Friday, December 14, 2012

Florida and Obamacare: let your voice be heard

With the president’s reelection, the call to “Repeal Obamacare” seems to have subsided. So where does Florida stand with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

Today was the deadline for states to decide whether to set up their own health insurance exchange or let the federal government do it.  Like 19 other Republican-led states, Florida decided, for now, to let the Feds do it. (They can change their mind at a later date, with approval of the Legislature and the governor.)

Given where we are today, this is probably the best they can do for now. As recommended by Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), a statewide consumer health advocacy organization:
As a result of Florida leaders' resistance to the ACA and inaction over the past two years, the state has not completed the planning or invested the resources needed to develop and launch a State-Based (or even a Partnership) Exchange by next October. Therefore, a Federally Facilitated Exchange should be established to serve Floridians, at least until Florida demonstrates that it can meet the requirements of the law and run their own Exchange with stakeholder and public input.
States also have to decide whether to expand Medicaid, which is a federal-state partnership, to a federally-mandated level in order to provide insurance for their uninsured.  This is because the Supreme Court declared the provision of the ACA that required states to provide that coverage unconstitutional.

Here’s the deal: If a state agrees to expand coverage by increasing the income limit for the program to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (individuals up to $15,400 and a family of three up to $26,300 based on the 2012 FPL) starting January 2014, the federal government will pay 100% of the cost for the first three years, and 90% thereafter.

If Florida agrees, according to “Obamacare: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Affordable Care Act” in today’s Naples Florida Weekly:
The notion is that over time roughly half of the 4 million uninsured or underinsured people in Florida will join Medicaid, and half will use a health insurance exchange. 
In the program’s first three years alone, the federal government will spend at least $3.2 billion and as much as $4.78 billion while Florida taxpayers pay little or nothing, according to projections by the Florida Hospital Association.  
In a report issued last month, the association strongly recommended embracing the federal plan, “which is estimated to expand coverage to 32 million individuals at a cost of $940 billion over 10 years (2010 to 2019).”
Here are some additional facts from Medicaid Expansion and the Affordable Care Act in Florida, by Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), a statewide consumer health advocacy organization:

  • The majority of newly Medicaid-eligible Florida adults are employed. They include workers in the areas such as retail, food preparation, tourism/hospitality and other service industries.
  • The health coverage provided to Florida workers under Medicaid expansion would be a fully subsidized employee benefit, worth an estimated $14.3 billion to their employers over 10 years.
  • Expansion will cost the state an estimated $2.1 billion over the next 10 years, increasing the state’s share of the Medicaid budget by only 2%, while drawing down $20.3 billion in federal funds.
  • Medicaid expansion will create an estimated 65,000 new Florida jobs in the first 6 years alone.

The Florida Legislature and governor have to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid in the coming months as they develop the 2014 budget, and already its causing lots of debate – as you would imagine.

The Senate has created a Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and is inviting Floridians’ input on what Florida should do. They’ve even set up a webpage where you can submit your comments.  Here’s what I submitted today:
As a Florida taxpayer and voter, I urge you to fully adopt the Medicaid Expansion limits set by the PPACA so that Florida will receive its share of the Federal funding (100% of the cost of expansion in the first three years, and 90% thereafter) toward the insurance of our uninsured. It's the right thing to do.
It doesn’t have to be long or elegant. Just visit the webpage and tell them why you believe Florida should expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Let your voice be heard.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The President's Plan

Last night at dinner with friends, conversation turned to the apparent lack of progress at the meeting between Tim Geithner, representing the President, and John Boehner on Thursday. One friend commented that he was disappointed in the President's failure to put forward a specific plan, a criticism that has been all over the media since the meeting.

I countered that the President had indeed put forward specifics, and that further, to do anything more would simply be negotiating with himself - a tact he was roundly and appropriately criticized for during the debt ceiling crisis. My friend challenged me to name the specifics and, while unable to do so last night, I followed up with him by email this morning. Here's what I sent:

From the 11/29/12 Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney;
Q    One last thing on this.  You say that the President has put forward specific spending cuts.  Boehner said again this morning that they haven’t seen any plan.  Where do they fall on this when they actually talk in person, what they did last night or what they did on Saturday?  Has the President said that he's put forward spending cuts and he doesn’t plan to put forth any more?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm glad you asked.  This is available not just here but to everyone in the world who has an Internet connection. And I know things are done the old-fashioned way sometimes on Capitol Hill, but I believe they have electricity and Internet connections and they can get this.  This is an 85-page plan that is very detailed -- sorry, maybe 65, going on 70 -- that's very detailed and it outlines -- it's the President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction that was submitted in September of 2011.  It is of a piece with his budget that he put forward in February 2012.   
 And in terms of where we are missing specifics is anything specific, politically feasible, or substantial from the Republican side on revenues.  …..
 And here it is: President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.  In part, from the Introduction:
…. the President is putting forward a balanced approach that both asks for shared sacrifice from all Americans and draws from across the budget. This should include additional spending cuts in mandatory programs, modest adjustments in important entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, capping spending on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), and reforming our tax code so that we ask our biggest corporations and wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. 
Specifically, the President is proposing $257 billion in cuts and reforms to a wide range of mandatory programs from Federal retirement to agricultural subsidies, reform of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, new program integrity initiatives, and getting rid of unneeded Federal real property to reduce the deficit. 
The specifics are in the 67-page document. Just because it’s nothing new, doesn’t mean it doesn't exist.

Why should the President have to put forth ANOTHER plan? The one he put out last year appropriately remains his initial offer, until the Republicans come forward with a specific counter-proposal on both taxes AND spending cuts.

The Republicans may think that continuing to say the President didn’t put forth a plan will make it so, but it doesn’t.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't have any regrets

From First Read from MSNBC today: 
According to brand-new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls, Obama and Romney are deadlocked at 48% among likely voters in Colorado, while Obama holds a narrow three-point lead in Nevada, 50%-47%.  
Among the broader sample of registered voters, Obama is up by one in Colorado, 48%-47%, and he leads by six in Nevada, 51%-45%.
And what’s going on in Colorado could signal what happens in Florida and Virginia.
Notice that Obama holds a greater lead among registered voters than among likely voters. That's why get out the vote is so important. 

If we can get some of those supporters who were counted as unlikely voters to actually go to the polls, we can win this thing!  

That's why I'll be spending every waking hour of the day from now until Election Day to get out the vote in my little portion of Florida.

Don't have any regrets. If you were to wake up on November 7 facing four years of a Romney presidency, you would wish you had made the time to volunteer. Go to and sign up for a volunteer shift near you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's what each one of us can do

Pundits say we will win Florida ONLY IF we get our supporters to the polls.

An article in Monday's paper put it this way:
"To date, conventional wisdom has been that the turnout race will swing toward the Republicans, that the GOP is fired up about replacing Obama, that Democrats lack the same infectious enthusiasm they had in 2008. But many also are disenchanted by political bickering, contemplating whether to stay home next month out of sheer frustration. Others are angered by new voting laws that, depending on your view, either sniff out voter fraud or disenfranchise minority and poor voters. And some feel hopeless, as if neither candidate can help pull them out of joblessness or poverty. 
"Taken together, those who vote — and those who don't — will help direct the future of our country, deciding whether Florida turns red or blue in 2012."
There's nothing more important than knocking those doors and making those calls, because it's a proven fact that personal contact - especially with those who are undecided or sporadic voters - DOES make a difference.

If each of us makes a difference with just ONE voter, together we could swing the state.

Have you completed a volunteer shift yet? Are you ready to help us get out the vote? Have you visited or signed up with your local Neighborhood Team on Dashboard?

If you have - thank you! If not, what can I do or say to get you in? Seriously - we need you!

If you live in North Naples, please sign up and attend one of our two Get-Out-the-Vote Training Sessions for volunteers this Sunday.

  • 10AM-12PM - North Naples East Training - Click here
  • 2PM-4PM -      North Naples Training - Click here

If you live anywhere else in the COUNTRY, find an event near you at

Learn what you need to know to be the most effective and productive volunteer you can be in the less-than-three-weeks that remain until Election Day.

Friday, October 12, 2012


The location for the Forum on the Proposed Amendments to the Florida Constitution has been changed to accommodate what is expected to be a LARGE CROWD.  The new location is the North Naples United Methodist Church, 6000 Goodlette Road North.  Below is repeated the original Sparkers Soapbox post.

The League of Women Voters of Florida - and I - recommend a NO vote on all eleven constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. You can read the League's rationale at, where you can also download the League's 2012 Voter Guide for nonpartisan information on statewide candidates and Supreme Court Justices.

To hear both sides of each issue from an extremely qualified group of speakers, attend the Amendments Forum on Oct. 16 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the NABOR Community Center, 1455 Pine Ridge Road (just east of Goodlette-Frank Road). Some "heavy hitters" are lined up as panelists (see the guest commentary by Lydia Galton and Dave Trecker, founding members and officers of the Collier Community Alliance):

  • Former state representative Dudley Goodlette will describe how the amendments come about.
  • Florida ACLU head Howard Simon and Ave Maria president Jim Towey will debate the merits of Amendment 8, which would make public money available for religious institutions, including schools.
  • Carolyn Johnson, statewide manager of Vote Yes for No. 4, and Andrew Dickman, a Naples land-use attorney, will present the pros and cons of Amendment 4, which would cut property taxes, helping homeowners and realtors but stripping tax revenues from local government.
  • Char Wendel, head of Planned Parenthood, will debate Dr. Jaine Carter, a behavioral expert and author, on Amendment 6, which would prohibit state funding of abortions.
  • Ken Ginsberg of Hodges University and Chuck Mohlke, Democratic Party majordomo, will discuss the pros and cons of Amendment 3, which would set a limit on state revenues.
  • Jeff Fridkin, a prominent litigation attorney, will discuss Amendment 5, which would allow the Legislature to overturn Florida Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority vote of both houses.
  • Patrick Neale, a Naples land-use attorney, will discuss Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11, all involving property tax changes.
  • Jeff Lytle, Daily News editorial page editor, will serve as moderator.

It promises to be an informative evening of political theater!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

11 constitutional amendments on the ballot
The League of Women Voters of Florida - and I - recommend a NO vote on all eleven constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. You can read the League's rationale at, where you can also download the League's 2012 Voter Guide for nonpartisan information on statewide candidates and Supreme Court Justices.

To hear both sides of each issue from an extremely qualified group of speakers, attend the Amendments Forum on Oct. 16 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the NABOR Community Center, 1455 Pine Ridge Road (just east of Goodlette-Frank Road). Some "heavy hitters" are lined up as panelists (see the guest commentary by Lydia Galton and Dave Trecker, founding members and officers of the Collier Community Alliance):

  • Former state representative Dudley Goodlette will describe how the amendments come about.
  • Florida ACLU head Howard Simon and Ave Maria president Jim Towey will debate the merits of Amendment 8, which would make public money available for religious institutions, including schools.
  • Carolyn Johnson, statewide manager of Vote Yes for No. 4, and Andrew Dickman, a Naples land-use attorney, will present the pros and cons of Amendment 4, which would cut property taxes, helping homeowners and realtors but stripping tax revenues from local government.
  • Char Wendel, head of Planned Parenthood, will debate Dr. Jaine Carter, a behavioral expert and author, on Amendment 6, which would prohibit state funding of abortions.
  • Ken Ginsberg of Hodges University and Chuck Mohlke, Democratic Party majordomo, will discuss the pros and cons of Amendment 3, which would set a limit on state revenues.
  • Jeff Fridkin, a prominent litigation attorney, will discuss Amendment 5, which would allow the Legislature to overturn Florida Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority vote of both houses.
  • Patrick Neale, a Naples land-use attorney, will discuss Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11, all involving property tax changes.
  • Jeff Lytle, Daily News editorial page editor, will serve as moderator.

It promises to be an informative evening of political theater!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's with the push for early voting?

"For millions of Americans, the election is no longer on a fixed date. It is increasingly becoming another item on the fall checklist, a civic duty steeped in the convenience of everyday life. The development is reshaping campaigns, with Election Day becoming Election Month for as much as 40 percent of the electorate this year, including voters in the vital swing states of Ohio, Florida, Colorado and others." So wrote From Jeff Zeleny in the New York Times ("September, November: 40 Precious Days to Spend on Early Vote").

He continued: “It has made the October surprises way less relevant,” said Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Mr. Obama, who has built the president’s re-election strategy around the growing trend of voting early. “In a close election, you can increase your number of voters in a very important way.”

From "Early voting alters presidential-campaign tactics" (The Seattle Times): "By encouraging our supporters to vote early, we can focus our resources more efficiently on Election Day to make sure those less likely to vote get out to the polls," said Adam Fetcher, an Obama campaign spokesman. "We've made early investments in battleground states, where we've been registering folks and keeping an open conversation going with undecided voters for months."

Using advanced technology, campaigns track, or "chase," voters who request absentee ballots, often on a daily basis, until they are turned in. Then the campaign moves on. "You stop sending them mail. You stop calling them. You don't need to knock on their door anymore," said a senior Obama campaign aide, who requested anonymity because he is not an authorized spokesman.

The Obama campaign WANTS its supporters to vote early. It's that simple. Let's do it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Did your mail ballot arrive?

My absentee/mail ballot arrived Saturday. If you requested one but didn’t receive it yet, it's time to track it down.

In Collier County, go to the Supervisor of Elections’ website and click on “Am I Registered?” On the next screen, enter your last name, date of birth and house number. This will bring up your voter registration record. Scroll down to the section called “Future Elections” and click on “Show My Absentee/Mail Ballot Information.” It will tell you if you've requested a mail ballot, and what date it was mailed.

If it says yours was mailed last Tuesday (as mine was) and you haven’t received it yet, don’t assume that the mail was just delayed. Call the Supervisor’s Office at 239-252-8450 and ask them to send out another one. Better yet, ask if you can go pick it up. It's important that you stay on top of this.

If it doesn't show that you requested one, it’s not too late. Click here. You have until October 31 – but why wait?

If we are successful at getting every one of our supporters to actually VOTE, we will WIN in Florida – and FOUR MORE YEARS!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

We couldn't do it without them..

Like you, I’ve been drowning in OFA fundraising emails lately. 

But this one yesterday got to me:  
Your response right now determines how strong our campaign will be in these final 38 days.  
It determines how many organizers we can hire to get out the vote, how many ads we can run with our message, and how many field offices we can open.  
Thirty-eight days to go -- this is our one shot. 
It got to me because I KNOW how important our grassroots organizing efforts are. 

Every day I am simply amazed by the dedication, hard work and good humor of our North Naples East Field Organizer Hannah Murphy, who took a semester off from American University to help reelect President Obama -- without even knowing if she’d be paid. 

I’ve come to know and admire Stefanie Sass, Field Organizer for South Coast/Downtown; Charlie Saling, Field Organizer for the River District in Fort Myers; Michael King, an early Naples Field Organizer now in Bonita Springs; David Figa, a former OFA Fellow here in Naples, now a Field Organizer at Florida International University; Steve Jackson, a Regional Field Director who - having built a great team in Naples, was reassigned to Florida’s critical East Coast; and so many more terrific, engaged, dedicated, hard-working young campaign staffers.  

Yes, if Florida goes for Obama, it will because we volunteers registered voters, knocked on doors and made calls to get out the vote. But we wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things without the OFA field organizers, regional field directors, state field team, and the resources (phones, paper, computer systems, training videos/webinars, etc.) paid for by the campaign. 

So I am directly asking for your support.   

Please show your appreciation for Hannah, Stef, Matt, Edward, Michael, Austin, Steve, Erik, Meaghan, and all the other staffers OFA has sent to us in Naples.

Contribute whatever you can to the Obama campaign – and if possible, do it right now by through my Personal Fundraising Page (click here).

Come on - let's win this!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Key dates you should know for the upcoming elections

Election Day – November 6 – is 51 days away, but there are several important dates before then you should keep in mind.

Today you should check on the status of your voter registration.  This helpful website lets you do that wherever you live. I was taken to my official state and county websites where I confirmed that my registration is active and up-to-date. I also confirmed that my County Supervisor of Elections received my vote-by-mail request. Check yours now!

If you have not yet registered or if you need to make changes to what is currently on file (address, name, signature, party affiliation), go now to and take care of it.

October 9 is the last day to register to vote in Florida in the upcoming elections, but it varies by state.  Check yours here.

October 27 is the first day of early voting in Florida.  Early voting locations will be open from 7am to 7pm through Saturday, November 3, including Sunday, October 28.

Where you vote early is not the same as where you vote on Election Day, so be sure you know where to go. The information will be included with the sample ballot you will receive by mail, or check with your local Supervisor of Elections.  In Collier County, FL, go to or call (239) 252-8450.

October 31 is the last day registered Florida voters can request a vote-by-mail ballot, and I strongly urge you to do so wherever you live. Florida’s ballot is exceptionally long this year, with 11 constitutional amendments along with the usual federal, state and local races, and the lines at the polling places – both during early voting and on election day – will be long.

Any registered voter can vote by mail in Florida as in most states – no excuses are needed. 

You can apply for a vote-by-mail ballot for yourself as well as other members of your family. (Parents – are you listening?)

And even if you’ve requested a vote-by-mail ballot, you can still vote in person if you choose.  Just bring your ballot (voted or not) with you to the polls so it can be destroyed.  (If you forget it, you'll have to vote a provisional ballot.)

To request a vote by mail ballot, call your county Supervisor of Elections or visit her website (for Collier click here or call 239-252-8450)

November 3 is the last day of early voting, as noted above.

November 6 is, of course, Election Day. Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm. You must vote at the assigned precinct of your legal residence, which will be noted on your sample ballot as well as your voter identification card.

I encourage you to enter these key days in your calendar and do everything you need to ensure you and your family members have a trouble-free voting experience.

Then spread the word. We all know how much is at stake in this election.


Long Distance Voter: The Absentee Ballot Experts –
Collier County Supervisor of Elections – – paid for by Obama for America –
Florida Division of Elections – information for voters -  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Cosmic Shift in Political Fundraising

This quote has been haunting me since I read it yesterday morning:

“Through June, [Romney’s] campaign raised the maximum contribution of $2,500 from more than 33,000 Americans, compared with roughly 18,800 who gave that much to Obama.” (Politico Playbook 8/2/12)

I immediately thought: We’re a different demographic. How many Obama supporters can contribute that kind of money?  It’s hopeless!

"But Romney’s real advantage comes from the checks his supporters are writing to outside groups. In June alone, a super PAC supporting Romney raised $20 million in chunks as large as $5 million, nearly matching all the money Romney has raised from donors giving less than $200.

“Obama for America 2.0 is on track to beat its own records …Through the end of June, the campaign raised $112 million from donors who gave less than $200, compared with $93.6 million from the same group at the same point in 2008. The campaign already boasts 2.4 million donors this cycle, a benchmark it did not hit until late August 2008. Yet Obama’s aides are convinced they will lose the money race this time.”

TIME 8/13/12
From “The New Rules of Campaign Finance: Small Dollars Are No Longer King," by Michael Scherer, in the August 13 issue of TIME Magazine:

“We’re not scared,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told me last week. “We’re realistic.” He was explaining a grim and surprising fact for the Obama campaign: The President and his allies will almost certainly be outspent this cycle by Mitt Romney and his allies.

The reasons are three fold: First, Romney has proven to be a great fundraiser among high-dollar donors, far better than John McCain who always saw money in politics as an unseemly business. Second, Romney’s donors are not just giving to his campaign; they are giving six and seven figure checks to outside groups, which thanks to recent court rulings, can now spend that money on advertising up to election day. Third, Obama is having trouble raising as much money as he did in 2008 from Americans who give the legal maximum.

We all know the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is having an incredible effect on the 2012 campaign, but the impact in future years will be worse. Scherer continues:

The impact of this shift may reshape presidential politics for years to come, and it is the subject of a piece in this week’s magazine (behind firewall). “After this election’s over, it is much more likely that all the candidates in both parties will be meeting with billionaires than figuring out how to mobilize millions of people,” says Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, which pioneered small dollar online fundraising. “It will be a huge setback.”

Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign, explained the shift this way: “When you go to set up a campaign in 2016, you are going to peel off a third of your senior staff and say, ‘Go start a super PAC. We’ll see you after the campaign.’”

While super PACs can spend unlimited amounts, individuals are limited.  Here’s the disclosure at the bottom of the “Donate” page:

Obama for America can accept contributions from an individual of up to $2,500 per federal election (the primary and general are separate elections). By submitting your contribution, you agree that the first $2,500 of a contribution will be designated for the 2012 primary election, and any additional amount, up to $2,500 will be designated for the 2012 general election.

Already hit your limit? If you've given the maximum of $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election to Obama for America, you can still give to the Obama Victory Fund, our joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee, by clicking here.

At the bottom of that page is this disclosure:

The first $5,000 of a contribution to OVF 2012 will be allocated to Obama for America (with the first $2,500 designated for the primary election, and the next $2,500 for the general election). The next $30,800 of a contribution will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee. Any additional amounts from a contributor will be divided among the State Democratic Party Committees as follows, up to $10,000 per committee and subject to the biennial aggregate limits: FL (17%); OH (16%); PA (13); CO (11%); NC (11%); VA (11%); NV (6%); WI (6%); IA (5%); and NH (4%). A contributor may designate his or her contribution for a particular participant. The allocation formula above may change if following it would result in an excessive contribution. Contributions will be used in connection with a Federal election. Contributions to OVF 2012 may be spent on any activities of the participant committees as each committee determines in its sole discretion and will not be earmarked for any particular candidate.

I find it disgusting that we individual supporters have to jump through these hoops, while “they” can just write big checks to their heart’s content.

My Personal Fundraising Effort
As many readers know, I am a volunteer Neighborhood Team Leader with the Obama campaign in north-eastern Naples, FL, and write a weekly newsletter for supporters in my community. (Click here to read past issues or subscribe).  In connection with those grassroots activities I’m trying to raise $2,000 for the campaign through a Personal Fundraising Page on

Click here if you can help.

Let’s give as much as we can to the 2012 campaign – both of our time and our money.  But come November 7th, let’s figure out what we can do to move campaign finance reform to the top of Congress’s to-do list. We just can’t let this travesty continue.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My choice for District 3 Commissioner

I live in Collier County Commission District 3, whose next commissioner will be decided in the August 14 primary.  Candidates are incumbent Tom Henning and challenger Bill McDaniel, both Republicans.  See “Make an Informed Choice for County Commissioner” for some background.

My choice is based on two things: 1. how well the candidate did or will represent my community (Olde Cypress) before the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), and 2. how well the candidate did or will represent my interests on county-wide matters before the BCC.

With respect to the first, I have no personal experience, but from what I hear from others, our community has been satisfied with Tom Henning as our commissioner.  It’s impossible to know how McDaniel would represent our issues, but I did find it curious that his campaign mailer states – twice – “Cypress Woods, Quail Creek and Longshore Lakes can count on Bill McDaniel.”  What about Olde Cypress, Saturnia Lakes, the Vineyards, Island Walk, and other communities in District 3?

With respect to the second, I totally agree with Tom Henning’s position on two county issues of great importance to me:

County vs Clerk Lawsuit -- Henning was the only commissioner to oppose the County’s senseless series of lawsuits challenging Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock’s right to audit county expenditures.  The state Supreme Court ultimately found in Brock’s favor. What a waste of our taxpayer dollars.  Read more... 

Impact Fee Moratorium -- An impact fee is a fee imposed by a local government on a new or proposed development project to pay for all or a portion of the costs of providing public services to the new development, such as the construction or needed expansion of roads, street lighting, schools and other offsite capital improvements.

Both the League of Women Voters at its Candidate Forum and the Collier Building Industry Association in its survey by asked the BCC candidates, “Do you support a moratorium on commercial impact fees?”

Henning says no, McDaniel says yes. McDaniel wants to “explore the possibility of placing a temporary moratorium on impact fees” with the goal of attracting new business to the community.[1]  In fact, all three challengers (Cosgrove, McDaniel and Nance) support an impact fee moratorium, and all three incumbents (Fiala, Henning and Coletta) oppose it.  Henning said impact fee moratoria have been tried in other counties and didn’t achieve the desired result.  Fiala pointed out that Collier’s impact fees have already been cut by 50%, and eliminated on buildings two years old or older. 

Fiala and Coletta both pointed out that if new development is to take place in an area where infrastructure is needed, someone will wind up paying for it – if not the developer, then the rest of Collier County taxpayers. I agree. Growth should pay for growth.

Naples Daily News Endorsements
The Naples Daily News criticized Henning for having “disappointed too often.”  They said, “His blockage of follow-through on the Immokalee Master Plan[2] and his flawed, incomplete filings of state-mandated financial disclosure reports[3] are the latest examples of official conduct that has served to erode the public trust.”  I don’t have an informed opinion on the Immokalee Master Plan, and while the disclosure error is disturbing, it doesn’t appear to be egregious enough to cause me to change my vote.

In endorsing McDaniel, the Daily News said he “goes right to what's important — making government more efficient and user- and business-friendly. He speaks from experience in building, real estate, rock-sand mining and county advisory boards.”  But Henning supports making government more business-friendly, too, and that came through loud and clear in his Naples Daily News Editorial Board interview. (For McDaniel’s Editorial Board interview, click here.)

Greater Naples Better Government Committee Endorsements
The bi-partisan GNBGC was unable to reach agreement on an endorsement for the District 3 race.  In a statement they said, “Although the Board felt both incumbent Tom Henning and his Republican challenger Bill McDaniel to be viable candidates, neither obtained the required 60% vote ... the Board required for endorsement.”

My choice
I plan to vote for Tom Henning, for the reasons stated.  This choice will be controversial, surprising, and perhaps disappointing to some of my readers.  I’d be very interested in any input that might change my mind.

[1]Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Commission Candidates Sound Off on How to Attract Them,” by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 7/9/12
[2] See, for example, “Henning: I Would Vote No on Immokalee Master Plan,” by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 3/13/12
[3] See, for example, “Collier commissioner Henning says he wasn't trying to hide anything in his financial disclosures," by Katherine Albers, Naples Daily News, 4/11/12

Friday, July 27, 2012

More of my Republican primary choices

In previous posts, I explained my support for Dwight Brock for Clerk of the Circuit Court and Connie Mack for US Senator.  In next week’s post, I’ll write about my choice for District 3 County Commissioner (Henning or McDaniel).  In this post, I’ll share how I’ll be voting in the rest of the races on my ballot, and why.

Kevin Rambosk
Sheriff – Kevin Rambosk (incumbent)
After 21 years as a City of Naples police officer and four years as Naples City Manager,Rambosk joined the Collier County Sheriff’s department in 2003 and served in various positions before being elected Sheriff in 2008. He is now running for his second term.

As a seven-year member of the League of Women Voters of Collier County and it’s Justice Committee, I’ve had several opportunities to hear Sheriff Rambosk speak in both large and small group settings, and I’ve been impressed with his professionalism, calm demeanor and commitment to excellence.  I see no reason for a change and have long known Rambosk would have my vote. 

From the Naples Daily News endorsement
Rambosk remains the real deal — a law enforcement officer who leads by example and connects with constituents. He is consistent — stressing the importance of community policing, the public's crime tips and staff professionalism. He is consistent as well with pushing the envelope of technology to help track crime and keep citizens safe.  Our crime rates show it's all clicking.  The Sheriff's Office continues to be a leader nationally in teamwork with federal authorities to process and deport illegals who are arrested for other offenses.  In Southwest Florida these days, the Collier County Sheriff's Office ranks as a model agency.  Rambosk soundly defeated the same GOP opponent, Victor Ortino, four years ago and stands to do the same again.
Kevin Lilly
Property Appraiser - Kevin J. Lilly (Challenger)
I’ve had several opportunities to hear 20+year incumbent Property Appraiser Abe Skinner speak both to the League of Women Voters and in appearances before Greater Naples Leadership classes, but aside from reviewing our annual TRIM notice, I’ve not personally interacted him or his staff. 

Lilly worked in the Appraiser’s Office from 1995 to 2011, when he resigned his position as director of tax roll compliance to comply with the state's resign-to-run law.  From 1990 to 1995, he was an Economist in the Ad Valorem Tax Division of the Florida Department of Revenue in Tallahassee.  I was impressed with his answers to the League’s questions at the Candidate Forum, and with his bio.

From the Naples Daily News endorsement
Kevin Lilly sums up his best shot for being Collier County's property appraiser: He has the firsthand knowledge of the law and technology skills, the integrity and the energy to get the job done into the next era.  He also acknowledges the factor of age. He is 44 and the incumbent, Abe Skinner, is 81. Lilly says a change of leadership is inevitable and the timing is right.  We concur. He earns our endorsement — just as Skinner earns the community's appreciation for a job well and fairly done for more than 20 years....
Larry Ray
Tax Collector – Larry Ray (Incumbent)
Ray’s professional experience includes 23 years as officer in the US Army and 16 years on the management team of NCH Healthcare System where, according to his website, he oversaw the expansion of services to include the construction of  the Shick Heart Center, the Lutgert Cancer Center, the Whitaker Wellness Center and the expansion of  North Collier Hospital from 50 beds to over 300 beds, and managed over $150 million of capital improvements. 

In  2007, Ray joined the staff of the Collier County Tax Collector as Compliance Officer, responsible for insuring that the various departments and 12 satellite offices of the Tax Collector operated in accordance with accepted accounting procedures and Florida Statutes.   He was elected Tax Collector in November 2008; his predecessor Guy Carlton had decided to retire after 28 years in the position.

I’ve had several opportunities to hear both Carlton and Ray speak in large and small group settings, and I’ve been impressed with their knowledge and professionalism.  However I’ve had little interaction with the office or staff.

Steve Wagner, Ray’s challenger, spent 21 years with the US Air Force and 15 years as Area Manager of the Tax Collector’s Driver License Division.  Both candidates did well in the LWV Candidate Forum, but Ray’s background is stronger, and his management experience with NCH is a solid plus.

From the Naples Daily News endorsement:
Four years ago Ray picked up where his former boss, longtime tax collector Guy Carlton, left off — focusing on customer service. Few people enjoy paying taxes or renewing motor vehicle tags, for example. So the idea is to make it as pleasant and efficient as possible.  Ray has managed to do as much or more with fewer employees via smarter use of technology and cross-training. That's leadership.
Circuit and County Judges
I have no particular insight into the candidates in the four circuit judge and two county judge races on my ballot. From letters to the editor in the Naples Daily News, I learned that incumbent Circuit Judge Joseph Simpson’s Parkinson’s disease is an issue in the Group 26 race.  Read more here and here.  I’ve met Joe Foster, candidate in the Group 18 race, on several occasions, including in his challenge to County Commissioner Fred Coyle in the District 2 race in 2010. Joe would be a great County Commissioner and I hope he runs for that position again in 2014.

For the judge races, I’ll be following the Naples Daily News endorsements, which you can read here (circuit judges) and here (county judges).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Simply Not So

To:  Letter to the Editor, Naples Daily News

Congressional candidate Paige Kreegel understated the severity of our uninsurance problem in your July 22, 2012 article by saying that “only 12 percent to 15 percent of people in the U.S. aren't insured.” In fact, the uninsured rate has been increasing since 2008, reaching 17.1% in 2011, according to Gallup.[1]

Kreegel suggested that “illegal immigrants” are a major if not the primary cause of the problem.  In fact, the majority of the uninsured (81%) are native or naturalized U.S. citizens, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.[2]  The number of uninsured who are here illegally is unknown.[3]

Kreegel was correct that “young people just out of college” make up a significant portion of the uninsured.  But blaming this on their considering themselves “invulnerable” is not fair.  More than half of uninsured young adults are families with at least one full-time worker, but their low incomes make it more difficult for them to afford coverage, according to Kaiser.[4]

Kreegel was also correct that people with pre-existing conditions make up a significant portion of the uninsured. But rather than listing it last among his causes, it would have been more appropriate to list it first.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, people with pre-existing conditions could be as much as 46 percent of the uninsured.[5]

The Affordable Care Act addresses these challenges.  Visit and get the facts.

[1] “More Americans Uninsured in 2011,” Gallup, 1/24/12 –
[2] “The Uninsured: A Primer” (, by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, page 6.
[3] The ‘Real’ Uninsured,, 6/24/09
[4] “The Uninsured: A Primer” (, by The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, page 5.
[5] “At Risk: Pre-Existing Conditions Could Affect 1 in 2 Americans,”

Friday, July 20, 2012

The lesser of evils for US Senate

All registered Florida Republicans have four candidates to choose from on August 14 in the US Senate primary:
·        Connie Mack
·        Mike McCalister
·        Marielena Stuart
·        Dave Weldon

As a Republican in Name Only (RINO), I began my research to decide who to vote for by seeking the least-bad alternative to front-runner Connie Mack.  You cannot be more surprised than I with my decision.  Here’s how it came to be: 

Knowing nothing about the challengers, I began with Project Vote Smart and the candidates’ campaign websites.  Here’s a sampling of what I found:

Mike McCalister
Mike McCalister – a businessman, university instructor and former US Army colonel living in Plant City, FL (Vote Smart).  From his website:

“Colonel McCalister is an unapologetic conservative. His number one priority will be to get Floridians back to work by cutting spending, reducing the deficit, lowering taxes, and protecting our products and proprietary technologies and investments against unfair foreign competition. Colonel McCalister believes that Barack Obama and Bill Nelson are destroying our country with their reckless policies, and is frustrated that political insiders have done little to combat high unemployment, rising gas prices, and falling home prices.”

The website showcases McCalister’s military record.  There are no positions on issues. The only listed endorsement is from the National Defense PAC, which is “dedicated to supporting the election of balanced-budget-committed Military Veterans to the U. S. Congress.”  A quick Google search revealed nothing particularly helpful or (otherwise) alarming. Too much of an unknown.  I moved on. 

Marielena Stuart
Marielena Stuart - a journalist and professional translator living in Ave Maria, FL (Vote Smart).  From her website:

“That's Right!  A Republican grassroots campaign website dedicated to providing a strong conservative message to save America from Socialism.”  “A record of fighting against Socialist corruption with ACTIONS... not just words.”

“While I was born and raised in Castro’s Cuba, my family’s roots are in Spain.  So it is a proud moment for me to see Spain wake up from its Socialist nightmare—as I reflect on the many years I spent suffering under Communism.  For Americans, the often-stealth corruption of Socialism will only be clearly understood once it is identified for what it truly is: Socialism is ‘Phase I’ of Communism.  In America, Socialism has been festering in our schools, as well as in our local, county and state governments.  Washington is awash in Socialism. ...”

“Over the last 40 years, the federal government has spent billions upon billions of tax dollars to promote population control at home and abroad. These anti-baby, anti-natalist programs have included abortion by both surgical and chemical means, as well as mass sterilization.  It is time for the federal government to end its “Stop the Stork” campaign initiated by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the early 1970s, and replace it with pro-family and pro-natalist policies ...”

Stuart’s alarmist, anti-Socialist message is her main issue, proclaimed in big, bold letters on the Home page of her website.  “Anti-natalist programs??”  Scary.  I moved on. 

Dave Weldon
Dave Weldon – a physician and seven-term former US Congressman living in Melbourne, FL (Vote Smart).  From his website:

“The Authentic Conservative.”  Key Issues: Fiscal Responsibility, Jobs and the Economy, Repealing Obamacare, and 2nd Amendment Rights, followed by an alphabetical list of other issues.

“Dr. Weldon has a strong Congressional record of supporting family values and preserving traditional marriage.
·        Co-sponsored and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.
·        Co-sponsored and voted for the House-passed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004 and 2006, to protect traditional marriage from liberal attacks.
·        Will safeguard religious employers from being compelled to violate their values by President Obama’s liberal administration.
·        Opposed President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama’s repeal undermines military readiness, permits same-sex marriages on bases, and threatens liberty of conscience for military chaplains and soldiers who may hold different views on open homosexuality in the military workplace.
·        Opposes the marriage tax penalty.
·        Voted to prevent trafficking of child pornography.
·        Authored the permanent repeal of the death tax.
·        Strongly opposes abortion and has a 100% pro-life voting record.”

“President Obama, along with liberals in Congress like Senator Bill Nelson, is leading the charge in the largest government intrusion into health care in our nation’s history—and an unprecedented assault on the most fundamental right of them all: life.

To defeat Senator Nelson and peel back the big-government, anti-life policies of the Obama administration, we need a candidate with a proven track record of protecting the unborn. My 100% pro-life voting record and legislative accomplishments demonstrate that I am that candidate.”

The Endorsements Page showcases endorsements from noted conservatives Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Eagle Forum PAC  Founder Phyllis Schlafly, and Florida Congressman Bill Posey, as well as the United Christians of Florida Political Action Committee and spokepersons for the Home School Legal Defense Association PAC and the Sportsmen’s & Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance.  It also lists The TampaBay Times.

At this point in my research, I began to get alarmed.  It’s not just the conservative positions on social issues; I expected them.  It’s the exaggerated, near-hysterical language with which the positions are portrayed. 

But the TampaBay Times, a highly-respected, Pulitizer-Prize-winning publication and operator of, endorsed Weldon (“Senate primaries give voters few options”).  In part:

“Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon ... is a long shot, but he has more experience in Congress, a stronger record of accomplishments and a reputation as a more serious-minded lawmaker [than Connie Mack]. ... While taking pride in supporting efforts that balanced the federal budget during several years of Bill Clinton's presidency, Weldon also supported the Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program that increased deficit spending. He is a social conservative as well as a fiscal conservative, and we disagreed with his efforts to have Congress intervene in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube issue in 2005. We also disagree with his opposition to abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.

But Weldon is a thoughtful legislator who recognizes the serious challenges facing the nation and is willing to realistically confront them. He predictably opposes the Affordable Care Act but says some of its features are worth saving. He is clear-eyed about the federal deficit and the costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, and he is willing to consider raising some revenue and tax reform that closes loopholes as part of an overall package.

Still, according to the Naples Daily News, Weldon “was first elected to Congress in 1994 as a candidate of the religious right and abortion opponents. ... Weldon was a founder of the Space Coast Family Forum, an anti-abortion and family values group. In Congress he focused heavily on conservative social legislation including a law banning a late-term procedure that its critics call "partial-birth" abortion.”  And according to the Miami Herald, a spokesman said Weldon decided to run because “there is no authentic conservative in the race. We've got two moderates fighting it out." [The reference was to Connie Mack and then-candidate George LeMieux, who since endorsed Mack.]

So what about Mack? 

Connie Mack
Connie Mack - Executive, LTP Management Incorporated, 1994-2000; Marketing Consultant; Florida State House of Representatives 2001-2004; US House of Representatives 2005-present. Living in Fort Myers, Fl (Vote Smart) (though often accused of spending more of his time in California, home of his wife Congresswoman Mary Bono).   

Compared with the others, Mack’s website is refreshingly tame: 

“Congressman Connie Mack has had a distinguished career in public service fighting for Florida and the ideals of Freedom, Security and Prosperity.

Connie has fought to cut spending and taxes, reduce the debt, and balance the budget. And he’s fought against policies like TARP, the Stimulus, ObamaCare, and other liberal experiments that are jeopardizing our future by spending taxpayer dollars on programs Americans cannot afford and do not want....

Connie has been a champion for strengthening our national security, leveraging his position as the Chairman of Congress' Western Hemisphere Subcommittee to fight for the toughest border security with Mexico, and against the threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his alliances with Iran and other nations and terrorist organizations that threaten America and our allies.” said, “There are times when he didn’t take a hard-line conservative position, such as his stances on stem cell research and the Arizona immigration law.  But [his claim of a "very conservative voting record"] was about his overall record and how he compared to the rest of Congress, and for that he has gotten high marks from several conservative organizations."

He’s been endorsed by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, and every poll shows him ahead by a large margin. 

The TampaBay Times’ said Mack:

“... has the reputation of an opportunist with an unremarkable record in Congress.... He has the expected conservative voting record, opposing the federal stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms.... Beyond his policy positions, Mack's approach to public service does not inspire confidence. He refused to debate his Republican primary opponents or meet with editorial boards, including this one. By one measure, he has missed more than twice as many votes in the House as the average member since taking office. There also remain questions about how much time he spends in his district.”

There really are no good choices in this race for a RINO like me.  But given the alternatives,  I’d rather have a conservative Congressman who misses votes than one of the challengers whose ideologies scare me. 

Believe it or not, the lesser of evils turns out to be Connie Mack.