Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

RPOF and its legislators party while Florida goes broke

Even as the legislature considers wiping out an estimated $388 million in sales tax breaks to try to plug Florida’s rapidly growing (and currently estimated at $6 billion) budget hole, the Republican Party of Florida and Republican legislators are wasting no time or expense throwing a huge weekend-long party this weekend at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando.  After taking VIP tours of Islands of Adventure and Universal, the legislators will be treated to lunch and then later a Mardi Gras party and a VIP viewing of a Pat Benatar concert.

Meanwhile, all the poor taxpayers are begging “treat me right”.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, ,

Trail Ridge Dump

Ed Gamble weighs in on Mayor Peyton and the Trail Ridge Landfill.



Filed under: Jacksonville, Mayor of Jacksonville, , ,

Florida Prepaid College Program vs. Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist’s new plan to balance the state budget on the back of college students isn’t exactly receiving rave reviews around the state.  Stanley G. Tate, the 80-year old guru of the widely successful Florida Pre-Paid College Program, has pledged to spend $500,000 of his own money fighting the Governor’s proposal that would allow six universities to increase their tuition by up to 15% each year.  From the Palm Beach Post:

“It’s going to cost a lot of money to do this, and I’ll spend as much as I need to because this is my legacy,” Tate said about the program, which in 2006 was renamed the Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program. “People don’t understand, 20 years from now, what this will mean.”

Florida Prepaid sells contracts that allow parents to lock in today’s college prices for future tuition and fees. The plans can be paid for in one lump sum or monthly installments. More than 881,000 children have had plans purchased for them since the beginning of the program in 1988.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

On 2nd thought, that escort cost $700,000

After the revelation that Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp’s bodyguard/driver cost the state more than $210,000 over the last two years, the Sun-Sentinel decided to do a little more digging.  The results are rather astonishing. 

 A personal chauffeur and bodyguard, multiple airplanes and three sport utility vehicles stationed around the state are all part of an elaborate network used in transporting Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jeff Kottkamp.

Records obtained by the Sun Sentinel this week show that Kottkamp, criticized for his frequent use of the state’s executive aircraft fleet, also has flown extensively on a plane owned by the Florida Highway Patrol, which is charged with protecting the lieutenant governor.

On the ground, the highway patrol drives Kottkamp around in three SUVs purchased for more than $80,000 after he took office in January 2007. One is based in Fort Myers, where Kottkamp has a home, another in Tallahassee and the third in Central Florida.

The total tab for Kottkamp’s travel and protection for his first two years in office: more than $700,000.

So, what do you think?  Does the State of Florida even need a Lt. Governor?  Vote in the Orlando Sentinel’s poll here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

City full speed ahead with lobbyists

While the City’s head of legislative affairs, Shannon Hewett, has left the City for the greener lobbying pastures of Southern Strategies headed up by John Thrasher, the City has neither a shortage of lobbying firms working for it (including Thrasher’s firm), nor, evidently, the money to pay them. 

According to the Florida Legislature’s website, the City paid out somewhere between  $60,000 and $120,000 to 4 of the 5 lobbying firms it retains to lobby the state legislative and executive branches just for the period running from October 1 to December 31, 2008.  (In case you’re wondering why there’s such a large spread in the amount of money that the City paid out, it’s due to the fact that state lobbyists are not required to report the specific amount they are paid, but instead a range.)  And don’t forget that the City is paying for firms to lobby the feds, too.

In the meantime, Florida Trend is reporting that many folks are cutting their lobbying expenses:

Looking for ways to plug an $82-million budget hole, Broward County commissioners decided last year to cut library and park hours. They also sacked two of the seven lobbying firms they had employed — a move that will save $66,000.

Palm Beach County commissioners have also scaled back their legislative affair’s budget for 2009, cutting their federal lobbyist’s pay by 22% and applying a 12.5% across-the-board reduction to their state lobbying contracts.

While there are pros and cons to maintaining current lobbying efforts and expenses (as pointed out in the Florida Trend article), it seems that in these tight budget times, the City should at least do a thorough examination of these firms’ performance to determine whether or not they are getting the most bang for their buck from their lobbying efforts at both the state and federal levels, if they haven’t done so already.

Filed under: Florida Legislature, Jacksonville, Mayor of Jacksonville, ,

High Priced Administrators at the Duval County School Board

As Duval County School administrators brainstorm over how they will deal with a projected $112 million cut in funding, they have tossed out a number of recommendations, including:

  • A hiring freeze to save $1.5 million
  • Impose central management of funds and close dormant purchase orders to save $5.5 million (You would think they would already have this implemented!)
  • Renegotiate contracts with employees to save $8.1 million
  • Stop televised broadcasts of School Board meetings to save $315,000 (Of course, in this day of webcasts and podcasts one can only imagine why the DCSB needs to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make themselves accessible to the community.  Just stick a webcam in the back of the room and put it on a webcast.  Or, just tape it and stick it on YouTube.  FOR FREE!)

One of the things that hasn’t been mentioned; however, has been any reduction in the salaries and benefits of Administrators.  Or, for that matter, any reduction in the number of Administrative Staff.  In February 2008, Ed Pratt-Dannals saw his salary bumped 73% to an annual salary of $275,000 when he took the Superintendent’s slot from Joey Wise.  (Of course, the School Board also paid $275,000 to get rid of Wise.  By the way…weren’t they going to try to recover some of that severance package based on a breach of contract?)  In addition to Mr. Pratt-Dannals salary, 37 other Duval County School employees make in excess of $100,000 and 299 make in excess of $75,000.  

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Filed under: Jacksonville, , ,

Existing Homeowner’s to suffer under Crist plan

Charlie Crist’s proposals to further reduce property taxes on the backs of local governments is running into a slew of opposition.  Apparently, a ranking of 47th in terms of overall tax burden is not enough for Gov. Crist’s future political ambitions.  He would rather cut educational spending and force college students to balance the state budget.

The Florida Association of Counties has announced their firm opposition and Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan has joined their ranks.  Mr. Donegan, who stopped a similar 2007 proposal, says that his research shows that Crist’s proposals actually benefit new homeowners at the expense of existing homeowners.

“The inequities are going to be the new guys versus the old guys,” said Bill Donegan, whose research helped derail a statewide tax proposal in 2007. As Donegan sees it, Crist’s proposal would give first-time buyers in Florida an unfair tax break in an attempt to invigorate the state’s depressed real-estate market. Those first-time buyers would initially pay tax on only half the property value. Existing-home owners who sell their house and buy another, meanwhile, get a much smaller benefit: They can take along their Save Our Homes exemption, which limits annual increases in the taxable value of their homes to 3 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Mayor digging in his heels on Waste Management no-bid contract

I just finished reading the latest developments in the Waste Management no-bid contract to operate the City’s Trail Ridge Landfill on the TU tonight.  Three – count them, three – companies have now come forward and want to bid on the Trail Ridge Landfill contract in a fair contest with Waste Management (and their negotiated no-bid contract) using the City’s bid process as required by the City’s ordinance code. 

And what does the Administration do?  They spout off garbage rates supposedly from other areas with absolutely no back up facts mentioned in the article, so you can’t even tell if they are making a fair comparison. 

And then, they have the chutzpah to say that anybody who wants to bid on the landfill needs to demontrate that they will be cheaper if they assume all the same liabilities and responsibilites that Waste Management has agreed to, even though the companies have already committed to doing  just that.  Ummmm, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Hollingsworth, isn’t that exactly what the City Ordinance requires be done in the bid process? 

To add insult to injury, Mr. Hollingsworth boldly states that  the companies who want to bid “must be willing to back the city if Waste Management files and wins a lawsuit.  “The real question is, are these opponents to this deal willing to pay those lawsuit damages in the event the city loses in court?” he said. ”

Funny,  I don’t see him making that same demand of Waste Management. 

Wouldn’t  the Mayor’s Office demands be more plausible and fairer if they also required that Waste Management meet those same conditions?  Shouldn’t Waste Management also be willing to back the City and pay the lawsuit damages, if the companies that want to bid file lawsuits and the City loses in Court?

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , ,

“Charlie, do we really know you?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  From Michael Putney:

All this hyper-Crist exposure has me asking: Is Charlie the genuinely concerned Republican moderate/populist he professes to be (“I work for the people, they’re my boss”)? Or is he a slightly ditzy, disconnected lightweight who has succeeded on the strength of great political instincts, an appealing personality and a Clintonesque (Bill, not Hillary) talent for making you feel like you’re the most important person in the room for however long you’re with him?

He is extremely likable. Heck, I like the guy. But likability is only one small component of leadership — and not an essential one. Some leaders — Jeb Bush, to name one — don’t give a hoot whether they’re liked or not. They’d rather be respected or, better yet, feared. Nobody, I suspect, fears Charlie Crist. 

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Twittering the Legislative Session

Dan Gelber, a Democratic State Senator from Miami Beach and a candidate for the open US Senate seat in 2010, has announced his intent (Via Facebook) to tweet the upcoming legislative session via Twitter, the burgeoning online social networking site.  Perhaps the most amusing portion of Gelber’s announcement, however, was his announcement that he intended to encourage other legislators to do the same.  One wonders if he has ever met his fellow State Senators Steve Wise and Jim King?  Can you honestly see them twittering?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , ,

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