiritSong (COHSS) that include: turkey, cranberry sauce,rolls, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and veggies. The Holiday Meal willbe served from 12 noon to 2:00 pm.

The GLCC will launch its 2007 TOY DRIVE on Thanksgiving Day and will startcollecting NEW UNWRAPPED toys through Christmas Week. Please shop for thechildren, and feel free to drop off a toy anytime Monday through Friday10am-10pm or Saturday and Sunday 12pm-5pm. "Your gifts will go to needychildren throughout Broward County," commented Robert Boo, GLCC DevelopmentDirector. "We appreciate your support of this wonderful cause, as some of usmay not be blessed with children ourselves, but we can still help those inneed."


Arts United - Ft. Lauderdale

We are accepting submissions for a photography exhibit for December at theStonewall Library and Archives. Please read the attached application fordetails. In order to judge the number of submissions, it would be helpful ifyou could drop me a note indicating you will be submitting work for thisshow.

Chuck Williams
ArtsUnited, Inc.


Tallahassee Democrat

Sink proposes climate initiatives
CFO pushes for 'strong clean-energy market'

By Bruce Ritchie
Article published Nov 15, 2007

State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced Wednesday new financialinitiatives that she says will help Florida financially prepare for thethreat of climate change.

Following the final in a series of three Cabinet workshops on climate changethis year, Sink said she is directing state treasury investment managers toassess their ability to disclose financial risk from climate change. Shealso will explore the creation of a "clean-energy fund" for the state.

"We are the Sunshine State - we ought to be a national leader in renewable,clean energy," Sink said. "We should have a strong clean-energy markethere."

The Cabinet workshop included remarks by Agriculture Commissioner CharlesBronson that Florida's drought is expected to worsen next year, causing somefarmers to skip planting crops. Attorney General Bill McCollum said heremains skeptical about the climate-change debate.

The Cabinet heard Wednesday from speakers on financial aspects of climatechange. Gov. Charlie Crist in July issued executive orders requiring thestate to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in five years and by 40percent by 2025.

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Palm Beach Post

Crist approves gaming deal between state, Seminoles

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist signed an agreement with the Seminole Tribeof Florida today allowing the Indians to conduct Las Vegas-style slotmachine gambling and card games, including blackjack, at the tribe's sevencasinos.

The deal, called a "compact" under federal law, ends 16 years of failedattempts by the tribe to expand the their state gambling efforts, thwartedin the past by Democratic and Republican governors alike.

Crist, who said on the campaign trail that he was opposed to an expansion ofgambling, said he agreed to the compact because federal officials would haveallowed the tribe to install the slots anyway, with no benefit to the state.

"I believe it would be irresponsible to allow that to happen, to allow thepeople of Florida to not share in possibly billions of dollars of revenueover time. That is a gamble I am not willing to take," Crist said beforesigning the compact along with Seminole Tribal Chairman Mitchell Cypress.

Instead, the tribe will pay the state $50 million up front and at least $100million a year in exchange for limitations on other types of gamblingelsewhere in the state.

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St. Petersburg Times

Tribe strikes deal to expand gaming
But the Legislature and others oppose the governor's arrangement.

Published November 15, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Calling it a "very historic day for Florida," Gov. CharlieCrist agreed Wednesday to let the Seminole Tribe of Florida operate casinocard games now banned in the state and slot machines at seven sites,including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.

The 25-year deal gives the tribe exclusive rights statewide to offer gamessuch as blackjack and baccarat and the only Las Vegas-style slots outside ofSouth Florida. In return, the state will receive a cut of at least$100-million in the first year with the chance to make much more as thetribe's casino business grows.

The agreement was announced on a day when state experts predicted a dire$1.4-billion shortfall in 2008, the second straight year of billion-dollardeficits. It also came on the eve of a deadline set by the U.S. InteriorDepartment for the state and tribe to wrap up a deal.

Federal officials threatened to unilaterally allow expanded gambling onSeminole reservations unless the two sides signed an agreement, called acompact, today. If that happened, Crist said, the state would get no moneyand have no regulatory control over the casinos.

"I believe it would be irresponsible to allow that to happen," he said at anews conference in the Capitol. "That is a gamble I am not willing to take."

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St. Petersburg Times

A history of tribal gaming

By ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007

1979: Seminoles' first bingo hall opens in Hollywood.

1981: 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upholds Seminole Tribe'sright to operate high-stakes bingo.
1982: Tampa bingo hall opens.

1996: Seminole Tribe takes the state of Florida to the U.S. Supreme Courtover the right to sue to win expanding gambling rights. The court says thetribe cannot sue the state.

2002: Tribe breaks ground on $300-million Hard Rock hotel-casinos inHollywood and Tampa.

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Daytona Beach News Journal

Panel: Mental health, justice systems need to coordinate

Staff Writer
November 15, 2007

DAYTONA BEACH -- With the reduction of state psychiatric hospitals and thefunding cuts that followed, Florida's jails and prisons increasingly havebecome the first place some patients are treated for hallucinations, voices,and other demons of the brain.

The state needs to change that by identifying and treating people withmental illness before they fall into medical crisis or get in trouble withthe law, officials said Wednesday.

A report released by a state committee highlighted problems resulting invery expensive and often less-than-effective treatment in crowded jails. Italso said inadequate medical help adds to chronic homelessness and danger onthe streets.

Ciara-Paige Green, 19, of New Smyrna Beach remains at the Volusia CountyBranch Jail, where she is completing a 180-day sentence in spite of herdiagnosis of bipolar and schizoid-affective disorders. She was sentencedearlier this year after striking a deputy at a local hospital.

"Jail is no place for the mentally ill," her attorney, Assistant PublicDefender Jay Crocker, said. "Unfortunately, we seem to be putting them injail more and more frequently."

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Miami Herald

System fails mentally ill inmates, families

Posted on Thu, Nov. 15, 2007

This story was originally published on Dec. 3, 2006.

When Enrique Cordero was arrested, he was healthy enough to work, his sistersays. But after a year on the Miami-Dade County jail's wing for the mentallyill, the voices in his head had reached such a frenzied pitch, he couldn'teven sit quietly in a courtroom as lawyers argued over his future.

"Every time I imagine what's happening to him, I leave crying. I don'tunderstand why they've destroyed him like this, " she said, asking that hername not be used because she doesn't want their mother in Havana to find outhow bad things really are.

Minnie Atwell, of Fort Lauderdale, understands her pain. She has watched herson, Benjamin Franklin Jones, deteriorate emotionally while waiting monthsfor treatment in the same jail's mental health wing.

"It's like your worst nightmare, " she said, adding that she felt like herson was treated like "somebody that don't even count."

Everyone involved agrees, Cordero, Jones and hundreds of other mentally illinmates around the state can't get the care they need - and areconstitutionally entitled to - in county jails. Miami-Dade Department ofCorrections spokeswoman Janelle Hall said she could not comment onconditions on the county jail's ninth floor because of the pendinglitigation.

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Florida Today

Florida attorney general appeals Schwab's execution stay

November 14, 2007

The state's Attorney General's Office is appealing a decision made earliertoday by a federal judge from the U.S. District Court in Orlando issuing astay of execution for convicted child killer Mark Dean Schwab.

In granting the stay, Judge Anne C. Conway said Schwab's execution should bestayed "for a relatively short time until the Supreme Court renders itsdecision."

Conway was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has issued stays inthree different states, as it considers a Kentucky case challenging whetherlethal injections constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Schwab, 38, was convicted in 1991 of raping, torturing and killing11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez of Cocoa.

A spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said the state isin the process of asking the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlantato set aside the stay of execution ordered by Conway.

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