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7 posts from September 18, 2013

September 18, 2013

Miami-Dade commissioner defeated after ethics, mismanagement troubles intends to run for old seat


Nearly three years after becoming the first incumbent to be ousted from the Miami-Dade County Commission in 16 years, Dorrin D. Rolle appears intent on making a comeback.

Rolle, 68, filed paperwork last week to run for his old seat next year. He would challenge the man who won an upset victory against him in 2010, Jean Monestime.

Monestime handily defeated Rolle, despite raising far less in campaign money. Rolle was plagued by ethical troubles and the specter of the late James E. Scott Community Association, a nonprofit liquidated in bankruptcy court after Rolle, its steward, stepped down.

Monestime represents District 2, which includes much of North Miami, North Miami Beach, Liberty City and Biscayne Gardens. Another candidate, pastor Antwane Dwayne Lenoir, has also filed to run.

Monestime did not return a call or text message Wednesday seeking comment. Rolle answered his cell phone, said he would call back and then had an aide request questions in writing. 

The questions were not immediately answered.

Ethics commission dismisses charges against four local legislators

The Florida Ethics Commission has dismissed a series of ethics complaints against two local senators and two state representatives for failing to include financial information on their annual financial disclosure forms.

Meeting in a closed-door meeting last week, the commission dismissed a complaint against Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, for failing to include a $278,000 home she owns in The Villages on financial disclosure forms she filed between 2006 and 2011. The commission had dismissed a previous complaint that she failed to properly report her ownership of a Tallahassee condo as well.

The commission also dropped claims that Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, filed an incomplete financial disclosure form in 2011, concluding that “the public interest would not be served by further proceedings because the addresses of properties were readily discoverable through public sources.”

The commission found probable cause that while Rep. Jose Raul Oliva, R-Miami, failed to properly identify an asset on his 2011 disclosure form, it will take no action.

And the commission voted to close its file and dismiss a complaint filed against Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, because the complainant “denied filing the complaint, and was unresponsive to a written request for clarification.” The commission said the allegations contained in the complaint are the same as matters already pending final action by the board.

In December, the Ethics Commission found probable cause that Fresen failed to properly disclose his annual net worth, assets, and liabilities from 2008 to 2011 after a lender filed a foreclosure suit against him. Fresen is fighting the ethics charges, calling the allegation a “baseless” political attack by a political opponent.

Here's the link to the commission's release. 

Fugate tells Congress: It's up to you to stop rate increases for flood insurance

 Craig FugateCongress must rewrite the federal flood control act  if it wants to spare homeowners from skyrocketing rate increases, the nation’s top disaster official told a Senate committee Wednesday, saying he doesn’t have the authority to stop it.

“Let me put my cards on the table: I need your help,’’ said Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Fugate said that despite indications that many homeowners could face massive rate increases for their homes in flood prone areas of the nation starting Oct. 1, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 included no provisions for affordability -- and he can't change that.

“Without some additional legislative support, there is no provision for affordability in this bill,’’ he said.

Fugate told the committee that he supported some modification because he has “found very little leeway as to how we can address affordability under the act.”  

“I fully believe we should stop subsidizing risk as we go forward for new construction for second homes…but we need to look at not putting people out of their homes because flood insurance is too expensive.”

The hearing was called by senators who are increasingly alarmed by estimated rate increases for homeowners as a result of the act. With nearly 2 million homeowners covered under the act, Florida may be one of the hardest hit states in the nation. 

Continue reading "Fugate tells Congress: It's up to you to stop rate increases for flood insurance" »

Jeb Bush pushes back against Common Core critics "comfortable with mediocrity"


Jeb Bush confronted criticism of Common Core during an appearance in Washington, blasting it as "purely political."

"If you're comfortable with mediocrity, fine," Bush said.

He appeared at the National Press Club in support of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who decried a U.S. Department of Justice threat against Louisiana's school voucher program.

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Miami NPR affiliate spikes spy-book author interview to not upset Cuban exiles


It's tough to top Juan Tamayo's story today story about a Miami radio station's self-censorship of a Canadian author. It evokes so many passions and speaks so much about living here: spies, fear of angry Cuban exiles, crime, justice.

But it's also a tale of journalism and the abdication of it by WLRN (an NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner) for canceling discussion of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, which attacks the Miami trial of the now-convicted spies.

WLRN's Joseph Cooper, executive producer of Topical Currents, believes the five are Cuban agents. Cooper's probably right. But author Stephen Kimber, apparently, is "presupposing the innocence of the Cuban Five,” Cooper said.

Continue reading "Miami NPR affiliate spikes spy-book author interview to not upset Cuban exiles" »

Despite new ethics law, Precourt a candidate for Orlando toll job

Well that didn’t take long.

SB 2 was dubbed the most “comprehensive ethics reform package since 1976” when it was signed into law with widespread support from lawmakers earlier this year.

The centerpiece of the far-ranging 64-page bill was a new provision prohibiting lawmakers from taking a job with another public agency and another one that banned lawmakers from lobbying the governor’s office and executive branch agencies for two years after they leave office (lawmakers were already banned from lobbying the legislative branch). The intent was to prevent lawmakers from using their positions for their own private gain.

So just four months after Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law, a lawmaker is up for a job that, if he takes it, would appear to be a major violation of the law.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando, is being mentioned as a possible replacement for Max Crumit, who is resigning from his job as executive director of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority on Oct. 1. Crumit was forced out on Aug. 28 when the board voted 3-2 to oust him.

This wouldn’t be the first time Precourt, 52, was mentioned as a possible director of the agency, which is currently overseeing a $1 billion construction campaign. A professional transportation engineer, Precourt was considered in 2011 for the job. But he had another conflict at the time. He was a principal in an Orlando engineering firm Dyer, Riddle, Mills & Precourt, now known as DRMP Inc., and still had financial ties to the firm. DRMP has gotten $10.5 million worth of contracts from the authority from 2008 to 2011.

Are these just rumors? If so, why do they keep popping up? Precourt couldn’t be reached.

Precourt was elected to the Florida House in 2006. Term limits will force him to leave office next year. He served one year as Majority Leader for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, but was replaced in late July by incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.

Weatherford said he hasn’t heard from Precourt about his plans.

“I am planning on him being here through next year unless he tells me otherwise,” Weatherford said. “So far, I haven’t heard anything.”

Scott pens letter to Rubio and Nelson urging delay in flood insurance hikes

As the U.S. Senate Banking Committee plans a hearing today on the planned rate hike on flood insurance policies, Gov. Rick Scott is urging Florida's senators to push for a delay and an extension in the federal subsidies.

"In cases where new maps move a property into a flood zone, homeowners may find it impossible to sell their properties to a new owner who will be shocked with the massive premium increases required to secure a mortgage,'' Scott wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. "This unfair consequence could devastate parts of Florida's real estate market, stymie Florida's economic recovery, and diminish the state's tax base."

Under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, flood insurance rates will rise about 20 percent annually beginning Oct. 1 for homes in older, flood-zone areas that have previously enjoyed subsidized rate. The rate increases will continue until their premiums reflect the full market risk.

The rate increases are intended to keep the national flood insurance program from spiraling into insolvency by phasing out lower, subsidized rates for older properties in flood zones.

Continue reading "Scott pens letter to Rubio and Nelson urging delay in flood insurance hikes" »