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7 posts from July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014

That's just the way it is


That’s just the way it is.

Those were Aaron Cohen’s last words.

Cohen, 37, was talking about his two little kids and his work schedule as he cycled with his friend Enda Walsh on the Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne just before 6 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2012.

At the same time, a man named Michele Traverso was driving home to Key Biscayne. He had been drinking the night before.

Continue reading "That's just the way it is" »

Man arrested after threatening to shoot Miami-Dade politicians remains in jail


Showing up to a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting a little hot under the collar, seething over a local government decision? Not unusual.

Threatening bodily harm on elected officials — and pointing at them while doing so? That’ll get you arrested.

Jose Antonio Fernandez, 54, found that out the hard way Tuesday when he stepped behind the microphone and said, if the county were to take his property, he would have “the right to shoot every one of you.

“Shoot ’em,” he said.

Two sergeants-at-arms moved in, one on either side of Fernandez. They rushed him out of the commission chambers and handcuffed him.

“Will you please remove him completely from the building, and follow up on that?” Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said behind them.

Fernandez was still yelling from the escalator. “Enough is enough! This is America!”

The Miami-Dade Police Department slapped him with 13 felony charges of threatening to harm a public servant — one for each of the 12 commissioners present and for Mayor Carlos Gimenez — and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

More here.

Broward leader among state, local officials contributing to White House climate-change actions


In its ongoing effort to mitigate the impact of climate change, the White House on Wednesday announced several small steps by a range of agencies to help local officials cope with the issue.

The steps – undertaken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and others – are designed to help local communities “withstand impacts like more extreme weather and increased flooding.” The steps come two months after the National Climate Assessment detailed down to the local level all the ways that scientists say changing climate has or will affect the nation.

As an example: The American Southeast and Caribbean region is “exceptionally vulnerable” to rising sea levels, extreme heat events, hurricanes and decreased water resources, the report said. That’s a real danger to the seven major ports in that region. And residents can expect a significant increase in the number of hot days – defined as 95 degrees or above – as well as decreases in freezing events.

The list of a dozen actions announced by the White House comes in response to suggestions from a presidential task force of local and tribal leaders.

Among the members of the 26-member task force is Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. She was at a White House event on the issue Wednesday, along with governors, local officials and tribal leaders from around the country.

"We’ve got Democrats and Republicans and independents from all the across the nation," President Barack Obama said during the event. "And we are here because we know that climate change is an undeniable scientific fact. And these leaders are here because states and communities that they represent are already dealing with the effects of climate change. They’re seeing rising sea levels, more powerful hurricanes, more intense heatwaves, severe droughts, and wildfires out west."

Among the actions being taken:

--The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs launched a $10 million partnership program to help tribes prepare for climate change by developing adaptation training.

--The Department of Agriculture announced awards totaling $236.3 million for eight states to support improved rural electric infrastructure.

--The EPA launched a collaborative program among government and private agencies to develop “green infrastructure” – urban forests and rooftop gardens that can be used as a tool for building resilience to the impact of climate change.

David Rivera apparently didn't raise cash before suspending Miami congressional campaign


David Rivera may have cited a judge's opinion on redistricting unrelated to South Florida as the reason for dropping out of a Miami congressional race last week, but the real reason might have been his campaign bank account.

The Republican raised no money to run a political race from the time he filed as a candidate in May through the end of June, according to his latest campaign finance report. His only cash -- $11,000 -- came from a loan he made to himself to pay a candidate filing fee. (He could still file contributions from July in a later report.)

He's still got more than $100,000 in outstanding debts from his prior campaign, in 2012.

Still leading the money race in Congressional District 26 is the incumbent, Democrat Joe Garcia. his campaign says he raised $455,679 between April 1 and June 30, bringing his total haul to $2.74 million. He has $1.86 million cash on hand.

On the Republican side, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo leads the pack. He raised about $300,000 in the last quarter, according to his campaign, for a total of $1.25 million and $900,000 cash on hand.

Here's where the other candidates stand:

Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall -- total contributions $239,649 (including $211,000 in loans to himself), cash on hand $28,495

Attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck -- total contributions $93,000 (including $60,000 in loans to himself), cash on hand $24,780

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez -- total contributions $86,415, cash on hand $34,234

The Republican primary takes place Aug. 26.

State teachers union challenges voucher expansion bill

The state teachers union filed a legal challenge to a controversial education bill Wednesday, saying it violates the constitutional requirement that legislative proposals be limited to a single subject.

The bill, SB 850, was signed into law last month. Among other things, it expands the state school voucher program and creates new scholarships for children with special needs. The scholarships can be used for private tutoring, educational materials and various types of therapies.

The so-called "personal learning scholarship accounts" are being rolled out this week.

The lawsuit from the Florida Education Association raises concerns about the way SB 850 became law. Some of the bill's more contentious provisions, including the voucher expansion and the scholarship accounts, started out as stand-alone proposals that had difficulty finding support. They were added to a bill establishing collegiate high schools on the second-to-last day of the legislative session.

"This was a sneaky way for the legislative leaders to enact measures that had already failed," Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall said Wednesday. "It is an outrage that corporate voucher expansion was tacked into an unrelated bill and slipped into law on the final day of session."

The final version of the bill also addressed career education, dropout prevention, hazing and middle-school reform.

Supporters of the new law, including incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the lawsuit would limit opportunities for children.

"I find it hard to believe that this lawsuit embodies the views of the talented teachers across our state who actually work with these children day in and day out and see the progress they are capable of making if provided the appropriate tools," Gardiner said in a statement.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, the education think tank founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush, called the legal challenge "a new low" for the union.

"As a society, we must work to unlock education opportunities for students who need them the most," CEO Patricia Levesque said. "Senate Bill 850 will help children with Down's syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities have greater choices and the critical support necessary for successful education outcomes."

Read the complaint below.

Download FEA_complaint


Slight property-tax hike approved in Miami-Dade to aid libraries

@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

Miami-Dade County commissioners voted Tuesday night to slightly raise the property-tax rate ceiling to avert library layoffs. But the increase won’t protect police, transit and other public services facing budget cuts.

Libraries aside, commissioners adopted the other tax rates proposed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, which had been designed to keep the overall rate flat while giving a funding boost to libraries. Now, Gimenez will have to decide whether to veto the commission’s 8-5 decision to boost the library tax higher than he recommended.

“I’m going to have to consider my actions,” he told reporters after the meeting. “But everything else is what I wanted.”

Still on the table are more than 200 police layoffs, less-frequent parks maintenance and an increase to transit fares. Gimenez’s proposal would eliminate nearly 600 county jobs if the county is unable to extract union concessions. A significant chunk would come from police ranks.

Commissioners sounded unhappy about police layoffs and other fee hikes, including higher transit fares for the disabled — but not enough to buck Gimenez as they did with libraries.

“We have a government that in a way is undermining public safety,” Commissioner Jean Monestime said. “In my community, people are asking me for more in terms of public safety.”

More here.

DOC fires officer for failing to write report about contraband

The recent attention to management issues at the Department of Corrections in the wake of reports on suspcious inmate deaths -- all occurring while the governor is almost exclusively on the campaign trail -- has now prompted the agency to do what we've rarely seen before: call attention to discipling officers.

In a press release on Tuesday, DOC announced it had fired a captain at Columbia Correctional Institution for failing to write up a report about contraband, including a gun, that had been smuggled to an inmate in February.

Capt. Jason Fox violated department policy by neglecting to write a report noting that he and another corrections officer had spoken to a Tampa police officer who reported that an inmate at Columbia received a package containing cellphones, marijuana and firearms in a coffee bag.

In a news release, DOC Secretary Michael Crews said Fox’s failure to report the information compromised the safety of the prison’s staff and inmates.

It was not clear from the news release what action, if any, was taken against the inmate or others who may have been involved in smuggling in the package. Fox was not implicated in the smuggling, just in initially failing to report the phone call with the Tampa officer.

 -- Julie K. Brown

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/15/4238075/florida-prison-guard-fired-in.html#storylink=cpy