December 24, 2014

Miami Beach police chief refused interview in an email. Then his email was leaked


Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates refused an interview this week with Miami New Times reporter Michael Miller because the chief believed Miller had already made up his mind about a story and was not giving him enough time for a proper response.

Then the chief emailed his staff, telling officers to keep the issue in-house and refrain from sending emails about it, since they can become public record.

“I encourage you to talk to me about it. No emails, please. Stop by and see me in the office or call Tricia and she’ll arrange for us to talk by phone,” he wrote.

The emails were soon leaked and first reported by Random Pixels blogger Bill Cooke.

Miller sent Oates a lengthy email Monday explaining he was working on a project involving the use of Tasers in several police departments. He asked the chief to respond to specific Beach incidents.

Tuesday morning, Oates responded, declining to be interviewed. An investigation into the death of graffiti artist Israel Hernandez is still ongoing, said Oates, who told Miller his request for a response by Friday was “unreasonable” and said the reporter’s email “implies that you have already rendered judgment.”

New Times Editor Chuck Strouse said he was astounded Oates’ memo was leaked so quickly. He backed Miller’s reporting.

“Mike is in no way biased,” Strouse said. And the story, he added, “is solid as hell.”

Oates did not respond to an email requesting comment.


December 23, 2014

WASH POST: Jeb Bush's emails reveal a few clues about his leadership style.

From the Washington Post ...

"Tens of thousands of e-mails from Bush’s eight-year gubernatorial tenure  underscores two constants present from the beginning of his political career: the challenges he faced with conservatives in his own party and an intense, detail-oriented engagement as an executive."


Pro-embargo, Cuba hardline is a minority stance in U.S., polls show


The polling is in: Cuban exile hardliners and Republicans are in the clear minority nationwide when it comes to the embargo and reestablishing ties with the island nation.

A raft of new surveys, taken after President Barack Obama announced plans Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba, shows far more Americans want the sanctions lifted and relations improved compared to those who favor current U.S. policy — namely Republicans and many Cuban-Americans.

But there’s one aspect of U.S. Cuba policy that Cuban-Americans, rank-and-file Republicans nationwide and Americans in general agree on: Easing travel restrictions to the island.

The surveys are unwelcome — but not unexpected news — to embargo supporters, mostly centered in South Florida where two potential presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, have been outspoken about strengthening the embargo.

“We’ve found that the more information people learn about what happens in Cuba, the more they are to support U.S. policy,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, the nation’s premier political action committee that supports the exile community.

“That’s always been the challenge: Informing people,” Claver-Carone said. “We’re a small community, yes, but we have a big megaphone.”

And in America at large, Republicans’ and the Cuban-American community’s attitudes about Cuba policy are decidedly in the minority, according to a comparison of national polls from CNN/ORC International, Langer Research/ABC-Washington Post, Reuters/Ipsos, CBS and a Bendixen & Amandi International survey conducted last week for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.....

Normalizing relations:

ABC/Langer: Americans back it 64-31 percent; while the GOP is split 49-47 percent. “Very conservative” respondents’ support was lacking, 36-61 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans support, 63-33 percent; while GOP support is split, 45-51 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans back it 45-22 percent, while GOP support is 31-38 percent. Reuters is the only online survey.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans oppose normalization, 48-44 percent, an inside-the-error margin tie in the poll of 400 Cuban-Americans. It showed Republican Cuban-Americans oppose it 79-11 percent.

CBS: Americans back it 54-28 percent. CBS did not provide political party data. All the national polls surveyed about 1,000 people and have an error margin of 3.5 percentage points. The Republican polling numbers have a larger error margin.


ABC/Langer: Americans want it ended, 68-29 percent; while Republicans want it ended 57-40 percent. But “very conservative” support is lowest at 42-57 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want it ended, 55-40 percent; while Republicans want it ended 44-52 percent.

Reuters/Ipsos: Americans want it ended, 40-26 percent; while Republicans want it ended 28-41 percent.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want it discontinued, 44-40 percent; while Cuban-American Republicans wanted it to remain in place, 70-18 percent.

Travel restrictions

ABC/Langer: Americans want them ended, 74-24 percent, with Republicans at 64-33 percent and the “very conservative” at 51-47 percent.

CNN/ORC: Americans want them changed, 67-32 percent, with Republicans at 58-40 percent.

Herald/Bendixen: Cuban-Americans want them eased, 47-39 percent, with Republican Cuban-Americans oppose easing, 56-26 percent.

More here

Mario Diaz-Balart's claim about what Obama said about normalizing relations with Cuba in 2008

President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba would proceed toward normalized relations put Miami’s Cuban-American GOP Congressional delegation in the national spotlight.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen held a press conference Dec. 18 to bash Obama’s announcement.

Diaz-Balart characterized Obama’s position as a significant change from what he said during the 2008 campaign.

Back in 2008, during Obama’s first White House bid, the future president said that "before normalization would take place, there would have to be liberation of all political prisoners and some basic steps toward freedom, including freedom of the press, political parties, labor unions, etc.," Diaz-Balart said at the press conference. "Then, once again, President Obama -- breaking his own word, breaking his own pledge -- has decided to do something absolutely without precedent, and that is to give an anti-American terrorist dictatorship exactly what they have been asking for."

Is Diaz-Balart correct about what Obama, then a senator, said would be his criteria for normalizing relations with Cuba? We went back to his campaign speeches and statements to find out. See what PolitiFact Florida found.


Does the U.S. already have the biggest diplomatic presence in Cuba? PunditFact says that's hard to prove

Critics of President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba have suggested they will do whatever they can to stand in the plan’s way, from holding up the appointment of an ambassador to denying funding for a new embassy.

But the moves would be more symbolic than anything, Obama’s former Cuba policy adviser Dan Restrepo told CNN.

While the Senate could block the formal confirmation of an ambassador, Obama could tap a career diplomat to lead the embassy without Senate approval. And as for the embassy itself?

"The U.S. has the largest diplomatic presence of any country in Cuba in Havana today," Restrepo told Anderson Cooper on Dec. 17. "The U.S. interests section is the largest diplomatic gathering in the country. It’s housed in the building that was the U.S. embassy before we broke off diplomatic relations. So the notion that you’re going to shut that operation down when really what you’re doing is changing the sign on the door doesn’t really square up with reality."

The idea that the United States already has the largest diplomatic presence in Cuba sounds shocking given our five-decade embargo of the island nation. So we wanted to learn more. Turn to Katie Sanders report from PunditFact.


December 22, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott lifts Michael Pizzi’s suspension following Florida Supreme Court ruling

@ChuckRabin @PatriciaMazzei

Gov. Rick Scott lifted the suspension against Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi late Monday, hours after the Florida Supreme Court had again sided with Pizzi in his legal quest to return to office since he was cleared of federal bribery charges.

The governor, in accordance with the ruling, did not reinstate Pizzi. Whether to restore the mayor to finish his second term is a question that will now likely fall to a local court. Town attorneys for Miami Lakes say the rightful mayor is Wayne Slaton, whom voters picked in a special election following Pizzi’s indictment.

Monday’s 5-2 decision rebuked Scott two months after Florida’s highest court warned the governor that Pizzi appeared to have a solid argument. But the court granted the governor a reprieve of sorts: It said it would wait until Jan. 2 before ordering Scott to take action, giving him 11 days to comply on his own.

He complied in less than four hours.

“This is huge, man. This is huge. I won,” Pizzi said in a telephone interview from his car after learning of the court’s decision. “This is the best Christmas present the Pizzi family and the people of Miami Lakes and everyone who cares about the rule of law could ever get.” 

More here.

This post has been updated.

Miami-Dade police union wants to subpoena mayor, county commission chairwoman in labor dispute


During a 12-hour Miami-Dade County Commission hearing a year ago, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa spoke for about five minutes, on the dais but away from the microphones.

That conversation has become a focal point in a legal dispute between the county and its police union, which contends the two elected officials broke the law when they spoke privately during a public meeting.

A hearing officer for Florida's labor appeals board ruled last week that the Dade County Police Benevolent Association could subpoena Sosa and Gimenez to compel them to disclose what they talked about. The Dec. 5, 2013, hearing ended with commissioners voting to eliminate an unpopular worker healthcare contribution.

In her Dec. 18 orderSuzanne M. Choppin of the state's Public Employees Relations Commission, opined that the conversation is relevant to the PBA's case -- and that only the politicians who took part are in a position to disclose what was said.

"It is evident that, in this unusual case in which it is a private off-the-record- conversation between two high-ranking government officials that is at issue, the best and only reliable evidence on that crucial issue is the testimony of the participants in that conversation," Choppin wrote.

The county had argued in an earlier filing that the conversation was irrelevant to the union's complaint because it took place hours after the PBA was addressing the county commission -- and because Sosa ended up voting to eliminate the healthcare concession, as the union wanted.

Miami-Dade also argued the PBA should not be allowed to subpoena elected officials without first exhausting every other option. For example, the union could have compelled the mayor's then-deputy chief of staff, Alex Ferro, who was sitting next to him during the conversation with Sosa, to testify.

"Mr. Ferro is a lower ranking official who appears on the video as a person who may have knowledge of the conversation at issue," Candela wrote Dec. 16. "Notwithstanding, the PBA did not take even the most basic of steps to determine whether Ferro had knowledge of the alleged conversation."

Choppin dismissed that argument, saying Ferro was too far away from Gimenez -- and apparently not paying attention to the mayor's discussion with Sosa -- to be a likely source of accurate information.

The union is pursuing an unfair labor practice complaint against the county over its handling of the collective-bargaining impasse that resulted in last year's vote. 

Miami-Dade plans to appeal last week's order, Assistant County Attorney William Candela said Monday. 

Obama's claim about the cost of each Gitmo inmate

On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama ordered that the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be closed within a year.

But it remains open nearly six years later, largely because of a difficulties figuring out what to do with the detainees who remain there.

On CNN’s State of the Union Dec. 21, 2014, host Candy Crowley asked Obama if the detention facility will be closed by the end of 2015.

"I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said. "It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values, and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there."

We wondered: Are American taxpayers spending millions of dollars per year for every detainee held in Cuba?

Turn to Lauren Carroll's fact-check from PunditFact.

Cuban spy's sperm, spirited out of U.S. prison, preceded prisoner swap

From CNN

It might be the most bizarre of the closely guarded secrets from last week's historic agreement between the United States and Cuba: How did the leader of a Cuban spy ring serving life in a California federal prison manage to impregnate his wife 2,245 miles away in Havana?

As part of the most significant diplomatic breakthrough between the United States and Cuba in more than 50 years, a prisoner swap was made. To uphold its part of the bargain, the U.S. released three Cuban spies, including Gerardo Hernandez, the head of the spy ring known as the Wasp Network....

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed the story, without going into the details.

"We can confirm the United States facilitated Mrs. Hernandez's request to have a baby with her husband," spokesman Brian Fallon said.

More here

President Obama brings hope to Cuba, but will Castro bring real change?


The U.S. president who brought us a hope-and-change campaign has helped spread the same message to Cuba after announcing the two countries would try to normalize relations.

But it’s likely Cuba will experience far more hope and far less change, at least in the short term.

Blame the Castro government for that. It doesn't want to change.

Raul Castro said as much on Wednesday, when he and Barack Obama simultaneously made the historic announcement of détente between the Cold War foes. Castro made sure to suggest socialism was in Cuba to stay, that he wasn’t “renouncing any of our principles.”

“The heroic Cuban people,” Castro said Wednesday, “will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice.”

Putting aside the irony of a totalitarian state’s leader talking about “social justice,” Castro’s speech Wednesday was notable not just for what he said, but for how he said it — in his green army fatigues. The message was clear: the revolution lives. Cuba remains in a state of battle.

In war, truth is often the first casualty. But to Castro’s credit he has been honest about his intentions to remain wedded to a financial system that doesn’t work for the people, only for the select group of political-military elites who live like princes while their countrymen scrounge for food.

More here

December 20, 2014

GOP consultants have some fun and send out a doc-shredding Christmas card

Data Targeting Christmas
Data Targeting, the Republican political consulting firm that went to legal war for the last year to keep its redistricting documents shielded from the public record, has had some fun this holiday season at its own expense. 

It's animated Christmas card comes with jingling bells and features Pat Bainter in a Santa coat with colleagues Matt Mitchell and Mike Sheehan at his side. It announces "But there's one 'secret' we've made sure they'll never get."

A countdown clock notes that the message will self destruct in 15 seconds, and the card then slides into a paper shredder and ends with: "Merry Christmas." 

For the record, the company lost its legal fight but won the redistricting war.  The Supreme Court ordered its shielded documents released, but only after the trial had ended and the congressional redistricting maps were redrawn with minimal changes. The docs, however, may shed more light on the legislative map and could cause some heartburn for the GOP leadership in the next legal fight over the Senate maps.

Lawyers for the Legislature on Friday filed a brief renewing the argument that the Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution were unconstitutional. That argument was rejected as it relates to the congressional maps but it's yet another sign that the battle rages on. Merry Christmas Pat, Mike and Matt. 

December 19, 2014

Poll: Cuban-Americans split on Obama’s Cuba policy, divided along generational lines

Cuban-Americans nationwide are almost evenly divided over support for the embargo and for President Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba, according to a new poll that shows a vast generational divide in reaction to this week’s historic announcement.

The poll by Bendixen & Amandi International also showed that Cuban-Americans are nearly split on whether Obama should have exchanged prisoners Wednesday with Raul Castro’s communist government.

But they strongly disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy overall and his approach to Cuba specifically, according to the poll of 400 Cuban-Americans conducted for The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Among the strongest responses from Cuban-Americans: Whether the United States should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror. That move is opposed by 60 percent, with only 22 percent in favor. The Obama administration is reviewing Cuba’s designation.

“The Cuban people will not see any benefits,” poll respondent Gabriel Rivera, a 40-year-old Miami resident, said of Obama’s announcement. “They will remain in the same condition because the Cuban government doesn’t grant any freedoms.”

More here

In Coconut Grove, a huddle between a mayor and a lieutenant governor


Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera had a sit-down Friday to talk about Florida helping the county attract some new business, a spokesman for the mayor said. 

Details weren't forthcoming, but the morning get-together between the two Republicans at Coconut Grove's Green Street Cafe was called to discuss "economic development projects... that require state assistance or financing," said Michael Hernández, communications director for Gimenez. 

In recent months, Gimenez said there was an economic-development project he would not name that he is trying to put together. He mentioned the project when announcing his support to use economic-development money tied to property taxes to subsidize development of SkyRise Miami, the Miami Wilds theme park and other ventures. 

Hernández said the morning meeting with Gimenez, Lopez-Cantera, who lives in Miami, and Gimenez's chief of staff, Alex Ferro, did not touch on the issue of property-tax appeals. Lopez-Cantera, as the county's elected property appraiser until Gov. Rick Scott picked him as his No. 2, has expertise in the matter, since he ran the office that defended the valuation appeals. 

The county schools chief, Alberto Carvalho, has met with Gimenez twice this month on the topic, and Carvalho is pushing for county and state action on the appeals to the Values Adjustment Board. Miami-Dade is facing a suit by the county teachers' union on the appeals, and school board member Raquel Regalado, a potential Gimenez challenger in 2016, wants the school system to join the litigation. 

The appeal payouts cut into revenue for both the county and the school system. Gimenez and his staff say they'd like to see Florida reform the rules on appeals. But they note the mayor has no control of the process.

Hernández said Gimenez did not raise the VAB issue with Lopez-Cantera, and that the last-minute meeting was called to discuss economic development. "That's his focus," Hernández said of Gimenez. 




Rick Scott touts reaching 700,000 jobs, but that's not what he promised in 2010 campaign

Less than three weeks before his second-term inauguration, Gov. Rick Scott is crowing that he has accomplished a goal he initially said could take seven years, despite the fact he isn’t even halfway to what he actually promised.

Scott and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday that as of November 2014, the state had added 715,700 private-sector jobs since December 2010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The governor used those numbers to declare victory on a major platform plank, his 7-7-7 plan for jobs growth, in which he promised the state would add 700,000 jobs in seven years by implementing Scott’s seven-point economic plan. Never mind that in 2010, Scott had actually promised 700,000 on top of normal growth, which means 1.7 million total. He’s also ignoring tens of thousands of employees cut from government payrolls over the past four years. 

Turn to Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

Marco Rubio's claims about Cuba face Truth-O-Meter

PolitiFact checked two claims this week by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, related to Cuba:

"The president said that the people of Cuba do not have access to advanced, 21st century modern technology for communications and telecommunications because of the U.S. embargo. That is false," Rubio said. "The reason why they don't have access to 21st century telecommunications — like smart phones, like access to the Internet — is because it is illegal in Cuba."

Obama’s statement wasn’t as full-throated as Rubio made it sound. And some of what Obama suggested is true, experts told us.

That said, Rubio has the better part of the argument that Cuba’s restrictive policies loom large over the debate. We rated this statement Mostly True (fact-check written by Lauren Carroll and Steve Contorno).

At a press conference Rubio said this:

"The White House has conceded everything and gained little. They gained no commitment on the part of the Cuban regime to freedom of press or freedom of speech or elections. No binding commitment was made to truly open up the Internet. No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties or to even begin the semblance of a transition to a democracy.

We rated his statement Mostly True (fact-check written by Louis Jacobson).

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul trade shots on TV, Twitter and Facebook over Cuba


As they jockey for possible presidential bids, Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are taking aim at each other on TV, Twitter and Facebook over Cuba policy.

Paul "doesn't know what he's talking about," Rubio says.

Rubio is an out-of-touch "isolationist," Paul says.

Even if the two don't run against each other, it certainly makes the GOP caucus in the U.S. Senate a potential viper pit -- especially because Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to run and incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports Rubio's hardline on Cuba but that he also backs his fellow Kentucky senator, Paul.

It started after President Obama and Raul Castro on Wednesday jointly announced efforts to normalize relations. The decision was anathema to Rubio, whose political identity is rooted in the conservative exile politics of Miami and its support for toughening the embargo against Cuba.

But while Republican presidential candidates lined up to echo Rubio's position, Paul on Thursday sided more with Obama, noting many U.S. farmers support the idea of more Cuba trade because it's a new market for their crops.

"The 50-year embargo just hasn't worked," Paul said in a radio interview with Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU in Huntington, West Virginia. "If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working, and probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship."

Paul pointed out that many younger Cuban-Americans support his point of view, which is probably true.

"In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea," he said.

Rubio, appearing Thursday on FOX, then blasted Paul for being ignorant. Here's the transcript, as found on Breitbart:

"He [Paul] has no idea what he’s talking about. And I’ll tell you why. Number one, the embargo on Cuba is an embargo that, quite frankly, has a bunch of holes in it. To give you an example, the United States is still one of Cuba’s largest trading partners, even now with the embargo, all sorts of commercial products and humanitarian products, like foodstuffs and other things are available in Cuba. Americans travel there all the time on what they call cultural exchanges. A bunch of Americans travel there by the way in violation of the embargo through third countries, Cuban-Americans can travel as many times as they want. They can send a lot of money back to Cuba to their relatives. What’s hurting the Cuban people is not the embargo, what’s hurting the Cuban people is the Cuban government. Look, Venezuela’s economy looks like Cuba’s economy now, you can’t even buy toilet paper in Caracas, and there’s no embargo on Venezuela. What Venezuela has in common with Cuba is they both have adopted radical socialist governmental policies…the embargo is not what’s hurting the Cuban people. it’s the lack of freedom and the lack of competent leaders."

Paul came back Friday on Twitter, and called out Rubio's handle: "The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?"

Then Paul took to Facebook: "Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.”

“Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies,...After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change...Finally, let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans. A recent poll demonstrates that a large majority of Cuban-Americans actually support normalizing relations between our countries.”

Your move, Sen. Rubio....

Rick Scott appoints Jim Boxold as FDOT secretary

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed Jim Boxold to be Florida’s next transportation secretary.
Boxold, who since 2013 has been former Secretary Ananth Prasad’s chief of staff and director of legislative affairs, was one of three finalists recommended Thursday by the Florida Transportation Commission.
Previously, Boxold served 10 years as the director of cabinet affairs for the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
“Jim will bring passion, energy and experience to our mission of making Florida the premier destination for jobs. I am grateful for Secretary Prasad’s service and I am confident Jim is the best person to carry on his commitment to excellence in improving our state’s infrastructure in the years ahead,” Scott said in a statement.
Boxold said in a statement, “It is an absolute honor to be appointed as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation today. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, transportation has been made a top priority to help drive our state’s economic growth and improve the lives of families. We will continue to focus on the Governor’s mission to make Florida the best state to live and get a great job.”


Fact-checking Ana Navarro's claim about Cuba, Venezuela and oil

President Barack Obama’s historic decision to open full diplomatic relations with Cuba has appalled many opponents of the Castro regime. Among their biggest complaints is that Cuba got huge concessions from the United States without being required to make fundamental changes to its political system.

CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro also argued that Obama could have outwaited the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul. The Cuban economy is in shambles, Navarro told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

"A lot of what their survival depends on is Venezuelan oil money, which is drying up," Navarro said. "Now that we are so close to the end of those two dictators -- who have oppressed these people for over half a century -- now we're going to change and do it unilaterally without them lifting the oppression?"

The Cuba-Venezuela connection has been on the lips of many commentators since the's news broke. We thought it would be good to put a number to Venezuela’s generosity toward Cuba and to what extent that aid is a matter of life or death for the Cuban economy.

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact.

Campaigning on Cuba issues is no longer so straightforward in Florida


Talking about U.S. policy toward Cuba used to be relatively easy for politicians in Florida: say “Cuba libre” or “Cuba sí, Castro no.”

Support for sanctions and the embargo was a given.

But no longer.

The reaction to President Barack Obama’s historic announcement Wednesday to try to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba was the latest sign yet that attitudes in the Cuban-American community are changing or, at least, are far more complex than many would think.

Less than half of Cuban-Americans — 47 percent to be exact — favored the embargo in a Latino Decisions poll of 400 highly likely Florida Hispanic voters taken in the final days of the 2014 elections.

Opposition to the embargo stood at 39 percent among likely Cuban-American voters — a result that Latino Decisons pollster Gary Segura found surprisingly high. “The Cuban-American leadership that supports the embargo has to be in a panic over this,” he said.

The poll also showed that only 33 percent of Cuban-American respondents said the embargo was very important. But 32 percent said the issue was not important.

So the intensity of those voters who favor the embargo isn’t overwhelming, according to the poll.

The Latino Decisions poll echoes results from Florida International University’s annual Cuba poll. FIU’s last survey, in May, found 51 percent of Cuban-American voters favored the embargo in Miami-Dade County, which has the nation’s largest concentration of people of Cuban descent, nearly 900,000 people.

More here

December 18, 2014

Regulators give FPL approval to charge customers to invest in fracking

The Public Service Commission gave approval Thursday to a request by Florida Power & Light to charge customers for its exploration of natural gas using fracking technologies.

The panel concluded that the project, which allows the company to invest $191 million in a joint venture with PetroQuest Energy, Inc., would help to stabilize volatile energy costs and save customers more than $100 million over 30 years – about two cents a month -- and stabilize a fraction of the company's energy costs. 

The measure was opposed by the lawyers who represent the public in rate cases, as well as the state’s largest industrial energy users, the Florida Retail Federation and several environmental groups. The PSC postponed a decision until March on the question of whether FPL will be allowed to charge customers up to $750 million a year in similar projects without PSC approval.

The opponents argued that there was no guarantee that the risk of shouldering the costs of oil and gas drilling in an uncertain regulatory environment would produce benefits for ratepayers and could backfire in higher costs. They argued the decision to allow the company to use customer dollars for speculation was something that should be left to the Legislature.

“FPL will shift all risks of investing in gas reserves to the customers in exchange for promises of potential customer fuel savings and guaranteed trued-up profits (or returns) for shareholders,’’ the public counsel said in its brief. It noted that it is not opposed to guaranteeing fuel savings to customers however, "FPL simply cannot guarantee those savings to customers over the next 50 years.”

The ruling could be the beginning of a trend as Duke Energy, the largest utility in the Tampa Bay market, said it is also considering asking for permission to charge its customers for fracking exploration.

Continue reading "Regulators give FPL approval to charge customers to invest in fracking" »