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6 posts from December 9, 2013

December 09, 2013

Proponents of Sunrise casino destination make their case in Senate gaming committee

The Florida Panthers hockey team could be the first major sports team linked to a destination casino if legislators permit an expansion of gambling, proponents said Monday after a meeting of the Senate Committee on Gaming.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment is partnering with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation on its proposal for a hotel, spa and casino with 50,000 square feet for meeting space on the land adjacent to the BB & T Center in the city of Sunrise. Broward County owns the land.

The BB & T Center, which hosts concerts and special events as well as hockey games, is across the road from Sawgrass Mills, considered Florida's second-largest tourist destination with more than 350 outlet stores, and near the Sawgrass Expressway and other roads, factors that make it a prime location for the casino/hotel resort, said Michael Yormark, president and CEO of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment and the Florida Panthers NHL hockey team.

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AG Pam Bondi's political committees report $149k cash haul in November

From an email:

Two committees affiliated with Attorney General Pam Bondi have reported raising collectively more than $140,000 in the month of November. And Justice for All, ECO raised $47,500, bringing its total raised to more than $941,500. In its first month of fundraising Justice for All, PC reported raising $102,250.

The total raised collectively by the two committees since being established in July of this year totals $1,043,832.

For clarification, these committees and the total amounts listed here are separate from and do not include funds raised into the re-election campaign account of Attorney General Pam Bondi.

And Justice for All is registered with the Florida Division of Elections as an Electioneering Communications Organization. Justice for All is registered with the Florida Division of Elections as Political Committee.

More details on these committees can be found at:

And Justice for All, ECO: http://andjusticeforallfl.com/

Justice for All, PC: http://justiceforallflorida.com/

NAACP: Dept. of Justice needs to investigate Miami Gardens PD harassment of citizens

From a press release about the treatement of Miami Gardens residents at the hands of a police department as first reported in the Miami Herald.

Adora Obi Nweze, President of the NAACP Florida State Conference, NAACP National Board Member and President of the Miami Dade Branch; David Honig, Special Counsel for the Florida NAACP and President Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Dr. Shirley Johnson, Florida State Conference NAACP Education Chair and Vice President Miami Dade Branch NAACP; Amber Robinson, Participating Attorney for Fl NAACP and Staff Attorney Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.
The Florida State Conference NAACP is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the “Zero Tolerance Policy” of the Miami Gardens Police. The state conference and its Miami-Dade County Branch is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to direct the Justice Department to review the pattern of intimidation by officers of the Miami Gardens Police Department against local African-American residents.
The people of Miami Gardens are currently facing a crisis in the form of harassment and misconduct carried out by the Miami Gardens Police Department. The police have made hundreds of apprehensions of employees and customers of convenience stores for “trespassing.” This supposed “zero tolerance” initiative by the Department has left the Miami Gardens community shaken and uncertain of whether the police are willing to protect them from actual criminals.

Report ranks best, worst counties for voting in 2012

A report issued Monday by a liberal-leaning watchdog group ranks the best and worst counties in Florida for voting in the 2012 presidential election. The findings mirrored earlier conclusions by the Advancement Project as well as extensive news coverage of problems at the polls, most notably long lines at early voting sites in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties.

Titled "Florida's Worst Election Offenders," the report was prepared by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and utilized data from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. The report emphasized that its data shows that individuals' voting experiences can fluctuate wildly from county to county. "The people of Florida deserve better," the report said in its conclusions.

The paper cited Hillsborough for "poor administration (that) appears to have erroneously forced some of the county’s voters to vote provisionally" in 2012 and noted that the number of provisionals cast was the second-highest percentage of any Florida county and twice the state average. Jacksonville's Duval County led the state in the percentage of provisionals cast in 2012.

An analysis of the 40 most populous counties rankes St. Johns (county seat, St. Augustine) the best overall and Columbia County (Lake City) the worst based on nine different factors including voter registration rates, registration rates for African-Americans and Hispanics, wait times and rates of provisional and absentee ballots both cast and rejected.

The report accused Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington of "incompetent management" because the county faced wait times on Election Day of up to five hours because of too few ballot scanners. In contrast, the report said, adjacent Collier County had purchased extra scanners and its wait times did not exceed eight minutes.

Columbia had the lowest voter turnout (53.5 percent) in 2012 and St. Johns had the highest (83.6). Florida's turnout rate of 63.2 percent in 2012 exceeded the U.S. average of 59 percent for that cycle.

Pinellas County, where a special election for a congressional seat will be held in early 2014, scored high marks for its comparatively low rate of absentee ballots rejected -- a significant finding in a county where elections officials actively promote voting absentee or by mail. Among the 40 largest counties, Pinellas had the 35th lowest rejection rate for absentee ballots in 2012, at 0.26 percent.

-- Steve Bousquet

To rival nativity scene, beer-can adorned 'Festivus' pole, of Seinfeld parody fame, to rise in FL Capital

The News Service of Florida wins the insidernets today. The story:

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 9, 2013 ………. A nearly 6-foot-tall pole made from emptied beer cans, marking a parody holiday, will be put up in the Florida Capitol this week as a not-so-subtle protest to the recent placement of a Christian nativity scene.

The homemade Festivus pole will be erected most likely on Wednesday in the same first-floor rotunda as a nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ that was put up last week by the Florida Prayer Network.

“I still chuckle, I literally can’t believe there will be a pile of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the state rotunda,” said Chaz Stevens, a Deerfield Beach resident who applied to the state Department of Management Services to put the Festivus pole on display.

Stevens, who operates a blog that focuses on South Florida politics, said the intent of the Festivus pole is to make a political statement on the need for the separation of church and state.

He compared the Festivus pole to the nativity scene as “my ridiculous statement versus what I consider, as an atheist, as their ridiculous statement.”

Festivus is a "holiday" created for the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" as a non-commercial festival "for the rest of us" in the Christmas and year-end holiday season. Festivus, celebrated Dec. 23, comes with a ceremonial post-dinner "airing of the grievances" in which participants describe how they have been disappointed by others in the past year and engage in "feats of strength."

Festivus purists may favor a more-simple unadorned aluminum pole, but Stevens said the use of beer cans --- he wouldn't say who emptied the cans --- is in line with the irreverent spirit of those who celebrate the holiday.

Late last week, the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for non-theists and promotes the separation of church and state, also set up a "Bill of Rights nativity" banner in the rotunda. The foundation's banner states: "At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun --- the TRUE reason for the season."

Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, said last week that such displays only "shine more light" on her group’s message that she said isn’t to be viewed as a state-sponsorship of religion.

"It’s their right, they have a right to exercise freedom of speech, that’s what America is about," Olsen said. "It doesn’t faze me, it doesn’t faze the God I serve."

Olsen said of the banner "the foundation celebrates the birth of the unconquered sun, but I know the creator of the son.”

Stevens, a proud card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, requested the Festivus display space from the state Department of Management Services after reading about the nativity display. A preliminary approval was given Friday with the formal approval made Monday.

Ben Wolf, a spokesman for the Department of Management Services, said as long as there is space available, and the proposed display meets state guidelines, it would likely get approval.

"As long as it meets those guidelines and there is space available in the capitol, DMS is happy to allow all cultures, and denominations, and committees and groups to put up their holiday displays," Wolf said.

The department does limit the height of displays based on where they are located in the rotunda, and prohibits displays from blocking permanent memorials such as the Civil Rights and Veterans halls of fame. There are rules against noise and impeding official business.

Stevens got Deerfield Beach to put up a similar, but taller pole last year after a local group put up a nativity scene outside a city fire house.

In October, Deerfield Beach officials decided to ban all holiday displays on city-owned land that aren't put up by the local government.

"If you follow this and really are into this separation of church and state, holiday display thing, it’s a battle that’s fought all across America," Stevens said. "It’s not as simple as yes or no. It’s really a local issue."

The Festivus pole is expected to go up Wednesday, a day after Gov. Rick Scott and the members of the Florida Cabinet hold a tree-lighting ceremony to mark the arrival of Florida-grown Christmas trees outside their first floor offices.

The Florida Prayer Network’s nativity is to remain in place until Dec. 27.

Another nativity scene, by a group called Reclaim Christmas for Christ, is planned to be on display from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 for Three Kings Day.

Monday was the scheduled last day for a menorah display by the Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee. Stevens’ pole will go up where the menorah has been located.

Both the Festivus pole and the Freedom From Religion Foundation's banner are permitted to remain in place until Jan. 3.

Stevens said the problem with allowing one group to use public space to express its beliefs is that when one is allowed there will be more from even more-diverse groups.

“I’ve got kind a bizarre mind at times, but I’m sure that somebody’s not going to show the restraint that I have,” Stevens said.

Wolf said Monday morning the department had not received any other applications for holiday displays in the rotunda.

Budget cuts could be tricky for Miami-Dade mayor


Carlos Gimenez has a painful $56 million problem.

What he doesn’t have is a painless solution.

Miami-Dade commissioners, under pressure from labor unions, voted late Thursday to restore the pay of most county workers. The unplanned move will blow open a $56 million hole in the current $4.4 billion operating budget.

Mayor Gimenez’s administration will have to come up with a way to make up the money. But he’ll be hamstrung by several commission edicts: Protect public services. Don’t ask a bank for help. Leave most rainy-day funds untouched.

Vaya con Dios.

Gimenez was steaming.

“You’re making all these motions — don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this,” he told commissioners. “I’m sorry — does somebody have a printing press back there making money?”

After the mayor said an unknown number of layoffs would be likely, commissioners briefly considered an edict banning that, too. But they realized they couldn’t have it both ways.

Gimenez appears poised to veto the decision. He has until Sunday, Dec. 15 — in practice, until Friday the 13th — to strike down the commission’s vote.

But the board could override him, depending on how many commissioners show up.

More here.