WUFT News

Clay County Hires Lawyer to Rewrite Unconstitutional Adult Entertainment Ordinance

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Clay County officials have hired a First Amendment lawyer to rewrite the county’s presumably unconstitutional adult entertainment ordinance.

Melbourne-based attorney Michael Kahn plans to send the first draft of his three-ordinance package to the county attorney this week. The package will regulate the industry rather than ban it as the current ordinance has for the past three decades.

Kahn explained the First Amendment protects the adult entertainment industry, so the county is vulnerable to a legal challenge at any time.

“You can’t ban a constitutionally protected industry,” he said. “We’re protecting the county by hiring me to rework the ordinances.”

The package includes three parts. One contains 53 pages outlining the regulations for any adult entertainment business that decides to come to the county. The next outlines a public nudity ordinance, which would regulate behavior outside of the industry. The third is a locational ordinance, which would designate where in Clay County adult entertainment businesses can reside.

The proposed ordinance would apply to Clay County’s unincorporated areas, which make up well over half of the county. The municipalities – Orange Park, Keystone Heights, Penney Farms and Green Cove Springs – would not be affected.

Kahn has written similar packages for counties and cities around Florida, including Panama Beach, Pembroke Park and Bay County.

County Attorney Mark Scruby first introduced the idea during a Nov. 12 commission meeting after someone called to ask about the zoning for an adult bookstore, which led to a discussion on the issue.

At the meeting, Scruby was met with opposition from the board and residents. He went back and forth with commission members for about half an hour before turning it over to citizens, who also expressed concerns, according to a commission meeting recording.

During the meeting, District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Robinson asked how much he would have to spend to defend the ordinance. Scruby estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The issue was picked up again at the April 8 meeting, where Kahn gave a presentation to commissioners. After more discussion, the motion to go forward with the rewrite passed 4-1.

Much of the controversy surrounding sexually oriented businesses centers around health concerns, crime rates and real estate values.

Kahn ensured his ordinance package would work to minimize effects in these areas.

“That’s really what you’re looking to do,” he said. “You’re looking to regulate them [the businesses] as much as they can so that they don’t bring those adverse secondary effects, and that’s possible.”

But some of these regulations may be too harsh, said Gainesville-based lawyer Gary Edinger, who often sues cities and counties on behalf of the adult entertainment industry.

Edinger recognizes the importance of business regulation and admitted Kahn usually writes a “fair ordinance.” However, he said some of the rules teeter the line of constitutionality.

Many adult entertainment regulations include adult bookstores, which Edinger described as being no different than a regular bookstore where patrons come in to buy a product and leave.

“There’s no traffic, no noise, they’re not usually standout businesses,” he said. “Heavy restrictions on adult bookstores are these days subject to constitutional attack.”

He also mentioned a rule often applied to dance clubs. Dancers cannot be within three feet of a patron, a regulation mainly intended to limit the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

An adult entertainment industry representative has never contacted Edinger looking to put up shop in Clay County, he said. The county is a popular place to retire or raise a family and those interested in sexually oriented businesses can cross the line into neighboring Duval County.

Despite the demographics, Kahn said he is working to protect the county just in case. He plans to present the draft versions of the ordinance to Scruby this week. He is also preparing testimony with health, real estate and crime experts to help strengthen his case to a skeptical county.

“Just like speech that we don’t like, we can’t disavow it [the industry],” he said. “It has its place in society.”

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Afternoon News: Apr. 22, 2014

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Nicole del Castillo produced this update. 

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Eastside High School Reaches Top 50 Most Challenging Schools

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Eastside High School has surpassed last year’s No. 33 ranking in the top 50 “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.”

The Gainesville high school, located at 1201 SE 43rd St. is now ranked No. 27 of 2,055 most challenging schools in the nation on the most recent release of The Washington Post’s list.

Jay Matthews, the list’s creator, wrote in an email that many schools drop in rank because school participation rates change and more schools are added to the list each year. The best way to look at the school’s progress is to look at its index rating.

To determine the rankings, Matthews divides the total number of Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) tests given each year by the total number of seniors who graduated. The schools are ranked based on these results.

Eastside’s current index is 8.966, according to the list, compared to last year’s ratio of 7.409. The index scores of the top ten schools on the list range from 11 to 21.

Matthews said the list intends to identify schools that have done the best in persuading average students to take college level courses and tests.

“I decided not to count passing rates because I found that many American high schools keep those rates artificially high by allowing only top students to take the courses,” Matthews said. “In other instances, they opened the courses to all but encouraged only the best students to take the tests.”

At Eastside, principal Jeff Charbonnet said the faculty and staff encourage all students to take advanced classes.

“If a student wants to challenge themselves with a rigorous course, we get in their corner and provide them with all the academic and social support we can for them to succeed,” he said.

He said as more students challenge themselves, the graduation rate is also increasing. It climbed from 84 percent to 87 percent this past year, he said. (link)

Eastside High School also offers a variety of ways for students to get extra help. He said the school’s mentorship program has individually matched more than 100 students with community and University of Florida mentors.

The school also offers an after-school tutoring program that is staffed by professionals and honors students who offer peer tutoring.

Charbonnet also said the school’s advisory council provides AP review books for students who cannot afford them, so all students are on equal footing.

Charbonnet said Eastside has about 1,300 students, and according to the post’s profile on the school, 50 percent of the students are eligible for subsidized lunches, which is a measure of the amount of low-income students at the school.

Now a freshman studying chemistry at the University of Florida, 19-year-old Eastside graduate Elizabeth Osmun said the school helped her prepare for the transition to college. She said the skills she learned, including effective studying and time management, by taking IB courses are a necessity for her college courses.

Osmun said teachers were personally invested in their students’ successes, and they worked to make sure students stayed motivated.

She said having small class sizes really helped students get to know the faculty, and the administration, including the principal, consistently checked on classes.

Eastside is the highest ranking high school in Alachua County, according to the list. Other high schools ranked in the area included Gainesville High School at No. 324, Buchholz High School at No. 358, Newberry High School at No. 1,372 and Santa Fe High School at No. 1,882.

Bobbie Benson, the IB coordinator at Eastside, said the school is proud of its students, and the staff plans to continue trying to help its students reach success.

“We’re going to serve our students academically in the courses and in the curriculum,” she said. “If it just so happens that the way we do our job results in this kind of ranking then that’s just a little extra for us.”

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In The News: Private School Voucher Expansion, MI Affirmative Action Struck Down, Local Bank Merger, FCAT Test Delays

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 1:46 pm
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In the News: Statewide Employee Drug Testing Without Suspicion Ruled Unconstitutional, Lottery Sales Terminated At Pompano Beach Locations, Local Residents Complete Boston Marathon, Student Loan Borrowers Pay When Co-Signer Dies

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 11:40 am
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April 22, 2014: Morning News in 90

By on April 22nd, 2014 | Last updated: April 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

Eleni Kouvatsos produced this update.

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April 21, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on April 21st, 2014 | Last updated: April 21, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Kristen Morrell produced this update.

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How Budgets Cuts Are Affecting Putnam County Public Transportation

By on April 21st, 2014 | Last updated: April 21, 2014 at 6:02 pm

The people behind Putnam County’s sole public transportation system are preparing for drastic changes effective May 1.  

Putnam County is preparing for the possibility of stopping service of its only local public transportation service, Ride Solution, due to the state cutting funds. These changes are effective May 1.

Photo courtesy of Ride Solution, Inc

Putnam County is preparing for the possibility of stopping service of its only local public transportation service, Ride Solution, due to the state cutting funds. These changes are effective May 1.

Ride Solution, the small rural county’s nonprofit local transit, will be downsizing due to government funding cuts and changes made to the Medicaid bill passed in 2011.

The service provides Medicaid patients free transportation to medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions. Ride Solution also offers non-Medicaid patients with rides for only a dollar as part of Putnam’s public transportation system.

However, Ride Solution could shut down its 15 local bus stops due to budget cuts to the service’s funding, said Boyd Thompson, Director of Ride Solution Operations.

Thompson created the transit system with Putnam’s small transportation budget. He said he’s disappointed to hear 27 years of work could end.

“It’s difficult to see a program that has been proven to save the state money basically be chucked out the window,” Thompson said.

In a meeting held April 8, Thompson and other Putnam County officials agreed to send Tallahassee a resolution that could delay the changes.

Thompson said Ride Solution would lose about 90 percent of the Medicaid funding in the budget with the changes in place.

“It (the system) comes apart if the cuts are too deep,” he said.

Commission Chairman Chip Laibl said he believes the state made these changes without any thought to rural counties.

He called it ironic — the state took away a system that economically and socially benefits the state.

“They did this deal without any consideration for what has been built over the last 20 years,” Laibl said. ”They’re just going to squash it without any thought to those people who need it.”

While Medicaid recipients will still be able to get to appointments, locals who depend on the bus for daily transportation will have to find it elsewhere. Unfortunately, many can’t afford alternative transportation, Laibl said.

Ed Griffin, the local regional representative of the Florida Association of Coordinated Transportation Systems Inc., said rural and urban public transportation systems are very different from one another.

“The impact will primarily be on rural, smaller transportation systems,” he said. The urban systems are rooted deep in populous counties and can withstand changes to funding.

Laibl has already received phone calls from residents asking him how they are supposed to get to the grocery store without the transportation system. He does not have an answer.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to these people,” he said. ”It’s sad.”

State Sen. John Thrasher, R-Palatka, could not be reached for comment.

Although the resolution sent to Tallahassee might not be successful in delaying the system’s destruction, Thompson is not throwing in the towel.

He has urged the state to do some financial investigation on the matter in order for them to see what exactly the impact will be on rural counties like Putnam.

An innovative public transportation system like Ride Solution is an integral part of a rural county like Putnam, Laibl said, and the state has put it on a path of destruction.

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In The News: ‘Buzz Free’ Marijuana, FL Charter Schools Audited, US Boston Marathon Winner, FL Drug Test Bill Struck Down

By on April 21st, 2014 | Last updated: April 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm
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In The News: Floridians Wait on BP Buyouts, FSU Engineering School, Disney Offers Workers Raise, Craft Brews in Danger

By on April 21st, 2014 | Last updated: April 21, 2014 at 10:40 am
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