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Food Stamp Applications Flood DCF Office

September 30th, 2008 by flanews

The number or people applying for food stamps in Florida has skyrocketed. Each drop of the Dow brings a new round of applications. As Whitney Ray tells us, the state is working over time to keep up.

Hear it Here: Food Stamp Applications Flood DCF Office

Sharonda Coleman has a 3 year-old daughter with epilepsy. She takes care of her daughter fulltime and relies on a food stamp debit card to eat.

“It gives me ample time to spend with her and recognize you know when she’s sick and when she’s not sick,” said Sharonda.

Sharonda is just one of a growing number of Floridians who rely on food stamps to feed their families.

At the food stamp application processing center the phones are ringing off the hook. The call volume has risen to 120,000 a day, 40,000 more than a year ago. The number of Floridians using the program is up more than 20 percent statewide and more than 60 percent in some areas.

Derrick Riggins interviews food stamp applicants. He talks to a lot of people who never would have thought they’d need help.

“The story I hear the most is, I didn’t want to have to come this route but because of the economy this is the route I have to come,” said Riggins.

For many this is the first time they’ve been unemployed. Florida’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed above the national average. Last year more than half the people who lost their jobs worked in the construction industry.

Lee Ann Godwin has helped dozens of unemployed construction workers apply for food stamps. She says sometimes it’s hard to do her job.

“I hear stories and as much as I want to sit down and cry with some of my people I have to continue getting their information in,” said Lee Ann.

The state is paying the overtime to keep up with all the calls. The food stamps are paid for by the federal government.

Posted in Children, State News | 4 Comments »

Civics Education Initiative

September 30th, 2008 by flanews

Two out of every five Florida adults can’t name the three branches of government and more than half can’t name one of their US Senators. Tuesday the State Cabinet approved an initiative to improve civics education. The Florida League of Cities is heading the charge. The league will help bring online public resources to the classroom and create civic clubs in schools. League President Carmine Priore said teaching people about government will help build a stronger Florida.

“I firmly believe that if we follow the principles that our forefathers build around us, the principles of civics, things will be much better off,” said Priore

The initiative doesn’t just focus on teaching students. Citizen Academies will also be set up statewide to help educate adults about city government.

Posted in Cabinet, State News | 1 Comment »

SOS: Save our Seniors

September 30th, 2008 by flanews

The state’s Chief Financial Officer is taking steps to protect seniors against financial fraud. Tuesday in Tallahassee, CFO Alex Sink unveiled the “Safeguard our Seniors” or SOS Task Force. Sink said the recent Wall Street woes have motivated some people to prey on seniors who rely on stocks and bonds are part of their income. Sink said the task force will look for larger penalties for people who rip off seniors.

“The taskforce will be making recommendations regarding better legislation and enforcement activities to go after these people,” Sink said.

The task force will hold its first meeting in early October.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

New DCF Secretary

September 30th, 2008 by flanews

The man who has been serving as the interim director of the Department of Children and Families for the past six weeks got the job permanently Tuesday. Governor Charlie Crist named George Sheldon to the post. Sheldon has worked for the department since January of 2007. Since then he has seen unprecedented improvements in the department’s performance. Sheldon said the challenge is to keep improving the department with a tighter budget.

“This is a tough budget year we recognize that so what we have to do is be more efficient in the agency. For instance we are overhauling our hotline protocol to make sure that those things that are referred for investigation in the field are the more critical,” said Sheldon.”

Sheldon, 61, served in the state legislature from Tampa from 1974 to 1982. He ran unsuccessfully against Charlie Crist in 2000 and again in 2002.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Children, State News | 1 Comment »

Nelson Skeptical of Bailout’s Success

September 29th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s senior U-S Senator, says he is unhappy with parts of the Wall Street bailout package proposed by the White House. Senator Bill Nelson has been in Florida campaigning for Barack Obama and cut the trip short to return to the nation’s Capitol. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Nelson wants to make sure CEO’s aren’t getting a golden parachute.

Speaking to a room of seniors and Barack Obama supporters, US Senator Bill Nelson blamed the current financial meltdown on the Bush Administration. He told the crowd a lack of oversight was the problem. After wards, he sited three problems with the Bailout: it doesn’t revive the housing market, Executives aren’t penalized, and there is no limit on the money going to foreign banks…all items that doomed the plan in the House.

“Put me down as highly skeptical, but willing to continue to work and try to improve the package. This is no fooling time for America”, warned Nelson.

To say seniors in the room who have seen their savings diminished are unhappy is an understatement.  Betty Lendway says she has had enough of the rich getting richer.

“I’m very angry, and I know a lot of other people are angry. It’s time it stopped”, says Lendway.  Chris Walker says the current system is just helping top of the economic ladder.
“We don’t need to reward those people whoa re running Wall Street, getting those big bonuses at the end of the year”, says Walker

With the failed vote in the House, its clear there is much work to do convincing voters the rescue is the right thing to do. And until voters are convinced, or the bottom falls out of the economy, Congress is not likely to act…at least before the election.

Nelson returned to the nations Capitol while the House was still debating the financial package.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Racially Motivated Break In

September 29th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Two Florida A and M University students were the victims of a racially motivated break in at their apartment over the weekend. The students came home to find KKK pained on the wall in a red dye, their belongings ransacked, and dye thrown across the Tallahassee apartment.  Landlord Bill Wannell says he has never had a problem before. “It was probably the worst thing I have ever seen as far as being a diverse neighborhood and being FAMU, FSU and TCC. We’ve never had a problem like that, and I just can’t imagine something like that happening”.

Initial indications are that nothing was taken in the break in.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Children’s Champions

September 29th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

An agreement signed by the five agencies that have jurisdiction over childrens issues is designed to make the agencies better cooperate. Under the agreement, each agency will designate a “Child’s Champion” who will have authority to work with each of the agencies for the best interests of a child. Lt. Governor Jeff Kottcamp says it seems so logical, but has never been the policy of the state.

“Across this state, there are thousands of children who are relying on the state and counting on us. They depend on services from agencies for health care, for shelter, for resources.  And we’re committed to not letting them down, ” says Kottcamp.

One agency chief sited the case of an 11 year old that was ordered sent to a juvenile facility by a judge, yet the Department of Juvenile Justice wouldn’t take the child because he had not been adjudicated delinquent.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Dem Wives Rally Florida Students to Vote

September 27th, 2008 by flanews

The wives of Democratic White House hopefuls Barack Obama and Joe Biden spoke to thousands of college students in Tallahassee Saturday. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are trying to motivate college students to vote. As Whitney Ray tells us, the Obama camp says young voters could be the key to winning Florida and the White House.

Students from three different colleges crowded around a stage at Florida A & M University to listen as Michelle Obama talked about the debt she and her husband took on to pay for student.

“Don’t you want a president in the White House that understands what it means to carry debt,” asked Michelle Obama.

As Mrs. Obama tried to connect with the young crowd, volunteers registered people to vote.

“I’m excited to be able to have a say in the next president,” Said 18 year-old Amanda Santos.

With the candidates neck and neck in Florida polls, the Obama camp thinks young voters could be key to winning the state.

“I really want to make sure that I vote. You see everybody out here, everybody out here wants to make sure that they vote as well,” said 25 year-old Mahana Pierre.

Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, spent 27 years teaching. Mrs. Biden said Obama and her husband would help students pay for college.

“Joe and Barack want to offer college students a 4,000 dollar tuition tax credit, which students badly need. Let’s face it. I’m in the community college. I see this every day, you know we have to help middle class families with college tuition,” said Jill Biden.

With the campaign promises delivered the real test comes November 4th, when the students will be asked to leave campus and actually vote.

Posted in Education, Elections, State News, Voting | 3 Comments »

Officers Disciplined For Informant’s Death

September 26th, 2008 by flanews

An investigation into the death of a recent FSU graduate turned confidential informant has cost a Tallahassee police officer his job. Rachel Hoffman was killed in May after police asked her to go undercover to bust drug dealers. A day after a critical report blamed police, Whitney Ray tells us Tallahassee Police are say they are taking steps to make sure a similar incident doesn’t happen again.

The internal review sheds light on deadly mistakes made by Tallahassee Police sworn to protect confidential informant Rachel Hoffman. The 23 year-old FSU student was killed during what was supposed to be a controlled sting operation.

“The internal affair report identified several areas of defiance. Places were we didn’t follow policies,” said TPD PIO David McCranie.

On May 7th, police sent Rachel to buy drugs and a gun from two men at this park. She left the area, against police orders. Two days later Rachel was found dead. As a result of the investigation four officers were suspended without pay. One was fired.”

The fired officer was Rachel’s main contact. The report says he knew the sting operation was in jeopardy. Rachel had met with the suspects without police supervision prior to the sting and told a friend of the two suspects she was working undercover. Hoffman family Attorney Lance Block says Rachel’s death is the direct result of sloppy police work.

“There’s just so many series of negligent acts. It’s like a string of dominos falling, one negligent act after another,” Block said.

Block said the internal report will pale in gruesome comparison to a report set to be released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement later their year. A judge has sealed that report.

The Attorney General’s Office conducted its own report on the Hoffman case. The AG’s office found more than 30 possible policy violations on the part of Tallahassee police.

Officers May Appeal

The five Tallahassee Police Officers facing disciplinary charges in the Rachel Hoffman case may appeal the charges. The Florida Police Benevolence Association is reviewing the officer’s options. PBA General Council Hal Johnson said the police officers are still waiting on written documentation of their charges.

“These officers have 15 days to file an appeal of their disciplinary actions and that is under consideration right at this time. As I said, we’re waiting to get the written documentation,” said Johnson.

One of the officers was fired as a result of the botched drug sting. Four were suspended without pay.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Obama Campaign: Florida Key To Victory

September 26th, 2008 by flanews

Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama is spending extra time and money in Florida. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden will be in Tallahassee Saturday. Obama spent the week in Tampa preparing for tonight’s presidential debate. The Obama camp has budgeted 39 million dollars to spend on television ads and registration drives in the state. North Florida Communications Director Kevin Cate said If Obama wins Florida, he wins the White House.

“Florida’s incredible important. There are 27 electoral votes in this state. If we win Florida we win the whole thing. Polls are showing that we’re doing well. We aren’t focused on those polls. What we are focused on is registering as many voters as possible for October 6th and turning them out on Election Day like Florida’s never seen before,” Cate said.

Republican Nominee John McCain isn’t ignoring Florida. A bus load of war heroes, some of which served with McCain, traveled the state this week.

Posted in Elections, State News, Voting | 1 Comment »

Two Men and a Bus

September 26th, 2008 by flanews

Two men in a bus are making their way across the country with the goal of informing voters. Project Vote Smart made a stop in Tallahassee today and will travel the state over the weekend. The tour is funded by a nonpartisan, nonprofit group. The group shows people how to find nonbiased information on local, state and candidates for US offices. Vote Smart Spokesman Ben Kastan said it’s important for people to know where the candidates aspiring to represent them stand.

“The reason we cover all these races besides just the president, is because in all these race from local municipal all the way up to president, do affect peoples lives in very direct ways. So that’s one of the main reasons it’s important to vote, because they do have a very direct measurable impact on people’s daily lives,” said Kastan.

The bus has traveled more than 30,000 miles and visited 44 states.

Posted in State News, Voting | No Comments »

Registration Backlog Growing

September 25th, 2008 by flanews

Florida’s Division of Elections is receiving more voter registration applications than it can handle. The state’s hired extra staff and called on county election supervisors to help process the forms. As Whitney Ray tells us, the clock is ticking to get all the applications processed before early voting begins.

Hear it Here: State Can’t Keep Up With New Voter Registration Applications, Asking Counties for Help

Florida’s Division of Elections received 25,000 voter registration forms on Monday and Tuesday alone. If one county’s experience is correct, 250 of these applications will be bounced because they don’t match a state data base.

“There are some that have been sent back for notice, but until we get closer to the election, we won’t know how many of them have been resolved,” said Secretary of State Spokeswoman Jennifer Davis.

Twenty-five extra people were hired to keep up with all of the applications, and they are still falling behind, so county election supervisors are being asked to pitch in. Some of the applications are stuffed into 67 boxes labeled by county.

With time being such an important factor, the boxes are shipped to the counties as soon as they’re filled. Some election supervisors say the state is simply passing the buck.

“This is perfectly predictable, but apparently the state did not see this onslaught coming. So there’s 68 sites that are slammed with voter registrations,” said Ion Sancho, the Leon County Supervisor of Elections

Because of the No Match law mandating applications be checked against a state database, processing the applications has slowed.

Micha Nixon just registered to vote. Fearing a typo while entering her drivers license number could keep her vote from counting, she took extra time filling out her form. Whether or not Micha’s application goes through the process without problems waits to be seen.

If the drivers license number or social security number on a voter registration application is wrong, election supervisors will send a letter to the applicant asking them to verify the number.

Posted in Elections, State News, Voting | No Comments »

CFO Responds To Bailout Plan

September 25th, 2008 by flanews

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer says that while President Bush’s speech may have scared some Floridians, his sense of urgency in last nights address was warranted. A Democrat, Sink agrees with President Bush that Washington needs to move quickly with its bailout plan to open credit lines. CFO Alex Sink says the Wall Street woes of the last two weeks are making it harder for Floridians to buy houses and take out small business loans. Sink said if nothing is done, Florida’s economy could tank.

“This plan has been billed as a Wall Street bailout. It’s really so much more than that, it really is a Main Street bailout, and that means making it available for small businesses and for individuals to have access to credit just to keep our economy going,” said Sink.

Sink is one of the managers of the state’s 140 billion dollar pension fund. The fund lost over 5 billion dollars in value as the problems on Wall Street escalated.

Posted in State Budget, State News | No Comments »

AARP Warns Senior about Pulling Retirement Funds

September 25th, 2008 by flanews

The AARP is asking seniors to be patient with their investments. Many seniors rely on retirement funds invested in the stock market as part of their income. The AARP says the trouble on Wall Street has caused some Florida seniors to panic and make bad investment decisions. AARP Spokesman Dave Bruns said some advisors are trying to cash in on worried seniors.

“People who are under financial stress, it can make it really difficult to think clearly about investment options. The problem is there are unscrupulous advisors out there who’d like to take advantage of that vulnerability right now,” said Bruns.

Bruns said seniors should hold tight to their investment accounts and really consider the consequences before taking money out of their retirement fund.

Posted in State Budget, State News | 2 Comments »

Political Group Ask Crist to Say “No” to No Match Law

September 25th, 2008 by flanews

A political group is asking Governor Charlie Crist to suspend a new voter registration requirement. Progress Florida says the No Match No Vote Law unfairly target minorities. The law requires voter registration applications to be checked against a state database. If corrections on the forms aren’t made by Election Day, voters will have to cast a provisional ballot. They’ll then have two days to verify their social security or drivers license number if they want their vote to be counted. Progress Florida Political Directory Damian Filer said the law could discourage some people from voting.

“Every person who wants to go out and have their voice heard in November should have that opportunity, and the last thing that we should be doing right now is throwing hurdles in their way and making it more difficult to vote,” Filer said.

Progress Florida has added an online petition to its website. The group plans to deliver the signatures to Governor Crist. You can view the petition at http://www.progressflorida.org/ProtectOurVote.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Elections, State News, Voting | No Comments »

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