By SARA KENNEDY – Buzz up!
MANATEE — Attorneys are alerting those adversely affected by the Gulf oil spill to file claims before the Nov. 23 deadline.

“I would urge people to get their claims filed by that date,” said Carl Nelson, an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and a Tampa attorney with the firm Fowler, White, Boggs.

Although Manatee and Sarasota counties remained pristine throughout the Deepwater Horizon disaster, some individuals and businesses suffered losses as a result of the misconception that oil had stained local shores.

STR – The off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon burns in the Gulf of Mexico April 21, 2010. A huge oil slick remained offshore and largely stationary today, May 4, 2010, in a development that should help cleanup efforts. (Photo courtesy Jon T. Fritz/MCT) Report: Gulf Coast oil spill claim overview How to file an oil spill claim Link | Complete oil spill coverage WEBSITE | Gulf Coast Claims Facility If claimants file before the Nov. 23 deadline for emergency payments, they would not be required to sign any kind of release, Nelson noted.

A claimant unsure of the amount of his or her total loss could still file a final claim at a later date, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense if you’ve got a $20 billion fund there, not to submit your claim and help your business,” Nelson said.

The total dollar amount of claims paid to date in connection with the massive BP oil spill was listed at $1.5 billion, according to a summary compiled by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which is in charge of the claims process.

It listed 234,879 individual claimants and 47,809 business claimants. So far, 86,392 have been paid; 137,016 require additional information or documentation; 232 were referred to government moratorium and real estate funds; 8,613 were denied, and 50,435 were still under review, the summary said.

Among those planning to file is Barbara Rodocker, owner of The Sun House Restaurant; Bridgewalk, A Landmark Resort, and Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort, all at Bradenton Beach.

“We do believe and have believed we’ve lost business as a result of all the publicity about the oil spill, not only in our resort, but in the restaurant,” she said Wednesday.

“We lost business because people just don’t want to come to the beach when they think the whole of Florida is covered with oil,” she said.

“We’ve occasionally had people ask, but most watch television or read the papers, and decided they aren’t going to come.”

She said that her summer business originates in upper Florida and lower Georgia, and that, while some from that area realized Manatee County had escaped oil, “others just didn’t come to Florida.”

Rodocker said she planned to file a claim before Nov. 23 because, “You’ll be in the gray area if you don’t file by then.”

That deadline is for those who are filing for emergency advance payments, said David Rash, an attorney at Miami’s Alters Law Firm.

He said the firm represents about 100 clients along the Florida west coast from Tampa to Fort Myers.

The deadline date for final claims is Aug. 23, 2013, he said.

Among Alters’ clients from this area are well-known commercial fishermen, fish house processors, producers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, beach concessionaires, those who rent Jet Skis and beach equipment, oystermen, shrimpers, and crabbers, Rash said.

Some are filing claims on their own, while law firm employees are helping others to file, Rash said.

“We don’t demand that we file claims for them, if they want to do it themselves,” said Rash. “Sometimes, it can be more beneficial if they do it, develop a rapport with the local claims officer.”

However, when a client is ready to file a final claim, “We’re a little more aggressive in advising people you need counsel for that.”

More than 400 million gallons of oil leaked from BP’s well off the Louisiana coast following an April fire and explosion.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031

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By AMBER FALKNER – Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Buzz up!

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School will see its name in lights when it is featured on a program airing on the Discovery Channel this winter.

The program was filmed in September, not by flocks of Hollywood directors and cameramen, but more fittingly, by a family of three who value a thorough education in its own way.

Darien Rodriguez, 34; his wife Patricia, 48; and their son Darien, 11, travel throughout the United States to film for the television show “The Profile Series.”

Falkner The show is broadcast nationwide on Discovery and hosted by actor Lou Gossett Jr. From one state to the next, this family is constantly preparing to catch the next big thing on camera.

Saint Stephen’s will be featured on the program for its 21st century innovative technologies, including the school’s new green Middle School building, its Marine Science program and its global exchange through the Atlas Initiative program. The independent school will be introduced in the report among other innovative schools that incorporate today’s technology into their curriculum.

Surreal Pictures and Video producer Patricia Rodriguez said she hopes other schools and parents see the show with Saint Stephen’s and take action to make these technologies a part of their schools.

“It’s a very competitive world out there today,” Patricia Rodriguez said. “With that, we wanted to find schools that are focused in preparing our students for a much larger world. A lot has changed in the last four to five decades. We can’t teach today the way we taught 40 years ago.”

Darien Rodriguez is just as inspired by the educational technologies as his wife.

“When I was younger, school never caught my attention,” he said. “But today everything is interactive and computerized, and the teachers take an entirely new approach. In the old days, they’d smack you across the head with a book and just tell you to read this and learn it. I wish I could go to school now versus back then and what I had to work with. I don’t think these kids realize how great they have it.”

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, Darien Rodriguez said the general population gets caught up in their day-to-day lives.

“People generally like to do the same thing every day. So, when people watch our show, I hope that we take them out of that normalcy, that repetition and teach them something else,” he said.

The Rodriguez family, which is based in Miami, travels as a film crew unit.

“We travel all over the United States,” Patricia Rodriguez said. “Basically, what we do is we come out, we write our script, we shoot the actual footage we need, we go back to our studios and then we actually prepare a story so that it can be aired on the Discovery Channel.”

On top of carrying the heavy camera everywhere they travel, the Rodriguez family also brings along their son. Despite the travels from one state to the next, the elder Darien said his son thrives with his constantly new surroundings and home-schooled education.

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9 in 10 U.S. Homeowners Concerned About Home Energy Efficiency

RISMEDIA, October 23, 2010–Home energy efficiency is valued by the vast majority of American homeowners, with 89 percent of national survey respondents indicating that making their home more energy efficient is important to them personally.

Key findings from the September 2010 national survey include:

* Less than one in three homeowners believe their homes are “very” energy efficient
* While the majority reported knowing “a lot” about how to make their homes energy efficient, they mistakenly identified “older windows” as the top energy-loss culprit
* 90% said it is important to have a professional energy auditor who is “certified by an independent national organization”

“These findings are a call to action to the industry to help consumers tap into the true value of an independent energy audit,” said Steve Baden, executive director, RESNET. “While the benefits of window replacement are obvious, it is often a less visible and less expensive repair – for example, sealing cracks around air conditioning and heating ducts – that can significantly improve a home’s energy efficiency and cut homeowners’ utility bills.”

D.C.-based Clarus Research Group, a Qorvis company, conducted a market survey of 800 U.S. homeowners(1) on behalf of RESNET, an industry leader in the energy efficiency marketplace. The sample was defined as adults over 21 years of age who currently own a home or plan to purchase one within the next year. The survey was conducted by Ron Faucheux, Ph.D., president of Clarus and a nationally recognized research and polling expert.

Key among other survey findings:

* 86% of homeowners would trust an energy audit performed by someone who was “certified by an independent national organization” over someone who was not
* 80% of those surveyed said that if they were in the market to buy a home, an energy audit conducted by an “unbiased professional” would be important to them



MANATEE — It was to be the catalyst for revitalizing Bradenton’s downtown: an eight-story luxury condominium building with views of the Manatee River, spacious floor plans with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, and amenities including a private movie theater, a massage room and a rooftop putting green.

On Wednesday, the River Dance condo building at 808 Third Ave. W. officially became the latest casualty of the housing market crash.

Wachovia Bank N.A. was the winning bidder at a foreclosure auction of 51 units owned by The Promenade at Riverwalk LLC, which built the 115-unit structure in 2007. The remaining units are individually owned and were not part of the auction, which also included the building’s common areas.

The bank’s winning bid of $80,100 was far short of the nearly $9.6 million judgment it won against the developer and its three partners: John L. Bell, Robert Hatfield and Jan E. Smith. The bank said they defaulted on a $28 million construction loan by missing a 2008 repayment deadline.

Hatfield and Smith did not return messages left Wednesday at their offices; Bell could not be reached for comment. In a previous interview with the Bradenton Herald, Hatfield said the partnership unsuccessfully lobbied Wachovia to restructure the loan but would not contest the foreclosure.

A Wachovia spokesman said he could not comment on the bank’s plans for the units because he did not have enough information. A bank-affiliated holding company, Redus Florida Condos LLC, could take title to the units as early as Oct. 30.

In an unusual twist, the bank had competition in the auction. Rebecca O’Steen, River Dance’s former leasing and sales agent, submitted two bids that Wachovia topped by $100 each time.

O’Steen said she bid solely to prevent a repeat of a previous auction that was not supposed to be held.

The River Dance units were put up for sale in July despite a judge’s order canceling and rescheduling the auction — information that never reached the company that conducts online auctions for the county. Wachovia was declared that auction’s winner by default after no one, including the bank, submitted a bid.

Court officials later canceled the sale and blamed the mix-up on a time limit in their case-management system.

River Dance was to be the first phase of a larger project called Promenade at Riverwalk, originally planned to have 350 condos, office space, retail shops and a hotel. At the time, city officials called it the linchpin for revitalizing downtown.

But by the time the condo building was completed in 2007, the housing market had cooled off. Buyers got cold feet and several canceled their purchase contracts.

The developer also was forced to revise, then suspend, plans to build the project’s second phase.

Wachovia also has sued to foreclose on that site, a vacant 3.5-acre parcel immediately behind the incomplete Manatee Players theater.

The case is on hold because Smith filed for personal bankruptcy, court records show.

Duane Marsteller, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.

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By JESSICA MINTZ – AP Technology Writer Buzz up!

SEATTLE — Apple Inc. said Monday that net income for the most recent quarter soared 70 percent on strong sales of iPhones, though iPad sales fell short of expectations.

Shares fell in after-hours trading. Apple’s stock had been breaking through record-high prices for more than a week on high hopes for the iPad.

Apple sold 4.2 million of its new tablet-style computer during the fiscal fourth quarter, fewer than the approximately 5 million that analysts, on average, had expected.

ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS Apple Inc. Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs is silhouetted as he leaves the stage following an event at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, Calif, on April 8. Apple reported on Monday that net income rose 70 percent in the latest quarter. INTERACTIVE | Apple shares near $300 The company sold 14.1 million iPhones from July through September, more than the 12 million or so analysts were looking for. Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said in an interview that had the company been able to make more iPhones, that number would have been even higher.

Sales of the iPad might have been constrained by supply issues. Oppenheimer said the company was able to increase production of the iPad toward the end of the quarter.

Apple’s net income rose to $4.3 billion, or $4.64 per share, from $2.5 billion, or $2.77 per share, in the same period last year.

Revenue jumped 67 percent to $20.3 billion from $12.2 billion last year.

Both revenue and net income were record amounts for Apple. The company also did significantly better than Wall Street analysts expected. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Apple to earn $4.08 per share on $18.9 billion in revenue.

“When you’re shipping the best products ever, these are the results you expect to see,” Oppenheimer said.

Apple said it expects to earn $4.80 per share during the holiday quarter on $23 billion in revenue. Apple is known for issuing low guidance and then sailing over. Analysts are currently looking for $5.06 per share in net income on $22.3 billion in revenue.

Shares of Apple, which is based on Cupertino, Calif., plunged $20.69, or 6.5 percent, to $297.31 in extended trading after the release of results. In the regular session earlier, the stock rose $3.25, or 1 percent, to $317.99.

For the full fiscal year, Apple’s net income jumped 70 percent to $14 billion, or $15.15 per share, from $8.2 billion or $9.08 per share.

Revenue jumped 52 percent to $65.2 billion from $42.9 billion.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Amendment 4

A: Amendment 4 is a proposed amendment of Florida’s constitution which would require taxpayer-funded referenda on all changes to local government comprehensive plans. In other words, this “Vote on Everything” amendment would force Floridians – not the representatives they elect – to decide hundreds of technical comprehensive plan changes each year.

Q: Would Amendment 4 have any effect on Florida’s economy?

A: Yes, in these tough times, the Vote on Everything amendment would cause Florida’s economy to permanently collapse. If you like the recession, you’ll love Amendment 4. According to a study conducted by The Washington Economics Group, Amendment 4 will reduce Florida’s economic output by $34 billion annually. Given Florida’s precarious economic climate, that’s the last thing our state needs.

Q: Has this been tried anywhere else?

A: Yes, the small town of St. Pete Beach implemented a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006. The measure has decimated their economy, created chaos at the polls, and caused a proliferation of special interest lawsuits. To date, the citizens of St. Pete Beach have seen nearly a dozen lawsuits that have cost local taxpayers almost three-quarters of a million dollars in legal fees. When St. Pete Beach voters approved four pro-economy changes to their comprehensive plan in 2008, Amendment 4 lawyers sued to overturn the results of the election. Nearly two years later, the people of St. Pete Beach are still defending their vote in court. The St. Petersburg Times concluded that Amendment 4 “invites short-term thinking and frequent referendums that are even more susceptible to well-financed campaigns by powerful interests.”

Q: But proponents of Amendment 4 say that it wouldn’t require voter approval on all land-use decisions?

A: They are not telling you the truth. The Florida Supreme Court plainly indicates that Amendment 4 would trigger votes not simply on all land use items, but, in fact, on every change to a local government’s comprehensive plan. Citing statute, the court points out that Amendment 4 would lead to referenda on:

“A capital improvement element; a future land-use plan element; a traffic circulation element, a sanitary sewer, solid waste, drainage, potable water, and natural groundwater aquifer recharge element; a conservation element; a recreation and open space element; a housing element; a coastal management element; an intergovernmental coordination element; a transportation element; an airport master plan; a public buildings and related facilities element; a recommended community design element; a general area redevelopment element; a safety element; a historical and scenic preservation element; an economic element …”

Q: I am concerned about jobs, especially in this economy – is Amendment 4 going to affect jobs?

A: Yes. Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation puts Florida’s jobless rate at 12 percent. However, Amendment 4 would drive it even higher. A study by The Washington Economics Group says Amendment 4 will likely cost Florida 267,247 jobs. Professor Tony Villamil, a former economic advisor to Governor Bush and the lead economist for WEG stated, “Amendment 4’s passage will have potentially devastating consequences to Florida’s economy at a time when the economic situation at both the state and national levels is uncertain and at a time when attracting new businesses to Florida is essential for the future recovery and prosperity of the state and its residents.”

Q: What are the costs associated with this amendment?

A: Amendment 4 means higher property taxes and higher costs for all of Florida’s working families. Under Amendment 4, local governments – city and county – would be required to hold expensive referenda on hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of amendments every year. Voters will be asked to vote not only on big development projects but also on all minor or technical changes to their local comprehensive plan. In the last four years alone, this would have meant over 10,000 costly elections across the state of Florida – and more elections require more tax dollars to pay for them. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “The cost to local governments of including the land-use amendments on ballots would soar into the millions.”

Q: Is it realistic to expect voters to approve every change to hundreds of comprehensive land use plans?

A: With hundreds of ballot questions every year, Amendment 4 is unworkable, unrealistic and extreme. A review of state records shows that Florida would average over 10,000 local referenda per year. In 2006, the small town of Carrabelle, in Franklin County, would have voted on 617 individual plan amendments. Under this absurd amendment, it would not be unusual for local voters across Florida to be expected to vote on 200 to 300 comprehensive land use plan amendments per year.

Q: But Amendment 4 proponents say that on average, Florida commissioners only vote to approve three or four local comprehensive land use plan ordinances per year?

A: Then why do we need Amendment 4? The Amendment 4 campaign is so fond of saying that comprehensive plan changes are “handed out like Halloween candy.” Now, they’re saying that local commissions only approve “three or four” plan amendments each year. The Amendment 4 campaign may not bother to check its facts, but facts are stubborn things. According to the Department of Community Affairs Sunset Review, there were nearly 6,500 changes to local comprehensive plans in fiscal year 2006-2007 (page 72). Amendment 4 does not contain any limiting language and there are no exceptions for state-mandated amendments. The result: Thousands of minor, technical plan amendments would appear on the ballot individually.

Q: But I am worried about the environment and sprawl – would Amendment 4 provide the solution?

A: No, the Vote on Everything amendment will make matters worse. Amendment 4 would lead to short-term thinking and piecemeal planning which would promote sprawl, not prevent it. For this reason, leading environmental organizations such as 1,000 Friends of Florida have raised objections to this misguided measure. They know that Amendment 4 will make well-coordinated, responsible growth impossible and lead to the exact type of urban sprawl most Floridians bemoan. When comprehensive planning was adopted in the 1980s, some communities had the resources to create sophisticated plans. But some communities–usually smaller ones–did the best that they could with limited time and resources. The result: Many comprehensive plans simply formalized the existing land use patterns—namely sprawl. By crippling the planning process, Amendment 4 may very well encourage bad development by limiting efforts to curb sprawl through improving our comprehensive plans.

Q: But the lawyers behind Amendment 4 say this proposal gives decision-making power to ordinary citizens – is that true?

A: No. Just look at St. Pete Beach—they adopted a local version of Amendment 4 in 2006. The town’s former Mayor, Ward Friszolowski, noted that “Amendment 4 hasn’t empowered citizens; it’s empowered Political Action Committees.” Right now, local neighborhood associations have greater influence in the development approval process – which involves multiple meetings and public hearings and often negotiations between developers and neighbors. But if Amendment 4 passes, voters living in other parts of the city or county will have just as much influence as you do over what happens (or doesn’t happen) in your neighborhood. Let’s say your community needs a new fire station. Under Amendment 4, that might require a 2-year delay and a countywide political campaign. And it might not be approved by voters living 45-minutes away. The voices of those most directly affected by land use decisions would ultimately be diluted in a citywide or countywide political campaign, where important community projects would become high-priced battles between competing special interest groups.

Connect and ShareFacebookYouTubeFlickrTwitterLinkedInOrganizeAmendment 4SuggestMobileDonateVolunteerHelping to Stop Admendment 4about 1 day ago we said, NOW! Ryan Houck & others discussing #NoAmend4 now on 1280 AM WTMY in Sarasota or online Don’t miss this! #sarasota #floridaabout 1 day ago we said, TODAY! Don’t miss Jose Cancela discussing #NoAmend4 on Univision (Ch. 23) at 11 am @dianad57about 2 days ago we said, TUNE IN TO … WLTV Ch. 23 Univision for Jose Cancela discussing #NoAmend4 @dianad57about 2 days ago we were Attending great public forum @ Flagler Realtors … Folks are excited about “No on 4” signs and stickers! #NoAmend4about 2 days ago we were Running low on #NoAmend4 signs? Why not switch your FB picture to the “No on 4” logo — a virtual yard sign! #floridaabout 3 days ago we said, Ward explains taxes went up, # of elections went up – no positive results from St Pete Bch’s experience with A4 #NoAmend4about 3 days ago we said, Votes cast by St Pete Bch citizens still haven’t “been counted” due to ongoing lawsuits #NoAmend4 #sayfie #floridaabout 3 days ago we said, Proponents of A4 used St Pete Bch as a poster child but now distance themselves from it #NoAmend4about 3 days ago we said, Ironic that as St Pete Bch has limited its version of A4 and considering full repeal, #florida faces it statewide #NoAmend4Join the conversation Action CenterContact UsFactsSign-UpMediaTake ActionResourcesBlogNews



MANATEE — Manatee County has entered into talks to acquire the former Dillard’s department store in the DeSoto Square mall and would consider moving the Central Library there, Administrator Ed Hunzeker said Thursday.

Hunzeker said discussions with mall owner Simon Group of Indianapolis are in their “infancy state.”

But the county is interested in the property because of its prime location and proximity to a Manatee County Area Transit station.

PAUL VIDELA/ Dillard’s department store, one of the flagship retailers at the DeSoto Square Mall in Bradenton is scheduled to close in the first half of October 2009, and will be joining other tenants who have left the mall recently, including Old Navy, Lady Footlocker, Waldenbooks and Starbucks. Buy it: Order this photo now
WEBSITE | Manatee County Public Library
“If we were to do something, the library would be a possibility,” Hunzeker said. “We’re looking at a number of ways we could better serve the public from that location and possibly bring traffic to the mall.”

A representative of Simon Group was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Dillard’s opened in August 1992 as an anchor tenant in the mall. The store closed Nov. 3 after slumping sales forced the Little Rock, Ark.-based company to scale back operations.

Cheri Coryea, the county’s neighborhood services manager, said the county has been exploring a partnership with the mall for the Dillard’s property for about nine months.

“We’re not looking to purchase it,” Coryea said. “We’d be more interested in some other type of relationship.”

The Dillard’s building has stood empty since the store’s departure. It boasts about 100,000 square feet, almost twice the size of the current Central Library, Coryea said.

The Central Library building needs almost $1 million in repairs, mostly to the air-conditioning system, Coryea said. The county has earmarked funds for the renovation, but is awaiting a decision on the building’s fate.

Bradenton City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, who is the chairwoman of the library’s board of trustees, said moving the Central Library could open up development opportunities at its current site, 1301 First Ave.

City officials have long lamented the tax revenue the city forfeits because land along the Manatee River is occupied by the South Florida Museum, city hall and the library, which are exempt from property taxes, she said.

“In a perfect world, I’m not sure you would put a library on waterfront property,” Barnebey said. “Besides the tax base, the area is in a flood plain.”

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