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Volume X Issue I  --  Fall 2003

The Race for Governor Heats Up

By: Benji Mendelsohn

Florida’s Governor, Jeb Bush is currently serving his second term as our governor.  The constitution of our state imposes an eight year term limit for Florida Senate, House of Representatives, Governor, Attorney General, C.F.O., and Agriculture Commissioner; therefore Jeb Bush vacates the governor’s mansion in 2006.  While most people are focusing on the 2004 elections, including the U.S. Presidential race and a U.S. Senate race, many elected officials are starting to position themselves behind-the-scenes in order to succeed Mr. Bush.  Political experts widely consider leading potential candidates to include Attorney General Charlie Crist, C.F.O Tom Gallagher, and Lt. Governor Toni Jennings – all three have been featured speakers in previous Pine Crest Political Forums.

   A recent statewide poll, conducted by the St. Petersburg Times, indicated that Attorney General Charlie Crist would be the eventual winner of a Republican Gubernatorial primary, if the election were held at the present time.  Mr. Crist appeared September 2003 to a standing room only crowd in the ICI Lecture Hall.  Students and faculty were extremely impressed by the sincerity, articulateness, and charisma that the Attorney General prominently displayed.  His prior background of public service included stints in the Florida Senate, serving as Florida’s Education Commissioner, and presently as Attorney General.  Political pundits tout the extensive political background with a calm demeanor as requisite ingredients to serve as governor.  The eventual winner of the Republican primary would naturally face off against the candidate who emerges in the Democratic primary.

   Jeb Bush is deeply concerned that Florida’s Republicans are prematurely fixating on the 2006 race for the governor’s mansion.  His brother, George W. Bush, needs to carry Florida in the 2004 presidential election.  Florida was the recipient of excessive national attention in 2000 with the prolonged presidential vote recount.  Polls at the present time, however, suggest that George W. Bush should prevail with a substantially larger cushion in 2004.  Naturally, insiders agree with Jeb Bush that Republican activists must work very hard to get out the vote and not take the election for granted.  With the new electronic voting machines, hopefully crises like the “hanging chads” will not repeat.  Politics in Florida are always very interesting!

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“Rarely in public service do we have the opportunity to make strong, bold moves with the power to change the future of the people we serve...”  - Governor Bush




Burgeoning Deficits Threaten Long-Term Fiscal Health

By: Amol Kapilia   

   Everywhere one looks today, one sees headlines about the burgeoning deficits of governments throughout our world on all levels.  In Europe, France and Germany will probably run deficits in excess of three percent of GDP for the second year in a row, undermining the Stability and Growth Pact, a key economic and psychological underpinning of the new euro currency.  This occurrence is also threatening the credibility of the European Union and its ability to enforce fiscal discipline among its member countries.  The future of Europe’s fiscal situation does not look bright, with France’s Prime Minister Raffarin’s encountering public opposition to his attempted economic reforms, including reform of the country’s pension system, and with the looming fact that Europe’s population is not multiplying at a rate fast enough to fund the retirement of its elderly.
   In addition, the United States is far from exempt from the crisis facing governments.  During this past fiscal year, it ran a budget deficit of approximately four percent of GDP, and it may easily run a deficit of more than five percent during the upcoming fiscal year.  No sign has appeared that the deficit situation in Washington will be adequately remedied in coming years.  Treasury Secretary John Snow has said that deficits will be halved by 2008, which indicates that the government will accrue many hundreds of billions of dollars in debt soon before the baby-boomers retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits.  According to Andrew J. Rettenmaier of the National Center for Policy Analysis, the federal government had around $35 trillion in debt in 2001, if one includes Social Security and Medicare obligations.  More recently, the NCPA issued a report entitled “Drug Benefit a Toxic Prescription for Young Workers,” which bullet-points the following: “By 2040, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will account for nearly 80 percent of the federal budget.”  “The Number of elderly will soar by 114 percent by 2040 while the number of workers will grow by just 24.2 percent.”  Clearly, the United States’ fiscal predicament will be an enormous economic burden for its younger generations.

   State governments throughout the United States are also feeling the crunch.  California’s recall election is the result of a budget deficit of more than thirty-five billion dollars.  Its fiscal 2004 deficit is projected to be between 18 and 26 billion dollars, which is between roughly 23 and 34 percent of its total budget, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  Some other states are in equally pathetic positions.  Alaska is facing a potential deficit of around 37.8%, New Jersey 19.0%, New York 24.3%-29.1%, Oregon 20.4%-27.2%, and Texas 13.1%-25.5%, to name a few.  However, many states are required to have balanced budgets, and therefore, they will need to cut back on various social programs and simultaneously raise taxes, including for those in middle and low tax brackets.

   In Florida the situation, while not as bad as elsewhere in the country, is hardly pleasing.  In fiscal 2004 it will face a deficit of 10.1%, according to the CBPP.  With the looming burden of complying with the new class-size amendment, which will be more of an eternal, rather than one-time, cost, Florida’s fiscal situation does not appear bright.  In addition, its schools are already very overcrowded, so the state cannot sensibly cut appropriations for education. 

    In summary the financial situations of governments in general throughout the world, and especially in the United States, are in peril, with no sign of a brighter future.  The US in particular has obligations in tens of trillions of dollars for Social Security and Medicare.  For decades now, a very dangerous complacency and complete lack of fiscal discipline has pervaded policy on the national level.  Many years ago, we should have begun asking, “From where will the money come?”  We better wake up and acknowledge reality.


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Decisions for Senator Graham

By: Jill Mendelsohn

Florida has two United States Senators, Senator Bob Graham and Senator Bill Nelson.  Senator Bob Graham has been elected to the Senate ever since 1986, thus completing three terms.  This past year, he was planning on running for President, but later decided to drop out of the race on October 6th on CNN’s Larry King Live. 

   Before Senator Graham backed out of the race, many legislators were gearing up for a change in their positions.  If in fact, Senator Graham decides not to seek re-election, then there are four Democratic candidates waiting to be his successor– Congressman Peter Deutsch of Pembroke Pines, Miami Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings of Miramar, and Former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor. All four have decided that they will not run in opposition to Graham should he decide to seek his current U.S. Senate seat.

   On Monday, November 3rd, Senator Graham is planning on announcing whether he will seek reelection.  Graham told CNN on Wednesday, “It’s a tough decision.  It’s very gratifying to be able to serve the people of your state and the nation.  But life goes on and I’ve got to decide what would be best for me and my family and the causes that I care about in the next stage of my career.”

   This election would create a domino effect.  If Senator Graham decides not to seek a fourth-term then these four candidates will run for his U.S. Senate seat position.  If this were to happen, then the congressional seats of Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings would be vacated.  Florida State Senator Debbie Wasserman-Shultz has announced that she would run for Deutsch’s U.S. Congressional seat while experts speculate that Florida State Senator Mandy Dawson would similarly pursue Hastings's U.S. Congressional Seat.  This in turn would trigger elections to replace these two senators and additional elections if they were to have opponents, which is highly likely.  Awaiting the Senator Schultz and Senator Dawson potential vacancy has created a situation whereby many Florida House of Representatives are jockeying for position and actively eyeing these Senate seats.  Naturally, these Representative seats would then be vacant, creating further opportunities.  Ironically, the aforementioned abundance of political activity is totally dependent on whether U.S. Senator Bob Graham retires or pursues re-election.

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“It’s a tough decision.  It’s very gratifying to be able to serve the people of your state and the nation.  But life goes on and I’ve got to decide what would be best for me and my family and the causes that I care about in the next stage of my career.”

 - Senator Graham




George LeMieux: Broward’s Rising Superstar

 By: Benji Mendelsohn

   George LeMieux is widely considered to be one of Broward County’s rapidly rising superstars.  A graduate of Emory University and Georgetown Law School, Mr. LeMieux now proudly serves as Florida’s Deputy Attorney General.  His boss, Attorney General Charlie Crist, and Mr. LeMieux  oversee in excess of 700 attorneys employed by the state to protect its populace.

   Initially Mr. LeMieux served as the Republican Party Chairman of Broward County.  In that capacity, he markedly increased the depth and breadth of Republican involvement in Broward, a Democratic stronghold.  Levels of membership, participation, and contributions increased geometrically during the LeMieux tenure.  After winning statewide election as Attorney General, Charlie Crist selected George LeMieux to serve as his Deputy Attorney General.  This tandem has garnered respect for the level of professionalism brought to this office, thereby serving Floridians very well.

   Deputy Attorney General LeMieux faces issues of great import on a daily basis.  Highly controversial issues such as the Everglades cleanup, school vouchers, and the Terri Schiavo tragedy are three recent examples.  Mr. LeMieux has been a frequent, extremely popular speaker at Pine Crest Political Forums.  The Pine Crest community who have interacted with George LeMieux have been enormously impressed with this rapidly ascending political superstar and root for his continuing successful career.  He will continue to serve as Deputy Attorney General until 2006 under Charlie Crist.  With Mr. Crist’s probable intention to run for governor at that time, George LeMieux will be at a critical juncture and have to weigh his future options.  Which ever road he pursues, without a doubt, he will serve Floridians proudly and capably.

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Picture of George LeMieux


Connie Mack IV Moves On

By: Jill Mendelsohn

   There will be a special election in January 2004 for the Florida House of Representatives seat #91 due to the resignation of the current occupant, Representative Connie Mack IV.  The primaries will transpire January 6th with the general election to follow three weeks later.  Due to demographics indicating a substantially larger Republican registration in the House district compared to Democratic registration, there are overwhelming odds that the Republican primary on January 6th will, in effect, serve to select the ultimate winner.  Connie Mack IV is the son of former highly popular Connie Mack III who initially served the Naples area as a U.S. Congressman and then subsequently as a U.S. Senator, representing Florida in the aftermath of a 1988 come-from-behind election victory.  Connie Mack IV, while serving his second term in the Florida House, had a rapid rise in power and prominence. Then he decided to relinquish this position in order to prepare for a run for U.S. Congress.  He hopes to reclaim his father’s former U.S. Congressional seat that is being vacated by Republican Porter Goss.  Connie Mack IV is an ardent believer in less taxation and less governmental intervention, policy positions strongly supported by the relatively conservative Ft. Myers and Naples area.  His projected opponent, Carole Green, is considered by political pundits to be far too liberal; therefore, Mr. Mack is a heavy favorite for this 2004 election.

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“Connie Mack IV is an ardent believer in less taxation and less governmental intervention, policy positions strongly supported by the relatively conservative Ft. Myers and Naples area.”





Democratic Candidates Challenge President Bush

By: Pam Brown

   As the California recall election has draws to a close, the nation looks to the next dramatic political race:  the Democratic primary elections.  Nine candidates are seeking to oust President George “Dubya” Bush.  However, before Americans can begin to decide on whom to vote for in 2004, registered Democrats must decide which candidate to nominate as the challenger to the Republican President.  Though nine will be on the ballot in March, General Wesley Clark, Former Governor Howard Dean, Senator John Kerry, Representative Dick Gephardt, and Senator Joe Lieberman all have significantly higher polling numbers than the remaining four contenders according to a late September Gallup poll.  Therefore, this article will focus mainly on these five front-runners.

   Without financing, a candidate has no means to run a successful campaign.  Contributions are also a decent measure of the level of public support a candidate controls.  In a race with so many vying for the same dollars, the funding a candidate receives often indicates how well a candidate will do.  At the end of the second quarter, Dean has raised the most money at a little over 7.5 million dollars.  This money, combined with Dean’s abundance of positive media coverage, reveal him as a strong contender for the nomination.  Though Gephardt received the much-coveted Teamsters endorsement, he trails other frontrunners with barely $4 million in funds.  Kerry has raised almost $6 million, with Lieberman coming close at about $5 million raised.  Though Lieberman may have initially started with support and name recognition left over from the 2000 election, other candidates have gained momentum and are now beginning to surpass him.  Since Clark has announced his candidacy, he has raised approximately $3.5 million, showing an ability to raise a significant amount of money in a short period.  The winner of the primary will need as much money as possible to compete with President Bush’s expected $170 million dollar campaign budget.  The President already has over $35 million in campaign funding and will not have the need to spend much of his money during the primary season.  The candidates will need the financial support to be able to communicate their ideas to the populace effectively.

   The issues a candidate feels strongly about are the lifeblood of any political endeavor.  As members of the same political party, the democratic candidates naturally share many common ideas, such as a women’s right to choose abortion, preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, and repealing all or sections of the Bush tax cut.  However, differences exist between the five. 

    General Clark and Former Governor Dean both digress from the party platform on the issue of gun control.  Clark stated on September 19 that he supports banning assault weapons, but believes the second amendment entitles citizens to own other types of guns for recreational and defensive use.  In an interview on CNN’s Crossfire, he said, “I have got 20 some odd guns in the house.  I like to hunt […] but people who like assault weapons should join the United States Army […]”  Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean suggested that Democrats should keep gun control “off the national radar,” relegating the issue to the state legislatures.  Traditionally, Democrats support the federal government enacting harsher gun control laws.

   While staying fairly committed to the party’s stance on gun control, Senator Joe Lieberman broke from the pack when he criticized Hollywood for “peddling sex and violence to our kids.”  Along with William Bennett, Lieberman has given out “Silver Sewer” awards to networks that “pollute” society with explicit sex and violence.  As a self-declared centrist, Lieberman has not hesitated in assuming some typically Republican stances. 

   His colleague, Senator Kerry, is known for his dedication to preserving the environment.  He supports the promotion of renewable fuel sources, incentives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, hybrid cars, and new gas requirements.  Named Environmental Hero by the League of Conservation Voters, Kerry has challenged Bush repeatedly on his environmental policies.

   Representative Gephardt has also challenged President Bush; however, Gephardt’s focus is often on the economy.  Backed by many labor groups, Gephardt often touts his working-class family background.  He proposed a return to former President Clinton’s economic policies, hoping to revoke the “failed” Bush policy.  At a Democratic Debate on September 9, 2003, Gephardt asked, “How many Americans have to lose their jobs before Bush loses his?”

   For many registered Democrats, one of the key voting issues will be which candidates will be able to defeat Bush is 2004.  The desire to oust the sitting President will be the deciding factor in many voters’ choices.  A September 22 CNN poll and a September 24 Gallup poll simulating the final election between the Democratic nominee and President Bush show General Clark as controlling around 49% of the vote, with 46% controlled by President Bush.  Senators Kerry and Lieberman had nearly even data as the President, and Representative Gephardt and Former Governor Dean trailed the President by a few percentage points.  Though it is impossible to determine the outcome of an election a year ahead, these numbers give hope to the Democratic candidates and the Democratic constituents. 

   Between funding, issues, and competition, the Democratic candidates and the voters they are courting have plenty to occupy them for the next few months.  Only one question remains:  Will the upcoming primary elections be as thrilling as the California frenzy and our Florida debacle?  Only time will tell.

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Dangerous Roads in Florida

By: Scott Drucker

   Florida is perhaps the most dangerous state in which to be on the road.  As the country very well knows, when people turn 65 by law they must move to Florida.  That alone can lead to some very tricky driving. Our state must have decided that all things are better when balanced, so they made the legal age for one to receive his restricted license fifteen.  For one to receive his license, he must have had his restricted for at least one full year.  This puts many eager drivers on the road on their sixteenth birthday.  Balanced is always better.  Right?

   The combination of the elder people on the road with the young teenagers makes for a great mix.  To spice things up a bit, many of the “Early Bird Specials” at typical diners and restaurants are served from approximately four in the afternoon until six in the evening; the peak time of homeward bound rush hour traffic.  Now, with this factor added into the formula, many of the elder people who go to bed earlier (the vast majority of them) will as a general rule eat an earlier dinner. These early bird specials drive a plethora of elders out onto the road during the peak of rush hour. 

   Well, driving behind an elder driver (who most likely has a cataract in at least one eye as well as a slowed reaction time) on an interstate road during rush hour is not a favorable condition.  If you haven’t felt road rage yet, driving behind an old town car with a driver similar to the one described above will bring you up close and personal.  Going forty miles per hour on an interstate road when you want to get home to your family is by no means ideal.  Many of these elders in the town cars in front of you can’t see over the wheel, are not sure where they are going, and are too stubborn to ask for help.  Most likely if offered help, many of these people will not accept it.  What a shame, but what can you do?

   Oh, no, we’re not done adding to the mix.  What happens when bars play it right, and know that some people will need a nice cold drink after a hard day at work?  Trouble.  They decide to make “Happy Hours,” in which they sell two drinks for the price of one.  With a deal so great, many people decide to splurge on paying more than they normally would spend on one drink, and end up with four times or more the amount of alcohol in their system.  And of course (how could we forget?), this is at the same time that the elders are getting their early bird specials – at the peak of rush hour traffic.  What a great scheme for bars and restaurants!

   Now, we have normal, every day people anxious to get home from a long day of hard work, elderly people, and drunkards all on the road at one time.  Not to mention each one of them eager to get where they are going.  What a party! Florida now has every (not so good) category of people out on the road all together.  Quite detrimental if I do say so myself. 

   So, are there any solutions to this driving madness?  Pick up riding a bicycle!  These devices are clinically proven to improve heart conditions, as well as to enlarge leg muscles.  Reality check à that’s not happening!  Florida clearly needs to perhaps place some regulations on these “Happy Hours,” if not “Early Bird Specials.”  Another solution to this madness might be to raise the driving age for teenagers (although many teens would make a big fuss), or maybe to schedule yearly driving tests for all people considered “senior citizens” (who wouldn’t be happy either because of the possibility of missing their early bird specials).  Well, just a word to the public – drive safely.   

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“Well, driving behind an elder driver (who most likely has a cataract in at least one eye as well as a slowed reaction time) on an interstate road during rush hour is not a favorable condition.  If you haven’t felt road rage yet, driving behind an old town car with a driver similar to the one described above will bring you up close and personal.”



Political Forums at Pine Crest

By: Ana Sollitto

   Students at Pine Crest School are extremely privileged to have members of our local, state and federal government come speak to them.  This helps enrich and expand the students’ political views, and ideas, and gives them an understanding of the ways the different offices inside the government work.  Each member who visits Pine Crest speaks about 20 minutes to the students, taking questions at the end.  Within the first six weeks of school, we have been fortunate enough to have several speakers: Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, State Senator Mandy Dawson, Broward County Republican Party Finance Director Bruce McNeilage, and State Senator “Skip” Campbell.

   Charlie Crist spoke about his duty as Florida’s Attorney General and legal cases that his office has worked on.  One idea he talked about was the conservation of the environment, particularly, the Everglades, which has received a lot of legislative attention recently.  He also discussed the declining rate of tourism in Florida, reminding us that tourism is our state’s major source of income.  While Attorney General Crist explained his job, State Senator Mandy Dawson described how the legislative branch works as a whole.

   Mandy Dawson taught the students that the key to success in the legislature as well as in life is the ability to compromise.  She used the analogy of two of our very different founding fathers, and tied it together showing that their compromises with each other helped to build our nation.  Senator Dawson also told us that the common myth that the legislature only listens to lobbyists is false, and that her office would rather hear from the citizens of the state. 

   Bruce McNeilage spoke to the students about his current campaign in District 91.  State Representative Connie Mack resigned as the local Representative to the Florida House so that he could move to the west coast of Florida to run for his father’s old U.S. Congressional seat.  Therefore, there is a vacancy for Florida House Seat #91, in which Mr. McNeilage along with several other candidates is hoping to represent.

   State Senator “Skip” Campbell, a Democrat, represents District 32 which encompasses a large portion of Broward County.  Currently, he is the chair of the Committee on Finance and Taxation in the Florida Senate.  Mr. Campbell spoke about several laws which will be introduced in the Florida Legislature this year, including one which would fine truck drivers and others who drive a motor vehicle after having worked a specified number of hours.  This legislation would reduce the number of drivers “falling asleep at the wheel” of a car or truck.

   Pine Crest was very fortunate to have these four politicians visit our school and we hope that they will return again to speak in future political forums.

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© 2002 Institute for Civic Involvement

The ICI Newsletter is an occasional periodical focusing on political issues of the day, published by the Institute for Civic Involvement at Pine Crest School, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Written by students, the Newsletter is sent to local, state, and federal officials and friends of the Institute.  The Newsletter and its staff can be reached at: 1501 NE 62nd Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL  33334

To receive an e-mail copy of the newsletter, click here or contact the newsletter at the address above.

Newsletter Advisors: Mr. Raymond J. Sessman, Director, Institute for Civic Involvement & Ms. Hilde Richardson

The opinions expressed within these pages are solely those of their respective authors and not those of either Pine Crest, the Institute, the Newsletter, or its editors and advisors.


Josh Mendelsohn, PC '01