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17 posts from August 22, 2013

August 22, 2013

Activists upset that Miami-Dade mayor rescheduled budget town-hall style meetings


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez rescheduled a pair of budget town-hall style meetings this week -- and the people who were planning to attend were not happy about it.

Residents campaigning against proposed budget cuts to the library system and fire-rescue department have harshly criticized the mayor in emails and letters and on social media for pushing back the meetings. Gimenez did so to attend the White House ceremony for the 1972 Miami Dolphins and a Walmart-backed manufacturing summit in Orlando.

To protest Gimenez's decision, some public-library advocates have called for supporters to meet anyway at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the West Dade Regional Library, the same where one of the mayor's rescheduled meetings was supposed to take place.

"He decided that these travels were a better use of his time than meeting with his constituents, many of whom are upset about his proposed budget which short-changes community services like our library and the fire-rescue department," retired teacher Ruth Trencher said in a news release announcing the protest.

Trencher has billed the event as a "people's town hall meeting." A rally has also been scheduled for 6 p.m. by the Save Our Libraries advocacy group

As part of the proposed cuts, which have been scaled back from their original size, three fire trucks face elimination and four libraries face closure, though the libraries remaining open would have fewer staff and shorter hours.

Gimenez is scheduled to meet with residents in West Dade next Wednesday and in Florida City on Sept. 3.

Scott's top aide cites 'stewardship' in search for new L.G.

Gov. Rick Scott's top adviser says the search for Florida's next lieutenant governor is moving ahead slowly and privately with the focus on finding someone who can be "a steward of the governor's vision and character."

In his most detailed comments on the subject to date, Chief of Staff Adam Hollingsworth said the only two people engaged in discussions about the subject are himself and the governor. Speculation beyond that is just that, he said, calling it "an interesting parlor game" in Tallahassee. The job of lieutenant governor, reinstituted in 1968 after a long absence, has no specific duties prescribed by law.

"Ultimately, it's a stewardship decision," said Hollingsworth, who's directing the search process at Scott's request. "The single most important criteria for a lieutenant governor is someone who, God forbid, would be capable of performing the functions of governor if that were required."

Hollingsworth said there's no timetable for a decision. "There's no reason to set a deadline," he said. "We're going to take the right time to pick the right person."

He says the search will focus on finding someone who has "the same policy mind-set as the governor, has the same vision for moving Florida forward, and would do it with an integrity that is consistent with the governor's character." He insists there's no "short list" of potential picks and declined to get into a discussion of specific names.

Scott is not required to pick a lieutenant governor until next September. But he will need to move faster than that if he envisions a political partner who can help him on the campaign trail. For now, the delay serves Scott's interests, as he waits to see how the Democratic field of gubernatorial candidates shapes up. Plus, and if his poll numbers (and likelihood of winning re-election) improve, the appeal of the job will escalate, creating a wider pool of candidates.

Asked how he can tell someone is qualified to serve as governor if necessary, Hollingsworth said: "I think the governor will make that decision, not me ... once he identifies someone he wants to spend time talking with."

Hollingsworth says he's prepared for what he called the "color commentary" of politicians, pundits and lobbyists offering opinions of potential successors to Jennifer Carroll, who resigned March 12. "It could become a distraction if it's not managed properly," he said.

-- Steve Bousquet 

Battle over release of partisan redistricting docs goes back to court today

The bitterly fought redistricting battle will take another turn today in a Tallahassee courtroom as Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is asked to reject allegations that the political consultants who helped Republican Party leaders determine the political performance of their maps be ordered to produce their internal emails and documents in the long-simmering dispute. 

The consultants, Pat Bainter, Matt Mitchell, Michael Sheehan of the Gainesville-based Data Targeting, and GOP consultant Frank Terraferma, have asked the court for a protective order after Lewis in May held them in contempt. They had been ordered to turn over the documents in October 2012 but have resisted allowing the plaintiffs in the case, the League of Women Voters and the Fair Districts coalition, to review them claiming the data sets and political analysis are trade secrets.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are asking Lewis to put an end to the year-long standoff. 

“This cat-and-mouse game has gone on long enough,'' wrote plaintiffs attorney Adam Schachter in his response brief.  Download 2013.08.20 Coalition Plaintiffs' Response to Non-Parties' Motions for Protective Order with Exs. A-F

Continue reading "Battle over release of partisan redistricting docs goes back to court today" »

Happy 6th birthday to PolitiFact

It’s true: PolitiFact turns 6 today.

In honor of our birthday, we thought we’d look back at some of the highlights of the past year, with an emphasis on No. 6. 

Most popular Truth-O-Meter fact-checks of the past year

1. Bill Clinton says Democratic presidents top Republican presidents in job creation

2. Mitt Romney says U.S. Navy is smallest since 1917, Air Force is smallest since 1947

3. Viral Facebook post says Barack Obama has lowest spending record of any recent president

4. PBS commentator Mark Shields says more killed by guns since '68 than in all U.S. wars

5. Mitt Romney says Barack Obama began his presidency "with an apology tour"

6. Mitt Romney says Barack Obama has 'doubled' the deficit

More from our birthday coverage at www.politifact.com


Florida International University suspends fraternity over drug, hazing Facebook posts


Florida International University has suspended its Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter after a “private” Facebook page maintained by the group became very public.

An anonymous email sent to multiple media outlets and university administrators included screenshots of about 70 posts from the page — some of them offering to sell drugs, others boasting about hazing new members, which is prohibited by university policy.

“Anyone have a connect for coke,” one group member wrote. “Not me, a friend wants, lol.”

In another post, someone offers to sell the prescription stimulant Adderall, which is often abused by college students as a study aid: “30mg of addy 10 starting tomorrow. 15 for non brothers.”

Another announces “on campus for those of you looking for the Pike Pharmacy” — and included his phone number. A man who answered at that number Wednesday confirmed his first name matched that of the Facebook post, but he then quickly hung up.

On the FIU Pike chapter’s official public Facebook page, a contact number is listed, but no one answered repeated calls Wednesday.

More here.

Suspended Miami Lakes mayor resigns post as Medley town attorney

@Paradise_Afshar and Theo Karantsalis

Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has stepped down from his role as Medley town attorney.

His resignation — which is effective Thursday — was announced during a special council meeting Wednesday night by John Griffin, a labor attorney.

“I am happy that the matter was resolved amicably and with class and professionalism,” Pizzi said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald. “In my entire career as a public servant, and as an attorney, I have always acted in the public’s and my client’s best interest.”

On Aug. 6 Pizzi was arrested by federal agents in his Miami Lakes office on charges of conspiring to commit extortion.

“I fully expect to be exonerated,” Pizzi said. “But as an attorney I feel right now, with the distraction going on and the necessity of me resolving my personal issue, I made the determination that this will be in the best interest of the people of Medley.”

More here.

Miami-Dade mayor: American Airlines merger good for Miami International Airport


American Airlines and US Airways already have said they will suffer if a Justice Department move to block their planned merger is successful. Now Miami-Dade County’s mayor is saying Miami International Airport would also be a loser.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez held a press conference Wednesday at MIA with Aviation Director Emilio González to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to reconsider its opposition to the merger. The department filed an antitrust lawsuit last week to block the plan to create the world’s largest airline, and American’s anticipated exit from bankruptcy has been put on hold.

“From our vantage point, the anticipated merger of two of our nation’s legacy carriers would have an undeniably positive effect on our community: more jobs for our residents, new routes and greater access for locals and visitors to take advantage of, and increased opportunities for commercial activity via an expanded network,” Gimenez wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Gimenez also called for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to reverse course; Florida joined the federal suit along with five other states and Washington, D.C.

A spokeswoman for Bondi released a statement that said: “Our office, along with the Department of Justice, spoke with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department about the merger on April 4, 2013. This lawsuit is a bipartisan effort by a group of states and the DOJ working together to protect consumers.”

More here.