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11 posts from March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013

New political consulting firm appears likely to head potential Miami Dolphins referendum campaign


Ashley Walker, the former Florida chief for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, will head a new public affairs consulting firm with the strategists tapped to lead a potential Miami Dolphins referendum campaign.

Mercury Florida will bring together national firm Mercury with Floridian Partners, whose team includes Rodney Barreto, chair of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee, and Brian May, a County Hall lobbyist for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins have reached out to Mercury's Michael McKeon, who knows Dolphins owner Stephen Ross from New York, Walker and Eric Jotkoff, Obama's former Florida campaign spokesoman, to shape the football team's political strategy. The Dolphins are hoping the county will hold a May special election to approve a potential financing deal to renovate Sun Life Stadium.

Read the release -- which makes no mention of the Dolphins -- after the jump.

Continue reading "New political consulting firm appears likely to head potential Miami Dolphins referendum campaign" »

Miami Dolphins offer to repay portion of county costs to renovate stadium, without interest


The Miami Dolphins have offered to repay Miami-Dade County for a portion of the public costs of renovating Sun Life Stadium, and to pay millions of dollars in penalties should the team fail to bring major events to South Florida, including four Super Bowls over the next three decades, The Miami Herald has learned.

The Dolphins have told the county they will repay Miami-Dade for the initial share of the renovation costs in about 30 years, but the rebate would not include the debt payments that will likely come with the deal, according to a source familiar with the Dolphins’ offer and a draft term sheet obtained by The Herald.

During meetings last week with NFL owners in Phoenix, the Dolphins shared a confidential report on their ongoing negotiations with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to bring the issue to a countywide vote, according to an NFL source. The source said the Dolphins revealed they have offered to use private dollars to fund $225 million in construction costs for a renovation now estimated at $389 million, less than the $400 million figure that was the most commonly used estimate for the deal.

That amounts to the Dolphins asking for public money to fund about 43 percent of the construction costs, less than the 49 percent that was initially floated as a starting point by the team. And the Dolphins have offered to go one step further and repay Miami-Dade for the $120 million the county would be expected to put into the renovation, the NFL source said. The remaining $44 million would come from a state sales-tax subsidy.

The new details on the Dolphins’ offer come as the team faces pressure to close a deal with Gimenez and then launch a campaign to win a countywide referendum that would be needed to get the funding plan approved. The Dolphins want to pay for a portion of the renovations with a new $3 million rebate on sales tax it pays the state, as well as with new dollars generated by increasing the taxes charged mainland Miami-Dade hotels to 7 percent from 6 percent.

More here.

Senate budget includes money for Dozier probe

The Senate's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $200,000 to help University of South Florida researchers continue to look for forgotten graves at a former state-run reform school. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the money will help investigators continue to identify gravesites on the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

“This funding is crucial to helping USF analyze the cemetery at the former school," Stargel said via a news release. "This the right thing to do, so that we may provide some form of closure for the family members who tragically lost loved ones at this site."

The Florida House also said it will fully fund USF's request, which was for $190,000. And U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has identified a federal grant program that could also assist with the Dozier investigation.

The federal program, run by the Department of Justice, allocates up to $3 million to universities and non-profit organizations that wish to exhume bodies and identify missing people using DNA technology.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a court petition asking for permission to allow a medical examiner to exhume bodies at the site. Read more on the work of the USF researchers here.

President Obama to visit PortMiami


President Barack Obama will visit PortMiami when he comes into town Friday to speak about the economy.

More details of Obama's trip have yet to become available. But it's a high-profile visit for the port, which has been getting a lot of bipartisan attention recently from elected officials. Republican Gov. Rick Scott acknowledged Port Director Bill Johnson during his annual "state of the state" speech earlier this month.

The governor touted the jobs to be created by a port dredging project.

Rick Scott unveils first 2014 campaign ad

Gov. Rick Scott is officially in reelection mode.

Scott unveiled a high-quality campaign video on his Facebook page Monday called "first time" (nope, not like writer/actress Lena Dunham cheekily describing her first time voting for Barack Obama).

"This is the first time in five years that our unemployment rate has been below the national average," Scott says, "but we're not stopping there."

In the ad, Scott repeats talking points about the poor shape of the economy "in the four years before I became governor" (listening, Charlie Crist?), compared to the state's private sector growth (+282,000 jobs) and declining unemployment rate (now 7.8 percent) since he took office.

The scene: The March 18 press conference at Mitsubishi Power Systems in Orlando, where Scott is surrounded by a crew of approving employees in T-shirts and safety goggles as he talks into a mic. The unnamed facility manager tells the camera "it's unbelievable" how much better shape the state is in these days, and that he has hired 150 new employees. Another man says, "Gov. Scott gets it."

Gone is his 2010 mantra "let's get to work." Scott's new slogan, to the surprise of no one who watched his State of the State address or heard him speak this month, is "it's working." The video is hosted at ItsWorkingFlorida.com and paid for by his political committee, Let's Get to Work.

Marco Rubio to co-chair national security group

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein will co-chair the Senate's National Security Working Group, a bipartisan group founded in 1985 as a forum for national security matters.

"While the group initially focused on monitoring executive branch negotiations with foreign governments on arms control, weapons of mass destruction and missile defense, its activities have expanded to include policy examinations of terrorism, export controls and other issues to be determined by the administrative co-chairs in consultation with Senate leadership," read a statement from the senators.

“I have been impressed by Senator Rubio’s work as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I look forward to working together with him to revive the National Security Working Group and provide critical oversight of the executive branch’s negotiations with foreign governments,” Feinstein said. “Our country faces no shortage of national security and foreign policy challenges including arms control, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and emerging cyber threats.  It is our hope the National Security Working Group will serve as a constructive forum for all senators to actively participate in these and other security matters.”

Said Rubio: “It is vital to our country’s defense and foreign policy objectives that the Senate consider the wide range of issues that cut across different committees to advance America’s interests around the world,” said Rubio. “I look forward to working with Senator Feinstein to foster a productive working environment within the NSWG that that allows Senators to confront the many national security challenges facing our country. In particular, given the Administration’s recent announcements about missile defense and reports of a potential new round of arms control discussions with Russia, I see great value in the Group continuing its traditional role of overseeing the Executive Branch’s policies on those issues as well as examining new and emerging threats."


Rick Scott mum on Internet cafe ban bill

Gov. Rick Scott still isn't saying whether he'll support legislation banning Internet sweepstakes cafes in Florida.

Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Monday afternoon, Scott said he is waiting to see what the Legislature does before taking a position. Reading between the lines, it seems Scott wants to make sure the Senate passes a full ban before being forced to take a stand. (The House passed the ban on Friday.)

"I want to see what they're going to do," the governor said.

Scott, who took questions for an hour, remained hyper-focused on his two priorities of giving public school teachers a $2,500 pay raise and cutting a sales tax for manufacturers.

He also sounded less partisan, talking up relationships with President Barack Obama's cabinet, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Arne,” as Scott referred to him, called to recommend Tony Bennett as Scott’s new education commissioner.

Other notes:

On the lieutenant governor search: “People are giving me plenty of ideas.” Scott didn’t drop any names.

On Friday’s big Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast basketball game: “I’d like both those teams to win.”

On the Senate’s Medicaid expansion compromise: Scott supports the idea in principle. “I want to make sure everyone has access to quality health care.”

On gay marriage: Scott wouldn’t say if he supported a 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and wouldn’t say if he supports the ban today. “It’s in the Constitution.”

Scott also said he’s hired a full-time headhunter in his office, and that the headhunter helped find new Department of Management Services secretary Craig Nichols.

Marco Rubio brings GOP hope with Hispanics but challenges remain

By Alex Leary

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Sorry, Washington superstar, Time magazine coverboy and hip-hop maven, she’s never heard of you.

“Marco Rubio?” said 28-year-old Memorie Annese, taking her daughters to a public library in this city tucked amid soaring mountains and the Rio Grande.

But the Mexican-American, school bus-driving union member who voted for President Barack Obama didn’t hesitate when asked if she would consider a Republican candidate with immigrant roots.

“Heck yeah — if he’s good,” Annese said. “There’s a connection.”

As the Florida senator explores a presidential run, her reaction undercuts Democratic assertions that non-Cuban Hispanics “don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio,” as Obama strategist David Plouffe said recently.

Interviews with voters in Hispanic-rich New Mexico, which Obama won twice, and Texas, a Republican bastion inching Democratic, suggest that Rubio could inspire goodwill and pride among minorities who shunned the GOP in the past two presidential elections.

“Having a president who is Hispanic, I can’t even explain it,” said Esmirna Corona, a college student in El Paso. “If people see Rubio is Hispanic, they’ll take time to check him out. With Mitt Romney, I was like no. Then I looked at his position on immigration and was like definitely not.”

More here.

ICE freed some criminals among immigrants freed in Florida after sequester

By Alfonso Chardy

José López was at the Krome detention center awaiting possible deportation to his native Nicaragua when, on Feb. 26, immigration officials suddenly released him.

Overjoyed, López went home that day to rejoin his family in Miami for the first time since he was first arrested several months ago and deportation proceedings were initiated.

López was one of the 2,228 immigrant detainees recently released nationwide by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who cited the controversial budgetary sequester.

Among those were 225 foreign nationals freed within the jurisdiction of the ICE Miami deportation unit, which includes Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias.

A federal official familiar with the issue said that 76 of the 225 had criminal convictions, including two who were considered aggravated felons.

While not in detention any longer, these foreign nationals remain under supervised release.

The detainees were released between Feb. 9 and March 1, federal officials in Miami said.

Originally, ICE officials said only a few hundred detained immigrants had been released nationwide. But on March 14, in testimony before a congressional committee in Washington, ICE chief John Morton revealed that the total was higher than had previously been acknowledged.

Morton said the freed detainees included not only undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, but also people convicted of theft, financial crimes and drunk driving.

“In some cases, multiple DUIs,” Morton told a House appropriations subcommittee.

More here.

Miami-Dade mayor stumps for Coral Gables mayoral candidate

By Howard Cohen

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez popped over to the Biltmore Hotel’s Fontana Courtyard Tuesday evening to host a fundraiser for Coral Gables commissioner Ralph Cabrera.

Cabrera, who is term-limited, is seeking the Gables mayor’s seat in a race against incumbent Jim Cason.

Gimenez and Cabrera, two old pals who once coached football together at the Coral Gables Youth Center, swapped stories amid the politics.

Gimenez said he supported Cabrera’s campaign because of their personal connection — “Ralph and I have been friends a long time” — and because he feels that fiscal accountability will be a primary goal to tackle in Coral Gables.

“We have to bring in fiscal accountability and accountability in general, and he’s the better person for the job,” Gimenez said. “Not to take away from the current mayor, but Ralph would do a better job and we’ve known each other longer.”

More here.