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14 posts from May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013

Bombshell request to Democrat U.S. Reps at forum: Can you stop dad from being deported at 4 a.m.?


RivasCarlos Rivas was told to keep it short when he asked the four members of Congress a question. They were hungry and the immigration forum in North Miami was running late.

“My dad, he was two months ago arrested by ICE. I have my family right here: My mom and my three brothers and sisters. We don’t know what to do, pretty much,” Rivas, 18 said.

“He’s about to be deported tomorrow at 4 a.m.” he said. “And I wanted to know what you could do for us because right now, I don’t know, I can’t even go to school because I can’t pay for it. I don’t know. What can you do? Is there any help you can try to give us?”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Miami Democrat who hosted the forum, was floored.

“Oh my God,” she said. “You know what time?”

Rivas: “4 a.m. in the morning.”

Wilson: “4 am in the morning? Why are you just telling us? We could have helped you perhaps. It’s too late.”

Someone from the audience of 200 or so citizens chimed in: “It’s never too late.”

Continue reading "Bombshell request to Democrat U.S. Reps at forum: Can you stop dad from being deported at 4 a.m.?" »

Former Florida GOP Hispanic outreach director switches to Democrat

By Alex Leary

The DNC tonight circulated this note from Pablo Pantoja, who was at one time employed as the RNC's Hispanic outreach director in Florida but has not switched to Democrat, citing "the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today." The change was reported on Kevin Cate's blog.

As we reported last August, Pantoja quit his RNC post, apparently frustrated with the outreach effort.

Continue reading "Former Florida GOP Hispanic outreach director switches to Democrat" »

Immigration reform: It’s not just about Mexicans.

Immigration reform: It’s not just about Mexicans.

A group of Democratic members of Congress relayed that message Monday at an immigration forum in North Miami, home to one of the nation’s largest Haitian communities.

“You can’t discuss a new modern immigration system without discussing a new, fairer treatment of Haitians,” said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a top House immigration-reform player.

“Immigration reform is not just Mexicans. It’s not just Latinos,” he said before the Haitian Evangelical Baptists Church forum. “Look at the richness of people coming from the Bahamas and Jamaica. And, of course, look at people from Haiti.”

The message was tailor-made for many in the crowd.

After the 2010 earthquake that left tens — if not hundreds — of thousands dead or homeless, thousands of Haitian immigrants flooded the United States.

As a result, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson represents one of the most-Haitian congressional districts, home to Monday night’s forum.

Right now, none of those recent Haitian immigrants get special consideration in the immigration bill proposed in the Senate, drafted in part by West Miami resident and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The House has yet to release its bill and Gutierrez won’t discuss its contents.

More here

Miami Dolphins spent big bucks on campaign for canceled election


The Miami Dolphins and their owner, Stephen Ross, spent a staggering $10 million over the past six weeks on a special election that never happened.

Leading up to a planned May 14 referendum asking voters to help pay for renovations of Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins’ political action committee, Friends of Miami First, raised $4.97 million and spent $4.49 million since April 1, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday. All contributions came from the Dolphins and Ross, through South Florida Stadium LLC, the corporate entity that owns the stadium.

Taken together with the nonrefundable $4.8 million payment the Dolphins made to Miami-Dade County last month to cover election costs, the team spent nearly $10 million in publicly reported funds on its failed push for state and county tax dollars to pay for some of the $350 million in stadium upgrades.

That total does not include expenses that do not have to be reported because they were not part of the election campaign, including lobbyist and public-relations consultant fees incurred before county commissioners agreed to hold the referendum.

Even without the cost to cover the election, the Dolphins’ sprint of a campaign ranks among the most expensive waged in Miami-Dade. A successful, months-long effort to approve Las Vegas-style slots in 2008 spent more than $6.6 million.

“We were committed to making sure voters had all the information necessary before they cast their votes, and that costs money,” campaign spokesman Eric Jotkoff said in an email Monday.

More here.

Movers & Shakers

New executive editor at News Service

Jim Saunders has been named the new executive editor of the News Service of Florida. Saunders replaces founding executive editor David Royse, who will become the News Service’s associate editor of special projects.

Along with his role as associate editor, Saunders, 47, has also reported on health care and other issues for the News Service. He was previously capital bureau chief of The Florida Times-Union in 1998 and held similar positions for The Daytona Beach News-Journal and Health News Florida. He is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Royse, 43, left the Associated Press to help start the News Service in 2008. He’s moving to Chicago where his wife, Jessi Bishop-Royse, is taking a post at the Social Science Research Center at DePaul University. Royse, who will work on special projects for the News Service either remotely or in Florida, will remain involved with the growth of the News Service of Florida and its parent company, Affiliated News Services, which also runs Statehouse News Service in Boston.

New public information officer for FDLE

Linda McDonald is now the main spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as part of her new role as the communications coordinator in the FDLE’s Office of External Affairs.

McDonald was most recently a state purchasing operations communications analyst with MyFloridaMarketPlace. She has also served as the communications deputy director and communications director for the Florida Department of Management Services and she was the communications director for First Professionals Insurance Company in Jacksonville.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

North Miami mayor candidate flyer: Jesus Christ endorses me.


UPDATE** A North Miami mayor candidate who has previously said she was a victim of Vodou sorcery is says she's endorsed by none other than Jesus Christ.

"Anna Pierre, RN is endorsed by Jesus Christ," says a campaign-style flyer on her Facebook page, which says she'll advocate for "FREE healthcare" and social service programs for the elderly.

Reached on Monday, Pierre said Jesus came to her in a dream.

“I had a revelation when I was going to give up on this race. I had a dream, I know what I saw,” she said. “A figure I can’t explain told me, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am your friend. I am walking with you side by side. You are not alone.’ I felt it was from heaven. It was an endorsement by Jesus.”

Hat tip to Random Pixels who noticed the website first; here's our story.

Pierre also says she'll fight corruption.

So does another candidate, Joseph Haber, who's passing out campaign soap bars with the slogan "Let's Clean Up City Hall!"

Too bad no one's passing out campaign-style bandages. Last week, mayoral candidate Blaise Felix was arrested for allegedly punching Councilman Jean Marcellus in the mouth.

In the wake of that, Pierre's touting of the Lord of Love's' endorsement comes just in time.

PierreLast month, The Herald's Nadege C. Green reported that Pierre said unknown persons left chicken feathers, food scraps and candles at her office doorstep over the past three months. She believes the items are tied to mystical rituals in the Haitian Vodou religion.

“I found little dolls with needles in it. They put a lot of pennies at front of my office door,” she said. “I’m from Haiti I know what it is.”

Pierre, a nurse and singer, said her popularity in the Haitian community is a threat to whoever is trying to curse her. Pierre is well-known for her 1990s Creole-language hit “ Suk Su Bon Bon.” In the song, she demands that her husband put sugar on her “cookie” or else she will leave him.

She said the threats are not just of the spiritual nature.

Pierre said an anonymous person has been using a blocked number to call her phone. The voice on the other line told her to drop out of the race.

“I have people in Haiti, Canada, and the U.S. praying for me,” she said. “I have Jesus with me.”


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/08/3330134/north-miami-mayoral-candidate.html#storylink=cpy

Kathy Castor gets a Half True on her Head Start sequester claim

From PolitiFact Florida -- with news about Head Start slots in Broward and Miami-Dade:

Faced with complaints about airport delays, members  of Congress (who happen to be frequent fliers) took action to halt sequester-related furloughs for air traffic controllers.

Some Democrats want to know why other groups aren’t getting similar relief from the sequester.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, railed against cuts to Head Start on MSNBC’s Hardball. Host Chris Matthews said Head Start "faces a $406 million cut, which would kick 70,000 kids out of the program."

Castor responded: "70,000 three-year-olds and four-year-olds across America will lose access to the preschool Head Start classroom. Now Head Start is intended for students who don’t have every advantage in life to ensure that they are ready for elementary school. It’s also important because it ensures that their parents are ready to work. (That’s) 70,000 students across America and 2,000 in the state of Florida alone because the Republicans refuse to replace the sequester or sit down with us to negotiate a balanced plan."

Castor only mentioned Head Start and provided specific numbers. Two months into the sequester, we wondered what evidence supports the claim that 70,000 preschoolers will lose access to Head Start. We were especially interested whether it would be 2,000 in Florida. Read more here.

As Florida shuts down pill mills, heroin fills void

By Audra D. S. Burch

Kevin Foley stood before a judge in Broward County’s drug court — fellow abusers sitting behind in him in the pews — talking about the fitful life of a recovering addict, the random drug tests, the counseling and what he hoped was his next, clean chapter.

Foley, 21, has been hooked on heroin for nearly two years. Before that, he was popping oxycodone and other prescription pills snapped up as Florida become a bustling marketplace of illegal pill mills. He turned to heroin after his drug of choice became too expensive. “I was chasing the next high,’’ says Foley, who landed in drug court after a heroin possession arrest in December. “I wanted to try it all.”

Heroin is inching back in Florida, the unintended consequence of the state’s epic war on prescription pills. Now, with Florida officials successfully slowing the supplies, shutting down the pill mills that masqueraded as pain centers and arresting thousands of addicts and even doctors, heroin has become a popular substitute.

In January, a group of researchers from across the country met in New Mexico at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Community Epidemiology Work Group conference and swapped frighteningly similar stories about the increased use of heroin. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale region was named one of the regions facing the heroin trend.

More here.

Despite Florida law, cities quiet on kids' gaming machines

via @glenngarvin

Since Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation outlawing video gambling machines last month, South Florida cops have rolled through their cities like the Untouchables, seizing dozens of machines from mom-and-pop stores and cafes and arresting their owners, while politicians deliver fiery orations about rubbing out a cancer on the community.

But everybody has been curiously quiet about another aspect of the law: big, well-heeled — and lawyered-up — kiddie and adult arcades whose machines were also outlawed by the new legislation. A Miami Herald check of popular chains like Dave & Buster’s, Chuck E. Cheese’s and Game Time found hundreds of machines that don’t comply with the new law.

“I’m not going to go arrest Chuck E. Cheese in front of a bunch of 6-year-olds,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, whose city, on the day the law took effect, confiscated 72 machines from cafes and arcades that cater to the elderly. “If the governor and the Legislature want that, they can come and do it themselves.”

His words drew a bitter reaction from Jennifer Morejon, who was ordered by Hialeah police to close down her video arcade catering to the elderly and dismantle its 100 machines, or face arrest.

“It’s just discrimination,” she said. “How can the machines be bad for my customers, who are adults spending their own money, but not for kids? This is something you expect in a country like Cuba, not the United States.”

More here.

Accused Hialeah absentee-ballot broker kept campaign notes

via @msanchezMIA and @kikeflor

Deisy Pentón de Cabrera kept meticulous notes on hundreds of voters, several political campaigns between 2008 and 2012 and what appear to be payments of $50 to $1,300 that are not on any candidate’s financial reports.

Detectives confiscated three notebooks in which she wrote this and other information last summer. Finally, nine months after her arrest for alleged ballot fraud in Hialeah, the notebooks have been presented as evidence in the case.

Cabrera, 57, wrote in a shaky hand and used abbreviations that are difficult to decipher. But her notes shed some light on the busy workload of this accused ballot broker, or boletera:

• She had access to more than 550 voters, the vast majority elderly Hispanics who live in Hialeah. The people whose names, address, phone numbers and dates of birth she tracked on lists titled “Deisy’s Voters” include some who have Alzheimer’s and others who are illiterate. Next to some names, Cabrera noted whether they were blind or deaf.

• She registered what appear to be payments for a total of more than $9,000 from seven judicial candidates in 2008.

The financial reports for three of these candidates show that Cabrera was a hired campaign worker, but the payment amounts are half of what Cabrera wrote in her own notes.

• Cabrera didn’t work alone, but was a part of a political apparatus with access to updated absentee voter information from Miami-Dade County’s Election Department. She kept directives written by others to visit particular groups of voters or to take others to early-voting polling places.

She also kept contact information for the campaigns for which she worked, including those of former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and state Sen. Rene García.

More here.