Shrinking the Everglades deal: It started out as a mammoth, billion-dollar plan to buy out Everglades polluter U.S. Sugar and restore its farmlands to help heal the river of grass (shown here in the current drought near Boca Raton), which was nearly destroyed because of fertlizer-rich runoff. But the recession and flagging tax revenues are taking their toll, and now Gov. Charlie Crist has announced the deal is being downsized for the second time, to just 72,500 acres for $533 million, 60 percent less than orginally announced. The water management district in South Florida would keep the rights to buy the remaining 107,000 acres from U.S. Sugar for the next decade.
We love the smell of political intrigue in the morning. It smells like The Week That Was:
Political maneuvering ahead: The Tampa City Council held its annual organizational meeting, choosing Tom Scott to serve in the largely ceremonial post of chairman for the next year. It was a vote without acrimony. Don't expect that next year if there is even still a hint that Mayor Pam Iorio could be running for the U.S. Senate, as she has acknowledged considering. That's because in the rare event a Tampa mayor has to step down, like if she were to be elected to the Senate in 2010 or resigns to run, her vacant office would be filled automatically by the City Council chairman until the next election in 2011. That's how Sandy Freedman became mayor in 1986. So expect some hard elbows and real politicking for next year's City Council chairmanship vote if that's still a possibility.
Budget fireworks: Please fasten your seatbelts because it's going to be a bumpy ride to get to a budget for Hillsborough County government this year. After County Administrator Pat Bean said the county could be forced to cut 1,000 positions if Sheriff David Gee couldn't come down on his budget proposal a bit, at least one county commissioner was ready to unload on her. "I don't think it's a good tactic to use when planning a budget," Al Higginbotham told Bean at a meeting last week. "It appears it's being used as a bargaining tactic."
Florida's arts cuts worst in nation: In a bad year for arts funding nationally, the Sunshine State saw the worst decreases of all, a study by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies found. Florida's spending, more than $700,000 last year, will drop to $655,000 by 2010.
Quick hits: SW Florida Congressman Connie Mack IV won't run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, throwing his undying support to Gov. Charlie Crist in a letter that said, "I also want you to know that, as you contemplate your own political future, I will be your strongest supporter and champion — regardless of whether you seek re-election or election to the Senate." And may their first child be a masculine child ... SunRail, the controversial Central Florida light rail project that needs legislative approval purchasing 60+ miles of track from CSX Transportation and that would divert CSX freight traffic through downtown Lakeland, spent another week stalled in Senate committees, as various opponents try to block it and other senators try to use it as a bargaining chip for their own transit needs ... Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner suggested he and his colleagues take a 10 percent pay cut in this year's budget ... Longshot St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Alex Haak has a, err, novel campaign issue: He wants to move the state capital from Tallahassee to St. Pete ... Tampa's own Alex Sink, the Democratic state CFO, runs in a dead heat against Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum in a hypothetical 2010 gubernatorial matchup, according to a poll done for the Sayfie Report.'