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Wilson's "Black Men" panel has inaugural meeting

Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat, said today she was outraged at the country's
obsession in saving endangered species such as Manatees -- and not black men and boys.

"What's more important to save? Animals, forests, or people?" Wilson asked fellow
lawmakers and community leaders of the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

The council, which was Wilson's brainchild, met for the first time today in Tallahassese. The main mission of the 20-member board: study and help cure the social ills affecting black males. It has four years to achieve that goal.

Attorney General Bill McCollum, tasked with guiding the group, told leaders: "While I'm not black, I've had the opportunity to observe the young men who fit that profile."

He suggested the council focus on reducing black-on-black crime and the "disproportionate number'' of black men and boys locked-up in prison.

"We need to have programs to divert those children from the path that they're on,"
McCollum said.

McCollum, who has opposed automatic restoration of civil rights for convicted felons, used the meeting to send an olive branch of sorts to the group on that issue. He proposed a plan to reduce the backlog on restoration of civil rights cases heard by the Clemency Board by expanding the board from the governor and Cabinet to a panel of 10 more people. Members would serve one-year terms.