Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Golden announces that he is set to announce congressional bid

Former Bradenton city councilman James T. Golden, who has done everything but announce his candidacy to indicate that he is challenging U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in next year's elections, announced Tuesday that he is ready to announce.

But you will have to wait until Nov. 5 to know for sure that his campaign is official.

Golden, a Democrat, sent out an e-mail to media and presumably presumptive supporters asking them to "save the date" for the kick-off of his campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat held by Buchanan, R-Sarasota, since 2007.

Details of where and exactly when will be announced later, according to the e-mail.

Cynics may conclude Golden is just trying to drag out his announcement for maximum publicity. But maybe he should be complimented for waiting until this year's election on Nov. 3 has passed before trying to get voters to pay attention to next year's campaign.

Golden may not yet be an announced candidate, but he already has collected at least $26,000 in contributions - a fraction of the almost $705,000 in cash Buchanan had on hand as of June 30, the latest available figure.

How much Golden and Buchanan have raised in the third quarter of the year will be released next month.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Buchanan to hold town hall Saturday in Parrish

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's office just sent out a last-minute reminder about his next town hall meeting.

This one - again focused on health care reform and the economy - will take place Saturday in Parrish, at the recently opened Parrish Community Center, 12214 U.S. 301 N.

It is set to run from 10 to 11 a.m.

Previous town halls, including in East Manatee and Sarasota, have drawn overflow crowds, so might be best to arrive early if you want to make sure you get in the room with the congressman.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Candidate Boyd to stump in Cortez

Jim Boyd next week will take his campaign for the Florida House to the fish docks of Cortez.

Star Fish Co. and the Bell family will host a meet-and-greet reception for Boyd from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Star Fish Co., 12306 46th Ave., Cortez. The event will feature a question-and-answer session with the candidates. Light appetizers and refreshments will also be served.

Boyd, a Republican, so far is the only candidate running to succeed Rep. Bill Galvano as the District 68 representative in the Florida House. District 68 is comprised of western Manatee County, including Cortez.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, cannot run for re-election next year because of term limits, but he has announced that he will run for the Florida Senate in 2012. He has endorsed Boyd.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Graham headlines new speakers series

Just received word on a new speaker series coming to the area, starting in November.

Here's the news release:
Forum Truth, a Sarasota-based organization that provides relevant public programming on current topics that effect all Americans, is pleased to announce the beginning lineup of notable participants for its annual speaker series. Included on the list are a former Florida statesman and four Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists.

“We are very excited to make the first announcements about our scheduled speakers,” remarked Irene Bandy-Hedden, chair of Forum Truth. “Some names are well known, others might be less recognizable. All have led very exciting careers that have affected us in some way. Whether as a legislator making news, a journalist reporting the news or as a prime-time film maker telling a story, you will not want to miss any of these fascinating presentations. We hope to announce other names as we receive additional confirmations, but Forum Truth did not want to hold up the announcement of the important people already confirmed. It’s an impressive list and we think people will want to reserve the dates as soon as possible.”

Former Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham leads the list and is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, November 18th. Mark Thompson, Time Magazine reporter since 1994 specializing in coverage of national security and military stories, as well as a 1985 Pulitzer-Prize winner when he was at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will appear on Thursday, January 7, 2010. Pulitzer-Prize winning former New York Times correspondent, author and PBS host of over 20 prime-time specials and mini-series, Hedrick Smith, will take the stage on Thursday, February 4, 2010. On Wednesday, March 24th, Cynthia Tucker, 2007 Pulitzer Prize commentary winner, syndicated columnist, frequent commentator on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour as well as other news shows and the first black woman to edit the editorial page of a major daily newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution, will speak. Linda Greenhouse, another Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times Supreme Court correspondent for nearly 30 consecutive years, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 14th.

Forum Truth is a membership organization with members receiving advance speaker information and discount ticket prices. Program events are open to all, members and non-members. Further details about these events will be released as the appearance dates get closer.

Bandy-Hedden continued, “Forum Truth is dedicated to bringing interesting and knowledgeable experts to our community in order to involve the public in meaningful discussions about some of the most important issues facing our society. Past speakers have included an exciting array of people in the national spotlight including Gwen Ifill, Amy Goodman, and David Broder. Join us for another year as we present this exciting array of speakers to who will surely enlighten us with fascinating insight and information as we continue discussions important to us all.”

Forum Truth is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization that provides public forums on important issues without the influence of special interest groups. The meetings presented by the group provide reliable, in-depth and easily accessible information on issues of national importance. All presentations are open to Forum members and non-members alike. Since its inception in 2003, the membership group has brought over 70 nationally acclaimed, professional speakers to the Sarasota/Manatee area. To become a member or for more information on Forum Truth, visit the website, www.forumtruth.org or call 359-8350. You may also become a fan on Facebook or follow Forum Truth on Twitter. Links to these social media groups are also accessible through the website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bradenton City Council election ballot set

Three members of the Bradenton City Council are being challenged in their bids for re-election in November.

The qualifying period ended Tuesday with council members Marianne Barnebey, Patrick Roff and Bemis Smith drawing one opponent each. The election is Nov. 3.

The races shape up like this:

In Ward 2, which is comprised of neighborhoods in the west-central part of the city extending from the Manatee River to south of Cortez Road, Barnebey is being challenged by Lori Melton, who currently is unemployed. Barnebey was first elected to the council in 1997, and is seeking a fourth term on the council.

Barnebey said she has worked hard to be accessible and responsive to her constituents. She touted her work on homeless issues, and as the city's representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets transportation priorities for the region. Recently, the city won $1 million for the construction of a new Ninth Avenue West bridge at Wares Creek.

Melton, who previously has worked in the accounting field, including for construction companies, said she doesn't have a particular problem with Barnebey. They just live in the same ward.

Still, "I think people can get complacent," Melton said. "We've got new challenges today in our city."

In Ward 3, which is made up of neighborhoods in central Bradenton, including Wares Creek and Ballard Park, Roff is being challenged by Richard O’Brien, a political science instructor at University of South Florida. Roff was first elected to the council in 2005, and is seeking a second term.

Roff said two priorities of his have been the planned dredging of Wares Creek and the revitalization of Tamiami Trail. Progress has been made in both areas, he said.

“When I ran for office my first term I was into city-building," Roff said. "Little did I know we were heading into an economic disaster. I’m a natural problem solver, so I had to switch gears into crisis control and on to economic recovery. I can get us there.”

O'Brien's were some of the first campaign signs to appear on local lawns, as he has been busy knocking on doors in the ward. He said residents are worried about crime and the down economy.

"I'm running against decent people, but they are not doing enough when it comes to crime and jobs," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he thinks the city should consolidate some positions at City Hall and shift the spending to the police department. The city also needs to ensure that local companies benefit from spending on federal stimulus projects.

In Ward 4, which covers neighborhoods along the Manatee River east of U.S. 301 and along the Braden River, Smith is being challenged by retired city employee Joel C. “Joe” Henry. Smith was first elected in 2001, and is seeking a third term on the council.

Smith said he wants to continue working on redevelopment efforts in his ward, which have been hit hard by the recession. For example, several condominium projects planned for along the Manatee River have stalled as the real estate market collapsed.

"In running for re-election, I feel like there is more I need to do," Smith said.

Henry retired from the city parks and building department in July 2008, and would like to bring some of that experience to the council.

"I would like to pay attention to our roads and streets," Henry said. "I want to ensure good employees are compensated for their work and loyalty."

Incumbency has not been a guarantor of re-election in recent local political campaigns. In the 2007 elections, current council member Harold Byrd Jr. ousted incumbent James Golden, and it took a runoff for Mayor Wayne Poston to put away a challenge from former mayor Bill Evers.

And last year, two Manatee County commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, were ousted after they lost their Republican primary races.

Bradenton City Council members hold nonpartisan positions, and are paid an annual salary of $27,834.

In the Bradenton election, the candidates have to be a resident of their respective ward, but all city residents can vote in each race.

Monday, September 14, 2009

3 Bradenton City Council members face election challenges

With a half day to go before the end of the qualifying period, the three Bradenton City Council members up for re-election in November each face a challenger, according to the Manatee County elections office.

In Ward 2, Marianne Barnebey is being challenged by construction executive Lori Melton.

In Ward 3, Patrick Roff is being challenged by businessman Richard O'Brien.

And in Ward 4, Bemis Smith is being challenged by retired city employee Joel V. (Joe) Henry Sr.

The qualifying period ends at noon Tuesday.

The election is Nov. 3.

Noon Tuesday also is the qualifying deadline for the city council election in Anna Maria. Five candidates are currently qualified to run.

Commissioners, neighborhood activists laud Getman's service

A version of this story will appear in Tuesday's print editions of the Bradenton Herald

Herald Staff Writers

MANATEE - County Commissioner Ron Getman is not running for re-election next year, but he is not sailing into retirement.

First elected in 2002, Getman, 65, announced Monday he would not seek a third term on the commission representing southern Manatee so that he could devote more time to his at-home travel agency, which specializes in cruise vacations.

“It truly has been an honor and a privilege to have served,” Getman told reporters gathered in his 9th floor corner office in the county administration building. “My interest is in serving this community, and I did that.”

Already, two candidates — Robin DiSabatino, a Republican, and Roger Galle, a Democrat — have filed for the District 4 seat.

Getman, a Republican, said the prospect of being challenged for the job in a year when incumbents might be held accountable for the down economy and other problems, did not influence his decision.

Last year, two former commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, lost their seats when they were defeated in the GOP primary by two candidates, John Chappie and Larry Bustle, respectively, who were backed by several business interests. The philosophical shift, especially on development matters, was perceived to have left Getman in the minority.

“It’s more pro-business, and his philosophy was government does it best,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes, a member of the majority bloc. “The commission has changed.”

Getman said he was proud of the work the commission has done to set standards for future growth in the county. As an example, he said past commissions had not acquired the right-of-way needed for widening of major roads like Manatee Avenue and 53rd Avenue, but now such factors are taken into consideration when the commission approves development.

Under Getman’s tenure as commission chairman, the county and local municipalities in 2002 signed the “Accord,” which set a framework for how local officials approach growth issues with some uniformity.

“Ron was his own person, interested in doing the right things for the county,” said Commissioner Joe McClash, who was first elected to the commission in 1992. “He was a good steward, not a rubber stamp for developers, and I respected that.”

Getman said he also was proud of his efforts to win approval of ordinances banning panhandling, setting safety standards for ice cream vending trucks and restricting when and where fireworks could be sold.

Most recently, the preservation of the Bayshore Gardens area captured Getman’s attention as residents there began to express concerns that properties in the neighborhood were not being kept up. Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association President Suzanna Young said Getman’s interest in the neighborhood has put some teeth behind efforts to begin stricter code enforcement in the area.

“He just conducted a great meeting for us. He really added impetus to what we are trying to do here,” she said.

Another neighborhood activist, Whitfield Estates resident Norman Luppino, was particularly sensitive about Getman’s decision. Getman also resides in Whitfield Estates.

“I hope whoever represents our district isn’t paid for by the developers,” said Luppino, a former county planner. “The commission needs better balance than it has right now.”

Another Whitfield Estates activist, Mike Holderness Sr., said Getman was “such an asset in the position.”

“The amount of time he puts in is over and above what anybody can imagine,” said Holderness, a longtime Realtor. “He was involved in so many things. It’s a great loss, but it was just time.”
Getman said depending on who runs, he may make an endorsement in the campaign to succeed him.

“It is easy for a candidate to make promises which they may or may not be capable of fulfilling,” Getman said. “We need to look to the history of the person who makes those types of remarks to discover their true abilities.”

DiSabatino, who launched her campaign last week, said she had heard various rumors about Getman’s plans, but that did not play a factor in her decision to run.

“Ron is a patriot,” DiSabatino said. “We appreciate his service.”

Getman’s final 16 months on the commission will put a cap on a 48-year public service career. Before being elected, Getman had spent 33 years with the Florida Highway Patrol, two years as a Sanford, Fla., police officer and four years in the military.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who next year is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the commission, said the board will miss Getman’s rapport with law enforcement.

“It was a real benefit to the county,” Whitmore said. “We need to keep that communication open.”

Getman said he will remain active in the community, including as president of the Gold Star Club of Manatee County, which provides rewards for information about serious crimes in the county. He also will work to grow his 4-year-old travel agency, Getman Cruise & Travel.

Getman’s colleagues on the commission did not begrudge his decision to leave the board.

“As you get older, do you want to come in and do this every day?” Whitmore said. “After eight years, this is hard. He deserves a life.”

Commissioner Hayes agreed.

“He has other things to do with his life,” she said. “I’m sure his wife and family are delighted.”

McClash saluted Getman as a devoted public servant.

“From the highway patrol to county commissioner, I applaud his time,” he said. “You don’t find people like him every day who serve on county commission. He was a friend of Manatee County.”

Herald Staff Writer Robert Napper contributed to this story.

Ron Getman not running for re-election in 2010

Manatee County Commissioner Ron Getman, on the commission since 2002, announced this morning he is not running for re-election next year.

In public service for 47 years, in the military, law enforcement and the commission, Getman said he wants to devote more time and energy to a travel agency he started four years ago.

"My time as a county commission has been gratifying, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to help shape the future of our community as it relates to the growth, safety and welfare of our county," Getman said in a statement. "I have the greatest admiration and respect for the members of our community that have allowed me to represent them during my tenure."

Getman, a Republican, said the defeat of two incumbent commissioners in last year's GOP primaries did not affect his decision.

Local real estate broker Robin DiSabatino, a Republican, last week announced her bid for the District 4 seat now held by Getman. District 4 is comprised of neighborhoods in southern Manatee County.

Depending on who enters the contest, Getman said he may later make an endorsement in the race.

"It is my hope that knowing that I will not be running for re-election, someone will come forward that possesses a knowledge of the issues of this community and has a record of working with and being part of various civic, youth and social groups that serve our community," Getman said.

Getman said he will stay active with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Gold Star Club.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Senate candidate Rubio to speak in Venice

U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio will speak Saturday at a meeting of the Republican Club of South Sarasota County in Venice.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the South Venice Civic Association Clubhouse, 720 Alligator Drive, which is about three-fourths of a mile west of Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41).

Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House Representatives, is running against Gov. Charlie Crist and four other candidates for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. George Lemieux, who was sworn in Thursday after the resignation of former Sen. Mel Martinez.

Lemieux, who was appointed by Crist to the position, is not running for a full term in next year's elections.

For more information, call (941) 486-1414 or e-mail Filipkowski4Law@aol.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Galvano endorses Boyd to succeed him in Fla. House

Bill Galvano, left, and Jim Boyd

State. Rep. Bill Galvano
tonight endorsed Jim Boyd as the man he wants to succeed him in the Florida House of Representatives in next year's election. Galvano, R-Bradenton, cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

So far, Boyd, a Republican, is the only candidate in the race for House District 68, which covers western Manatee County.

Here is the news release issued by Boyd's campaign:
State Rep. Bill Galvano announced tonight his endorsement of Republican candidate Jim Boyd to succeed him in the Florida House of Representatives.

At a reception for Boyd at the Bradenton Yacht Club hosted by 50 community leaders from around the area, Galvano, who will leave the Florida House in November 2010 due to term limits, expressed confidence in Boyd’s ability to continue the outstanding leadership he has provided the citizens of District 68 since his election in 2002.

“I know and respect Jim Boyd, and I am confident that through his leadership, the people of District 68 will continue to have a strong voice in Tallahassee,” Galvano said.

Boyd expressed appreciation for Galvano’s endorsement. “I am truly grateful for Bill’s friendship and belief in me. I’m the only declared candidate for District 68, so he didn’t have to take a position in supporting me. I am truly humbled. Filling his shoes will be no small task.”

Boyd went on saying, “I am gratified by the support that so many people from our community have shown me. The same dedication and work ethic that has enabled me to be a successful business owner will also make me a successful advocate for District 68 and Manatee County. Our next financial report will show that even in these hard economic times we have raised approximately $100,000.

“One of my first priorities is to get people back to work,” Boyd said. “I believe the State Legislature has an important role to play in recruiting businesses to locate in Florida and encourage existing businesses to stay here. Additionally, if we expect to have a workforce that can compete in the 21st century, we must adequately fund K-12 and higher education.”

Jeb Bush plans live presentation to Ranch gathering

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, will be speaking to members of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club live via interactive video on Sept. 18.

Following Bush's presentation, guests will have the opportunity to have a live discussion with him

The meeting will be at the Lakewood Ranch County Club, 7650 Legacy Boulevard. Registration will be 11 - 11:45 a.m., followed by a buffet lunch at noon.

Cost is $20, payable by cash or check.

For reservations visit www.lwrrc.com.

Guests are invited and welcome.

For more information, contact Dr. Craig Trigueiro at (941) 753-7843.

Manatee chamber joins health care debate

The Manatee County Chamber of Commerce is one of some 3,100 chambers, businesses and other groups in the country that have signed a letter sent to every member of Congress "expressing concern with the current health care proposals moving through Congress," a news release states.

”Health care is the foundation of everyone’s quality of life, and we need meaningful reform that will address those issues that are driving up the costs of health care and making it unaffordable to millions of Americans,” Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee County chamber said in the release from the local chamber.

Read the letter at http://www.uschamber.com/chambers/090728_healthcare

Rep. Castor's response to Obama's health care speech

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, issued the following in response to President Barack Obama's health care speech Wednesday evening:
“Health insurance reform is vital to Florida families and businesses. The status quo is not working for too many of my neighbors and is too expensive. We need to bring competition to lower costs for our hard-working families and make insurance available to many more. No longer will insurance companies be able to deny you coverage if you get sick, they won't be able to charge you higher premiums because of medical history or current illness, if you change jobs, you can carry your policy with you, and you won’t have to pay co-pays or deductibles for preventative care. And if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Buchanan reacts to Obama speech

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama's address on health care to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress:
"Health care is a very personal issue that impacts all Americans,” said Buchanan. “I applaud the President for taking on such an important issue. What we need is a truly bipartisan effort to pass a thoughtful and balanced bill that will lower costs and increase access to affordable care without jeopardizing quality.

“Private health insurance is too expensive for many working families,” added Buchanan. “We should focus on balanced, common-sense reforms such as eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, reducing frivolous lawsuits, coverage of pre-existing conditions, ensuring portability and preserving the doctor-patient relationship. We should also create association health plans that allow small businesses to purchase group health plans, which will make coverage more affordable by spreading risk and increasing negotiating power."

Sen. Mel Martinez's final remarks

Here is a copy of Sen. Mel Martinez's prepared remarks for his farewell speech on the Senate floor, which he is giving as this is typed, via the Miami Herald's Naked Politics Blog:
The unique opportunity to serve in the United States Senate is the culmination of an unlikely journey ­-- a journey that has taken me from the country of my birth to the halls of the most cherished institution of our democracy.

I am very grateful to the people of Florida for giving me the privilege of representing them in the United States Senate. I consider my time in the Senate as the culmination of my time in public service ­-- the close of a fulfilling chapter of my own American Dream.

Having lived through the onset of tyranny in one country and played a part in the proud democratic traditions of another, I leave here today with tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to give back to the nation I love -the nation not of my birth but of my choice, the great nation that has such a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants and even showering us with opportunity. That is why I consider serving my community, my state, and our nation for the past 12 years a privilege.

It was a desire to give back and make a contribution to this nation that propelled me to enter public life. As a mayor, a cabinet secretary, and as a Senator, preserving opportunities for others to receive their own claim to the American Dream has always been a mission for me.

I have worked during all phases of my public life with a sincere desire to make a difference and today, I prepare to return home knowing that I have done my best to advance the things that make our nation great, prosperous, and free.

We truly live in the greatest nation in the history of the world, and throughout my time in public service, I have been humbled to play such a proud role in our democracy.

As Mayor of Orange County, it was a pleasure to lead the community that had done so much for me and my family. The agenda during my tenure was aggressive and carried out due to the hard work of a lot of people ­ some who are still around me today.

Following my service as mayor, I received a call from President-Elect George W. Bush to serve my adopted nation as the first Cuban-American in the Cabinet of a President. The call to serve as HUD Secretary was unexpected and not only a source of pride for me and my family, but especially for the Cuban-American community. I will always be grateful to President Bush for giving me such an historic

My time of service in the Cabinet was punctuated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The sobering events of that day defined a large part of that period of time. Participating in the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan and the added responsibility from those events will be forever carried in my memory.

While there is no question it was a privilege to serve the President, there has been no greater honor than serving the people of Florida as senator. Aside from the debates, the speeches, and the painstaking work that goes into turning ideas into law, one the most rewarding experiences has been helping Floridians resolve issues that impact their lives.

In the short time I have been here, my office has assisted more than 36,000 of Florida¹s families through casework, and written correspondence to countless more. We made tremendous progress on some of the many issues facing our nation and Florida in particular. These included efforts to develop our natural energy resources while protecting the environment; seeking to modernize our military through increased shipbuilding and ensuring we meet the Navy¹s goal of strategic dispersal; and working to protect our nation¹s homebuyers from bad loans, bad investments, and predatory lending practices.

It has also been rewarding to know that our work can often impact the lives of those living outside our borders, fighting for the freedoms we hold dear. I have brought to my work the belief that it is always necessary to provide a voice for those silenced for attempting to advance the cause of freedom. Having lived under Cuba's repressive dictatorship, I have always recognized the struggle of those who fight for freedom.

That has always been and will continue to be a lifelong passion. I have taken every opportunity to recognize those engaged in Cuba¹s peaceful civic struggle for democratic change in Cuba and stand up for their human rights: Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Antúnez, the Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White), and the victims of the Black Spring government crackdowns. It is my fervent hope that one day in the not too distant future, the people of Cuba will live in freedom with dignity and the hope for a better tomorrow that is their God-given right.

Even though I will no longer hold public office, my passion to work and devote myself to seeing a day when the people of Cuba can live in freedom will continue. The preservation of all freedoms ­ whether they be in Cuba or around the world­ calls us to stand up whenever and wherever it is threatened. One series of events will stand out in my mind as evidence of the power of an individual.

A constituent of mine, a woman named Cuc Foshee, was falsely imprisoned in a Ho Chi Minh prison while she was visiting her family in Vietnam. She was there for a wedding but the Vietnamese government knew Ms. Foshee as someone unafraid to speak out against the government ­a right we take for granted. While on her way to the wedding, Ms. Foshee and six others were arrested and detained for supporting so-called "anti-government" activities. For months in prison, Ms. Foshee faced endless interrogation for crimes she didn't commit. She was denied many of the basic rights granted to prisoners in the American justice system and was prohibited from contacting her family back home. After her plight was brought to my attention, I began working with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help secure her release. Using what tools we had here in the Senate at the time ­ including a Vietnamese free trade agreement before the Senate ­ we drew attention to her cause and eventually negotiated her release from prison. Through this experience, we saw exactly why freedom matters, even if it¹s just freedom for one person.

While there have been many triumphs, there are also those challenges that remain unmet­ including comprehensive immigration reform. I¹m proud to say a key supporter of our efforts on comprehensive immigration reform was the late Senator Ted Kennedy. For nearly a half-century, Senator Ted Kennedy has played an integral part in this institution and I¹m saddened by his death. It was an honor to work with him closely with him on immigration. While we often disagreed, he was a man of his word and always ready to get something done. I always admired his ability to put differences aside and find consensus on some of the most important issues facing our nation. His work on immigration was no exception.But despite our best efforts, which included Senators Kennedy and McCain,other members from both sides of the aisle, and strong leadership from President Bush, I'm sad to say the problem remains unresolved. President Ronald Reagan talked about the idea that America remains a beacon of freedom to the world when he spoke about the "shining city on the hill." In his farewell address to our nation, he touched on the idea that the contributions of all individuals are what make our nation great. He said: "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." I believe those words to be as true today as they were then. Although the bill didn¹t make it across the finish line, I¹m proud of the progress that was made. I hope Congress can one day reach consensus on the issue because fixing our nation's broken immigration system remains a national imperative.

Whether it¹s immigration, budgets, or even Supreme Court justices, I'll miss the debates. I thank my fellow Senators for their collegiality and friendship. I know these friendships will be the hardest to leave. I want to thank Senator McConnell and the party leadership for their support and friendship these past years. I also want to thank my friends on the other side of the aisle,­ especially Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. I especially enjoyed working with you during those rare but important issues where we found consensus.

Bill Nelson, my fellow colleague from Florida ­ you have been a true friend and a tireless advocate for the people of Florida. I appreciate your staff¹s hard work, including your Chief of Staff, Pete Mitchell. And I also want to thank you for the kindness you have extended to Kitty and me over the years. I think we made a good team for Florida.

I also thank my wonderful staff for their tremendous dedication, hard work, and commitment to serving the people of Florida. I would like to specifically recognize my State Director Kevin Doyle, Senior Director Kate Bush, Communications Director Ken Lundberg, Legislative Director Michael Zehr, Executive Assistant Terry Couch, and my Chief of Staff and longtime friend Tom Weinberg. I'd also like to thank those who were with me on day one:­ my former Communications Director Kerry Feehery, former State Director Matthew Hunter, and former Chief of Staff John Little.

Most importantly, I would like to thank my wife Kitty and our family for their love and support especially during my public life. Throughout my life, I have always lived by the belief that if you work hard, play by the rules, and have an abiding faith in God, all things are possible in America. My time in the Senate is a testament to that fact, and I am humbled by the trust the people of Florida placed in me. I also very specially want to thank the Cuban-American community throughout our country but especially in South Florida. You embraced me and believed in me. We shared pride in who we are and what we have accomplished. Your enthusiastic support has touched my heart for as long as I live and I will treasure these things forever.

Me hicieron suyos y creyeron en mi. Compartimos el orgullo en lo que somos y lo que hemos logrado. Su apoyo entusiasta ha tocado mi corazon, y atesoraré estas memorias para siempre.

My time of service is only a fraction of the nearly two and a half centuries that have passed since our founders charted our course as a free people. But the opportunity for someone like me to serve speaks volumes about the promise they made and the one our nation continues to keep. I would like to close with the words of José Martí, a hero of mine and to all those who strive to further the cause of freedom.

He said, quote "Liberty is the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect." As a public servant, his words have stuck with me as I have worked to ensure freedom and opportunity continues to flourish across my state and our great nation.

Sen. Martinez to give final floor speech this morning

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who is set to resign from this Senate, this morning will give his final speech from the Senate floor in Washington.

Martinez’s resignation will be effective at the close of business today and his successor, George LeMieux, is scheduled to be sworn in at 2:45 pm. Thursday. This can be viewed on C-SPAN 2 or at C-SPAN.org.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bradenton City Council election qualifying under way

If you want a spot on the Bradenton City Council, you have only a week to qualify for a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot.

So far, the only candidates to qualify for the nonpartisan races are incumbent Marianne Barnebey in Ward 2, who currently is unopposed; and Joel V. (Joe) Henry Sr. in Ward 4. Incumbent Bemis Smith has yet to qualify.

Also up in the election is the Ward 3 seat, currently held by incumbent by Patrick Roff. Neither he nor announced challenger Richard O'Brien have yet to qualify for the ballot, according to the Manatee County election supervisor's Web site.

The qualifying period ends at noon on Sept. 15.

Local real estate broker starts bid for Manatee County Commission

Robin DiSabatino

Local real estate broker Robin DiSabatino on Tuesday announced her bid for the District 4 seat on the Manatee County Commission. Incumbent Commissioner Ron Getman has not announced whether he would seek a third, 4-year term on the commission in next year's election.

DiSabatino, a Republican who lives in the Cascades subdivision off Lockwood Ridge Road, said she would use a seat on the commission to address economic, criminal justice and other challenges facing Manatee County.

"I'm very involved, I love this community,"DiSabatino, a broker with Michael Saunders & Co., said in a telephone interview. "I'm passionate about the issues, and I want to make a difference."

Getman, also a Republican, said he would announce in "the next couple of weeks," whether he will seek re-election next year.

DiSabatino, a former banker, is the second candidate to launch a bid for the District 4 seat, which represents southern portions of Manatee County. Roger C. Galle previously announced he was running as a Democrat.

Other commission seats up in next year's election represent District 2, currently represented by Democrat Gwen Brown; and the at-large District 6 seat, represented by Republican Carol Whitmore.

The only candidate to announce in District 2 is Democrat Michael Patrick Gallen; and in District 6, the only announced candidate is Democrat Sundae Lynn Knight.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Buchanan to hold town hall meeting in Sarasota

U.S. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, just announced he will hold a town hall meet on Friday, Sept. 11, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Here's the news release:
Sarasota, FL -- Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13) announced today that he will hold a town hall meeting next week. The Congressman will meet with constituents to discuss health care, jobs and the economy in Sarasota on Friday, September 11, 2009.

“Congress is debating health care reform legislation,” said Buchanan. “We also need to address the economy. I want to listen to the people and get their ideas and suggestions on how to reduce costs and increase access to affordable health care, grow the economy, and create jobs. “

This is the ninth in a series of town meetings Buchanan has held throughout the district this year to give his constituents a chance to express their views on federal issues.

The town meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m.at the city owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall located at 777 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

Please rsvp by calling the Sarasota office at 941.951.6643.
Buchanan's town hall meeting at Braden River High School drew an estimated 1,500 people last month.

Parent: She, not Obama, will teach values to her child

Paige Guthrie doesn't have a problem with President Barack Obama speaking to her 6th grader's class - if he wants to read them a book or teach them a math lesson.

But if he wants to talk with them about "values" - such as the importance of staying in school - as a parent, Guthrie said she doesn't need the help.

"Teaching values is up to the parents," she told me this morning.

That's why Guthrie will be sending a note to her child's teacher, asking that he be excused from watching when Obama makes his back-to-school address to students on Tuesday.

Sending a note is what Manatee school district officials Thursday said parents would have to do if they didn't want their child to listen to the president's speech while in school. The policy was announced to mollify concerns that the Obama's remarks would be too political nature.

That doesn't worry Guthrie. She just objects to anything that diverts students' attention to their academic lessons. And she objects to the requirement that she has to send a note to make that point.

"The parents who want their child to watch this should send a letter," Guthrie told me this morning. "My child needs to learn about reading, writing and arithmetic."

Guthrie said she would record Obama's speech, and if she felt it was appropriate, she would then watch it with her son.

"This is not a personal thing with the president," she said. "I don't want a certain view pushed on my child."

What do you think about the president's speech, and will you let your child watch it Tuesday while they are in school? I'd like to hear from you for a possible follow-up story. You can reach me at 745-7050 or at mmasferrer@bradenton.com

Marc R. Masferrer

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Manatee schools officials: Obama's speech to students is 'positive'

Stay in school.

Set goals.

Work hard to achieve them.

That's likely to be part of President Barack Obama's message to the nation's schoolchildren on Tuesday, Sept. 9, when he speaks to them live via the White House Web site.

It's not just a speech, but also a "teachable moment," complete with a curriculum and discussion points provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

When I was in grade school in the 1970s, long before we ever heard of anything called the "Internet," that was not possible.

It should be a neat experience for students able to watch and listen on Tuesday, having the president of the United States speaking directly to them.

Some, however, see something much more nefarious. To them Obama's speech is nothing less than an Hitleresque effort to indoctrinate "little lobbyists" to go forth with the president's agenda and to take over the world.

Florida's Republican Party chairman James Greer was a little less extreme, seeing the speech as part of a plot to spread socialism through school hallways.

"I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," Greer said in a statement. "I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda."

To avoid this, some are even suggesting a sick-out, that parents keep their children home from school to avoid even the possibility that they might learn something about the American democratic system or that Obama, whose personal story is a great example of where a good education can take you in life, might reveal to them the hope in their lives.

Stay out of school, they seem to be saying, and maybe president will just go away, and you won't turn into an Obama robot.

The Manatee County School District is still studying the matter, but on first blush, officials don't see what the fuss is about.

"Our leadership team will be meeting to discuss this issue (Thursday)," school district spokeswoman Margi Nanney said in an e-mail. "We have received a few phone calls about this today.

"We feel the president's message will be a very positive one and appreciate his concern for education. I am sure we will carefully consider this tomorrow as we address how we'll handle President Obama's address to schools next week."

Marc R. Masferrer