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10 posts from February 8, 2013

February 08, 2013

In drive to ban red light cameras, Campbell pleads ignorance of

Opponents for red light cameras could have found a better advocate for their cause than Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami.

On Thursday, Campbell’s HB 4011  outlawing red light cameras will be heard at the House’s Economic Affairs Committee at 9 a.m. 

What’s the matter with Campbell sponsoring a bill that many Floridians would cheer?

A Honda minivan registered to her husband, Hubert, has five red light camera violations, according to records obtained by the Times/Herald from American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, a Scottsdale, AZ vendor that provides the cameras for most cities and counties that use them in Florida. Because of a lawsuit won by the Times/Herald, ATS must make tickets public record.

Two of the tickets, a May 10, 2010 violation in North Miami and a July 16, 2010 violation in Hallendale Beach, remain uncollected. A ticket costs $158. If unpaid, a traffic citation is issued and may result in the termination of the vehicle registration and suspension of the owner’s driver’s license.

ATS provided a photo of the Honda Odyssey minivan at one of the violations. It has a Campbell campaign sticker on it.

Two videos show the minivan making reckless turns on red, one left and the other right.

When reached Friday night, Campbell explained she was filing the bill for her constituents.

“My constituents complained and the people are hurting,” Campbell said. “I promised them when I went to Tallahassee that I would repeal the red light cameras.”

But asked about the five tickets, Campbell said she didn’t know about them. Or at least four of them. She said she did know about a ticket she received in the mail for an Oct. 22 Miami Gardens violation.

But she said she had no clue about the others.

“Something is definitely wrong,” Campbell said. “You are the one who just told me about it. This is news to me.”

Despite the video footage of the minivan blowing through the red lights, Campbell wasn’t buying it.

“It’s a lie,” she said. “That camera is a made up story. You can do anything with the computer now.”

ATS spokesman Charles Territo said it was unlikely Campbell wouldn’t have gotten notice of the tickets, and he vouched for the accuracy of his company’s records and the photographic evidence. 

“I don’t know how she wouldn’t know, unless her husband didn’t tell her,” Territo said. “Someone there knows about them because three have been paid.”

UPDATED Miami-Dade commission chairwoman to host watch party for Marco Rubio's State of the Union response

The city of West Miami and Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa will host a watch party Tuesday -- not for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, but for Sen. Marco Rubio's Republican response.

UPDATE: Sosa's office said Saturday that the event is, in fact, to watch both the president's and Rubio's speeches.

Rubio came up in politics as a West Miami city commissioner when Sosa, his political godmother, was the small city's mayor. Sosa, a close Rubio family friend, is also a Republican, though her commission post is nonpartisan.

In a news release on her commission letterhead sent Friday afternoon, Sosa and city officials invited residents "to watch Senator Marco Rubio become the first person to deliver a bilingual response to a State of the Union address." 

The watch party will take place at 9 p.m., when Obama is scheduled to deliver his annual speech to Congress, at 1700 SW 62nd Ave. -- at the, um, Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Committee recommends FSU relocate embattled film program from West Palm to Tallahassee

It’s only been up and running for a year, but the Board of Governors is poised to order a move for Florida State University’s animation and digital arts program. A special committee voted today to recommend that the nascent program be relocated from West Palm Beach to Tallahassee to join with the rest of FSU’s film school.

That vote occurred after three hours of passionate testimony from West Palm Beach city officials and leaders of FSU’s film school, who tried to make the case for allowing the program to remain there. But without a business partner or clear plan to move forward, the committee's three members said it doesn’t make sense for FSU film students to remain in South Florida.

“We should not ask our students and their parents to risk their own future and fortune on something so undefined,” said Mori Hosseini, the Board of Governors member who chaired the committee.

The full Board of Governors will take up the committee’s recommendation during its Feb. 21 meeting. Contacted Friday evening, FSU President Eric Barron repeated his promise that the school would abide by whatever the board decided.

FSU's animation and digital arts program has been in limbo ever since its main business partner, Digital Domain Media Group, filed bankruptcy in September. The company had received $20 million in government subsidies and its failure was a blow not only to FSU but to the state’s efforts to use incentives to woo companies.

Continue reading "Committee recommends FSU relocate embattled film program from West Palm to Tallahassee" »

In another attack on Marco Rubio, Univision worker takes partisan Facebook whacks at "loser" Republican

Alex Angel 1A top assistant to an Univision news boss trashed Sen. Marco Rubio on the Facebook page of the Republican's aide, raising new questions about possible pro-Democratic, anti-Rubio bias inside the powerful Spanish-language network's Doral headquarters.

The latest incident began Wednesday night after Rubio's spokesman, Alex Burgos, announced the high-profile Florida senator would give the GOP's first-ever bilingual rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union speech.

That led Univision employee Angelica Artiles to let loose a string of partisan criticisms.

"Oh. wow, the loser is going to speak after our President," Artiles wrote on spokesman Alex Burgos' Facebook page at 9:33 p.m. Wednesday. "Anything to get publicity. Ask him to do us a favor and stay home that night."

Alex angel 2Sentiments like that reflect the prevailing political feeling among Univision's higher ups at its Doral headquarters, Univision insiders have told The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for more than a year. Artiles is executive assistant to Daniel Coronell, Univision's vice president of news.

The network is owned by a major Democratic donor who has accused Rubio and other Republicans of having an "anti-Hispanic" stand on immigration that's "despicable."

In August, someone used Univision's official Facebook account to attack Rubio during the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Continue reading "In another attack on Marco Rubio, Univision worker takes partisan Facebook whacks at "loser" Republican" »

Florida developer Jay Odom to enter plea in federal campaign finance case

Panhandle developer Jay Odom will appear in federal court next week to enter a plea to federal campaign finance violations.

U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier has scheduled a hearing at 11 a.m. Tuesday to allow Odom to enter a plea. He faces a maximum five-year prison sentence to charges that he laundered $23,000 in contributions to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2007.

Odom, 56, was indicted last month as part of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section. He is accused of using the names of 10 people to make 2,300 donations each to Huckabee’s presidential campaign.

Story from Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan here.

Fasano to shutter his political committee, give cash to charity

TALLAHASSEE — As a show of support to campaign finance reform efforts in the Legislature, Rep. Mike Fasano announced Friday that he’s disbanding his political committee and will donate the unspent campaign cash to charity.

“With the elections reforms that are being talked about, there is no longer a need for these committees,” said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “I’d ask that anyone disbanding their (committees) disburse the funds to non profits.”

Fasano said he was backing House Speaker Will Weatherford, who in November announced he was making the elimination of the committees part of his ethics and campaign finance reform.

Too much of the money raised by these committees are spent on things other than political campaigns, Weatherford has said, making them susceptible to abuse.

On Friday, Fasano faxed a letter to the Florida Division of Elections giving notice that he was pulling the plug on his Floridians for Principled Government, a Committee of Continuous Existence, or CCE, that he created in 2003.

Since it formed, it has raised $644,000 in contributions and spent $403,000. Its last expenditure was on Oct. 30 for $2,500 to the Florida Conservative Action Committee, which is based in West Palm Beach.

Fasano said he was donating the money in the following ways:

• $83,000 to The Volunteer Way, a meals-on-wheels non-profit, for the purchase of a refrigerator truck to deliver perishable food.

• $10,000 to the Good Samaritan Health Clinic to pay the salary of a nurse practitioner who can provide expanded health services in Pasco.

• $10,000 to help finance a drug monitoring program data base for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Foundation.

• $2,000 to SmileFaith Dental Care, which provides dental care to those who can’t afford it.

Fasano said he didn’t think about shuttering his committee until Weatherford’s announcement in November. Under state law, candidates can steer that money to political parties, to charity or return it to donors. They also can steer money to their state office accounts or give the money to the state treasury.

PolitiFact Florida: Weatherford claim on campaign contribution limits is False

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford does not have kind words for the state's $500 limit on individual campaign contributions.

He’s called the cap archaic, emasculating and ineffective, saying lawmakers bypass the $500 per election threshold by raising unlimited amounts of money from loosely regulated political committees.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, says increasing the limit on individual campaign contributions will make Florida’s campaign finance system more transparent.

"We have the second-lowest contribution limit in the entire country," Weatherford said in driving home the point to news editors and reporters in Tallahassee on Jan. 30, 2013.

Really? Check out the fact-check on his claim here.

Cuban perks under review during immigration-reform overhaul


All Ana Soto had to do to gain entry to the United States at the Texas-Mexico border in 2008 was show her Cuban identity card and birth certificate.

Soto has since brought her husband from Cuba, reunited with her parents in Miami and got an accounting job - building a dream life thanks to one of the most generous U.S. immigration laws: the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act.

"I had no future in Cuba. My life, and my entire family's life has changed for the better thanks to the Adjustment Act," said Soto, 24.

Those who follow in Soto's footsteps may not be so fortunate. As the U.S. Congress takes up immigration reform, the special status of Cuban emigres is being called into question by critics who say the CAA is a costly and anachronistic Cold War relic that should be abolished.

The issue has gained urgency after a relaxing of travel restrictions by both Cuba and the United States that has led to a dramatic increase in the number of Cubans traveling between the two countries. Soto herself has returned to Cuba a dozen times, on the last occasion to visit her dying grandmother.

Last month Cuba ended its practice of requiring an exit permit to leave the island, and said all Cubans could obtain a passport, potentially increasing the exodus.

More here

Q Poll's beauty-show survey: ugly for GOP, ok for Rubio, blah for Obama, great for Hillary

Quinnipiac's latest national survey is what's known as a beauty contest; 2016 is a long way off. But who's hot and not?

President Obama is losing points; with 46 percent approving of his job performance while 45 percent disapprove. That's a big change from his December 53-40 rating.

But the poll is downright ugly for the GOP.

Except for Sen. Marco Rubio, every one of the big-name Republican figures polled (including former FL Gov. Jeb Bush) is viewed negatively. About 27 percent view Rubio favorably while 15 percent view him unfavorably. That means Rubio's favorability index is 12. Bush is -4. Paul Ryan: -2 (an inside-the-error-margin amount).

But a full 57 percent don't know enough about Rubio. Expect that to change as 2016 draws nigh (and, yeah to call it early is an understatement).

Rubio gives the GOP State of the Union rebuttal on Tuesday. Republicans (and Time magazine) view him as their savior when it comes to immigration in the short-term and, perhaps, Hispanic voters in the long term.

Democrats won't t just sit by. They're going to start trashing him (just watch MSNBC).

Republicans are trying to negatively define former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, who was in office during the 9/11/12 Benghazi attacks in Libya and the rise of militant Islam in North Africa.

So far, the GOP attack machine hasn't worked; 61 percent viewing her favorably and 34 percent unfavorably. The 27 favorability index is the highest in the poll. The others in the black are all Democrats: Clinton's successor, John Kerry (at 10) and VIce President Joe Biden at 5.

poll here

Poll: 62% of Florida voters support Medicaid expansion

Yet another survey, this one sponsored by the Florida Hospital Association and conducted by a Republican-leaning pollster, shows that the vast majority of Floridians want lawmakers to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.

The Herald/Times has received exclusive access to the results of the Public Opinion Strategies poll of 600 Florida voters between January 15 and 17 (margin of error +/- 4 percent). Its results: 

  • 62 percent said the state should accept the money to expand Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Nearly half of respondents, 49 percent, said they felt strongly about this.
  • There is a partisan divide. Only 40 percent of Republicans said the state should expand Medicaid.
  • Virtually every other demographic polled -- Hispanics, seniors, liberals -- resulted in a majority supporting the expansion.

Download Florida Hospital Association poll

The overall results of this survey are very similar to another poll released last week by the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network.

Continue reading "Poll: 62% of Florida voters support Medicaid expansion" »