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223 posts from December 2011

December 19, 2011

FAMU trustees snub Scott's recommendation; President James Ammons will stay on during hazing investigations

Scrapping the recommendation of Gov. Rick Scott, Florida A&M University trustees reaffirmed their decision to keep President James Ammons as head of the school during several investigations launched in the fallout of a student's hazing death.

In a 30-minute conference call that took up other issues, board chairman Solomon Badger said, "We will stand firm against outside influence regardless of how well intended."

"It is my recommendation that until a final report results from these investigations with official facts, the president’s status remain the same," he said.

The board also announced it will convene weekly meetings for the next two months to stay apprised of developments in the homicide investigation of drum major Robert Champion, who collapsed after being beaten on a bus after a rivalry game one month ago today, as well as an FDLE investigation into the school's finances. 

“For the sake of appearances, and to assure the public that these investigations are clearly independent, I believe it would have been in the best interest of Florida A&M University for President Ammons to step aside until all of these investigations are completed," Scott said in a statement. "However, we have a process in Florida for the administration of the State University System, and that process has been followed.  Like all other Floridians, I will abide by the decision made by the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.”


Black Caucus urges FAMU trustees to "stand firm" despite push from Gov. Scott to remove prez

The Legislative Black Caucus urged the Florida A&M Board of Trustees "to stand firm and without reservation" as it weighs this morning whether to suspend President James Ammons, per Gov. Rick Scott's suggestion, amid several investigations launched in the wake of a student's hazing death.

Echoing statements from U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and FAMU alumni this weekend, the caucus warned that Scott's involvement could jeopardize the school's accreditation under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which requires that "the governing board is free from undue influence from political, religious or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence."

"It is the position of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) that the Board of Trustees be allowed to fulfill its duties in the manner outlined in Florida statutes without influence from the Legislative or Executive branch of government. We trust that the Board will act decisively, firmly and in the best interest of Florida A&M University," said caucus chairwoman and Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.

Here's the Monday statement:

Continue reading "Black Caucus urges FAMU trustees to "stand firm" despite push from Gov. Scott to remove prez" »

December 18, 2011

Gov. Scott insists he isn't singling out FAMU as its alumni claim otherwise

Gov. Rick Scott insists he is not treating Florida A&M University unfairly by recommending its president step down amid investigations into a student's hazing death. His Sunday statement is a reaction to mounting student and alumni criticism of his involvement.

The university's Board of Trustees have called a special meeting for Monday, the one-month anniversary of Robert Champion's death after a rivalry football game, to discuss Scott's request. Scott said he will abide by their decision about FAMU President James Ammons.

"I have not and will not try to influence their decision," Scott said in a lengthy statement, copied in full below. "I simply offered my advice and opinion based on the events and the facts I was made aware of."

The board has already weighed in on the matter once this month, deciding in a regular meeting to reprimand Ammons over allegations by band director Julian White that he did not handle previous allegations of hazing appropriately. Scott called on Ammons to step down hours after his Thursday return from a weeklong trade and goodwill mission to Israel (after he was briefed about a sexual molestation case that occurred on the campus FAMU Developmental Research School). His call infuriated FAMU students, prompting them to march to his mansion in peaceful protest that night.

Ammons said Friday that stepping down is "something I'm considering."

Representatives of the school's alumni association warned in a press conference Sunday that Scott's involvement could cost the school its accreditation, and that his actions are excessive compared to incidents of hazing and death at other schools. They also criticized the media for not covering other hazing-related cases as intensely as this one.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, wrote Scott a letter Friday expressing much of the same. 

Read the statements from Scott and the alumni association below:

Continue reading "Gov. Scott insists he isn't singling out FAMU as its alumni claim otherwise" »

Connie Mack voted for billions of dollars in earmarks. Now he opposes them

There was a time in Rep. Connie Mack’s career when his website proudly highlighted a hometown paper article praising him for “bringing home the federal bacon.”

That was so 2008.

Today, Republican voters want a diet. And Mack, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is fending off his fellow Republican opponents who are bashing him for voting for billions of dollars in earmarks since his election to Congress in 2004.

Mack says he’s “proud” of the earmarks he submitted for his Southwest Florida district — namely for widening Interstate 75. But he says he supports a new moratorium on earmarks because times have changed and the budget process had been abused by others.

“We fought for a fair return on tax dollars for my district. But certainly, we’re at a different time and place right now. And that is a $15 trillion debt that, with the passage of the increasing of the debt ceiling, will be $17 trillion,” he said. “We’re in a very dangerous place.”

Mack says the real big-spending culprit is Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who voted for President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus and healthcare plans. Mack didn’t name his critical Republican opponents, George LeMieux and Adam Hasner, who have had government-spending issues of their own.

Mack’s on-again, off-again relationship with earmarking is a lesson in how Congress works, and how Republican candidates have had to adjust to an increasingly conservative electorate.

Full story here

December 17, 2011

Rep. Corrine Brown says Gov. Rick Scott is focusing too much on FAMU

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown late Friday criticized Gov. Rick Scott for pushing Florida A&M President James Ammons to step down from his post amid hazing investigations, joining a chorus of angry students and alumni who say Scott is exceeding his authority.

"By carrying out this action, you may very well jeopardize the academic accreditation of FAMU, one of our nation's finest Historically Black Colleges and Universities," she said.

Brown said the death of Robert Champion -- officially ruled a homicide on Friday --  is tragic but "needs to be put into perspective" because other universities have had problems with hazing too.

"Yet focusing excessively on one incident at just one school is not the answer or the proper path towards correcting this problem," she said.

Scott met with Ammons on Friday after students protested at his mansion the night before. He remained insistent that Ammons step down while a few investigations take place. Ammons said they had a great talk and he is considering the request. The Board of Trustees meets Monday to discuss the matter.

Here's the entirety of Brown's letter:

Continue reading "Rep. Corrine Brown says Gov. Rick Scott is focusing too much on FAMU" »

December 16, 2011

Video: Ammons meets with Scott, says he is considering stepping aside


Pro-Romney PAC savaging Newt Gingrich on FL TV

Just in time for the holidays...

...Attack TV ads to kick off Florida’s presidential primary.

A political group working to elect Mitt Romney is launching TV ads in Tampa Bay attacking former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a baggage-laden disaster against whom Barack Obama would love to run.

"Barack Obama’s plan is working. Destroy Mitt Romney. Run against Newt Gingrich. Newt has a ton of baggage," says a female narrator, who cites Congressional ethics violations fines Gingrich paid, consulting fees he received from Freddie Mac, and his positions on illegal immigration.

It wasn’t immediately clear Friday how extensively the 30-second spot will air in Florida, but The Buzz today reviewed contracts showing that the political committee, Restore Our Future bought $30,500 worth of air time on the local Fox affiliate, WTVT-Ch. 13, and $2,100 on the CBS affilliate, WTSP-Ch. 10.

Restore Our Future is a so-called SuperPac that can spend vast sums helping candidates but is not allowed to coordinate directly with the campaign. Several former Romney campaign staffers are working for Restore Our Future, which has been heavily funded by longtime Romney supporters.

The ads initially are scheduled to run through Dec. 22, apparently an effort to soften up Gingrich just before absentee ballot voting begins in Florida. A spokeswoman for Restore Our Future declined to comment.

Gingrich leads Romney in Florida by 18 percentage points, according to an average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. Restore Our Future has been running many more negative ads in Iowa against Gingrich, who has seen his lead eroding down to a current average of about 8 percentage points.

A spokesman for Gingrich has not responded to requests for comment.


Posted by Adam C. Smith

FAMU band member's death is ruled a homicide

The Orange County Medical Examiner has ruled the death of FAMU band member Robert Champion a homicide  "due to soft tissue hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident."

"Mr. Robert Champion, a previously healthy 26-year-old member of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University marching band, collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body,'' wrote Sara Irrgang, the county medical examiner.

From the press release:

Continue reading "FAMU band member's death is ruled a homicide" »

"Haves and Soon-to-Haves"

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's speech this afternoon summing up his first year in the U.S. Senate:



Pinecrest Village Council passes motion to oppose casinos

Pinecrest Village Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to urge state lawmakers to reject any and all new casinos in Florida. The motion was in response to a state bill that proposes to bring three resort style casinos to Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Mayor Cindy Lerner, who sponsored the resolution, said Pinecrest is the first municipality in Miami-Dade County to pass a resolution against casinos. (Miami Beach voted Wednesday to oppose the bill.) Lerner says Vegas-style gambling would wreck Miami-Dade’s economy.

“This would cannibalize area hotels and small business. It is the biggest box of all big-box casinos,” said Lerner. “We are community of entrepreneurs. This will destroy the fabric of our community.”

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