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10 posts from May 6, 2014

May 06, 2014

Former Miami mayor slams current Miami-Dade mayor's soccer proposal


Former Miami mayor Manny Diaz  issued a statement Tuesday slamming Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's proposal to fill-in a massive slip in downtown Miami for a soccer stadium. Joined by former Miami commissioners Johnny Winton,  Joe Sanchez and Angel Gonzalez, Diaz compared the plan to the Marlins' failed effort to bring a baseball park to nearby Bicentennial Park. 

Diaz is known as a behind-the-scenes advocate for putting a soccer stadium next to the Marlins' actual stadium in Little Havana, and he helped champion the unpopular tax-funded deal that built the ballpark.  This is is his first formal public statement on the ongoing soccer debate. 

Read the statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Former Miami mayor slams current Miami-Dade mayor's soccer proposal" »

Police close case of intern who suffered a fatal fall

Tallahassee Police have closed the case of a legislative intern whose body was discovered in abandoned building on Feb. 18.

Ryan Uhre, 23, died following an accidental fall, according to a close-out report released Tuesday.

Uhre was last seen on Feb. 2. He attended a Super Bowl party at Clyde's and Costello's, a popular watering hole in downtown Tallahassee, and then tried to order food at a nearby restaurant. His friends and family members reported him missing on Feb. 7.

His body was later found in an abandoned building several blocks from the bar. 

The report concluded that Uhre had fallen from a second-story window and died from his injuries. 

Police believe Uhre was in the building alone. There were traces of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis in his body, according to the report.

Uhre graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale and Florida State University. He was an intern in the office of Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, at the time of the fall.

Charlie Crist plays the race card (again): some in GOP bash Obama due to race


Charlie Crist is playing the race card. Again.

In a Tuesday interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, the Democratic candidate for governor said a “big reason” he left the GOP was that he felt increasingly uncomfortable that the party opposed President Obama due to his race.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist said. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

Ramos said Crist left the GOP to run as an independent because he was losing the 2010 Senate Republican primary to Marco Rubio. But Crist denied it.

 Crist has made race an on-again and off-again theme as he campaigns for his old job back with his third party affiliation.

“Being a flip-flopper is bad enough but playing the race card to win over voters is pitiful,” said Izzy Santa, Republican National Committee spokeswoman.

Crist, saying he was “liberated as a Democrat," also bashed the GOP for being too inflexible and for appearing to be “anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, [and] anti-gay."

Black voters are particularly important to Crist. They comprise 28 percent of the 4.1 million active registered Democrats, and he still has to beat former state Sen. Nan Rich in a party primary before facing Gov. Rick Scott.

In a general election, black voters are key for Democrats. Along with Hispanics, African-American voters have disproportionately stayed home during midterm elections, allowing more Republican-leaning white voters to dominate and elect GOP office holders. Black and Hispanic voters each account for about 14 percent of all active registered voters.

Crist has generally good relationships with black voters and leaders. He probably had the highest proportion of African-American support of any Republican when he won the governor's office in 2006 as a Republican. As governor, Crist championed civil rights causes, opposed racial language in the official state song and was called Florida's "first black governor" by some African-American lawmakers.

In standing with Obama to support the stimulus package in 2009, Crist won a measure of support from black voters but he also earned the enmity of the GOP. In 2012, Crist campaign for Obama and boosted his profile further with black voters.

But Crist's decision to run as an independent and help cost Democrat Kendrick Meek votes in the 2010 Senate race left some African-American leaders upset with the former governor.

Crist's comments to Fusion weren't the first time he used racial imagery.

In February, while plugging his new book The Party's Over on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," Crist said some Republicans opposed Obama's stimulus act in 2009 because he was "not just a Democrat, an African-American."

"Oh, you're not going to play the race card," Colbert replied.

I'm not going to play it, no," Crist responded.

"You just did," Colbert said. "Would you like to pick it up again and put it in your pocket? Because you just played the race card."

Looks like it happened again.

New Miami Beach police chief gets $207,500 salary + housing allowance and iPad


Miami Beach’s new police chief will be one of the highest-paid employees in the city.
Commissioners on April 30 approved Dan Oates as the Beach’s police chief. Oates will be paid $207,500 in salary. His five-year contract includes other perks, including a $2,000 monthly housing allowance, city car and an iPad.

Oates replaces outgoing Chief Raymond Martinez, who announced his early retirement in March. He pulled a $191,000 salary.

Oates is a 34-year law enforcement veteran, having served the bulk of his career in New York. He was chief of the Aurora, Colo., police department at the time of a mass shooting in a movie theater there, which garnered world-wide attention.

More here

Former Miami-Dade Democratic Party official to become county mayor's communications chief


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has hired a new communications director with a background in politics.

Michael Hernández will replace Fernando Figueredo, who last month returned to an administrative post at Florida International University.

Hernández joins the administration from Penn Schoen Berland, a market research and political consulting firm. He previously worked for the Coral Gables-based Balsera Communications agency and as Hispanic communications director for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. During the 2012 presidential election, Hernández was a surrogate for the Obama reelection campaign, particularly on Spanish-language media.

Gimenez is a Republican in a nonpartisan post.

Hernández, whose first day is Wednesday, said he will make an annual salary of $140,000. That will be $15,000 more than Figueredo’s salary of $125,000.

Ex-Miami Beach official arrested in corruption probe rejects plea deal


Gus Lopez, the one-time Miami Beach procurement director accused of accepting cash to help companies get an unfair advantage on contract bids, is facing at least some seven decades behind bars if convicted.

Yet Lopez, 53, on Tuesday rejected a plea deal of six years in prison, plus three of probation.

“I’m rejecting the state’s offer,” Lopez told Miami-Dade Circuit Fleur Lobree on Tuesday. “I want my trial.”

The case against Lopez appears strong. He is charged with racketeering and more than 50 other counts, including bid tampering and illegal compensation.

Prosecutors say Lopez teamed up with a businessman, Pierre Landron, to peddle sensitive information to companies looking to unfairly land city contracts in exchange for cash. Investigators say they earned up to $600,000 from at least 12 companies that did business with the city.

At trial, jurors will see reams of financial records, e-mails and even an undercover police video showing Lopez taking a bag of cash from Landron, Miami-Dade prosecutor Tim VanderGiesen told the judge.

Landron is expected to testify against his former partner, as will Lopez’s former wife, said VanderGiesen, the head of the State Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit.

 “We are not negotiating past today,” VanderGiesen told the judge and Lopez. “He will never again get this plea offer.”

Lopez has been jailed since his arrest in October 2012.

Miami Beach detectives and public-corruption prosecutors began looking at Lopez in March 2012, after he resigned amid possible misconduct surrounding the massive Miami Beach Convention Center district redevelopment project. Lopez was in charge of overseeing bids for the deal.

The city became concerned that he was possibly rigging the process by assembling his own development team with businessman Walter Garcia. He is not charged in that case.

The trial will likely take place sometime in the coming months.


Rick Scott releases 2nd Spanish-language ad, TV buys= $8m in 2 months


It's tough to believe that it's only May, Gov. Rick Scott is on pace to spend $8 million on TV by mid-month since March and he's already on his second Spanish-language spot.

Where the previous Spanish-language spot was positive, “Nos Abandonó” isn't. It's a translation of one of Scott's more effective ads, "Ran Away, that hits Charlie Crist for the bad economy that unfolded on his watch. “Nos Abandonó” is part of a $500,000 TV and on-line buy that will run in the Tampa, Fort Myers, Orlando, and Miami markets, the campaign said.

Here's more about Scott's Hispanic outreachBackground on the ad is here; Spanish-language version is below.


Miami-Dade to explore possibility of marijuana farmers


With Florida lawmakers approving  limited use of medical marijuana this year, the state's largest county wants its farming industry to be ready if the door opens wider to a potential cash crop.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss, who represents the farm-rich southern part of the county, won passage of a resolution Tuesday instructing county staff to "assess the  the potential impacts of the legalization of medical marijuana on agricultural areas."

While the state legislature last week approved changing state law to allow limited  use of "non-euphoric" marijuana for treating seizures and other conditions, there is a larger push to legalize standard marijuana as a medical option.  

Moss' resolution said Miami-Dade "should be prepared for the possibility that medical marijuana is legalized," and he told commissioners that "this is not taking a position one way or the other on medical marijuana."

Commissioner Javier Souto, whose district includes parts of Kendall and Westchester, cast the lone dissenting vote, calling the study premature and describing the effort as too quick to embrace marijuana. 

"There was a time when cocaine was considered just a substance that didn't matter," Souto said. "We're dealing with  very difficult matters which can inflict tremendous pain and tremendous suffering and tremendous complications for our society."

Weatherford exits stage left, but will return

Weatherford waves goodbye@mikevansickler

As he looks ahead to an uncertain future, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford wants to be remembered as a compassionate conservative who promoted the hopes of the working class with measures like lower auto tag fees for all and in-state tuition for undocumented children.

"This is a session that cut taxes for every Floridian," Weatherford said Friday night. "This is the session that created educational opportunities for more children."

Yet the Pasco County Republican may best be remembered for what he didn't do: expand Medicaid, leaving at least 750,000 Floridians without affordable health care.

His sunny, upbeat conservatism was supposed to be an antidote to the win-at-all-costs brinksmanship of his predecessor, Dean Cannon. But the publicly unflappable 34-year-old didn't hesitate to retaliate against those who got in his way.

Read story here.

Pam Bondi, Mike Fasano keep drug abuse database going with last-minute rescue


Even from his perch as Pasco County tax collector, Mike Fasano is still making his presence felt in the Capitol when it comes to his signature legislation, the state's prescription drug monitoring database.
When lawmakers ended their annual session Friday, they had not set aside any money for the program aimed at controlling prescription drug abuse. Fasano knew there was only enough money to operate the database through October.

"A $77 billion budget, and the governor and the Florida Legislature did not fund a program that is saving lives," he said of the database, which costs $500,000 a year to run.

Over the weekend, Fasano reached out to the project's highest-profile supporter in Tallahassee, Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi announced Monday that she will use $2 million the state received as part of a 2008 national prescription drug fraud settlement with Caremark Rx to keep the database going for four more years.

Read more here.