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7 posts from June 21, 2013

June 21, 2013

'Are you fat?' 'Are you ugly?' Video captures exchange between Hialeah mayoral candidate, rival's supporter


With election season approaching in Hialeah, a familiar character in the city's cast of political players has already started stirring the pot.

Glenn Rice, a former Hialeah cop who often appears with the mayor in public, harassed mayoral candidate Juan Santana at his home Thursday morning. Santana is challenging current Mayor Carlos Hernandez's re-election bid.

In a video Santana took as he confronted Rice, who was standing on the sidewalk taking his own cellphone video, Rice is shown calling Santana fat, cursing and mocking his candidacy.

 "This is disgusting," Rice said, looking at Santana's house. "How can you represent the people of Hialeah?

Rice, who worked on Hernandez's last campaign, said Santana's home has several code violations. When Santana pressed Rice about whether he was a city employee, Rice would not answer. Once Santana said he was going to call the police, Rice backed off and said he was planning on leaving anyway.

Neither man could be immediately reached for comment.

Watch the video below.


After Herald/Times report, Division of Blind Services introduces new staff, reforms


The state's Division of Blind Services has hired a new director and installed tough rules for bidding out contracts, pushing back on nonprofit groups that previously could charge taxpayers $2,000 for a phone call and $58 per hour to drive to a blind person's house.

The changes virtually eliminate the free reign by groups that get state dollars to serve blind people, banning them from contacting Blind Services staff about contracts and revising rules to prevent the state from getting overcharged.

Now anybody can bid for the opportunity to provide services, and an impartial contract specialist will decide who offers the best services for the lowest cost. Previously, only Lighthouse for the Blind groups and a few other vendors had access to no-bid Blind Services contracts, and critics say the groups named their own price.

Continue reading "After Herald/Times report, Division of Blind Services introduces new staff, reforms" »

Back home, Scott brags of Heat win at Texas' expense

A jet-lagged Gov. Rick Scott arrived back in Florida Friday after a week-long trade mission in France, drumming up business at the Paris Air Show. With his wife Ann at his side, Scott met briefly with reporters at Tallahassee Regional Airport.

For Scott, the Miami Heat's NBA champinship victory in Game 7 of the finals Thursday was even better because it came at the expense of a team in Texas, the home of Scott's alter ego, Gov. Rick Perry.

"It's great that they beat the Spurs and it's especially even nicer that they beat a Texas team," Scott said. "I haven't talked to Gov. Perry yet but I'm going to make sure he knows how that score came out."

Scott touted the planned move by a French firm, Vision Systems, to establish a U.S. base in Melbourne with about 40 jobs, as well as a Virginia aerospace firm, firm, ATR North America, that plans to add 40 jobs in Miami Springs.

He sidestepped several questions about his search for a lieutenant governor, the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers that show slight improvement in his popularity, and about whether he'll sign a bill that bans people with mental health issues from getting guns. "We're still reviewing it," Scott said of the bill (HB 1355).

Scott's next trade mission is planned for November, when he plans to go to Japan.

-- Steve Bousquet

Putting the unemployment numbers into context: 'hole is deeper than it looks'

Governor Rick Scott returned today from his trade mission to France and was greeted with good news: the statewide unemployment rate for May 2013 dropped to 7.1 percent, the lowest rate since September 2008 and down 0.1 percentage point from April’s rate of 7.2 percent.

That means Florida's jobless numbers are below the national average, which went up to 7.6 percent in May.

But the devil is always in the details and the governor's press release doesn't include a few shades of gray. Those came out on Wednesday when the state's top economists at the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a non-partisan arm of the Legislature, issued its latest Economic Overview. Here are some stats straight from the report: Download FlEconomicOverview_6-19-13 

The good news:

Continue reading "Putting the unemployment numbers into context: 'hole is deeper than it looks'" »

The clock is Gov. Scott's ally in lieutenant governor search

As Gov. Rick Scott ponders who to pick as Florida's next lieutenant governor, one factor on his side is the clock.

Scott appears to be in no rush to appoint a No. 2, and the political calendar and election laws give him plenty of time. The revelation that Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins,  a registered Democrat, is being given a close look by Scott prompted a fresh review of the laws and timetables by election supervisors. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said the issue was a popular topic at a supervisors of elections conference at Marco Island last week.

The key points:

Scott is not required by law to pick a running mate until Sept. 4, 2014. State law (99.063 (1)) says "no later than 5 p.m. of the 9th day following the primary election, each candidate for governor shall designate a lieutenant governor as a running mate." The 2014 primary will be Aug. 26. The attorney for the Orange County School Board, Diego "Woody" Rodriguez, interprets this to mean that the qualifying deadline for a candidate for lieutenant governor is 5 p.m. Sept. 4, 2014, when the running mate must file an oath of office, financial disclosure statement and other forms.

Rodriguez, the former legal counsel to the Orange County elections office, wrote about Jenkins in a June 12 email: "In short, if she is appointed she would have to change parties soon to be safe." (The fact that the lawyer researched the issue underscores the belief in Orlando political circles that Jenkins is under serious consideration).

If Jenkins is to be Scott's choice, she appears to have until Sept. 4 of this year to change her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. A law enacted in 2011, and signed by Scott, includes a requirement on a candidate oath of office "that the person has not been a registered member of any other political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election." That's the law that tripped up Nancy Argenziano last year when the former Republican state senator tried to run for Congress as a Democrat.

Rodriguez said that provision does not appear to apply to an appointed replacement for lieutenant governor, so the 365-day clock wouldn't apply to Jenkins if Scott appoints her next year.

The consensus among election supervisors is that the governor and lieutenant governor must be of the same party because of a clause in the state Constitution that says they "shall form joint candidacies in a manner prescribed by law so that each voter shall cast a single vote for a candidate for governor and a candidate for lieutenant governor running together." (Art. IV, Sec. 5(a)).

For the record, Jenkins remains a registered Democrat, the Orange County elections office confirms.

-- Steve Bousquet

Good unemployment report masks bad news: Miami Dade's recovery stalls


Unemployment ticked down in Miami-Dade last month but for the wrong reasons. Slow job growth continued in May, and a declining number of job seekers managed to mask the impact of fewer people working, as a recovery that once seemed to be gaining steam continues to hover at something closer to a stall.

Friday’s report by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity offers only a statistical window into the state’s largest economy, but it seemed to lack the kind of compelling hiring turnaround that many had expected for Miami-Dade in 2013.

The numbers look familiar: lost government jobs continue to be the biggest drag on the employment rebound, while the construction industry remains flat on the hiring front. Growing sectors were retail, hospitality and wholesale trade.

Job growth in Miami-Dade hit 6,000 for May, less than half of the more robust pace set at the end of 2012 as increased tourism spending, strong exports and a rebounding housing industry seemed ready to write a new chapter in a recovery that officially began at the end of the recession in the summer of 2009.

So far, the 2013 numbers haven’t been much to cheer about in Miami-Dade. Unemployment hit 9.3 percent in May, a sharp drop from the 9.7 percent record in April. But the numbers behind the decline were discouraging: the labor force dropped by 8,000 people, and the number of people describing themselves as employed also declined by 3,000.

That combination can lead to a drop in the unemployment rate, which essentially measures the people looking for work in relation to the people working. Read more here. 

Florida unemployment in May falls to 7.1 percent

Fresh off a business trip to Paris, Gov. Rick Scott announced that unemployment fell slightly in May to 7.1 percent.

From today's story:

Gov. Rick Scott announced through a brief YouTube video Friday morning that Florida's unemployment rate has dropped to 7.1 percent in May, the lowest level since September 2008.

In April, the state's rate was 7.2 percent.

The state's job creation machine stalled, however, with the Florida labor force losing 6,200 jobs between April and May. The state is still up 122,500 jobs, or up 1.7 percent, compared to year-ago levels.

It's not unusual to have a disconnect between the unemployment rate and job creation numbers since they're drawn from two different monthly surveys. A household survey is used for calculating the jobless rate while employers are quizzed about the number of jobs added and lost every month.

Read more here.