MIAMI — Republican Bill McCollum has made a career out of being tough on crime, first as a congressman agitating against Islamic terrorists and more recently as the state attorney general crusading against Internet sex predators.
Yet in a recent interview on Spanish-language radio in Miami, McCollum said "it's very wrong'' that sex offenders have been relegated to living in squalid conditions under the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami-Dade. He said local governments that ban offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools are "responsible for making this much more difficult, and they need to change their ordinances.''
McCollum's remarks on Univision's WQBA-1140 AM on July 22 contradict the position taken by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who said last week that he wanted to be "respectful'' of local ordinances that go farther than the state's 1,000-foot buffer zone around schools.
"The state law is fairly reasonable, but many counties and many cities have made it impossible for anybody to live. . . in a normal living environment,'' McCollum told interviewer Bernadette Pardo. "It's very wrong.''
Some political strategists say McCollum's hard-line, conservative image could be a liability in his gubernatorial campaign against Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who would be the state's first female chief executive. McCollum was the only Cabinet member to vote against reforms aimed at helping ex-felons to get their voting rights back.
Ron Book, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust who has been trying to find housing for the squatters under the bridge, noted McCollum's record is "extraordinarily strong'' on child molesters and other law-and-order issues.
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