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237 posts from December 2009

December 21, 2009

MSNBC host apologizes for going off on Debbie Wasserman Schultz

MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan today apologized for a rather testy interview Friday with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. At one point, the Broward Democrat suggests Ratigan "could be your own guest" as he rattled on, answering his own question.

Brill leaving OTTED for Chamber; Chris Hart to lead OTTED

Dale Brill, director of transportation, tourism and economic development for Gov. Charlie Crist, is leaving to serve as president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Brill, director of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development since October 2007, is the latest high-ranking official in the Governor's Office to depart in recent months. Brill said he told Crist "recently" of his decision to take the Chamber post, which he called "a once in a lifetime opportunity" that allows him to build on the past two years' experience. He starts Jan. 4.

"I really enjoy the think tank process, but until these last two years I hadn't thought about policymaking that could impact the public arena," said Brill, 45. "Government can only do so much. It's time for the business community to do some heavy lifting to come up with solutions. Government doesn't create jobs. Businesses create jobs. But the two can work together to accomplish a lot."

Chris Hart, president and CEO of Workforce Florida since November 2007, will serve as interim OTTED director -- a move that Brill said he and the governor agreed will serve the state well because it puts Hart over both workforce and economic development.

Continue reading "Brill leaving OTTED for Chamber; Chris Hart to lead OTTED" »

New documents link Sansom to airport building


In defending a $6 million airport project that is at the heart of a criminal indictment against him, state Rep. Ray Sansom has said the project was available for any lawmaker -- and Gov. Charlie Crist -- to review.

That's true, but newly surfaced budget documents from the governor's office (click image above to enlarge) confirm that neither Crist nor lawmakers could have known developer Jay Odom had planned to use part of the building. There is no mention of Odom's involvement in planning the building and working out an agreement with the former president of Northwest Florida State College to use the hangar type space in the building at Destin Airport.

Sansom had initially said he was not aware of Odom's involvement. Several documents that surfaced after the Times/Herald began investigating showed that Odom was indeed involved in the college planning. Defense lawyers have since countered that an agreement for Odom to use the building was never executed, therefore there was no wrongdoing.

The document raises another question. Even if Crist was unaware of a possible other use, the project was  "not on any list." Despite that, Crist still spared it from veto.

Poll: Floridians dislike Crist's Glades-Sugar deal

Associated Industries of Florida has posted results of a new Zogby International poll showing that Floridians largely oppose Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to buy 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land for $536 million and then lease it back to the company.

Only 11 percent support it, with 86 percent are opposed. More here

The results would seem to conflict with a Florida Everglades Foundation survey of a few months back. There, 75 percent of Floridians seemed to support the deal compared with 18 percent who didn't.

But there's a big difference in the polls. The questions themselves. Here's what AIF asked:Do you support or oppose the state government spending $536 million of taxpayer's money to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from US Sugar Corporation in the Everglades and then leasing it back to the same company?

Here's what the Everglades Foundation asked: Gov. Charlie Crist recently announced that the South Florida Water Management District will be purchasing 73,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar for the purpose of restoring the Everglades.

Also, the Everglades Foundation poll question followed a number of other survey questions about the importance of protecting wildlife, the economy and drinking-water supplies. So by the time respondents were asked if they generally supported "restoring the Everglades" the placement of the previous questions (as well as the question itself) could have made a difference in responses.

As for the AIF poll, it has a glaring omission. It doesn't point out that the Sugar buyout money is from property taxes in the 16-county South Florida Water Management District. It won't be paid by taxpayers statewide -- that is those who live north, east and west of Orange County (the northern-most border of the district).

Something naughty, something nice. Gloria Estefan interviews Barack Obama

Gloria Estefan scored a sitdown with President Barack Obama and led off with a hard hitting inquiry.

"I have a very important question to start off this interview, which chimney will Santa be coming down?" the singer asked Obama, according to a Univision transcript of the interview.

Obama replied: "Well, we think that he’s going to be coming down into the Yellow Room, which is right at the middle of the Residence. So, that’s where we are going to set the cookies and the milk, because after working all night, giving the gifts…."

Obama also delivered a message in what he described as his "flawless" Spanish.

"En esta temporada festiva, todos queremos estar con nuestros seres queridos, pero también podemos tomar el tiempo para ayudar a nuestras comunidades. Cada persona puede hacer una gran diferencia.
Michelle y yo les deseamos una Feliz Navidad."

Translation: In this holiday season, we would all like to be with our loved ones, but we should also take the time to help our communities. Each person can make a big difference. Michelle and I wish you a Merry

Full transcript after the jump.

Continue reading "Something naughty, something nice. Gloria Estefan interviews Barack Obama" »

Bill Nelson on his health care vote

Here's what Bill Nelson says about his vote to keep the health care bill moving: "In voting to move a health-care bill forward, my main goal was to help pass legislation that'll make health coverage more affordable and available for everybody. And one of my top priorities remains protecting seniors. Recently, I was able to pass an amendment to the bill that excluded some 800,000 policyholders all across Florida from cuts to Medicare Advantage.

"I believe that no matter where people stand on certain specifics of this complex issue of reforming health care, most all of us should agree the current system can be unfair and too costly.  It’s broken – and, it needs to be fixed. The legislation in the Senate certainly doesn’t have everything l want, like forcing drug companies to lower prices for prescriptions covered under Medicare or allowing seniors to import lower-cost drugs from Canada. But no piece of legislation does. And when it comes to health care reform, we can't afford to sit by and do nothing anymore. 

"I firmly believe this legislation will provide more affordable coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, prevent insurance companies from dropping folks who get sick and stop them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The legislation will also help reduce the country’s deficit."

AARP Florida lauds Bill Nelson vote on health care bill, criticizes George LeMieux/Crist and Rubio pan the plan

Bill Nelson stuck with his fellow Democrats in voting to move ahead on health care legislation today, earning him plaudits from AARP Florida. The legislation, state director Lori Parham says, will help "protect guaranteed Medicare benefits and help millions of older Americans overcome the challenges of accessing affordable, quality health services."

The group, she says, is "disappointed that Sen. LeMieux voted to block action on this important bill."

Running against each other for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat now held by LeMieux -- Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio each panned the legislation.

Continue reading "AARP Florida lauds Bill Nelson vote on health care bill, criticizes George LeMieux/Crist and Rubio pan the plan" »

PSC staff postpones rate case recommendation two days

The Public Service Commission staff is still struggling to complete its recommendation to regulators on Florida Power & Light's rate increase request, so it just postponed the deadline from today at 5 p.m. to Wednesday at noon.

A draft of the report has already exploded to 486 pages, and that's without some of the meatier pieces -- such as how they will treat the company's depreciation costs -- still incomplete. Stay tuned as more details emerge.

New PSC commissioners are gearing up for historic decision

Steve Stevens David Klement Benjamin "Steve"Stevens     David Klement

Six months ago, David Klement and Steve Stevens were looking for jobs in classified ads and on Internet job boards. In January, they will sit in judgment of two of the largest utility rate cases in Florida history as the newest members of the five-person utility regulatory board, the Public Service Commission.    

Klement, a former Bradenton journalist who headed a think tank in Sarasota, and Steve ns, an accountant and bar owner from Pensacola, were the surprise appointments to the PSC in October by Gov. Charlie Crist amid a whirlwind of controversy at the agency over whether regulators were too close to utilities.

Now, both Klement and Stevens have already found themselves defending their qualifications for the job. Read full story here.

December 19, 2009

Crist hits a new low

Gov. Charlie Crist walked alone into Friday's meeting with The Miami Herald editorial board.

His security detail stayed outside the glass door. There were no staff members juggling Blackberries and briefing books at his side. Just Crist, sitting at a conference table in shirt sleeves and a tie, at perhaps the lowest point of his political career.

The interview came after another tough week.

Polls showed the former presumptive Republican nominee tied or just a notch ahead of former House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami in the U.S. Senate race. Calls for his state party chief, Jim Greer, to resign reached a new peak. And the capper on Friday: Florida's unemployment rate hit 11.5 percent.

Is Crist to blame? Are the polls right? It doesn't matter. The perception is devastating. His aura of inevitability is gone, and the next thing to dry up could be his fundraising.

Friday's meeting offered Crist a chance to step up.

But in a room full of policy wonks and devoid of his usual props (smiling schoolchildren, American flags, endangered sea creatures) Crist seemed lost.

He gave the requisite Republican homages to former Gov. Jeb Bush and former President Ronald Reagan. He claimed he hadn't raised taxes when in fact the state's budget includes $2.2 billion in new cigarette taxes and fees. He said he sees insurers as "suspect'' and is "not a fan'' of utility companies, even though he's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from these industries.

Overall, Crist muddled through more than an hour of questions with responses that were heavy on optimism, light on details. Click here for some excerpts and here to watch the video.