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11 posts from August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014

Scott edges Crist in another poll


The latest Survey USA  robo poll for WFLA-8,shows Rick Scott leading Charlie Crist, but within the 4.2 percent margin of error. From WFLA:

Gov. Rick Scott has a 3-point lead over Democrat Charlie Crist, heading into the week before the primary election, according to the latest News Channel 8 poll.

The poll shows Scott with 44 percent of the vote compared with 41 percent for Crist, the former governor now running as a Democrat. Crist takes on former state senator Nan Rich in the primary election August 26, but has focused his campaign against the current governor.

Scott's lead over Crist widened slightly from a 2-point race in the previous poll on August 5.

More here

Scott meets with experts but would not say if he still denies climate change

Scott and climate change

Gov. Rick Scott listened to five of Florida’s top climate scientists Tuesday as they urged him to show leadership and develop policies to offset the impact of human-induced climate change to the state.

But the governor whose campaign strategy has been to say nothing on the issue except that he is “not a scientist,” stayed true to his plan. He would not comment, question or commit to whether or not he believes the warnings by the experts deserve his attention.

“Thank you all,’’ Scott said as the scientists finished their presentations within the 30-minute time period set aside to meet with them. His policy aide, Noah Valenstein, thanked the scientists for attending, and the governor exited the room. Next on the governor’s schedule was “staff and call time,’’ his aides said.

The scientists, who are the top in their fields at the University of Miami, Florida State University and Eckerd College had asked for the meeting a month ago to explain the urgency of developing a more activist set of policies to mitigate the impact of global warming.

Photo: Eckerd College Marine Science Professor David Hastings speaks to Gov. Rick Scott and his aide, Noah Valenstein, about why Florida should take action now to offset the impact of climate change.

Continue reading "Scott meets with experts but would not say if he still denies climate change" »

Miami congressional candidate accuses political blogger of pay-to-play

@PatriciaMazzei  Edited

Congressional candidate and Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo has accused a local political blogger of asking him to advertise on her website in exchange for friendly coverage.

Curbelo provided a cell phone text message from Elaine de Valle, who writes the Political Cortadito blog, in which she notes his campaign has paid to advertise on the conservative Shark Tank blog.

"So! $1,000 for Shark Tank and nothing for Political Cortadito?" says de Valle's message, dated Friday. "I think that's going to cost you... votes that is. Lol!"

De Valle, a former Miami Herald reporter, said she meant only what she wrote: that Curbelo will lose votes by not advertising to her readership. She says her blog has more than 100,000 monthly page views.

"He's just trying to discredit me," de Valle said, pointing to her tough coverage.

Curbelo's communications director, Wadi Gaitan, said the campaign "will not be extorted by agents of other campaigns posing as journalists."

"Under no circumstances will we purchase ads on her page for favorable coverage, nor will we respond to her petty propaganda," he added.

Continue reading "Miami congressional candidate accuses political blogger of pay-to-play" »

Miami judicial races get cash influx from auto insurance political committee


An auto insurance company that regularly fights cases in court has created a political committee and spent nearly $227,000 in support of two Miami incumbent judicial candidates.

The large infusion of money from Citizens for Judicial Fairness, created by United Auto Insurance, appears to be a first in a local judicial election and has sparked a bitter election battle against the industry’s perpetual courtroom foe: personal injury lawyers, who have now started a rival committee.

United Auto’s efforts have also sparked unusual campaign drama — with one candidate’s own treasurer resigning in protest over the perception that a special interest group is spending exorbitantly before the Aug. 26 election.

“It’s ground-breaking. It’s never happened before,” lawyer Hector Lombana said of United Auto’s efforts. He cited the company’s political committee as his reason for resigning as campaign treasurer for Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith.

“It’s worrisome when you have an industry that is constantly in court exercising its financial muscle in the election for those who are going to judge it,” Lombana said.

The committee is supporting Smith against upstart candidate Christian Carrazana. In the other race, the organization is backing Miami-Dade County Court Judge Nuria Saenz against Victoria Ferrer. Both opponents are personal injury lawyers, a group that frequently sues auto insurance companies on behalf of motorists and clinics.

More here.

Scott, Cabinet appoint newest parole commissioner

It took Richard (Rick) Davison three times, but the veteran state criminal justice official achieved his goal Tuesday. Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet appointed him to one of three plum positions as a state parole commissioner on the newly-renamed Florida Commission on Offender Review.

Davison will serve a six-year term through 2020 and replaces Bernard Cohen, whose term expired. The full-time position pays about $92,000 a year and is subject to Senate confirmation in 2015.

Davison, 51, is a former top administrator in the departments of corrections and juvenile justice and worked as a prosecutor in the Office of Statewide Prosecution. Voting records show he is a registered Democrat. He had applied twice before for a seat on the three-member panel.

Florida abolished parole in 1983 but the commission lives on and continues to hear petitions for parole from inmates who were sentenced before then.

David Rivera named co-conspirator when friend pleads guilty to campaign-finance violations

@MarcACaputo @jayhweaver @PatriciaMazzei

Miami congressional candidate and ex-U.S. Rep. David Rivera was officially named as a co-conspirator Tuesday in federal court when his friend and confederate pleaded guilty to criminal campaign-finance violations.

That defendant, Ana Alliegro, didn’t name Rivera — that was done by a federal prosecutor at the urging of a judge who wanted to know the identity of a man previously identified only as a “co-conspirator.”

According to prosecutors, that person, along with Alliegro, secretly funded the 2012 Democratic primary campaign of ringer candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who has been sentenced to seven months in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mulvihill initially declined to name Rivera, but then did so at the direction of U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.

Alliegro’s trial had been scheduled to Monday — a day before the Republican primary election for Florida’s 26th congressional district. Rivera, one of five candidates on the ballot, is running for his old seat.

In a surprise move, Alliegro, who had pleaded not guilty to four charges in March, used a pre-trial court appearance Tuesday to switch her plea to guilty.

More here.

Scott meeting with climate scientists is a 'leadership' moment for him they say

 Gov. Rick Scott faces a pivotal moment in his term today when he meets with climate scientists for 30 minutes, after being shamed into the encounter by rival Charlie Crist who agreed to meet with the academics after Scott demurred.

“As scientists, we’re map makers and policymakers like Gov. Scott are the navigators. He needs to tell us where to go,’’ said David Hastings, professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College.

Hastings is one of the state’s top scientists from the Florida universities and colleges who sent a letter to the governor last month, asking for a chance to be able to explain the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

“Regarding climate change in this state, we have been leaderless,’’ Hastings told the Herald/Times. “The challenge now is that the Climate Action Plan that the EPA has put forward requires us to take some action – we have to reduce emissions by 38 percent in 15 years. That’s not very long and so the governor at this point needs to set up a transparent process.”

The governor initially denied the impact of human-induced global warming when he first ran for office in 2010,saying he has "not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change."

He has since been reluctant to engage on the issue, answering only, "I’m not a scientist,’’ when he was asked about it.

“This is his moment for leadership, and it’s his moment to demonstrate to his constituents that he cares – and that he understands it,’’ Hastings said. “His role is to understand these things.”

After Scott initially announced that his staff would meet with the scientists, he agreed to personally meet with them after Crist, the former governor and Democratic candidate for governor, announced he would have a meeting with the experts.

Continue reading "Scott meeting with climate scientists is a 'leadership' moment for him they say" »

Citizens defends foreign travel, draws flak from Scott

Summoned before Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet Tuesday, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. president Barry Gilway defended the state-backed insurer's foreign travel.

Scott called for a prohibition on foreign travel by Citizens executives after a series of abuses two years ago. The controversy flared anew after a report in The Palm Beach Post that Citizens board chairman Chris Gardner spent two nights in a $425-a-night resort in Bermuda at a reinsurance conference in April, despite a $373-per-night cap on Bermuda travel.

After the Post's disclosure, Gardner reimbursed Citizens for the difference in rates of $104 for the two nights. Citizens officials say the company first discovered the overcharge.

Gilway said he urged Gardner to attend the Bermuda conference at the last minute, and that as a result of the trip and all other foreign travel by Citizens executives that cost a total of $48,000, savings to Florida taxpayers totaled $233 million.

"I know first hand that face-to face discussions with the individuals making the decision ... is absolutely essential," Gilway said. "You cannot do business internationally without traveling overseas."

Gilway said the Post made a public records request for hundreds of expense account transactions and "this was the only error they found."

"Welcome to government," Scott replied. "Everybody, they're going to watch you. When there's an example like this, it makes it look like you're not watching the dollars ... It makes it easy for you guys to get attacked."

Mayor's new chief aide gets big raise with promotion


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's new top aide got a hefty pay increase with his promotion and expanded duties.

Alex Ferro, who became Gimenez's chief of staff earlier this month, is still making well below what his predecessor earned. But his new $145,000 salary represents an 84 percent raise over the $79,000 he made running the external-affairs office for Gimenez. (County records show Ferro's take home pay amounted to $73,000 last year thanks to benefit costs and other reductions.)

Ferro's new pay, laid out in a personnel form obtained by The Miami Herald through a public-records request, is still significantly lower than what Lisa Martinez made as chief of staff before resigning her post in early August. County records show she earned $180,000 last year, about 25 percent more than Ferro's new pay.

"We saved $35,000 on the position," Gimenez said during a brief interview Tuesday. He noted that he isn't bringing in a new staffer to replace Ferro or Chip Iglesias, who recently left as a deputy mayor. Ferro retained responsibility for external-affairs in his new post. 

The compensation boost for Ferro, 33, comes as Gimenez is trying to get unions to accept less-generous health care benefits while also planning for job reductions and service cuts across county government.

Though it hasn't been made public yet, Ferro's new compensation wouldn't remain secret for long.

After taking office in 2011, Gimenez had Miami-Dade post its compensation database online, allowing a detailed look at what all county employees make. Because of lags in pay cycles, Ferro's entry still shows the $79,000 compensation rate.

Gimenez and Rivera attempt peace talks at Biltmore


Two of the biggest foes in Miami-Dade's budget battle, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and police union chief John Rivera, met Tuesday on neutral territory. 

The morning sit-down  happened in a private office at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, after weeks of the men and their surrogates lambasting each other over police funding and contract talks. 

"I need to move on," Gimenez said during a brief interview in a Biltmore hallway before the 10:30 a.m. meeting. "I need to save some jobs." Leaving the meeting about an hour later, Gimenez said: "Problem solved? No. But it was a good, frank discussion."

Rivera's comments before the meeting weren't warm.  "My members have strictly instructed me: No more concessions," he said. 

In an email afterwards, Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, wrote: "Pretty much no different than before I walked in." 

The two  did not bring aides into the closed-door meeting in the office of Biltmore president Gene Prescott. Rodney Barreto, a partner in a top local lobbying firm who is on friendly terms with both men, brokered the meeting and sat in during the discussion, Barreto said. 

"I wouldn't say it was really tense. But there were a few moments there,'' Barreto said. "The reality is John hasn't had a working relationship with this mayor." 

When Gimenez's staff first proposed about 450 job cuts in the county police department, Rivera told the media Miami-Dade residents may need firearms to protect themselves. Earlier this month, a Gimenez spokesman accused Rivera of "flat-out lying" regarding the mayor's attempts to negotiate with the union.

Rivera had objected to a former PBA lawyer serving as the county's negotiator, and recently Gimenez said he would tap a new representative if it would jump-start talks. 

Gimenez's negotiating team this week dropped demands that county unions extend concessions set to expire later this year, and recently announced he had found enough revenue to bring police-job cuts down to about 150, including civilian posts.

Now he's pressing unions to accept less generous health benefits in order to cut costs and prevent any job reductions in police. 

Rivera said he had an "open mind" about the meeting, but was not ready to comment on the healthcare proposal. "I'm sitting here to see what he has to say," Rivera said on his way to the private meeting. 

The meeting was posted on the mayor's daily schedule. Gimenez, dressed in his usual business suit, and Rivera, in jeans and a Nike shirt, arrived separately and alone.

Rivera questioned the need to publicize the talks, and said multiple people have tried to arrange a reconciliation.
"Everybody's trying to be a king maker," he said. "Everybody's trying to get us together."