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6 posts from August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013

Sources: Commissioner Francis Suarez to abandon Miami mayoral race


Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez will pull out of the race for mayor on Tuesday, after a series of miscues by staffers set the fledgling campaign on its heels, sources said Monday.

Suarez has until Tuesday evening to inform the city clerk’s office of his intent to resign his commission seat to run for mayor in order to qualify for the Nov. 5 mayoral race.

Suarez didn’t respond to calls or texts by late Monday afternoon. The city clerk’s office said it had no indication of Suarez’s plans.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Suarez’s main opponent in November, said he bumped into Suarez at a Starbuck’s coffee shop on Coral Way Monday morning and that they spoke briefly. The mayor said Suarez told him he was mulling over his choices and would make an announcement of some type Tuesday.

“He said he’d get back to me,” said Regalado. “He said he was considering his options.” Without Suarez in the race, Regalado is expected to coast to victory. The only rivals left are relative unknowns.

The Suarez campaign, though flush with cash, has been mired in missteps over the past few months.

More here.

Smith seeks changes to SYG law

For the second year in a row, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith will try to amend Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

Smith's proposal, SB 122, would prevent individuals from initiating or "unreasonably escalating" a deadly conflict -- and then claiming immunity from prosecution under the self-defense law. Immunity would also be denied to individuals who left a place of safety or chased someone down.

"The ‘Last Man Standing’ escape hatch would finally close with the passage of this legislation,” Smith wrote in a press release.

Additionally, Smith's proposal has language requiring sheriffs and municipal police departments to craft guidelines on neighborhood watch programs.

From the bill text: "The guidelines must include, but not be limited to, prohibiting a neighborhood crime watch patrol participant who is on patrol from confronting or attempting to apprehend a person suspected of improper or unlawful activity except in those circumstances in which a reasonable person would be permitted, authorized, or expected to assist another person."

That language, of course, is a reference to Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who fatally shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder earlier this year.

Smith said the Stand Your Ground law had a "troubled track record in Florida" long before the shooting in Sanford.

"This law is neither working as intended nor protecting those it was intended to protect," Smith said. "Unless the critics are comfortable with continuing to give deadly aggressors a free pass from prosecution, these long overdue and reasonable changes need to be made.”

PolitiFact Florida looks at pro-marijuana ad

Just as fans were filing into the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a big television screen by the entrance displayed a pro-pot ad with the headline "A new beer?"

The ad, which opens with smiling young adults hoisting their brew mugs, drew outrage from lots of sources, including the St. Petersburg-based Drug Free America Foundation. The TV screen company, Grazie Media, pulled the ad after a few hours.

The ad said: "If you’re an adult who enjoys a good beer, there’s a similar product you might want to know about, one without all the calories and serious health problems. Less toxic so it doesn’t cause hangovers or overdose deaths. And it’s not linked to violence or reckless behavior. Marijuana. Less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way."

The ad is interesting in the context of an effort in Florida to get a proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot. People United for Medical Marijuana has collected enough voter signatures to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the proposed amendment language.

The ad addresses many issues, but in this fact-check, we decided to focus on the idea that marijuana is "less toxic" than alcohol.

Read on for the fact-check and rating.  Leave a comment here.



Homestead mayor under investigation gets pink slip from nonprofit


Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman has been fired.

Not from his mayoral office, the one that pays a modest $6,000 a year.

He has been dumped from the one that paid him the real money — $125 an hour. That’s his job with Community Health of South Florida, Inc., a nonprofit that needs favors from the city.

Early this year, Bateman leveraged his elective office to secure a secret side job as construction consultant for CHI.

Now, Bateman said, because of an article in the Miami Herald and a television piece by CBS4’s Jim DeFede, CHI has let him go. Both reports revealed the lucrative relationship between the mayor and the healthcare outfit.

That relationship is part of an ongoing investigation of the mayor by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

More here.

For Common Core, a new challenge -- from the left

Conventional wisdom held that liberals and teachers supported the new Common Core curriculum standards.

Until the Badass Teachers Association crashed the party.

The 25,000 BATs, as they call themselves, are pushing back against the national standards with Twitter strikes, town hall meetings and snarky Internet memes. They have no qualms with the theory behind the new benchmarks, but they fear the larger movement places too much emphasis on testing and will stifle creativity in the classroom.

“It’s not just the Tea Party that’s skeptical of the Common Core,” said Bonnie Cunard, a Fort Myers teacher who manages the Facebook page for the 1,200 Florida BATs. “We on the left, like the folks on the right, are saying we want local control.”

The BATs represent a new wave of liberal opposition to the Common Core standards, which includes some union leaders, progressive activists and Democratic lawmakers. They are joining forces with Tea Party groups and libertarians, who want states like Florida to slow down efforts to adopt the new benchmarks and corresponding tests.

They face an uphill battle. The Common Core standards have a strong base of support that includes both Democrats and Republicans. What’s more, the standards are already being taught across all grade levels in Florida.

“Our commitment [to the Common Core] is strong because it is the best decision for the future of our state and most importantly, the future of our students,” interim state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a statement.

Read more here.

Goodwill Industries uses federal exemption to pay workers below minimum wage


On the factory floor at Goodwill Industries of South Florida, cerebral palsy doesn’t stop Donnie Williams from stitching one button hole after another into the military trousers the Miami non-profit makes for the Pentagon.

But workplace productivity calculations did conclude the disability prevents the 58-year-old from stitching as many button holes as would someone without the condition. As a result, Williams earns $4.22 an hour, according to a Goodwill supervisor, about 45 percent below Florida’s minimum hourly wage of $7.79.

The gap is allowed under a federal program designed to create jobs for people with significant disabilities, both as a way to train them for a spot in the workforce and to help them lead more active lives. Disclosure forms show Goodwill in recent years paid some workers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale less than 40 cents an hour, while the average wage hit $4.76 for nearly 300 garment workers like Williams in the program. More here.