Thursday, September 30, 2010

Retain Jacobus

His status as a Crist appointment notwithstanding, Judge Bruce W. Jacobus has barely served a year on the 5th District Court of Appeal before having to face a merit retention vote.

Still, he is a fairly well-known quantity in this little corner of heaven.

He grew up in Melbourne, is a Gator grad, and had previously served for quite some time as a circuit court judge over in Viera.

In my humble estimation, he deserves to be retained on the bench.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pioneer Days finance committee meeting

Thanks to the ladies at Pine Castle Woman's Club for hosting our finance committee meeting today!

They have been a community institution for 70 years.

If any of ye socks are interested in renting their clubhouse for any upcoming event(s), give them a call at 407-855-8894.

Thanks again, ladies!

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Retire Griffin

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Florida voters haven't voted a judge off the bench since given the power back in 1978.

If those lucky enough to find Judge Jacqueline R. Griffin on their ballot want to change history, they have a pretty good candidate.

Judge Griffin is a native of Chelsea, Massachusetts, and grew up a Navy brat. At least part of her childhood was spent in Cuba, where she apparently fell in love with the Spanish language. That was her major at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and it was the subject she taught at Lyman High School locally back in the early 1970s.

She's been on the 5th District Court of Appeals since 1989.

Yours truly has been peeved with her for a couple of years, since she voted against making court records available via the internet. Fortunately, the rest of the panel voted the other way.

Still, I think it may be a time for a change here, perhaps allowing a new judge with greater appreciation for freedom of information and transparency to take a seat on the bench that Griffin has been warming for more than two decades . . .

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Retain Cohen

Judge Jay P. Cohen is a known quantity in this little corner of heaven. A native of Chicago and a Gator grad, he moved to Orlando from Sarasota some thirty years ago.

He is still getting his feet wet on the 5th District Court of appeals, having been appointed by the illustrious Charlie Crist in 2008. But, don't hold that against him.

He has a proven record as a trial judge. He is perhaps best known locally for throwing the book at the dirtbag who beat his kid with a hot oven rack back in 1999. He also presided over the trial that held Learjet blameless in the death of golfer Payne Stewart.

Voters will have to decide this year whether he merits retaining his seat on the bench in what has been nothing more than a formality since the tradition started in 1978.

Florida voters have never denied retention. Not to one single judge.

If they're smart, they won't start with Cohen. He is a fair judge and deserves to remain on the 5th DCA.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tough call

Further to yesterday's post in the dryer, folks in this little corner of heaven will also be asked to vote for a Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Superivsor #4.

I know, not very glamorous.

The candidates are incumbent Susan Clary and J.P. Quinones.

Clary is a native Floridian, albeit from the St. Petersburg area. She graduated from Rollins College and has worked for the Orlando Sentinel.

Quinones is the brother of Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones. He's a Republican, but has been frustrated in previous forays into politics. He considered running for tax assessor a couple of years ago, then later for state legislature. He has been more successful working for the Mouse, and was vice president of his union.

So, the incumbent journalist, or the former union boss?

In this case, unless something emerges between now and election day, I'll have to hold my nose and vote for Quinones. At least he's not an incumbent . . .

This race is an example of why yours truly doesn't believe in early voting.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor #2

This has got to be the most overlooked contest on the ballot in this little corner of heaven .

It also happens to be a crowded race.

The candidates are Timothy D. Blevins, Jose Ismael Bosque, David "Monty" Montanez, and Edward N. Rodriguez.

I found it difficult to find any information on these guys.

Only Montanez has an actual campaign website. At least his was the only one I could find.

Rodriguez has the most detailed campaign filings with the local supervisor of elections, and received some ink in the local press when he was shunned by the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at their straw poll.

So, it looks like those two are more serious about winning this seat.

Beyond that, they both seem like good guys. Rodriguez is a retired police detective. Montanez is a Navy veteran of both Gulf wars.

Until and unless some additional info crops up, I don't think anyone could go wrong casting their vote for either of them.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

We tighten our belts . . .

. . . and the gutless wonders keep trying to reach into our pockets!

It seems to me they should do some more belt tightening of their own.

I know making budget cuts isn't fun, but the public sector shouldn't consider themselves immune to the economic ills that are hitting the private sector.

In this case, the ranting applies to the Orange County School District and the "Special Referendum" they have placed on our ballots in this little corner of heaven.

They want to raise our millage rate to supplement their income to the tune of about $400 million dollars.

This will cost the average household approximately $125 MORE than what they already pay in county school taxes every year.

The demand comes at a very unfortunate time.

Yours truly would suggest Superintendent Ron Blocker and his board are shirking their duty to live within the people's means.

They need to go back to the drawing board.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nonbinding? Then what's the point?

In the ongoing enumeration of all the oddities that appear on the sample ballot in this little corner of heaven, there is no greater waste of space than the "Nonbinding Statewide Advisory Referendum" that calls for a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget without raising taxes.

I appreciate the sentiment, I suppose.

But, if you really feel this way . . . why make it non-binding?!

Go for the gusto!

Otherwise, you're just wasting the voters' time . . . not to mention a lot of ink.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That's odd . . .

In examining ye olde sample ballot, it struck yours truly as somewhat odd that it appears to be missing three proposed amendments.

Pun intended.

After some digging, I found they were stuck down by the courts for various reasons.

For the edification of ye socks, they were:

Amendment 3 - would have capped property tax increases on non-homesteads at 5% per year.

Amendment 7 - was deemed redundant, as provisions were covered by Amendments 6 and 7 (which are, in my humble opinion, fairly redundant themselves and should have been consolidated into one single amendment).

Amendment 9 - was a half-baked response to ObamaCare that sought to ban health insurance mandates. But, it overreached in trying to also prohibit the state legislature from imposing RomneyCare on Floridians . . . as if that was a reasonable expectation. In their rush at overreaching, the crafters of the amendment employed some rather awkward wording. That is what ulitmately undid them.

And, now you know why there are gaps in the sample ballots in this little corner of heaven!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Vote NO on Amendments 5 & 6

These proposed amendments to the Florida constitution are well-intentioned in that they seek to prevent the state legislature from gerrymandering district lines to favor one party over another.

It really is annoying that we are home to such wildly-drawn boundary lines like those of U.S. House district #3. It snakes along the St. Johns River between Jacksonville and Orlando with the express purpose of encompassing as many African American voters within its boundaries--and thus assure Democratic incumbent Corinne Brown perpetual re-election to Congress.

That is irksome.

Nonetheless, these are half-baked solutions that would inevitably result in throwing far too many redistricting issues into our already-too-busy court system. By their own admission, "The fiscal impact cannot be determined precisely. State govenment and state courts may incur additional costs if litigation increases beyond the number or complexity of cases which would have occurred in the amendment's absence."

So, bottom line, I sympathize. But, I still plan to vote NO on 5 and 6.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vote NO on Amendment 4

This one is a doozy, ye socks.

If passed, it would require a public referendum on every proposed amendment for local comprehensive land use plans.

That would be disastrous.

The crazy thing is this has been demonstrated quite clearly over in St. Pete Beach, where a local ordinance was passed along these lines.

Misgivings over the infringements on property rights aside, this proposal would be a JOBS KILLER.

That alone should encourage Floridians to vote NO on 4!

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bodo!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Vote YES on Amendment 2

In the ongoing effort to make heads-or-tails out of ye olde sample ballot, yours truly came across another no-brainer in supporting Amendment 2:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption by law for members of the United States military or military reserves, the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside the contintental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days in the previous calendar year that the person was deployed on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The amendment is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.

Our military families bear a tremendous burden on our behalf every day, but especially when their loved-ones are deployed overseas. In the case of reserves and National Guard troops, this can have a huge (negative) impact on their family budgets because it often means a cut in pay from their private sector jobs. We should do anything we can to lighten their burden, and Amendment 2 does that.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vote YES on Amendment 1

So, today yours truly received his sample ballot in the mail.

Though Election Day is still several weeks away, I admit to having made up my mind already on several of the contests.

But, all the amendments, judges, soil and water district stuff, etc., is going to require some research before I can cast an educated vote.

Today, I did some digging on Amendment 1, and thought I'd toss the findings into the dryer for the edification of ye socks. Well, at least ye socks who will be asked to answer the same question:

Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates fore elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.

This is pretty self-explanatory. Why should we be spending state money to fund political activity, especially in this budget-crunching environment when it is needed elsewhere?

If the idea was to shrink the costs of campaigning in Florida, it has been an horrific failure.

Besides, Uncle Sam gives plenty of our federal dollars to candidates.

So, I plan to vote YES ON 1, to keep our state dollars out of the mix so they may be reallocated to budget items that will actually improve the quality of life around this little corner of heaven.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Marco Rubio interview

Don't know how many of ye socks caught Greta Van Susteren's interview of Marco Rubio tonight.

For those of you who aren't privileged to live in this little corner of heaven, Rubio is the former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and is currently running for the U.S. Senate.

After watching this interview, I don't know how anyone could vote for either of the two guys running against him.

This guy is a rising star, and will represent Florida as well in DC as he did in Tallahassee.

In fact, if I had to lay money on it, I'd bet he could be on the GOP ticket in 2012 . . .


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Got pilgrims?

A recent article in the Boston Globe reminds us that it's never too late for some Thanksgiving:

Yours truly has tossed some posts in the dryer about his own Mayflower connections over the years.

If you think you might have a connection of your own, try cross-checking your family tree with this "official" list of passengers:

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Got a little ink in the Sentinel yesterday

In case ye socks missed it, yours truly was quoted in an article about the infamous Jane Green.

Check it out:

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 10


The South Florida Railroad came to Pine Castle in 1881, connecting Orlando and Kissimmee with two trains a day. A trip to Orlando cost 15 cents, and the train made three stops along the way, unless additional stops had to be made for the occasional alligator or cow that had wandered upon the tracks. As the local citrus industry grew, growers found it convenient to ship fruit from the Pine Castle station.

The coming of the railroad speeded up mail delivery. Outgoing mail was put in mailbags and hooked onto a pole and picked up as the train went by, and incoming mail was thrown from the train onto a platform near the station depot.

In 1893, the Plant System purchased the South Florida Railroad and in 1902, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad acquired the Plant System. In 1967 the latter railroad merged into the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad which eventually passed to CSX. Although trains no longer stop in Pine Castle, freight and Amtrak trains still pass through daily.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 9


The first church in the Pine Castle area was established on the shores of Lake Jessamine in 1876, by local Presbyterians. But, this congregation later merged with First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, and their building was put to other use. Other early denominations met in the homes of members.

In 1900, a need for an interdenominational church building in Pine Castle motivated local women to organize the Christian Workers Society, raise money for the building, and help the needy. The group sponsored ice cream socials, oyster stew dinners, and box suppers. Men in the community contributed to the project by cutting timber and hauling logs to the nearest saw mill at Smithville (now Taft). Once the logs were cured, they built the Union Church on the northeast corner of South Orange Avenue and Wallace Street.

On alternating Sundays, ministers came from Orlando and elsewhere to conduct Methodist, Baptist, and Missionary Alliance services. The small congregations generally attended each others services. It was not unusual for a minister to start shouting during a service in order to be heard over a passing train.

In 1910, a parish house was built behind the church that was used not only for Sunday school, but also for entertainment and other community gatherings. The church property was deeded to Methodist-Episcopal Church South in 1930. At the end of the 1950s, the building was moved to State Road 15A, north of Narcoossee near Lake Whippoorwill, in order to be used as a Baptist mission.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 8


This section of Orange Avenue was a part of the Dixie Highway, the first road connecting the North to the South. It opened in October 1925, and travelers could begin at the northern border of Michigan and journey to Miami, Florida. So many cities wanted to have the roadway that the Dixie Highway grew into a vine-like network of interconnected paved roads rather than a single thoroughfare, each identified by the simple signage of white DH letters on a red background.

In Florida, the route passed through Tallahassee and Jacksonville and proceeded south along the East Coast. Lobbying produced an additional inland route passing through Gainesville, Ocala, Winter Park, Orlando, Kissimmee, Bartow, and Acadia, rejoining the coastal route at Palm Beach. The paving of the Dixie Highway from Sanford to Kissimmee in 1916 put Pine Castle on the country’s primary north-south road until US 441 was built two miles to the west in the 1930s. It became the main route and also was known locally as State Road 2 and Black Bear Trail.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 7


Will Wallace Harney came to Florida in 1869 seeking a better climate for his wife’s health. He purchased a 160-acre homestead on the western side of Lake Conway and called the grand home he built Pine Castle. The village that developed near his property adopted the name and, on December 8, 1879, the post office was officially established. Harney subdivided his property, and from 1880-1895, Pine Castle appeared on the Orange County planning map as a new development.

More than 300 people lived in Pine Castle in the early 1920s, and some residents wanted it incorporated during this boom period. During the planning stages, it became evident that different groups of residents had different visions for the town. As a result, three separate towns were organized: Belle Isle, Edgewood, and Pine Castle. But when the real estate market crashed later in the decade, they had difficulty sustaining their tax bases. Incorporated in February 1925, Pine Castle’s government ended in 1929. With its charter dissolved, it became an unincorporated part of Orange County.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 6


In 1925, Walter C. Meloon moved his family from New Hampshire to Pine Castle and started the Florida Variety Boat Company with two other partners. The building, located on the southeast corner of Randolph and Hoffner Avenues, was constructed with blocks that once housed the old theater and later the water works plant. In 1930, Meloon became the sole owner and changed the name of the company to Pine Castle Boat and Construction Company. Eight years later, the company became known as Correct Craft. When the company needed more space, it moved to Orange Avenue.

During World War II, the army asked the Meloons to build storm boats capable of crossing the treacherous Rhine River, Germany’s last natural line of defense in the West. For a company that normally built forty-eight boats a month, the government’s request for 300 boats in three weeks seemed impossible. Yet, the boat builders not only fulfilled the contract, but also made 100 boats to spare. The family-owned business, operated from the same location until June 2006, when its need for expansion forced the company to move to East Orange County.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 5


Early education in the new community of Pine Castle was carried out casually, often in someone’s home, but Orange County established a formal school district in 1869. A school had to have a minimum of 10 students to receive county funds. Pine Castle’s first school, a rough-hewn structure, was built in 1877 on the corner of Orange and Hoffner Avenues. Textbooks were donated by Will Wallace Harney.

The first teacher was Mrs. Jennie Preston (1831-1904), the namesake for nearby Lake Jennie Jewell. Teacher salaries were dependent upon daily average attendance and could be increased or decreased by the school board according to the average that had to be certified each month. For the 1888-1889 school year, the county paid Pine Castle salaries totaling $33.00.

In the 1880s, a new school building was built on the northern part of the present school grounds, and it also was of similar design, containing rough desks and seats.

In 1900, a new school on the same grounds was constructed of finished lumber and had louvered shutters at its windows, and by 1912, an increase in the student population resulted in the building of a two-story building.

An additional school, a two-story stucco building, was built in 1924, during Pine Castle’s boom years. Expansion continued with the addition of new buildings, including an auditorium. By 1952, the school could only be used for elementary students while older students were transported to other Orange County schools.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 4


Native Americans called the region surrounding the Conway chain of lakes as “Okehitanatchee,” translated as “land of fair waters.” In 1843, Benjamin Whitner of nearby Mellonville was awarded a contract to survey lands in this vicinity, and named Lake Conway for his superior Valentine Yelverton Conway, Surveyor General of Florida. Until development and drainage changes in the 1900s, seasonal rains transformed the Conway chain into one big lake. Now Hoffner Avenue divides North and Middle Lake Conway, and Nela Avenue divides Middle and Little Lake Conway.

Early settlers used the lake for drinking water, bathing, food, and entertainment. Prominent Orlando citizens such as the Dickson family of Dickson and Ives Department Store had summer homes on the lake where they came to fish and swim.

Crittenden Dock was located where Randolph Avenue, a road Will Wallace Harney named for his wife’s family, dead ends at Lake Conway. It has long been a favorite recreation spot, and as early as 1882 guests at the adjacent Macy Hotel used it to launch pleasure cruises and fishing expeditions. The Crittenden family acquired the site and built a dock that was popular with swimmers and boaters. In 2000, Charles and Pearl Crittenden deeded the property to Orange County for use as a public boat ramp.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 3


William H. Macy (1819-1903) came to this area as a government surveyor in the years immediately following the Civil War, and was elected to the Orlando city council in 1878. An engineer by training, he followed the rail lines south to the Pine Castle area and opened a blacksmith shop west of the tracks. This shop served as the town’s first Sunday School meeting place until it burned in 1884.

His wife Martha J. Macy (1835-1906) acquired 10 acres of Will Wallace Harney’s original homestead lands, which later encompassed the site of the modern First Baptist Church of Pine Castle. Here, Mrs. Macy operated the town’s first hotel, with many of her guests brought from Orlando by “Macy Wagons” built by her stepson George Macy. After the railroad arrived in 1881, visitors also arrived by train at the nearby South Florida Railroad depot.

In 1894, Mrs. Macy deeded a half-acre of the hotel land at what is now the northeast corner of Randolph Avenue and Hoffner Road to the local Baptist congregation. Though now paved over, it is believed that she and other family members were buried there.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 2


Wallace Road was named by Pine Castle founder Will Wallace Harney for his mother’s family. The point where the road dead-ends at Lake Conway became known as “Pleasure Beach,” and was a popular gathering place for area residents, especially in the 1920s. Church, school, and family picnics were held on the shore, and the Union Church used the lake water for baptisms. There was a long dock containing park-like benches and at the end, low and high diving boards and a water slide. Canoes were available for rides around the lake.

The nearby pavilion contained a bath house on the first floor and a place for dancing and skating upstairs. Slot machines were installed, drawing people from as far away as Windermere and Apopka to gamble. The pavilion burned in the late 1920s, but the dock and beach continued to be used by the public. In the 1940s, a family built a home on the property and closed the beach to the public.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Pine Castle Historical Markers - part 1

Yesterday, a group of us met to plan a series of historical markers to be placed in the Pine Castle area. I thought I'd share the rough drafts with ye socks and welcome your edits/input. Currently, we have come up with five signs with verbage on front and back of each. So, a total of ten blurbs. Here's the first:


Will Wallace Harney built a large English-style home he called “Pine Castle” on his homestead along the western shore of Lake Conway in 1873. The house was constructed from the pine trees which grew on his land. Two turrets flanked the front entrance of the house, and the boards that formed the exterior walls were attached vertically instead of the more common horizontal method.

Harney planted a variety of crops on his homestead lands, but made his living primarily as a writer. He became an unofficial ambassador for Florida during the 1870s, through articles about the wonders of the state he submitted to newspapers such as the Cincinnati Commercial. With his words, he transported readers to the exotic land of orange groves, pine forests, and alligators when Florida tourism was in its infancy.

In 1884, Harney left his Pine Castle to move to Kissimmee and establish a weekly newspaper dubbed “The Bittersweet.” His once grand old home was left vacant and fell into disrepair before being destroyed by fire in 1894. Mr. Harney then retired to Jacksonville, where his only son had settled.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Happy Birthday, Valda!

Looking forward to introducing you to P.f. Chang's tomorrow!

We'll have to try one of those lettuce wraps . . .

No, seriously. We'll have to!

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pioneer Days plans progressing well!

We had a good general planning session this afternoon.

To find out more, check out the festival website:



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