Thoughts on Wares Creek muck, war hero voter, honoring veterans

Raise your hand if you were confident something would go wrong with the Wares Creek dredging project based on history.

Decades in the making with more twists and turns than a Grand Canyon hiking trail, the project went along swimmingly for a while but then got all wet, literally. Instead of dry and clean dirt shipped to the Manatee County landfill as expected, truckloads of gooey sludge heavy with moisture were dumped there. A big oops.

The county had to spread these milkshakes of slop in an open field to dry. With the rainy season upon us, that won't work so well anymore. The Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek Flood Control project, is trying to figure out a solution -- possibly by squeezing giant thermal bags filled with dredged material to drain out the water.

Not only that, but engineers underestimated how much goo and other bad stuff would be extracted versus clean dirt -- by a wide margin. The county charges landfill fees for filthy sludge but not clean dirt, so the Corps wants a break on the amount.

Surely the county can come up with something. And surely the Corps and the contractor can wring out the muck. We don't want to see this long-awaited project stall -- again.

Voter purge of a war hero?

One of the latest developments in Florida's purge of voter rolls lends credence to the fear that the Republican-controlled state government is targeting Democrats. The Palm Beach Post reported this week that a 91-year-old American-born World War II hero received a letter from Broward County's supervisor of elections casting doubt on his citizenship and challenging his voting rights.

A Democrat who has voted in all of the presidential elections since 1944, Bill Internicola expressed outrage at the letter, which demanded proof of citizenship within 30 days. But he also wondered whether he would even make the effort at his age. Voter suppression indeed, in a roundabout way.

Internicola, a medic during the war, won the Bronze Star for courage at the famous Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He rescued wounded soldiers from a German artillery barrage. He also won the French Legion of Honor for his war service.

This is a disgrace. Florida elections officials should be ashamed that the list of names forwarded to supervisors for checking was not properly vetted. Those officials initially came up with 180,000 registered voters to check, but only forwarded 2,600 to counties.

Hundreds of eligible voters have already proven citizenship after being contacted by county elections supervisors, casting additional doubt on this dubious effort at stemming ballot fraud -- practically nonexistent in Florida. The Post reported that out of 8 million ballots cast in the 2008 election, only 16 cases of voter fraud surfaced.

While the intent behind the purge -- removing noncitizens from voting rolls -- is sound, the execution is deeply flawed. When a war hero who fought for freedom but with a history of Democratic votes gets challenged, the political implications cannot be ignored.

Thankfully, the U.S. Justice Department ordered a halt to the purge on Thursday, citing violations of several federal laws. The state has until Wednesday to respond.

Quote of the week

"It feels pretty good that they think that highly of us." -- Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan after learning MaxPreps named the Hurricanes the best high school football team in the nation in preseason rankings.