« October 2008 | Main | December 2008 »

178 posts from November 2008

November 30, 2008

Jeb tells GOP not to become 'Democrat-lite'

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave a wide-ranging interview today to the conservative web site, NewsMax in which he offers his ideas for re-shaping the Republican Party. He warned the party of becoming "Democrat-lite'' and urged GOP faithful to form a "shadow government" to challenge the ideas emerging from the Obama administration.

We can't tell which came first, but Jeb's ideas sound an awful lot like former House Speaker Marco Rubio who told the Herald days after the election that he didn't want his party to become "Democrat lite'' either.

Here's Bush: “We can’t be Democrat-lite. We can’t just ‘get along. We have to actually be proposing solutions to what appear to be intractable problems as it relates to education, health care, infrastructure. Across the board there are ways that we can show that we are truly on the side of the people that are concerned about the future of the country, without abandoning our principles.”

Bush The party should establish a loyal opposition and “organize ourselves in the form of a shadow government.” The “shadow government” would address key issues, providing the public with “a loftier debate about policy” rather than mere partisanship.

This is not your father's Florida: Why things are different this recession

Remember the recessions of 1992 and 2001, or those of the 1970s and '80s? One thing always buoyed Florida faster and farther out of its economic troubles: population growth and the industries that came with it, real estate and construction.

Governors and legislators could always rely on population growth to create jobs, avoid tax increases and shield the state from recession. The population surge of 2 to 3 percent a year --enough to add a city the size of Miami or Tampa each year  -- justified Florida's claim as a growth state.

Not this time. Florida population growth from in-migration has slowed to a trickle and it's raising new doubts about the wisdom of betting our future on growth. With the mortgage crisis, credit crunch and flat-lining of population, the twin industries that buffered Florida through two previous recessions -- real estate and construction -- are weighing down Florida's economy, complicating a recovery and making it likely that Florida will be among the last to bounce back.

''This recession is not only going to be bad for us. It's going to be worse than the nation's,'' said David Denslow, a University of Florida economist. The primary reason: Florida's residential construction boom grew at twice its normal rate and ``we got overbuilt.''

Read the story from the newly merged bureaus of the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times here.

November 25, 2008

Zapata and Garcia still at the helm of Dade Delegation

There was no major changing of the guard when the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation met recently to elect a chair and vice chair.

Zapata_2State Rep. Juan Zapata, a Miami Republican, was reelected to his role as chair of the 25 member delegation. State Rep. Luis Garcia, a Miami Beach Democrat, will also return to his post as vice chair.

"My personal goal as Chairman will be to utilize state resources to increase access to primary healthcare for the uninsured in Miami-Dade County," Zapata said via a press release.

GarciaAdded Garcia: "I pledge to work hard to unifying our delegation, regardless of party lines, for the benefit of the all the people in Miami-Dade County."

Zapata, Garcia and the rest of the delegation will have the chance to hear out Miami-Dade residents at a legislative public hearing scheduled for 9:30a.m. Dec. 3rd at the Stephen P. Clark Center in Downtown Miami.

Rep. Eddy Gonzalez for Hialeah Mayor?

State Rep. Eduardo "Eddy" Gonzalez, a Hialeah Republican, may have just capped off the 2008 election season with his reelection to the State House, but could there be another campaign in the works for 2009?

Eddy_websiteA group of unknown Hialeah residents hope so. They are trying to lure Gonzalez back into city politics to run in the Hialeah's 2009 mayoral election. A "grassroots" website has surfaced, asking Hialeah residents to sign a petition "demonstrating the broad support for an Eddy Gonzalez campaign."

No word yet from Gonzalez if he would consider a run against his former colleague on the council- current Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, but according to the site-- "everywhere he goes, the Representative is asked: "Would you consider running for Mayor in 2009?" His answer is that he has no intention or plans to seek the office. But he hasn't decided not to run, either. We're convinced that Eddy can be persuaded to run."

Crist welcomes Rhodes Scholar-jock Rolle, mum on all else

Gov. Charlie Crist met with and saluted FSU d-back Myron Rolle for winning a Rhodes Scholarship.

"He's just such an outstanding man," Crist said this morning  in the governor's office.  "And it's such a great story." Indeed it is. Read it here.

The soft-spoken hard-hitter said little, describing the saga as "a wonderful, wonderful moment." He cracked a joke during Crist's Q and A with the press corps, saying the questions were harder than the Rhodes interview.

Q: What do you think of the gay-marriage ban being struck down by a Miami-Dade judge?

A: I'll get back with you

Q: Anything new with his statement yesterday about a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures?

A: No. "hope to be able to have something next week." Crist said it would be "my preference" to have a joint announcement/agreement with the bankers. And as for the bankers dislike of the word moratorium, Crist said: "I don't care what the terminology is. I just want to have compassion for people during a tough time."

Q: Will your need to balance the budget by syphoning savings money clash with your plan to spend road-savings money more quickly to accelerate building projects?

A: Everything's on the table.

November 24, 2008

Crist-mas present: Moratorium on all foreclosures?

With the mortgage and credit crisis bearing down harder every second, what can a governor do? How about an executive order that arrives just before the holidays that allows people to stay in their homes longer, gives businesses -- like home builders -- time to renegotiate for more time and provides a short-term boost to the economy?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed it in California so we were wondering if Gov. Charlie Crist has considered it for Florida. “You have my office bugged or something?'' he answered.

"I think it would be a good thing to be able to do,'' Crist said this afternoon. "I want to try to work with the banking industry and do it in a way that is not harmful to them because we want them to succeed, to continue to loan money, but we want to stop the foreclosures, especially during the holidays.’’

Crist said he has been considering this "for several days, longer actually." And when asked if he has the authority to do it, the governor answered, "stay tuned.''

Gunzburger and Geller line up supporters for 2010 battle

The Broward County Commission race between incumbent Sue Gunzburger and former state Sen. Steve Geller is nearly two years away, but the longtime Democratic officials are already in a race to pick up supporters.

Gunzburger will have her first fundraiser Dec. 3 and lists more than 200 people on her host committee including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, Broward Democratic Party Chair Mitch Ceasar, Pembroke Pines City Commissioner Angelo Castillo, former  Attorney General Bob Butterworth and former Congressman Peter Deutsch.

And the list also includes veteran campaign consultants Stan Adkins, Barbara Miller and Judy Stern.

"I've got an opponent so I have to get started early,'' Gunzburger said. "I told him I plan to run a vigorous campaign against him.''

Geller says the people on Gunzburger's committee aren't necessarily exclusively endorsing her.

"When I release my list I assure you you are going to see many of the same names,'' said Geller, who  said he will release his list in December.

A poll conducted by pollster Jim Kane in July for the political website www.browardbeat.com showed Geller up by 14 percentage points. Geller, who currently lives in Cooper City, will have to move to the district which includes Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines -- areas he represented in the state Legislature.

Geller has raised about $16,000 so far while Gunzburger hasn't raised any funds yet.

Florida home builders sound the warnings sirens: quick action needed

The Florida Home Builders held a press conference today in which they had everything but the three-alarm sirens. Their unmistakable message: stop extreme bank lending practices that are jeopardizing their ability to hold onto what's left of their shaky industry.

Here's what's happening in a nutshell: Banks that gave loans to builders in better economic times are now reappraising the value of their loans. The loans were based on earlier projections of home prices and, now that those values have dropped -- by as much as 30 percent -- banks want builders to make up the difference. Banks are conducting "capital calls" and demanding large amounts of cash from these builders to restore the original loan-to-value ratio.

No surprise, the builders can't manage it. "The cash call is forcing builders into insolvency,'' said Jay Carlson, president of the Florida Home Builders Association. The building industry troubles that are already wreaking havoc on the state's budget, he said, "have gotten much worse and the result will be further deterioration of Florida's economy."

A contingent of home builders from Florida visited U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Bill Nelson in Washington, D.C. last week and Florida CFO Alex Sink in Tallahassee on Monday demanding a time out -- not a bail out. They want a moratorium on lending insitutions calling in loans. They want government -- state and federal -- to help homeowners to stop the spiraling decine in homeownership that has 54,000 homes in foreclosure in Florida and homes around them rapidly decline in value. And they want Congress to stop banks from taking bail-out money on the front end, but closing credit to builders on the back end.

"This isn’t something we need to do in 60 to 90 days. This is something that has to be done now,'' said John C. "Chuck" Fowke, a builder from Valrico. "Without results now, the economic crisis that you read about will be a picnic compared to what’s coming."

Continue reading "Florida home builders sound the warnings sirens: quick action needed " »

Obama answers calls to add Hispanic to Cabinet

From the Los Angeles TImes:  President-elect Barack Obama has chosen New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary, adding a prominent Hispanic and one-time Democratic rival to his expanding Cabinet.

Obama planned to announce the nomination after Thanksgiving, according to a Democratic official familiar with the discussions. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations and did so on condition of anonymity.

Richardson, 61, had a distinguished and visible career in Washington before returning to New Mexico, where he was elected governor in 2002. Richardson served as U.N. ambassador under President Bill Clinton and later as energy secretary. He was in the House from 1983 to 1997. Clinton sent Richardson on several high-level diplomatic missions while he was in Congress, including direct talks with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Richardson ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out in January after a poor showing in early contests. He went on to endorse Obama at the height of the Illinois senator's primary contest with Hillary Rodham Clinton, angering many Clinton's supporters who viewed the endorsement as a disloyal snub.

November 22, 2008

Unions say it's payback time

"Our time has come!'' proclaimed the South Florida AFL-CIO at Friday's post-election meeting.

Having helped Barack Obama win the White House and the Democratic Party expand control of Congress, unions are ready to tackle a wish list that has gotten crumpled and faded.

At the top: the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions --therefore ensuring the very survival of the House of Labor during the nationwide economic crisis.

"This is a defining moment for labor,'' South Florida AFL-CIO President Fred Frost told about 30 union leaders over a plastic-fork lunch of Boston Market chicken and corn bread, described as their last meal'' until budgets recover from the election. "All of the work we've done for Obama is for naught unless we can revitalize the labor movement.''

Keep reading here.