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Archive for November, 2010

Gov.-elect Scott names economic, regulatory advisers

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 by George Bennett


Former Palm Beach Gardens councilman and 2008 congressional candidate Hal Valeche is among the people tapped by Gov.-elect Rick Scott to serve on teams that will advise Scott on economic development and regulatory reform.

Valeche, owner of York Street Capital Advisors, is one of about 50 people on the economic development team, which is chaired by Wayne Huizenga. The regulatory team is chaired by Chris Corr of global consulting firm AECOM.

Click here to read the Scott transition team’s full release and list of names.

What happens when Democratic activists snub ‘Godfather’ Aaronson?

Monday, November 29th, 2010 by George Bennett


Palm Beach County Democratic “zone leaders” Nate and Harriet Smith oversee get-out-the-vote efforts in about 90 precincts. The Smiths were upset that County Commissioner Burt Aaronson, a.k.a. the Godfather of south county Democratic politics, bucked the party and endorsed Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist in the recent U.S. Senate race.

So the Smiths turned their chairs around in protest when Aaronson spoke at a recent nonpartisan Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations meeting.

Find out what happened next in this week’s Politics column.

Siegel steps aside (again), endorses Rod Smith for Fla. Democratic chairman

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 by George Bennett

Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel is giving up his pursuit of the Florida Democratic Party chairmanship and endorsing former state Sen. Rod Smith, who on Tuesday announced the support of Sen. Bill Nelson and some other big-name Dems.

“Rod Smith has set the stage for our rebirth as a modern, inclusive grassroots party which can fulfill the hopes and dreams of its many dedicated workers and constituencies,” Siegel said in a statement released by Smith.

Smith’s main rival for the job now appears to be Tallahassee City Commissioner and People For the American Way Foundation operative Andrew Gillum, who anticipated Siegel’s endorsement this morning and downplayed its significance.

“This race is about more than doing whatever it takes to seal one or two endorsements, it’s about giving the Florida Democratic Party the fresh start we need to win elections,” Gillum said. “I respect the senior members of our party, but I believe that we are in a new era that demands an open process that will energize our base.”


Nelson, Hastings among big-name Dems backing Rod Smith for chairman

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar and U.S. Rep.-elect Frederica Wilson of Miami are among the big-name Dems who are backing former state Sen. Rod Smith for Florida Democratic Party chairman, Smith announced today.

Smith, Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel, Hillsborough County Democratic Committeeman Alan Clendenin and Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum are running for state chairman. The election is expected in January.

Read Smith’s full press release after the jump…


Tallahassee commissioner enters Fla. Democratic chairman’s race

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett


Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum says he’s running for chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. Gillum, 31, works as an organizer and money-raiser for the liberal People For the American Way Foundation. To be eligible for the state post, he plans to run for chairman of the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee in December.

Gillum joins Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel and former Alachua County state Sen. Rod Smith among those interested in replacing Karen Thurman, who’s stepping down in the middle of her four-year term.

Gillum says the party failed to get its message out in the Nov. 2 elections, which saw Dems lose four congressional seats, all five statewide races and seven legislative seats. Gillum says he hopes to encourage small donations to the party while also attracting financial heavy hitters.

Judge tosses Jim Greer’s lawsuit against Florida GOP

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by George Bennett


From the Associated Press….

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Florida Republican Party by its ousted former chairman.

Circuit Judge Alan Dickey granted the party’s motion to dismiss Jim Greer’s suit Tuesday in Sanford. Greer had accused the party of reneging on a $123,000 severance deal.

The party’s executive director, Ronnie Whitaker, issued a statement saying Dickey saw through Greer’s attempt to sue the GOP while refusing to answer questions under oath by citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Greer, meanwhile, is facing criminal charges stemming from his tenure as party chairman including theft, organized fraud and money laundering.

ICYMI: Rep.-elect Allen West on TSA pat-downs, Palin, Bush tax cuts

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by George Bennett

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Republican U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West, appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press Sunday, said the Transportation Security Administration could have done a better job of “marketing” the controversial new pat-downs of air travelers.

West was part of a roundtable talk that began about halfway into the program. Click here for a transcript.

Will court toss Palm Beach County term limits?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by George Bennett

More than 70 percent of Palm Beach County voters approved term limits for county commissioners in 2002. No one has challenged the law in court. But a Broward County decision has called Palm Beach County’s law into question.

If Palm Beach County’s law gets tossed, seven-term incumbent Karen Marcus and five-termer Burt Aaronson could run for reelection in 2012. So far, neither one is ruling it out.

Read about it in this week’s Politics column.

Crist asks for agency heads’ resignations

Friday, November 19th, 2010 by Dara Kam

In a typical move as he prepares to leave office, Gov. Charlie Crist today asked for the resignations of his agency heads, their senior staff and Crist’s own workers.

“In an effort to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for Governor-elect Rick Scott’s executive and management team, I requested today letters of resignation from my senior executive staff, agency heads and their management teams, as well as all staff within the Executive Office of the Governor,” Crist said in a statement.

“There is no greater calling than to serve others, and I thank each of the dedicated public servants of my administration for their service to the people of Florida. The efficient transition from one leader to another is a testament to our nation’s democracy, and my administration stands ready and willing to assist as needed,” he wrote.

Scott’s amassed a transition team of more than a hundred individuals from Florida and throughout the country as he prepares to take office on Jan. 4.

McCollum, Bondi solicit GOP support for federal health care lawsuit

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum and his successor Pam Bondi are urging fellow Republicans throughout the country to join his lawsuit against the federal government over the new federal health care law.

McCollum and Bondi, who will take over on Jan. 4., sent a letter to 13 Republicans who won election this month as attorneys general or governor hoping to shore up support for the lawsuit now working its way through the federal courts.

“Having a majority of the states litigating our constitutional rights is a powerful message,” they wrote.

Oral argument on the case is set for Dec. 16 in Pensacola.

Rod Smith new Dem chief? ‘I believe I’ll be the appointee’

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Despite grumblings from Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel to the contrary, former state Sen. Rod Smith insists he’ll be the next state party chairman.

“I believe I’ll be the appointee,” said Smith, a Gainesville-area former prosecutor who most recently was Alex Sink’s running-mate in her losing bid for governor.

His bid to replace Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman, who is retiring, got a boost yesterday when an officer of the Alachua County party stepped down to make room for Smith.

Smith would have to be elected the chairman of the county executive committee or state committee man before he can be eligible to run as head of the FDP.

Once that happens, Smith said he’ll continue to build support from activists, donors and other county leaders.

“It’s a process that’s ongoing. It sometimes appears slow and ponderous but it’s an important process that allows people to have input about their concerns,” Smith, 61, said.


Palm Beach County Dem Chair Siegel says he’s back in the mix for state chairman

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by George Bennett


Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Mark Alan Siegel last week was ready to stand aside for former state Sen. Rod Smith in the race for state Democratic chairman.

But with Smith no longer seen as the slam dunk he appeared to be for a couple days last week, Siegel today says he’s all in.

“I think I’m a very viable candidate,” said Siegel, who must win reelection to his county chairmanship on Dec. 2 to be eligible for the state post.

What’s changed since last week?

“I became convinced that I really have something to offer that’s different than he does. It seems that, regrettably, his candidacy is kind of stalling. That hasn’t diminished my admiration for him at all,” Siegel said.

Cato gives Crist a D on fiscal policy

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Jeff Ostrowski

Two years ago, the conservative Cato Institute considered Gov. Crist a star pupil. This year, the think tank is calling in Charlie’s parents for a serious discussion.

In its latest report card for governors’ taxing and spending, Cato gives Crist a D. Only two years ago, he earned an A. Cato’s analysis of Crist’s performance: 

In the 2008 Cato report card, Governor Crist received an “A” based on his support of property tax cuts and spending restraint. But since then, the governor has switched fiscal gears and supported large tax increases on Floridians. Crist signed into law a $2.2 billion increase in 2009, which included a $1 per pack increase on cigarette consumers and more than $1 billion in new “fees” for vehicle licenses, fishing licenses, and other items. Then, exhibiting amnesia, Crist declared in his 2010 State of the State address: “My core principle is to not raise taxes.”


Crist continues to support property tax relief, but it is not clear that such relief would lead to lower taxes overall. A proposed “tax swap” in 2008 would have reduced local property taxes but increased state-level taxes by perhaps a greater amount.


Kickbacks? Nah, just ‘failures to disclose,’ Newell’s attorney says

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by George Bennett


Disgraced former Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell wants his conviction for honest services fraud tossed because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that only those who take kickbacks or bribes can be charged with that felony.

Prosecutors say Newell indeed took kickbacks, such as the $346,000 he got for a vote that helped his former business associate get a lucrative deal for Palm Beach Aggregates.


“These are not kickbacks,” Newell attorney Bruce Rogow argued. “These are failures to disclose.”

Read our Jane Musgrave’s complete story here.

Atwater names transition team, includes former senate Dem leader Lawson

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Jeff Atwater named Thomas F. Petway III as chairman of his transition team as the former senate president readies for his new job as chief financial officer.

Petway, a Jacksonville businessman and major GOP contributor, served on the Florida Board of Governors and is an owner of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars team.

Tucked into a host of Republican big-wigs he tapped for his transition team, Atwater spread a little bipartisan love with his former colleague Al Lawson.

Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat who owns an insurance agency, served as the Senate Democrats’ head honcho while Atwater was president.

See the complete list of Atwater’s transition team after the jump.

AG-elect Bondi taps bipartisan AG primary losers for transition team

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi enlisted two losing attorney general primary candidates to her transition team, which will be chaired by former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker,her predecessor Attorney General Bill McCollum and former House Speaker Larry Cretul.

Bondi tapped former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat who lost his AG bid in the primary to former state Sen. Dan Gelber who lost to Bondi, to serve on her pill mills and prescription drug team.

And Bondi recruited former state Rep. Holly Benson, her one-time opponent in the GOP primary, as one of her Medicaid fraud advisers. Benson formerly served as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The former Tampa prosecutor also asked her transition team members to sign an ethics pledge that includes a one-year ban on lobbying her office.

Bondi’s full list of transition team appointees follows.


First Lady to promote Let’s Move! initiative in Miami on Monday

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Ana Valdes

First Lady Michelle Obama will be in South Florida on Monday to highlight steps schools nationwide are taking to promote healthy eating habits for children.

Obama will tour Riverside Elementary School in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood to promote her Let’s Move! initiative, which encourages kids to eat more fruits and vegetables to lower their risk of becoming obese.

Chefs from the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, along with local school and public health officials, are expected to announce their support for setting up salad bars in more schools across the country, according to Obama’s press office.

Obama launched Let’s Move! in February, citing concern for statistics that show one in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese.

Add former AHCA chief Alan Levine, Pasco County sheriff to Scott’s transition team

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov.-elect Rick Scott named a former AHCA secretary to head his health care transition team and the Pasco County sheriff as his “law and order” chief today as time winds down to Scott’s inauguration on Jan. 4.

Scott, who pledged to cut 5 percent from state government spending, tapped Pasco County Sheriff Bob White to head his “law and order” team although White’s budget created a conflict with county commissioners in September.

White refused to cut his $85 million budget as directed by the county commission. Instead, he requested an additional $3.9 million to pay for more deputies to patrol high-crime areas.

The commissioners didn’t budge, and White has appealed his budget to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Alan Levine was the secretary of the Agency of Health Care Administration under Gov. Jeb Bush before going to work for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as his head of Health and Hospitals Agency. Levine was in charge of Florida’s Medicaid reform pilot project now operating in five counties. He’s now a senior VP at Naples-based Health Management Associates, which operates hospitals in Florida and more than a dozen other states.

Read the full list of Scott’s appointees after the jump.

Gov.-elect Scott resurrects inaugural ball

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov.-elect Rick Scott will revive the inaugural ball, a fete abandoned by Gov. Charlie Crist four years ago, as part of his two-day celebration of the Republican’s election as the state’s 45th governor.

Tickets for the event will cost $95, according to members of Scott’s inaugural team. Crist originally planned a ball after his 2006 election, but canceled the event after an outcry over the so-called “people’s governor” collecting contributions for the fancy-dress event during a time of economic crisis for the state.

Scott, who spent at least $73 million of his own vast fortune to finance his campaign for governor, is also hosting a variety of free events, including a youth concert, an event for military families and an event geared toward honoring the historic election of the state’s first black lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, and first female attorney general, Pam Bondi.

“The people of Florida have plenty to celebrate with the inauguration of our state’s next governor, including the implementation of an aggressive jobs plan and a new focus on revitalizing the state’s economy. Floridians are invited to participate in the Inaugural festivities, many free and open to the public, as Rick Scott prepares to forge a new path towards prosperity for all Floridians. We look forward to announcing event details in the coming weeks,” Scott’s inaugural committee spokeswoman Erin Isaac said in an e-mail.

Chief Justice orders judges to open foreclosure proceedings

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Justice Charles Canady ordered judges throughout the state to open up foreclosure proceedings, responding to requests from civil rights lawyers, the media and First Amendment advocates.

Florida law already requires that the foreclosure cases be open, but judges and court officials have barred the public from attending them in part because the onslaught of foreclosures has forced some judges to hear the cases in their chambers.

“I recognize that the challenge you face in assuring that these cases are resolved properly is unprecedented,” Canady wrote in his letter to chief judges throughout the state.

Florida lawmakers gave the courts extra money this year to help manage the foreclosure filings, which have skyrocketed in the past two years. Florida has the fourth highest number of foreclosures in the nation.

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