February 23, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz vows to fight Trump on immigration



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U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz vowed to fight back against President Donald Trump’s immigration orders and criticized Miami-Dade county commissioners for caving to Trump on sanctuary cities.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, met with city and county officials in Broward on Thursday morning after she held a closed-door briefing with federal immigration officials from multiple agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Wasserman Schultz sought the ICE briefing to gain more clarity about the administration’s immigration plans, but said she walked away with scant information.

“In my 24 years in office I have rarely had a more evasive briefing than the one I just had,” she told local government officials who met with her at a city of Sunrise government building.

Keep reading here.

Photo by the Sun Sentinel. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, left, discusses President Donald Trump's new immigraiton policy with Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis, Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto and Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. Anthony Man Sun Sentinel



February 10, 2017

Broward Mayor Sharief, Lieutentant Governor Lopez-Cantera discussed axed Port-Cuba deal

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Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief and Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera met Friday and discussed Port Everglades projects and why the port pursued an agreement with Cuba and then axed it. 

In January, port officials in Fort Lauderdale planned to sign a memorandum of understanding with Cuba but cancelled it after Gov. Rick Scott threatened to cut off funding to any Florida port that does business with Cuba. The agreement would have covered future cooperation and could have led to joint marketing studies and training.

Sharief said she explained that the agreement was "benign."

The Port-Cuba agreement was one of many topics that Sharief, a Democrat, and Lopez-Cantera, a Republican, discussed Friday morning at her Pembroke Pines office.

Sharief said they discussed putting Port Everglades "on the governor's list for priority in terms of what the President Trump administration has said about moving major port projects and capital improvement project to the top of the list." 

While campaigning, Trump promised to invest $550 billion in infrastructure.

Sharief and Lopez-Cantera also discussed funding plans for the C-51 reservoir project and the county's request for state funding for the northbound ramp off Pat Salerno Way near the Sawgrass Mills mall.

Sharief said this was her first individual meeting with Lopez-Cantera and that he sought the meeting. His schedule showed that he also planned to meet with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo.

After Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, Broward may push for ban on guns in government facilities

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One month after the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport, Broward County Commissioners will discuss a resolution Tuesday to oppose legislation that would allow guns at government facilities.

The resolution doesn't specifically mention airports but the sponsor, Commissioner Steve Geller, said he opposes State Rep. Greg Steube's bill to allow conceal carry permit holders to carry guns in airports, one of multiple proposed bills to expand where guns may be allowed.

Here is the text of the resolution:

"The Board supports legislation allowing local governments to regulate firearms in government owned buildings and facilities. The Board further supports legislation prohibiting the possession of firearms, weapons, and ammunition in substance abuse programs, mental health programs, and sexual assault treatment facilities.

The board opposes legislation allowing individuals with concealed-weapons licenses to open-carry firearms on college and university campuses; at state legislative and cabinet meetings; governing board meetings of counties, cities, school boards, special districts; and in courthouses."

The County Commission previously approved it's state legislative program which included statements on gun regulations, however Geller's resolution would make opposing certain bills about guns a priority for county lobbyists.

The Democratic-dominated County Commission located in the most left-leaning county in Florida doesn't typically carry weight in GOP-dominated Tallahassee on partisan issues such as gun control. However, Broward officials may have more of a bully pulpit this year after an Army veteran opened fire in baggage claim at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Jan. 6th, killing five and injuring six others. 

And Geller says he believes there is common ground with some senators, many of whom previously served in local government, who oppose efforts to allow guns in certain settings such as local government meetings.

Local government meetings "get very heated and to permit people to come in packing to me sounds absurd," said Geller, a former state senator. "What is it -- an attempt to intimidate elected officials?" 

The shooting has also renewed the debate about the city of Fort Lauderdale allowing gun shows at War Memorial Auditorium in Holiday Park. The City Commission has continued to support allowing the shows, the Sun Sentinel reported. 

- With Kristen Clark

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida


Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

February 09, 2017

Congressmen Curbelo and Deutch expand bipartisan climate change caucus

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A bipartisan climate change caucus launched by two South Florida members has added four new members including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, announced Thursday that the caucus now has 24 members and is evenly split between both parties. Both Curbelo and Deutch represent coastal areas that are impacted by climate change.

The other new members are David Reichert, R-WA, Earl Blumenauer, D-OR and Don Bacon, R-NE.

Curbelo has been a leading Republican voice speaking in favor of finding solutions to combat climate change.

The mission of the caucus is to explore options that address the impacts and causes related to climate change.

“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and coastal communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient,” Curbelo said in a statement. “The caucus has such a diverse group of members that each brings unique perspectives to the table. I’m confident that together we can work on bipartisan solutions that will unleash a new era of American innovation and protect our environment, infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods.”

Deutch said in a statement: “Across the country, Americans understand the urgency of climate change. Whether they see rising tides in Fort Lauderdale, intensifying tornadoes along the Central Plains, or worsening droughts affecting farm production, Americans are starting to feel the impacts of climate change to their homes, their livelihoods, and their wallets. They want action from their elected officials, and I’m proud that this Caucus offers a space to develop bipartisan solutions.”


February 08, 2017

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to speak to Broward Democrats



New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will keynote the Broward Democratic Party's annual fundraising dinner.

The event, which the Broward Democrats recently renamed the "Obama-Roosevelt Dinner," is March 4 at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

“Mayor De Blasio has distinguished himself as a voice of the people. His message of inclusion and acceptance of all Americans is what we need as a nation of diversity in these troubling times. America is the melting pot of the world, and nowhere is that more true than in Broward County and New York City. Mayor De Blasio is a rising leader in the Democratic Party, and it will be a great honor to welcome him to beautiful Broward,” said Cynthia Busch, chair of the Broward Democratic Party.

Broward has about 600,000 registered Democrats -- the highest number in Florida.

Check out de Blasio's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact New York including a claim he made about Trump and sanctuary cities.



Debbie Wasserman Schultz staffer under investigation, report says

A staffer for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, is under a criminal investigation for equipment and data theft, according to Politico.

Imran Awan has worked for various members of the House of Representatives since 2004. Multiple relatives of Awan who have also worked for House members are also part of the investigation. Efforts to reach Awan were unsuccessful.

A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, David Damron, didn't respond to questions about Awan but sent a statement to the Miami Herald:

"At this time we are continuing to gather information from House officials, and will determine the best approach to move forward once we have received a thorough review. We are consulting House counsel to ensure that due process is afforded to her employees before any action is taken.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Capital Police, Eva Malecki, sent a statement to the Miami Herald: "At the request of Members of Congress, the United States Capitol Police are investigating the actions of House IT support staff. No Members are being investigated. No arrests have been made. We have no further comment on the ongoing investigation at this time."

Read the Politico report here.

South Florida Congressman Ted Deutch to host town halls

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, will host town halls in Broward this weekend.

The town halls will be held at E. Pat Larkins community center, 520 NW 3rd St., Pompano Beach at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and at The Pride Center at Equality Park, 2040 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Deutch represents District 22 which includes parts of Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Parkland, Margate and Boca Raton.

Deutch, who represents a solidly Democratic district, has been a vocal critic of the administration of President Donald Trump including Stephen Bannon's role on the National Security Council and his nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Deutch supported the Treasury department's recent sanctions against Iran. He opposed the Iran deal in 2015.


February 07, 2017

In response to Trump immigration ban, Broward passes resolution honoring diversity but avoids 'sanctuary' term



Following President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, the Broward County Commission passed a resolution celebrating diversity while avoiding the term “sanctuary” community.

The resolution declared Broward an “inclusive and welcoming county for all of it's residents and visitors irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin.”

The resolution sponsored by Commissioner Nan Rich of Weston praised immigrants for making “significant contributions to the economic and social fabric of the nation.”

Rich said in an interview that her resolution “had nothing to do with sanctuary cities.” Trump has said he will strip communities of federal funds that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants sought by federal officials. In response, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez reversed the county's 2013 policy to stop honoring federal detention requests. Broward never had a sanctuary policy although the Broward Sheriff's Office has said that it will only honor federal detention detainers if there is a finding of probable cfause.

Rich said that immigration activists asked her to sponsor the resolution.

“We have to speak out when people are doing something that is in contradiction to our American values,” she said in an interview.

Rich, who is Jewish, said her grandparents emigrated from eastern Europe in the 19th Century.

“I’m particularly sensitive to the moral imperative to welcoming immigrants,” said Rich, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council in 1999. “We know what happens when doors are closed and people die and they don’t find the refuge and the safety and protection.”

Immigrant and Democratic activists spoke in favor of the county’s resolution and bashed Trump’s actions related to immigrants.

The resolution passed 7-1 after commissioners struck a phrase about offering “refuge,” an early version of the minutes show. Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the lone Republican, cast the dissenting vote. He noted that the county already has an act banning discrimination.

He also said that the resolution wouldn’t do a “damn thing” to protect the county from the federal government taking away money.

LaMarca said in an interview that he didn’t want to risk losing federal funding for port, road and infrastructure projects.

“There have been direct threats from the federal government -- if we don’t do things a certain way they are going to withhold funding,” he said in an interview.

February 06, 2017

Broward meeting with security consultant after airport shooting

FLL Airportpeoplerunning


Broward County officials plan to negotiate with security consultants to write an after-action analysis related to the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport that left five people dead.

The county's purchasing division will hold a negotiation meeting with Ross & Baruzzini, a security firm, related to the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, at 8 a.m. Wednesday. A sunshine meeting notice included no additional details. No other firms appear to be under consideration.

In December, the county commission gave staff the go-ahead to negotiate a contract with the same security firm for protects at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The county commission is expected to act on the Port contract in February.

A. Celina Saucedo said that the county plans to negotiate with the firm to consult on the airport plan. County officials expect to wait to make any decisions about potential security changes until the plan is complete which could take months.

A key question is whether the county should beef up security in certain areas of the airport including the baggage claim where the shooting occurred. The Miami Herald requested documents from the Broward Sheriff's Office showing how many were assigned to the baggage claim when the shooting occurred, but BSO denied the request citing a state law that allows agencies to keep certain security information private.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the Herald in January that he plans to ask the county for more funding for security and that it will cost the agency about $100,000 extra a month in overtime for more security. However, BSO has not made any formal request to the county. BSO plans to give its budget request to the aviation department which then requests funds from the county as part of the normal budgeting process.

The county makes final decisions about the annual budget in September.