Tuesday, October 07, 2008

After due diligence and consideration, these are...

My recommendations and endorsements for the 2008 General Election...

President and Vice President - Barack Obama and Joe Biden

... That shouldn't be a surprise if you've been reading this blog...

The rest of these are things that only Florida voters or voters in my own district/county/area can vote on:

Representative in Congress District 9 - Bill Mitchell

State Representative District 60 - E. J. Ford

Local Stuff...

Property Appraiser - Ken Ayers

Tax Collector - Beverly P. Harris

Supervisor of Elections - Phyllis Busansky

Board of County Commissioners District 2 - Ken Hagan (REP - He is the only candidate. I will likely under-vote this.)

Board of County Commissioners District 6 - Kevin Beckner (Seriously, he's awesome.)

Nonpartisan Positions...

Shall Justice Charles T. Wells of the Supreme Court be retained in office?

Yes. Or No. (see comments.)

Shall Judge Chris W. Altenbernd of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?


Shall Judge Carolyn K. Fulmer of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?

No. I don't agree with her ruling in this case. It seems to me that the ruling is incomplete, as it doesn't take into account all the facts of the case, and unduly biased. (Others have found other questionable rulings besides this one - see comments.)

Shall Judge Morris Silberman of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?


Shall Judge James W. Whatley of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?


School Board Member District 7

Stephen Gorham - my dad, an educator of more than 35 years, says this is the guy to vote for, so I'm going with him without question...

Soil and Water Conservation District

- Despite this being a "nonpartisan" position, some of the candidates are advertising their affiliation, so I'm choosing to pass that info along since I can't find out much else about them...

Group 2

*A.J. Brent - Libertarian, is for recognizing same-sex marriage and for a woman's right to choose... not that that has anything at all to do with the position he's running for...

Richard Van Epps - can't find out a thing about him, except that he's the incumbent...

Group 4

*Jeffrey Ross Garbus - Libertarian, is for recognizing same-sex marriage and for a woman's right to choose... not that that has anything at all to do with the position he's running for...

Betty Jo Tompkins - Republican, vice-chairman of the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation

* These are the candidates I'll probably vote for. I don't feel strongly in favor of them because I know so little about them, but can't say I know any more about their opponents that would encourage me to vote for them instead.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

No. 1 - Would allow persons deemed ineligible for citizenship to own property in Florida and prohibit the legislature from regulating such a thing now or in the future. This has no business being a Constitutional Amendment. Such a thing should be regulated by State Statute, if necessary.


Unsure. I'm doing more research on this one.

No. 2 - Essentially this is an anti-GLBT rights amendment which would write discrimination based on sexual orientation into our State Constitution. There is already a law in the State Statutes that prohibits homosexual relationships from being legally recognized as valid and binding, as in marriage, whether preformed in the state of Florida or another state or country. So - on top of being discriminatory - its proposal is also redundant.


No. 3 - Exempts improvements on residential structures that increase resistance to wind damage (as from hurricanes) or the installation of renewable energy sources (such as windmills or solar panels) from being considered as part of the taxable value of the property. So - essentially - this does not raise taxes for those people who choose to install hurricane shutters or solar or wind power generators and does not effect the taxes of any one else.


No. 4 - Exempts land held perpetually in conservation (and therefore not for development or other use) from being assessed property taxes.


No. 6 (there is no No. 5) - Assesses waterfront property based on its current use. I honestly have no idea why this is necessary, and isn't already provided for somewhere in state law, but... there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it.


No. 8 (there is no No. 7) - Requires the legislature to allow individual counties to levy an additional local sales tax to provide funding for community colleges. The tax would have to be approved by the voters, and, if approved by the voters, it will have to be reapproved after five years or it will no longer be assessed. The amendment doesn't require counties to propose an extra local sales tax, nor does it compel the citizens of counties that do propose such a tax to approve it.


County Referenda

These are not numbered, however, for ease, I'm going to number them in the order that they are listed on the ballot.

1. Veto powers to the County Mayor... Gives veto powers to the county mayor over the county commission, which may be overridden by the county commission by a two-thirds vote. The mayor will not be able to veto regulation of the county commission itself, zoning and planning or land use regulation.


2. Authorization of the county to continue to purchase environmentally sensitive land to protect it from development and damage. This continues an ongoing program to protect land that for various reasons is considered environmentally sensitive, either due to wildlife habitat, natural areas, water quality, and to protect sources of drinking water from damage and pollution.



As of October 29, 2008, I've disabled commenting on this blog post. I'm getting lots of comments, not all of them well thought out or polite (which have not been published), and I just don't feel like dealing with them showing up in my inbox anymore, if y'all don't mind. Thank you to those of you who have had thoughtful, helpful, polite comments. Please, do not try to send me comments on this post via another post which is open to commenting. Such comments will be deleted and not answered.


Anonymous said...

I was looking for information on just who Judge Chris W. Altenbernd is. Whether he leans left or right. It's pretty clear that if this blogger is voting for Obama then she must lean left which is probably why she's endorsing Judge Altenbernd---which is exactly why I will vote NO to his retainment.

From a staunch conservative, Thanks!

Rachael said...

First off - I can hear you... I can read what you write and respond. So there's no need to call me "this blogger" and "she" in my own blog, even if you're posting comments anonymously.

Second - my criteria for whether or not to retain a judge is not whether or not they lean left or right, but rather whether their record is free of scandal and if I can't find out about any rulings that would indicate they allow things other than the law to sway or bias their judgments. I couldn't find any dirt of any sort on Judge Altenbernd. No indications he leans left or right, no indications that he's biased in his rules or swayed by anything other than the law... Just as a good judge should be.

La Duchesse said...

Judges should be neutral. I agree completely. *blinks owlishly*

I hear Obama is ahead in FL, so someone must be doing something right. ;)

Rachael said...

*nods sagely*

Yep, he sure is! Latest poll averages according to CNN say that he is up 2.5 points on McCain, and gaining more all the time...

La Duchesse said...

Is this where I start chanting "Hail to the Guardians of the watchtowers of the South"? :P

Rachael said...

LOL! That's actually not a bad idea! I know I was praying about it today in synagogue and I couldn't get "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" out of my head most of the afternoon... and now that I've reminded myself about that, it's right back in my head again. ;D

La Duchesse said...

It's awfully hard to change someone's mind when they approach something from a fixed position--which you obviously already know. I'm really proud of you for how you responded. :) Always knew you were a good egg!

Rachael said...

Oh, thank you!!! And right back at you! :D

Anonymous said...

I have spent the last two hours going over the net to find information on the candidates and the issues. Your blog is very well done and along with the other information I have found has given me an chance to be an informed voter. Well done.

Rachael said...

Thank you so much! :D

Jaux said...

Hey Rachael,

I was looking up some of the judges on the ballot when I came across your website. I'm surprised about your decision on Wells. Why are you voting to retain him when he voted against allowing the county-by-county recount in the 2000 Presidential Election?

Maybe I'm missing something :)


Anonymous said...

Although I don't agree with your political viewpoints you're a good citizen for doing your homework on these things. However, I found this looking for info about the soil and water candidates. And it appears that you selected your picks because somewhere (that i haven't found) they stated they believe in same-sex marriage. Not sure what that has to do with dirt. In that regard I think your partisan views have gotten the best of you and become irresponsible. Betty Jo Tompkins may be the world's leading authority on dirt, but your voting for the other guy because he believes men should marry.

Rachael said...

Thank you for saying so...

The stance of Mr. Brent and Mr. Garbus has nothing to do with what their job would be if they are elected, but that was the only thing I was able to find out about them at all, other than they are Libertarians. Both of these tiny tidbits of information are informing my choice here. That they are Libertarians and they take such a reasonable and liberal stance on these issues, to me indicates that they are likely more liberally minded about issues of conservation. It's a leap to be sure, but it's a leap based on something, rather than nothing, which is what I've got to go on with the other candidates at present.

Apparently, they and their opponents and a lot of other candidates for local government spoke at a Baptist Church in Brandon, and those were two of the questions they were asked by parishioners. Mr. Brent and Mr. Garbus were the only two present who said that they were for same-sex marriage being legal and for protecting a woman's right to choose. I think it takes a lot of guts to stand by your convictions like that in a setting where such opinions are so obviously unpopular. This information was printed in an article in one of the local papers, either Tampa Tribune or St. Pete Times.

I couldn't find out anything about Ms. Tompkins other than she's a Republican (thanks to the Republican Party of Florida website) and she's the vice-chairman of the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation board... Nothing at all about whether or not she's good at her job or truly believes in the importance of environmental conservation. No articles, no websites, nothing... Before anyone assumes that she believes in the importance of environmental conservation just because she has her job, I have to say there is such a thing as the fox guarding the hen house and I don't automatically give people the benefit of the doubt with so little to go on when it comes to candidates for unknown and nonpartisan offices like these. Most figure that they can get elected on name recognition or because they have the most nicely designed campaign signs. I have to say, her being a Republican - with the way the party has conducted itself in recent years - is a strike against her in my book. If I could find some statements about things she's done specifically concerning soil and water conservation in the course of her tenure as vice-chairman, I would consider changing my mind. But as of yet, I've not found anything. If you come across some specifics, please do let me know.

Rachael said...

Thank you, Jaux! It is far more likely that I missed something. I wasn't aware that Wells wrote the dissenting opinion during the 2000 Presidential Election fiasco. Thank you for pointing that out to me. It didn't come up in my simple search on "Justice Charles T. Wells," which has been all it's taken to find out scandals and unpopular rulings with other judges in the past. That's very disappointing to find out. From the research I did, I particularly liked him for his pro bono work and advocacy for disadvantaged children before he became a Judge. This does complicate things, since apparently his dissenting opinion played such a large part in the overturning of the Florida Supreme Court's decision by the US Supreme Court, and I would have voted for Gore had I been old enough to vote in the 2000 election (I was two months too young), and to this day, I believe that not hand-counting all those votes was a grave miscarriage of justice under Florida law to determine the will of the voter. In case others are interested, the full ruling, including dissenting opinions, can be found here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/pre2004/ops/sc00-2431.pdf

After reading Justice Wells' dissenting opinion, it seems to me that it is wrecklessly conservative. Not being able to contest an election in the courts, not being allowed to recount votes, I think, has done exactly what Justice Wells' feared doing so would do. That is, that it brought great doubt on the part of the general public on the Court, and the election ultimately was decided by judges and not by the voters by not allowing a full recount to proceed. He also seems to be in love with expediancy when it means that a decision will be reached quickly in favor of the appellees and in love with slow proceedure and minutia when it means that the appellants are wrong in contesting the election. :-/

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about Wells. A judge has never in the history of voting been removed from their position based on our votes alone. They will all stay put - unfortunately. But back to Wells, he turns 70 in March and will be out at that time. While he is uber conservative I voted to Yes because 1. my vote really doesn't matter when it comes to retaining judges and 2. let him go out dignified because he did do SOME good.

Rachael said...

That's a really good point. Thank you... I had forgotten about that mandatory retirement rule for judges...

Anonymous said...

As for No. 1 Declaration of Rights, you have put No as it shouldn't be in the state constitution, but if you read the state constitution, the language to regulate property and dispossess, etc etc, is already in the STate Constitution. This admendment removes the responsibility of being federal government concern, and would bring it down to State Statute level, meaning less force applied, decided by case-to-case, usually. Though I am pro-immigration, this issue is more about the rights of a person in US, regardless of citizenship, considering how long it takes to attain citizenship overall and the process is very enduring, if not a bit sloppy and lackadasical.

I've put a Yes, as it does need to remove this language from the constitution.

Anonymous said...

In addition, here's a link, to get more information on both sides of each issue: http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Florida_Amendment_1_(2008)

Rachael said...

Hmm... Well, I'll do some more research on No. 1 then. Thank you for the link.

Lucas Brachish said...

Thank you for this excellent blog post -- while filling out my annual Florida Absentee Ballot, I always try to research every candidate and ballot initiative as carefully as possible. But this year there were a few names where solid information was hard to come by -- so, together with some other articles I read, your post helped me to make some key voting decisions, especially for obscure areas like who to pick for the "Soil and Water Conservation" jobs. (Since most of your other recommendations matched up with with other decisions I'd already made, I figure you're probably on the mark here as well.)

Also, I think I'll trust your education-veteran dad's instincts and vote for Stephen Gorham for the School Board Member spot for District 7. . . Hopefully he's right about this one! I might do a tad more research, just to make sure, but, again, you've swayed me in Gorman's direction.

Regarding "Proposed Constitutional Amendment" number 1, though -- I have to echo one of the other comments on this post, in that although your logic seems right (e.g., vote against it because it puts limits on regulation), there's actually a very different way at looking at the purpose of this proposal (e.g., this proposal actually removes outdated and racist regulations) . . . Although the Tampa Bay Tribune is usually right-wing in many of it's opinions, they seem to be level-headed about what what some of these amendment proposals really mean:

-- Lucas Brachish

Rachael said...

Thank you, Lucas, for your thoughtful comments...

And thank you for the information and insight on No. 1, as well as for the link to the article. I'll take a closer look at that and do some more research tomorrow, as soon as I get a chance.

Mobutu said...


First up, great spelling on the first name, although I'm guessing you really didn't have a whole lot of input on that decision. :)

Second, thank you for rounding out my knowledge on some of the candidates for local elected office. Once again, I sat down to fill out my absentee ballot and could find next to nothing substantive about most of the local candidates, and google led me to your blog. I appreciate your going to extra effort.

Anonymous said...

Rachael, thank you so much for your blog and research. I, like many others I see have commented before me, have been searching for information that does not seem to be readily available. I hope this changes as informed voting seems on the rise.
Thank you for the info on Fulmer, I had found a different questionable judgement, where she appears to have helped a local election bend the rules so that a friend might retain their seat. I'm sorry I cant offer a link there, I know I found it with the search 'Judge Carolyn K. Fulmer agreed'. (I try their name, with 'agreed', 'unethical' and other terms that might lead to an article)
I would like to offer a quote I found that helped me decide on Wells. I felt this was a positive for those of us who have hopes of restoring civil rights:
"What I'm concerned about is the rights of those voters who may not have their votes counted if we don't honour the recounted votes and the rights of all the voters who might have their rights denied if the certification doesn't get in within the time limit," Judge Wells said.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hi again Rachael,
found useful links for more info on the amendments.

the comments on above are rather more informaive than the article, several people pointing out that 3,4,6,8 & 9 do not belong as constitutional amendments at all but rather as statutes, which should be done by our legislature.

And here is the full text of the amendments:

thanks again!

Rachael said...

Hi Mobutu:

Nope, nothing to do with that at all. That was all my parents' doing... Thanks! :D

And you're most welcome. :D

Rachael said...

Thank you, anonymous, for the additonal information on Judge Fulmer and Justice Wells, and on the amendments. I really appreciate it! :D

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachael,

There are just a few areas I disagree with you on.

I feel you do a grave disservice to Van Epps and Tompkins in the area of soil conservation. While they may well be Republicans, it's a job where that will mean squat. What will be important are their years of experience. Would you want a surgeon who's had the education & all the training and years of experience or someone who is a carpenter, but believes in equal rights? I'm afraid that Garbus is akin to the carpenter. This is not his first time running for office in a field where he has no experience. His personal beliefs are of little consequence when it comes to the job description. Brent does not have the training either. I'm a tried & true Democrat, but I believe in hiring the best candidates - even if they are Republicans! BTW, my Sierra Club friends recommended Van Epps & Tompkins. Check them out a little more.

Also, along the same lines, Rob Turner has done a lot to clean up the property appraisers office, and deserves your vote. He made some decisions that weren't exactly popular with some Republicans. Ayers, a retired fire chief for Tampa, is also akin to the "carpenter". He may be a Democrat, but what does the fire dept. have to do with appraising property?

The St. Pete Times also gives nods to the above. While I don't agree with all of their recommendations always, I think they're on the money here.

Kudos to you for getting involved in the process! My own son has chosen not to vote in his first election, even though he swore he would if Obama got the nomination. What's a parent to do?

kellie said...

YOU ARE A GOD SENDDDD! THANKS SO MUCH! I've been up all night researching finding pretty much nothing ... maybe getting a few answers here and there but thats it... my ballot is now completely filled out thanks to you! If you dont mind im going to post a bulletion linking to your blog! THANKS AGAIN! XOXOXOXO!

Rachael said...

Anonymous: Thanks! I'll try to see what else I can find on Van Epps and Tompkins, but when I looked before I found almost nothing. And I'll look into Rob Turner too...

That's a shame about your son. I'm sorry about that. Even my brother, who is almost never at home (as his job takes him all over the world) and is usually the most flaky 24 year old I know, got himself an absentee ballot and sent it in last week.

Kellie: I'm glad I could help! You're very welcome! Go right ahead and post a bulletin.