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Winners & Losers: Toll Roads, Pirate Radio

UNLIKELY WINNER: Toll roads. Yes, you read that right! Marty Lanahan, current chair of the Florida Transportation Commission, raised eyebrows and ire on Tuesday by seriously proposing the idea of bringing toll roads back to Jacksonville, which ousted them in the early 1990s with a half-cent sales tax. Road tolls have gotten a bad rap over the years as cumbersome and expensive. But they have their merits - like sales taxes, they're paid by everyone who uses them - residents, tourists and even drug dealers cruising around in Escalades. Importantly, they also don't require payment from people who don't use the roads. A local government that enacts toll roads, and acts responsibly, should logically lower the burden in other areas, such as on property or sales taxes. Modern tolls are often collected electronically, using systems like Sunpass in Florida, or EZPass up north, which make them much less trouble than flinging the change into a basket.

LOSER: Florida State College, which apparently has a massive inferiority complex and has been engaged in a conspiracy to badmouth for-profit colleges for some time. Keiser University has had enough, and on Monday filed suit in Broward County. Apparently, the College worked with a variety of other entities to see to it that Keiser got a bad rap, as evidenced by some incriminating emails sent by FSCJ President Steven Wallace and Susan Lehr, Vice President of Government Relations. Keiser subpoened the emails and has entered them into evidence in their suit. Rather than being of the boring, officialese variety, these emails include random attacks on the people who actually own Keiser and their personal possessions, including a random reference to "5 jets". One would think that they would at least send the messages using a medium that isn't accessible to anyone who wants to read. If this costs FSCJ (and by extention, wastes taxpayer dollars), maybe Wallace, Lehr and others should consider making room for some new monkey suits. There's plenty of tiny bridges in front of the Martin Center for them to hop off.

WINNER, DAWG: Trap Radio, Lauderdale Lakes' own "pirate rap radio station". Some guy named Mikhaul Rhodd hooked up a giant antenna to his house and just started broadcasting his own rap music on a frequency that was in between a Christian and a classical music station. Obviously, complaints started pouring in immediately and Rhodd was soon apprehended by the Broward County Sheriff's Office. Although a pirate radio station is a rather amusing way to beat up the airwaves, the FCC is probably going to want to have a word with him. Rhodd sounds like quite a character, hopefully he'll keep entertaining Florida with his antics once he gets out.

LOSER: A giant shack right in the center of Hastings, which is about to get knocked down. Long abandoned, recently burned and now condemned, it seems the house is finally about to get bulldozed. Apparently this is Hastings' version of the Park View Inn, a local eyesore right in the middle of the town that refuses to go away. St. Johns County has decided to go ahead and demolish the structure and when they find out who (if anyone) owns it, charge them $3,600 for the privilege.

WINNER: Jacksonville's own Justin Bieber. Although kicked off Facebook, they can't take his name away - a non-teenager whose real name happens to be Justin Bieber, a Jacksonville resident, has gotten more than his share of 15 minutes of fame, appearing on Letterman and several other shows. Bieber is apparently a pinball fanatic and can't sleep at night for all the calls coming through from excited fans and various artists who are either into parody acts or simply sorely mistaken about who they're calling. Unfortunately that name doesn't mean he gets to hang out with Kim Kardashian at the beach.

LOSER: The Floridan Acquifer, which is feeling the squeeze from a booming population. Florida's population has actually shrunk slightly over the past year, but that hasn't stopped many areas of the state from using an increasing level of water. North Florida in particular is presently one of the fastest growing areas of the state. A recent study published by the Suwannee River Water Management District recommends new measures in relatively rural areas of the state to conserve water. In previous decades this would have been unheard of, but now it's a harbinger of problems down the road. Officials say they are alsready getting citizens to pitch in on water conservation, but it's really not enough - lower levels could begin to cause damage to ecosystems, with marshes not getting the stable water levels that they need to be able to function effectively. Hey everybody, stop blasting gallons of water out the hose or we'll all wither up like giant raisins.

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In addition to offering up his weekly winners and losers in The Jacksonville Observer, Graham Wellington enjoys bacon, fancy hats and prank calling apartment complexes on Park Street.

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