The South Florida Times is now on Facebook and Twitter.  You can become a fan on Facebook by searching for us under the name South Florida Times. You can follow us on Twitter by locating us under the name SFLTimes. Becoming a Facebook friend and following us on Twitter will allow you to get instant news updates, and keep up with stories that I and other reporters are breaking. So, be the first to know, and join us at Facbook.com and Twitter.com.


The Tribune Company, which owns The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Sun Sentinel newspapers and other media outlets, is in bankruptcy.  The Associated Press (AP) is a media company that provides news, photos and other content to thousands of newspapers, radio and TV stations, and websites around the world.  Last week, Tribune CEO Sam Zell announced that Tribune-owned media outlets have stopped using news and other content from the AP as a test, to determine if they can do without the service. The company has completed the week-long experiment, but has not made any final decisions. The expected savings could be tens of millions of dollars for the company annually.  AP has said, in the face of dwindling circulation and newspapers going out of business, that it has reduced fees by $30 million in 2009, and intends to implement another $35 million in rate reductions for 2010.

Commissioner Nathan Skop and other regulators with the Florida Public Service Commission on Monday, Nov. 2 ordered Florida Power & Light (FPL) to issue customers a one-time refund of about $44 on their residential electric bills in January.  The refund would come from overestimated fuel costs on which FPL collected.  If any refund is issued, it would not be in the form of cash, but rather a credit on the electric bill.  The PSC voted unanimously to have the $365 million in refunds start this month.  This is not much, but it’s better than nothing.

Gov. Charlie Crist enjoyed a record level of support from blacks in his successful 2006 gubernatorial race.  Today, some black officials have fallen out with his administration’s handlers, and are sitting on the sidelines in his U.S. Senate bid. Many were close to former Gov. Jeb Bush, and have quietly complained about having no access to Crist. One black Republican told me recently that, unlike Jeb Bush, Crist has not hired black people to senior positions, or as close advisers in his administration. Crist has also been criticized for his association with former Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential embarrassment Sarah Palin.  Then there is his endorsement of former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell, his passing over a black Republican in favor of a black Democrat for an appointment to a county commission seat in Palm Beach County, and dragging his feet to pick a replacement to fill the seat of suspended Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion. Gadsden County is in Florida’s Panhandle, situated on Georgia’s southwest border. It has the only majority black population out of Florida’s 67 counties.  There has never been a female or black county judge in Gadsden County. On Oct. 27, Crist announced the appointment of attorney Kathy Garner to a county court judgeship there.  She would be the first-ever woman or black judge in the county’s history. But Crist delayed the history-making appointment after a few rednecks complained about late tax payments on commercial property she owns, even though this information was disclosed on her appointment application and vetted. It was an unprecedented move [stall tactic], while Crist stuck his finger in the air to gauge the course of the political breeze.  After heavy criticism, he finally got around to completing the appointment this week, on Monday, Nov. 9. Go figure.

Palm Beach County

The once powerful Palm Beach Post newspaper is a shell of its old self. After two years of layoffs, reduced circulation and rumors of more cutbacks, the paper is holding a sale of its now-surplus equipment, furniture, electronics and other property. The items became available due to the cutbacks, and more are said to be on the way.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow signed the warrants, and federal authorities began confiscating attorney Scott Rothstein’s $6.5 million waterfront mansion, his Bentleys, Ferraris, Rolls Royces, bank accounts, speed boats and other assets on Monday, Nov. 9. Rothstein, 47, is the founder of the prestigious Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Alder law firm in Fort Lauderdale.  He is also a high-flying jet setter who has connections to the state’s most powerful politicians.  As it turns out, he is suspected of operating a $500 million investment Ponzi scheme out of his firm’s offices, where an undetermined number of the rich and famous have been had.

Miami-Dade County

Eneida Roldan, chief executive of Jackson Health System, announced plans to address a $168 million budget shortfall by closing six units and laying off 93 employees. This comes on top of $61.7 million in savings, but even that wasn’t enough. Jackson Health System is a public agency that operates several medical facilities, including Jackson Memorial Hospital. Welcome to hard times.

A little over a week has passed since the historic elections in Homestead, where five of the seven incumbent council members were up for re-election. Four of the five were removed from office, with Judy Waldman being the only one re-elected. Waldman often butted heads with the four who were ousted over policy and community issues.  The four ousted were Mayor Lynda Bell and council members Nazy Sierra, Melvin McCormick and Tim Nelson. Get-out-the-vote emails they distributed, with photos of them together, undoubtedly helped seal their fates. The residents of Homestead sent a message that they did not like the heavy-handed, abrasive tone city hall had taken on under these former elected officials’ leadership. Employees reportedly cheered, and some residents set off fireworks when the election returns came in. What happened in Homestead should be a lesson to other politicians about showing respect and serving the people, even those with whom they disagree, or they may be sent packing.

Broward County

Broward School Superintendent Jim Notter may want to have a talk with his facilities construction chief, Michael Garretson. This week, the school district voted to construct a long-delayed football stadium at Ely High School in a predominantly black Pompano Beach neighborhood. Education advocate Ernestine Price and others have complained for years about the delay, and attributed it to continuing
neglect of schools in minority communities. Garretson publicly disagreed with Price, which he could come to regret.  Price is among the pioneers of the Citizens Concerned About Our Children (CCC) group that successfully sued the school district in 1995 over the disparity between black schools and those in predominantly white communities.  Price says the disparities have increased, and she wonders if a new lawsuit is needed.

Nicholas Ferro, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, is being held in the Monroe County Detention Center, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Marques Butler, a 23-year-old former high school star athlete in Key West. The incident happened in Key West on Saturday, Nov. 7 during Fantasy Fest, a 10-day citywide street party, during a brawl between local residents and a group of tourists.