May 12, 2015

Joan Geller, mom of Steve and Joe Geller, dies

Joan Geller, the mother of former state Sen. Steve Geller and state Rep. Joe Geller, died this morning in hospice in Sunrise.

“She was never involved in politics herself but she was certainly around it a lot,” Steve Geller said. “She campaigned for me, she campaigned for my brother.”

Geller, 84, was born in New York City and moved to Florida in 1965. She first lived in Miami and then moved to Hollywood and later Sunrise. After her husband Marvin died, she later was the longtime girlfriend of Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella, a well-known Deerfield Beach City Commissioner and condo leader who was courted by presidential contenders visiting South Florida.

The funeral for Geller will be held at noon Thursday at Beth David Memorial Gardens, 3201 NW 72 Ave in Hollywood.

Geller had four children: in addition to Steve and Joe she had a son Bill and daughter Hillary Geller Garbarino.

May 07, 2015

Broward legislators, hospital execs to discuss Medicaid fallout

Broward state legislators, hospital CEOs and community leaders will discuss the financial impact of the state budget fallout over Medicaid expansion.

The meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

Participants include Broward legislative chairman Jeremy Ring, Mayor Tim Ryan, Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce President Dan Lindblade and officials from the county’s two public hospitals: Broward Health and Memorial Health Care.

Lawmakers plan on a three-week special session starting June 1 to finish the state budget by June 30. Broward's predominantly Democratic legislative delegation is unlikely to play any major role in hammering out a budget agreement in Tallahassee, but they can play the important role of the minority party in terms of raising issues.

Disagreement over how to handle the Low Income Pool money which hospitals use for charity care, which the federal government is phasing out, led to the stalemate last month. While Senate leaders want to expand Medicaid, the House leadership refused to do which led them to end the session a few days early in April.

Gov. Rick Scott met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday in Washington D.C. to ask her to approve the state's proposal for LIP funding, but that meeting led to no resolution.

April 23, 2015

Steve Geller runs for open Broward County Commission seat

So much for term limits meaning fresh faces -- it often just means recycled faces.

The 2016 ballot in Broward County includes a few well-known politicos running for different positions than they have held in the past.

Former state Sen. Steve Geller filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the County Commission. Geller lost a contentious and expensive commission battle against Sue Gunzburger in 2010 -- this time he will be running in a different district in the one now represented by term-limited Lois Wexler. Geller, a Democrat, lives in Cooper City which is in the district.

“I’ve learned a lesson,” Geller said. “I’m not running against an incumbent.”

Here are a few of the other familiar faces running next year in races that are unopposed so far:

  • Commissioner Martin Kiar is running for property appraiser to replace Lori Parrish who is retiring.

  • Former state Sen. Nan Rich, who lost the Democratic primary to former Gov. Charlie Crist last year, is running for an open County Commission seat.

  • Brenda Forman, wife of Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, is running to replace her husband who is retiring.

For now, Broward County has no competitive countywide race because Sheriff Scott Israel and Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, both Democrats, have no opponents. Snipes announced Tuesday that she will seek re-election.

April 21, 2015

Broward Dems to discuss law enforcement and race tonight

Broward Democrats will hold a forum on “law enforcement and race” at their monthly meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Deicke Auditorium in Plantation.

Participants include State Attorney Mike Satz, Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Marano and representatives from the public defender’s office and the Fort Lauderdale police department. Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar will moderate.

“If Broward truly wants to be a community, then we need to act like a community,” Ceasar said.

Ceasar said the forum was prompted by incidents nationwide that have shone a spotlight again on law enforcement and race such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

Closer to home, four Fort Lauderdale police officers recently lost their jobs after an internal affairs investigation confirmed their involvement in a racist video and racist text messages.

April 10, 2015

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes remains undecided about seeking re-election

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes says she hasn’t figured out whether she will run for re-election next year.

When we asked Snipes the same question in January she said she wouldn’t decide until after the municipal elections in March.

“I thought after the election I would  be closer to knowing what I’d like to do,” Snipes said in an interview Friday. “It’s a great position, we do great work but I just haven’t really figured it out.”

Snipes, 72, said she has no timeline to reach a decision and isn’t leaning either way.

“I feel like I am standing right in the middle,” she said.

Snipes was first appointed to the job by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and then won elections in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

The qualifying period isn’t until June 2016 but by not making a decision, Snipes is essentially creating an empty field because potential contenders generally want to know her plans before they decide whether to jump into the race. (See our earlier posts about potential and rumored candidates.)

Snipes is the only Broward constitutional officer who hasn’t announced her intentions for next year: Sheriff Scott Israel is seeking re-election while Clerk of Courts Howard Forman and Property Appraiser Lori Parrish are retiring. Forman’s wife Brenda has filed to run for his seat and County Commissioner Martin Kiar has filed to run for Parrish’s job.

The election will coincide with the presidential election which means that a Democrat would have a major advantage in any countywide race in left-leaning Broward.


Broward County may discuss destination resort Tuesday

On Thursday, a Florida house committee voted in favor of an amendment to a gaming bill that would allow Broward and Miami-Dade to hold a referendum on destination resorts or by a vote of the county commission.

Broward Mayor Tim Ryan says that he may bring up the topic of destination resorts on Tuesday during the mayoral comments portion of the meeting. In recent years, county officials talked about the idea of a casino at the BB&T Center in Sunrise where the Panthers hockey team plays but those conversations slowed down after the sale of the Panthers.

“If it happens in Broward, that’s the logical site,” Ryan said. The site is near the Sawgrass Mills mall and was originally conceived to include an entertainment complex.

If the Legislature ultimately passes a bill with the amendment language, it’s too soon to predict whether Broward would choose to hold a referendum or a vote by the county commission.

A special election would cost about $4.5 million, said Rob Hernandez, deputy county administrator.

Ryan said that a vote by the commission would not add the expense of an election.

“We have been down this road a couple of times in Broward County," Ryan said. "Voters said twice they are in favor of it.”

March 26, 2015

Warning signs were ignored by Broward sheriff in dead boy's violent, 'painful' life

Ahizya OsceolaThe purple bruises on either side of Ahizya Osceola’s jaw were telltale signs: Someone, a child abuse expert said, had grabbed the 3-year-old’s face forcefully enough to leave fingerprints.

But Ahizya’s bruised jaw was only a small part of what the boy faced. The state’s abuse hotline received a report on April 21, 2014, that he had scratches on both sides of his neck, and a “large bruise and bump” on his forehead. Two weeks earlier, teachers saw a “pinch mark” on one ear, a bruise behind the other and two bruises on his face.

Two weeks before that, Ahizya had a busted lip, another scratch on his face, a bruise on his shoulder blade and pinches and bruises on his ears. Ahizya told his preschool teacher that “daddy” hit him with a belt. His father, Nelson Osceola, instead described an active and clumsy toddler who frequently injured himself in run-ins with furniture, walls, a toilet and other children during an Easter party.

Broward County child protection investigators discounted the possibility of abuse and left him with a father who had a lengthy rap sheet — including aggravated assault charges — and a history of alleged drug use. The Broward Sheriff’s Office had one last chance to intervene in December, when the state’s abuse hotline was told that Ahizya’s stepmother had beaten his bottom, and he had bruises and abrasions on his face. But that call, too, went unheeded.

On Wednesday, Nelson Osceola and the stepmother, Analiz Osceola, were arrested by Hollywood police in connection with Ahizya’s death the previous week. He was found last Friday concealed by garbage bags in the family’s laundry room. Analiz Osceola faces the bulk of the charges: aggravated manslaughter, child neglect and giving false information to police conducting an investigation. Nelson Osceola is charged with one count of child neglect.

More from Carol Marbin Miller and Carli Teproff here.



February 19, 2015

Politico: Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in 'tizzy' over medical-marijuana donor trouble


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office offered to change the Weston Democrat's position against a legalizing medical marijuana in exchange for support from a deep-pocketed donor, Politico reports.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to change her position on medical marijuana if a major Florida donor recanted his withering criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier. Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”

“No,” Morgan responded. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”

Earlier, Politico had reported that Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was considering running for Senate if Marco Rubio mounts a presidential bid and doesn't seek reelection. That chatter prompted backers of a medical-marijuana initiative that received majority support at the polls last year but failed to meet the 60-percent threshold required in Florida to say they would make sure to remind voters about Wasserman Schultz's opposition.

Now Wasserman Schultz's office has been exposed -- in writing, and by a major Democratic donor, no less. She did not comment to Politico, perhaps hoping the issue would go away. But it got louder instead.

UPDATE: Wasserman Schultz told the Sun-Sentinel on Friday that the allegation is "outrageous."

""I wouldn't change my position in exchange for support under any circumstances -- ever. I stand on principle. I'm always very proud to stand in front of my constituents and explain when I have a difference of opinion with them," she said.

Broward Democrats' keynote speaker is James Clyburn

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, will be in the keynote speaker for the Broward Democrats’ annual Unity Dinner March 21.

The event held at the Marriott in Coral Springs is the main annual fundraiser for the Broward Democratic Executive Committee. Last year, the group raised about $84,000 that month during a statewide campaign year -- it raised about $43,000 around the time of the dinner in 2013.

Clyburn’s activism started at age 12 when he was elected as chair of his NAACP youth chapter and he later organized sit-ins and marches. Clyburn, first elected in 1993, is a former chair of the Congressional black caucus. (See his Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.)

Broward Democrats are coming off a Republican-sweep year when they saw Democrat Charlie Crist lose to Gov. Rick Scott. But Democratic turnout is higher in presidential years and Broward, with one of the largest contingents of Democratic voters in the state along with Miami-Dade, hopes to play a key role in the presidential and Senate contests next year.

Local and countywide Democratic candidates can also benefit in a presidential year from the larger turnout. Broward will have at least two open countywide seats since both Property Appraiser Lori Parrish and Clerk of Courts Howard Forman are retiring -- Sheriff Scott Israel is running for re-election while Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes hasn’t decided if she will seek re-election.

February 13, 2015

The Alcee Hastings' Truth-O-Meter file: claims about dildos, guns and voting rights

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., recently upped his profile as an outspoken and provocative liberal when he bashed Texas as a "crazy" state.

At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it."

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said Hastings’ comment was "defamatory," setting off a battle later parodied on The Daily Show.

Then, on Feb. 5, Hastings gave an interview to CNN in which he cited Texas law to bolster his case that the state is "crazy."

Hastings is a former federal judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of bribery charges in 1983, later impeached by the House of Representatives, and removed from the federal bench in 1989 by the Senate.

Neverthless, he was elected to Congress in 1992 and represents District 20, which includes parts of Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry counties. Hastings, a resident of Miramar, is one of Broward County’s longest serving politicians and plans to seekre-election in 2016.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our story about our fact-checks of Hastings' recent claims and one he made during the 2012 noncitizen voter purge.