Friday, December 31, 2021

Backlash for FL Rule Change on Receiving Mail in Prison


Florida News Connection

Originally Posted on: December 29, 2021          

By: Trimmel Gomes

 The Florida Department of Corrections now bans people in prison from receiving traditional mail, such as greeting cards and handwritten letters, requiring that it be scanned and sent electronically, with few exceptions. The department says the change was made to reduce contraband from entering facilities, but Denise Rock, executive director of Florida Cares Charity Corp., sees it as choosing to punish the estimated 80,000 people in prison for an offense that affects less than 1% of the prison population.

Rock said the department is taking away important intangibles, such as being able to hold and smell the paper a loved one has written on, "or touch the colors of the crayons that your child wrote a card to you. What we have found from talking to people that are both incarcerated or formerly incarcerated is that this stuff provided an invaluable connection back home."

Rock is urging the Department of Corrections to consider punishing only those who violate mail rules.

The new rule, finalized Nov. 29, is being phased in beginning with four state-run facilities -- the Calhoun, Lawtey, Polk and Martin Correctional Institutes - starting Jan. 18.

Florida is following in the footsteps of several states that have banned or drastically restricted mail. Texas banned greeting cards and artwork in 2020. Michigan and Indiana have taken similar steps. Rock said she believes this approach is wrong.

"The overall goal of incarceration should be that someone comes out and is well connected to their family, and able to get readjusted and reacclimated," she said, "and we feel like this just further isolates them from how the real world functions."

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 50 years of research has found that visitation, mail, phone and other forms of contact between incarcerated people and their families has positive effects on both. Also, an investigation by the Marshall Project after Texas limited its prison mail found drugs and other contraband still were entering facilities - smuggled in by corrections officers.

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Tampa Centric 5 Must Have No Say In AFT $521M Refund "Hot Mess" They Helped Create, Four Can Be Voted Out Next Year


Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

All for Transportation "hot mess" Dumpster Fire 

The Tampa Centric Five Hillsborough County commissioners were staunch supporters of the unlawful All for Transportation Transit (AFT) $16B rail tax in 2018. Commissioners Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman, Mariella Smith, Harry Cohen and Gwen Myers, all Democrats, aided and abetted AFT's shameful activity of putting an illegal rail tax hike on the ballot and misleading the voting public. 


Tampa Centric 5 County Commissioners who 
supported illegal AFT rail tax 

Now Hillsborough County OWES taxpayers $521,183,433 that needs to be refunded according to this fox13 report

Karen Jaroch, with the group "Fix our Roads First," calls it a "hot mess," adding, "this whole tax could have been avoided if it was legally vetted in the first place."

....the Florida Legislature could step in with a local bill to enable White’s idea [sales tax holiday], which Jaroch supports, telling FOX 13, "the Department of Revenue could work with legislators to come up with a good bill to return the money fairly through a sales tax holiday."

Jaroch also stated the "Defenders" of the AFT rail tax should NOT be deciding the refund remedy for the "hot mess" they helped create. The winners of the lawsuit NOT the losers must decide the refund remedy. 

Fox13 stated AFT is a road tax but that is not true. 

The County can fund its roads within the County's bloated $7.142 BILLION growing budget without any massive tax hike. 

AFT is a rail tax to force taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough County to pay for rail boondoggles in the city of Tampa to benefit AFT's crony wealthy donors and downtown developers. The rail tax is also tied to a new baseball stadium that the same wealthy cronies want taxpayers also to fund.

Horrifically the $16B AFT rail tax specifically prohibited funding of new road capacity. it also forced hundreds of miles of "road diets" to remove valuable lanes of vehicle traffic all over Hillsborough County. 

AFT is the congestion creation rail tax hike.

The AFT rail tax is scandalous and a very contentious and tainted issue in Hillsborough County. Judge Barbas, who assigned himself to the case in the lower court after former Judge Laurel Lee recused herself and he also allowed AFT to intervene in the lawsuit, should not be negotiating any refund with the losing Defendants or the AFT losing intervenors of the lawsuit. 

The refund remedy must be determined by the lawsuit winners in a Court preferably outside Hillsborough County. 

Or, as Ms. Jaroch states in the Fox13 interview, our state legislators can pass a bill to implement a sales tax holiday in Hillsborough County until the $521M is depleted. 

The Hillsborough County commissioners should be championing such bill with Hillsborough's local legislative delegation instead of proposing "funny business" refund shenanigans to allow the County to keep most of the illegal tax proceeds.

Commission Chair Pat Kemp and the rest of the Tampa Centric 5 commissioners have already agreed they are putting AFT 2.0 rail tax do-over on the 2022 ballot. There's been no public meetings and no refund of the 2018 AFT illegal tax proceeds. They don't care. They have the votes to put another rail tax boondoggle on the ballot and they will. It is a done deal.

While the Tampa Centric 5 were warned in 2018 there were numerous legal issues with AFT, they ignored the warnings. The AFT rail tax referendum included 5 pages of appropriations - stating who, how, where, how much the $16B would be spent and pages and pages of regulatory gobblygook. 

It is simply common sense that biased political committees have NO authority to appropriate public funds or create regulations. Florida Statute 212.055, which governs local transportation sales tax referendums clearly states it is the elected county commissioners who have the appropriations authority.

Proceeds from the surtax shall be applied to as many or as few of the uses enumerated below in whatever combination the county commission deems appropriate

How could Pat Kemp, who has publicly touted herself as being a lawyer while sitting on the dais during commission meetings, and Harry Cohen, also a Florida lawyer, not understand Florida law? 

Or does the end justify the means?

When Cohen ran for his county commission District 1 seat he barely won last year, he did not disclose to voters he was a lawyer for one of the AFT Defendants - Hillsborough Clerk of the Court office - in the AFT lawsuit.  Though he no longer is the lawyer for the Clerks office, Cohen was legally tied at the hip with AFT and their high priced lawyers last year but he was not transparent about it. 

Now Cohen sits on the county commission and Surprise Surprise he wants to put the AFT rail tax boondoggle do-over on the 2022 ballot. Cohen had the audacity to ask in February this year, ironically right before the Florida Supreme Court threw out the entire AFT rail tax as unlawful, if the County should begin spending the AFT tax proceeds. Remember he's a lawyer...asking whether the County can spend tax proceeds still under litigation. It's like the Twilight Zone.

Commissioner Overman got caught lying to the media that AFT had been "thoroughly vetted" in December 2018 right after Commissioner White filed his lawsuit. These commissioners are disqualified from proposing any refund remedy to fix the big mess they helped create.

Kemp, Overman and Smith voted on April 1, 2020, right as the pandemic wrecked havoc on us and before the Supreme Court ever issued their ruling striking down the entire illegal tax down, to put the same AFT 2.0  rail tax on the 2020 ballot. They wanted to reward the wealthy AFT cronies by putting another $16B tax hike on the 2020 ballot when their constituents were losing their jobs and their livelihoods and financially struggling....while they kept their 6 figure taxpayer funded jobs. Shameful! 

A survey this year of Hillsborough County residents reflects a vast super majority 89% want their roads fixed. A vast supermajority 75% would never use transit and do not want to pay for more transit.

The Tampa Centric Five are out of touch with their own constituents. 

Those who support illegal rail tax hikes, crafted in the dark behind closed doors and funded by crony wealthy downtown donors, should not be in elected office. Those who support unlawful activity cannot be trusted, should be removed from office and are disqualified from having any say in the AFT refund remedy.

Lucky for Hillsborough, four of the five Tampa Centric commissioners - Kimberly Overman, Mariella Smith, Gwen Myers and lawyer Harry Cohen are running for re-election. They can be voted out of office next year.

So wake up Hillsborough County voters.  

And send these four commissioners and their crony rail tax boondoggle packing in 2022!

 Posted by Sharon Calvert at 4:04 PM 

 This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of BayPost Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021


Have a very Merry Christmas on This Special Day..........

Friday, December 24, 2021

Rural Florida Cites Need for Better, Cheaper Broadband


Original Post: December 14, 2021


By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress contains $65 billion to give every American affordable access to broadband internet service.

The need is pronounced in Florida's small, rural towns, where reliable internet can be hard to find, a situation which came into focus when the world was thrust into doing everyday business online instead of in-person.

Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the pandemic exposed problems with lack of access that have been around for many years.

"Then COVID comes around and it kind of got multiplied times a thousand," Fuentes recounted. "It was kind of a slap in the face to wake up; that this is a real, real problem, you know, because obviously everybody was -- kids were doing school from home and doctor's appointments from home."

According to research from the group Broadband Now, affordability is Florida's most pressing problem, as fewer than six in 10 Floridians have access to a low-cost internet service plan. A study by the global Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found the U.S. has the second-highest broadband costs in the developed world.

Fuentes has been critical of the Federal Communications Commission's months-long delay of its Emergency Broadband Benefit program. It offered households in need $50 a month toward broadband service, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop or other computer, if they contributed just $10 to the purchase. Fuentes thinks it should've been deployed at the beginning of the pandemic.

"And we saw how bad it was once COVID came around, so I think everybody is somewhat on the same page when it comes to this particular issue," Fuentes contended. "But again, I just wish it would've been a lot sooner than later."

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Friday, December 17, 2021

More Student-Loan Forgiveness Urged as Repayments Set to Resume

 Florida News Connection

Originally Posted: December 13, 2021


By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As more than 200 organizations call on the Biden administration to extend the pause on student-loan repayments, some borrowers are finding success through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

The Biden administration's approach to student-loan relief so far has been on improving or expanding a handful of programs that already were on the books, even as advocates press for the campaign promise of canceling $10,000 in student debt per person.

Susan Garcia is a professor of the New World School of the Arts at Miami Dade College, who said she was able to see her loans forgiven in the modified program for educators, nurses and public employees who give 10 years of service.

"It is $92,000 of payments that are being forgiven, that have been forgiven," said Garcia. "And for me that is, like, incredible because I'm, like, 58 years old, headed toward retirement, I have a 17-year-old son who is looking to go to college and trying to figure out how he's going to do that."

Garcia is encouraging others to take advantage of the now-streamlined program which, according to the education department, already has forgiven $2 billion dollars in debt. The pandemic moratorium on federal student loans is set to expire after January 31.

Garcia said the student-debt crisis is real. She credited organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers for pushing for reforms to make it possible for her loans to be forgiven, which started out at around $120,000.

"Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like I didn't make payments," said Garcia. "I paid over $148,000, mostly interest only since I separated from school."

One major change to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program allows all payments by student borrowers to count, regardless of loan program or payment plan. That waiver runs through October of next near.

However, a survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center found that 89% of fully employed student loan borrowers said they were not financially secure enough to resume loan payments on February first.

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Just This Side of Heaven Is a Place Called Rainbow Bridge

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin  

To most of us, our pets are very important members of our family. They occupy a special place in our hearts and in many instances of need or loss, they provide a special type of comfort.

I started this Blog over 10 years ago, and each day as I write and edit Harley and Max would come into the office and keep me company until I finished. They are not here today, and I really miss them.

This past month has been a sad one for me. I lost two of my best friends in very short order, my poodle Max14 and my beloved Shih Tzu Harley16.

This past week I received a number of sympathy cards, and tucked inside one of them was the story of Rainbow Bridge.

Rainbow Bridge…

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here on earth, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends, so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers.

Then suddenly he begins to run from the group flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet; you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; Your hands again caressed the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.

Author Unknown .....

If you have recently lost one of your dearest pet friends, I hope this is the comfort to you that it was to me.

You may want to copy this put it in a folder somewhere in your computer, and when one of your friends or acquaintances suffer a similar loss send it to them. I'm sure it will bring them great comfort.

See ya soon guys.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

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Friday, December 10, 2021

Nobody is Afraid of Joe Biden

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin  

Have you noticed that the world seems crazier than ever?

Gas prices are up.
Food prices are up.
Big Pharma is running rampant.
Governors from many states are openly defying the President.
Putin is planning an invasion of Ukraine.
The Justice Department is all over the map.
Congress is not paying much attention to the White House.

The question is why? There are a couple of answers.

First, no one is afraid of Joe Biden. There is just nothing scary about President Biden.

Joe Biden is a kind and carrying individual who strongly believes that negotiation and compromise still work.

When he did take a shot in Afghanistan, the military had bad intel and things went wildly wrong.

Joe is unlikely to forget that anytime soon.

In every crisis and confrontation everyone knows what Joe is going to do. He is going to talk, negotiate and talk some more.

What he is unlikely to do is act without talking to everyone remotely attached to any issue. Biden still believes that time is on his side and patience will win out. Increasingly that stance is not working.

One of the reasons why things were calm, and the economy remained in check during the previous administration was the unpredictability of Trump.

It was difficult to predict Trump and almost everyone from Putin and Russia, Iran and Iraq, the Saudis and the other demagogues around the world to the corporate execs were reluctant to poke the Trump bear.

They just could not predict exactly what Trump might do.

Biden could put a stop to gas price gouging with a single action. But he will not. He could calm down price increases with a few strong hints or threats but he will not.

He could send a much stronger message that “economic Sanctions" regarding Ukraine but then he might actually have to back it up.

It seems that President Biden is standing in the past, peering through a veil that is growing ever darker trying to look into the future. The approaches of the past worked in the past but in today's world the approaches of the past simply do not meet the needs of the present or the future.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook , follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

FL Health Groups Urge Senate Passage of Build Back Better

 Florida News Connection 

December 6, 2021


By: Trimmel Gomes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Healthcare reform advocates are asking U.S. senators to pass the Build Back Better Act, saying it would provide a federal fix for the more than 400,000 uninsured Floridians in the Medicaid coverage gap.

Build Back Better would expand the tax credits lower-income people use to pay for insurance plans bought on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Florida's Republican leaders have continuously blocked Medicaid expansion in the state, so Alison Yager - executive director of the Florida Health Justice Project - said the fix is crucial to getting coverage to those without equal access to health care.

"And it would ensure that low-income families who live in Florida and can't afford private health insurance will have the access to comprehensive healthcare," said Yager. "So, a lot of those people are working parents. It will finally enable them to take care of themselves and their families."

Florida Republican leaders have been adamant about rejecting the federal funding to expand Medicaid as a government-run health program, warning the state could be forced to shoulder much of the cost if Congress was to one day reconsider its commitment to cover 90% of the bill.

Joan Alker is the executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, which tracks and analyzes children's health coverage. She said Build Back Better is designed to claw back gains the country had been making in getting kids covered during the Obama administration.

"After we saw this troubling reverse in the progress we'd made as a country in reducing the number of uninsured kids, which came to a halt in 2017 and started going in the wrong direction," said Alker, "the Build Back Better bill would really turn that around and start moving the country back in the right direction."

While the bill faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate, Alker notes it would also permanently reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP, known here as Florida Kidcare, so Congress won't have to debate how to fund it every few years.

Build Back Better also would provide 12 months of continuous coverage for kids enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid.

Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service.  Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Gift Card is a Better Buy


WEST COAST        
Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin  

The supply chain is a mess, so they tell us, everything is backed up in a port somewhere. Is it true? None of us consumers know for sure.

Some things are certain: Retailers are hiking their prices and hyping buy now!

It is easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy especially if you have kids or grandkids.

But now may be the time to step back and reconsider your shopping strategy.

Why fight the crowds and pay the outrageous prices? Consider the following.


Ease Of Purchase
Gift cards are breeze to buy. You can get them almost anywhere. They can be store specific or just general use.

Usually there is no “cost” to buy, and they are redeemed for the amount you pay.

You don’t need to enter the shopping fray, just stop at the checkout, pick up one or two for everyone on your shopping list and head out the door.

If you really want to enhance the experience, put the gift card in a box instead of an envelope. It makes gift opening a lot more fun

Personalized Giving
With a gift card, the giving is very personal. The recipient can shop at their leisure, pick out what fits or what they need and enjoy the gift.

Gift cards also allow delayed shopping allowing the gift to be used for needs when necessary.

Added Value
This year gift cards may pack an added bonus. There is little doubt there is a supply chain problem, but sooner or later all that stuff sitting out there on those cargo ships is going to come flooding into stores like a tsunami.

Adding to the retailer’s problems will be all the current merchandise will be showing up.

Economics 101, “When supply goes up, prices go down.”

That $50 or $100 gift card may buy considerably more in 60 to 90 days than the cash will buy right now. Look for a flood of sales on everything from underwear to electronics when the supply chain flood breaks loose.

About the kids. A lot of people, especially grandparents, may think the gift card as a “gift” loses some of the Christmas Spirit.

But, consider this, what better way to teach a child how to shop than letting them “spend” that card in a store of their choice. Take the grandparents along if you can, it will be a Christmas to remember.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

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