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'Call' from Alex Sink; guide for electorate

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

When I heard Alex Sink speaking to me on my voice mail, I thought, "Wow, I didn't realize someone so famous even knew me." Not only is Sink the wife of gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride , but she's an accomplished banker and former head of Bank of America's Florida operations.

She had called to invite me to tonight's mega fundraiser at One Urban Center, the office building next to Wyndham Westshore. Janet Reno, state senator Daryl Jones, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Jim Davis are all scheduled to be on board, so you know, I felt kind of special to get the personal call from Alex. Is it okay if I call her Alex, right?

At the end of the message, however, I discovered it was simply a recording from a phone bank. "Paid Political Advertisement paid for by the Florida Democratic Party."

For a minute, I thought I was somebody.

* * *

Sometimes you can brainstorm and come up with some pretty good ideas. And sometimes, when someone else comes up with a good idea, you just need to borrow it and show no shame.

In California, every registered voter receives an official voter information guide offering details on all candidates and amendment proposals. It's also available online.

We need something like that in Florida in the worst way.

The detailed guides offer an impartial analysis and pros and cons of each proposed amendment or referendum, list proponents and opponents of amendments and explain what voting "yes" or "no" means. Putting it together is no easy task. They tend to be voluminous, and it requires a legislative analyst, similar to the federal government's Office of Management and Budget.

At times, the language and wording in the guides is challenged in court.

But Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation ( said 90 percent of her state's voters find the guide valuable.

I voted Monday (early) and even though I believe I had a pretty good grasp on each of the proposals, it wouldn't hurt to have an unbiased report on what each amendment really means.

Yes, newspapers, television and even the League of Women Voters have attempted to close the information gap. But the state should take the lead in creating a more informed electorate. The state is where most voters turn to first.

Imagine a document you would get in the mail, digest at your leisure and then be prepared when you go to the polls. Truly prepared.

In California, they don't have to imagine.

* * *

A friend said he had a great idea: go to costume stores and write about people buying outfits for their kids at the last minute.

So I went, and, well, let's just say the Last-Minute Brigade wasn't exactly in the mood for giving good quotes.

I can't say that I blame them. I'm all too familiar with stressful last-minute attempts. In fact, I took my boys on Oct. 20 and I don't think it was any easier then.

For whatever reason, you put a lot of stock in what your children chose to be. It's silly of me to think this way, but I imagine their choices as some kind of measuring tool of my parenting.

If they chose to be someone noble -- a policeman or firefighter -- then I'm doing well.

If they chose to be ninjas, which my kids did, I wonder if they have been inundated with too much violence.

If they had chosen to be Harry Potter, essentially a nerdy kid with glasses, I don't know what it would have meant.

But if parents are like me, they needed to focus completely on getting costumes instead of talking to reporters.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or .

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