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7 posts from February 14, 2013

February 14, 2013

Dolphins take stadium pitch to Miami Gardens

The Miami Dolphins took their Sun Life Stadium renovations pitch on the road Thursday, highlighting support from a county commissioner and the mayor of Miami Gardens, the team’s hometown for 26 years.

The politicians’ backing carries weight in the city that perhaps knows the Dolphins best.

But that neighborly history also has made some people in Miami Gardens skeptical about the team’s promises of economic benefits from the planned $400 million in renovations, about of half of which would be funded by taxes.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee stressed that upgrading the stadium to attract more international soccer games and concerts during the football offseason would employ more locals, bring customers to the city’s shops and restaurants, and spur development on vacant parcels nearby.

“When people come to a Super Bowl or a national championship in Miami Gardens, they eat on Brickell, and they sleep on South Beach. And they shop in our stores. They support our businesses,” Gilbert said. “That’s what this is about.”

He called the Dolphins “our largest taxpayer and a vital community partner.” The team sponsors some of the city’s biggest events, including the annual Jazz in the Gardens festival.

But that has not done much to assuage the concerns of others in the city, who say Miami Gardens has received little payoff from being home to the stadium.

“I’m a Dolphins fan, but I have to say, very honestly, there has not been an incredible windfall to this community,” said former City Councilman André Williams.

More here.

Video: Gov. Rick Scott has Happy Feet

Florida Governor Rick Scott continued to stump for education spending in his proposed budget Thursday during a visit to South Pointe Elementary in Miami Beach, where he announced that AT&T is contributing $200,000 to train teachers in new Common Core curriculum.

He also received a Valentine from a second grader and showed off his dance moves during Michael Sinisgalli's music class. Scott, at one point, chuckled and said he hoped no one had video of the latter.

Sorry. Download IMG_0867[1]

Pew Research Center: More negative than positive response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech

From the Pew Research Center:

Unfavorable: 58 percent

Favorable: 42 percent

Twitter users had a wide range of reactions during and immediately after President Obama's State of the Union speech. Topics that drew the most attention were education, the minimum wage, the economy, gun control and the deficit.

Check out their graphic here

And despite all the media attention, Pew finds most Americans don't view the State of the Union speech as very important.

Check out the Pew story and poll here 

Bush gets real with Gaetz on education reform, coy on future

Before a meeting with Senate President Don Gaetz on Thursday, former Gov. Jeb Bush said he believed the parent trigger bill introduced this week would pass.

"As I understand what the law is, it’s a pretty simple law,” Bush said. “If you’re in a failing school, parents oughta have the ability, if they want to, to have a say, simply a say, in providing advice on what structure a failing school should take. That doesn’t say they can do like in California where they can convert a charter school or do something else, it simply says parents’ voice matters. If that’s a radical idea in America today, then we’re in a heap of trouble.”

A bill filed this week by Kelli Stargell, R-Lakeland, would allow parents at failing schools to choose a strategy to turnaround a school via a petition. One option could allow the school to be converted to a charter school. A similar bill was defeated last year, but Bush said he thinks this year it will pass. 

Earlier on Thursday, Bush met with House Republicans and Speaker Will Weatherford. Reporters didn’t speak to him at that event, and were only able to ask a couple of questions before his meeting with Gaetz.

Bush hasn’t visited the Capitol since 2010, so he was asked why he was meeting with lawmakers. Bush said as the head of the non-profit Foundation for Excellence in Education, he was there to “say hello to friends and advance the cause of rising student achievement.”

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Miami-Dade charter schools run by bro of U.S. Veep Biden under scrutiny

Auditors with Miami-Dade County Public Schools want to take a closer look at a charter school chain run by the brother of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden due to financial woes and allegations that the company is inflating student enrollment numbers.

Mavericks Charter High Schools, an alternative education chain headed by company president Frank Biden, is running a deficit at both its Miami-Dade schools, according to Jose F. Montes de Oca, the district’s chief auditor. The district is also concerned about a recent audit by the Palm Beach County School District's inspector general that said a Mavericks school in the district overbilled $160,000 by overstating the students at its school.

“We understand that similar allegations have been levied against the two existing Mavericks charter schools operating in Miami-Dade County,” Montes de Oca wrote in a memo.

Biden showed up at the school board’s monthly meeting Wednesday to defend his company, and called the Palm Beach allegations “false.”

“That’s why we invite the audit down here,” he said.

Jeb Bush visits with Weatherford and House Republicans

Former Gov. Jeb Bush met with Florida House Republicans on Thursday, but what he told them is pretty much hush hush because the meeting was held behind closed doors with reporters stuck waiting outside.

“It was a really good talk,” said Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, as he walked out. “He spoke on immigration reform and the importance of being inclusive.”

Bush was invited by House Speaker Will Weatherford, who worships him as his political model.

“I don’t know if you’ll find a bigger Jeb Bush fan than me,” Weatherford said. “We were honored that he took this much time to be here today.”

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he had about 10 minutes to talk with Bush for he spoke to the 76 Republicans in the House. He said's always enjoyed a special relationship with Bush.

"He’s always allowed me to have access to him, whether it’s on the phone or in person to seek his advice and counsel," Weatherford said. Thursday was no different.

“I wanted to get his thoughts,” Weatherford said. “We had a really good candid conversation.”

About what, however, Weatherford wasn’t saying. Specific issues that promise to be hot topics this session weren’t necessarily covered, he said.

 Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to give teachers an across-the-board pay hike of $2,500?

“I don’t know if we talked specifically about the teacher pay raise,” Weatherford told reporters. “I think the governor certainly is in favor of paying teachers more, but I think, like the House, he’s also in favor of merit pay. He has a history of supporting that. But you’d have to ask him.”

Reporters would have, but, as they spoke to Weatherford, Bush slipped out another door.

Weatherford said he did have a moment to talk generally about the budget.

“I gave him an update on where we are in the budget and that we actually have a surplus for the first time in six years,” Weatherford said. “He had that nice exit where he had a $5 billion surplus and then a $6 billion surplus and it’s been tough sledding since then and this is the first year we’ve had any wriggle room so we joked about that. It was a great conversation.”

What about pension reform, the parent-trigger bill, teacher evaluations?

“We didn’t talk specifically about proposals,” Weatherford said. “We didn’t have that much time, he was a little late getting here and he had to speak before the body so I didn’t want to hold him up and have everyone waiting here.”

As for the speech, like the other Republican lawmakers who spilled out of the conference room at around noon, Weatherford gave it high marks.

“He just talked about being bold,” Weatherford said. “Being willing to take risks. Being willing to really fight for the issues that matter and to be prepared. It’s a battle of ideas. We can’t just show up to the battle without any ideas. We can’t just say no. We have to be willing to offer our own solutions, and that’s what he did as governor.”

Bush also told the crowd another important piece of news. His new book on immigration reform is out on March 1.





Daphne Campbell's bill banning red light cameras clears first hurdle

Just two years after state lawmakers passed a law that allowed the use of red light cameras on Florida streets, a House committee reversed course and approved a bill that would banish them.

The House Economic Affairs Committee narrowly approved HB 4011 by a 10-8 vote, underscoring just how divisive the public safety program is.

 “I believe (cameras) save lives,” said Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze. “But the problem is there’s something about being confronted after committing an act. When you’re in Indiana, or Illinois, and you visit our state, and two weeks later you get a surprise in the mail, that doesn’t change behavior. That makes you mad.”

The odds are long that the bill will get much further. It heads to House Appropriations next. Law enforcement agencies, who get paid a portion of the millions that are made from the cameras, oppose it. As do counties and cities that starved for revenues following the worst recession in memory.

But on Thursday at least, it was a victory for Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, the initial sponsor of the bill. A nurse, Campbell said the vast majority of her constituents are seniors or are living in poverty, and a single ticket would burden them with a hardship they can’t afford. She disputes that cameras make streets safer, and alleges that many of them target low income areas.

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