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15 posts from November 6, 2013

November 06, 2013

Homestead elects mayor in tight race

By Lidia Dinkova and Elizabeth De Armas

Hours after the polls closed on Tuesday night, Homestead voters were unsure of the identity of their next mayor.

But with all 16 precincts reporting, former Vice Mayor and Councilman Jeff Porter, 54, pulled ahead of his challenger, innkeeper Mark Bell, 57, a political newcomer.

Porter will succeed Steve Bateman, who was jailed in August on corruption charges and suspended by the governor, and then sought redemption by running for reelection. Bateman, who awaits trial on both felony and misdemeanor charges, lost to Bell and Porter in the first round of voting on Oct. 1.

Bell, married to former mayor and current Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell, waited out the results with about 60 supporters in downtown Homestead’s Hotel Redland, which he owns.

More here.

Hialeah incumbents score easy wins

@joeflech & Brittny Valdes

Voters in Hialeah have overwhelmingly chosen to keep the city’s leadership as it is.

After a campaign that pitted well-funded, experienced incumbents against mostly young, underdog newcomers, voters had the final say Tuesday: the mayor and two council members will remain in office.

Mayor Carlos Hernández, a former Hialeah police officer who has served on the council since 2005, handily defeated former interim mayor Julio Martínez and political newcomer Juan Santana, a security guard. The mayor will now serve his first full term in office after winning a special election in 2011.

More here.

Former Scott spokesman heads to education reform group

Former Rick Scott spokesperson Lane Wright has a new gig: He's the Florida press secretary for the education reform group StudentsFirst.

The hire is part of an effort to ramp up operations in Florida, StudentsFirst announced Wednesday.

The organization, founded by former Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, supports school choice, accountability and merit pay for teachers.

The Sunshine State team also includes State Director Nikki Lowrey and Outreach Director Troy Bell. Kelly Garcia and Jamona Hayling will oversee field operations in Central and South Florida, respectively.

“Florida is so important, diverse and politically complex when it comes to education,” Lowrey wrote in a press release Wednesday. “We have built a team that will help get our message out and help people understand how elevating teachers, empowering parents, and spending our tax dollars wisely will improve our children’s education.”

StudentsFirst has been active in Tallahassee for the past two legislative sessions. The organization has been a leading advocate of "parent-trigger" legislation, which would allow parents to demand significant changes at low-performing public schools. Rhee herself came to Tallahassee to promote the bill earlier this year.

StudentsFirst also participated in a number of town hall meetings in Florida this year.

State lawmaker seeks changes to charter school law

Days after an Orange County charter school threatened to dismiss students for failing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, a state lawmaker has filed a legislative proposal that would ban the practice.

The school, Cornerstone Academy Charter School in Belle Isle, withdrew the threat after parents complained and reporters contacted the principal.

But state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, says state law should have prevented it from happening in the first place.

“Charter schools should not be allowed to kick out students for failing the FCAT or whatever test they are being evaluated on,” Jones said. “Traditional public schools can’t do that. There is supposed to be an even playing field.”

Read more here


More Miami Beachers vote for medical marijuana (64%) than leading mayoral candidate


Poll after poll has shown that about 60 percent or more of Americans and Floridians support medical marijuana, and Tuesday night's election results in Miami Beach showed it to be true.

More than 64 percent of Miami Beach residents approved a straw ballot question calling for medical marijuana. Now it's up to the city commission and the new mayor to decide how bound they will be to the nonbinding referendum, which asks them to urge the federal and state governments to decriminalize pot for medical reasons.

In raw vote terms, mayoral frontrunner Philip Levine is less popular than the medical pot issue. He received 5,639 votes last night; medical marijuana garnered 6,683. One reason for that: Levine faced four other opponents, the medical-marijuana issue was a straight up-or-down vote.

Levine might be headed to a runoff depending on the results of a possible recount, so he could wind up getting more votes in the end. Or there's an off chance he could lose outright to opponent and current Commissioner Michael Gongora (who won 36.4 percent of the vote).

Medical marijuana was also the least-popular of the six ballot questions in Miami Beach, where voters by wide margins approved measures concerning anti-discrimination, education, human relations, condominiums and their convention center.

As for the future of medical marijuana in Florida, the real battleground is the state Supreme Court, which is reviewing the ballot summary of a proposed initiative that would legalize pot with a doctor's recommendation. Attorney General Pam Bondi has asked the court to reject the initiative, saying the ballot summary is misleading.

Even if the measure gets past the justices, People United for Medical Marijuana face another hurdle: It needs to gather 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. The group says it has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 have been verified.

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/10/ag-pam-bondi-to-fl-supreme-court-medical-marijuana-group-is-hiding-the-ball.html#storylink=cpy