Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Florida Presidential Poll

A new Florida poll from Mason-Dixon shows Senator Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead over Senator Barack Obama. On the other side, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Senator Fred Thompson are in a statistical dead heat in the GOP contest for Florida's electoral votes.

Clinton leads among likely Democratic primary voters at 31% - followed by Obama at 17% and Edwards at 12%. No other Democratic polled at more than 4%. 30% of those polled were still undecided.

Giuliani was favored by 21% of likely Republican primary voters. Thompson comes in second at 18%. Despite publicized reports about his demise, Senator John McCain is still at 11% (though he can expect his numbers to continue to decline), and former Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney is at a surprisingly low 7%. 34% of GOP voters polled were undecided.

The margin of error in both polls is +/- 5%.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

GOP Candidates Backing Out of St. Petersburg Debate

Just when you thought that presidential candidates would start paying attention to Florida voters (and not just bundlers) prior to July 2008...

Yes, the leading Republican candidates for president don't like the YouTube debate format that worked remarkably well for the Democrats on July 23rd - the debate that is scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg on September 17.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says that "unspecified scheduling conflicts" are likely to prevent him from attending, but no one actually believes that in seven weeks, he couldn't find a way to juggle his schedule to get free, national televeision in primetime.

Former Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney is also hinting that he will back out of the debate.

Romney is at least honest that he doesn't like the format.

"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman," he told the Manchester Union Leader.

So why don't Giuliani and Romney want to attend. Simple, the questions from ordinary (though YouTube proficient) Americans are likely to be more pointed than those from reporters - particularly on social issues where both candidates feel weak (in terms of their relationship to the very conservative electorate who will choose the GOP nominee).

Apparently the opportunity to appear in a large media market one of Florida's most important swing regions isn't enough of an incentive to for them to show up.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Purchase Will Help Protect Silver Springs

The State of Florida took ownership of more than 1,700 acres, the second and final phase of a more than 4,400-acre purchase near Silver Springs, a part of the Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project on July 25. A partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Marion County, the purchase from Avatar Properties, Inc. places the land in conservation and helps protect the water quality of Silver Springs.

The Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project focuses on land near Florida’s first magnitude springs that discharge more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Florida’s springs, scattered through northern and central Florida, draw from the Floridan Aquifer, which is the state’s primary source of drinking water.

"The State of Florida has taken a great step toward the protection of one of the largest springs in the country and one of the state’s most renowned natural resources," said Jeff Danter, Florida state director for The Nature Conservancy.

The Florida Springs Initiative, established in 2001, is a program to restore and protect Florida’s more than 700 freshwater springs. Last year the Florida Springs Initiative set aside a meagre $300,000 to protect spring ecosystems, water quality and flow within Florida’s state park system.

Sink Moving to Address Failure of Legislature to Increase Access to Healthcare for Florida's Children

During the 2007 session, the legislature was unable to pass legislation to improve the Florida Healthy Kids program and make it easier for families to purchase affordable health insurance for their children.

Because of the legislature's failure to act, CFO Alex Sink has formed the Ad Hoc Committee for the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation to research ways to simplify the program and focus it around the needs of families.

The committee will examine ways to make it easier for families to enroll in the low-cost health insurance program and increase the number of children the program retains.

Sink, who serves as the Chair of the Healthy Kids Board, has charged the committee to identify how the Board can streamline the Healthy Kids program without the need for legislative action.

"Right now, families are forced to navigate through a bureaucratic maze—a spaghetti factory, if you will—just to purchase health insurance for their children," said Sink.

The Florida Healthy Kids program is one of four components of the larger Florida KidCare program, the state’s health insurance program for uninsured children. Florida Healthy Kids allows working families the opportunity to purchase low-cost health insurance for their children ages 5 through 19 years of age. To be eligible for discounted premiums, families must earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,000 for a family of four.

Five Point Plan for Climate Change

The Florida Democratic Party expressed support for the Climate Change Intiative being spearheaded for Gov. Charlie Crist and CFO Alex Sink.

In order to build support for the Governor's bi-partisan plan (which is generating opposition from many Republicans), the Florida Democratic Party has unveiled it's Energy Reform and Climate Change Initiative, a five point plan it is asking people to endorse.

Point 1:
I support the establishment of a renewable energy standard for the state. Furthermore, I believe benchmarks should be set to require that more energy come from renewable sources in the future.

Point 2:
I support the Governor’s Executive Order to explore a cap and trade program for industry, but I also believe we must ensure that this program will offer flexibility to industries that cannot meet the strict standards while still achieving an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Point 3:
I support programs such as a statewide net metering plan to give consumers and businesses a financial incentive to generate electricity with solar panels and other technologies.

Point 4:
I support requiring that our full state vehicle fleet be made up of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles as soon as possible with a program to phase out older vehicles for more environmentally friendly ones.

Point 5:
I support the idea that Florida should be a trendsetter in the construction of energy efficient buildings by adopting green building or similar standards for all new state offices and public schools.

Picture shows a projection of the effect of rising sea levels (triggered by the melting of the ice caps due to global warming) on Florida.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bill Young Still Living in 2004

Our own Congressman Bill Young - a frequent subject here - leads the ignominious race for pork in the current Congress.

Young requested 59 earmarks for local projects - 13 more than the number 2 culprit, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha.

In the top 20, Florida Congressman Allen Boyd appears at number 13.

By asking for so many earmarks, Young appears to be living in 2004, the last full year he chaired the House Appropriations Committee.

From 1999 until 2005, Young was chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee. The chair of that committee typically gets carte blanche to add pork to appropriations bills and Young made heavy use of that budget busting power.

Even though he no longer chairs the committee and, indeed, is in the minority now, Young is still doing his best to insert pork barrel items into appropriations bills - just with less success, especially now that new rules passed by the Democratic Congress call for (admittedly imperfect) transparency when it comes to these earmarks.

Treasure Island Moves to Place Restrictions on Drum Circle

For years now, there has been a drum circle beginning at sundown on Sunday at the beach on Treasure Island. The Commission, responding to claims that the drum circle has evolved from a gathering of Pinellas area musicians into a hedonistic maelstrom of drugs and littering - our own little Burning Man festival writ small - began making moves to limit or even eliminate to weekly musical event at a July 17th meeting.

A proposed ordinance would disperse the drum circle by 9 pm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Florida Operative Takes Charge of Day-to-Day Operations for Fred Thompson

The titular head of former Senator Fred Thompson's budding presidential campaign will be former Michigan Senator and former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, but the man who will be in charge of the day-to-day management of the national campaign will be Randy Enright.

Enright is a former Florida regional political director for the Republican National Committee and a former executive director Republican Party of Florida.

They replace acting campaign manager Tom Collamore, former vice president of the tobacco company Altria.

Rumor has it the shake up occured because of tension over the central role of Jeri Thompson - Fred Thompson's much younger wife (24 years younger).

The Washington Post reported that a veteran GOP political operative involved in the Draft Fred movement claimed that Jeri was "calling all the day-to-day shots."

It should be noted that Mrs. Thompson is also a GOP political strategist in her own right.

Mote Marine Laboratory Receives Federal Grant

Many folks who grew up in the Tampa Bay area can remember at least one childhood trip down to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. If you were like me (and if you're male, you probably were), your favorite part was anything about sharks.

The laboratory recently received a $800,000 grant specifically to study the sharks, skates, and rays that live in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Quinnipiac Poll for Florida Adds Bloomberg to the Mix

The new poll from Quinnipiac provides a snapshot of a Florida general election between 2 and then 3 of New York's biggest names - Senator Hillary Clinton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (see photo).

In a two way race in Florida, Giuliani leads Clinton 46-44%, but in a three way race with former Republican and now unaffiliated Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg was also a Democrat before running for Mayor as a Republican, but his GOP bonafides were burnished by extensive fundraising for conservative Republicans like Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour), Clinton leads with 41% and Giuliani gets 39% with Bloomberg getting 9%.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama tops former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson 42-39%. In a three-way race, Obama doubles his lead over Thompson to 38-32%, with 14% for Bloomberg.

In other general election match-ups, Clinton defeats Thompson 48-39% and tops Arizona Sen. John McCain 46-40%. Obama defeats McCain 42-38% and loses to Giuliani 47-39%.

The poll also tests former Vice President Al Gore against various Republicans, but I do not believe that Gore will run and I believe that including him in the equation gives a misleading picture of the race.

The general election poll has a margin of error of +/- 3%, so many of the matchups are actually a statistical dead heat.

Click here for complete results, including a look at each party's primary.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Republican Party of Florida Website

The new RPOF website is up.

The opening page is heavy on automatic triggered video (I'm tired embedded YouTube links) and naturally features our moderate Republican governor, Charlie Crist, and his handpicked chairman, Jim Greer, very heavily.

Not surprisingly, rightwing Attorney General Bill McCollum is almost no where to be seen.

I don't think there is any question that it is a lot cleaner that the Florida Democratic Party's website.

Any thoughts or comments?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Martinez Drawing an Opponent?

Moves being made to open up a state senate seat for soon to be former House Democratic leader Dan Gelber. Senator Gwen Margolis will not be running for re-election in 2008 and Rep. Gelber has already opened up a campaign account for a state senate campaign.

When legislation was passed allowing state electeds to run for federal office without giving up their state seat, our first thoughts went to what that meant for Congressman Bill Young, with particular attention to newly elected State Senator Charlie Justice's prospects - who had just won a strong victory despite being heavily outspent, both by his opponent and by outside groups (mainly funded by insurance companies) supporting his opponent.

I did not look at how the new rules would affect Mel Martinez - our unpopular junior Senator and chair of the RNC.

But it does appear that this puts Gelber, a strong fundraiser, in the cat bird's seat in 2010. As a state senator who would not be up for re-election until 2012, he could run without sacrificing his soon to be current post - unlike CFO Alex Sink, who might prefer to wait until 2014 and run for Governor.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dunedin Keeps Up Support for Healthcre, Arts, and Culture

The state has mandated deep cuts in local government budgets, causing cities across Florida to cut services.

St. Petersburg, under Mayor Rick Baker, has notably cut by 80% its contributions to non-profits. In Dunedin, my hometown, I am proud to say that city commissioners have decided to tighten their own belts, cutting their travel budgets in half, rather than put the city's long term future at risk.

While cuts were made, they were only 10% from last year, rather than the 80% pushed through by Baker to the south.

"Arts and culture and history is part of economic development," said Dunedin Commissioner Deborah Kynes.

The new budget protects programs at the Neighborly Care Network (which provides meals and care to seniors), Faith in Action (a faith base organization helping citizens with long term care needs), and the city's art center and historical society (pictured above).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Brownback Takes Potshot at Thompson

On the subject of the presidential campaign, Sen. Sam Brownback is seeking to establish a new federal standard that would prevent violent television shows from airing on broadcast networks before 10 p.m.

The measure could notably prevent Law & Order from being broadcast before 10 pm.

Not only is this red meat for the social conservatives, it's also a slap in the face of former Senator Fred Thompson, who starred on the show.

The move connects Thompson to violence on television, possibly loosening the ties between the soon-to-be candidate and the evangelical right.

Treasure Island Bridge to Be Named After Bill Young?

The beach community of Treasure Island is getting a new $50 million causeway, scheduled to open August 25. Before the GOP lost power in the Congress, Rep. Bill Young managed to bring this particular piece of pork into the appropriations process on behalf of the wealthy enclave.

As a "thank you," City Manager Reid Silverboard has asked for a one-time waiver on the local restriction against naming streets and bridges after individuals in order to name the causeway after Young.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Young Posts Solid Numbers in Q2 Fundraising

Rep. Bill Young has never been a stellar fundraiser - even when he still chaired the House Appropriations Committee. And for any other congressman in a similar position, $200,000 would not be considered very strong, but it puts him on track to surpass his recent numbers, which was about $650,000 (in total) for each of the last two cycles.

That said, it remains true that Young said back in May that he was thinking about retiring “more than I did last year or the year before.”

Monday, July 02, 2007

Is Crist Killing Jeb's Hopes?

It has long been assumed, despite the occasional and perfunctory hollow denial by Jeb's people, that former Gov. Jeb Bush was planning a bid for the White House in 2012 or 2016.

But a recent comment by Shirish Date, Tallahasse bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post and author of Jeb, America’s Next Bush, puts those ambitions in doubt.

"Jeb really thought he had 10 years to kind of pick and choose what he did and when he did it. If the Republicans lose nationally in 2008, Charlie will be well positioned for his own bid, not for VP but for president in 2012. Even now, the Republicans come down here and kiss Charlie’s [Gov. Charlie Crist] ring. They need him more than Jeb now."

Is Date right?

The St. Pete Times has described Crist as the first "post partisan governor." While it is still early in his first term, Crist is already more popular than Jeb ever was.

As Jeb's older brother continues to drag down the Bush name (most recently by commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby), will a moderate, popular Republican governor, who will still be in office in 2012, trump a man who won't have held office in at least six years, someone better known for hard line, ideological conservatism and the "with me or against me" attitude that has helped to sink his older brother's second term.

I am not prepared to rule out Jeb in five or nine years, depending on how next year pans out. Nor am I prepared to believe that Crist, should he harbor presidential ambitions, would be able to win a GOP nomination nationally.

What I am prepared to believe is that the comparison between Jeb and Crist will not bode well for Jeb in a presidential general election. I am also prepared to believe that Crist's popularity may marginalize Jeb among many Republican power brokers, who may prefer to kiss Crist's ring, as Date puts it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Financial Literacy Council to Meet in Tampa

The Financial Literacy Council, formed by HB 825 in 2006 and overseen by Florida CFO and Tampa's own Alex Sink, will be holding its next in-person meeting in Tampa on August 11. The exact location has not yet been determined.

The Council was created to study the financial problems that affect Florida consumers, particularly young people, senior citizens, working families, and small business owners - problems which can arise from a lack of basic knowledge of financial issues. The Council will also develop recommendations to be given to Sink’s office as regards developing programs and resources aimed at increasing financial literacy among Floridians.

The first meeting was held in June 25 in Tallahassee and a second will be held via conference call in July 11. The Tampa meeting will be only the second in-person meeting of the Council.