Letter from America 23rd October

Hi Guys and Gals,

Our Canadian friend, Dave Viney won the GC for the 60-64 age category at the World Senior Games that took place in Utah recently. He is wearing the jersey of the “Florida Masters” club that we formed last winter.

As mentioned in a previous newsletter the newspapers and television are mainly taken up with the mid term elections. The way the politicians slag each other off in commercial advertisements is unbelievable as is the amount of corruption that is brought to light which I regret to say is much of what I have come to expect here. A lot of lobbying money is allowed which is money spent with the idea of obtaining political advantage. The voting form the electorate has to fill in is so complicated that I am sure a lot of the people do not know what they are voting for. I have been unable to see a copy of the current mid term elections voting form for Florida but with over twenty candidates to vote for most people will not be familiar with all the listed candidates. Then you have the various amendments one through to eight for alterations to current laws. The most interesting is Amendment 4 which would give local residents veto power over future Walmarts, strip malls and general over development by the construction companies which has resulted in water shortages, the depletion of the water in the aquifers due to over consumption which is not being replaced by rain fall, this in turn causing the increase of sink holes plus the increase in traffic on which the infrastructure has not kept pace. All the new buildings both commercial and residential have led to water run off rather than water returning to fill the aquifers. In addition of course there is the environmental damage. The construction companies are arguing that to stop development will lead to the loss of jobs to the detriment of the economy. The cities of course will loose the extra taxes they obtain with development. On the other side of the coin homeowners are trying to protect their environment and quality of life. It is very difficult to see how this amendment would work but as this is America I am sure the construction companies and the almighty dollar will win as usual!

Amendment 1 would prevent multimillionaire candidates from effectively buying their way into office. Amendment 2 would award additional homestead exemption to ex military personnel. With Amendments 5 and 6 it is suggested by the Orlando Sentinel editorial that it “would end what amounts to Florida’s election fixes”. I have read nothing as to what Amendment 7 is but Amendment 8 is to do with class size rules. Welcome to the American voting system!

The nearly completed home of the 1st District Court of Appeal at Tallahassee is cynically referred to as the “Taj Mhal” as its dome, miles of African mahogany and a kitchen for each judge is a monument to state government at its worst. Politicians and state officials, fearful of being implicated in this taxpayer mugging have been feverishly pointing fingers at each other since the scandal broke in August. The debacle cannot be pinned on one person and involves judges, legislators and Cabinet members. It has however led to the battle of the “blame game” between Governor Charlie Crist, members of the Cabinet, legislators and the judges. I seem to remember the Scottish Parliament having a similar problem where the complexity and design changes saw the cost increase from £40 million to the final bill of £414 million! Not sure how the “blame game” finally ended up there, much the same the world over I guess, after all it is only taxpayer’s money.

Apologises if this week’s Letter from America is political but I find it rather interesting comparing it with the UK , only hope that it may also be of interest to some of you. Make the most of the extra hour you get next weekend, we do not change from winter time until Sunday 7th November. Temperatures up in the high 80’s low 90’s at the moment but another cold front due for next weekend with temperatures down to the low 80’s. Best wishes to all,

Bryan Staples

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