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It's not so Easy for Martinez to be Green

The idea of writing about a politician and quoting only people who have endorsed that politician might seem unfair and unbalanced.

That is, however, exactly what follows.

The following are quotes about U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez from people who have publicly endorsed him.

" I'm very disappointed. He needs to do what's right, not what his political bosses tell him to do."

" Of course I'm disappointed."

" Maybe we'll see the real Mel once George W. Bush leaves office."

The quotes are from a trio of environmentalists. In order: Former Orange County Commissioner Vera Carter, Chelonian Research Institute director Peter Pritchard, and former County Commissioner Fran Pignone.

All three of them endorsed Martinez in 1998, back when he was in the throes of a heated runoff campaign for Orange County chairman.

Back then, Martinez was desperate to appeal to a wide base of voters. So he cast himself as the environmentalist in the race -- and convinced some of the greenest greenies in town that he was sincere.

One of his campaign fliers even featured Martinez clasping hands with Carter and Pritchard under the headline: "Mel Martinez has a plan to protect our environment!"

That was then.

Last week, Martinez toed the White House line in casting a pivotal vote to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The 51-49 vote sent chills down the spines of environmentalists.

For his part, Martinez said he hoped the move would decrease the nation's dependency on foreign oil and only minimally impact the region's fragile ecosystem. At the same time, he secured a deal to delay drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists cried malarkey on Martinez. National groups said Alaskan drilling could, in fact, harm the fragile environment; that it overlooks the need for cheaper and cleaner energy; and that it actually paves the way for similar drilling off Florida's coast. Environmentalists describe his alleged deal to delay Florida drilling as virtually meaningless.

It'd be easy to dismiss such talk as the ramblings of a bunch of radical tree-huggers. But remember: Martinez once thought enough of these tree-huggers to solicit their support and have them court votes on his behalf.

For their parts, Carter, Pritchard and Pignone are reluctant to pass final judgment on Martinez -- yet. They describe him as thoughtful, inclusive and even statesmanlike. And they believe that the Martinez they knew was naturally inclined to protect nature.

But they also wonder if he's been co-opted.

They're trying to figure if the man who once spent an afternoon talking about environmental issues in Carter's living room is gone - - or just on hiatus.

Pritchard hopes to find out. He remembers that day when he and Carter posed for the campaign photo with Martinez. "In fact," he said, "I was thinking about mailing a copy of it to him, so he'd remember too."


Wondering what indicted Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is doing while he's on suspension? Well, Taking Names has learned that he has set up temporary offices inside one of Central Florida's highest- profile law firms. John Morgan confirmed Friday that he has given Dyer space in his downtown firm, which pretty much overlooks the City Hall that Dyer once ran. Said Morgan: "Mayor Dyer is utilizing our offices while he prepares to defend himself from baseless charges. He is a friend who as been terribly wronged." So now Mr. For the People's stable includes malpractice victims, neglected nursing-home residents -- and indicted politicians.

Orlando City Council member Vicki Vargo has taken some ribbing from those who viewed her statements and e-mails in the hours after Dyer's indictment as a pitch for her to become the acting mayor. But it turns out that there's at least an outside chance that Vargo might have the last laugh. She is, after all, the backup mayor pro tem. And though Ernest Page, the first pro tem, is currently serving as acting mayor, there's a reason that defense attorney Mark NeJame is attending courtroom goings-on on Page's behalf: Because there are accusations surrounding the validity of Page's last election as well.

Speaking of NeJame, fireworks flew between the feisty Democratic lawyer and Republican consultant Doug Guetzloe during a recent taping of Lauren Rowe's Flash Point on WKMG-Channel 6, which aired Saturday morning. Cameras caught most of the friction. But there were a few barbs traded when the cameras weren't rolling. First, Guetzloe noted that the diminutive NeJame was having trouble getting tall enough at the table and offered him a seat that was closer to high-chair level. Moments later, when Rowe was having trouble recalling the call letters for the AM radio station on which Guetzloe does a daily show, NeJame offered: "Well, Lauren, if you ever forget, you can just check the Arbitron ratings . . . oh wait, that's right. You can't. He doesn't show up."

Congressman Tom Feeney has made national news recently for being involved in an ethics stink about a trip to Scotland he took that apparently was funded by a lobbyist, which would break congressional rules. In completely unrelated news, Feeney's recent congressional newsletter offered to help constituents "plan your next trip to our nation's capital." You have to figure he knows how to travel cheap.

Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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