February 10, 2017

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

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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.


January 31, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says on Fox that Trump believes he was elected as a dictator



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Fox Business Network  Tuesday that President Donald Trump "believes he was elected as a dictator" and that the acting Attorney General Sally Yates is a "profile in courage."

Trump fired Yates after she refused to comply with his immigration ban.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, is no longer the Democratic National Committee chair but she remains South Florida's most outspoken basher-in-chief of Trump and his administration.

Here is a partial transcript:

On acting Attorney General Sally Yates recent actions:

“I think it’s important to note that she did exactly what she said she would do if she was given an order by the President of the United States, which she believed violated the law… Her answer to Jeff Sessions was that she would make sure that the Department of Justice followed the law. And frankly, because President Trump did absolutely nothing to consult the Department of Justice, his Secretary of Homeland Security, any members of Congress, the leadership of Congress, since they basically slapped this policy together in which they were barring immigrants and refugees for a period of time from countries, by the way, none of which had the 9/11 attackers come from.”

On President Trump’s tweet this morning regarding Democrats delaying his cabinet nominations:

“The President’s tweet this morning was very interesting and telling because it shows that he believes he was elected as a dictator. There is an advised and consent role in the United States Senate, and that is what they are doing. He doesn’t just get to have his nominations rubber stamped, and he has nominated some very disturbing individuals.”

On Steve Mnuchin:

“Mnuchin was a Goldman Sachs alumni, an executive at Goldman Sachs. He actually wants to roll back Dodd-Frank. He wants to undo all the consumer protections that have been put in place, that caused the crash in our economy, that allowed all the banks to make money unethically off of the backs of consumers.”

On the 2016 election:

“Look, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by nearly 3 million votes. The people did speak and Donald Trump would do well to listen to them.”



January 20, 2017

Broward Sheriff's Office estimates cost of response to Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

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The Broward Sheriff's Office estimates that it has spent about $370,000 in response to the Jan. 6th mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

That includes the overtime costs for responding to the shooting that day and the increase in security at the airport since the shooting that left five people dead.

BSO has spent $261,082 on overtime between Jan. 6-13 and $100,000 on post-event security enhancements Jan. 14-25. The other expenses include $5,107 for fire/rescue overtime and $3,774 for meals. That brings the total tab to $369,963.

According to a BSO document, 509 employees responded to the airport shooting on Jan. 6th.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has said he plans to seek more money from the county to cover security at the airport. However, no long-term security decisions are expected until the county writes an after-action plan that could take several weeks, if not months.

BSO is seeking reimbursement from the state and federal government.


January 17, 2017

Fort Lauderdale airport security meeting raises questions, but no answers

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The mass shooting at the airport in Broward County has raised several questions about security, but government officials who met Tuesday said it will take time to reach conclusions about any long-term changes related to firearms in airports, paying for security or other measures to protect passengers.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat whose district includes the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said one of the key questions is whether the U.S. should continue the policy of allowing guns in checked baggage. Wasserman Schultz met with law enforcement, aviation and government officials at the Broward Sheriff’s Office Tuesday to discuss airport security. The meeting was closed to the public, but officials spoke at a press conference after the meeting.

“There was no professional who was in the room today that said, ‘Oh, we definitely should continue to allow firearms to be checked in baggage traveling on airplanes,’” Wasserman Schultz said. “No one said that. In fact, there was pretty universal consensus that it needs to be addressed.”

When asked if the Transportation Security Administration wants to change the policy that allows guns checked in baggage, TSA Chief of Operations Gary Rasicot said “any changes to that I defer to the congresswoman and her colleagues.”

Providing more airport security comes at a price.

“We are all about saving dollars and we all have budgets, but I think we should be more about saving lives,” Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said during the press conference. “Whatever we need to make Broward County safe I will be asking for that money soon.”

In an interview with the Herald, Israel said that it cost his agency about $300,000 to respond to the shooting on Jan. 6th. Additionally, it will cost BSO about $100,000 a month in overtime to provide more security, he said.

“I will be going to the county asking to finance that bill,” he said.

Keep reading here.