Sunday, December 30, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 30, 2007

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Miami Herald

Boot-camp coroner is out

Posted on Sun, Dec. 30, 2007

A state panel voted unanimously not to keep embattled medical examinerCharles Siebert on the job Saturday, even though he was the only one toapply for the post.

Siebert was the medical examiner who conducted the disputed autopsy on ateenager who died after an altercation with guards at a juvenile boot camplast year.

The state Medical Examiners Commission voted unanimously during a telephonemeeting Saturday against recommending that Siebert continue in the job, saidJoe Grammer, a spokesman for State Attorney Steve Meadows.

Since Siebert was the only candidate, and left his job as interim medicalexaminer Friday night, it leaves a six-county area in the Panhandle withouta medical examiner.

Siebert held the job for four years before the state commission voted toremove him in June. After the removal vote, he was granted an interimappointment and was told he would be considered for the position if hereapplied. Siebert was the lone applicant under consideration.

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Housing price downturn should make economy a "hot-button" issue next year

December 30, 2007

ISSUE: Survey says housing prices plummet.

Yes, things in South Florida's housing market really are that bad.

A survey of 20 U.S. metropolitan markets ranked South Florida at the top forthe sharpest drop in home prices. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller indexreported last week a 12.4 percent plummet in the tri-county area's homeprices in October in comparison to the same month in 2006.

On top of that, Florida, as a state, also ranked poorly in anotherdemographic study released this week. In a Census Bureau estimate, theSunshine State dropped 10 spots to 19th in population growth. The rate ofstatewide growth slipped from 1.8 percent in to 1.1 percent in the year thatended last July 1.

This is bad news for a state economy that relies on growth and development.There are probably a multitude of factors involved, but it doesn't take muchscience to point the finger at two: the inequity in property taxes and theongoing woes in the property insurance market.

That one-two punch has leveled Florida's housing market, and it's taking abigger and bigger bite out of economic growth. Unfortunately, findingsolutions has proven difficult.

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Miami Herald

Debate hall booked; will Democrats show?

Article published Dec 30, 2007

Florida Democrats are still guessing who is coming to their presidentialdebate scheduled for Jan. 27 at Florida Atlantic University.

With the South Carolina primary ending the day before, some are suggestingthe FAU debate will give the Democratic contenders an opportunity to breakthe campaigning boycott that began when the national Democrats sought topenalize Florida for moving its presidential primary to Jan. 29.

But at this point, none of the major Democratic candidates have committed tothe FAU debate, said Wendy Abberger, president of Leadership Florida, whichis sponsoring the two-hour debate along with the Florida Press Associationand the Florida Public Broadcasting Service. The debate, along with a Jan.24 debate at FAU for the Republican candidates, will be broadcast by NBC andMSNBC.

Abberger said she does not expect to hear from the Democratic contendersuntil later in January. And she said the debate organizers are prepared togo on with the show even if they only get a day or two of notice from thecandidates.

Meanwhile, an FAU associate professor of history warned that the Democratsmay suffer longer-term political damage in Florida if they shun the debatein Southeast Florida, a three-county region that holds more than 30 percentof the state's registered Democrats.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune

Crist is blazing his own trail of moderation
Governor's model is popular in Florida, but isn't attracting nationalacclaim


TALLAHASSEE -- While the Republican presidential candidates try toout-conservative one another in the dash for primary victories, Gov. CharlieCrist's model of moderation has been largely ignored.

During most of his political campaign and his first year in office, Cristavoided the traditional conservative battles such as gay marriage, abortionand immigration.

While he buttressed his conservative credentials by stiffening penalties onparole violators and vowing to cut taxes, Crist shocked GOP stalwarts byembracing the global warming battle, allowing felons the automatic right tovote once released from prison and praising Democrats for support and ideason property tax and insurance issues.

In an interview assessing his first year as governor, Crist offered thebland response "sure" when asked if he considered himself a "conservativeRepublican." Asked what being "conservative" meant to him, he grew vague.

"I don't know," he said. "It doesn't really matter to me. I'm not reallyabsorbed much by labels others might put on me."

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St. Petersburg Times

Property tax measure is wrong for Florida

A Times Editorial
Published December 30, 2007

Over the next four weeks, Floridians will hear Gov. Charlie Crist, realestate agents and other supporters of the property tax amendment talk abouthow it will help homeowners, revive the housing market and jump-start theslumping economy. Do not be fooled. This state and its residents are facingserious economic challenges in 2008, but the amendment on the Jan. 29 ballotis not the answer.

The amendment would double the $25,000 homestead exemption and allowhomeowners to take up to $500,000 in Save Our Homes benefits with them whenthey move. But state economists this month cut the amount they project theamendment would save taxpayers over five years by 25 percent. The mainreason: Far fewer homeowners are expected to move even with the new taxbreaks. So even though this amendment primarily benefits taxpayers whotheoretically need the least help -- homeowners with homestead exemptionsand Save Our Homes benefits - the changes are not enough to ease the housingcrisis and revive the state economy.

An unfair property tax system undoubtedly contributes to the stalled housingmarket, but other factors may be more significant. Housing prices aroundTampa Bay and elsewhere soared too high too fast, and the median sales priceof a single family home in the last year has dropped 14 percent in Pinellas,18 percent in Pasco and a more modest 5 percent in Hillsborough. Now toomany recent homebuyers find their houses are worth less than theirmortgages -- and many of those mortgages had adjustable rates that arescheduled to rise. The number of foreclosures are setting records. Theproperty tax amendment is not going to help homeowners who bought more housethan they could afford and now can't sell.

First, the housing supply far outstrips demand. As the New York Timesrecently reported on the situation in the Fort Myers area, once one of thefast-growing in the country, more than 19,000 single-family homes and condosare on the market. Investors are leaving behind vacant houses, and buildersare slashing prices and stopping work in developments that aren't finished.But even if prices are falling back to Earth, the subprime mortgage mess hastightened the entire mortgage market. It is much more difficult for many toobtain home loans they once would have easily gotten with few questionsasked.

There are many good reasons to vote against the property tax amendment. Itprovides little help to businesses and owners of second homes or investmentproperties who need the most relief. Instead of creating a fairer propertytax system it adds to the unfairness by allowing Save Our Homes benefits tobe taken to a new home. And even with its projected reduced savings, theamendment still would cut funding for education and local government exactlyas their revenues will be dropping because of other tax reforms and theslumping economy.

But perhaps the most important reason to reject the amendment may be theeasiest one to grasp: It won't solve Florida's real estate problems.
Remember that as the governor and the amendment's other supporters crank uptheir sales pitches after New Year's


Miami Herald

Best brace yourself for politics in 2008

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published December 29, 2007

If you like craziness with your politics, you're probably going to likeFlorida more than ever in 2008.

Round 1 is the property tax vote on Jan. 29. It comes in tandem with theearly-bird presidential primary that Democratic candidates are boycotting.They act as if our 27 crucial electoral votes were some dreaded disease.

As for an election on Jan. 29, when was the last time you voted during SuperBowl Week?

While New Yorkers Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani look toward Florida as afire wall against setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire, the tax vote will pitpopulist Gov. Charlie Crist against a dangerous coalition of firefighters,teachers and others with Democratic Party ties.

A "yes" vote to cut property taxes even a little? You'd think it would be ano-brainer, but tax plan opponents don't have to get a majority of votes todefeat the

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1 comment:

Dave Gardner said...

This is an interesting excerpt from a Sun-Sentinel story above: "The rate of statewide growth slipped from 1.8 percent in to 1.1 percent in the year that ended last July 1. This is bad news for a state economy that relies on growth and development."

There seems to be no concern about or acknowledgement of the fact that this addiction to growth is not sustainable. The solution is not to restore those imprudent growth rates, but to get unhooked!

Dave Gardner
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity