Thursday, January 31, 2008

FLORIDA DIGEST January 31, 2008

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Miami Herald

Presidential field thins as Florida alters race

Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008

To hear Mitt Romney tell it, Florida didn't anoint John McCain. It merelynarrowed a scrambled Republican field to a two-man race.

But as the Republican contest detonates into 21 far-flung states voting forGOP candidates on Tuesday, Romney still needs to neutralize two men whomFlorida voters pushed to the fringes: Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee.

Giuliani, whose third-place thud in the state forced him to bow out of therace Wednesday, is moving supporters into McCain's camp. At the same time,Huckabee's folksy mix of politics and religion is siphoning away theconservative voters Romney needs to offset McCain's appeal among moderates.

''Florida reshapes the race completely,'' said U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, whoselast-minute endorsement of McCain helped him overtake Romney. ``It was a badloss in a state [Romney] had to win.''

The Democratic race is also shifting rapidly, though John Edwards'supporters said his decision to quit the race Wednesday had nothing to dowith his third-place finish in Florida. Edwards did not endorse rivalsHillary Clinton or Barack Obama, leaving the two campaigns dueling for hisdonors.

more . . . . .


Miami Herald

Housing slump has Crist scrambling on budget

Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008

Confronted with a souring Florida economy and a gaping $2 billion budgetshortfall, Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday will unveil his spendingrecommendations for the coming year.

While Crist's office has so far released few details, the outlook isn'tpretty as the state's weak housing market has sapped the amount of moneycoming into state hands. The downturn forced state lawmakers in October toslash $1 billion from the current $71 billion state budget, but since thenstate tax collections have continued to come up under estimates.

House Speaker Marco Rubio has already suggested cutting at least another$600 million in early March. Rep. Ray Sansom, the chief budget writer in theFlorida House, told House members that the state needs $2 billion worth ofcuts on top of that in order to balance the budget for the coming year. Thestate fiscal year starts on July 1.

On Wednesday night, Crist conceded the financial situation was ''verychallenging'' but said his budget staff had come up with recommendationsthat ``Florida can be very proud of and is very compassionate.''

Crist's top budget staff has already conceded that one way Crist willbalance the budget is to tap into one-time sources of money for the comingyear. Such a move, if endorsed by the Legislature, would trigger asupermajority vote. Voters in 2006 approved an amendment that capped theamount of one-time money that can be used in the state budget.

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Wall Street Journal

Are Republicans Losing Panhandle Grip?

January 31, 2008; Page A6

TAMPA, Fla. -- Even as Tuesday's primary here gave Arizona Sen. John McCainnew momentum going into next week's Super Tuesday voting for the Republicanpresidential nomination, it revealed signs of stress in the party's pivotalgrasp on Florida.

A toxic brew of economic anxiety, a deepening housing slump, skyrocketinghome insurance, strained schools and the lingering effects of recenthurricanes have spawned a gloomy mood in Florida. Tuesday's primary results,in which Mr. McCain won with just 36% of the vote, showed FloridaRepublicans still splintered.

The absence of a broadly unifying Republican candidate has encouraged somedisgruntled voters to break from typical voting patterns, including someformerly staunch Republicans who now are backing Democratic Sens. HillaryClinton of New York or Barack Obama of Illinois.

It is too early to predict how voters in Florida will vote in November, butin recent months, a drift away from Republican leadership -- especiallyamong the state's nearly two million independent voters -- has been apparentin some Florida polling data. In surveys conducted by Quinnipiac Universityperiodically throughout 2007, Florida voters narrowly but consistentlyfavored Mrs. Clinton over Mr. McCain in a general election.

In a general election pitting Mrs. Clinton against former Massachusetts Gov.Mitt Romney, respondents said they would prefer Mrs. Clinton by eightpercentage points, with 7% undecided. The last poll, in October, took placebefore Mr. Obama's rise to prominence following his Iowa primary victory.Even then, he was tied against McCain, at 42%, with 9% undecided. Mr. Obamaled Mr. Romney by seven percentage points, with 11% undecided.

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North Miami City Councilman Scott Galvin
Invites You to a Fundraiser in Support of
Florida Red & Blue

Thursday, January 31, 2008
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm - Amoretto Restaurant
738 NE 125 Street

(Free Parking on South Side)
Free Hors D'oeuvres and Wine

Florida Red and Blue is a the nonpartisan, independent campaign to protectall Floridians by defeating an intrusive amendment to the FloridaConstitution that will take away important rights from all non-marriedFloridians.

Please RSVP to

Visit for more details.



ArtsUnited will feature the mixed media art work ofChinese artist Sip Tshun NG ina solo exhibit at the Stonewall Library and Archives fromFebruary 4 through 29, 2008.

The gallery is located at 1717 North Andrews Avenue in FortLauderdale, FL. The exhibitopens with a reception to meet the artist from 6:30 to 8:00PM on Monday, February 4th.

Born in Indonesia, Sip Tshun NG has been paintingsince he was a child. As he gotolder, his art began to evolve into cartoon illustrations. Later his eye for color and designlead him to help his brother design clothing. It was asuccessful venture.

Sip Tshun NG left Indonesia 7 years ago and came tothe United States. Afterextensive travels, he now makes his home in South Florida.His art has further evolvedinto colorful and often whimsical three dimensional works ondisplay in this exhibit.

The exhibit and reception are free and open to thepublic. Refreshments will be served
during the reception.


Congregation Etz Chaim Honors Fischer, Friedlander and Jewish Federation
(April 5)

Congregation Etz Chaim, located in Wilton Manors, will honor Rita Fischer,Larry Friedlander and the Jewish Federation of Broward County at its 34thAnniversary Gala Dinner/Dance, to be held Saturday, April 5, in the NewRiver Room of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.Festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception on the veranda followedby a sumptuous dinner and dancing.

The Gala will honor two special members of the CEC family. "Mamasita" RitaFischer, a PFLAG Mom and "snowbird" from New York, is best-known for raisingcopious amounts of money in support of the Metropolitan New York AIDS Walk.Larry Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor and father of three, has served theSynagogue in various posts, most notably as President of the Congregationand Chair of the Ritual Committee. Cong. Etz Chaim will also inaugurate anew award, the Community Tikkun Olam Award which will be presented to theJewish Federation of Broward County in recognition of its outstandingservice to the community.

"We are really thrilled with this year's honorees" commented CongregationPresident Lyn Saberg. "Rita and Larry each have a long history ofinvolvement with our Congregation and exemplify some of the diversity thatexists among our members. We also are particularly pleased to recognize theBroward Federation for the wonderful efforts they have made to be inclusiveand to unify the Jewish community."

Historically, Congregation Etz Chaim has served as a spiritual home for gay,lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews from the entire tri-county area ofSouth Florida. Rabbi Harold Caminker is in his third year as spiritualleader.

Members of the community are welcome to attend this Gala Dinner Dance.Tickets to the Gala are $105 for Congregation and Federation members and$125 for non-members and guests. For further information, ticket sales, andcommemorative ad journal ads, contact Congregation Administrator SherryDavidson at (954) 564-9232 or Vice President of Fundraising Alex Rosenbergat (561) 716-4825. Congregation Etz Chaim is located at 1881 N.E. 26Street, in Wilton Manors. Sabbath Services are held on Friday nights at8:30 p.m.

For more information phone Sherry Davidson at (954) 564-9232 or Alex
Rosenberg at (561) 716-4825



Call for Artists - Performers

Attached is the Performance Artist Application for ArtExplosion 2008. Forthose of you that don't know, we provide musicians, dancers, comedians,singers, etc. the opportunity to perform on a small stage adjacent to theart gallery during the Artists' Reception on Saturday, February 16th. Timesavailable are always limited, so we will accept applications on a firstcome, first serve basis. Please feel free to share this information withyour friends and colleagues that are performers and would like toparticipate.


Chuck Williams
ArtsUnited, Inc.

Note: Author applications, Visual Arts applications, Erotic ExhibitApplications and Performance applications are available upon request


From Michael Rajner

Tonight in Room 2 of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Floridagathered a united community with one shared goal...equality for all persons.As the room filled and we began to run out of chairs for people to sit weproved to ourselves that we are a community wanting to participate as agentsfor positive change.

Last summer after several years of oppression by the worst Presidential administration in our history, we as a community awoke from our complacencywhen a mayor continued his mindless demonization of communities oftax-paying voters. We stood united with organizations, communities andcultures throughout South Florida and demanded an end to rhetoric that onlyfuels the marginalization of vulnerable communities. Marsha Ellison of theNAACP then called it like she and others saw it, "hate is hate."

The strength behind the coalition of Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives(TERI) is attributed to the amazing organizational partners, communitymembers and supports committed to putting an end to social injustice. As acommunity we have learned of horrendous acts of violence that have beencommitted against our brothers and sisters. For some of us, we have beenpreyed upon as the target and victim of these acts because of either ourrace, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender or simply because of the formour higher power made us to be.

Each days as the public hearing for amendments to Human Rights Ordinance 16½ on Tuesday, February 12th approaches we come that much closer to ensurebasic human rights for ALL PEOPLE in Broward County.



St. Petersburg Times

Untouched and untaxed

A proposal on the November ballot could end property taxes on undevelopedland.

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published January 31, 2008

TALLAHASSEE - Another big property tax break is headed to Florida voters,but this one would benefit only owners of vast swaths of vacant land.

The proposal: Keep your land green forever, and you'll never pay propertytaxes on it again.

If voters agree, thousands of acres worth billions of dollars could be savedfrom development. But the property also would vanish from tax rolls ofcounties already coping with reduced revenues after last year's tax raterollback and Tuesday's voter-approved tax cut.

The ballot measure is the most significant yet proposed by the Taxation andBudget Reform Commission, a once-every-20-year group that has the power toplace state constitutional amendments on the ballot. Voters will considerthe measure on November's ballot.

Pushing the measure was commission member Brian Yablonski, a former policyadviser to Gov. Jeb Bush who is now a vice president for St. Joe Co., thestate's largest private landowner.

more . . . . .


Palm Beach Post

Cities brace for voter-approved property tax revenue cut

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A day after voters gave themselves a property tax break, local governmentofficials started trying to figure out how to pay for it.

64%Voting yes on the amendmentCounty-by-county breakdown,7A36%Voting no onthe amendment commissioners could have to decide between two unpopularideas: Budget cuts or an increase in the property tax rate.

Palm Beach County government expects to take a $35 million cut next firstyear, assuming the property tax rate stays the same. Fire-rescue officialspredict an $11 million cut and county libraries, $2 million. Many officialswere stunned Wednesday that the amendment passed because it needed 60percent of voter approval to become part of the state's constitution.

Boynton Beach City Manager Kurt Bressner emailed city employees Wednesdaymorning about the tax amendment, which should result in about $3.5 millionless in revenues in the next fiscal year.

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Orlando Sentinel,0,7986423.story

Florida voters' record turnout surprises experts

Jim Stratton
Sentinel Staff Writer
January 31, 2008

Spurred on by a statewide pocketbook issue and two hotly contestedpresidential races, Florida voters went to the polls Tuesday in recordnumbers, surprising many officials and analysts.

Total ballots cast exceeded 4.1 million -- about 40 percent of the totalnumber of registered voters in the state. That's just 700,000 fewer votesthan the total number cast in the high-profile 2006 governor's race, astatewide battle usually of more interest to voters than a presidentialprimary.

The figures suggest Floridians were more tuned in to the primaries and theproperty-tax-amendment issue than they may have been given credit for. Theturnout was not the highest in terms of percentages, but its raw numberswere impressive. More people voted in Florida than the combined total of theearly-state primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. TheFlorida total, in fact, was more than twice the population of New Hampshire.

Almost 53 percent of Republicans cast a ballot in the GOP primary won byJohn McCain, and almost half of all registered Democrats participated in therace won by Hillary Clinton.

About 1.7 million Democrats came out despite the fact that their candidatestreated Florida as a political black hole.

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St. Petersburg Times

Savvy Crist boosts moderates' position in state GOP

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Thursday, January 31, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - If there was any doubt that the Crist era of Floridapolitics is in full swing, it was erased by Gov. Charlie Crist's resoundingvictories Tuesday as voters passed the property tax amendment and boostedJohn McCain closer to the Republican presidential nomination.

Crist made himself the face of property tax relief, barnstorming the statein a quest to get the 60 percent vote needed to pass Amendment 1. Manythought the new threshold would be too high, but 64 percent of Floridavoters approved it.

Meanwhile, key Crist supporters worked behind the scenes for months to helpMcCain. Hours before the polls closed, a senior Crist operative predictedthe Arizona senator would win Florida by 4 percentage points. McCain won by5.

In his second year in office, Crist has taken firm hold of the FloridaRepublican Party and become the most dominant political force in the state.

But as Crist leads the state party toward a more moderate stance, someconservative Republicans are concerned about the party's direction.

more . . . . .



Economist: 80% chance Florida is already in recession

By Harriet Johnson Brackey and Paul Owers
January 31, 2008

Now that Florida has approved portable and perhaps more affordable propertytax bills, the Federal Reserve has cut interest rates and consumers couldhave tax rebate checks in hand by summer, there is a new economic outlook.

The outlook, a growing number of economic forecasters say, is that all thesemeasures may not be enough to halt the housing slump in Florida and thenation. The housing market has been tanking for almost two years. And SouthFloridians feel it.

"I think we all need relief really bad," said Ronald Malley, 71, of PompanoBeach.

The government is scrambling to do something to bolster consumers and theeconomy. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee slashed akey short-term interest rate by a half percentage point, to 3 percent. Thatcut - the second by the Fed in two weeks - should reduce rates consumers payon credit cards, home equity loans and, in time, mortgages.

Meanwhile, the Senate debated an economic stimulus package that couldproduce tax rebates for most Americans by summer.

more . . . . .


St. Petersburg Times

Voters give a clear answer
Amendment 1's strong support sends a message.

Published January 31, 2008

BROOKSVILLE - More than 45 percent of Hernando County's eligible votersturned out to cast ballots in Tuesday's primary election, choosing the samepresidential candidates as the state and overwhelmingly approving Amendment1.

Most county Republicans backed John McCain, while Hernando Democrats werewild about Hillary Clinton. But the real star was the property-tax-cuttingAmendment 1.

The local landslide for the amendment is a "mandate," said CountyCommissioner Jeff Stabins. "It's clear that our constituents want us tocontinue to cut spending and lower taxes."

Officials estimate Amendment 1 will cost Hernando County government$7-million in the next fiscal year.

"Unless we can figure out how to solve the jail problem, we'll have toresort to some cuts in service," Stabins said. The jail, he said, "issucking millions and millions of county dollars."

more . . . . .



Broward's 140 voter complaints led state

By Jamie Malernee
January 31, 2008

Broward County was home to the largest number of voter complaints afterFlorida's presidential primary on Tuesday, according to a national voterhotline that logged 140 calls from the area, mostly from black residents.

The most common complaint came from people who were unable to vote becausethey were registered as independents, even though they considered themselvesDemocrats, said Ken Smukler, founder of the 866.MYVOTE1 voter hotline. InFlorida primaries, only voters registered to a party may cast ballots forthat party's candidates.

Rather than anything "nefarious" going on, Smukler said he believed many newvoters galvanized by Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wereunfamiliar with the requirement. Others may have left their partyaffiliation blank on a registration form, and it defaulted to independent ornonpartisan without them being aware, he said.

Greg Moore, director of the NAACP National Voter Fund, said his group wouldbe looking into the complaints to make sure no voters had beendisenfranchised. "We need to do a better job of voter education," Mooresaid. "My guess is there will be other states ... that will have this sameproblem."

Complaints largely came from black voters because the hotline, which is runfrom Pennsylvania, was advertised primarily on a black talk radio show,Smukler said. Miami-Dade County came in second in the state with 107complaints, followed by Orange County in the Orlando area, with 87.


St. Petersburg Times

Tax cut impact on housing unclear
Amendment 1 may not be a cure-all for housing's ills, but it has potentialto help.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 31, 2008

John Mulkey wants to live near his job in Tampa but can't sell his house inOrlando.

So for seven months he's commuted 1-1/2 hours to his job at Tampa insurancebroker Marsh U.S.A. as buyers nibble but never bite at his Orlando property.

Tuesday's passage of Amendment 1 could be his way out of the housing hole.

It's not just the $240 in tax cuts promised the average home-owner. Moreimportant, as part of the tax-relief package's portability clause, Mulkeyplans to carry $150,000 in accumulated tax benefits from his Orlando houseto his future Tampa house. It would trim his yearly tax bill by a couple ofthousand dollars.

"This is all good news to me. I'm very pleased," Mulkey said Wednesday after64 percent of Florida voters ensured approval of the constitutionalamendment. "Passage of this amendment may help to stimulate people withinFlorida to start moving, all those people who have been holding out."

more . . . . .


Miami Herald

FPL asks panel to allow two more nuclear reactors

Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008

Florida Power & Light began making its case to state regulators on Wednesdaythat the two nuclear reactors it wants to add at Turkey Point are the bestoption for keeping South Florida humming.

''Nuclear power is the backbone for FPL's system, providing safe andlow-cost energy, 24-7,'' FPL attorney Wade Litchfield told the PublicService Commission, which opened a three-day hearing in Tallahassee on whatcould be the state's first expansion of nuclear power in decades.

Environmentalists and a state-assigned consumer advocate questioned FPL'sclaims, arguing the utility hasn't calculated some big-ticket costs --starting with the bill for up to 80 million gallons a day of cooling water.


Dawn Shirreffs, an organizer for Clean Water Action, told commissioners thatFPL has yet to identify where or how it will get that much water in a countyalready on severe rationing.

''You can't evaluate the cost of pumping, the cost of piping,'' saidShirreffs. ``FPL has not addressed the most basic issues regarding cost.''

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Palm Beach Post

Answers to common property tax questions

Thursday, January 31, 2008

About the property tax amendment

What will the constitutional amendment that voters approved do?

It will do four things:

1. Increase the amount of a homestead exemption.

2. Allow homestead owners to transfer up to $500,000 of their accrued SaveOur Homes benefit to another home.

3. Cap annual increases on non-homesteaded properties - such as second homesand businesses -at 10 percent.

4. Create a $25,000 tangible personal property exemption for businesses.

more . . . . .



Broward schools brace for major cuts due to amendment

By Kathy Bushouse
January 31, 2008

Broward public schools may have to cut air conditioning, stop mowing thegrass and clean the bathrooms less often among a slew of other measures asthe School District braces for a multimillion-dollar hit to its budget aftervoters approved the property tax amendment.

The district not only faces the possibility of less property tax revenue,but also sees an anticipated $2 billion-plus state budget shortfall, schoolsSuperintendent Jim Notter told School Board members Wednesday. That meansthe board will confront difficult choices, he said.

"The storm is going to be rough," Notter said. "We will weather it, but wewill look a lot different coming out the other end."

Just what those tough calls will be is still unclear. The School Boardrequested a special meeting to weigh what to cut and keep in the district'sbudget. Notter said he would try to avoid layoffs, though he said because ofthe property tax amendment, the district will have to eliminate 1,250positions over five years. He hopes that will come through attrition.

The district expects to lose an estimated $145 million over five years as aresult of voter backing for the tax amendment and is figuring to loseanother $110 million over five years that it receives from partnerships withcities and tax agencies such as the Children's Services Council, Nottersaid.

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South Florida Social Circle

Join Us for Rogers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music
on stage Saturday, February 23rd @ 7PM

ONLY $15

Sound of Music Attire Optional...
...includes a Meet & Greet the cast after the show

*All Proceeds to Benefit Tuesday's Angels & The Oakland Park Performing Arts

Paid Reservations must be received no later than Friday, February 15th.

We have reserved the first five rows of seats in the center section,Down-In-Front, of the theater for this wonderful performance!

The theater is located in Oakland Park. Seat assignments and Directions willbe provided with paid reservations.

You must call Doug White @ (954) 761-3855 to reserve right away as the seatswe have, are the best seats in the house, and will go quickly.

Remember, Sound of Music Attire is Optional...but do try to refrain fromyodeling as you enter the theater... :)


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