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244 posts from September 2014

September 30, 2014

Billionaire launches 'Flag of Gratitude' site to bring nation's largest Old Glory to Miami


Coral Gables billionaire and GOP donor Mike Fernandez wants Miami to have the nation's largest U.S. flag, and he's ready to pay as much as $10 million to make it happen.

But not everyone's a fan, so Fernandez has launched a website called Flag of Gratitude to take his case to the public and collect petition signatures. Fernandez says the project needs just 1,000 square feet of public space, perferably at the corner of Museum Park on the water.

"We live in a Democracy. It is my humble opinion that we should all support this project. But a petition or a vote will allow for more transparency," Fernandez said by text message. "Most people who have voiced an opinion against it do not know. I am not asking for anything. I will pay its total cost."

Fernandez, a penniless immigrant from Cuba who went on to earn a fortune in the healthcare business, told The Herald last month that he wanted a memorial to celebrate the country that gave him so much opportunity.

“I started to chat with my wife and I said it would be a wonderful idea as a sign of gratitude for many of us who weren’t born in this country to do it in Miami,” he said. “Except maybe we can do it a little bigger in Miami.”


Lobbyist's daughter is making big-money/run-for-office-style moves

Via Saint Petersblog:

Lauren Book, the telegenic founder of the sexual abuse advocacy group Lauren’s Kids, has raised nearly $235,000 for Leadership for Broward, a political committee she established earlier this month.

The formation of this political committee, along with Book’s already high profile in Tallahassee, is fueling speculation that the daughter of mega-lobbyist Ron Book will run for Eleanor Sobel’s state Senate seat in Broward County. Sobel is term-limited from running again in 2016.

Despite these tea leaves, Book, reached in New York, said she has not made a decision about entering politics.

“I have a strong desire to serve our community and our great State,” said Book. “I want to expand my engagement and service but I have made no final decisions on running yet.”

More here

Floridians weigh in on environment and crime in Sunshine State Survey

Feeling safe in public places and concern about the environment are two critical concerns for Floridians, according to a new Sunshine State Survey on guns and the environment, administered by the University of South Florida and the A. C. Nielsen Company.

"It's clear that Floridians are increasingly worried about security in public places," said Susan MacManus, the survey director and professor at USF's College of Arts and Sciences. "They're also getting a little more critical about what the state has been doing about the environment."

Floridians believe the state's performance in protecting the environment has dropped, the survey found. "Excellent" and "good" ratings for the state's protection of the environment fell from 49 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2014. In 2014, "poor" ratings are three times higher than "excellent" ratings (20 percent versus 7 percent).

Residents who are 35 to 54 years old with a high school education or less gave the state higher points compared to older residents aged 55 to 64 years old and college graduates.

Continue reading "Floridians weigh in on environment and crime in Sunshine State Survey" »

NextGen Climate brings 'Gov. Rick Scott's ark' to Miami


Here is NextGen Climate's press release touting the arrival of "Rick Scott's Ark" to Miami on Tuesday.

NextGen Climate Takes Rick Scott’s Ark To Miami

NextGen Climate Calls Out Rick Scott for Failing to Address Climate Change


MIAMI—NextGen Climate is calling out Florida Governor Rick Scott for continuing to ignore the threat of climate change. Rick Scott’s Ark will be visiting the Miami Dade Convention Center today, just prior to the upcoming Climate Leadership Summit on October 1st and 2nd.


“Florida has failed to step up on the issue of climate change although we are ground zero,” said Miami Dade County Commissioner, Daniella Levine Cava.  "Meanwhile, communities like mine are struggling to deal with ever-rising tides and damaging floods as our sea levels rise. Fortunately we know what to do, and some of our local cities like Miami Beach are at the forefront of positive change."

 Read the rest of the release after the jump ... 

Continue reading "NextGen Climate brings 'Gov. Rick Scott's ark' to Miami" »

Democrat Rankin challenges CFO Atwater to a debate


RankinlettertoatwaterDemocrat William Rankin has challenged Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to a debate, but just like nearly everything else with Rankin's campaign the idea is not gaining much traction.

In a letter dated today, Rankin said he is willing to debate his Republican opponent "anytime and anywhere on the issues." Because they are both from South Florida, he suggested Palm Beach as a location and floated the ideas of a TV station or a local university as the setting.

"While you may find it more politically advantageous to publically attack the Democratic Governor of New York and the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida, the people of Florida deserve something more; a CFO candidate that is focused on the relevant issues at home such as safe keeping of the state’s assets and solvency of public employees retirement fund, jobs and economic prosperity, human dignity issues, and lower insurance rates for the people of Florida and their families," Rankin wrote.

Atwater's campaign seems less than enthusiastic about the idea. Spokesman Brian Hughes would only say the candidates may "share a stage" at some point on the campaign trail, a far cry from a structured debate that Rankin proposed.

"Jeff Atwater is busy traveling the state to lay out a strong record of success as CFO," Hughes said. "With public events and forums yet to come, I imagine there would be an opportunity for Jeff and his challenger to share a stage if schedules allow."

Rankin is considered a long shot to unseat incumbent Atwater, who has raised $2.7 million as of Sept. 19. Rankin has less than $16,000 in cash in his account.

The Florida Democratic Party has also kept Rankin at arm's length, and he has not campaigned alongside other statewide candidates for office.

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to headline Rick Scott fundraiser at the Biltmore


UnnamedThere's an outside chance former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio might run against each other for president in two years. But they're certainly aligned on almost everything else, including their support of Gov. Rick Scott and their dislike of Democrat Charlie Crist (who lost to Rubio in the 2010 Senate race).

So Bush, Rubio and Rubio's longtime friend, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, are headlining an 11:30 a.m. Oct. 24 Scott fundraiser at the Coral Gables Biltmore, where Bush has an office. Bush lives in the city as does Lopez-Cantera. Rubio lives next door, in West Miami.

Suggestied donations start at $2,500/person and $25,000 for the even chair luncheon.

Don Gaetz sticks up for John Thrasher in scorching op-ed about FSU critics

Some Florida State University students and faculty were vehemently opposed to state Sen. John Thrasher becoming Florida State University's next president and let their opinions be known throughout the search process. Now that Thrasher has the job, Senate President Don Gaetz is in classic form letting Thrasher's "haters" know how he really feels.

An excerpt from the opinion page of the Tallahassee Democrat:

Granted, I didn’t threaten to “make his life a living hell” or “become an angry hive and sting him.” I didn’t chant, scream profanities, weep, accuse him of racism or sexism, call him a xenophobe or suggest he would tolerate violence against women. I went to the mat against John Thrasher on an issue just as important to me as the Florida State University presidency is to others, but I didn’t act like the handful of faculty members and students who embarrassed their university and discredited themselves by how they disagreed.

I wonder how any of us, excoriated as Sen. Thrasher was, would stretch out our hand to “academics” who couldn’t even spell “politican” correctly on a protest sign.

Their excuse is academic freedom. Really, it’s unacademic intolerance. The academicians of antiquity and the great collegiate institutions FSU seeks to emulate would be appalled by the inarticulate outbursts and tantrums that unraveled last Tuesday. These illiberal liberals broke every one of Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals.

The rap on Thrasher is he’s not an academic. With all due respect, so what? The president doesn’t fine-tune the curriculum or micro-manage who teaches what. He doesn’t grade papers or approve thesis proposals. The president doesn’t even hire the people who do. The chief academic officer is the provost. The deans lead the colleges. The professors teach the courses.

Read the full essay here.

Carlos Curbelo's 'Ponzi scheme' remark on Medicare, Social Security makes it into Joe Garcia attack ad


A remark by Carlos Curbelo videotaped without his knowledge is now the centerpiece of U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia's latest attack ad.

"Two faced corporate lobbyist Carlos Curbelo: In Florida Curbelo claims one thing about Medicare and Social Security, but at a Washington meeting Curbelo changed his tune, calling Social Security and Medicare a Ponzi scheme," says the 30-second spot, which Garcia's campaign launched Tuesday. 

The ad also cites Curbelo saying that potential reforms to Medicare might include "means testing," so wealthier seniors might pay higher premiums than less affluent ones.

Curbelo made both comments earlier this month to a group of college Republicans in Washington D.C. He was being recorded by a Democratic tracker, the name given to people sent by opposition campaigns to follow a candidate's every move. PolitiFact rated Curbelo's "Ponzi scheme" claim False.

Curbelo spokesman Wadi Gaitan countered in a statement Tuesday that by voting for the federal healthcare law, Garcia is the one who wants to cut Medicare.

"In Congress, Garcia voted to keep a program that would slash $716 billion from Medicare and would cut Medicare Advantage by $156 billion, meaning seniors will soon lose the plans and doctors they know and like," Gaitan said.

His statement doesn't mention the Affordable Care Act by name. But claiming that Obamacare cuts senior benefits has been a talking point for Republicans elsewhere. PolitiFact has rated claims differently depending on how they're worded, but a general statement by the National Congressional Campaign Committee that the federal law includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors" has been rated Half True.

Like Democrats across the country, Miami's Garcia has tried to make Medicare a central campaign issue to drive out base voters to the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Republicans have a far better track record of getting their supporters to the polls in non-presidential years.

The fact that Garcia has unveiled his second attack ad in 10 days suggests the closely watched race is tight. A public opinion survey commissioned by Curbelo earlier this month showed him slightly ahead of Garcia, who has not released his own poll results.


This post has been updated to better explain means testing.

FL Chamber poll: Rick Scott leads Crist 43-39 percent

A press release from the Rick Scott-backing Florida Chamber:

ORLANDO, Fla. (September 29, 2014) – According to the latest Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) poll released today at the Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, likely voters continue to have a more positive view of the future and favor Governor Rick Scott in the state’s top leadership race. Jobs and the economy (29 percent) continue to be the number one issue among voters, followed by education (19 percent) and healthcare (6 percent).

“Florida voters are smart. They continue recognizing Governor Scott is doing what he said he would do,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of the Florida Chamber Political Institute. “More than 640,000 private-sector jobs have been created since December 2010, our education initiatives are working, and Florida families and small businesses continue to see opportunities for growth. The fact that a majority of polls throughout the last six to eight weeks show voters continuing to prefer Rick Scott over other candidates is a sign that his numbers are solid.”

Governor Rick Scott’s job approval rating continues to remain positive, with 49 percent of likely voters approving of the job he’s doing. At the same time, gubernatorial candidate and trial lawyer Charlie Crist’s favorability continues to drop – 39 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable.

“I believe a major reason Charlie Crist is visibly losing support is because voters are beginning to realize that Rick Scott’s focus on jobs is working and that Florida continues to move in the right direction,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

In head-to-head matchups:

  • Governor’s Race, Rick Scott vs. Charlie Crist vs. Adrian Wyllie: Scott earns 43 percent, Crist gets 39 percent and Libertarian Adrain Wyllie earns 4 percent. Five percent say they will vote for one of the other candidates and 7 percent are firmly undecided.
  • Attorney General Race, Pam Bondi vs. George Sheldon: Bondi earns 48 percent to Sheldon 31 percent.
  • CFO Race, Jeff Atwater vs. William Rankin: Atwater leads with 43 percent to Rankin’s 27 percent.
  • Agriculture Commissioner Race, Adam Putnam vs. Thaddeus Hamilton: Putnam earns 41 percent to Hamilton at 29 percent.

Of the 813 Florida likely voters polled, 29 percent rank job creation and the economy as their top issues. Additional polling data shows:

  • For six straight months, a plurality of voters continue to believe the Sunshine State is headed in the right direction – 43 percent based on Florida Chamber polling conducted in February, June and August 2014.
  • Amendment 1 continues to show strong support: 75 percent support while 14 percent oppose.
  • Amendment 2 has fallen below the 60 percent threshold again; this amendment is losing support. Fifty-nine percent support and 35 percent oppose.
  • Amendment 3 has 27 percent support and 21 percent opposition. 53 percent of voters are undecided.

On the national level, President Obama’s job approval rating remains upside down as 41 percent approved and 54 percent disapprove. 

The poll, conducted on September 18-21, 2014 during live telephone interviews of likely voters, has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

Please note:  The samples for the polls conducted by the Florida Chamber Political Institute are consistently drawn from likely voters, meaning those voters who have the propensity and past performance of voting in elections, rather than simply including registered voters.  Voters are again screened for likelihood of voting this November.


Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as crucial to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FLChamber.com for more information.
136 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301

Campaign for new Miami-Dade civil courthouse takes case to TV


With close-ups of dilapidated paint, flooded columns and moldy walls, the campaign for a new Miami-Dade County civil courthouse launched its first television ad Tuesday asking voters to approve a $393 million referendum on Nov. 4 to pay for a new building.

The ad features Bertila Soto, chief judge over the 11th judicial circuit, listing the nearly 90-year-old building's deterioration, as well as a female narrator who tris to make the question one of civic pride.

"This is our community, and we can do better," the narrator says. "The courthouse no longer serves our growing population."

Paying for the ad is Building Blocks for Justice, a new political action committee formed by an attorney for the campaign. The PAC's chairwoman is Vivian de las Cuevas-Diaz, a partner at Holland & Knight. Its treasurer is Kara Stearns Sharp, an accountant and daughter of attorney Gene Stearns, who has pushed for the referendum.

"Our campaign is ready to engage with voters directly about the real crisis our courthouse faces today. Thousands of people visit the courthouse every day and are exposed to terrible conditions," de las Cuevas-Diaz said in a statement. "Understanding what's at stake is why we feel Miami-Dade residents will be ready to pass the emergency bond referendum."

The campaign is expected to face skepticism at the polls from an electorate that has been repeatedly been asked for higher taxes to spend on public buildings. Critics have already called the ballot question rushed. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that while he will probably support the bond issue, he expects most people -- unable to tour the courthouse themselves -- won't.

So far, the group has raised $123,000, entirely in contributions from law firms except for $1,000 from Judge Soto and $1,000 from an information technology company. Two successful Miami-Dade political operatives, campaign manager Christian Ulvert and fundraiser Brian Goldmeier, have been retained to head the campaign.