Friday, January 11, 2008

FLORIDA DIGEST January 11, 2008

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Challenger seeks to unseat Snipes as Broward elections chief

By Anthony Man
Political Writer
January 11, 2008

Citing concerns over a lack of community involvement and glitches in someBroward County elections, Democratic activist Adriane Reesey is challengingSupervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes' re-election.

Reesey and Snipes will face off in the Aug. 26 Democratic primary.

"My concern is basic. It's not that I want to vilify my opponent. It's notthat I wish to take a low road and point out all of the issues that havebeen encountered in the office, because we're all aware of those," Reeseysaid.

Instead, she said she wants to concentrate on "the lack of involvement bypeople in the process. It's the bedrock of our democracy. I know that soundscorny."

She said she wants to do something to make people enthusiastic about votingand improve the low level of participation. "The supervisor can inspirepeople," she said.

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Miami Herald

Straight to the point

Posted on Fri, Jan. 11, 2008


The proposal to release nonviolent, immigrant convicts early to send them totheir homeland is a winning proposition. The inmates want their freedom, andthe state wants to save money.

Florida spends about $20,000 a year to lock up an inmate. It's also facing aprison-bed shortage. Immigrant convicts wouldn't be forced to leave.

But if they agree to remain in their homelands, the state would release themand pay the plane fare home -- around $600 in some cases. Otherwise, formost of these felons, the alternative is to serve their full sentence andthen be deported. Similar programs have succeeded in other states. Floridashould follow their lead.


Jack Davis, 11, is one of those bright kids who can make a grown-up ask,''Now why didn't I think of that?'' During a trip to Tennessee, Jack and hisfamily were urged to eat as much as they could of the breakfast buffet, asthey were the last in line before it stopped serving. When Jack asked whythey should eat so much, he was told that the leftovers would be tossed.

This seemed a mighty waste to Jack, who took his civic duties, as taught insocial studies class, seriously. He learned that restaurants are reluctantto give leftover food to homeless centers for fear of liability in case thefood spoils and sickens someone. So at a time when food banks are seeingfewer donations than they've had in years, restaurants are throwing outperfectly good prepared food.

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Express Gay News

Adriane Reesey to run for office
BSO community liaison to seek elections supervisor post

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Adriane Reesey, a community liaison for Broward Sheriff 's office and chairof the Broward County Human Rights Board, has formally applied to run forBroward County Supervisor of Elections.

Reesey, an openly lesbian community leader, opened a campaign financeaccount on Jan. 4. She will face incumbent elections supervisor Brenda C.Snipes in the Aug. 26 primary election. Both candidates are registered asDemocrats.

Snipes, 64, a former high school principal, was appointed to the post in2003 by then Gov. Jeb Bush. She replaced Miriam Oliphant, who was removedfrom office after several snafus and administrative problems.

Reesey, 48, said she intends to run a positive campaign that does not focuson the turbulent past of the county elections office.

"We've had our share of controversy," Reesey said soon after filing herpaperwork. "I want to move forward and restore a sense of civic pride."

After her appointment, Snipes was elected to the post in 2004. She has madecommunity outreach a central part of her mission, leading registrationdrives in high schools and expanding opportunities for voter registration.

The office will likely play a key role in the 2008 elections in Florida, andmuch national attention is expected to focus on South Florida in the wake ofvoting controversies in the 2000 and 2004 elections. In addition, the statewill be closely watched by gay and lesbian voters, as a state constitutionalamendment to ban same-sex marriage will be on the ballot.

Reesey said her familiarity with the various communities in the countyuniquely qualifies her for the office. She said her managerial skills willkeep the elections running "free of glitches."

"We need to bring the community back into the process," Reesey said. "Itruly believe that voting is the bedrock of democracy."

So far no Republicans candidates have filed to run for the office.


Express Gay News

Coliseum shuts down after New Year's bash
But club's DJs and staff take talents to other venues

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Coliseum, a large gay dance club in Fort Lauderdale, has closed. Theclub, which was particularly popular with a younger crowd, shut down afterits New Year's Eve party on Dec. 31. It's the second large gay dance club inSouth Florida to close in the past year. Ozone, a Miami club that was verypopular with gay Latinos, shut down after New Year's Eve 2006. It went outin style drawing large crowds for its last two nights.

Many of Coliseum's staff and DJs will carry on at other venues, according toa posting on Mark's The club's 18-and-over college night iscontinuing at Purgatory, and on Jan. 12, Flash at Steel debuts with a lineupof DJs, divas and stars along with the Coliseum bar staff, according to Mark's

Despite the lost of Coliseum's colossal parties, the South Florida club andbar scene will keep hopping as tourists and snowbirds flock to our area.
Here are a highlights of the week ahead:

Friday, Jan. 11
It's Fetish Friday at South Florida's most popular leather/levi/uniform bar,Ramrod, 1508 NE 4th Ave. in Ft. Lauderdale. This week, men in chaps withjeans will enjoy drink specials. Afterward, head over to Fort Lauderdale'slate-night bar, Torpedo, located at 2829 W. Broward Blvd., just west ofI-95. The doors at Torpedo open at midnight and the action really heats uplater.

Saturday, Jan. 12
Promoters Gary Santis and Hilton Wolman take the party, Flash Saturdays,along with the fabulous Coliseum DJs, divas and staff, to Steel. MannyLehman will be spinning in the booth, and Mizz Cori will be your hostess.Look for performances by Coliseum regulars Erika Norell and T.P. Lords. DJTPROmix will be in the Hip-Hop Lounge.

Sunday, Jan. 13
The Jackhammer may be a fading memory, but the legendary tea dancesfeaturing the nostalgic retro music of Mark Scott continue every week atSteel nightclub, drawing one of the largest crowds in town. There's no waitfor the bathrooms and plenty of free parking at the Powerline Road club.Take advantage of the $12 beer bust special or grab a bite at Steel's BurgerBitch BBQ between 5 and 8 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 14
"L Town" is the weekly ladies night at West Palm Beach's Dolche, located at3097 Forest Hill Blvd. Velvet Lenore is the hostess for a party thatincludes a drag king show and plenty of hot "girl 4 girl" dancers. There areshot specials and lite beer is just $3. Doors open at 10 p.m. There is a $5cover.

Tuesday, Jan. 15
Relax after work at Halo in Miami Beach. Located just off trendy LincolnRoad, Halo's hunky bar staff people serve up exotic martinis and cocktails.Try out some of the tasty treats on the new winter menu, concocted by bothHalo's Miami and DC staffs. The DC men feature raspberry and apple pieflavored martinis, while the Miami staff opted for exotic drinks such as the"Lotus Blossum," "Lycheetini" and "Sin-O-Min."

Wednesday, Jan. 16
Here's one way to get over hump day - head over to Scandals Saloon forkaraoke with Ric and Andy. They crank up the machine at 8 p.m. If your croonis in a groove, you could win a $25 cash prize, along with a $25 bar tab.There will also be a drawing at 11:30 p.m. You might even impress a hotcowboy at South Florida's only country-western club.

Thursday, Jan. 17
You never know who will show up at Lips on a Thursday night. The newrestaurant, which offers the ultimate in drag dining, has played host toperformances by "Bette," "Liza," "Madonna," "Barbra," "Cher "and "Dolly."Drag diva Electra, who has become a South Florida legend thanks to herflawless take on Lucille Ball's "Vitameatavegamin" sketch, is the hostestwith the mostest. Lips is located at 1421 Oakland Park Blvd. in OaklandPark. Reservations are recommended. Call 954-567-0987.


Ft. Lauderdale

Super Bowl Sunday "Tea Cruise!"

Sunday, February 3, 2008 -- 2:30pm on the Musette

Call Peter 954-649-1107

(Note: Super Bowl "kickoff" time is after the cruise and will be shown atGeorgie's Alibi!)


The current issue of HotSpots is online at



Newell gets maximum 5 years in corruption case

By Peter Francheschina
11:23 AM EST, January 11, 2008

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell, emotional andexpressing remorse, was sentenced to five years in prison today for sellinghis office to line his pockets with nearly $500,000 in secret payments andbenefits.

"I am sorry for what I did and I apologize to the people," Newell told thejudge before his sentence was imposed.

The sentencing hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach was the finalchapter in Newell's 15 years as a public servant. Prosecutors portrayed acommissioner who deserved the maximum five years in prison for his brazenpublic corruption.

"This is a crime against the citizenry of Palm Beach County" Assistant U.S.Attorney John Kastranakes said. "He took from them their faith in goodgovernment."

The defense cast Newell as making serious, criminal mistakes during a highlystressful period in a life otherwise made up of good works, a humbled andhumiliated man who deserved a break.

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Brogan helps put severance flap to bed by answering his critics

January 10, 2008

ISSUE: FAU President Frank Brogan answers his critics in the Legislature onseverance flap.

Nine months after controversy erupted over Florida Atlantic University'sinappropriate severance payout to its ousted fundraising chief, schoolPresident Frank Brogan finally put the flap to rest.

How? With some of the openness that could have saved the up-and-cominguniversity from public ridicule and condemnation had it been employed fromthe beginning.

Brogan's answers to a joint legislative committee, to be frank, were notentirely satisfying or illuminating. He reiterated FAU's long-standingstance that forking over two-and-a-half years' worth of pay to sever itsrelationship with a subpar fundraising executive, merely because hethreatened legal action, was "made with the best intentions" for FAU.

Those contentions may fall flat, given the poor reflection the episode hashad on FAU at a time when its winning football program and its hostingduties for the upcoming presidential debate should have taken center stage.

There's no reason to believe Brogan is hiding anything, though. He couldhave truncated the embarrassment for his school had he taken the hot seatearlier. But belated as it was, there's no question hearing the explanationsstraight from him, the man who made the call to overpay Lawrence Davenportand mischaracterize his forced departure as a "resignation," went a long waytoward closing a book on this needlessly ugly chapter.

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Republican Party of Florida says numbers vital in presidential race

By Jim Greer
January 10, 2008

114, 57, 0 and 27.

Just a random sequence of numbers? Hardly. One hundred fourteen, 57, 0 and27 are numbers that could potentially determine the next leader of the freeworld.

The number 114 is the number of delegates the Republican Party of Floridawill ultimately send to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota,representing the fourth largest block of delegates to attend the convention.Before Super Tuesday, when 20 states across the nation hold their primaries,the number 114 represents more delegates than all of the other early statescombined.

The number 57 is next in a series of significant digits. The RepublicanNational Committee penalized Florida by stripping the state of half itsconvention delegates for moving the primary date forward to Jan. 29,bringing us from 114 to 57. The number 57, however, is still substantialenough to place Florida in the top 10 of delegate prizes. Even if thepenalty stands, Florida remains the biggest prize before Super Tuesday.These 57 delegates represent over 40 percent of the 135 total delegates thatwill be awarded by then.

As we have witnessed, moving Florida's primary into January was clearly theright thing for the Florida Legislature to do. This bipartisan initiative,supported by Gov. Charlie Crist, has required the Republican candidates tofocus on Florida like never before. As a result, Florida cities have hostedthree nationally televised, prime-time Republican debates. The candidateshave placed an emphasis on grassroots rallies and campaign events across theSunshine State, and the campaigns have already mobilized Florida volunteersand staff. Florida is now a leader, not a follower, in the nominatingprocess for the Republican candidate for president. After the retailpoliticking required in Iowa and New Hampshire - going door to door, holdingintimate campaign gatherings at coffee shops and church basements - Floridastands as the first truly big state to vote. Geographically massive comparedto Iowa and New Hampshire, a good comparison is this: More than 165,000Florida Republicans have requested absentee ballots, more ballots than werecast in the entire GOP Iowa caucus. Due to its sheer size, Floridanecessitates more than retail politicking - it requires a campaign to have amethodical and energized ground game that can conquer 10 media markets and amessage that resonates with an incredibly diverse population comprisingHispanics, African-Americans, veterans, seniors and military families. Thisvast state compels campaigns to master a complex political strategy thatincorporates "condo commandos," Little Havana and the solid conservativeNorthwest Florida. If a campaign can conquer Florida, its momentum ispotentially unstoppable.

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Economic prospects dim if government officials don't step up to the plate

By David Levin
January 11, 2008

There is a shift in the demographics of South Florida under way.

Welcome to the Third World, a place with "haves" and "have nots." Our middleclass is leaving, forced out because those of us who work for a living andtry to live on what we make cannot afford to live here. Housing prices,insurance rates and taxes are just too high relative to the salariesavailable in the area. So, increasingly, we are left with the wealthy comingto the area with their money, and the poor working class that serves theneeds of the affluent.

Such a state of affairs does not bode well for a healthy, vibrant, diverseeconomy.

However, watching the actions of our government officials, it appears thatthis may be their plan. They have gutted education spending, not producedsubstantive action on tax reform, have offered insurance reform that isessentially a farce and watched over runaway government spending. Theseactions indicate they believe it is not that people can no longer afford tolive here, but rather we do not have people wealthy enough living here.Local government officials have verbalized this smugness, and otherofficials reinforce this idea through their unwillingness to take toughpolitical stands to rein in government expenditures and provide meaningfulrelief to those trying to live here.

In the meantime, while ignoring the needs of those already living here, andto add further credence to the argument, is this running about attempting tosolicit hi-tech industry to the area. The idea is to bring in new companieswith higher-paying jobs. Diversifying the economy is a good thing. However,these new higher-paying jobs will go to new workers, not those of us who arehere. Our schools and infrastructure suffer as this new group is beckonedwith sufficient money to buy higher-priced houses and private schools.

If we do not do a better job of reconciling our taxing and spending, ourregion's economic pros- pects look dim. People will leave to find work wherethey can support a family on what they make, middle class retirees will seekother places in the country where they get better value for their dollars,real estate prices will continue to fall to compensate for higher carryingcosts of property, and related industries will suffer from the effects of acontinued pullback. It is time our government officials step up and take thecourageous stands necessary to stop this process. It is time they becomeleaders. And it is time we demand that level of performance from them.Otherwise, we all suffer the consequences.

David Levin s a real estate consultant in Delray Beach.



Crist's anti-pollution policies please environmentalists

Posted on Fri, Jan. 11, 2008

It will take decades to measure the success of Gov. Charlie Crist'sambitious campaign to slash Florida's global-warming pollution, but forenvironmentalists at least, he has already changed one important climate:The political one.

The governor, scheduled to speak Friday night in Captiva to the 23rdEverglades Coalition conference, is assured of a rousing green-carpetreception from the state's largest annual gathering of environmentalists.

Short of trading his dapper attire for hiking shorts and Teva boots,Republican Crist has proved greener in Year One of his administration thaneven the most optimistic activists expected -- derailing a coal-burningpower plant near the Everglades; ordering landmark standards for greenercars, electricity and homes, and blocking plans to strip the manatee of itsendangered species status. He even ordered solar panels for the governor'smansion.

''He's turned out to be way better than we ever thought,'' said Eric Draper,a longtime lobbyist for Audubon of Florida. ``He came out of the boxswinging on the energy issues, and he's kept at it.''

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St. Petersburg Tiimes

Report: Insurers fleece public
Consumer groups say property owners pay too much, get too little.

By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 11, 2008

The property insurance industry not only racked up near-record profits in2007 - about $65-billion after taxes - but overcharged American homeownersan average of $870 per household over the last four years, says a new reportfrom major consumer groups.

That study's conclusion - insurers systematically overcharge consumers andunderpay claims - was released Thursday by the Consumer Federation ofAmerica, Consumers Union and several other consumer groups. The findingsblasted a powerful industry about to be challenged anew in Florida onseveral alleged price-gouging fronts by the state government.

The report by the Consumer Federation, one of the nation's largest andlong-standing consumer watchdog organizations, was based on insuranceindustry data and the companies' financial statements. It estimatedinsurance industry profits from 2004-2007 at more than $253-billion.

Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the CFA and author of the study,accused the industry of "methodically overcharging consumers, cutting backon coverage, underpaying claims and getting taxpayers to pick up some of thetab for risks the insurers should cover."
Nowhere is that better illustrated, Hunter said, than in Florida, wherenearly two-thirds of the property insurance risk is shouldered by the statein the form of Citizens Property Insurance and the Florida HurricaneCatastrophe Fund.

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Miami Herald

Florida Senate: Insurance execs must explain rates

Posted on Fri, Jan. 11, 2008

Insurance company executives will be called to testify next month before aspecial Senate committee to explain why expected rate cuts haven'tmaterialized.

The Senate as well as the governor and many homeowners are miffed thatconsumers aren't yet seeing the promised savings -- based on lower back-upinsurance provided by the state. The savings were required by a massiveinsurance reform bill passed last January.

Insurance execs will be invited to testify Feb. 4 and 5. Those that don'tcomply could be subpoenaed by the committee.

''We don't want to hear from the local lobbyists or lawyers,'' said Sen.Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, who will co-chair this committee with JeffAtwater, R-North Palm Beach. ``If we subpoena State Farm, I want Mr. Farm.If it's Allstate, I want Mr. State. At Geico, we want the lizard.''

A report from the Office of Insurance Regulation released Tuesday indicatedthat 32 companies filed for a rate reduction, but they represent just 17percent of the market. OIR has rejected 31 filings that cover about 1.3million homeowners where insurers were asking for rate hikes. Twenty-fourfilings are still pending.

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Florida Today

Sink: Florida no longer 'low-cost' state

By Jim Ash
Florida Capital Bureau Chief
January 10, 2008

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's top financial regulator called for retooling thestate's approach to economic growth, warning that the days of counting on alucrative supply of retirees will soon be over.

Citing studies that show the cost of living in Florida has reached thenational average, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink predicted that retireeswill start to look elsewhere and the state needs to focus more on venturecapital and attracting high-tech industries.

"We have always built ourselves on being a low-cost state," she said. "Weare no longer going to be place where people on fixed incomes come toretire."

Economic development experts have long estimated that the attraction of oneretiree, and his or her life savings, is the equivalent of creating fourmanufacturing jobs.

But despite a recent Wall Street Journal article that asked, "Is FloridaOver?" there is plenty of good news on the horizon, Sink said.

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St. Petersburg Times

Portability worsens problem

A Times Editorial
Published January 11, 2008

The most popular part of the property tax amendment on the Jan. 29 ballotwould enable homeowners to take at least a portion of their Save Our Homestax benefit with them when they move. That's understandable. The naturalfirst reaction by many longtime homeowners who would like to sell is to grabmaybe a few thousand dollars in tax savings for a new home. Gov. CharlieCrist and the amendment's supporters stand in front yards throughout Floridawith smiling homeowners.

But plenty of unhappy Floridians aren't in the picture: the renters andbusiness owners who would not benefit from this change to Save Our Homes.The recent homebuyer who would receive no immediate relief. The angry nextdoor neighbor who could pay higher property taxes forever on a comparablehouse. The amendment's key provision makes an unfair property tax moreunfair, further shifts the tax burden onto taxpayers already paying morethan their share and won't solve the housing crisis.

Save Our Homes limits annual increases in assessed value on homesteadedproperty to 3 percent or inflation, whichever is lower. As property valuessoared, property taxes on homesteads were kept artificially low by the cap.The longer homeowners stayed put, the larger the gap between the marketvalue of their house and its assessed value. When homesteads are sold, theSave Our Homes savings disappears and the assessed value resets. So nowthere are gross disparities between owners of similar homes, depending onhow long they have been there. The 10 percent of homeowners with the largestsavings don't pay property taxes on more than 73 percent of their home'smarket value. The 10 percent with the least savings don't pay property taxeson about 12 percent of their home's value. That's not fair.

But this amendment is not the answer. It extends the unfairness by lettinghomeowners take up to $500,000 in protected Save Our Homes value with themwhen they move. That means the identical house next door may never be taxedat its market value or as much as your house, even after it is sold. And itmeans that longtime homeowners or those who live in more expensive homeswhere property values rise the fastest always will have a bigger propertytax break than more recent homeowners or those who live in more modest homesin neighborhoods with stable prices. First-time homebuyers and anyone movingto Florida from out of state still will have to start building their SaveOur Homes tax break from scratch.

When legislators included so-called Save Our Homes portability in theproperty tax amendment, they ignored warnings from their own lawyers andfrom Florida TaxWatch that extending this unequal taxation would make SaveOur Homes more vulnerable to a constitutional challenge. They ignoredconcerns that it would result in a further shift of the tax burden torenters, business owners and owners of investment properties. And theyignored the reality that there are more significant factors contributing tothe collapse of the real estate market, including inflated home prices andthe mortgage crisis.

Florida has a serious property tax problem that needs to be addressed. Butextending the unfairness of the current system and handing the most reliefto those who already have the biggest tax breaks is not the answer. Allowinghomeowners to take Save Our Homes benefits with them when they move soundsgood, but it would only make a bad situation worse.


Miami Herald

Miami agrees to slots deal

Posted on Fri, Jan. 11, 2008

Miami city commissioners Thursday unanimously approved a revenue-sharingdeal with Flagler Dog Track and Miami Jai-Alai -- two of the threeparimutuels seeking voter approval on Jan. 29 to add slot machines.

The third parimutuel, Calder Race Course, approved a deal with Miami Gardenslast month. The basic terms of Miami's deal mirror what Miami Gardens agreedto: Both cities stand to receive 1.5 percent of the first $250 million inslot revenues, and 2.5 percent of all slot revenues after that. Miami-DadeCounty signed a somewhat similar deal with the parimutuels in 2005, prior toa failed slots referendum that year.

That county agreement remains valid if slots are approved this time around.

In the case of Miami, lobbyist Ron Book -- who appeared before Miamicommissioners Thursday on behalf of Flagler -- said the city will receive atleast $60 million in combined payments from Flagler and Miami Jai-Alai overthe next 20 years if slots are approved.

''There are clear winners here, and the winners are your citizens and yourtaxpayers,'' Book told commissioners.

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