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Lengthy re-drawing of districts begins

The first week of redistricting meetings were held last week with two meetings in Tallahassee, and one each in Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. After 13 hours of driving and 13 hours of listening to public testimony, it is clear that the effort to draw new [legislative] districts will be tedious.

This is my first experience in the redistricting process and I am honored to have been appointed to serve on the Redistricting Committee. While other members were thankful to dodge the “extra work,” I enjoy the opportunity to be a part of history and to learn the mechanics behind redistricting.

Every 10 years, Florida redraws the political boundary lines of state legislative and congressional districts to reflect changes in population, as determined by the most recent US Census and as required by the Florida and US Constitution. The term “reapportionment” refers to the task of dividing the state’s population by the number of congressional seats apportioned to the state. The task of “redistricting” is the redrawing of political boundaries to reflect change in the population.

Between now and September 1, members for the Florida House and Senate will hold 26 public hearings throughout the state to hear from Floridians on how they wish the new lines to be drawn.

The various redistricting committees will then begin drawing Florida House, Florida Senate and US congressional boundaries. It is important to note that no new maps have been drafted yet. There are an infinite number of ways that the 120 House, 40 Senate and 27 Congressional seats can be drawn; the first step is to listen to the public so we understand where they have communities of common interests and how they want to be represented in their legislative branch.


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The 2011 summer of burning forests and heat

With multiple fires burning across north Florida and Georgia, opening my door to a wall of smoke has become a common thing, in what is being reported to be one of the busiest wildfire seasons in recent history.

At one point, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida, citing the ongoing danger of wildfires and severe drought conditions.

As would be expected, many counties, Baker among them, are under a burn ban and that includes setting off fireworks.

I usually pay less attention to the weather than most, but I’ve been monitoring the daily reports more closely than usual, always hoping for rain to quell the fires.

With cloudless skies and temperatures consistently soaring into the high 90s – last week it reached 100 twice according to the Macclenny weather tower – there seemed little hope for significant precipitation.

CNN News coverage on June 15 reported an astonishing 30-40 new fires erupting daily.

Lightning strikes are to blame for many — not surprising as Florida, on average, is struck by lightning about a million times each year.

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Church lacks compelling case for road closure

The First Baptist Church of Glen St. Mary is making its case for closing George Taber Boulevard in the west town on the basis of: a.) through traffic is a hazard during church activities and b.) the church needs the road closed to expand parking lots to the west of the main building.

The church has a case. But it doesn’t have a compelling case — one that justifies by circumstances and precedent the closing of a through road by the county or Town of Glen St. Mary.

Here’s why.

• A traffic count in May recorded 10,500 vehicle trips along Taber during a seven-day period. The church claims 2000 of those, 20 percent, were vehicles coming or going to its services and events.

It’s an arbitrary number, it seems, for an estimate by the entity whose agenda is to close the road. For purposes of discussion, however, let’s say it’s close enough to be accurate.

That still leaves 8500 vehicle trips a week by people using Taber as a thoroughfare — to and from Interstate 10 and fed from neighborhoods north and west of Glen St. Mary. That’s a significant number.

Those trips will have to be routed elsewhere, most likely to CR 125 where the DOT recently narrowed the eastbound approach on US 90 from two lanes to one. Added congestion — most notably on school mornings — is a certainty.

The same is true of northbound traffic on CR 125 as it then would have to turn west on US 90, or even less desirable, use narrow roads on either side of the CSX tracks to arrive back at Taber. 

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Melon madness: You can’t fool Mother Nature

An article in last week’s Baker County Press highlighted local kids growing some humongous cabbages for a classroom project sponsored by Bonnie Plants nursery in Alabama.

They can compete for growing a prize winning cabbage and maybe get their photo on the nursery’s website.

And they haven’t been the only ones out there striving for mega-sized items from the garden.

Twenty farmers in Japan recently got an unexpected surprise by trying to rush melons to maturity to reap the profits. Seems the farmers got a little overzealous in dousing their crops with an accelerated growth hormone. What they ended up harvesting were not super-sized fruits but a super-sized mess.

The melons turned into organic land mines and literally started exploding on the vines.

The incident underscores a basic and fundamentally important component of plant biotechnology: It’s a good idea to read the instructions on the label.

The farmers used a tongue-twisting chemical spray known as forchlorfenuron (say that rapidly 10 times in a row). This plant growth accelerator is typically used in the United States on grapes and kiwi fruit (bet you didn’t know that, did you?) and is not meant for larger fruits like melons.

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