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228 posts from March 2017

March 24, 2017

HUD Secretary Ben Carson to visit Broward while housing activists decry slated HUD cuts



President Donald Trump's housing chief comes to Broward today to promote a future affordable housing development while Trump has proposed slashing $6 billion from housing programs.

Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, will speak at the Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach. The church is located near a future 77-home Habitat for Humanity development, the largest Habitat project ever in Broward.

Trump's budget proposal calls for getting rid of decades-long housing programs, including Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership Program. Those cuts would be "devastating" to low- and moderate-income families in Broward, said the county's housing chief Ralph Stone.

"The Broward metro area is one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation," Stone told the Herald in a statement. "Only one in five moderate and below income families can afford to buy the median priced home. Also Broward is one of the worst markets for affordable and avaiabjr rental units. There is a defiency of over 70,000 low income rental units." 

The national Habitat for Humanity program sent the Miami Herald a statement criticizing the proposed cut:

"Federal housing programs currently reach about 1 in 4 income eligible households. With the proposed budget, many fewer would receive assistance, leading to even more families to choose paying housing costs over purchasing food, health care, and meeting other basic needs. ... Eliminating or reducing funding for these housing programs would exacerbate local housing shortages and increase the burden of housing costs on families in need of housing stability." 

South Florida lags behind other major metro areas in wages, making affordable housing out of reach to many residents.

See Carson's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.


Roger Stone: 'Don't confuse me with the character I sometimes play'

Stone for glenn
via @glenngarvin

Roger Stone, the legendarily hardball Republican operative who for years has lustily embraced such media epithets as the dapper don of dirty deeds and the undisputed master of the black arts of electioneering, now finds himself on the receiving end of what he calls a political dirty trick –– allegations that he helped mastermind Russian leaks of hacked Democratic Party emails –– and he’s not liking it much.

“You just wake up one day and a bunch of congressmen are kicking your balls across the field,” Stone said reflectively. “Based on nothing more than a Hillary Clinton campaign meme.... I understand. It’s politics. It’s the democratic process. All I want is the same open forum to respond.”

A steady drumbeat of accusations against Stone that had been building for months –– since a Jan. 19 story in The New York Times identified him as one of three associates of President Donald Trump under FBI investigation for links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia –– reached a crescendo this week, when Stone’s name was mentioned 19 times during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

None of the references to Stone were flattering. And most ran along the lines of an attack by Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, who included Stone among a “rogues’ gallery” of Trump operatives “who fall somewhere on that spectrum from mere naivete ... to unwitting Russian dupes, to willing blindness, to active coordination.”

Since then, the Senate Intelligence Committee has warned Stone not to destroy any written records that could pertain to the investigation. And it’s scarcely been possible to turn on a TV set without hearing calls for Stone to be politically tarred and feathered, or at least subpoenaed.

The latter would be fine with Stone, who would love a nationally televised forum to counterattack accusations that he labels acts of fact-free political vengeance by enemies he helped whip in the election. The only thing he’s guilty of, he says, is “political showmanship.”

“Don’t confuse me with the character I sometimes play, Roger Stone,” he said. “Millions of people buy my books and watch me on [right-wing radio and streaming-video show] Info Wars. They like my style, and yeah, there’s a certain element of over-the-top to my style. But in today’s rapid-cycle media universe, if you don’t have some political flamboyance, you’re nowhere, you’re left behind.”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

With popularity high, Miami-Dade mayor polls voters on a higher tax to fix transit


Miami-Dade voters are narrowly divided on a higher sales tax to improve transit, according to a poll commissioned by Miami-Dade’s mayor as he pursues a historic, costly expansion of rail.

The survey by Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s political committee marks the second time in recent weeks that he has floated the idea of increasing the county’s half-percent transportation sales tax to a full percent in order to fund a rail expansion expected to cost about $6 billion.

And while the recently re-elected leader has said he does not favor raising the tax, his chief pollster said the results show the option as politically viable. With 600 likely voters polled countywide last week, 48 percent of the respondents supported a higher tax and 50 percent opposed it.
“It’s encouraging,” said Dario Moreno, a Florida International University politics professor. “I was shocked by the numbers. I thought it would be at least 55 to 58 percent opposed.”

March 23, 2017

Inmate who exposed prison scalding death feared investigation would be whitewashed


Over the past four years, there is probably no one who fought harder for justice for Darren Rainey than Harold Hempstead.

Hempstead was shipped to a prison in Tennessee abruptly last Friday, guaranteeing that he would not be able to respond to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s decision — released later that same day — clearing corrections officers in Rainey’s June 23, 2012, death at Dade Correctional Institution.

The state attorney’s close-out memo took direct aim at Hempstead’s credibility, devoting eight pages to debunking his allegation that Rainey, who suffered from mental illness, had been forced into a specially rigged shower by corrections officers who had been using scalding showers to punish inmates for bad behavior. Story here. 

Airbnb hosts who spoke to Miami Commission may have outed themselves



Dozens of Miami property owners who rent their homes and duplexes to visitors through home-sharing platform Airbnb spent all day at City Hall on Thursday pleading with city officials to buck a legal opinion declaring their business an illegal nuisance.

Instead, Miami commissioners reaffirmed that position in a 3-2 vote, threatened to sue Airbnb for promoting clandestine activity, and then told the hosts who placed their names and addresses on the record that they had outed themselves to code compliance.

“We are now on notice for people who did come here and notify us in public and challenge us in public,” said City Manager Daniel Alfonso. “I will be duly bound to request our personnel to enforce the city code.”

Read more here.

Foster child who killed herself on Facebook Live was given medicine with suicide warning

Naika Venant and Gina AlexisBy Carol Marbin Miller, David Neal and Alex Harris

When a Miami psychologist examined Naika Venant in June 2015, she found a “depressed, angry and fearful young girl” who thought often about death and dying. “She expects people to abandon and betray her,” the psychologist wrote.

Terilee Wunderman diagnosed Naika with “significant depression,” and post-traumatic stress disorder, and recommended that she see a specially trained therapist to mend her broken psyche. Wunderman also warned against filling the 12-year-old with pills, because the medication she was taking “sometimes can cause the side-effect of depression.”

During the next 18 months, however, Naika’s doctors reached for the prescription pad again and again, increasing the dose of an ADHD medication, and adding another drug, Zoloft, records indicate. The anti-depressant comes with a critical warning: an increased risk of suicide in children. Story here. 

Photo: Naika Venant and and her mother, Gina Alexis, smile in a photo posted on Facebook. Facebooky


Is Rick Scott focusing on the wrong job creation issue? House Speaker says so



If Governor Rick Scott really wants to save jobs, he’s focusing on the wrong issues while he travels the state bashing Republicans, House Speaker Richard Corcoran told reporters Thursday.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said too much energy is being paid to saving Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida under the guise of saving jobs when the real crisis for Florida businesses is the threat of dramatically higher workers compensation insurance rates and increasing rates on property insurance because of lawsuits related to water losses under a program called Assignment of Benefits.

“If I were to give encouragement to the governor I’d say: ‘go keep traveling. Start talking about workers comp and assignment of benefits which have far more effect than Enterprise and Visit Florida on jobs,’” Corcoran said as part of wide ranging press conference in Tallahassee.

Corcoran said if the House succeeds and kills Enterprise Florida and scales back Visit Florida it will be about $100 million in savings to taxpayers. But if unchanged, the two insurance issues could cost businesses and homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars he said. On both issues he said there doesn’t seem to be “tremendous” movement” in the Senate. He said the governor needs to start working the senate to get those bills moving.

“How can you just be silent on what really will hit jobs,” Corcoran said.

Scott has been touring the state going to the districts of Florida House members who voted to kill Enterprise Florida accusing them of hurting the state’s economic momentum. He’s also funded robo-calls and television ads arguing against the cuts. He’s also funded videos that mock Corcoran for trying to kill Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Corcoran for his part has been unapologetic in taking on the governor’s top priority, calling Enterprise Florida a “cesspool” that cannot be reformed.

Continue reading "Is Rick Scott focusing on the wrong job creation issue? House Speaker says so" »

Gov. Scott still won't give GOP healthcare bill his backing

via @KyraGurney

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday said he is "encouraged" by House Republicans' bill to replace the Affordable Care Act but still wouldn't endorse it, saying he wants to "keep working to improve it."

Speaking at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, where he was touting his education budget, Scott told reporters the state needs more flexibility to improve Medicaid and that lawmakers in Congress should focus on driving down healthcare costs.

"We need to let people buy the insurance they want," he said. "We need to reward people for taking care of themselves."

Eight Republican governors -- but notably not Scott, a big Obamacare critic -- sent Congress a letter Thursday supporting the House GOP's American Health Care Act. A vote planned for Thursday night was postponed until Friday.

Accompanied by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and two local school board members, Scott promoted his education proposals — almost $21 billion in combined state and local funding for schools, of which he hopes to spend $58 million on teacher recruitment and retention.

Asked if he was concerned about Florida House Speaker Corcoran's opposition to his education budget, Scott said he was confident the state had enough revenue to invest more in schools. "We have the money to do this," Scott said. "There's nothing more important."


Richardson asks Scott to use emergency power to take control of women's prison in Gadsden County

Richardson at GadsdenWarning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state’s largest privately run women’s prison, Rep. David Richardson on Thursday asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility.

In a letter delivered late Thursday, Richardson asked Scott “to direct the Florida Department of Corrections to install a temporary warden, chief of security, and other resources you deem necessary to restore order and reverse what I can only describe as a loss of institutional control.” Story here. 

Photo: Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional, Courtesy of David Richardson


How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times