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Costume and Cookie Poll

October 31st, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Costume sellers claims to be able to predict the outcome of the election based on how many candidate masks they sell. And Retail Bakers claim their sale of Obama and McCain cookies are closely tracking polls, so we sent Mike Vasilinda to check the story out this Halloween.

Obama and McCain Masks have been flying off the shelves. Costume wholesalers claim their mask sales have mirrored election outcomes since 1980.  This store is sold out of both the McCain and Obama masks. We’re told the Obama masks went first. And we also know who is not popular. George Bush and Hillary Clinton

George Bush sold more masks than Al Gore or John Kerry. Now the buy costumes.com  website has Obama ahead of McCain…nationally and in Florida.

Shopper Rita Hodsdon has her doubts, and she even suspects dirty tricks.
“If I’m for McCain”, says the retiree, “I might want to make fun of Obama, so I might buy an Obama mask. It does’t mean I’m in favor of Obama”.

It not just masks. At Tasty Pastry Bakery, Owner Brenda O’Kelley says Obama is holding a slight edge in cookie sales.“If there friend votes for Obama”, says the baker,   “they’ll give them a McCain. Some offices will only bring certain cookies in”.

We found customer Sherelle Barber buying 3 Obama cookies, and yes…she says she voted for Obama. “I think it’s pretty accurate. I see people in here buying them.”

For now the candidates themselves are ignoring the costume and cookie polls…and coming to Florida to fight for votes the old fashioned way.

You can track the results yourself as the election gets nearer, for costume masks the web site is http://www.buycostumes.com and for cookies it is : http://bakery-net.com/news_briefs/0929_presidential_cookie_poll/

Have fun and remember to vote…for real.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Asian Community Hopes to Pass Amendment One

October 30th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Amendment one on this year’s ballot may be one of the least understood amendments for voters. It seeks to eliminate a part of the state’s constitution which says aliens ineligible for citizenship, can’t own property in Florida. Because of a court ruling, the provision hasn’t been enforceable for more than 50 years, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, removing the wording is a point of pride for Asian Americans.

The Alien Land Law originated right after the turn of the 20th. Clyde Diao, President of the Tallahassee Asian Coalition, says people at the time were worried about what the men who built the transcontinental railroad would do after it was complete.

“It was intended to really prohibit a lot of the Japanese farm workers to own farm lands, because they were so efficient,” Diao said. “And the local boys were kind of worried about it.”

At the time, only blacks and whites were eligible for citizenship.

Today’s reality is that many people of Asian descent own property and are very successful. Lucy Ho is a well know Tallahassee restauranteur.  The first she ever heard of the prohibition was when we told her.

The American beauty is that if you work hard, you’ve got it. You know? That’s why I like this country,” Ho said.

Lucy counts a former attorney general as a friend, and on this day, the Governor’s Chief of Staff was lunching in the restaurant she owns.

Amendment One is one of the least understood amendments on the ballot. For Lucy Ho’s sake and the sake of many others, it was a good thing it was never enforced.

Many in the Asian community worry the provision will stay in the constitution because of a lack of understanding.

“It’s not good for Florida, it’s not good for the people of Florida,” Diao said. “Not only that, it’s the state that has, in fact, the Alien Land Law in the constitution right now.”

Removing the racist and unconstitutional provision will require a yes vote by 6 of every 10 voters.

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

Early Voting Extension Costly

October 29th, 2008 by flanews

This afternoon the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist telling him early voting laws need to be changed. The letter comes as elections supervisors in some parts of the state are scrambling to meet the staffing demands after the governor extended early voting hours, from 8 to 12 hours a day. As Whitney Ray tells us, some elections supervisors may ask the state to pick up the cost of overtime for their staff.

There was no line for early voting in Jefferson County Wednesday morning. Marion Sims and his wife walked right in and with in minutes had cast their ballots.

“It took five minutes. It was easy,” said Sims.

Jefferson County Supervisor of Elections Marty Bishop was shocked when he heard the Governor extended early voting.

“I don’t know if he was figuring where these smaller counties were going to come up with some more funds to pay for it,” said Bishop.

Jefferson County found a volunteer to help out and everyone is working long hours. But In other parts of the state supervisors of elections are asking counties for more man power.

Ron Labasky, an attorney for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections, said it’s hard to meet the added demand in such a tight budget year.

“Whenever you operate a governmental process there’s some cost and this is going to be an additional cost that wasn’t anticipated when we first started early voting,” said Labasky.

Labasky said elections supervisors will answer the governor’s call no matter the price tag. The Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections will consider asking the state for a refund for any money counties spend to extend early voting hours.

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

Safe Haven Time Extended

October 29th, 2008 by flanews

The window of time to legally get rid of an unwanted baby has been widened. Florida’s old Safe Haven Law allowed parents of unwanted newborns to drop their babies off at a staffed fire department or hospital within three days of the child’s birth. Now parents have until the baby is seven days old. Nick Silverio, Founder of ‘A Safe Haven for Newborns’ Foundation said the four day extension will save lives.

“It’s important to give the mothers as much time to make a life affirming decisions, especially for the young girls who say my baby is four or five days old, there for it’s not three and they don’t want to break the law, just to give them more affirming time,” said Silverio.

For more information about the law you can call 1-877-767-BABY (2229). Since 2000, 117 babies have been dropped off at safe havens in Florida.

Posted in Children, State News | 14 Comments »

Early Voting Concerns

October 28th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Calls for an extension of early voting hours, or complaints there are not enough early voting sites are flooding the Governor’s office.

From one end of the state to another, new early voting records are likely to be set. As lines continue to grow, so do calls for the Governor to expand the hours of early voting. But he says it is something he can’t do.

“Under the law, it’s opened for eight hours a day and eight hours for the weekend,” Governor Charlie Crist said. “And that is what’s happening in the counties throughout the state.”

In 2005, state lawmakers voted to restrict where and when early voting could be held.

The line here in Tallahassee has been steady. People coming as fast as they leave and it’s taking about 30 minutes to get to the front of the line.

For voters, 30 minute lines were tolerable.

“You know, I want to vote,” voter Vanessa Moore said. “So, I don’t mind.”

But other parts of the state face much longer lines.

“Well, it’s worth it. Election time is one of the biggest times in the young folk’s generation,” voter Adam Bryant said.

Democratic activist Jon Ausman says two counties, Manatee and Pinellas have the lowest early voting turnout in the state because the counties have five times the number of voters per early site than any other county. He calls it a partisan effort to dampen Democratic turnout.

“The reality is, they’re suppressing everybody’s voter turnout by doing this,” Ausman said.

Early voting ends this weekend.

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

Families of Missing Children Keep the Faith

October 27th, 2008 by flanews

Parents of missing children gathered at the state capitol today to remember their lost loved ones. As Whitney Ray tells us, a new state law is aimed at bringing closure to the families of missing children and expanding search efforts for young adults.

Hear it Here: Families of Missing Children Keep the Faith

It was a day of remembering, of mourning, and for dozens of Florida families it was a call to keep the faith.

“None of us will let evil win twice. We will find our loved ones,” said Joyce Kesse, the mother of a missing Florida woman.

Family members of missing children gathered at the capitol to honor their lost loved ones. For the mother of a girl who has been missing for almost 20 years, time has done little to heal her pain.

“Wednesday is Tiffany’s 40th Birthday. It’s very hard,” said Hilary Sessions.

The day was bittersweet for Hilary and the family of a missing 25 year old woman. The Kesse’s daughter, Jennifer, disappeared almost three years ago. The family joined forces with Hilary.

Both families were instrumental in passing legislation to help law enforcement find missing young adults.

Now law enforcement is required to send reports of missing people under the age of 26 nationwide. It also requires DNA samples to be entered into a national database used to identify human remains. Despite the implications of the database, the Kesse’s still believe their daughter is alive.

“You have to keep hope in order to keep living and keep moving forward,” said Joyce Kesse.

And hope has paid off for several Florida families. So far this year nine missing children in the state have been found. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is encouraging people to sign up for missing child alerts. The alerts are sent out to email accounts and cell phones when a child in your area is missing. You can sign up online at www.missingchildrenalert.com

Posted in Children, Criminal Justice, State News | 1 Comment »

Two Million Vote Early

October 27th, 2008 by flanews

Last week people waited four hours to vote early in some parts of the state. Despite the long lines, early voting is still going strong. Monday in Tallahassee about 100 Florida State University students marched to the polls to cast ballots. Freshman Scarlett Sinclair said young voters are ready to have their voices heard.

“We are part of their constituency, so our vote does matter. Besides, my mom was going to vote for Ron Paul, but I convinced her to vote for Obama, so our vote does kind of matter. We can convince our parents, too, sometimes,” said Scarlett.

More than two million Floridians have already cast early or absentee ballots. Early voting ends November 2nd.

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

Crist Catches Heat For Scaling Back Campaign Efforts

October 27th, 2008 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist is catching heat for scaling back campaign efforts for Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain. The New York Times printed a story inferring Crist was upset with McCain for not playing a speech he taped for the Republican National Convention. Crist says that’s not true. He also says he’s still campaigning hard for the Republican nominee.

“I couldn’t be more enthused for Senator McCain and his opportunity to be our next president. I’m honored to have the opportunity to have worked with him, to campaign with him and to have endorsed him in the Florida Primary. I know he’s a great American hero. He’s a great leader. He’s a great United States Senator and he’ll be a great president,” said Crist.

Last week Crist was on the campaign trail with McCain in Florida. He has also toured parts of the state with Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

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

State Pushed to Extend Early Voting

October 24th, 2008 by flanews

As many as 1.1 million Floridians have already cast early ballots. Congressional Democrats and the NAACP are asking the state to extend early voting hours to keep up with the record turnout. But as Whitney Ray tells us, the Secretary of State says he can’t legally change the voting schedule, but he’ll considering his options.

It’s a test of civic duty, people in some parts of Florida waiting three hours to vote. Congressional Democrats and the NAACP want early voting hours extended to keep up with the record turnout.

“We may have a situation again where voters feel disenfranchised, feel like they are on the outside of the gate looking in on the political process, that is supposed to include them,” said NAACP Attorney Ben Crump.

In 2006, state lawmakers shortened the voting schedule. Election supervisors say lawmakers made a mistake.

“The legislature made a conscious decision to make early voting restrictive. Again, I want to point out that the bill passed on a party line vote with all the Republicans voting for it and all the Democrats voting against it,” said Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections.

There was as reason. So far in Florida, Democrats are outpacing Republicans, two to one, in early voting.

So far, more than a million voters have cast early or absentee ballots and flooded early voting sites. Secretary of State Kurt Browning says he doesn’t think Florida law allows him to extend the voting schedule, but he’ll consider it.

“At this time early voting hours will stand as provided by law and when a decision is made you’ll be notified of that decision.”

If hours aren’t extended, Election Day lines could be another test of civic duty and voters’ patience. Early voting ends November 2nd. Absentee ballots can still be picked up through October 29th.

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

Secretary of State Passing the Buck

October 24th, 2008 by flanews

Under pressure from the governor, a US Senator, and news reports, Secretary of State Kurt Browning changed his tune about letting federal poll watchers conduct a voting study in Florida. Browning originally denied the Government Accountability Office access to four polling sites in Florida, saying the law doesn’t allow them access. Now Browning said he’ll let county supervisors decide if they want the poll watchers to monitor their voting sites on Election Day.

“We have in fact pushed that back down to the counties and they can work with the GAO to make that determination as to whether or not they are going to be allowed in the polling places. I believe the law is clear as to who can and can’t be in the polling places, but that is going to be a decision for the election supervisors,” said Browning.

The federal poll watchers are asking for access to voting in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

Posted in State News, Voting | No Comments »

Environmentalists Push Amendment 4

October 23rd, 2008 by flanews

Environmentalists and business leaders are pushing an amendment on November’s ballot that will give landowners a tax break if they delay development or promise never to develop their land. As Whitney Ray tells us, supporters of amendment four say the idea is to reward people who protect the environment.

The state provides tax exemptions for people who grow food or raise livestock, but there is no relief for landowners who keep their property intact.

A campaign is under way to slow development in Florida. Amendment 4 eliminates property taxes for people who promise never to develop their land, but there’s also tax relief for people who can’t hold out forever. Those exemptions are unclear.

There is a possible loophole lawmakers may have to consider if Amendment 4 passes and that’s how to handle property owners who conserve their land, receive a tax break only later to sell the property or develop it.

Supporters of the amendment say lawmakers will mandate a time period for people who don’t want to conserve their property forever.

“You would say, on this 100 acres, it’s going to be classified conservation use, its only going to be for 10 years. It will not be perpetual, but I will pay a lower tax rate, I’ll still pay taxes, but it will be a lower rate and I’ll have to do proactive conservation steps,” said Chairman of Citizens for Conservation, Preston Robertson.

Donald Morris voted yes on four.

“Any time you can cut and reduce I’m all for that,” said Donald.

Six out of 10 voters must approve the amendment for it to take effect in 2010. With the state facing a third year of declining tax revenues, some people have concerns about how a property tax cut might affect government funds. Tax experts say amendment 4 wouldn’t hurt state tax collections and would only have a minor impact on county funds.

Posted in Amendments, Environment, Legislature, State News, Taxes, Wildlife | No Comments »

FEA Pushing Tax Hike To Save Schools

October 23rd, 2008 by flanews

Florida teachers are asking the state for a temporary one cent sales tax increase to avoid further budget cuts. Lawmakers have cut three billion dollars from public education since 2006 to keep up with declining tax revenues. Florida Education Association Spokesman Mark Pudlow said schools can’t take much more.

“We’ve seen some changes. There’s fewer crossing guards, fewer school resource officers, there’s some classes that have been cut. In some places teachers have been laid off, and other staff have been laid off. It’s really going to accelerate the rest of this year. We face more budget cuts this year and a big budget cut next year. You’re going to see these kinds of thing accelerate tremendously,” said Pudlow.

The Florida Education Association says raising the state sales tax by a penny for three years will pump more than 3 billion dollars into public schools, in the first year alone.

Posted in Children, Education, State Budget, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

Early Voting On Pace To Break Records

October 23rd, 2008 by flanews

We’re just four days into early voting and an estimated one million Floridians have already cast ballots. The Secretary of State’s office says close to half a million cast ballots at early voting sites since Monday. Some political groups say half a million people have already cast absentee ballots. Secretary of State Spokeswoman Jennifer Davis says Florida is on pace to break early voting records.

“The information we’re getting from counties is in some cases double the numbers they got in 2006 or 2004. We know is Miami-Dade got 11,000 the first day and got 16,000 Wednesday. We believe these are record numbers,” said Davis.

In some parts of the state people waited three hours to cast a ballot. The Congressional Democrats are asking for an extension on early voting to keep pace with the record turnout.

Posted in State News, Voting | No Comments »

Secretary of State Changing His Tune

October 23rd, 2008 by flanews

Secretary of State Kurt Browning is reversing an earlier decision to deny federal poll watchers access to voting sites in four South Florida counties. The poll watchers want to make sure seniors and people with disabilities have fair access to the ballot box. Secretary Browning responded to a letter from US Senator Bill Nelson saying he’s now encouraging election supervisors in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties to allow the federal poll watchers into voting sites on Election Day.

Posted in State News, Voting | No Comments »

Working Waterfront Amendment Confuses Voters, Frustrates Business Owners

October 23rd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Coastal marinas, oyster houses and other marine interests have been under increasing pressure to sell out to developers. A tax system that allows appraisers to tax the property for what it could be used for instead of how it is being used has made the problem worse. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, voters have a chance to change tax policy to help waterfront businesses.

This marina in Panacea, on the Panhandle coast south of Tallahassee sits on four and a half prime acres, ripe for development. Oyster houses on the Apalachicola River, or shrimping interests around the state all face the same problem. High property taxes because of how the property might be used, not on how it is being used now. Marina manager Bruce Sanson says it isn’t fair.

“It’s not like we don’t want to pay taxes,” Sanson said. “We’re not trying to get out of some sort of tax loophole or anything like that. We of course want to pay our share.”

Amendment 6 on the November ballot says the property can only be taxed based on how it is being used. The problem is that many voters don’t understand it.

“I didn’t mark it either way, so what would that count? Not at all,” voter Eduardo Pascaul said.

The conservative Florida Taxwatch says the amendment will help keep Florida’s unique heritage intact.

“We’re losing a lot of those businesses, we’re losing access to the water,” tax analyst Kurt Wenner said.

Some day this acreage may indeed become a condo or town homes.

While the real estate market isn’t pushing the value of this area up right now, seafood dealers and marina owners are worried about what happens when the market comes back.

But for now Bruce Sanson hopes voters tax him fairly.

“We do not intend on the future use of it to be greater than what it is, then it should stay like it is,” Sanson said.

The amendment needs a 60 percent approval margin before it can take effect in 2010.

While Florida Taxwatch supports the amendment, the group says it wishes it also extended tax breaks to mom and pop hotels and parks along the coast.

Posted in Amendments, Business, State News, Voting | No Comments »

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