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16 posts from April 8, 2013

April 08, 2013

Miami Dolphins reach stadium renovation deal with Miami-Dade County


The Miami Dolphins would receive about $7.5 million a year in hotel taxes to renovate Sun Life Stadium under a deal endorsed by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez late Monday night. Now, the agreement faces a countywide referendum.

County commissioners are expected to convene Wednesday to endorse the deal and send it on to the countywide vote on May 14, a week before NFL owners meet to award Super Bowls 50 and 51. The Dolphins have agreed to forgo county money if one of the games is not awarded to the Miami Gardens stadium.

“This is really about bringing marquee events to Miami-Dade,’’ Gimenez said after the deal was struck, shortly after 10 p.m. “This is a very, very favorable deal when you compare it to other stadium deals around the country."

The Super Bowl proviso is one of several potential penalties in the deal that Gimenez and team executives outlined after a marathon negotiating session that kept both sides in County Hall for 23 hours.

"This is really an investment in economic development,’’ team CEO Mike Dee said. “We said this would be a business deal."

Dee and Gimenez described the rough outlines of a deal that will be presented in detail to county commissioners Tuesday morning. Among the terms: Miami-Dade would increase its mainland hotel tax to 7 percent from 6 percent, and give the Dolphins 75 percent of the new revenue up to $7.5 million a year in Year One. Each year, that dollar cap would increase by 3 percent. The payout would expire in 26 years.

At the end of 30 years, the Dolphins would refund between $110 and $120 million to the county — Miami-Dade’s estimated share of a renovation project that would cost at least $350 million.

More, with Douglas Hanks, here.

Miami-Dade Democrats question Dolphins stadium renovation deal


The Miami-Dade Democratic Party issued a statement late Monday questioning a subsidized renovation of the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium. (The statement was apparently written before the deal was announced, also late Monday.)

"At a time when we are cutting funding from much-needed programs, I find it appalling that our taxpayers — after our recent experience with the Marlins — are once again being asked to foot the bill for a billionaire sports team owner," Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein said in the statement.

The Democrats were under some pressure to take a position on the matter, after the Miami-Dade Republican Party opposed the proposal last week, in an extraordinary resolution that called out members of its own party.

Read the full statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade Democrats question Dolphins stadium renovation deal" »

Documentary film - 'Hating Breitbart" - to be shown in Miami on May 17

The Washington Times described the late Andrew Breitbart as "a legend within the conservative community and the living embodiment of a journalistic warrior who fought against intellectual dishonesty in the media."

Breitbart, who died of a heart attack last year at age 43, is not a fond memory for the Liberal Left.

He was the filmaker who exposed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform NOW -- better known by its acronym ACORN. In 2009, he caught ACORN workers in an undercover video advising a young couple on how to keep from paying taxes from money earned in prostitution. ACORN disappeared. He also played a role in uncovering the Twitter sex scandal of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat. Weiner disappeared.

His life's work is now the subject of a documentary that will be in theaters around the country. Among the stops is Miami on May 17 at the Palace 18 Cinemas, 11865 SW 26 St. Showtimes are to be announced.

Here's the press release:

Continue reading "Documentary film - 'Hating Breitbart" - to be shown in Miami on May 17" »

Jay-Z and Beyonce's Cuba trip may be legal, but they still might face sanction trouble

From El Nuevo Herald's Juan Tamayo:

Superstar couple Beyoncé and Jay Z will likely claim that they had a legal permit for their controversial trip to Cuba, but they and their retinue might still face trouble with the complex U.S. sanctions on the island. U.S. government and travel industry officials say.

Their visit to the communist-ruled island last week led two Cuban-Americans in Congress to ask the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces sanctions on Cuba, if the couple had an OFAC license for the trip.

Cuba’s official media reported the couple was on a tourist visit, which would be illegal under the half-century-old U.S. embargo. They celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Havana and took along their respective mothers and at least one bodyguard.

But while U.S. laws and regulations allow Cuban-Americans to make unlimited trips to the island for “family reunification” visits, U.S. residents and citizens who are not Cuban American face a tangled web of OFAC restrictions.

They can travel under “specific licenses” obtained in advance from OFAC, for instance for educational trips known as “people to people travel.” Or they can go under “general licenses” for purposes such as journalism or cultural research, which do not require prior approval but can be challenged and punished by OFAC afterward.

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What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart

What do Jay-Z, Beyonce and Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor have in common?

All went to Cuba last week.

And all have shown relatively little concern for human-rights violations on the island controlled by the Castro dictatorship, said Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who serves with Castor in Congress.

Castor’s office disputed the criticism, pointing to press statements where the Democrat has met with Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez and called for independent investigations into the deaths of others.

But it’s not enough for Diaz-Balart, a Republican leader in Miami’s exile community who raised questions last week about the legality of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba. That visit overshadowed one made by Castor, who travelled on an unrelated mission to increase business opportunities between Tampa and Cuba.

“She [Castor] has been consistent in trying to help business groups and big-business interests do business with the dictatorship,” said Diaz-Balart. “Unfortunately, she has not been very concerned about human-rights violations, about demanding freedom of the press... about free elections."

Diaz-Balart noted that Beyonce performed for the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2009 at a private concert attended by Jay-Z and others in the Caribbean.

“She [Beyonce] has a history of not being too concerned about human rights,” Diaz-Balart said.

Continue reading "What Beyonce and Rep. Castor have in common: neither cares much about Cuba human rights, says Rep. Diaz-Balart" »

Texting while driving bill clears last committee hurdle

After trying to pass a texting while driving law for for years, Sen. Nancy Detert can finally see the finish line ahead

“I really couldn’t be more thrilled,” said the Venice Republican, after Senate Bill 52 passed by a unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon, the last committee stop before heading to the Senate floor. “We finally have it in a position to pass it in the Senate and in the House and the governor has signified he’s willing to sign it, too, so hopefully we’re home free this year.”  

Continue reading "Texting while driving bill clears last committee hurdle" »

Expert: Ethics bill's 'blind trust' provision would 'blind the public' but protect officials

Tucked into a bill hailed by Senate leaders as the “most sweeping ethics reform” in decades is a provision that could shield elected officials from disclosing conflicts of interest or questionable assets.

Under SB 2, which passed the Senate on the first day of the legislative session, any public official who wants to avoid disclosing embarrassing financial information on their financial disclosure forms could create a blind trust to hold their assets.

“This really would be a wolf in sheep’s clothing,’’ said Phil Claypool, the former director of the Florida Ethics Commission who retired last year. “The whole idea is to protect both the public official and the public from conflicts of interest” but under the Senate bill “you’ve just got room for all kinds of mischief.’’

The Senate bill — for the first time in Florida — provides for “blind trusts” for elected officials and was promoted as a way to help public officials “avoid potential conflicts of interest” by allowing them to hand off responsibility for investing their assets to a trustee. The idea is that an elected official would be “blind” to what he owned because the trustee would be banned from disclosing how the assets are invested.

The measure is part of a larger ethics reform package that includes new laws that would force public officials to disclose conflicts and face new restrictions on who they can work for while in office or when they retire from office.

But Claypool believes that the Senate bill essentially “stands the concept of a ‘blind trust’ on its head’’ by creating a “cloak of invisibility” in which elected officials simply “pay a lawyer to draw up a trust” and hide behind it. Story here. 


Marco Rubio: Obama administration should explain how Jay-Bey Cuba trip is legal


A statement from Sen. Marco Rubio on the now-controversial Cuba trip taken by entertainers Jay-Z and Beyonce:

“U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime.  Since their inception, the Obama Administration’s 'people to people' cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom and either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re essentially funding the regime’s systematic trampling of people’s human rights.

“According to recent news reports, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Cuba trip, which the regime seized on for propaganda purposes, was fully licensed by the Treasury Department.  If true, the Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

'Anti-sharia' legislation narrowly passes Senate committee

Legislation known as the "anti-sharia" law passed its second-to-last committee in the Senate on a slim 5-4 margin Monday.

Democrats could have defeated SB 58, but a freshman broke ranks and sided with Republicans to keep the bill alive.

If it becomes law, courts would be restricted from applying foreign laws to certain legal disputes, including divorces and child custody cases. Opponents have criticized the proposal as part of a national movement to limit the use of Sharia law -- a Koran-based policy used in some Islamic countries -- that is based more on fear than real problems in the U. S. court system. Jewish organizations and civil rights groups have also criticized SB 58.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, split with the other Republicans on the committeee and voted "no" on the bill. He joined three of the four Democrats on the committee.

There was an audible gasp in the room when Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, voted "yes." Thompson did not express support for the bill during debate, which followed roughly an hour of public testimony that was evenly split between supporters and opponents.

After the meeting, Thompson said she voted "yes" because the proposal is written in a way that it would only come into play if a foreign law was in conflict with U.S. law. "It's not a blanket prohibition against international law," she said.

Former Lt. Gov. Carroll files amended financial form

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has filed an amended financial disclosure form for 2010 specifying that her P.R. business was paid $16,047 that year, some of it by Allied Veterans of the World, the controversial veterans' group that led to her resignation  last month.

Carroll initially listed "N/A" as her 2010 income to her public relations firm, 3N. & J.C. Consulting of Green Cove Springs. The revised Form 6 Statement of Financial Interests was released Monday by the Commission on Ethics. Carroll's decision to submit new paperwork was first reported by the
Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

"She determined that her 2010 filing contained an error," said Carroll's spokesman, Rick
Oppenheim, who said the $16,047 reflected the total income that year from Carroll's public relations consulting and "also includes other business activities that incurred losses."

-- Steve Bousquet