January 13, 2017

Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio seek federal money for Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

FLL Airportswat DS


U.S. senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and several members of South Florida's congressional delegation sent a letter Friday to federal officials seeking money for costs incurred by local law enforcement that responded to the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood international airport.

The politicians wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson following a letter sent by Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to Nelson on Wednesday asking for his assistance in seeking federal reimbursement.

Here is the letter from the Senators and members of Congress: "Last week, the community of Fort Lauderdale experienced a horrific tragedy. On the afternoon of Friday, January 6, a gunman attacked the Fort Lauderdale Airport, murdering five and injuring dozens more in the shooting and fallout. We are writing to request that you commit all appropriate federal resources to assist law enforcement and the surrounding community in Fort Lauderdale after this attack. We urge you to review existing authority and expedite any requests from local and state authorities for grant funding or other assistance to respond to this tragedy. Federal assistance would help this community respond appropriately to the devastation. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request and your attention to Fort Lauderdale’s recovery efforts."

The letter was also signed by several Democratic members of Congress who represented Broward or have in the past including: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Frederica Wilson.

The U.S. Department of Justice gave $1 million to Florida law enforcement agencies to help pay for overtime costs related to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June that left 49 victims dead. The justice department provided $500,000 to local agencies that responded to the 2015 San Bernardino attack that left 14 dead.

January 12, 2017

Obama names Broward supporter to Holocaust council


via @adamsmithtimes

President Barack Obama today named Coral Springs trial lawyer Andrew Weinstein, a top Democratic fundraiser, a member of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, a position he will continue to hold after Donald Trump becomes president on Jan. 20. The president in 2013 appointed Weinstein to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

January 11, 2017

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel in the spotlight after Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

Israel pixAP


Broward Sheriff Scott Israel was exercising in a Davie park when the message came over the dispatch system on his phone: There was a shooting at the airport.

His first thought: disbelief.

“You hope it was sent in error,” Israel told the Miami Herald. “You read it again and hope it’s not Broward County. You start to digest it. You are angry. You pray.”

And then, Israel said, “a switch flips and you go from all of those emotions as a citizen to being the sheriff of Broward County and leading.”

Over the next several hours, Israel’s leadership was under a microscope, as he faced the biggest nightmare of his career: a shooting rampage at Terminal 2 of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywoood International which left five people dead, stranded thousands of terrified passengers and shut down one of the busiest airports in the nation. In less than 90 seconds, BSO had the suspect, Army National Guard veteran Esteban Santiago, in custody.

A married father of 20-year-old triplets, Israel said he didn’t have time in the moment to reflect on what it would have been like if his own children were there. (His sister-in-law was at another terminal at the time of the shooting, and at one point he spoke to her on the phone and told her that the tarmac, where police had moved many passengers, was safe.)

“I didn’t have the ability to do those things and allow those emotions to take place,” said Israel, who said a deputy drove him to the airport so he could work while enroute. “I was handling an active-shooter scene. I was the sheriff; we were talking about traffic, the SWAT team, an orderly clearance.”

Keep reading here.

January 09, 2017

Fort Lauderdale airport shooting prompts closed-door Broward County commission meeting

FLL Airportpeoplerunning


The deadly rampage at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International airport Friday has prompted the Broward County Commission to hold a closed-door meeting about airport security Tuesday.

The commission will hold the private meeting following the 10 a.m. regular commission meeting at County Hall.

The agenda contains no details such as who will attend the meeting and simply states that the purpose is to "discuss security systems and information related to security systems" at the airport.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the Miami Herald in a text he was unaware of the meeting.

County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey said that only Broward County officials and employees will attend.

"Because the statute exempts these meetings entirely from the open meetings requirements, no record is made," she told the Herald in an email. "That is because security sensitive information is confidential and prohibited from disclosure.

Florida law allows for governmental bodies to ban the public and media from meetings under narrow circumstances including to discuss security of public buildings.

The suspected shooter, Esteban Santiago, made his first appearance in federal court Monday. He faces a possible death penalty or life in prison on charges related to fatally shooting five people and injuring six others.

Miami Herald photo by David Santiago

Florida Democratic Party chair candidate Stephen Bittel leads Dwight Bullard in endorsements



Miami-Dade donor Stephen Bittel released a list of about two dozen endorsements in his race for Florida Democratic Party chair -- including four three members of Congress Monday.

That far outpaces the number of endorsements released Monday by his local rival -- former state Sen. Dwight Bullard -- who announced a handful of endorsements.

Bittel, a major donor to Democratic candidates and a Coconut Grove developer, and Bullard will compete in the state party chair election in Orlando Saturday. The other candidates are activist Alan Clendenin -- from Hillsborough County who moved to Bradford to keep his bid alive -- Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic party chair Leah Carius.

State committeemen and women who represent large Democratic counties get the most powerful voice in the election because their votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in their counties. 

Holding a county party position is a prerequisite to running for state chair. After Bullard lost a state committeeman race to Bittel, he moved to Gadsden County and won a similar position there.

Bittel has been endorsed by three members of Congress who live in Palm Beach County: Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel.

Bittel's list initially included U.S. Rep. Val Demings who represents the Orlando area. After we posted this blog, a spokeswoman for Demings, Caroline Rowland, said Demings did not endorse Bittel or anyone else. Rowland provided a statement from Demings: 

“While Mr. Bittel asked for my support, I told him I had not decided and would not decide until I had the opportunity to look at all of the candidates.”

Bittel's team said it was a "cut and paste error."

One key statewide politician is missing from the official endorsement list: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the only statewide Democrat in Florida. Nelson has stopped short of officially endorsing Bittel but has praised him. Ultimately the votes are public so Nelson will have to make it clear Saturday which candidate he supports.

Also missing on endorsement lists: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston who appears to be staying quiet about the race this time after stepping down as national party chair in July. In 2013, Wasserman Schultz urged activists to vote for Allison Tant, the eventual winner who isn't seeking the position again. Bittel has fundraised for Wasserman Schultz in the past.

A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, David Damron, said she isn't commenting on the chair race and will send a proxy to vote for her.

One group that weighed in earlier in the process has since gone quiet: Our Revolution, the political organization formed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution endorsed Bullard in December for his race in Miami-Dade County but a spokeswoman, Arianna Jones, told the Miami Herald that it is no longer involved in the race for state chair. Jones didn't respond to an email asking why Our Revolution is no longer involved.

Here are the endorsements Bullard and Bittel announced Monday -- all of them get a vote Saturday unless otherwise noted:

Here are Bullard's endorsements:

  • Democratic Black Caucus of Florida
  • Brevard County state committeeman Sanjay Patel
  • Martin County state committeewoman Dawn Abate. 
  • Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee (doesn't get a vote but Bullard won their straw poll)

Here are Bittel's endorsements:

   ·    Chris Reilly, President of Florida College Democrats

·      Catherine Michiels, Lee County Committeeman

·      Michael Bonacolta, Lee County Committeewoman

·      Rhett Bullard, Hamilton County Committeeman

·      Shauna Faries Adams, Hamilton County Committeewoman

·      Lucy Garner: Charlotte County Committeeman

·      Thomas Garner, Charlotte County Committeewoman

·      Thomas Byrd, Bay County Committeeman

·      Patricia Byrd, Bay County Committeewoman

·      Diane Krumel, Escambia County Committeewoman

·      David Dew, Martin County Committeeman and Chair of the Small County Coalition of FL

·      Brad Culverhouse, St. Lucie County Committeeman

·      Cong. Ted Deutch, US Congress

·   ·  Cong. Lois Frankel, US Congress

·      Cong. Alcee Hastings, US Congress

·      Volusia Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, State Executive Committee

·      Joseph Falk, State Executive Committee

·      State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Executive Committee

·      Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, State Executive Committee

·      Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida State House Democratic Leader

·      Andy Tobias, State Executive Committee

·      Carlos Odio, State Executive Committee

·     Miami-Dade Democratic Party (Bittel gets a vote as state committeeman)

·      Escambia Democratic Party steering committee (the party itself doesn't get a vote)



December 30, 2016

Florida Democratic Party chair forum set in Broward



The drama of the race to lead the Florida Democratic Party will travel to left-leaning Broward when the candidates convene at a forum in Pompano Beach Jan. 11.

Wealthy donor/developer Stephen Bittel, activist Alan Clendenin, former state Sen. Dwight Bullard, Duval County's Lisa King and Osceola Democratic chair Leah Carius have all confirmed they will attend, said Tim Canova, one of the organizers. The forum gives Democratic activists in Broward -- the county with the highest number of registered Democrats -- a chance to hear how the candidates hope to reinvigorate the party after its crushing defeat in November with an eye toward 2018 races for Senate and governor.

But ultimately, the opinion of only two Democrats in Broward matter -- state committeeman Ken Evans and committeewoman Grace Carrington -- who get a powerful vote in the chair election in Orlando Jan. 14th.

Evans said he hasn't decided who he will vote for but said he will base his decision on who Broward Democrats coalesce around. Carrington said in a text to the Miami Herald "I'm not making my decision until 10 minutes before the vote."

Votes are weighted based on the number of registered Democrats in each county which means that Broward and Miami-Dade get a major say in the chair election to replace Allison Tant.

Chair candidates have been racing around the state meeting with Democratic leaders who get a vote and other activists who will try to sway the vote.

One of the key organizers of the Pompano forum is Progress for All, a group headed by former Congressional candidate Canova who lost the Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Canova said he hasn't backed any candidate so far. 

The race for Florida Democratic Party chair has been full of drama. Weeks ago, it appeared that Bittel, a wealthy donor and Coconut Grove developer, was the frontrunner when other key candidates failed to become eligible in their own counties. In Miami-Dade, Bret Berlin won a state committeeman seat and then quickly resigned to make way for Bittel to run for the post, a prerequisite to running statewide. Bittel beat Bullard 250-161.

It appeared that Bullard had given up -- he didn't show up for his own election because he was on a family cruise. But then he revived his bid by moving to Gadsden County, a small rural county in northern Florida, where he won a state committeeman spot Tuesday. 

Bullard was the second candidate to move to keep his candidacy alive: after Clendenin lost in Hillsborough County, he moved into a rented trailer in Bradford County and won a similar post there.  








December 13, 2016

Broward County auditor Evan Lukic to retire


Broward County Auditor Evan Lukic announced Monday that he will retire Feb. 3 after working for the county for 29 years.

Lukic was known in County Hall as a consummate professional who put the taxpayers first and picked apart spending decisions by the county.

His reports in recent years have raised criticisms about the management of the Young at Art Museum and financial discrepancies between the companies that operate the Panthers organization as well as poor spending controls internally at the county.

While working on an audit of the county's disbursement system in 2012, Lukic raised alarm bells and told commissioners "this has to be remedied quickly, because you have little or no control now."

In his memo to County Administrator Bertha Henry announcing his retirement, Lukic wrote: "While I look forward with great anticipation to spending more time with my six grandchildren and attending to my hobbies, I feel a sense of loss at the thought of leaving my work family. I thoroughly enjoy and will surely miss the daily interaction with my own staff and so many other dedicated County employees."



December 12, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's district director quits for government consultant job



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's longtime district director, Jodie Bock Davidson, has taken a new job as a government consultant for Colodny Fass law firm in Sunrise.

The firm lobbies for the Broward School Board, the Florida League of Cities, Disney and several insurance clients in Tallahassee. Davidson said she will be based out of South Florida although Michael Colodny said she will also consult in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.

Davidson has worked for South Florida Democrats for two decades and joined Wasserman Schultz when she was first elected to Congress in 2004. Previously, Davidson served as deputy district director to U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and was the Florida Political Director for John Kerry for president in 2004. She also worked as a legislative aide to former state representatives Nan Rich and Ken Gottlieb.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement: “I am deeply grateful to my outgoing District Director, Jodi Bock Davidson. Her service has extended far beyond office walls or district boundaries; she has become a pillar in the South Florida community in her own right and has served as a mentor and advisor to many. She has been an exemplary employee and true friend."

Wasserman Schultz hired Lori Green, a past president of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, to replace Davidson. Green is a registered nurse and in the past has chaired the JCC Maccabi games and served as co-chair for the Davie/Cooper City American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Wasserman Schultz represents a left-leaning Broward/Miami-Dade district. She resigned as Democratic National Committee chair in July.



December 05, 2016

Broward Republicans re-elect chair



Broward Republicans re-elected Bob Sutton as chair of their party in a close vote tonight.

Sutton beat Rico Petrocelli 90-85. Petrocelli was a briefly the chair in 2013 and then quit after disagreements with the board.

The task of the Broward Republican Executive Committee is to help elect Republican candidates to local, state and federal offices. Broward Republicans have represented a shrinking share of the electorate amid a rise in independent voters.

Broward now has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and 330,000 independents.

Although Republicans are outnumbered in Broward, they can make a difference in statewide races since in sheer numbers they are only surpassed by a few counties. 


Broward GOP to elect chair tonight



Broward Republican activists will elect a chair tonight.

Chairman Bob Sutton is seeking re-election and will face Rico Petrocelli, who was briefly the chair in 2013 but then quit citing vague "irreconcilable differences" with the board. Petrocelli, a former Plantation council member, lost a race for Broward Soil and Water Conservation District on Nov. 8th.

Sutton faced criticism in April after he made an oral sex reference to Hillary Clinton.

"I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she's going to go down like Monica Lewinsky," he said. Sutton quickly apologized.

Petrocelli said the party needs to be more organized before the 2018 election for governor and U.S. Senate.

"We need to harness the energy of Trump volunteers," he said.

The main challenge for the next chair of the Broward Republican Executive Committee will be to grow the party as it's share of the electorate has been shrinking in the left-leaning county. In recent years, Broward Republicans have become outnumbered by independents. The county has about 600,000 Democrats, 258,000 Republicans and about 330,000 independents.