June 05, 2017

BSO report criticizes response to Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

FLL Airportpeoplerunning

@chabelih @amysherman1

Poor communication by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Broward Aviation Department, along with other mistakes, following a deadly January shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, led to mass chaos for the estimated 12,000 people trapped at the airport, according the sheriff’s office’s draft report on the incident.

The report, released Friday, assessed the agency’s response to the January 6 rampage by war veteran Esteban Santiago. He has been charged with emptying 14 rounds of ammunition into the airport’s Terminal 2 baggage claim area, killing five and injuring six others.

About 2,000 officers from different departments across South Florida responded to the incident, creating a massive influx that led to havoc at the airport and confusion about who was in charge. According to the report, the airport became an “impassible parking lot” after officers abandoned their vehicles.

Keep reading here.

Mitch Berger may run for Florida Attorney General if Jack Seiler doesn't


Mitchell Berger, a prominent Democratic donor, says he will consider running for Florida Attorney General if Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler decides not to run.

“If he says ‘no’ I will certainly think about it,” Berger said. “I’m trying to get Jack to do it. He would be the right person -- he would have my support if he is going to do it.”

Berger founded Berger Singerman law firm in 1985 and lives in Fort Lauderdale. He has hosted several fundraisers for national candidates including Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

While the 2018 governor’s race has drawn multiple Democratic candidates, so far no well-known Democrat has announced for Attorney General. Pam Bondi, the current attorney general and a Republican, is term limited.

Seiler, who is term-limited as mayor, told the Miami Herald in May that he is in no rush to decide whether to run and will make up his mind this year.

Foreclosure lawyer Ryan Torrens who lives in Odessa is the only Democrat to file so far. On the Republican side, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody filed to run and has the backing of Bondi and State Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville also filed.

Berger said it would be “tragic” if the Democrats don’t have a viable candidate for attorney general.

“It’s the most important position in the cabinet other than governor’s position,” he said. “The attorney generals have stepped up on environmental issues throughout the U.S. and stepped up on immigration issues in the U.S. Our attorney general is absent.”


May 15, 2017

Adam Putnam brings his campaign for Florida governor to Broward

Putnam Broward w Swindell EKM


The tony Fort Lauderdale beachside hotel where Adam Putnam campaigned for Florida governor Monday was entirely different territory from the historic Polk County Courthouse where he debuted his candidacy last week, surrounded by crates of Florida oranges and the sounds of a marching-band fiddle.

In Broward, the most liberal county in the state, Putnam knew to offer the sort of business-friendly message that binds Republicans together.

“Whether you grow up in downtown Pompano or in a small town in the middle of the state like where I’m from we need to have a job climate in Florida that doesn’t require you to leave your town to find a decent career,” Putnam said at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66.

Keep reading here.

Miami Herald photo by Emily Michot of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speaking with Bob Swindell, with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, and Jose Basulto, with Memorial Hospital System.

May 08, 2017

Mayor Jack Seiler continues to mull Florida Attorney General bid



Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he is in no rush to decide whether to run for Florida Attorney General in 2018 and will make up his mind at some point this year.

Seiler said he spoke with Democrats about the possibility of running while in Tallahassee in recent days for his daughter's law school graduation.

Seiler said he initially thought he would have to reach a decision by the spring but doesn't feel pressure to do so now that no one has announced on the Democratic side. (State Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican, filed May 5th and there are several other potential contenders on the Republican side.)

"The campaign starts the day you announce your decision -- I don't need to have a 15, 16, 17-month campaign if I don't have to," Seiler said Monday. "I have time to make a more educated and informed decision. I am looking at all the factors: Can a Democrat win statewide? Can a Democrat win in an off-year?"

Seiler, who is term-limited as mayor, is also weighing the impact of President Donald Trump's presidency on his chances and whether Seiler can win as a moderate. If Seiler jumps in and faces a competitive Democratic primary, he could take heat from the LGBTQ community over his stance on same-sex marriage.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term limited.



April 27, 2017

Two activists from women's marches will compete in Broward house race



President Donald Trump’s election has given wave to a new group of Democratic activists who are interested in channeling their anger into running for office.

And in Broward, two of those activists appear poised to battle each other.

Two Fort Lauderdale residents who organized women’s marches protesting Trump’s inauguration will face off in a Democratic primary in Broward in 2018.

Emma Collum, director of Women’s March Florida who organized Floridians marching in Washington D.C., said she will file next week for House District 93, a seat now held by Republican George Moraitis who is term limited. Collum is a lawyer.

Stephanie Myers, who organized the Jan. 21 rally at downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park, filed to run on April 24. Myers works in public relations supporting a medical practice.

Both Collum and Myers live in Fort Lauderdale, but outside the district and said they will move to the district. Neither has run for public office in the past.

Collum said she doesn’t think it will be awkward to have two activists from women’s marches compete for the same seat.

“I think it's really exciting that so many people are excited to get out there and be active in our community, she said. “At the end, people need to get to know the candidates and make a heartfelt decision which one is going to the candidate to make what has been a predominantly Republican district into a Democratic one.”

Emily's List, the national group that backs pro-choice women running for office, has heard from more than 12,000 women who are interested in running in 2018, spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca said. That's a major increase compared to the 2016 cycle when Emily's List heard from less than 1,000 women. De Luca said competition between female candidates is a positive sign.

"The fact that we have so many women across the country raising their hand and coming forward -- 12,000 -- is a good problem to have," she said. "It's encouraging to have a dialogue among Democrats around issues that are important to women and families."

Two other Democrats filed earlier this year: Jonathon May, Nova Southeastern University director of student affairs and an Oakland Park resident and John McDonald, a freelance journalist and precinct committee man who lives in  Pompano Beach. McDonald ran for House District 6 in 2010.

No Republicans have filed but Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, a longtime district resident, said he is strongly considering a bid.

The district is one of the main targets for Broward Democrats in 2018. Voter registration numbers show about 36 percent are Republicans, 35 percent Democrats and 29 percent independents. Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the district.

This post has been corrected to reflect McDonald's previous race. Photo of Jody Finver, in the foreground, of Coconut Grove takes pictures during an organizing meeting of anti-Trump activists last Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. 


Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler faces heat from LGBTQ community about prayer breakfast speaker



Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler’s battle with the LGBTQ community over the upcoming Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast where a leading national opponent of same-sex marriage will speak could affect Seiler’s statewide political ambitions.

Seiler will speak Friday at the 55th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by National Christian Foundation of South Florida at the Broward County Convention Center. One of the speakers is Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, a national group that has opposed gay rights, including adoption by same-sex couples. Seiler said he had nothing to do with inviting Daly.

Seiler’s relationship with the gay community could nag him on the 2018 campaign trail if the Democrat decides to run for Florida attorney general. Seiler, a lawyer who is term-limited as mayor, has sounded increasingly interested in recent months about running and told the Miami Herald in March that he will make up his mind this summer. Republican AG Pam Bondi, who engaged in a costly battle against same-sex marriage, is term limited. (See previous stories by the New Times and Sun Sentinel.)

Although the event isn’t organized by the city, it has been known for years as the “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.” About 1,200 are expected to attend the event, where Seiler will give a brief introduction.

Seiler told the Herald that he has never met Daly.

“I do not agree with that speaker's views as some have been explained to me,” he said. “Since I never met or communicated with the gentleman, I was not aware of his views on all these subjects, and I am sure that we don't see eye to eye on most of these subjects.”

Seiler said he has attended the breakfast for the past decade and at times in the 1980s. He has told opponents:

“As Mayor, I am an honorary host and speaker (invited by the committee and confirmed almost a year ago), and I have prayed with and spoke to this group, along with many others (including LGBT groups), for the past 8 years.  My message is, has been, and will be one of kindness, compassion, inclusion, tolerance and respect.  In the past, that message has been very well received at this Prayer Breakfast.  In fact, over the years, this Prayer Breakfast has brought our community together, united individuals of different backgrounds, unified houses of worship of different faiths, and had an incredibly positive impact on our City.  Every year, it seems that a very diverse group leaves the Prayer Breakfast motivated, excited, and energized to assist others and build community.

(Here is Seiler’s full statement.)

Daly last spoke at the event many years ago when the city was led by Mayor Jim Naugle, who drew wrath from the gay community over his comments about gay sex in park bathrooms.

Stephan Tchividjian, president of the National Christian Foundation of South Florida and grandson of Billy Graham, said he found Daly “too divisive” in the past. But his group sought Daly as a speaker after meeting him.

“He had changed some of the rhetoric and language and really made some significant overtures to say ‘let’s have some dialogue,’” he said.

Daly remains opposed to same-sex marriage, but he has called for more civil dialogue between the Christian community and the LGBT community and is expected to talk Friday about working together.

“We are very quick to judge those outside the church,” Daly told the Herald. “I get that criticism. For me it's not changing the principles. It is how do we apply a more gracious standard toward the world and more rigid standard for ourselves.”

But gay-rights activists continue to see the positions Daly avows as offensive.

“I haven’t seen anything that is actually evolution beyond softer rhetoric supporting the same bad policies,” said Nadine Smith, director of Equality Florida.

Broward has one of the more visible politically active gay communities in Florida, and local activists say they want to hear more than toned-down rhetoric from Daly.

“If he is prepared to repudiate or reverse his positions, this would be the time to do it,” said Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, the city’s first openly gay commissioner. “He is coming to our city. This is our home. We don’t need to have messages of hate brought here.”

Focus on the Family’s website offers tips on “leaving homosexuality,” including the “right to counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions” and how parents can respond to “gender-confusing messages in schools.”

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, calls the organization “one of the most well funded anti-LGBTQ organizations in America” and says it has funded several candidates who have opposed gay rights.

Decades ago, Seiler, a Catholic and married father of four, was seen by the gay community as ahead of the curve. He supported domestic-partner benefits for city employees while he was an elected official in Wilton Manors, one of the earliest cities to do so in Florida. But as public opinion shifted in favor of same-sex marriage, the Fort Lauderdale mayor tried to stay on the sidelines telling the Herald in 2013 that he had no position on the issue but supported civil unions and domestic partner benefits for city employees. In 2014, he voted against a city resolution in support of same-sex marriage, but when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage in 2015, Seiler signed a city proclamation celebrating the decision.

Same-sex marriage has been the most prominent topic in which Seiler has struggled to find his voice in explaining his positions, and at times has expressed irritation when asked about it.  

But if Seiler decides to run, he may have the Democratic field all to himself: as of Thursday, the state Division of Elections website did not list any attorney general candidates from any party.

If Seiler runs and faces no strong Democrats, his statements on same-sex marriage and participation in the breakfast likely won’t matter. But a competitive Democrat could hammer Seiler on the topic and appeal to LGBTQ residents, a reliable Democratic voting bloc.

Seiler has said in the past year that this would be the time for him to run statewide, since all four of his children are grown. However, some Democrats privately wonder if he has the fire in the belly for a statewide partisan race -- and whether he can appeal broadly to Democrats when he hasn’t been particularly active in party politics.

The theme of Friday’s breakfast: “together.”


April 24, 2017

Dolly T Rump dumps the Broward GOP



Dolly T Rump, perhaps Broward's most famous Donald Trump fan, has dumped the Broward GOP.

Rump resigned from the Broward Republican Executive Committee board Friday night after she was elected in December as secretary. She says that the infighting among the board has nothing to do with Trump or any politician, candidate or ideology and is simply, well, infighting among board factions. (Here are previous reports from the Sun Sentinel and browardbeat.com.)

Rump told Naked Politics she will remain active in Republican politics but not with BREC, the county's official GOP group. BREC, which only has about 250 members, is far less influential than it was many years ago. 

Broward has about 257,000 registered Republicans so their vote can matter in statewide elections, but the group has suffered from spats that spill into headlines and frequent board turnover.  

The biggest headlines occurred in April 2016 when BREC chair Bob Sutton  told a reporter “I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she’s going to go down like Monica Lewinsky.” He later apologized.

Sutton couldn't be reached Monday but told the Sentinel: 


Here is Rump's email she sent to BREC members Friday:

To my friends and colleagues in the Broward Republican Executive Committee,

Despite my best efforts to move BREC forward and to make good on the platform I was elected on, I have found it impossible to make progress in the current leadership environment. We do not operate as a cohesive board; there is major dysfunction, division, and disorder between officers.  In addition, our chairman has cancelled Board meetings, silencing the opinions of other elected board members. 

I have not been able to adequately address structural problems and issues in an effective way due to roadblocks from our own leadership. I, along with other board members, have made sincere attempts to address major issues, namely with the botched membership list and the website confusion. Any and all attempts I have made to better BREC are met with hostility or go completely ignored.

And as most of you know, my specialty and expertise is in event coordinating. However, to date, I have not been consulted on any Lincoln Day activities whatsoever. 

The BREC Treasury is at an all-time low, and instead of focusing on important things like raising money and Lincoln Day, time is spent on filing false police reports and making false and disgusting accusations against myself, my family and fellow BREC Board members. I will not continue to subject myself and my family to these continued vile attacks and slanderous accusations.

I have a deep unbending loyalty to Conservative and Republican Causes; however, it has become completely clear to me that I am surrounded by people who do not share my same goals and values.  

Since I am unable to be effective on this board, I have decided to work elsewhere on the causes that I hold dear. I am going to move to other venues where I can be appreciated and respected for what I can bring to the table.

To those of you who voted for me as BREC Secretary, I will always be grateful.  However, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you of my resignation as BREC Secretary effective immediately.

All the best and I remain as always, your friend.

Dolly T. Rump
Rump's resignation letter mentions that someone from BREC filed a "false police report" involving another member -- a reference to Richard DeNapoli, a former BREC chair. The Broward Sheriff's Office was summoned on March 8 to a GOP meeting at Lauderdale Beach but took no action, DeNapoli said. DeNapoli sent Naked Politics a copy of the BSO information document which showed that it resulted in no “written report” and that DeNapoli and a BREC member “agreed to disagree w out offending each other.”
"Cleary, this is a 'witch hunt' orchestrated to intimidate, harass and defame me, and you as BREC members need to be aware of this," DeNapoli wrote in an email to BREC members April 22. 

March 31, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz could propose gun legislation after airport shooting



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz held a roundtable Friday to discuss security at the Fort Lauderdale airport where a mass shooting occurred in January.

Wasserman Schultz met with federal, state and local law enforcement and government officials to discuss ways to improve security, mass shooting response and training — the second such roundtable the Weston Democrat has held. Most of the meeting held at Wasserman Schultz’s Sunrise office was in private. The media was allowed to ask questions to some of the participants after it ended.

Wasserman Schultz is considering proposing legislation related to rules about passengers transporting firearms. But any proposals about firearm restrictions could be dead on arrival in a Republican-led Congress.

Keep reading here.

March 24, 2017

HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits a Broward Habitat for Humanity site



President Donald Trump’s housing chief, Ben Carson, visited the future site of a Habitat for Humanity site in Broward County on Friday — as the administration is proposing to slashing billions for affordable housing.

Housing experts say the cuts, should they occur, will hurt South Florida, one of the most unaffordable metro areas in the nation.

Speaking at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, Carson praised the Habitat development that will include 77 homes.

“This project right here is one of the things that works because of public-private partnerships and how incredible they are at leveraging dollars,” he told the audience of local government officials and housing activists. “That’s how we become a success as a nation. The government can’t do everything, but the government can do things to get things started and then the private sector and faith community comes in and leverages that.”

Carson was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson’s visit comes as Trump has proposed slashing about $6 billion from HUD, a cut of about 13 percent. That includes eliminating funding for programs that help people buy or rent homes. Among them: Community Development Block Grant and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Keep reading here about Carson and the "Rick Case Habitat Community" named for the automotive dealership owner who gave $500,000 for the project.

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.