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285 posts from January 2010

January 31, 2010

Jeb was right about the bullet train

Of all the ways Florida could blow through $1.25 billion in federal recovery funds, a bullet train is certainly the flashiest.

Connecting Tampa, Orlando and Miami by high-speed rail is a scheme that's been chugging around for decades, and the prospects for profitability are the same today as they always were: Nil.

The money delivered by President Barack Obama last week in Tampa should have come with a note: ``Here's a gift from Uncle Sam. Now go build yourselves something you can't possibly afford to operate.''

Read Carl Hiaasen's full column here

January 30, 2010

Obama at hoops: Think of Haiti

President Obama -- at a snowy Saturday afternoon basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University -- provided about seven minutes of nationally televised hoops commentary in the second half of the matchup at the Verizon Center near the White House.

The pool reports notes that Obama before signing off, said "thoughts should be with the troops in the field and with those helping victims of the earthquake in Haiti."

Jeb Bush at the White House

From today's White House pool report: President Bush 41, with former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush rolled up to the White House at 9:35 for a meeting with POTUS. At 10:09, the two emerged to fat, driving snow flakes. Responding to a called question, 41 said only, "Good meeting. Good meeting."

The Associated Pressreports it was a social call.

Haiti help snafu snares Charlie Crist, Obama admin, NYT

A New York Times story says the military halted Haitian medical-evacuation flights to Florida after a dispute with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over who pays for care.

Here's the problem: It looks like a one-sided dispute. Crist doesn't look like he threw down any gauntlet at all.

Instead, on Jan. 27, three days ago, he sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter that asked her to activate the National Disaster Medical System to help coordinate the state-side response, provide states more more federal financial and for the feds to start sending Haitian earthquake victims to other states because Florida hospital emergency rooms can't continue handling a flux of earthquake victims.

Crist even signed the letter in his blue Sharpie with an enthusiastic "Great to talk with you yesterday!"

How this letter could be misinterpreted is a testament to the fog of managing a disaster and/or a severe case of bureaucracy run amok by President Obama's administration or the military or both. There's also the possibility the Times got the story wrong, as Crist suggested this morning, but it looks as if the paper just reported the facts at hand. And HHS doesn't look like it was much help in talking to the reporter.

Crist just sent out a statement saying that, just last night up to 80 Haitian orphans arrived in Florida. "Let me be clear - at no time has Florida closed our doors to those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti," Crist said.

Continue reading "Haiti help snafu snares Charlie Crist, Obama admin, NYT" »

The return of Jeb Bush

When Jeb Bush left office four years ago, his public appearances were as scarce as bi-partisan man hugs.

He didn't want to upstage his successor in the governor's mansion nor his brother in the White House. Instead, he quietly cashed in by joining corporate boards and an elite speakers bureau, penned public policy essays and gave infrequent interviews to conservative media outlets.

But in recent months, as the Republican Party of Florida has grappled with a leadership vacuum, Bush's political profile has grown as fast as the national deficit.

He headlined a fundraiser for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign, starred in a YouTube video touting Jeff Atwater's campaign for state chief financial officer and helped install state Sen. John Thrasher as the state party's heir apparent --  all the while looming on the sidelines of the fierce Republican Senate primary between Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio.

The capper came Thursday when, at the top of the 7 o'clock hour, right after Vice President Joe Biden, Bush made a rare network television appearance on NBC's Today Show. The intensely private Bush's interview with the overly familiar Matt Lauer rattled Florida political circles.

Was this the beginning of a Jeb juggernaut that would culminate in a 2012 presidential bid?

Full column here.

January 29, 2010

Crist overhauls hospital board in Broward

Gov. Charlie Crist has ousted two who sought re-appointment to the scandal-plagued North Broward Hospital District board: Dan Gordon and Robert Bernstein. Also gone are Maureen Jaeger (who had left for a job with Sen. George LeMieux) and Rebecca Stoll.

The new appointees include some familiar faces in Republican circles including Clarence McKee, who is active in Broward's GOP and Joel Gustafson, a former state representative who worked in the past for U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw. The other two are Jennifer O'Flannery Anderson, who has served as president of the United Way in Broward, and Richard Paul-Hus, who lost a crowded state legislative race to Ellyn Bogdanoff in 2003.

Commissioner Joe Cobo, who has faced accusations of conflicts of interest, is under investigation by Broward prosecutors. He has denied wrongdoing and remains on the board.

Diaz-Balarts, Ros-Lehtinen head McCollum's Miami-Dade campaign

Now that Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have pulled their endorsements of Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate campaign, they've got more time to focus on other candidates. Attorney General Bill McCollum's campaign for governor said the congressmen, along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, will head his Miami-Dade leadership team.


Jim Greer warns GOP to reject 'purity test'

Dear RNC members,

As you may be aware, I recently announced that I would be stepping down effective February 20 as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.  This decision, although difficult, was made in an effort to unify our Party and in hopes of getting Florida Republicans focused on electing Republicans to office this coming November, which must always be our primary objective. It is has been a great privilege to not only serve as Florida's Chairman, but also as a member of the RNC. I have enjoyed working with many of you, especially Paul Senft, Florida's National Committeeman, and I was humbled and honored to be elected Chairman of the Standing Committee on Rules and I wish my successor the very best.

I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my thoughts regarding the future of our Party, and in particular, current issues involving the RNC and our leadership. The Republican Party has great opportunities before it and our Party's belief in less government, less taxes and self responsibility is one in which Americans are once again embracing which can lead the GOP to many victories this November. But we must also be a Party that is inclusive and committed to providing solutions to the challenges that American's are facing, which, as we all know, is the economy and jobs. For our Party to be successful, we must reject those who promote division, personal attacks and the constant drum beat of Moderates vs. Conservatives. We must talk about the issues and policies and not individuals.  We must recognize that the opposition is not within our own Party, but the Democrats and their policies.  We must also do all we can to make African Americans and Hispanics feel welcome in the Republican Party. With this in mind, I encourage the RNC to oppose any attempt to create a "purity test", to do so would slam the door in the face of Independents and all voters that may be considering to join or coming back to the Republican Party.

Finally, I wish to commend Chairman Steele on his leadership and thank him for allowing me to serve as a member of his leadership team. I look forward to celebrating Republican victories with all Republican's this coming November.

Warmest Regards,

Jim Greer

Chairman, Republican Party of Florida  

PSC sets new FPL rates -- 21 cents hike in base rates

State utility regulators set the new rate increase for Florida Power & Light customers in a swift, 17-minute meeting, with little discussion.

Starting on March 1 meter readings, residential customers will pay $1.03 cents a month more for every 1,000 kilowatt hours for the base rate portion their bills for electricity, including an energy charge that will rise 80 cents and taxes that go up 2 cents.

The base rate increase is a result of the $75 million increase awarded to FPL by the Public Service Commission on Jan. 13.

Meanwhile, FPL's 4,500 customers are already beginning to see some savings on their January bills. That's because the one-time refunds, ordered by the Public Service Commission in November, are giving customers refunds of $44.46 for 1,000 kilowatt hours used.

FPL had hoped to stretch out the fuel savings over the next year, to offset the 30 percent, $1.3 billion increase, the company had sought. But regulators rejected that plan, ordering them to refund $365 million they overcollected in fuel costs in 2009, and rejecting all but a fraction of their rate request.

Crist's budget -- by the numbers

UPDATE: $69.2 billion Total

$21,515.3 million Education (31.1 percent of total budget)

$28,433.7 million HHS (41.1 percent of total)

$9,754.3 million TED (14.1 percent of total)

$5,179.2 million Public Safety (7.5 percent of total)

$2,124.3 million Environment (3.1 percent of total)

$1,7646.6 million General Government (2.6 percent of total)

-- Marc Caputo