Archive for June 21, 2008

Elian’s Relatives Detail Protests

Standing in the front yard of the house where immigration agents seized Elián González, the child rafter’s great-uncle and great-aunt detailed plans for a protest Saturday when Barack Obama will speak to a mayors’ conference.

Delfín González, who called Friday’s news conference at the Elián Little Havana house, said he, his sister Caridad and other González family members were upset that among the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee’s advisors are two men who helped return the child to Cuba eight years ago.

Obama’s foreign policy adviser Greg Craig represented Elián’s father in the custody battle. Eric Holder, a member of Obama’s vice presidential search committee, was deputy attorney general when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the then-6-year-old boy seized.

”My fear is that those who collaborated [with the Cuba’s communist government] and made a great mistake with a defenseless child will make the same mistake again against this nation that is facing danger from terrorism,” Delfín told reporters at the small one-story house that immigration agents raided April 22, 2000. It now also serves as a museum detailing the boy’s odyssey.

Speaking from a waterfront park along Jacksonville’s St. John’s River, Obama briefly responded to the flap:

”That was eight years ago and obviously it was a wrenching situation for the families, but I’m running for president in 2008 and my focus is: how do we create a Cuba policy that will create political freedom on that island and allow the people who live there to prosper? That’s not what we have right now,” he said. He referred to his ”extensive approach” to Cuba policy that he outlined in an address to the Cuban American National Foundation.

In his May 23 speech at a foundation luncheon, Obama repeated his intention to use ”direct diplomacy” to bring change in Cuba — an allusion that he would be willing to meet with Cuban leader Raúl Castro. He also wants to lift President Bush’s 2004 travel restrictions that limit exiles to one trip to Cuba every three years instead of annually to visit relatives.

Delfín Gonzalez deplored Obama’s position.

”It’s a great mistake because by going to Cuba they supply the money that the Cuban regime needs to continue repressing the people,” he said.

Delfín and Caridad González said they plan to join the Vigília Mambísa protest starting at noon in front of the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Miami where Obama plans to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is the group’s incoming president. Before being elected mayor, Diaz belonged to the legal team representing Elián’s Miami relatives.

Delfín Gonzalez, a supporter of presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, said that the Republican Party did not put him up to denouncing Obama’s advisors.

Source: Miami Herald

Some people’s memories are longer than 10-second soundbites.

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Business Leaders Push New Models for Pinellas County Schools

Frustrated by stalled student performance, a foundation led by some of Pinellas County’s most influential business leaders is aggressively pushing a major change in the way public schools are organized and funded.

The Pinellas Education Foundation wants the district to adopt a new system that puts principals in control of their schools and relieves district headquarters of the power to impose its will across the system.

The group makes its case in a strongly worded “white paper” titled A Case for Change in Pinellas Schools. It also is taking an audacious approach that differs from the collaborative style of years past.

Foundation leaders are briefing candidates running for three open School Board seats and meeting individually with sitting board members. They want both groups, and the public, to sign a statement supporting the proposal — before the board has had a chance to discuss it.

“It may appear that we got out a 2 by 4, but it isn’t our goal in life to demean the School Board,” said Terry Boehm, president of the foundation. “We just want them to pay attention. We don’t need any more excuses.”

Boehm added: “We want to bring this to the attention of the community, which will then bring pressure to bear on the School Board members. We elect them to take care of something that ought to be taken care of better than it has been.”

Read the rest of the article at

I don’t blame the school board for being a little wary of buying a pig in a poke. On the other hand, school boards have a tendency to be composed of people that have the funds available to run and therefore the, er, more affluent areas of town have a tendency to be over-represented, and they (board members) may honestly not know the best choices that needs to be made for another area of town.

Individual schools do have a good bit of autonomy on the curriculum they order, the hiring and firing decisions, and whether they decide to hire an art teacher, for example, or have a marching band. Indeed, two schools in the same district will have vastly different programs and disciplinary actions, all due to the different principals.

To ask a prospective school board member before election, as well as sitting school board members, to approve something before it can be scrutinized with other board members sounds a little strange to me, like a used car dealer telling me that I must buy this deal now because there’s another offer on it, and it may be gone in an hour. Anything that is a good idea will still be a good idea once people have had a chance to discuss it.

The school board, however unhappy people may be about it, is answerable to the community. It is unclear to me whether the schools would be answerable to the school board if this were approved.

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Florida Unemployment Rates Hits 5-Year High

Florida’s unemployment rate hit 5.5 percent in May, equaling the national average for the first time since 2002.

Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation said the May number is the highest since September 2003 and represents a half-point increase from 5 percent in April and a 1.6-point increase from May 2007. The state’s nonagricultural employment base lost 74,700 jobs over the year. That’s slower than the national job growth rate for May, which grew 0.2 percent over the year.

In Jacksonville the unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in may, up from 3.4 percent a year earlier. The rate rose in all five Northeast Florida counties from a year ago by at least 1.6 percentage points.

Local numbers have not been adjusted to account for normal seasonal variations.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal

A not altogether unexpected development given that big employment sectors, construction and tourism, are moribund, and the government sector has slashed jobs as well. Jacksonville has the Navy, the port, several industrial employers, as well as the many hospitals and associated jobs that will, I believe, help buffer the economic downturns caused by high fuel costs as well as the huge price increases caused by transportation costs.

I’m not sure the housing market will bounce back any time soon. The prices continue to be high enough to price young families out of the market.

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Unexpected Expenses Harm Small Businesses

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL — As fuel prices continue to surge, small businesses watch their bottom line shrink as supplies become more and more expensive.

Such is the case at Cinotti’s Bakery in Jacksonville Beach, where generations have been serving up tasty treats.

Mike Cinotti slides another rack of dough into a huge oven as he talks about the history.

“My grandfather started in 1936 in Ohio in a family bakery,” said Cinotti.

And today, Mike Cinotti is the grandfather of the next generations of family bakers. But this family affair is being hit hard like many small business which rely on supplies and ingredients that are also seeing skyrocketing prices.

“The cost of flour has doubled since October,” said Cinotti.

“Eggs have tripled. Two and a half times what we were paying in October for eggs we’re paying now, and shortenings that we use have gone up about 65-70%!”

Some ingredients are priced out of reach altogether.

“Take walnuts,” said Cinotti. “It’s almost $200 for a 25-pound box of walnuts, so we just –6-months ago just quit using walnuts. It’s just ridiculous!” For years, customers would come from as far away as Downtown Jacksonville or Orange Park for the bakery’s wide assortment of pastries, cookies, cakes and breads. Now, many are thinking twice.

“But I understand if they can’t make that trip now. An extra $8 for 2-gallons of gas to get out here and go back is a lot. Our product is good but I can understand them not sacrificing that.” There are wondrous machines throughout the bakery to help stir the pot and more, but electricity is another rising cost.

“Our bill’s been hitting around $3900 a month the last few months. That’s a lot of doughnuts and a lot of cookies going out the door!”

So this traditional family, small-business baker is having to raise his prices, taking a hit on his own bottom line to keep sales strong. Still, he believes the long run will be positive.

“I believe it’ll make us stronger as a country. It’ll make us stronger as individuals if we go through this and we figure out what we need to make a change in,” said Cinotti.

Source: First Coast News

The people in the senate and congress that have been busily blocking energy exploration and exploitation never actually have to worry about how they’re going to fill their tank and make it to work every week, whether they’re going to be able to make the house payment or the rent, or what food group they’re going to have to forego because they cannot afford it, unlike ordinary people. What do they care about the small businesses being hammered by costs beyond their control and unexpected hikes in the electric bills? What do they care when the same businesses have to cut back on employees in a desperate attempt to cut costs? After all, it’s not like those issues are important, like political grandstanding.

To call the senators and congressmen out of touch would be an understatement. I believe that most of them should experience unemployment and be thrust back out into private life.

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How to Speak Democrat…..

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