Wrongfully arrested NFL star backs Fort Myers incumbent’s opponent

Bienko invite

A Lee County NFL star who was wrongfully arrested by Fort Myers police is lending his name to the campaign of a political upstart running against Ward 2’s incumbent city councilor.

Oakland Raiders safety Nate Allen is among a list of “host committee” members included in a meet-and-greet invitation for Ward 2 candidate Stephen Bienko, a business owner and motivational speaker.

The invitation was emailed by a committee connected to Sawyer Smith, a Fort Myers lawyer who is representing Allen on the wrongful arrest issue.

Bienko invite

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Teachers could get bonuses for their own test performances

Melhor Marie Leonor, (@MelhorL)

Close to 200 teachers in Collier County could pocket bonuses from the state for superior test performance — not their students’ results, but their own.

Whether they took the ACT or SAT tests a year ago or 30 years ago, Florida teachers evaluated as “high-performing” can submit their scores to their local school districts and potentially cash those in for a $10,000 bonus.

To qualify, a teacher’s score must fall in the top 20 percent of scores when they took the test, according to a memo released by the state this week.

But the windfall isn’t welcomed with open arms by some teachers and union leaders, who say it’s an unusual way to reward some good teachers and question the relationship between good-but-old scores and classroom performance.

“The teachers I’ve talked to about it just roll their eyes,” said Rosanne Mello, who has taught English and reading in Collier for eight years. “Out of all of the education bills, one of the most ridiculous gets through.”

The “Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program” was actually tucked into the state’s budget during the special legislative session. An earlier iteration of the program sponsored by Rep. Erik Fresen died during the regular session.

Collier school board member Erika Donalds said that while the program is certainly “out-of-the box,” it may help attract top-performing students into the profession.

“What’s being missed is that it’s really more about recruitment than giving a benefit to an existing teacher,” she said, “Trying to recruit students to come in to teaching that have those higher SAT and ACT scores.”

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Pam Bondi asked to probe – or stop – sale of classical stations

Harriet Howard Heithaus, (@NDN_HarrietHeit)

The treasurer of Classical South Florida Inc. has asked Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate — and potentially stop — the sale of South Florida’s only classical music radio stations to a California company.

Those stations, owned by Classical South Florida Inc., include WNPS-FM in Naples, along with stations in Miami and Palm Beach.

Staffers in Bondi’s office said they have not yet considered the request.

Richard Rampell of Palm Beach, who also served on the CSF board from shortly after broadcasting started in June 2012 until the board voted to sell June 25, is asking Bondi to investigate what he called “improper activities” surrounding the sale. Those include, among others:

— That Jon McTaggart, CEO of American Public Media Group in St. Paul, Minnesota, signed an agreement to sell the stations’ licenses before notifying the Classical South Florida board of trustees. APMG had financed the purchase of the three Classical South Florida stations.

— That the agreement was reached without seeking additional bids, and, in fact, under a proviso that forbade shopping for additional bids. That meant supporters of any of the three stations involved could not produce a competing offer to keep their station license.

— Further, the board was given a 24-hour deadline to accept the agreement and bound, they were told, by a confidentiality clause not to discuss the agreement.

— That the $21.7 million sale price was $4 million below a recent appraisal of the stations. It is still below the approximate $30 million purchase price APMG says it paid for the stations.

— That APMG counsel Sylvia Strobel suggested there could be legal action against Classical South Florida trustees if they refused to ratify the sale agreement McTaggart had signed.

Rampell said Thursday he is not necessarily a champion of classical music. However, one of Classical South Florida’s licenses included an auxiliary feed for National Public Radio programming.

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New state program helps families save for needs of those with disabilities

Michael Tulipano at the Special Olympics of Florida Aquatics Competition at River Park Aquatic Facility in Naples, Florida, on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Tulipano has autism and his mom, Stephanie, said she doesn't think he'll ever be able to live on his own. She said the Able Act, which allows families to create a tax exempt savings account for disability expenses, is a huge relief. (Calvin Mattheis/Staff)
Michael Tulipano at the Special Olympics of Florida Aquatics Competition at River Park Aquatic Facility in Naples, Florida, on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Tulipano has autism and his mom, Stephanie, said she doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to live on his own. She said the Able Act, which allows families to create a tax exempt savings account for disability expenses, is a huge relief. (Calvin Mattheis/Staff)

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

The wind started to pick up as Michael Tulipano readied himself for the first heat of the day.

The 16-year-old Special Olympian didn’t let the torrential downpour bother him as he jumped into the River Park pool. When the buzzer went off, he quickly swam the length of the pool, watching his competitor out of the corner of his eye, as his mother cheered from beneath a nearby awning.

“It’s amazing,” said his mother, Stephanie Dangler.

For Michael, who is developmentally delayed, growing up means dreaming about learning how to drive a car, finding a place of his own and getting a job. For Dangler, it means trying to navigate the do’s and don’ts of raising a child with special needs.

But this year, state officials took steps to make that process a little easier.

Michael is one of thousands of Floridians who might benefit from the Florida ABLE, or Achieving a Better Life Experience, Act. Signed into law earlier this summer by Gov. Rick Scott, the program aims to help people with disabilities save money without losing their eligibility for state and federal benefits.

“From my perspective, what’s made this country unique is it does not matter the circumstances of your birth,” said Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the bill in the Florida House. “What we’ve done here is we’ve given this group of people (the ability) to participate in the American dream.”

The state law helps implement the federal ABLE Act of 2014, which authorizes states to establish programs to administer ABLE accounts, similar to college savings plans that can be used for disability-related expenses.

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Mother of U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson dies

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

Cherie Marcil Clawson, the mother of U.S. Rep Curt Clawson, died Tuesday, according to the congressman’s office.

According a statement released by Rep. Clawson’s office, she passed away peacefully with her family at her side.

“Mrs. Clawson was Curt’s guiding light and a source of unwavering encouragement and support. She never missed any of Curt’s major events throughout his life, from attending every one of Curt’s basketball games, to being at his side as Curt took the oath of office in Washington, D.C., last year,” the statement said.

On Tuesday evening, the congressman took to Twitter to share memories of his mother, calling her his “heart and soul.”

 

Last week, the congressman asked Speaker John Boehner for an excused absence from voting to be with his mother.

Mrs. Clawson, a former schoolteacher, raised three daughters and four sons. She and her husband, Jack, moved to Florida from Indian in the early 1990s. Rep. Clawson visited frequently for about 20 years, before becoming a full-time resident in 2011.

She is survived by her husband, Jack, and Rep. Clawson’s six brothers and sisters.

We focus on all things politics in the Sunshine State. We are the joint bureau of Naples Daily News / Tampa Tribune / Treasure Coast in Tallahassee.