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10 posts from June 18, 2014

June 18, 2014

Of demographics and drift: 'The re-Cubanization of Miami' and waning support for the embargo

@MarcACaputo @jtamayo2010 

More Miami-Dade Cubans than ever support lifting the embargo and travel sanctions on the island nation, according to a new Florida International University poll that attributes much of the change to new Cuban migrants and younger people.

The poll, which drew swift criticism from embargo supporters, also indicated that about a majority of Cubans in the county might favor full U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations. Less than 50 percent said they send remittances to Cuba or have relatives who do so.

In an unexplained contradiction, however, a majority of Cubans polled also favored keeping the nation on the U.S. list of countries that support international terrorism, a list that carries banking sanctions well beyond those in the U.S. embargo.

Ever since 1991, when FIU first began polling Cubans, support for the embargo has steadily declined by 39 percentage points while support for unrestricted travel has increased 25 points.

“The engine driving change is demographics,” said Guillermo Grenier, who helped conduct the 1,000-respondent survey on behalf of the university’s Cuban Research Institute.

“We are moving into a period of re-Cubanization of Miami,” Grenier said.

Grenier said recent arrivals, who continue to flock to Miami-Dade, increasingly favor improved relations with the island. At the same time, the major backers of the embargo and sanctions -- older Cubans – are decreasing in number. Today, about 860,000 Cubans live in Miami-Dade.

More here

(note, we earlier blogged the first web draft of the above rewritten piece)

Curbelo critics muted by Miami-Dade School Board policy


Critics of Republican congressional District 26 candidate Carlos Curbelo hoped to embarrass him at Wednesday's Miami-Dade School Board meeting. But they ran into a few complications:

1) Curbelo wasn't there (He told The Herald he's vacationing with his family.)

2) Miami-Dade School Board policy prohibits public speakers from criticizing district employees and officials.

When Curbelo didn't show, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee simply sent out a picture of Curbelo's empty chair a la Charlie Crist. But when it came time for the school board's public comments, two speakers were shut down and kept from discussing a Miami New Times article on his campaign contributions and school board votes.

"You’re a nice young lady and I’d like to be able to speak to you and listen to you. But we have rules," Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman told one speaker.

The board rule muting negativity often comes up at meetings during public hearings, when critical speakers are told not to mention district employees and officials by name or specific title. But some on the nine-member board think it's too restrictive.

"Not using names is a good way to protect the individual rights of our teachers and students and parents," said Board member Raquel Regalado. "But I think there are nine people up here who have forsaken that right."

Reached by phone, Curbelo agreed -- and blamed opponent U.S. Rep Joe Garcia, D-Miami, for stirring up what he says is a bogus controversy.

"Anyone wishing to go to the school board to advance the political intererests of Joe Garcia, one of the most corrupt members of congress, should be allowed to do so even if it’s of no benefit to the public or the business of the school board," he said.

Federal judge scolds suspended Miami Lakes mayor, but stops short of sending him to jail


A federal judge Wednesday came within a whisker of sending suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi to jail after finding that he violated the terms of his bond and lied to a probation officer about it.

But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke instead allowed Pizzi to remain free on bail with less than a month before his trial on corruption charges of accepting bribes in exchange for political favors.

“If you keep this up, you will be across the street,” Cooke told Pizzi, referring to the nearby Miami Federal Detention Center. “You will be in jail.”

Cooke took Pizzi to task for sending out two political email blasts to his supporters in April that were also received by potential government witnesses the former mayor was forbidden from contacting before trial. Among the recipients: Miami Lakes town manager Alex Rey, whose administration was described as “corrupt” in Pizzi’s unsigned emails. They referred to an actual Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission’s ruling that found the town’s former public works director violated a conflict of interest law.

More here.

Rick Scott makes $2m ad buy bashing Charlie Crist over tuition increases


The Republican Party of Florida today announced that Gov. Rick Scott's political committee will spend about $2 million to air his second ad bashing Democrat Charlie Crist over tuition increases signed by the former governor.

The latest commercial, his 11th, probably brings Scott's total spending to about $16 million since mid-March. About half of the ad buys are Crist-bashers like this one.

The tuition attacks are potent on three levels: They're pocketbook issues, they're part of a broader national discussion and they affect young people, who tend to vote Democrat. But young people also tend to skip midterms. So if Scott can peel some of these away from Crist, it's a double whammy for the Democrat.

The ad doesn't mention that Scott's running mate, Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, alos voted for the tuition increases, which Crist signed off on at the insistence of Republican legislative leaders. The increases weren't rolled back by Scott but were stopped under the election-year legislation he just signed.

Still, as PolitiFact notes with Scott's last spot, the attack is generally accurate: Crist approved tuition hikes.

"Charlie Crist consistently raised tuition as governor, even allowing it to increase up to 15 percent every single year. He even said it was the right thing to do," the state's Republican Party chair, Leslie Dougher, said in a written statement announcing the ad buy. "Governor Scott knows that making it harder for Floridians to get a college degree is never the right thing, which is why he reversed Crist’s 15% tuition increase and has cut the cost of a college prepaid plan by almost $20,000.” 

Here's the new Let's Get to Work spot

And here's the one announced last week regarding tuition:

Donald Trump sings the praises of incoming House Speaker Crisafulli


Trump_crisafulliAn interesting tweet came across our timeline today: Donald Trump with nothing but nice things to say about soon-to-be House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Trump -- the controversial business man, reality show host and Tea Party darling-of-late -- has a massive Twitter presence: 2.6 million followers. His tweet about Crisafulli was retweeted 50 times and favorited 56 times in the first three hours.

By comparison, Merritt Island Republican Crisafulli's account has just under 8,000 followers and his tweets are generally favorited or republished about a dozen.

We asked Crisafulli's spokesman Brian Hughes for more information about where and why the meeting with "The Donald" took place. Hughes would only say that Crisafulli is make rounds in Florida and beyond as he reaches out to Republican donors ahead of the 2014 election.

Former legislators, staff apply for 2 openings on Public Service Commission


By Tuesday's deadline, 33 people had applied for two vacancies on the Public Service Commission. They include former state legislators and PSC staff hoping to join the well-paying, but controversial state board.

Former State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, who is stepping down because of term limits, is among them. Patronis decided last year not to run for a seat on the Florida Senate, avoiding a nasty Republican primary against Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is now considered a shoo-in for the district now represented by his dad.

When Patronis announced last summer he would not run for the Senate, he said he looked forward to returning to his hometown of Panama City after eight years in public office to spent time with his family. Patronis said today he "can't shake public service" and felt a PSC position would allow him to remain in both worlds.

"I felt like it was a fit that I could serve my interests at home and still be able to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the citizens of the state of Florida," he said.

Members of the five-person PSC make $131,036 annually.

Incumbent Julie Imanuel Brown's term is up in January, but she has applied to be reappointed. She has to follow the same application process as the other 32 people interested in her job. The other open seat is occupied by Eduardo Balbis, who decided to step down when his term ends in January.

Continue reading "Former legislators, staff apply for 2 openings on Public Service Commission" »

About last night in Fort Lauderdale: Lone GOP commissioner part of 3-2 vote for gay marriage

One of the votes on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission that tipped the balance narrowly in favor of a same-sex marriage resolution was cast by the lone Republican.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts, the city’s former police chief, was one of three votes in favor of the resolution along with commissioners Dean Trantalis, who is the city’s first openly gay member, and Bobby DuBose. Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Romney Rogers voted against the resolution.

The resolution that will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature calls for “equal access to legal marriage for same-sex couples.” The resolution is symbolic -- a city can’t dictate marriage laws.

The day after the vote we asked Roberts, a Roman Catholic married to a woman for about 35 years, why he voted in favor of the resolution.

“Actually it has been a metamorphosis for me to tell you the truth,” over the past three years, Roberts said.

Roberts said he views marriage as a civil rights issue.

“I thought it would be achieved through civil unions but that’s not going to happen...,” he said. “The way the country is set up with laws it has to be set up with what is called marriage.”

However Roberts said “it doesn’t change anybody’s ability to have a faith in their particular religion.”

During the meeting as Roberts explained why he would vote in favor, he said: “As my family has said to me I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history either as time moves along.”

(To listen to Roberts’ comments at the meeting, watch the city video starting at hour 2 minute 28. Seiler reiterated his support for civil unions.)

Technically commissioners are elected non-partisan in Fort Lauderdale though party activists play a role in campaigns.

We asked Roberts if he thought Broward Republicans would be  more successful at getting elected if they supported same-sex marriage and he didn’t want to give advice to others in his party.

“From my perspective I try to remain somewhat independent,” he said. “I also do believe generally speaking in less government in our affairs -- especially rules and regulations-- and that’s why I am affiliated with the Republican Party.”

Roberts, who represents the northeast part of the city, isn’t known for being particularly active in partisan politics. He first won election in 2009 and faces re-election next year.


Democrat Rankin qualifies to challenge Jeff Atwater for CFO


Democrat William Rankin of Deerfield Beach has qualified to run against Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the Republican incumbent. Rankin qualified today by paying the required fees.

His campaign is limping along. As of the end of May, Rankin reported having spent $13,356, more than the $13,056 he raised for the race. Rankin also loaned the campaign $10,600 of his own money.

By comparison, Atwater has raised $1.9 million and spent $96,499 as of May 31.

Rankin's fundraising has picked up in recent months, however. After raising only $474 from January through March, he collected $2,431 in April and $4,950 in May.

Rankin has been mostly invisible on the campaign trail, though his expenditures report shows dozens of charges for food and gas.

Early in his candidacy, he was dogged by questions about his background and qualifications.

According to financial records he submitted to the state, Rankin had a net worth of $371,650 at the end of 2013. Atwater's net worth is $1.9 million.

Rankin reported as income $144,057 from a bankruptcy settlement, $6,828 in veteran disability pay and $2,534 in retired military pay. The biggest asset he reported is by estimating a value of $300,000 on a media company he founded called "Millionaire Lifestyle."

Gov. Scott signs cancer center funding legislation


Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation today, as expected, that provides $300 million over the next five years to help three Florida cancer centers improve their national standing.

House Bill 5203 represents one of Scott's legislative priorities in this re-election year; cancer center funding is one of those issues that voters would find scant reason to bemoan.

"This legislation will better equip our cancer centers with the tools they need to expand cancer research and care for patients and their loved ones," Scott said in a statement announcing the bill signing. "We remain committed to making Florida the best in the nation for research and to providing all families with access to world class treatment."

Scott office has announced no plans for a public event to commemorate the bill signing, though we had heard the possibility of an appearance at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa in the coming days to talk up the issue.

Moffitt will share the money with the University of Florida's Cancer Center and University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dade Medical College owner charged with improper lobbying


The Miami-Dade ethics commission on Tuesday charged Ernesto Perez, owner of Dade Medical College, with improper lobbying — creating another headache for an educational leader already facing criminal charges for allegedly lying about his criminal past on government forms.

At the crux of the eight new ethics allegations: Perez’s failure to register as a lobbyist when pushing for new or expanded campuses for his string of private, for-profit colleges. It is a civil, not criminal, matter. If found in violation, Perez could be fined or reprimanded by the ethics commission.

“We’ll address that matter before the ethics commission,” Michael Band, Perez’s criminal defense attorney, said when asked to comment. Perez did not return a message left with the college. Dade Medical co-CEO/General Counsel Jonathan Janeiro declined to comment.

Governments require lobbyists to register as a way of promoting transparency.

Investigators with the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust identified eight instances in which they say Perez should have registered as a lobbyist — seven involving city administrators in Homestead, where Perez once planned a massive expansion of his college. The Homestead incidents date to 2011 and 2013.

More here.