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229 posts from October 2013

October 30, 2013

Will Gov. Scott ask Broward school board candidates about Common Core?

When Gov. Rick Scott seeks a replacement for Broward School Board Member Katie Leach who announced her resignation today, there is one hot topic he could ask candidates about: their position on the Common Core State Standards.

In September, Scott ordered the state education department to withdraw from a national consortium creating tests around the standards but didn’t dismiss the benchmarks.

Continue reading "Will Gov. Scott ask Broward school board candidates about Common Core?" »

Broward School Board member resigns


Broward School Board member Katie Leach has unexpectedly resigned from office — a decision she officially announced through a Wednesday morning e-mail.

“It is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation ...effective December 21, 2013,” Leach wrote. Leach said that her family is relocating to another city and “I need to focus my full attention toward them.”

Leach could not be reached early Wednesday for additional comment.

Leach was appointed to the School Board in 2011, at a time when the school system was still reeling from a critical grand jury report, and was in the middle of a search for a new superintendent. The board eventually hired Robert Runcie for that job, and Leach became one of Runcie’s strongest supporters.

A moderate Republican who is supportive of gay-rights causes, Leach had a solid base of support in her eastern Broward district. Faced with two challengers during the 2012 elections, Leach was the only sitting School Board member to win outright during the primary race, without needing to head to a runoff.

In her resignation e-mail, Leach said the district has accomplished a lot during the past couple of years, such as renewing Runcie’s contract, reducing Broward’s class sizes, and targeting additional funds specifically for classroom instruction.

“The past few years have been challenging and exhilarating,” Leach wrote. “I will always cherish this experience.”


FBI investigating missing cash from Sweetwater police evidence room


Federal authorities are investigating the disappearance of thousands of dollars in cash from a Sweetwater police evidence room, Sweetwater Mayor José M. Díaz said Tuesday.

Money is also missing from payments made to recover towed vehicles in the city following police arrests, Díaz said.

“As far as I know, it amounts to thousands of dollars,” Díaz said. “I don’t know who was responsible for that money.”

Díaz’s revelations took place at a press conference called to show off a new bicycle patrol — an attempt to erase the “shadows” that have fallen upon the city in recent months.

In August, FBI agents arrested then-Mayor Manny Maroño, together with the mayor of Miami Lakes and two lobbyists, in an undercover corruption operation.

According to a document filed Tuesday in federal court, Maroño and one of the lobbyists, Jorge Forte, plan to change their pleas from not guilty to guilty om one count of conspiring to commit fraud during a Nov. 12 hearing in Fort Lauderdale. Both face up to five years in federal prison.

Meanwhile, authorities are investigating possible links between Sweetwater officers or officials to the towing company, Southland, which operated under a verbal agreement with the city until February. Several sources have said authorities are looking into whether police officers or other officials received kickbacks in exchange for directing business to the company.

More here.

Despite little competition, Miami mayor keeps spending on election


As Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado coasts toward his second term in office, he’s finding time to inform voters on the other issues on the Nov. 5 ballot, such as a project that could reinvent a chunk of Coconut Grove’s waterfront and a large bond offering that would pave the way for major improvements at Miami-Dade’s largest public hospital.

Despite the withdrawal of Commissioner Francis Suarez from the mayoral contest — the only real threat to Regalado’s reelection — the mayor continues to spend money and says he has no intention of abandoning the campaign trail.

In the past few weeks, his campaign has spent more than $100,000 on a radio advertising blitz in both English and Spanish. Tony Crapp Jr., a former city manager and former Regalado chief of staff, has lent his voice to bits on WMBM-1490, a gospel station with a large audience in the black community.

The mayor — who still faces three little-known opponents — says his key objective is getting out the vote. “I’m pushing for myself, looking for a mandate. I’m telling the people they need to vote. I don’t want to be seen as the mayor of the minority,” said Regalado.

As the mayor’s fundraising effort catapults past $1 million, it has allowed friends and family to prosper.

More here.

Alex Sink to run for U.S. Congress


Alex Sink is running for Congress.

Florida’s former chief financial officer and Democratic gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday confirmed exclusively to the Tampa Bay Times that she is jumping into the race to succeed late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in a district covering much of Pinellas County.

Sink, 65, has begun looking for a Pinellas home and said she will move “imminently” into the district from her east Hillsborough home 45 minutes away.

“Washington’s broken. And I, like everybody else I know, is angry and mad about the logjam, about shutting down the government, about not understanding the impact it was going to have on small businesses and people. The people up there just don’t seem to be able to work together,” said Sink, who had considered running for governor again but ruled that out in late September.

“I’m somebody who’s solved problems, has a long history of working with Republicans and Democrats to get things done,” said Sink, who used to run Bank of America’s Florida operations and was CFO from 2007-2011. “I believe I can be an effective advocate for the people of Pinellas County and get to Washington and make a difference.”

The special election campaign for one of the country’s most competitive seats won’t last long.

More here.

October 29, 2013

State, Pinellas discuss possible special election dates

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet set dates for the special election in the 13th Congressional District to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, but he may do so in the coming days.

That's according to Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, who has had discussions with Gary Holland, assistant director of the state Division of Elections.

Clark said that the state is looking at holding the primary election on Jan. 14, 2014 and the general election on March 11, 2014. The first date is the Tuesday preceding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 20, and the second date is already set aside for municipal elections in 16 of the 24 cities in Pinellas County.

"It's already on the calendar as an election day," Clark said of March 11. "I thanked him (Holland) for contacting me and offering a scenario that works for us."

Nothing is official until Scott issues an executive order setting the dates. Also in the discussion stage, according to Clark, is a proposed one-day qualifying period from noon Nov. 18 to noon Nov. 19. That also is not official until the governor acts.

Both political parties are sure to mount aggressive campaigns to capture the competitive district that Young, a Republican, occupied from 1970 until his death Oct. 18. The unusual timetable will force candidates to organize and raise money quickly and try to seize voters' attention amid Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Year's and college football bowl games and that's no easy undertaking.

At present, the 13th Congressional District includes 455,420 registered voters. Republicans have an electoral advantage, with 170,020 voters compared to 158,317 Democrats and 127,083 in other categories.

It's also shaping up as an election to be dominated by mail or what used to be called absentee ballots. Among Florida's 67 county election supervisors, Clark is the leading proponent of voting by mail, and there are 191,000 pending requests for mail ballots, including 79,211 Republicans, 69,288 Democrats and the remainder in other categories.

-- Steve Bousquet

Miami activist asks judge to halt vote on Coconut Grove waterfront


Miami activist Grace Solares is asking a judge to remove a question from the Nov. 5 ballot that asks voters if they favor redeveloping a chunk of the Coconut Grove waterfront.

Alleging the ballot language is misleading, Solares filed an emergency motion on Tuesday asking Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley to stop the vote. The motion came a week after Solares filed a lawsuit to stop the city-backed plan that would replace the Scotty’s Landing and Chart House restaurants with three new dining spots and revamp an adjacent marina.

The plan by Grove Bay Investment Group, the sole bidder for the project, covers seven acres of public waterfront just north of Miami City Hall, and would also create a public pier and pedestrian promenades and rehabilitate two historic Pan American Airways hangars.

Solares and a group of Coconut Grove residents oppose the plan, arguing it’s too large, blocks public views of the water and was the result of a flawed selection process.

More here.

Steve Crisafulli sounds alarm on House Democratic fundraising gains

In the wake of Amanda Murphy’s surprise victory two weeks ago, just how spooked are House Republicans about losing any more seats?

Very -- from the tone of a Monday e-mail from incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island to members of the House Republican caucus.

While Crisafulli notes that Republicans are raising money at a record pace, he stressed that average fundraising is actually declining. Meanwhile, he says, Democratic members are raising more money on average.

“This is a trend that must be broken!” Crisafulli states (bold and underline are his).

True fear? Motivational tool? Or both? There's no threat that Republicans will come even close to losing their majority (they control the House 75-45). 

What's interesting is how naked the emphasis on fundraising is among House Republicans. Not only is everyone told they must raise a certain amount, but now everyone knows that Crisafulli and other House leaders are keeping score.

Continue reading "Steve Crisafulli sounds alarm on House Democratic fundraising gains" »

U.S. Senate panel takes on Stand Your Ground controversy

Statements made during a U.S. Senate hearing that Stand Your Ground laws actually benefit African Americans are “ludicrous,” Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee said after attending Tuesday’s panel in Washington, D.C.

Williams, chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, is aiming to repeal the law in Florida and will be pushing the effort during a House hearing Nov. 7th.

“The argument that a number of crimes are committed in minority communities and African Americans should appreciate that Stand Your Ground has allowed them to get off or not be prosecuted for committing murder is embarrassing,” said Williams, referring to comments made by the law's supporters during the packed U.S. Senate hearing.

Legislators, criminal justice experts, advocates and the mothers of two sons slain in the name of self-defense gave widely different interpretations of the laws, their racial ramifications and the need for changes during the panel.

Continue reading "U.S. Senate panel takes on Stand Your Ground controversy" »

Voice of dissent on Miami commission faces reelection challenge


The Miami commissioner who’s often the lone voice of dissent on the dais is now defending his seat against a candidate who thinks nobody in the commission has done enough to keep the city from becoming the Wild West.

Alex Dominguez, who sells pharmaceutical products for a living, is the only challenger running against Commissioner Frank Carollo in the Nov. 5 race for District 3.

Carollo, who has a huge advantage in contributions, says he is proud to have become “the independent voice” on the commission.

“Many would say that I am the voice of reason and that I bring a financial perspective the city needs,” said Carollo, a certified public accountant. “But you can’t be effective alone; you also need your colleagues to implement legislation.”

If reelected, Carollo, who is 42, said he will continue to focus on strengthening the city’s financial team, building the emergency reserve funds without raising taxes, and challenging city business decisions that don’t benefit residents.

Dominguez’s criticisms are levied more squarely at the city administration under Mayor Tomás Regalado than at the commissioner he aims to replace.

More here.