Thursday, December 06, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 5, 2007

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Ethics ordinance gets initial approval in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale law would cut influence

By Brittany Wallman
December 5, 2007


A law providing broad ethics reform for public officials in this citycleared an initial vote Tuesday and is headed toward final approval by theCity Commission.

If the ordinance is approved on Dec. 18, the mayor and city commissionerswould not be able to "knowingly solicit or accept any donation for any thirdparty from any person or entity that is doing business with the city."

Though city commissioners admitted they have engaged in these activities foryears, they voted 4-1 in support of the proposal.

The measure is one of a string of ethical reforms the City Commission haspassed in recent years, mostly aimed at reducing undue influence on thepolitical process by people who stand to gain financially fromcommissioners' vote.

The forbidden crowd of donors in the new law is sweeping, including anyonewho is "the subject of any foreseeable action or decision by the CityCommission," such as a property owner seeking City Commission approval for aland rezoning.

more . . . . .


Broward condom distribution campaign over

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

The Broward County Health Department is near the end of its effort to giveaway 250,000 condoms along with information about HIV prevention. Theyearlong ''Take Me, I am Free'' campaign was created to establish a networkof venues in the gay community where condoms are given away and to reducethe number of HIV infections in men who have sex with men in Broward. Whenthe effort began, only a few businesses offered distributed free HealthDepartment condoms. Health officials are ending the campaign with ads inlocal gay publications that read ''Tis the Season to Wrap it Up.'' Althoughthis push is near its end, the department said there will be new preventionand education messages in the future.

For more information call Daniel Lares at 954-467-4956 or Manny Rodriguez at954-467-4796.


Bulletin from The Innocence Project:


Innocence Project client Chad Heins walked out of a Florida jail thisafternoon, a free man for the first time since he was 20 years old.

New DNA evidence proves that another man committed the murder for whichHeins was incarcerated for 13 years. Today, Heins' long wait forjustice came to an end and he became the 209th person nationwide - andthe ninth in Florida - to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

Heins was convicted in 1996 of killing his sister-in-law, Tina. Healways said he had nothing to do with the crime and was convicteddespite DNA tests at his trial showing that hairs in the victim's bedcame from an unknown man. New DNA tests now show that the same unknownman also left other biological evidence at the scene.

FADP note:

Read more about this case and all 9 of Florida's DNA exonerations:

Chad Heins was originally sentenced to life in prison. He served 13years. Florida prisoners average 12 years on Death Row before they arekilled. Had Heins been sentenced to Death, he may well have beenexecuted by now. This was a DNA exoneration. At least 22 prisonershave been exonerated off Florida's Death Row due to this and otherevidence of wrongful conviction...far more than any other state. Howmany more?

Read about Florida's exonerated Death Row prisoners:



Dolphins Holiday Party

"Celebrating Life"
Honoring The Lives Of Gary Steinsmith and Bob Williamson

Wednesday, December 12
7:30-9:30 p.m.
Wilton Station Clubhouse
26th. St., Wilton Manors

We will be partnering with the GLCC on their annual toy drive. Please bringan unwrapped toy.
Requested Donation: $15

If you know of other members of our community that we have lost in the past year, please contact us by email or phone number above so that we mayinclude them in our "Celebrating Life"


Floridians! They've hit their mark.

Supporters of the "marriage protection" amendment have announced they'vereached their goal of 611,009 signatures that will allow their vague anddangerous amendment language to be placed on the November 2008 ballot.

And even though we knew it was coming, it means the campaign starts now.

Now we need you more than ever.

More than 611,000 Floridians have allowed the amendment sponsors to pushtheir intrusive and exclusionary views on the rest of us, and now we mustrespond.

We've said all along this fight would be long and expensive.

Won't you help us counter those 611,000 petition signers by sponsoring Redand Blue's campaign for $61.10?

Making a $61.10 donation today is a powerful response that will let thesupporters of "marriage protection" know we're ready to fight them everystep of the way - vote for vote, signature for signature and dollar fordollar.

While our campaign is growing, it's clear our opponents are moving forwardtoo.


That small amount will let us continue the outreach you've seen around thestate. It will help us tell our story to another voter, place another storyin your local paper, and continue the ground-breaking research that isguiding our campaign.

We understand -- it's the holiday season, the end of another year, and onemore request for funds. But there's so much at stake, and the moresuccessful we are now, the more successful we'll all be at the ballot boxnext year.

Won't you help?

To make your contribution of $61.10 click HERE.

To contribute another amount, click HERE.

They've hit their mark. To win, we need to hit ours. Thank you in advance.

- The Florida Red & Blue Team


The New York Times

Fund Crisis in Florida Worrisome to States

December 5, 2007

Top Florida officials moved yesterday to stabilize an investment pool forlocal governments after a multibillion-dollar run prompted the state totemporarily suspend withdrawals by cities and school districts.

Local governments, which have been unable to remove any money from the fundsince Nov. 29, will be allowed to start making limited withdrawals as earlyas tomorrow, officials said. The turmoil has left some towns and schooldistricts unable to meet payrolls or pay bills and has raised concerns aboutsimilar funds across the country.

Florida's governments in recent weeks have withdrawn billions of dollarsfrom the fund because of concern over investments linked to subprimemortgages. It is unclear what losses the fund may sustain.

But the sudden flight from the fund, which came despite its relatively smallexposure to subprime-related debt, points to a broader uncertainty amongofficials in other states over how far the credit and mortgage crisis mightspread.

At a meeting in Tallahassee yesterday, Gov. Charlie Crist and members of hiscabinet voted to quarantine $2 billion of worrisome investments in aseparate fund. Local governments will be allowed to withdraw about 13percent of their assets, or as much as $2 million, from the remaining $12billion fund.

more . . . . .


Palm Beach Post

Hastings to quit intelligence panel

Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings announced Tuesday he plans to resignfrom the House Intelligence Committee, but left the door open to serving onthe select panel again in the future.

A few hours after his decision was announced, his office noted that HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi had urged the congressman to remain on the panel untilCongress completes work on the intelligence authorization bill - either thisweek or next.

Hastings, D-Miramar, said in a statement that he plans to devote more timeto work as chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, as a senior member ofthe House Rules Committee, and as co-chairman of Florida's congressionaldelegation.

But his decision may be based primarily on the peculiar rules governingmembership on the Intelligence Committee. Under those rules, a House membermay serve for no more than eight years in a 12-year period. The rule saysany service of less than a full year does not count.

Hastings first joined the panel in 1999, left in 2002, and returned in 2003.By resigning this month, he will have served for six of the eight yearsallowed. If he waited until January, he would be able to serve only nextyear.

David Goldenberg, Hastings' chief of staff, said the congressman did not askfor, and was not given, any promise from Pelosi's office that he would bereappointed.


Miami Herald

Port Everglades expansion approved

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

Port Everglades scored a cruising coup Tuesday with a deal making it thehome of Royal Caribbean's two Genesis megaships, which will be the world'slargest.

And the port's 20-year, $2 billion expansion plan moved a big step forward,gaining Broward County Commission approval.

Port Everglades bragged that the Genesis deal will make it the world's topcruise port within five years. Royal Caribbean's Genesis ships, expected tobe completed in fall 2009 and 2010, will nearly quadruple the cruise line'spassengers at the port.

The Port of Miami -- currently the No. 1 cruise port -- also had wanted thebusiness and vied for the ships.

But the Miami port does not have the space for the Genesis ships and Royal Caribbean's two Freedom ships now based there -- currently the Miami cruiseline's largest. The port would have lost money because the two Freedom shipscombined carry more passengers than one Genesis, said Port of Miami DirectorBill Johnson.

more . . . . .


Miami Herald

Graduation rates: little to celebrate

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

New statistics are out on high school graduation rates in Florida, and thegovernor and his education commissioner are ecstatic. ''Exceptionalprogress,'' exults the governor, who once was the education commissioner.Florida is ''on the right track in its education efforts,'' says currentEducation Commissioner Jeanine Blomberg.

I say they're both living in La-La Land. Somewhere over an illusory rainbow.A place that has no connection to the state's ''dropout factories,'' as areport from Johns Hopkins University recently called 51 percent of Florida'shigh schools.

Even the state's own stats are pretty dismal. Overall, 4.7 percent of blackkids and 3.9 percent of Hispanics are dropping out before graduation. Afterseveral years of declining drop-out rates in Broward high schools (down to 1percent in 2002-03), according to the state Department of Education, therate shot back up to 3.2 percent this year. In Miami-Dade, naturally, thesituation's much worse: A 5.8 percent drop-out rate for 2006-07.

But back to graduation rates. There, the ''good news'' that the governor'scrowing about is that 72 percent of Florida high school students aregraduating in four years. Accepting the state's figures, we're supposed tobe pleased that roughly one-fourth of Florida high school students aren'tgetting diplomas. And even fewer in South Florida. In Broward, the DOE says66 percent of high school students are graduating, and in Miami-Dade just 64percent get diplomas. Yes, you read those figures correctly. About one outof every three students fails to graduate from high school in our area. Orput it this way: Out of every 100 high school students in Miami-Dade, about36 are not getting their degrees in four years.

Now, that's something to celebrate, isn't it? Depressingly but notsurprisingly, I haven't heard one South Florida mayor, commissioner orprominent educator deplore these woeful statistics. But then, what wouldthey say? ''They're doing the best they can''? ''What do you expect''? Nope,nothing but silence. These dreadful figures seemed to evaporate into theether, disappear into the slough of despond.

more . . . . .


Palm Beach Post

As water outlook worsens, officials urge conservation

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

WEST PALM BEACH - South Florida uses more water per person than any otherregion of the state - 179 gallons a day - and the state will need 20 billiongallons of water per day more by 2025.

Meanwhile, last month was the fifth-driest November on record in SouthFlorida, with an average of a half-inch of rain and the forecast is for adrier than normal dry season.

Nevertheless, said South Florida Water Management District ExecutiveDirector Carol Wehle, "We're well ahead of the curve in water shortagemanagement."

Those were some of the nuggets of information gleaned from the second ofthree water conservation summits organized by the South Florida WaterManagement District.

More than 130 water utility officials, developers, farmers, nurserymen andgovernment agencies jammed the water district auditorium to standing roomonly Tuesday to trade ideas on saving water in the daylong forum.

more . . . . .


Florida Today

Our view: Don't cut protection

December 5, 2007

State wildlife commission today should keep manatees' endangered status

If you care about the fate of Florida's manatee, today is crucial.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet in Key Largoand decide whether to reduce the sea cow's status from endangered to theless serious threatened.

That move could eventually weaken protections for the mammal -- many ofwhich live in the Space Coast waters of the Indian River Lagoon -- and pushthem closer to the point of no return.

The commission -- which is stacked with pro-development members -- waspoised to take the action a few months ago based on counts showing thenumber of manatees rising. But Gov. Charlie Crist rightly stepped in, askingfor a delay and questioning the accuracy of the counting method.

We share those concerns, along with others the commission is not takingstrongly enough into consideration.

more . . . . .


Miami Herald

Broward's Judge Alemán defends herself for 5 hours

Posted on Wed, Dec. 05, 2007

When asked to describe Broward Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Alemán'sreputation on the county bench, assistant public defender Bruce Raticoff wasblunt.

''The word was she was cold-hearted and that she was going to kill myclient,'' said Raticoff, the first witness to testify Tuesday before ahearing panel that is reviewing misconduct charges against Alemán.

Raticoff, one of several attorneys who has accused the jurist of improperconduct, was referring to a 2006 murder case for which the defendant wasfacing the death penalty.

Alemán'scase is before the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Thejudge is accused of several violations, including that she unfairly held, orthreatened to hold, lawyers in contempt of court.

Raticoff's testimony at the trial-like administrative proceedings followednearly five hours of testimony by Alemán herself, who was questioned abouther frosty disposition, and about incidents in which she ripped up anattorney's written motion from the bench, and a failure to recuse herself.

more . . . . .


Palm Beach Post

How much for 13 years?

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Add another name to the list of those whom Florida owes compensation forwrongful incarceration.

On Tuesday, after 13 years, Chad Heins became a free man again. Mr. Heinshad been sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of hissister-in-law, Tina Heins. She shared a Jacksonville apartment with Mr.Heins and his brother, Tina's husband, Jeremy, who was away on active dutyin the Navy. Ms. Heins' body, stabbed 26 times, was found in her bedroom.

Mr. Heins, who had been out drinking that night, claimed to have been asleepon the living room sofa. Jurors doubted his story enough to overlook thelack of physical evidence. In 2001, Mr. Heins contacted The InnocenceProject, which dispatched its lawyers and had help from two private lawyersin Jacksonville who worked the case pro bono.

Results from DNA tests consistently excluded Mr. Heins. A bloody fingerprintat a faucet where the killer tried to clean up did not match that of anyoneliving in the apartment. On Tuesday, Duval County State Attorney HarryShorstein dismissed all charges.

Jeb Bush once said of such an exoneration that the system worked. Obviously,just the opposite is true. The system failed, and the system had to bepersuaded to look again at what the system had ignored. There is no way toadequately compensate Chad Heins, but he deserves more than the satisfactionof knowing that he was right.


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