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A $50,000 check and breakfast is served

I thought there would be a little drama at the Salvation Army Tree of Lights Breakfast on Thursday morning.

Frank and Carol Morsani had offered to match dollar-for-dollar every donation up to $50,000. I wondered: Would the 900 attendees be generous enough to make the Morsanis give up all $50,000?

But the drama ended even before breakfast was served. Frank Morsani handed over a $50,000 check right away. Then after Yankees manager Joe Torre's keynote speech, Steve and Jenny Steinbrenner Swindal stepped up with a $25,000 check. Do the math and you realize the other 900 people only had to give $27.77 apiece to match Morsani's donation.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about this?

But I do hope the folks gave a little more than $27.77. Sure, the change from all those kettles adds up, but you have to realize the Salvation Army is paying for more than fluegelhorns. The needs of its many programs only intensify during the holidays.

The Adopt-A-Child (226-0055, ext. 402) program provides you with the opportunity to give an underprivileged child a Christmas gift. More than 7,000 kids received gifts last year, and the goal this year is 9,000.

The Salvation Army also has teamed with Tampa Fire Rescue to create four drop-off points for toys and donations: Station No. 4, 2100 11th Ave.; Station No. 12, 3073 W Hillsborough Ave.; Station No. 14, 1325 S Church; Station No. 20, 16200 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.

If we're not careful, the state is going to have to start soliciting donations. Last week, financial experts estimated a $232-million drop in projected state revenues.

What I can't understand is why the state budget wasn't a bigger issue in the election. The Democrats, and Bill McBride in particular, could have argued that the budget shortfall was the fault of Gov. Jeb Bush giving too many tax breaks to the corporate fat cats who funded his campaign.

When Republicans claimed McBride was going to raise taxes, he should have noted that whoever becomes governor will at least have to consider eliminating some tax exemptions because Jeb and the GOP-controlled Legislature squandered a huge surplus.

Republicans would have countered by saying those claims are half-truths at best, but if this election taught us anything, it is that campaigning has more to do with crafting a message voters will buy than dealing in honesty.

Bob Henriquez's passion for serving as a state legislator is equaled only by his passion for coaching football. Sometimes the passions collide.

Last Friday was one of those moments. Henriquez, an assistant at Jefferson High, was in Chile as part of the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Leadership Program while the Dragons were battling Lakeland George Jenkins in Tampa. That didn't stop Henriquez, however, from getting full reports from fellow assistant Lane McLaughlin.

"I have no idea what my cell phone bill is going to be," Henriquez said, "but I may have helped call a couple of plays."

Jefferson won and advanced to tonight's playoff game against St. Petersburg Lakewood.

Kudos to Cirque du Soleil's Quidam, which is bolstering the Great American Teach-In efforts by having two child cast members appear today at Alexander Elementary.

Denise Gonzalez, 14, and Catherine Downey, 12, will sing for a fourth-grade class and discuss how they manage to keep up with their studies while pursuing their singing/acting careers.

You know what the Democrats needed to beat Jeb Bush? A candidate with the name recognition of Janet Reno, the articulate plans of Daryl Jones and the folksiness of Bill McBride. Yep, Janet Jones McBride would have had a real shot at beating Bush.

That's all I'm saying.

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