Viewers of comedian Bill Maher's weekly HBO show Real Time are certainly familiar with his bit that concludes each show called "New Rules." After reading what Bill Nelson said yesterday to a reporter in Washington, I'd suggest my own "New Rule" for Senator Nelson: Quit acting so aggrieved when reporters ask if you might run for governor in 2014, as if it's the most absurd question in the world. We'll keep asking, Senator, as long as you keep on suggesting that you haven't closed the door to such a run.
It's still more than 1,000 days until the next presidential election, but it's in the DNA of political reporters to speculate about who might run in 2016, despite the fact that Barack Obama was re-elected just over a year ago.
Nevertheless, let's play that game! It's always interesting to ponder whether Jeb Bush might decide to end the Hamlet route and let it fly one time on the national stage. In remarks last night in New York City, Bush agreed that it was far too early to make such an announcement, but defended himself strongly against any charges that he was the "M word" — moderate — which could doom him in a GOP primary campaign.
Good morning CL readers. It's been awhile since we've been here.
Approximately eight weeks ago I composed my last morning compilation of the news of the day - September 20, to be precise. I took a leave of absence to be with my mother, Lydia, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this past spring. The hope was that I would be able to spend some time with her back in her San Francisco Bay Area home before her time was up. Sadly, she passed just days after I was able to get out there in late September. I stayed with my family up until a week ago, when I made the long, long drive back to Florida from California. Anyway, it's good to be back writing for CL (and many thanks to Linda Hersey for filling in for me as I was away).
So, what have I missed? Well, a few things, obviously. We have a new mayor (and two new city council members) in St. Petersburg, and an opening for a Congressman vacated by the death of the late Bill Young.
But nationally the biggest story over the past few weeks has been the debacle that Obamacare has been since signups began for Americans to qualify on October 1. Yesterday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attempted to lead the way in stating that despite all of the reports, things with the plan really aren't all that bad.
We've had a little excitement in the governor's race (finally!) with the addition of Charlie Crist into the Democratic race. But what about Nan Rich, the only other established candidate? About an hour after I got back into town last week I caught up with the former Senate Minority Leader address an Ybor City audience very excited about her candidacy.
And on Friday Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam came to Tampa to talk about all types of different issues that fall under his purview in Tallahassee. He also spoke out in favor of high-speed rail alongside the I-4 corridor, a very different viewpoint than what Rick Scott believes in.
This Sunday marks the end of summer. Translated for Floridians, that means 3-5 more weeks of hellish humidity and 90 degree plus temperature! But I always cheer the onset of autumn, and especially October. It's when baseball really becomes interesting with the post-season, when college and pro football are in full flower, when some of the year's most heralded books and movies are released, and its crunch time in political campaigns.
And speaking of political campaigns, the St. Pete mayoral race promises to grow more intense in the six and a half weeks before the November 5 election. The Times' Adam Smith has a tough piece today challenging the assumption that Rick Kriseman is poised to upset Bill Foster this fall.
Smith quotes some former Democratic city council members who served with both Foster and Kriseman a decade ago on City Council who are supporting Foster; there are other quotes by Foster supporters, all premised on a new Times poll that shows the men in a virtual dead tie. Foster says that jibes with his own internal poll, but it's far off a St. Pete Polls survey taken earlier this week that showed Kriseman up an astonishing 10 points.
If anything else, the story and the poll should sober up Team Kriseman, who feel like they've been on a roll going on a month now. But let's focus on the real story here, which is how is a scandal free mayor, who is overseeing a city that is enjoying a dynamic renaissance, is either tied or trailing a man who hasn't ran city-wide in a decade. With all of that happening, the city seems poised for a change. Can Kriseman close the deal?
And by the way, when it comes to polls, I wouldn't exactly bet the house on what the Times' firm is telling us. Deride St. Pete Polls robocalling all you want (Foster calls it "junk-science"), but their results have been pretty impressive in their year and a half since they've been in operations. And I certainly hope you didn't last November when it came to figuring out who would win the Sunshine State in the presidential election.
I regret that I won't be around to cover the election in the coming weeks. I'm taking some time off to return home to the San Francisco Bay Area to be with a family member who is in the struggle of her life. So I won't be updating the Report for awhile.
In other news, with scandal engulfing a homeless recovery program in Hillsborough County, Councilman Lisa Montelione suggested that the city of Tampa start picking up the slack.
Even though Florida doesn't offer rebates, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular in the Sunshine State. Next weekend "National Plug-In" day will be celebrated in Temple Terrace.
And even though WMNF took Free Speech Radio News off their main air signal in January, the alternative radio newscast is still airing on 80 plus radio stations across the country. But that will end next week when the show will go off the air, thanks in part to financial problems with the Pacifica Radio Foundation.
Our Best of the Bay came out this week, and there's lots of fun stuff in there.
Goodbye for now...
A lot of people have said a lot of inaccuracies about the Affordable Care Act over the years, but Rick Scott stands out. The Governor has been busted for saying at various times that the ACA was not the law of the land, that it will be a jobs-killer and the biggest tax increase in the history of the U.S. All untrue statements.
There was no such talk yesterday out in the eastern part of Tampa, however, where Governor Scott was sharing the exciting news that a Hillsborough County company called HealthPlan Services intends to hire more than 1,000 people in the Tampa Bay area in the coming years.
According to HeatlhPlan Services CEO Jeff Bak, the company is hiring "partly because it expects to pick up a significant number of customers from the new federal Affordable Care Act," according to the Tampa Tribune's Michael Sasso.
Can you say hypocrisy? Look, let's give credit where it's due. Earlier this week the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's CEO Bob Rohrlack stood with members of the Florida League of Women Voters to support Medicaid expansion, saying it would add tens of thousands of jobs in Florida over the next decade. He said that though maybe not every Chamber member was in agreement with the support, his board was because it was a net plus for businesses.
Lord knows the ACA has its issues, but the unrelenting hyperbolic statements made by Governor Scott and others need to be held up in the sunlight, especially when they're celebrating a positive byproduct.
There are a number of other outrages we noticed while reading the morning paper (such as how Jeb Bush continues to alienate himself from the Tea Party crowd that dominate his party vis a vis Common Core), but we'll cease and desist for now.
In other news, the Tampa Bay Times editorial page once again blasts St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, essentially accusing him of lying regarding negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays. On Tuesday I asked the mayor to explain his late conversion regarding allowing the Rays to speak with officials in Hillsborough County, which had been his position, though I guess it isn't any longer.
Rick Kriseman continues his momentum in that campaign, incidentally. His team announced that he's raised over $50,000 in the past 17 days.
And over in Tampa yesterday, Hillsborough County Commissioners moved forward on bringing a referendum to the public whose ultimate goal of creating a Latino-leaning district may be one step closer to fruition.
Although there's been considerable grumbling in the business community regarding Obamacare, Bob Rohrlack with the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce stood beside the League of Women Voters and other supporters of the law in Tampa yesterday, forcefully advocating that the state Legislature endorse expanding Medicaid, or use some other mechanism to accept the $51 billion that the feds are offering the state over the next decade to insure more Floridians.
When I asked him if his Chamber's stance was controversial within his ranks, Rohrlack was unwavering. "It's the law of the land. We need to find out how to work with it."
Too bad nearly every part of our state government feels otherwise.
Yesterday Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was back in Florida selling the ACA. Reflecting on the law passed this year passed a bill removing for two years the state insurance commissioner’s ability to approve insurance rates for new health plans. "It’s unfortunate that keeping information from people seems to be something of a pattern here in the state."
As the NY Times reports, in other states, insurance commissioners used the law to obtain better deals for consumers. But in Florida? "No one has done that," Sebelius said about that action.
She went on to say that "the federal government does not have a rate-review authority. To have the Florida Legislature pass a bill that for two years — 2014 and 2015 — removes rate-review authority really puts Florida consumers at great risk."
Moving on....There's more intrigue in all the wrong places for state Democrats. St. Petersburg's Darryl Rouson is still incoming House Minority Leader as of today, but who knows what will happen next week when his colleague gather to discuss the Leadership Funds pact he created without state party chair Allison Tant's acknowledgement?
And speaking of Florida Democrats - one reason why Alan Grayson is revered by grassroots progressives is that he's so different than most of their elected lot - he's aggressive (maybe too much), says what he thinks, and doesn't worry if it offends moderates. That's why local Dems should be impressed by Alan Cohn, their candidate challenging Dennis Ross in the 15th Congressional District next year. Cohn may or may not ultimate be a good candidate, but he's holding nothing back in his attacks on Ross as being outside the mainstream of the district, or a lot of other things about the GOP.
As the nation mourns the death of a dozen people who were killed as their workday began at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday, the question again resumes: What can be done about such indiscriminate violence in this country? Whatever the answer, it never really seems sufficient.
We want to give our condolences to Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin. Her husband Juan passed away yesterday after battling cancer over the past five weeks. We also give condolences to Juan and Yolie's daughter, Jessica Lynn.
Progressive groups continue to advocate for Florida's political leaders to expand the Medicaid rolls to help almost a million uninsured people gain access to health care. Yesterday, a new report said that Medicaid expansion would not only be the moral thing to do, but would also boost the economy, adding 65,000 jobs to the state.
Remember immigration reform? It's not dead. Not yet anyway. Yesterday, 19 university and college presidents in Florida sent off a letter to the state's Congressional delegation advocating that they back the Senate's bill on immigration reform.
And you might recall the sturm und drang that went on last year regarding the proposal that called for Hillsborough and Pinellas' transit agencies to merge, or at least agree to study that idea. The Hillsborough folks in particular had a real issue with it, but no matter: Sen. Jack Latvala got the Legislature to cough up $200,000 to give to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) to once again study the merits of such a concept. Accounting firm KPMG won the bid to study the possible consolidation.
The Tampa Tribune's William March has a story out entitled, "Candidates seize on income disparity," in which he writes that "claiming the mantle of middle class champion is emerging as the moral high ground in politics," and likely will be an issue in the 2014 elections in Florida and the country.
The issue is one thatprogressives have been complaining about for years and is now being picked by some Republicans - the growing inequality in this country, something that began to happen in the 1970's and was highlighted by the Occupy Wall Street crowd in 2011.
But talking about income inequality really isn't enough, is it? We can all bemoan how the rich get richer and everyone else gets squeezed, but isn't it up to our leaders to actually craft some policies to try to address this growing gap? Interestingly, last Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford mentioned income inequality as one of three measures he hopes to work in the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee.
Almost exactly five years to the day the announcement that Lehman Brothers had declared bankruptcy shook the world economy, Rick Scott told a group of invited political insiders in Orlando that Florida “never should have had that downturn."
Media accounts don't tell us if those in attendance sat quietly and nodded their heads, or started cracking up.
Scott's comments at the Sayfie Review Florida Leaders Summit are being touted as a shot across the bow at potential Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, who of course preceded Scott in the governor's mansion when Florida's economy - like the rest of the country, and a good portion of the world - tanked massively.
Actually Florida's downturn started at the end of the Jeb Bush era, when housing prices maxed out. That was followed by the subprime mortgage crises, and then 2008 and Lehman, AIG and TARP. But as Scott campaigns (without any dissent from Democrats) for 2014, can his propaganda mantra that "it's working" really work? It may, if no one calls him out on it.
Well the Tampa Bay Times Paul Tash finally admitted the inevitable: his media organization is now going to install a paywall on the paper's website. Will it work? It has for some valuable properties, not so well for others. But your online reading habits may change because of it.
Some readers might recall the backlash in Eastern Hillsborough County towards Commissioner Al Higginbotham and the rest of the County Commission earlier this summer regarding a zoning change that would allow a Walmart of a similar type business to be built in their neighborhood. Now as CL's George Niemann reports, the residents are continuing to fight that prospect.
CL attended a debate amongst the candidates for City Council in St. Petersburg the other night.
And our feature this week in the current CL is all about Commissioner Victor Crist's attempt to stave off the latest calls to kill the troubled Public Transportation Commission in Hillsborough County.
It's always amusing during a season of political debates to watch candidates fidget when they're not certain about the answer to a particular question. Though we did see Rick Kriseman admit on a couple of "lightning round" questions during last night's League of Women Voters debate in South St. Pete, that's a rare occasion. Which is why it's fun to read Arielle Stevenson's report on yesterday's St. Petersburg mayoral and city council forum on the arts. Let's face it, unless you're Leslie Curran, why would you expect these would be lawmakers to know that much about the subject? The arts are a huge endeavor in St. Pete, but her report indicates that most lawmakers spent their three minutes to talk about their own experiences with the arts, which is hardly the same thing as how they would (or would not) support that if elected.
We did endure another two-hour campaign forum last night, but we'll have to review our notes to determine if there's that much (if anything) new to write a story about it. That's mainly because many of the comments from the mayoral candidates sounded much fresher at Tuesday's night on the USFSP campus, the first of the general election campaign season.
We're still 54 days away from the general election - hopefully the candidates will be able to keep themselves stimulated on stage through the many, many forums and debates that will follow,....
And the bad news keeps on coming when it comes to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. In recent months board members Victor Crist and Les Miller have engaged in excessive bickering regarding rules of order. A p.o.'d Miller said yesterday he'd had enough, and was bailing out of the agency, which he does believe does good work. Looks like Commission chair Crist is going to have to find somebody else now to lead the search for a permanent executive director to replace the disgraced Cesar Padilla.