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February 26, 2017

Rubio: I won't attend town halls full of 'liberal activists'

@PatriciaMazzei

Don't expect to see U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at a town hall anytime soon.

The Florida Republican said in an interview this weekend that the much-ballyhooed events organized last week by Indivisible Miami, a group that opposes President Donald Trump, aren't real forums to exchange ideas.

"They are not town halls anymore," Rubio told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 on Saturday. "And I wish they were, because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as [Florida] speaker of the House."

Indivisible Miami put together several "empty-chair" town halls for Rubio's constituents last week. The senator was never expected to show up. His office hasn't scheduled any town halls of his own, unlike some of his fellow GOP colleagues in the Senate. 

"These are real people. They are real liberal activists, and I respect their right to do it," Rubio said of the crowds who showed up to last week's events, estimating that "80-90 percent" were liberal activists. "But it is not a productive exercise. It's all designed to have news coverage at night."

Rubio also told "Facing South Florida" host Jim DeFede that it's too soon to call for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian interference into the U.S. presidential election, including any potential ties to Trump's campaign, as Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California has suggested.

"We will gather facts. We will gather evidence," Rubio said of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We will present that in a report to the Senate and ultimately to the American people and then I believe people will be able to opine about whether or not that is something worthy of the intervention of the Justice Department. And at that time we would opine. But I don't even know it will rise to that level. I'm not prepared to say that. It might and if it does we'll act and if it doesn't we won't."

Dad of SEAL slain in Yemen wants answers: 'Don’t hide behind my son’s death to prevent an investigation'

Navy SEAL 01 EKM
via @jknipebrown

When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Donald Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects.

It was a private transfer, as the family had requested. No media and no bystanders, except for some military dignitaries.

Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming. Owens was sitting with his wife, Marie, and other family members in the solemn, living room-like space where the loved ones of the fallen assemble before they are taken to the flight line.

“I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the President.”

It had been little more than 24 hours since six officers in dress uniform knocked on the door to Owens’ home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. It was not yet daylight when he answered the door, already knowing in the pit of his stomach what they had come to tell him.

Now, Owens cringed at the thought of having to shake the hand of the president who approved the raid in Yemen that claimed his son’s life — an operation that he and others are now calling into question.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said Friday, speaking out for the first time in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump’s harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son’s last mission.

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water for months, Richardson finds

Gadsden broken faucetThe 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste.

After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work.

Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, the head of the Department of Management Services, the state agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators.

In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs. The vice president of the private prison operator, Management Training Corp., also arrived in town to meet with state officials. The state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, dispatched inspectors to assess the safety and welfare of the inmates.

For Richardson, who has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system, it’s another frustrating example of the failure of the state to monitor and hold accountable its prison operators.

“I’m a policymaker. I’m not a monitor. I’m not their auditor. Why is it that I’m out there fixing water heaters?” he said.

In a letter to Richardson Thursday, Poppell said he has since removed the state-paid official in charge of monitoring conditions at the prison and has also launched his own investigation. Story here. 

Photo: One of several non-working hot water faucets found by Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional Facility where women have been deprived of heat and hot water for months. 

Here's why it's so difficult to be a Syrian refugee in South Florida

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@PatriciaMazzei @NickNehamas @karadapena

For decades, South Florida has welcomed wave after wave of people fleeing political and economic unrest in their home countries. Cubans. Haitians. Nicaraguans. Colombians. In a region awash with exiles, you would think it would be easy to accommodate the latest swell of refugees.

Tell that to a Syrian.

The number of Syrian refugees coming to Florida has spiked in recent years, as the U.S. has started to accept more people escaping the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. But resettling these newest immigrants has proven challenging for aid agencies, charities and volunteers who help the new arrivals. Syrians don’t have a large community of their countrymen awaiting them — or many Arabic speakers with whom they can communicate.

“Life without language is very hard,” Kamar Byrkdar, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who arrived in Broward County five months ago with her husband and two children, said through an interpreter. “We want to be able to improve our English so that we’re able to stand on our own two feet.”

When the Byrkdars arrived, after a three-year wait in Lebanon, they had work permits, Medicaid and an apartment west of Fort Lauderdale. But it took three months, Byrkdar said, for anyone to show them how to enroll their kids in school. She and her husband didn’t know how to buy bus fare, much less how to navigate routes. Byrkdar learned where she could sign up for English classes only three weeks ago. Her children remain anxious around the police, whom they associate with war.

Now they have to contend with the emotional stress of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which barred entry into the U.S. for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees, and prohibited refugees from all other countries for 120 days.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

February 25, 2017

Rick Scott dined with Donald Trump at the White House

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via @learyreports

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had lunch today at the White House with President Donald Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The White House called it a working lunch "to discuss how best to solve the problems of Obamacare, with a special emphasis on the states’ role in healthcare."

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio had dinner with Trump.

Scott's official daily schedule originally did not disclose the lunch. The governor's office sent a revised schedule at 5:25 p.m. indicating the meeting with Trump was at 2 p.m.

Scott then also tweeted a photo of himself in the Oval Office with the president, saying it was "great meeting with my friend @realDonaldTrump today on reinventing great health care in our nation!"

-- with Kristen M. Clark contributing

Photo credit: @FLGovScott

February 24, 2017

Delay, deception and destruction of public records on private accounts lead to big Martin County fine

Maggy HurchallaA company that sued Martin County for allegedly reneging on a contract to use land to clean polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has won a major public records lawsuit accusing county commissioners of denying they conducted public business on private email accounts, delaying producing the accounts once they were discovered and, in one case, destroying the record trail.

The county has agreed to pay Lake Point LLC, a company that operates a rock mine in western Martin County, more than $371,800 in attorneys’ fees and establish a new policy for how to handle public business on private email accounts.

Photo by Miami Herald: Former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla turned over emails between her and county commissioners, igniting a public records lawsuit that now has led to a $371,800 fine. 

Rick Scott gets post that could elevate national profile

ScottConvention

AP Photo

@JeremySWallace

Gov. Rick Scott will be second-in-command of a Republican organization that played a huge financial role in his re-election.

On Friday the Republican Governor's Association named Scott its vice chairman, replacing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who resigned and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the chairman of the group, made the announced in a statement to the media.

“I am honored to serve in this new role for the RGA and help build upon our momentum that led to today’s near-century high of 33 Republican governors," Scott said. "The RGA has proved time and again that it is the most effective political organization in the country and I look forward to helping the RGA continue that tradition.”

The RGA has also proven to be a big supporter of Scott in the past. In 2014, the RGA spent over $18 million to help Scott win his re-election over Democrat Charlie Crist.

"Governor Rick Scott’s leadership and electoral experience will be a tremendous asset to the RGA as we recruit candidates, fundraise, and continue to build a solid foundation of resources for 38 gubernatorial elections over the next two years," Walker said. 

Florida Legislature leaders heading to D.C. to meet with Rubio

@JeremySWallace

The top leaders of the Florida Legislature are going to Washington, D.C. next week for a series of meetings with Congressional leaders and a lengthy discussion with Sen. Marco Rubio over federal issues.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are confirmed to be part of a contingent that has meetings scheduled with Rubio on Monday and Tuesday.

Corcoran said Rubio invited leaders of the Legislature to go over federal transportation, health care and environmental issues and how they might after Florida.

A spokeswoman for Rubio said the meetings are to make sure there is an open line of communication as the state Legislature prepares to start its new session on March 7.

Rubio’s office said they have invited 17 leaders of the Florida House and Senate to the meeting including Democratic leaders of both chambers.

Andrew Gillum 'seriously considering' 2018 governor's race

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@ByKristenMClark

It’s been no big secret that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has had his eye on the Florida governor’s mansion, but now the Democrat is acknowledging it out loud.

Speaking Friday at the Central Florida Urban League’s Cornerstone Awards in Orlando, Gillum announced officially that he is “seriously considering running for governor.”

The announcement is not unlike recent ones by those of fellow Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham — who also have all-but-announced formal campaigns for 2018.

“I feel strongly that the direction our state government has gone these last 20 years is out of step with the majority of Floridians, from the environment to wages, to education and job creation,” Gillum said, according to prepared remarks. “I believe this is a moment that requires not just people who quietly agree on these issues, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.”

The 37-year-old Gillum is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. The affable African American politician was among the featured speakers at last summer’s Democratic National Convention and he has been a standout in Tallahassee city politics for 14 years.

However, Gillum faces some big obstacles if he does embark on a statewide campaign.

Full story here.

Photo credit: CateComm

Fewer state workers and higher job turnover in Florida in 2016

SEratioThe state government workforce continued to get smaller Gov. Rick Scott over the past year, and Florida has the fewest full-time state workers in proportion to its population of any state, according to a report released Friday.

The annual workforce report, produced by the state Department of Management Services, includes these findings:

* The total number of full-time state worker positions at the end of the last fiscal year was 97,700, compared to 104,134 in 2012, which was a year after Scott became governor. The actual number of employees was 88,991, which is 5.6 percent below the number in 2012.

* Florida had 101 full and part-time employees per 10,000 residents in 2016, the fewest of any state. The national average is 209.

* The state had 87 full-time employees per 10,000 residents, also the fewest of any state. The national average is 169.

* Employee turnover among career service workers, who make up the largest chunk of full-time state workers, was 11.8 percent last year, the highest percentage since Scott became governor in 2011 and the first time the turnover rate reached double digits.

* Women greatly outnumber men in the state work force but men make more money on average across the board in state government. Among career service workers, the average salary was $37,042 for men and $34,384 for women. The average salary for all state workers was $39,657, which is 3.9 percent higher than it was in 2012.

All statistics in the workforce report are as of June 30, 2016. The full report can be found here.

PolitiFact: A look at Trump's progress on immigration promises

Trumpfirstweeksign

via @miriamvalverde

In his administration’s earliest weeks, President Donald Trump has worked to deliver on major campaign promises that could impact millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Trump’s immigration policy as commander in chief has mostly been in line with his campaign rhetoric. A flurry of executive orders cast a wide net for people who will become deportation priorities and authorized the construction of a border wall with Mexico.

But Trump has held back on at least one promise for which he pledged prompt action: Recipients of a deferred action program Trump said he would terminate immediately for now have seen no changes.

Here’s a rundown of some major issues outlined in Trump’s executive orders and in implementation memos issued by Homeland Security, the department tasked with enforcing immigration laws.

Border wall planning in early stages

Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is In the Works. An executive order signed Jan. 25 directs the DHS secretary to "take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border."

In an implementation memo issued Feb. 20, DHS Secretary John Kelly instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to consult with other executive departments and agencies on the immediate planning, design, construction and maintenance of the border wall. The memo directs the use of materials originating in the United States "to the maximum extent permitted by law."

Border Patrol is assessing priority areas where a wall or similar physical barriers can be built, DHS said. The department has identified locations near El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif., for wall construction as the fencing in place is "no longer effective."

Currently, there are 702 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. It includes 652 miles of primary fencing, 36 miles of secondary fencing and 14 miles of tertiary fencing, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Keep reading Miriam Valverde's story from PolitiFact.

Why did two Miami commissioners miss marijuana civil citation vote?

Modern4 health lnew cmg

@NewsbySmiley

When the Miami City Commission voted Thursday to give police officers the discretion to issue civil citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession instead of making an arrest, two commissioners were conspicuously absent.

Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo -- the former running for mayor, the latter mulling a run -- disappeared from the dais when the item came up in the evening. They missed the unanimous vote by Wifredo "Willy" Gort, Keon Hardemon and Ken Russell to enter into a three-year civil citation compact with the county, which implemented citations in 2015.

The agreement allows police to issue fines for several misdemeanor offenses, including littering and theft of shopping carts (commissioners removed trespassing and loitering and prowling). But the headliner of the group was marijuana possession.

Curious about why they were missing, and how they would have voted, we called Carollo and Suarez Friday morning to get a response.

Suarez didn't remember specifically why he left the dais -- "I just wasn't there" -- but said he supports the issuance of civil citations for misdemeanor pot possession. He shared police concerns about downgrading trespassing and prowling offenses, which apparently held up the agreement for months.

Carollo, a former police officer, did not respond to a voice mail and text message left on his cell phone around 9:45 a.m.

We'll update this blog if and when he calls back.

Richard Corcoran and Joe Negron see cities and counties' role differently

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@MichaelAuslen

When it comes to telling local governments what they can and cannot do, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are taking markedly different positions.

The issue will play out in the upcoming legislative session in the form of broad House legislation (HB 17) that would ban all local government regulation of business without state permission, which could throw out ordinances ranging from mandatory bar closing hours to protection of LGBTQ Floridians. A narrower Senate bill (SB1158) filed Thursday would prevent regulation of "commerce, trade and labor."

Where Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, sees preempting local laws as a priority, Negron, R-Stuart, feels differently.

"For me, the general rule is to allow local governments to operate in their lane without the state interfering," Negron said. "That being said, I believe there are certain policy issues (where the state should step in) and so there's a delicate balance here, and it depends on what the issue is."

For example, Negron championed giving the state power in determining gun laws. He voted last year to take local governments' rights to regulate ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, an issue that will return this spring as well.

Corcoran, who under the Obama administration railed against the federal government meddling in state affairs, takes a hard-line approach toward local governments.

"When they set up the Constitution, they basically said that the federal government exists for these enumerated powers. If it's not enumberated, all of it belongs to the states," Corcoran said. "Every bit of it. And the states have all of that."

The same principle, he said, does not exist in the state's relationship with cities and counties, though they do currently have home rule -- the right to pass laws and regulations that the state has not prohibited in their boundaries.

To Corcoran, taking away some of that ability is in service of another goal: "We have a job to try to make the state as friendly as possible for not just individuals but also for businesses."

Photo: Then-Rep. Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, shares a laugh with then-Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, before the start of the 2016 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)

Charlie Crist files for divorce

Charlie and carole crist 2
via @adamsmithtimes

After nine years of marriage, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has filed for divorce.

“I think the world of Carole. She’s an amazing person. It just didn’t work out for us,” the former governor told the Tampa Bay Times. “I wish all the the best for her.”

Crist, 60, said the divorce should have no impact on his service. He and Carole, 47, own a Parkshore condo in downtown St. Petersburg, and details about whether he will continue to live there have yet to be worked out.

Crist met Carole, a glamorous fixture on the New York and Hamptons social circuit, in the fall of 2007 and became engaged in July 2008 when he was a Republican governor widely seen as a top contender to be John McCain’s running mate.

The Crists married in December 2008, and together they worked through a tumultuous period in Crist’s political career: An unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate as both a Republican and then independent in 2010 and then unsuccessful campaign for governor as a Democrat in 2014. In November, he was elected to the U.S. House, representing much of Pinellas County.

Mrs. Crist a top adviser to her husband throughout, and late last year went onto his campaign payroll as his political director.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Joe Burbank, MCT

Miami-Dade and Broward schools to keep transgender protections

Transgender Bathrooms
via @KyraGurney

The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts plan to keep protections for transgender students in place despite a change in federal policy.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced an end to federal protections that allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity. The administration is now leaving it up to states and school districts to determine such policies, lifting Obama-era federal guidelines that directed schools to treat students according to their gender identity, rather than their biological sex, or risk losing federal funds.

In South Florida, school administrators say LGBTQ students do not need to worry. Transgender students in Miami-Dade and Broward are still protected under the districts’ anti-discrimination policies, which were put in place before the Obama administration issued its directive last year.

More here.

Photo credit: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

Rubio gets empty-chair town hall treatment in South Miami

IMG_2315
via @harrisalexc

The mayor of South Miami and the former mayor of Pinecrest hoisted a dark suit on a hanger into the air between them, and the crowd of nearly 300 people jeered and laughed.

Someone threw a wad of cash on the table, nearly hitting the paper name tag identifying the invisible man as Senator Marco Rubio. Philip Stoddard, of South Miami, stuffed the bills in a suit pocket and held a water bottle near the lapels.

A man from the overflow crowd outside shouted from the open doors: “It’s an empty chair. We deserve better than an empty chair.”

He, and hundreds of other activists, gathered in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami in Glenvar Heights Thursday night for a town hall meeting without their elected official.

Congress is in recess this week, so some representatives — including Florida Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Dennis Ross — use the break to hold town hall meetings. Rubio’s office said he was in Europe on senate business this week and wouldn’t be attending any, but activists found the senator twice on Thursday and posted videos of the confrontation online.

More here.

February 23, 2017

House and Senate have opened the board on gaming bill and differences are vast

GamblingFlorida House and Senate committees on Thursday gave approval to vastly different approaches to the future of gambling in Florida, with the Senate opening the door to massive expansion of slot machines and Indian gaming, while the House attempts to retract gaming and preserve protected markets for horse and dog racing and tribal gaming for another 20 years.

The House bill, PCB TGC 17-01, "reaffirms our commitment to a limited gaming footprint," said Rep. Michael LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, chair of the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee which passed its bill 10-5.

"It also keeps the Legislature in charge" of the future of gaming, he said, an attempt to halt the expansion of gambling that has occurred in recent years as lawmakers failed to close loopholes and clarify the law in the face of court rulings.

By contrast, the Senate bill would give Miami-Dade and Broward counties each an additional slot casino, the Seminole Tribe would have seven full-scale casinos, and horse and dog tracks in at least eight counties would get new slot parlors.

The measures are seen as the first pieces in a lengthy session-long negotiation expected to guarantee the state an estimate $250 million ot $300 million in annual revenues from the Seminole Tribe and to clarify the state’s now-porous gaming laws that have been weakened by legal challenges, court rulings and numerous loopholes.

"Were going to pass a gaming bill” that ties the compact to “massive contraction,’’ predicted House Speaker Richard Corcoran in an interview Wednesday with the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau. “I can assure you the face of gaming is a massive contraction and those people who have abused the system, abused the power of the special interests to get things in law that should never have been in law, will suffer the consequences.’’

Continue reading "House and Senate have opened the board on gaming bill and differences are vast" »

Debbie Wasserman Schultz vows to fight Trump on immigration

 

 

Dws for amy

@amysherman1

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz vowed to fight back against President Donald Trump’s immigration orders and criticized Miami-Dade county commissioners for caving to Trump on sanctuary cities.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, met with city and county officials in Broward on Thursday morning after she held a closed-door briefing with federal immigration officials from multiple agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Wasserman Schultz sought the ICE briefing to gain more clarity about the administration’s immigration plans, but said she walked away with scant information.

“In my 24 years in office I have rarely had a more evasive briefing than the one I just had,” she told local government officials who met with her at a city of Sunrise government building.

Keep reading here.

Photo by the Sun Sentinel. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, left, discusses President Donald Trump's new immigraiton policy with Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto and Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. Anthony Man Sun Sentinel

 

 

Trump labor pick Acosta espoused moderate immigration views

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@PatriciaMazzei

About a month before Donald Trump — then merely a celebrity real-estate mogul — completed the purchase of the Doral Resort & Spa, the hotel hosted a conference of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a fledgling Republican group created to grow the party’s Latino outreach.

A discussion titled “Immigration Policy and the Hispanic Workforce” featured four prominent Republicans urging lawmakers to pursue comprehensive immigration legislation. One of the panelists was the dean of Florida International University’s law school, Alex Acosta.

“We need someone that’s going to say we have to enact comprehensive immigration solutions,” Acosta said at the Jan. 27, 2012, conference. “Part of that means figuring out what we do with all the individuals that are already in our nation. We need them here. They provide construction jobs. They provide agricultural jobs. We need to figure out a way to address that.

“We need to figure out a way to then have a pathway to further future legal immigration. And if we don’t take it all at once, we’re not going to solve it, because you can’t solve part of it without solving the other part. You can’t address immigration without answering what do you do with individuals that are already in the United States.”

Acosta is now President Trump’s second nominee for labor secretary. And if the experience of Andy Puzder, Trump’s first nominee, is any indication, Acosta’s moderate immigration views could be problematic ahead of his confirmation hearing.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Florida's Democratic race for governor is already under way

via @adamsmithtimes

Politico speculated the other day that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum could announce for governor Friday at an appearance in Orlando for the Central Florida Urban League's Cornerstone Awards. Seems unlikely that a mayor would announce formally for office outside his own city, but it's a safe bet that both Gillum and Miami Beach Beach Mayor Philip Levine will sound very much like gubernatorial candidates when they address the gathering Friday.

That's because for all purposes they already are running for governor. So is former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. They're traveling the state, interviewing and hiring campaign consultants, meeting with key donors, activists and others.

Levine has even launched his own political committee, "All About Florida," and  hired former Charlie Crist campaign manager Matthew Van Name to coordinate his political activities. 

Gillum and Graham could announce formally any time now. So could little known Winter Park businessman Chris King. Levine we assume will wait until after April 15, because that's when Miami Beach hosts a National League of Cities conference. The NLC would be reluctant to give him a big platform if he were actively campaigning then against other mayors.

Meanwhile, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told us last week that he will make a decision about running within 60 days. Our hunch is he doesn't run. That leaves (so far) Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene and Orlando area personal injury lawyer John Morgan, who have the vast resources that they can wait until next year if they prefer.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times