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5 posts from November 3, 2013

November 03, 2013

2 days before election, Miami-Dade mayor still hesitant on Jackson hospital vote

@PatriciaMazzei

The Miami-Dade County Commission agreed this summer to place a question on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters if they wanted to raise the property-tax rate to fund $830 million in bonds for the Jackson Health System.

At the time, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he had reservations about the taxpayer-funded upgrades.

Time has apparently done nothing to change his mind.

On Sunday, two days before Election Day, Gimenez said he still had unanswered questions about Jackson's needs given federal healthcare reform.

"I believe that Jackson needs money for capital," Gimenez told WPLG-ABC 10's Michael Putney on This Week in South Florida. "I'm not sure $830 million is the right amount."

He didn't say how he plans to vote -- the mayor is known to prefer to go to the polls on Election Day and not during early voting. But his lukewarm response was less than encouraging for a campaign looking to raise money for a public hospital system ultimately accountable to county leaders.

Making things even more awkward: Several key political consultants working on the Jackson bond campaign engineered Gimenez's mayoral run -- including one of his sons, Carlos J. Gimenez.

Rogues of Medicare: FBI tracking down fraud fugitives from South Florida

@jayhweaver

In Miami’s very deep sea of Medicare fraud, Carmen Gonzalez was a minnow.

So when federal agents recently nabbed her after five years on the lam, it didn’t exactly make a splash. But her arrest was the latest in an under-the-radar round-up of fugitive scammers who have branded Miami with the dubious title of the nation’s capital of healthcare corruption.

Gonzalez had played a supporting role in one of the region’s biggest, baddest Medicare rip-offs. She first worked as a cleaning lady, and then as a nurse who paid kickbacks to patients, for the notorious Benitez brothers — three sharks who ran 11 Miami-Dade clinics that swindled a staggering $84 million from the taxpayer-funded program, authorities say.

In the spring of 2008, Gonzalez and her father, Enrique, who also worked for the Benitez brothers, fled Miami after they were separately charged. The brothers — Carlos, Luis and Jose — also left Miami soon after they were indicted that May.

Where did they all go? Cuba — No. 1 among Latin American destinations of choice for South Florida’s Medicare fraud fugitives. Together, they stole hundreds of millions of dollars by filing billions in false claims for everything from medical equipment to HIV-therapy infusion drugs.

More here. Database here.

Fate of $830 million Jackson hospital bond issue lies with Miami-Dade voters

@dchangmiami

The brief campaign to win public financing for Jackson Health System’s long-term needs wraps up this week as Miami-Dade voters cast ballots Tuesday and decide whether to raise their property taxes to fund $830 million in upgrades and new equipment and facilities for the county’s public hospital network.

“We’re now in the home stretch,” Carlos Migoya, Jackson’s chief executive, said this week during a meeting of the Public Health Trust, which governs the hospital system. “It’s all about the turnout of people who believe in the future of Jackson.”

Having spent the past three months speaking to civic groups and homeowners associations, giving interviews on television and radio, and participating in media events at the hospital, Migoya has been the campaign’s most public face.

Separately, campaigns run by Jackson’s employee unions and a political action committee have staged voter drives with doctors and nurses casting early-voting ballots in scrubs and lab coats, and they have unleashed a wave of glossy advertisements and radio and TV ads — as well as airplane banners at football games — urging residents to “Vote Yes.”

The campaign’s message is focused tightly on Jackson’s “miracles,” the stories of individual Miami-Dade residents and others who have received life-saving organ transplants, trauma care and other services through the hospital system.

More here.

Miami voters to pick mayor, commissioners and vote on future of Coconut Grove waterfront

@ChuckRabin

Are Miamians satisfied with the stewardship of Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Frank Carollo?

With Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones term-limited, does anyone particularly standout from a group of four candidates whose resumés indicate they are all capable of representing the city’s most diverse district?

Does a chunk of Coconut Grove waterfront near City Hall need a makeover, or is the $18 million plan too bulky and obtrusive?

Tuesday, Miami voters from Flagami to Little Havana, Overtown to Liberty City, and Coconut Grove to Shorecrest will answer those questions as they make their way to the city’s polling stations between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Though Regalado appears likely to win a second term, voters throughout the city will have the opportunity to voice their opinion of the job the mayor has done the past four years by casting a vote for Regalado, or for one of three other candidates contending for the post.

More here.

Convention Center hangs in balance of Miami Beach elections

@cveiga

Miami Beach’s ambitious but perennially-challenged plan to overhaul its convention center district hangs in the balance this election season.

When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they will have a clear choice between candidates who want to see the massive project move forward, and those who want to see it drastically scaled down. Voters will also decide on a referendum that could make the project harder to ultimately pass.

If a new commission is elected and the referendum passes, it would represent a victory for one person in particular: current Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson.

Wolfson has led a one-man fight against the scope and scale of the current billion-dollar plan, which encompasses 52-acres of prime real estate smack in the middle of South Beach. It was Wolfson who landed the referendum on the ballot. He also successfully took his own city to court to get another ballot item — this one asking voters to approve the total convention center project — kicked off. And he did it all without the political support of his fellow commissioners, impressing even his staunchest opponents.

More here.