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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Hometown Democracy Debate Heats Up

Amendment 4, also known as Hometown Democracy, will be the ballot initiative to watch in 2010.  The highly-controversial amendment cleared another hurdle yesterday when the Florida Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion to Attorney General Bill McCollum stating that a revised financial impact statement now complied with state law.  

“Local governments will incur additional costs due to the requirement to conduct referenda,” the court opined.  The impact on state government; however, “will be insignificant.”

Amendment 4 would require that any comprehensive land use plan changes approved by city councils or county commissions go before the public in the form of a ballot referendum.  Critics say that requiring the public to vote on all comprehensive changes would clog up local ballots and could necessitate dozens of referenda throughout the year.  On the other hand, proponents contend that local politicians are too dependent on large developers for campaign funds and have been quick to approve amendments in the past.

The recent legislative session only served to further heighten the stakes as the Legislature moved to strip much of the existing growth management policies currently in place in an effort to jump-start the state’s flagging real estate industry.  To the dismay of many, Charlie Crist—a self-proclaimed environmentalist—went along with the Legislature’s efforts. As a result, many previous opponents of Amendment 4 are beginning to change their tune, including Florida Times-Union Columnist Ron Littlepage.  Littlepage cited the Legislature’s near-stripping of concurrency requirements and the on-going Craig Airfield controversy in announcing his shifting position on the initiative.  (Interestingly enough, several local governments, including Weston, Key Biscayne and Miami Beach, have filed suit to block the rewrite of growth management laws.  They argue that eliminating concurrency created “unfunded mandates” for local governments.)

Despite their opposition to the recent moves by the Legislature in regards to growth management, the St. Pete Times Editorial Board is not convinced that Amendment 4 is the answer.  They cite the “St. Pete Beach experiment” in detailing their distaste for the initiative.  St. Pete Beach, the Times said, demonstrates that “land planning via referendum is a messy, unpredictable business that leads to higher government costs due to litigation and a stalemate when it comes to development.”

On its face, some argue that the amendment demonstrates an abdication of voter responsibility.  If the voting public is unhappy with politicians rubber stamping the requests of developers, they argue, then voters have an obligation to show up at the polls in support of individuals who pledge their commitment to uphold the comprehensive plan.  

One thing is for certain—it will be a high-stakes, expensive war as the Florida Chamber, developers and real estate interests make an all-out effort to prevent the amendment from reaching that magical 60%.  

The ad wars on YouTube have already begun.  A sampling, including a satirical reprise of the 1970’s era “Crying Indian” PSA, can be viewed below. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 2010, Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

The Hottest 2010 Campaign Issue? Travel On State Planes

One of the hottest issues emerging in the statewide races coming up in 2010 appears to be travel on state aircraft.  Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp was the first to come under fire for what some deemed as “excessive” travel on state aircraft on the taxpayers dime.  Kottkamp, a rumored candidate for Attorney General, has moved to put the accusations to rest by reimbursing the state and hiring a well-respected legal team to assist in fighting ethics complaints.

The issue has not stopped with Kottkamp; however.  Attorney General Bill McCollum and CFO Alex Sink are now both facing ethics complaints over their own use of state aircraft.  Today, the first attack ad of the political cycle emerged with a YouTube video targeted at Sink.  The ad was produced by the 527 group “Don’t Bank on Sink”, which is headed up by Gainesville businessman Jay Navarrete.  The ad appears below: Read the rest of this entry »

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

Questions for Florida’s Gubernatorial Candidates

With Tallahassee having proven itself too small to contain the political ambitions of Charlie Crist, the race for Florida’s next Chief Executive is wide open.  Alex Sink, the state’s CFO, looks as if she will sail to the Democratic nomination without any opposition.  Bill McCollum, the state’s Attorney General, has so far failed to draw a primary opponent, although State Senator Paula Dockery is said to be considering challenging him.  Regardless of which candidates are put forth, there are serious questions that should be raised of the candidates on both sides of the ticket.

Jeb Bush was arguably Florida’s most powerful governor in recent history.  During his tenure, the role of of the Governor was expanded like never before.  Prior to 2003, Florida’s Governor was merely one of seven equal votes on the state cabinet.  The cabinet voted on all executive level decisions, which meant an alliance of four votes could override the Governor on any executive level decisions.  In 2002, with Jeb Bush’s backing, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that shrunk the cabinet to three positions, greatly expanding the power of the governor.  At the same time, voters approved an amendment that eliminated the Board of Regents, which governed the state’s higher education and shifted that responsibility to the new Florida Board of Governors, which are appointed by the Governor.

Charlie Crist has continued to expand the role of the governor while in office, using his position to push through the deceptively named “Save Our Homes” Amendment.  (Deceptive, in that it marginally cut property taxes while negatively impacting funding for local governments.)

With those those two most recent chief executives in mind, here are five questions Duval County voters might want to ask as they begin to think of how they will vote next November.

1.  Where does the candidate stand on the expanded role of state power at the expense of local governments? The candidate’s position on this issue should begin to emerge rather quickly as they hit the campaign trail.  Are the candidates pushing an agenda that includes cutting property taxes?  If so, they are most likely masking an effort to further weaken the ability of local governments to provide essential services to their citizens.  They are also removing the option to cut taxes from local governments and consolidating it in Tallahassee.

2.  Does the candidate support the Crist practice of using non-recurring revenues and trust fund raids to balance the state budget? Sink was quick to announce her opposition to trust fund raids, but McCollum has remained ominously silent on the issue.  The practice is dangerous for Florida and something that will have dire consequences in the long term.

3.  Where does the candidate stand on water issues? This is one that will be quite difficult to pin any candidate running for statewide office down on, but it’s one that North Floridians should be very concerned about.  The recent decision by the St. Johns River Water Management District to allow Seminole County to remove up to 5.5 million gallons of water from the St. Johns River each day will not bode well for the long-term health of the river.  Central Florida has known for years that their growth is not sustainable, but will a gubernatorial candidate be willing to upset the vote-rich I-4 corridor to state the obvious?

4.  Where does the candidate stand on the sales surtax that Gov. Crist vetoed? This is an issue of particular importance to Duval County residents.  Duval is at a disadvantage when compared to every other county in the state because of the inability of our elected commission—the city council—to levy a sales tax surcharge to fund indigent care.  Crist inexplicably vetoed a measure that passed the legislature unanimously that would have allowed Jacksonville to shift the burden for indigent care from the city’s operating budget to a half-cent sales surtax, freeing up much-needed funds for other services.

5.  Where does the candidate stand on the Fair District Florida effort? Fair Districts Florida is an effort to put two amendments on the ballot  that would fundamentally alter the redistricting process in Florida.  Redistricting in Florida has grown increasingly partisan in the last several decades.  Groups have been marginalized and districts throughout the state have been drawn in ways that make no geographic sense—it’s glaringly apparent that they exist for one of two reasons:  To either protect an incumbent or minimize a specific segment of the population.  It’s important to know where the next Governor of Florida would stand on this issue—after all, she (or he) would play a major role in drawing new districts after the 2010 census.

Of course, these are just five of the many issues facing the state, but they are a start.  It will be interesting to hear both sides address them as the election nears.

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

Firefighters Back Alex Sink

Alex Sink, the presumed Democratic candidate for Governor, has won her first major endorsement and it’s a big one.  The 24,000 member Florida Professional Firefighters union has announced their support of Sink.  The union, which backed Jeb Bush in his last two races for the Governor’s mansion, has had a long history of supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates throughout the years, making the Sink endorsement all that more significant.

Bill McColum, Sink’s presumed opponent in the general election, looks like he may face opposition within his own party after all.  According to the St. Pete Times, David Hill, a veteran Florida Republican consultant, says that McCollum is beatable.  Hill is said to be in deep discussions with State Senator Paula Dockery about whether or not she will challenge McCollum for the GOP nomination.

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

Alex Sink: “Lawton Chiles Meets Minnie Pearl”

Dan Ruth of the St. Pete Times has a rather interesting column about Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for Governor.  He looks at Sink’s efforts to portray herself as a folksy daughter of a farmer in an effort to head off Republican criticism of her banking career:

Until she retired some 10 years ago with a pot full of farewell money, Sink was a bare-knuckled, hard-charging, body-part-crunching executive who eventually rose to become Florida president of Bank of America. She knows her way around a boardroom as well as Rambo knows how to snap a windpipe.

And yet since she announced her gubernatorial plans, Republicans have tried to suggest by virtue of Sink’s banking background she’s responsible for the Great Depression, the Irish potato famine, the collapse of Zimbabwe’s currency and the nation’s current economic crisis.

That is even more disingenuous than blaming the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, for being complicit in the Guantanamo torture memos simply because he was a former judge advocate general lawyer as well as a congressman before he left office in 2001. After all, McCollum did suggest last month at a Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting that he doesn’t consider waterboarding to be torture.

Now it is understandable that Sink would want to introduce herself to voters as a doting mother and wife. But her decades in the financial community are also a significant part of who Alex Sink is as a person — the parent who may have kissed her son’s boo-boo in the morning as well as the bloodless suit who cut the knees off a corporate foe in the afternoon. Think of June Cleaver morphing into Joan Crawford.

For the record, I consider attacks on her banking career to be rather lame.  (I know, what a surprise coming from another banker.)  They also have the potential to backfire.  Jeff Atwater, the GOP’s current candidate for CFO is a long-time banker, and one whose bank has received a bit of unwanted publicity as of late.

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

Group Forms To Block McCollum’s Free Ride to GOP Nomination

Interesting press release from a group that has formed to draft State Senator Paula Dockery to challenge Bill McCollum for the GOP nomination for Governor.

MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
CONTACT: Doug Guetzloe (407) 312-1781
Nick Egoroff (321) 206-0389

NEW POLL SHOWS PAULA DOCKERY CAN
WIN GOVERNORSHIP
DRAFT DOCKERY FOR GOVERNOR EFFORT
LAUNCHES WEBSITE

A poll just released by Atlanta-based Strategic Vision shows strong support for State Senator Paula Dockery to run for Governor.

In a head-to-head match up with Bill McCollum, Dockery garners 28% of the vote to McCollum’s 44%. McCollum has run statewide three times and lost two of those contests. Dockery has never run statewide.

“This is very exciting news that shows Senator Dockery can win the nomination and the general election,” stated Draft Dockery co-chairman Doug Guetzloe, Chairman of Ax the Tax, an Orlando-based grassroots political committee. “This poll shows what many of us in the GOP already know – Bill McCollum can’t win – Paula Dockery can.”

The independent survey shows McCollum topping out at 44% with very large unfavorable ratings.

“Senator Dockery hasn’t even agreed to run and she’s generating a tremendous amount of excitement among GOP activists,” stated Nick Egoroff, an Orange County Republican Executive Committee leader. “Paula’s victory over the CSX bailout was a huge victory for Florida taxpayers and it galvanized statewide grassroots support for Paula,” Egoroff concluded.

The Draft Senator Paula Dockery movement has just launched a website http://www.DOCKERY2010.COM as well as a Facebook site that has collected nearly 500 enthusiastic activists from all over Florida in announcing their support for Dockery for Governor in just a few days.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

Politicians on Twitter = B-O-R-I-N-G

Great column by Beth Reinhard in the Miami Herald – sharing how politicians on Twitter spell “booooring” in 140 letters.  For example, I’m sure we all wanted to know such facts like it takes Marco Rubio’s wife forever to blowdry her hair.

I joined Twitter this week. Does that make me a twit? (Please don’t answer that.)

This is not why I got into journalism. Spewing online quips limited to 140 letters isn’t the crusade for truth and justice I once envisioned.

But as a lucky survivor in the struggling media biz, I wanted to see what the cool kids were doing. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about Florida’s political twittering class.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Charismatic Bill McCollum for Governor

Funny piece from the St. Pete Times:

This is just what the Republican Party needs — fresh blood, a young buck, a visionary whippersnapper.

Enter Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a man never shy about resisting the burdens of charisma, who has proclaimed his desire to succeed Gov. Charlie Crist.

In an announcement that had all the thrilling excitement of a novena, McCollum, who will be 66 come election day next year, launched his gubernatorial bid surrounded by more middle-aged white men than the Gasparilla Krewe.

The aging Howdy Doody of Florida politics has held this strange sway over the state Republicans. For McCollum it is always his “turn” at bat, pursuing nominations for higher office as if it was a matter of sub-tropical Manifest Destiny.

Back in the 2000 U.S. Senate race, Tom Gallagher, an infinitely better candidate with superb retail stump skills, was pressured to step aside by Gov. Jeb Bush and other party leaders to make room for then U.S. Rep. McCollum. At the time, it was felt McCollum had earned the right to run against Bill Nelson based on his leading role in the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.

That’s not a political campaign. It’s awarding a nomination as if it was a Miss Congeniality contest. So McCollum won his party’s sash and now Bill Nelson is in his second term as Florida’s senior U.S. senator. Say, that was some keen political strategizing.

Now Florida’s Republican mandarins are once more lining up like Apollo Creed’s entourage in Rocky behind the Urkel of Tallahassee’s quest for the governor’s mansion.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

GOP Chairman Backs Down

Looking to avoid an all-out rebellion as local parties across the state from Duval to Palm Beach have passed resolutions stating that they will not interfere in Republican primaries, State Party Chair Jim Greer has announced that he is backing off efforts to endorse Charlie Crist in his primary battle with former House Speaker Marco Rubio.  Greer, a long-time ally of Governor Crist complained that he had thought his behind the scenes maneuvering was “confidential” and complained that information had been leaked to the press for “reasons unknown to him.”

Greer also went on to defend his appearance at a rally for Bill McCollum while Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson was still considering a race for Governor.  

The full text of his statement can be viewed here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Bill McCollum’s Rainy Start

Bill McCollum’s 14th campaign got off to a rather inauspicious start on a rainy Monday morning as he faced the press to announce a run for the GOP nomination to succeed Florida Governor Charlie Crist.  As many political observers are noting, there’s not too much about Bill McCollum that excites Florida Republicans.  Yet, in spite of the tens of millions wasted by donors on the failure of two of his last three statewide races, Republican leaders raced to Orlando to embrace him.  While none of them expected an electrifying speech, they certainly couldn’t have been pleased with the kickoff.  

For starters—an early Monday morning announcement to become the Governor of the state’s fourth largest state?  Monday?  To make matters worse, McCollum awakened to a broken blood vessel in his right eye—something that no candidate would want to have to deal with as they faced the media for their kickoff event.  Further complicating matters, planning a “new media” campaign seems not to have been on McCollum’s agenda before the kickoff.  His campaign website appears nowhere in the first five pages of a simple Google search.   A Facebook page did go up tonight (he has garnered 19 supporters as of the posting of this article) and a Twitter profile was set up on Friday, but only appeared in the public search tonight.  Imagery and marketing have never been McCollum’s strong point and that doesn’t seem to have changed with his latest campaign.

Even beyond the planning and imagery; however, McCollum struggled.  Not wanting to alienate potential supporters, he declined to endorse in the contentious Crist vs. Rubio GOP Senate primary.  Hours later , he retracted that statement, saying that “there is plenty of time for endorsements.” 

All in all, McCollum is off to a rather timid start.  The Florida Republican Party appears to be yearning for excitement—something Bill McCollum doesn’t look like he has a whole lot of in him.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

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