Letter to the Editor which also appeared in Coral Springs Talk.com from leading civic activist David Hullett




In the headline of her article in the Sunday October 26th Sun-Sentinel, reporter Lisa Huriash says  “DOWNTOWN GAINING TRACTION”. She forgot to mention that this is not the case with the average Coral Springs citizen. It is being promoted by the developers who are asking the citizens of Coral Springs to anchor the project with $28 million of taxpayer dollars, $7 million for a parking garage and $21 million for a building of which only 7% is actually going to be used by the city, according to an ad sent out by Mayoral candidate Tom Powers.


Coral Springs citizens are much more concerned about the value of their homes, which according to the city’s 2015 Business Plan, had the least amount of increase in value of the cities listed.


Taxpayers will be stuck trying to rent out the 93% of the building not being used by the city and with the maintenance costs for both the building and parking garage. The crowning blow is that the citizens of Coral Springs are not being allowed to vote to approve a General Obligation bond for this “Taj Mahal”. If the proposed “Downtown” project is as fabulous as the developers and candidate Powers claim, then why shouldn’t the developers who are going to profit from it, pay for it?


Using public money for this project is no different than using it to build sports stadiums for privately owned teams. This project is being driven by millionaire developer George Rahael and his associates who have contributed over $6,000 to Commissioner Powers campaign for mayor.

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GOP Super-majority coming easily in the House? Really?

Earlier this afternoon Saint Petersblog released new polling in several House races which caught my eye. The polling shows wide Republican leads in several seats which sources in both parties acknowledge are more competitive than this particular set of polls shows. Also interestingly the numbers seem to not correspond with the daily memos from Steve Schale that have been blasted around the state and published in Saint Petersblog.

Saint Petersblog is an indispensable resource for those of us who love Florida politics. But today I am getting mixed signals from the site. The Schale memos demonstrate a clear trend towards competitive elections that might slightly tilt towards the Democrats. These memos are based on actual data from early voting and vote by mail. The St Pete Polls survey cited in the Saint Petersblog story use a 2010 turnout model and for example in House District 30 gave Republicans a 16% advantage while under-sampling NPAs.

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Non-Partisan local elections giving Democrats cover in playing with conservatives

Non-partisan elections often give transactional Democrats the cover they need to support Republicans and business interests at a local level. The nature of local elections makes it easy for some Democrats to claim that they are wonderful partisan progressives while playing ball with the interests that hurt working people in their own backyards.

Since we have spent so much time on Coral Springs’ city elections recently let us use that as an example.  Former Coral Springs Mayor, Scott Brook a registered Democrat whose election in 2006 began to usher in an era of fiscal irresponsibility and political games at City Hall has publicly endorsed conservative Tom Powers for Mayor of Coral Springs and Laurette Homan for City Commission. Both candidates are facing strong opposition in the November election, and Homan has been taken under her wing by the city’s current conservative/Tea Party-oriented leadership. Brook supported conservative Vincent Boccard in 2012 for Mayor. Coral Springs is one of the largest cities in the state where the majority of city officials are registered Republicans. This comes despite a more than 20-point Democratic registration and double-digit performance advantage in the city.

County Commissioner Stacy Ritter has also endorsed both Homan and Powers. Commissioner Ritter has a history of attacking leading statewide Republicans going back to her time as a State Representative. Included among Ritter’s frequent public targets were Jeb Bush and Rick Scott and she was an early support of President Obama, endorsing him in 2007, long before many other Democrats in south Florida came around to his side. Yet she has endorsed two registered Republicans in Coral Springs and in 2012 was the only Democratic County Commissioner to vote against Commissioner Kristin Jacobs’ Wage Theft proposal. Ritter and her husband Russ Klenet hosted a fundraiser for Tom Powers in September.

Several prominent Broward based lobbyists who self -identify as Democrats have given money to Powers. This is in addition to large sums of developer money that has flowed into Powers’ campaign accounts as we discussed yesterday. They are betting Powers wins election and continues the current policies of the Tea Party driven commission. Many of these same individuals and entities have donated to Homan’s campaign. Others who have been part of Democratic organizations locally have privately steered support towards Powers and Homan.

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Coral Springs Mayor’s race centering around expensive contributor driven city hall project

On Sunday, a very revealing column ran in Coral Springs Talk regarding the $28 million downtown city complex. Commissioner Tom Powers’ campaign for Mayor is all about city hall.    No one in the city is arguing that Coral Springs does not need a new city hall, including his opponent Former State Senator Skip Campbell. Coral Springs is a city that has over 125,000 residents, making it one of the largest municipalities in the state.

The argument  that is being made by Campbell and other opponents is whether Coral Springs needs an extravagant Taj Mahal style city hall with unnecessary and over-the-top bells and whistles?  Why does Coral Springs, a city that has been in terminal decline need a municipal complex that resembles a luxurious  hotel or spa? Other south Florida cities have spent $10 million or less than that for new modern and spacious city hall complexes.    Why does Coral Springs have to spend so much more than those other cities?

Commissioner Powers sells the city hall by pushing the complex which will be developed around city hall as the selling point.  But the truth is he’s selling out Coral Springs taxpayers in doing so.  Why should the city’s citizens finance a complex that benefits a private developer?  And why is Powers pushing this so aggressively?  That’s not too hard to figure out — check out Tom Powers’ campaign reports.  The developer who benefits from this project just happens to be one of his biggest campaign contributors. We will have more on Powers campaign contributions from lobbyists and politicians later in the week.

Monday Musings – HD-21, Kristin Jacobs, Pam Bondi, AG Race, Ukraine, Hurricane Wilma anniversary, 2004 Hurricanes and impact on elections

There’s been a whole lot of talk about reading the absentee and early vote returns and if they are good signs for the Democrats or the Republicans.  While the memo wars are quite amusing, the bottoms line is this:  early voting is still a fairly new idea and it is still continuing to change voting behaviors.  While Republicans are still definitely ahead, the margins are significantly lower than other years in absentee voting, so there may be some surprises in store.  With all the talk of a Republican super-majority in the House, there are quite a few places where the math just does not add up.  In my own district, for example, there is some questionable numbers.  Even though Representative Keith Perry is the established incumbent and all polling has indicated that he is the heavy favorite, the early voting number tell a very different story.  House District 21 is my district and it is a very moderate district.    Representative Keith Perry, however, is not a moderate on any issue, taking far right stances and aligning himself far to the right on many social issues.    While the logical (and indeed probable) answer is that Representative Perry is cruising to an easy victory, the early voting numbers show there’s a surprising pocket of hope for newcomer Jon Uman.


The Democrats are outvoting Republicans in the district by over one thousand votes with over a quarter of the vote cast.  With the traditional Republican lead in absentee votes extinguished, the numbers do not look good for Perry unless there is a large R turnout on election day.  If this trend continues, this race is under anybody’s radar, yet could surprise everyone – granted, it’s a long shot, but the chance is there.  –   KB@BurnettKaty 

Incoming Broward Democratic House member Kristin Jacobs who has spent the last 16 years on the County Commission in Broward County made the New York Times this weekend for her strong leadership on Climate Change. Jacobs is the rare breed of individual who was an environmental activist who got elected to office running on an anti-corruption platform in 1998. She is also rare in that in Florida’s largest urban counties, the general flow is that state legislators run for County Commission, not the opposite. But facing term limits, Jacobs jumped into an open House seat and was elected overwhelmingly in the August 26th Democratic Primary.  – KK @kkfla737

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Rick Scott’s “path to victory” leaving zero margin for error

In theory, Governor Scott has a shot at winning reelection. Public polling indicates the race is a dead heat, but the public polls are less relevant than the early and vote by mail totals as well as the actual developments on the ground in advance of Election Day. Three days ago, Steve Schale wrote a memo that was spot on yet was mocked by Republicans and questioned by many in the press.

The reality is this – as Democrats have closed the VBM Republican advantage with an early vote surge in larger urban counties over the past five days, Governor Scott’s margin for error in this race has disappeared. Scott needs virtually everything to go perfectly for him over the next nine days in order to stay in office beyond early January. The items Governor Scott depends on include some very suspect things:

  • Lower than anticipated African-American turnout.
  • An uptick in Republican early votes in Hillsborough and Orange Counties.
  • The almost statistically impossible continuation of a Republican vote advantage in Miami-Dade.
  • Scott and RPOF’s negative ads have to pay off in a way they have not yet to this point in time. While this seems improbable it is at least in theory quite possible as many voters are just beginning to pay attention closely to this race.
  • Perhaps Scott needs bad weather in  the three southeast Florida counties on Election Day that prevents a large voter turnout?

The combination of all or even most of these things seems improbable. When the postmortem is written about Rick Scott’s failure to win reelection it will be down to the contempt the Governor showed for this state, its history, its institutions and its ordinary people. It will be down to the fact that as an incumbent he felt the need to tear down his opponent due to petty personal spite rather than to tout his own record.  It will be remembered as well that Governor Scott was quick to jettison political supporters when they became a liability and allowed his office to be run with a ruthlessness and pettiness that failed to engender loyalty even among many leading Republicans. It will be remembered that his campaign resorted to slanderous and borderline libelous commentary about Governor Crist, a man who has served the public good in this state for over twenty years and has sacrificed much of his adult life to better the lives of ordinary Florida citizens (irrespective of what you think of Crist’s flip-flops on issues unlike many leading politicians in this state in both parties he has never enriched himself financially off the public dole). In time, Governor Scott could be remembered as the accidental and inept Governor whose reign of terror ushered out the era of Republican dominance in Florida and helped to create a competitive two-party system in this state for the first time since the mid 1990’s.

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Former Coral Springs Mayor Roy Gold makes local endorsements

Coral Springs’s current leadership  which has resembled in many ways the captains of the Titanic are being challenged in three City Commission races on November 4th. As we have discussed time and again on this site, the leadership of the city has become both ideologically conservative and incredibly arrogant as well as wasteful in their mismanagement of the city. Coral Springs, which is one of the 15 largest Florida cities now has four registered Republicans on its five person commission and has seen its bond rating lowered and quality of life standards erode rapidly when compared to nearby municipalities in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
November 4th will prove to be a decisive day for the city. Once considered a model for local government in the state, the city will either further fall into a permanent self-inflicted decline or will have the opportunity for a revival. While all local elections are important, these are particularly critical in the city I personally grew up in and lived in for about twenty-five years.
A replay of the city’s candidate debate of Cotober 14th is below and a letter from Mayor Gold stating his endorsements is underneath the video.  It is worth noting that Mayor Gold thanked Claudette Bruck, the only decent current City Commissioner for her service but neglected (rightly in my mind) to thank outgoing Mayor Vince Boccard, whose mismanagement of the City both as a commissioner and then Mayor helped foster the decline the city is now squarely in.

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Flashback Friday: A look back at two great Florida Democrats

With an election around the corner and a chance to liberate Florida from the 16-year dominance of a single party who has essentially plundered this state and its citizens. During the period of GOP dominance in state elections (1998 to present) Florida has become a national laughing-stock. Today, we look at two great living Florida Democrats – Buddy MacKay and Bob Graham through the eyes of two biographies written about these men.

A look at How Florida Happened: The Political Education of Buddy MacKay (Florida Government and Politics) and Quiet Passion: A Biography of Bob Graham

Once upon a time Florida’s Legislature was an effective body and the State House was largely progressive. Florida moved vastly ahead of other southeastern states thanks to the leadership and vision of those in public office, especially two Governors Reubin Askew and Bob Graham. Unfortunately, throughout much of this “golden era” which lasted from 1970 to 1986, the Florida Senate became an impediment to positive change.

State Senator Dempsey Barron (D-Panama City) was at the same time both an ideologue and yet the  master of the art of horse-trading. He ruled the Senate with an iron fist as Rules Chairman (and Senate President for two years in-between). But Barron was a complex figure. To merely label him a pork-chopper as many today do would be wrong. Barron certainly had alliances with the pork-chop gang, but his ascension to leadership may have done as much to break up the pork-chop gang as any event outside of reapportionment after the Baker v Carr decision on reapportionment. Prior to the Baker decision for example, Dade County had as many House members as Liberty County. Hillsborough as many as Washington.

Much to the chagrin of some in Bay County, Barron while ideologically aligned with the pork-chop gang was reluctant to funnel state dollars back home. In that sense he was a more consistent and principled conservative than Charley Johns, William Shands and the leader of the pork choppers Ed Ball the  inheritor of the DuPont fortune. Barron was also discernibly more moderate on racial issues than the pork choppers had been. (W.D. Childers, Pat Thomas and George Kirkpatrick were more in-line with the pork chop philosophy of reactionary conservatism mixed with pork barrel spending at home, but even they were not authentic pork choppers.)

Barron was first elected to the Legislature in 1956. Despite his reputation as a conservative southern Democrat, Barron was one of a handful Democratic House members in 1957  who voted to sustain Governor Leroy Collins veto of the infamous  ‘Last Resort Bill,’ which said that if one black child entered a white public school, they’d close the school. Barron then moved to the Senate in 1960 where he became a powerhouse.

During the 1970s Barron controlled the Senate and by extension State Government. He could tell Governor Askew to “stay the hell out of our (the Senate’s) business,” and get away with it. Despite the historic disputes Barron had with Askew he gave the Governor critical and somewhat pragmatic support to the desire Askew long had to reform the state Judiciary.

To become Senate President you had to be personally approved by Barron. While he served only two years himself in the post, he controlled the Rules Committee and the Senate for the better part of twenty years. So thorough was his control he elicited regular newspaper columns in the newspapers south of I-4 which pit the Northern part of the state (the South) versus the urban centers along I-4 and I-95. Barron once claimed that the negative columns from urban “liberal” papers such as the St Petersburg Times and Miami Herald were worth thousands of votes in his conservative panhandle district. As a one of a kind Senate power broker Dempsey Barron stirred up passions among Floridians typically reserved for Governors or US Senators.

Two Democrats stood up to Barron while State Senators with stronger conviction than all others- Miami’s Bob Graham and Ocala’s Buddy MacKay. In time they would become two of the greatest leaders in this state’s modern history. They along with the handful of other Democrats opposed to Barron were known in and around Tallahassee as “The Doghouse Democrats.”

How Florida Happened: The Political Education of Buddy MacKay (Florida Government and Politics)

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VIDEO: Governor Scott loses his cool over minimum wage

No matter how much Governor Scott tries to disguise his administration’s four-year war on Florida’s working class citizens with slick campaign ads and mailers the truth comes out when the man speaks in public. Great work here by The Fight for 15 and  an excellent question from Shatara Brown who put the Governor on the defensive.

Voting in Absentia: Why I Would Cast My Ballot for Charlie Crist in Florida

By Steven Kurlander 

This article also appeared in Context Florida and the Huffington Post 

Occasionally, refugees who have settled in the US, including naturalized citizens, cast ballots in elections that take place in their origin countries that allow them to vote in absentia and in effect allow them to still have an impact on events in those countries.

I used to live in Florida. As I watch the contest between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, I wish I could vote in the election in my former home like these foreign nationals do.

The outcome of the governor’s race in New York where I now vote is basically over. But the race between Scott and Crist is very close and very important, not just to Florida but the nation.

This race pits a “moderate” Republican populist turned Democrat against a 1 percenter governor who basically bought his first term and who has failed to translate his success in business to his work in government.

The Florida election is a barometer of whether the Tea Party movement that Scott used to win in 2010 remains a force in politics. The race is a test of whether voters are tired of viral politics and now want moderate political leaders.

As a grassroots organizer for the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 in Palm Beach County, I considered Charlie Crist, despite his flip-flopping and some of his conservative social positions at the time, a man who represented the Republican culture that I favored in upstate New York GOP politics.

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