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218 posts from June 2008

June 26, 2008

Miami experts testify: We need better hurricane research

Florida reps are pushing a bill to boost spending on hurricane research, but the Bush administration says the price tag may be too high.

The National Hurricane Research Initiative Act, sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, has gained bi-partisan co-sponsorship in the form of Miami Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.

But John Hayes, the director of the National Weather Service, said the requested amount -- $4 billion over the next 10 years - is "significantly higher than current funding levels and are therefore inconsistent with the administration's priorities."

Hastings said the legislation was prompted by recommendations from a 2007 National Science Foundation report that found "relative to the tremendous damage future hurricanes will inflict, the current federal investment in hurricane science and engineering is entirely insufficient.

"Our government's current investment in hurricane preparation is relegated to providing water bottles and setting up storm shelters for at-risk populations," Hastings said. "In my view, such short-sighted preparation is wholly inadequate and unacceptable."

The legislation calls for improving the ability to predict hurricanes and their intensity. Among those testifying to its need: Shuyi Chen, a professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami.

There is "no doubt that improving the hurricane forecast and response to save lives and reduce economic loss should a national priority," she said in written remarks to two House subcommittees that took up the bill. "There is no reason for further delay of full-scale support for such development, which is long over due."

Study: Don't use Florida coasts as toilets

Beach closures like the ones announced in Miami-Dade this week will continue throughout Florida as long as state and local governments continue to use the state's coastal waters as a toilet, concludes a two-year study of wastewater treatment facilities by the Clean Water Network.

The nonprofit environmental group reviewed wastewater treatment records at sewage plants along the Gulf Coast, from Pensacola to Key West, and found dozens of examples of failing pipes transporting raw sewage into ocean outfalls, treatment systems that are over-capacity, equipment failures, wastewater inadequately treated and expired permits.

The result is bacteria-laden beach water, red tide infestations, fish kills and toxic algae blooms that make swimming in the waters unsafe and sometimes harmful.

''It's not uncommon for people to be swimming right next to a sewage outfall pipe and not even realize it,'' said Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network.

Young said the unprecedented number of incidents of harmful algal blooms in the past few years can all ``be linked to excessive nutrients and bacteria.''

The solution is tighter enforcement of existing pollution laws, including adequate wastewater treatment, warnings to beach goers as to what caused the beach closings, investigations into the sources of fecal contamination, and bans on new development unless there is adequate sewage treatment.

When asked which is worse, oil drilling or the sewage contaminating our coastal waters and beaches, Young said: "This is 100 times worse because this is happening every day." Read full story here.

Crist to WSJ: I do support a 125-mile buffer for oil drilling

Wsj_pic_of_charlie_cristContinuing his practice of spending more time with national media outlets that Florida's, Gov. Charlie Crist Wednesday gave a lengthy interview to the Wall Street Journal on oil drilling for this article. Among the new developments:

*the governor said he was not consulted by the McCain campaign before he made his statements on oil drilling,

*it is not a reversal of position if you are looking out for the pocketbooks of Floridians,

* he would like to see the 125-mile buffer from oil drilling be kept in place off Florida's coast (a suggestion former Gov. Jeb Bush first made here on Naked Politics)

* he still hasn't been asked to be vice president. The VP question when like this:

WSJ: Do you have any interest in being vice president?

Mr. Crist: No, I really don't. I'm enormously happy being governor of Florida -- I can't believe I'm governor of Florida. But I will do everything I can to help Sen. McCain because I think this is an awfully important election. Obviously, I endorsed him before the Florida primary, and the point of that was, you know, to help the man win.

WSJ: But if he asks, would you say yes?

Mr. Crist: He hasn't asked, so it's a moot question.

See story here.

Martinez: McCain will protect Florida's Gulf Coast from drilling

Mel Martinez joined a bevy of fellow Republican senators today to tout a GOP-led effort they say will reduce gas prices by among other things, opening the US coastline to drilling.

But Martinez says he's got assurances from GOP leadership that the Gulf of Mexico would be off-limits in the plan. Florida's Atlantic Coast, however, could be opened up to drilling, if the state decided to back the measure. Drilling would be banned within 50 miles of the coast.

"It's something I can live with," Martinez said, noting that it upholds a 2006 agreement that barred drilling within 125 miles of Florida's Gulf Coast. "I think Florida's well protected by this, which is why I'm able to support it."

His support puts him at odds with his Democratic counterpart, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who routinely said (pre-$4 a gallon gas) that the two were "joined at the hip" when it came to oil drilling proposals.

"To call this legislation the 'Gas Price Reduction Act' is cruelly deceitful," Nelson said. "That's because we now know from documents inside the Bush administration that coastal drilling won't lower prices."

Martinez said he has "every reason to believe" that John McCain -- who last week kicked off a storm when he endorsed lifting the decades-old ban on offshore drilling -- will support leaving the Gulf off limits.

Jeff Sadosky, a spokesman for McCain, said the presumptive GOP presidential nominee hadn't yet seen the legislation, but supports leaving it up to states to decide what to do off their coastlines.

Continue reading "Martinez: McCain will protect Florida's Gulf Coast from drilling" »

Packing heat in DC

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite -- who holds a concealed weapons permit in Florida -- hailed the US Supreme Court decision today that struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, ruling Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes.

The Brooksville Republican called the decision an "historic victory for America.

"Our founders knew that there were certain fundamental inalienable rights, including the right to keep and bear firearms, and pointedly wrote that into the Second Amendment to our Constitution," she said. "Washington, D.C. does not have the right to unilaterally dismiss the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans, and today’s decision affirmed that view." 

Bruce Udolf depicted as goofy in flier

The flier attacking Broward sheriff's candidate Bruce Udolf has surfaced and it depicts a rather goofy looking Udolf.

On Wednesday Udolf held a press conference to denouce the flier and a separate flier that attempts to smear Wiley Thompson, one of the other five Democratic candidates for sheriff. But Udolf said he didn't have a copy of the flier about him.

The Udolf flier is a cut and paste job that shows a photo of Udolf's grinning head on top of a guy wearing suspenders. It makes the high-profile defense attorney and former federal prosecutor look like some sort of smalltown farm boy.

Perhaps it is meant as a jab at Udolf's days working as a district attorney in Georgia. The flier asks "How could...Bruce Udolf want to be Broward sheriff?'' and then includes quotes and facts from news articles that cast Udolf in a poor  light.

The flier tries to discredit Udolf as a Democrat by linking him with Ken Starr. Udolf was recruited by Starr to assist in the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton. But Udolf said he stepped aside when the investigation turned to Clinton's sex life.

The flier also states that Udolf was ordered to pay $50,000. That refers to a fine in the 1980s after a carpenter claimed he was held for four days without a bail hearing or a lawyer while Udolf was the district attorney. It also cites his role in defending an FBI agent who received a short jail sentence for a DUI that killed two brothers in Broward.

The separate flier about Thompson cites his  Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. And it shows the African-American wearing a bowtie in a way that depicts him both as an "Uncle Tom'' and Louis Farrakhan follower, Udolf said.

Udolf and Thompson haven't disputed the facts in the fliers but are angry that they are anonymous. They said they are being targeted because they are outside of Broward's political establishment.

Thompson was a former chief of staff under Sheriff Ken Jenne and a higher-up in the FBI.

Who created the fliers -- which were written in a similar fashion -- is part of the growing political intrigue in the hottest countywide race in Broward. Another mystery: why is candidate Shak Dhanji under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement?

The  other candidates in the Democratic primary are Shak Dhanji, state human relations commissioner; Scott Israel, on leave from his job as police chief of North Bay Village and Rick Lemack, on leave from his job as Hollywood assistant city manager.

June 25, 2008

Late night veto action from Crist

The office of Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday night stated that Crist had vetoed four bills, including a developments-of-regional impact bill, SB 1706, that included language that had been sought by the University of Miami to help with its planned bioscience hub.

Crist also vetoed three other bills, SB 686, dealing with nursing facilities, HB 1193 dealing with maternal and child health programs and SB 1008 dealing with vehicles.

The China-Cuba rumor that will not die

Vice President Dick Cheney's office says it isn't true. Mel Martinez even went to the Senate floor to blast its veracity. And columnist George Will said it isn't so.

But the claim that China is drilling some 60 miles off Florida's coastline won't die. In the latest incident, the Missouri Democratic Party has posted a YouTube clip of Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., telling his constituents that "China's within 40 miles of our coast right now, drilling for oil, taking it out of the ground."

The clip features Graves repeating the claim even after Cheney and Martinez discredited it, along with a guest appearance by Martinez, calling the reports "akin to urban legend."

A spokesman for Graves referred the blog, Talking Points Memo, to a 2006 New York Times story that is often cited as the source of the drilling claim. The story doesn't say China is drilling, but was hoping to drill in Cuba. China doesn't however, hold any offshore leases, Martinez and others say.

But that hasn't stopped Republican lawmakers from using the spectre of China to push for opening Florida shores to drilling.

Obama camp: "We're not going to wake up on Nov. 4, worrying about one state"

Hmm, now would that be Florida? Barack Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, outlined the campaign's strategy for taking the White House today and though he pledged to play "a heck of a lot of offense" in battleground states like Ohio and Florida, he says there are other ways of winning.

"We're going to fight like heck to win Ohio and Florida and we think we've got a good chance to win both," he told reporters. "But there's a lot of other ways to get there, too."

Still, Plouffe pledged: "We're going to campaign harder in Ohio and Florida, spend more money, organize more aggressively than any presidential nominee in history. We're going to play really hard."

See his powerpoint here.

Campbell denies rumors he's dropping out of Atwater race

After two days of swirling rumors and speculation, Democrat Skip Campbell denied that he was dropping out of the high-profile race against incumbent state Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach.

"I don't know where everyone is getting these rumors," Campbell told The Miami Herald Wednesday. "I'm still in there."

Campbell, a former state senator who left office due to term limits, is trying to unseat Atwater, who is set to become the next Senate president. But rumors had been circulating that Campbell planned to withdraw from the race Wednesday.