May 20, 2015

Roll Call: Broward Democrat wants raise for members of Congress

From Roll Call (published Monday):

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings made the politically tone-deaf case for raising salaries for members of Congress Monday, pointing to the high cost of living in the District of Columbia.

“Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” the Florida Democrat said at a Rules Committee meeting, referring to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary. “We aren’t being paid properly,” he later added.

The committee was considering the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which sets the spending levels for Congress and legislative branch agencies. The bill includes a freeze on member pay, continuing one that has been in place since 2010 — and last year drew the ire of then-Rep. James P. Moran.

More here.

May 13, 2015

Former South Florida city manager says elected female officials ask many questions, don't want financial numbers


A man who until last month was the manager of a Broward County city told a Texas city council now made up mostly of women that he learned a few lessons when he worked for the all-female Lauderdale Lakes City Commission.

"You see women in leadership will have to interact with them in a different way," Jonathan Allen told the Austin City Council, according to the Austin American Statesman.

Women ask more questions than men, and don't want as many financial numbers, Allen said, according to a bullet-point summary reported by the newspaper. Apparently the Austin City Council felt it needed a two-hour training session about women leaders after an election resulted in a panel of seven women and four men -- a female majority for the first time.

Allen, by the way, was fired in April after four years in Lauderdale Lakes. No mention of his gender seems to have been made at his firing. His is the father of an 11-year-old daughter.

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.