Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcoming Florida Speaks

This is just a very quick post to welcome Florida Speaks to the Florida blogosphere. This is Kenneth Quinell's new blog on national, international and other issues of interest to Florida Progressives.

Kenneth is the President of the Florida Democratic Party Netroots Coalition and the blogfather of the the Florida Progressive Coalition.

Welcome, Florida Speaks.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

FL-24: Clint Curtis' Statement on Proposed NASA Launch Site and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

[Hello! pattyp here, posting on behalf of Clint Curtis, Democratic candidate for the FL-24 district. I hope you will read and comment on Clint's statement on the proposed KSC launch pad and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Clint will check in to the Daily Kos version of this diary during the day and respond to your comments. The photos in this diary were taken by me on a kayaking excursion at Merritt Island last summer. It's a beautiful place.]

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, one of my core issues is the preservation and empowerment of NASA, which I believe is not only healthy for Florida but the nation and the world. NASA represents everything that's great about the US - the spirit of discovery, the can-do, against-all-odds spirit that put us on the moon and beyond. But I am also concerned with protecting and preserving the incredible beauty of the great state of Florida.

Cormorant drying its wings

I recently attended the NASA public hearings concerning the new Commercial Vertical Launch Complex proposal for Kennedy Space Center (KSC.) First and foremost, I want to point out that NASA is not the enemy here. NASA should be commended for its efforts to gain public input and also for its long record of working with community leaders and environmental interests over the years. That relationship has made Florida’s Space Coast what it is today: a truly beautiful place to live and one that adds greatly to our quality of life.

Great Blue Heron

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda Beach) not only provide a significant source of revenue to the community with their ability to attract tourists, they are both premier natural preserves with unparalleled natural beauty. The Wildlife Refuge should not be placed in the debatable plan for apportioned commercial development but should remain intact in its natural state for the enjoyment of successive generations.

Porpoise cutting the surface

Many at the public hearings were community leaders, business owners, and environmentalists who voiced opposition to the site #2 proposal and I want to echo that sentiment. Possible alternatives for the site #2 proposal might be converting abandoned Air Force launch sites or the refurbishing of unused launch sites at KSC. It just makes better sense to use existing facilities and infrastructure, such as roads and rail access, as well as the consideration of costs for this proposed project.

The resolution process for this complex issue should be one where all parties - governmental, environmental, and private - are involved in a collaborative effort to find a solution that fits the needs of all. The resolution of this issue is far too important to those involved to be handled in a routine, arbitrary political manner. With the possible loss of nearly 3,000 jobs due to the shuttle conversion, timing of this proposed project and its outcome is extremely important.

Great White Herons, looking for snacks

I would also like to point out that this is an issue which, I feel, demands the involvement of our elected congressional leaders. I did not see either Congressmen Dave Weldon or Tom Feeney, nor any of their staffers, at this meeting. One should ask them why they were not there. How can this issue not be important enough to merit their time?

Once I am elected to the House of Representatives, I will make issues of this nature a priority to ensure that these decisions are made with the interest of Florida’s Space Coast in mind, not just those in Washington DC.

Clint Curtis

Clint Curtis for Congress
Clint's blog
Clint's ActBlue page
FL-24 2008 Race Tracker Wiki

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DiMaio v. Democratic National Committee:

The Democratic National Committee is violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by allowing only four states to hold caucuses or primaries before the first Tuesday in February, a Florida attorney argued March 17, 2008 before a federal appeals court.

Attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit in August on behalf of Democratic Party activist Victor DiMaio. The suit came after the DNC said it would not seat Florida delegates at the national convention because the state party defied party rules and scheduled its primary for January 29.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rail Road Job in Tallahassee - Forces of Ego Fight Commuter Rail

It's the middle of March here in Florida. That means three things are going on: Spring Break, Spring Training Baseball and the Florida Legislature is in session. Spring Training Baseball has a long and honored tradition here. Spring Break, with all its warts, also has been responsible for a lifetime of fond feelings for Florida from people all over the country. Regular sessions of the Florida Legislature, on the other hand, usually make us glad they only meet for 60 days a year. As the old saw goes, when the legislature is in session, make sure you've got your hand on your wallet.

This year is a particularly tough yearfor the Florida Legislature. After failing to actually provide for meaningful property insurance and property tax reform last year, this year they are facing an enormous budget crisis.

So, while talks of budget cuts dominate the agenda, there is another huge battle for Florida's future going on largely in the background. This is a battle over whether Florida will actually move forward with 21st Century smart economic growth initiatives that feature environmentally sound growth management principles, or whether we will continue to follow the old, tired trends that have resulted in the unchecked urban sprawl that has made for fertile ground for the Hometown Democracy initiative. This is a battle that is only lacking the sex angle to put it right up there with Sunshine State as a great candidate for a thought provoking film.

The battle is over whether or not Orlando and Central Florida will finally get a commuter rail project after a 10 year effort. On one side, you have the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the federal government and local officials in four central Florida counties and the City of Orlando, who have been working together in a model of intergovernmental cooperation. On the other side you have the forces of evil and ego.

The focus of the battle is ostensibly over the $491 million the FDOT has set aside to fund the state portion of the transaction. The deal includes the transfer of 61 miles of rail freight corridor running though east central Florida from CSX Railroad. It also includes CSX building a new Integrated Logistics Center in Winter Haven. The final piece of the deal is the refurbishment of a CSX line further to the west that will pick up the rail freight shifted off the eastern line to allow for the commuter rail project.

The state portion of the funding deal was negotiated with CSX while Jeb Bush was still governor. This is the same Jeb Bush who led the charge to get the bullet train proposal repealed from the Florida Constitution. This is where the forces of ego enter. The main proponent of the bullet train initiative was C.C. "Doc" Dockery of Lakeland. Dockery is married to State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, an opponent of the Orlando commuter rail project and the CSX proposal.

Sen. Dockery is using the idea that more freight traffic will be moving through downtown Lakeland as a result of Orlando getting commuter rail to try to kill the deal that Jeb made with CSX . In the process, she is putting her small minded ego ahead of the environment, the economy and the future of Florida so she can extract her revenge against Jeb.

The vehicle for this revenge killing of the central Florida commuter rail deal isS1666 This is a bill to codify an arrangement for liability coverage on the CSX line in the event of an accident on the commuter rail. All kinds of hysteria has been worked up about this arrangement. Really, though, this is merely a process issue that the lawyers will eventually figure out.

Waiting in the wings are the forces of evil, um, er, the road builders and their legislative lackeys. There have already been legislative grumblings about the cost of the deal, with suggestions that in this tight budget year, the money would be better spent on roads. If this kind of thinking is successful in killing the central Florida commuter rail project, it will become even more difficult for the Tampa Bay area to move forward with their commuter rail efforts.

And there you have it. The forces of evil and the forces of ego coming together in an attempt to kill commuter rail in central Florida. Because if you are always building roads, you'll never get rail.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

FDP Floating Vote by Mail Plan

The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the Florida Democratic Party:
proposed a new vote-by-mail primary overseen by an independent commission.
I can't find a lot about the actual plan yet (nothing on the FDP's web site), but here's what I do know...

forethought has this diary with USA Today reporting:
The Florida Democratic Party plans to move forward with a June 3 vote-by-mail primary to restore the state's role in the presidential race
USA Today quotes the Florida Senate Minority Leader, State Senator Steve Geller as saying the plan will be announced Thursday or Friday.

I have seen an email from Florida DNC member Jon M. Ausman to FDP Chair Karen Thurman that starts out:

Thank you very much for the Vote-by-Mail (VBM) proposal submitted by the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) on 12 March 2008.
So apparently something is up.

I have been reading some of the comments in forethoughts' diary. Those comments are really what prompted me to write this diary. Because one thing is very clear to me. Most people commenting on this have never even laid eyes on the 2008 DNC Delegate Selection Rules. So before anybody else says something about the Rules, maybe you ought to read them first.

First, make no mistake. Florida broke the rules. The Florida Democratic Party submitted a Delegate Selection Plan under Rule 1 D. However, that plan did not comply with Rule 11 A which precluded Florida from holding its "first determining stage in the presidential nomination process" before February 5th, 2008. The FDP Delegate Selection Plan was rejected by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. However, the FDP has an open invitation to submit a plan that does comply with the Rules. That is what the FDP is attempting to do here. In the eyes of the DNC, this is not legally a "do over". That is because, per the DNC, Florida has not held a legal (that is within the DNC Rules) "first determining stage in the presidential nomination process".

Second, let's talk about state election laws. Or rather, let's not. Remember what we are doing here. We are not actually electing anyone to a State or Federal office. We are talking about a Party process. Remember, the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the FDP
proposed a new vote-by-mail primary overseen by an independent commission.
So we are talking about a party process overseen by someone other than the State of Florida. Hard to see how state election laws apply here.

Full disclosure time. I support Senator Barack Obama. But I think his campaign is taking the wrong tack here. Talk of somebody sitting down and deciding how Florida's delegates should be divided is totally dismissive of the voices of Florida's Democratic voters. It is more than OK to be concerned about the details of how this plan will be executed. And the Devil is always in the details. But to say that some back room deal should be cooked up to seat Florida and Michigan delegations is like sitting in a room figuring out who to send invitations to a party to. It is not about enfranchising the voters of Florida.

To Senator Obama I say, come on down here and campaign. Bring that great get out the vote machine with you. Let Florida's Democrats really get to know you. You'll do fine. You might even win. And you will win in the long run by supporting the right of Florida's Democratic voters to have an actual say in who the party's nominee is going to be.

It will pay off for you in the fall when you are our Party's nominee.