July 30, 2015

Miami commissioner hand-delivers publicly funded 'accomplishment' books


Knock Knock. Who's there?

Marc. Marc who?

Marc Sarnoff, the Miami commissioner who did all those great things for you over the last nine years.

Variations of this conversation have taken place the last few weeks, as Miami's District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has walked door-to-door hand-delivering bags from his office with a glossy booklet inside touting his accomplishments. The 50-page promotional piece, filled with flattering quotes from public figures like developer Jorge Perez, lays out Sarnoff's role in downtown's resurgence, the revitalization of neighborhoods like Wynwood, massive infrastructure projects like the Port Tunnel, and a series of smaller neighborhood initiatives.

Sarnoff says his office and the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) created and paid for the document, and he produced about 800 of them. He says he wants to make sure history accurately remembers his tenure.

“I think it’s important for people to know what we’ve done and – we’re not done yet -- but where we’ll likely end up,” he said.

Sarnoff said he and his staff have worked on the book for years, and its distribution coincides with the end of his time in office due to term limits. But it also comes as Teresa Sarnoff, his wife, campaigns to claim his seat in a November election. The booklet – which includes some pictures and mentions of her work – has some critics questioning why the public should pay for the Sarnoffs’ self-promotion.

“This isn’t a book about District 2. It’s a book about Marc,” said District 2 candidate Ken Russell. “It’s simply a cheerleading puff piece for himself.”

Continue reading "Miami commissioner hand-delivers publicly funded 'accomplishment' books" »

In Miami-Dade, almost a third of pre-schoolers live in poverty


One of the battle lines being drawn this year at the Miami-Dade County Commission is how best to address poverty in the county.

Jean Monestime, the new chair of the commission, launched a prosperity task force that's explored a series of proposals, including banning questions about arrests on employment applications, encouraging workforce housing, and reducing transportation costs. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is constructing a reelection strategy that relies in part on his anti-poverty efforts, including his Employ Miami-Dade hiring program and the reconstruction of the Liberty Square housing project.

Now, the county's economic-research arm is releasing a series of reports sure to surface in that ongoing discussion. The first installment dropped this week, and highlighted the start divide between Miami-Dade's wealthiest and poorest. From our story:

About 30 percent of Miami-Dade’s youngest children live in poverty, highlighting the income gap in a county where the poorest residents earn less than $170 a week.

The findings from a new county analysis of Census data reinforce Miami-Dade’s status as a prime example of the income divide: The wealthiest fifth of the population earned an average of $176,876 in 2013, compared with $8,829 for the poorest fifth.

“The extreme level of inequality — that jumped out,” said Robert Hesler, an author of the report titled Income & Poverty in Miami-Dade County: 2013.

More here

Miami-Dade Police gets to approve followers for new Twitter account aimed at reporters

via @ChuckRabin

Joining the social media revolution in full force, Miami-Dade County Police now have two Twitter portals -- but the general public can only see one of them. 

@MiamiDadePD is open for everyone to see, but @MDPDmedia is only for reporters, with the eighth-largest police force in the nation acting as the sole arbiter over who gets to follow the tweets. 

That seems like a no-no under Florida's broad public-records laws, but Miami-Dade Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said the practice is no different than many other police departments around the country and some local politicians like County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro (@BrunoABarreiro).  

Zabaleta does acknowledge tweets on @MDPDmedia must be provided to the public as requested but said the main goal is to keep local media up-to-date on minutiae like where public information officers plan to talk to cameras at crime scenes.

"I don't think the community needs to know where the staging area is," he said.

Earlier this year Broward/Palm Beach New Times jumped all over the Broward Sheriff's Office after learning filmmaker Billy Corben's Twitter account, @BillyCorben, had been blocked. BSO relented and and unblocked Corben. The problem wasn't Corben's tweets -- it was the thousands of his loyal followers who hammered away at BSO (@browardsheriff). 

Corben said he understands how aggravating that could be to law enforcement, but in the long run they would be better off being as open as possible to the public.

"Politicians and public agencies that block people from Twitter accounts just don't understand social media," said Corben. "It's what the kids call 'a bad look.' It looks like you have something to hide." 


Miami commissioner vows to 'silence the rabblerousers'


Tiring of criticisms and outside narratives of his job as a freshman Miami Commissioner, Keon Hardemon and his staff hosted a two-hour event at the historic Lyric Theater Wednesday in order to directly tout his accomplishments to the people who live in his district.

Hardemon, elected in 2013 to represent Liberty City, Overtown, Little Haiti, Wynwood and much of the Upper Eastside, drew hundreds to the Overtown theater, where a standing-room-only crowd watched a teenage filmmaker's video tribute to Hardemon and an interpretive dance, and listened to a 25-minute "state of the district" speech.

Hardemon talked about jumpstarting faltered efforts to upgrade Charles Hadley and African Square Park, issuing up to $60 million in bonds for long-delayed affordable housing and renovation projects in and around Overtown, and opening the Caribbean Marketplace in Little Haiti. He also passed an ordinance that guarantees workers on city-funded construction projects a responsible wage, and negotiated millions over the coming decades from the operators of Bayside Marketplace for a city agency tasked with revitalizing Liberty City.

Hardemon has been criticized by some who believe he has become inaccessible to the public while engaging in backroom deals. He has been hammered over the outcome of negotiations to give as much as $108 million in property taxes back to the developer of the Miami Worldcenter in exchange for local workforce and wage guarantees.

But Hardemon – who in recent months has held public meetings to discuss negotiations for projects like a Tri-Rail link downtown -- invited his critics to the event as well, and capped his speech by urging the hundreds of seniors, teenagers, activists and politicians in attendance to ignore his naysayers.

“The next time someone says to you that our office hasn’t made any progress, I want you to emphatically tell them that that’s not true. Things are happening in District 5” he said, talking about plans to fight slumlords and shrink Miami’s large income gap. “It is through those actions that we’ll continue to silence the rabble-rousers who incite our community and want us to live on forever as victims of circumstance. We must rid our communities of those who pretend to love us only to prosper from our despair.”

Kiara Garland, a media representative in Hardemon’s office, said the Lyric Theater waived a fee to rent its hall, but Hardemon’s office paid to staff the event. She said a cost of the event will be provided to the Miami Herald later Thursday.

July 29, 2015

Internal Affairs closes probe of Miami FOP president


A politically charged internal affairs probe tied to a failed reality series on the Miami Police Department has been closed without any finding of fault against Police union president Lt. Javier Ortiz.

Ortiz has been under investigation since late May, when he shared a video teaser of Miami Blue, produced by Coconut Grove-based Entertainment Dynamix. The company received permission from the city to film police in 2013, and some of the footage produced featured scantily clad female officers.

Ortiz told the media it was being used by the department to recruit new officers. He said he knew that to be true because former police chief Manuel Orosa told him during the 2013 Ultra Music Festival that crews filming police work at the event were working on a recruiting film.

Orosa said that's not true. And after stories ran in The Miami Herald and on WPLG-10, Orosa filed a complaint with Internal Affairs saying Ortiz violated department protocol requiring honesty from Miami's officers.

Internal affairs closed the case last week and ruled the allegation inconclusive. Ortiz said he received a copy of an investigative close-out memo Wednesday and provided it to the Miami Herald.

"What a waste of manpower and resources, especially at a time that we have a rising crime rate and a shortage of police officers," he wrote.

Download OrtizIA

WSJ: Top donor to Jeb Bush super PAC is Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez

From the Wall Street Journal:

A Texas oil man, a Wall Street financier and several former U.S. ambassadors are among the top donors to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, providing hard evidence the Republican establishment is rallying to his presidential candidacy as he girds for a long primary battle.

Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-American billionaire who gave $3 million, is the biggest donor to the Right to Rise super PAC, which set a record fundraising pace and bested all of Mr. Bush’s rivals—Democrats and Republicans—by amassing $103 million in the first six months of 2015.

The names help confirm that the Republican establishment, supplemented with a healthy dash of Florida financial backers from Mr. Bush’s days as governor, are prepared to deliver a powerful flow of money that no other GOP candidate is likely to match.

More here (subscription required).

July 28, 2015

Did a Miami-Dade commissioner spill the beans on Lauren Book's Florida Senate run?


Lauren Book, daughter of mega-lobbyist Ron Book, plans to announce her candidacy for the Florida Senate on Sept. 1.

At least that's according to an invitation Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman sent her friends Tuesday asking them to attend a fundraiser for Book at Il Gabbiano, a posh Italian restaurant in downtown Miami, on Sept. 18.

"As you have probably heard, my very close personal friend, Lauren Book, is planning to launch a campaign for an open Senate seat on September 1, 2015," read Heyman's email, which was obtained by the Miami Herald.

But Book herself has not revealed her plans. She told the Herald that's because she has yet to make up her mind. Book recently got married.

"We are looking at all of our options and have not made a decision of what we're going to do," she said, conceding that she nevertheless has several events on her calendar. "We haven't made any final, final, final decisions yet."

Book, who runs Lauren's Kids, a nonprofit that raises awareness about children victims of sexual abuse, has made no secret of her intention to run for the Broward seat being vacated by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat. 

Book created a political action committee, Leadership for Broward, last September. It has collected nearly $640,000; some of her donors, such as the Miami Dolphins and GEO Group, a private prison company, also happen to be her dad's clients.

Miami-Dade's mayor is going to Denver with a big crew to discuss transit



UPDATE: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce wrote today to say the delegation list provided by the mayor's office was incomplete. A chamber publicist provided a new one, and it's listed below. The chamber also provided a full agenda that emphasizes how large a role the "P3" financing model plays in the schedule. You can see it by clicking here

 The latest list: 

The Honorable Steven Abrams

Commissioner - District 4, Palm Beach County


Humberto Alonso

Vice President, Atkins


Jolie Balido

Public Relations Agency of Record, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

President and Co-founder, Roar Media


The Honorable Bruno Barreiro

Commissioner - District 5, Miami-Dade County


Javier Betancourt

Strategic Partnerships Committee Chair, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

Deputy Director, Miami Downtown Development Authority


Mitchell Bierman

Transportation Committee Chair, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

Member, Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Cole & Bierman


The Honorable Esteban Bovo

Commissioner - District 13, Miami-Dade County


Alice Bravo

Director - Transit, Miami-Dade County


Kathie Brooks

Assistant City Manager, City of Miami Beach


James Cromar

Director of Planning, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization


Meg Daly

Founder, Friends of the Underline


Harold Desdunes

District Director of Transportation Systems Development, Florida Department of Transportation


Al Dotson Jr.

Executive Committee Member At-large, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

Partner, Bilzin Sumberg


Glenn Downing

Second Vice Chair, Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust


Alex Ferro

Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor, Miami-Dade County


Jose Fuentes

Government Affairs Consultant, Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.


The Honorable Carlos Gimenez

Mayor, Miami-Dade County


Jose Gonzalez

Transportation Director, City of Miami Beach


Jose Gonzalez

Senior Vice President, Florida East Coast Industries


Jesus Guerra

Director, Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization


Matt Haggman

Program Director, Knight Foundation


Alexander Heckler

Managing Partner, LSN Partners


Barry Johnson

President/CEO, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce


Ric Katz

Executive Vice President, Balsera Communications


Jason King

Principal, Dover, Kohl & Partners


Danet Linares

New World Center (Downtown Miami) Committee Chair, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

Vice Chair, Blanca Commercial Real Estate


Marcelo Llorente

Managing Partner, LSN Partners


Al Maloof

Director, Government Relations, Genovese, Joblove & Battista, P.A.


Ed Marquez

Deputy Mayor, Miami-Dade County


The Honorable Jean Monestime

Chairman - Board of County Commissioners, Miami-Dade County


The Honorable Dennis Moss

Commissioner - District 9, Miami-Dade County


Dr. Pablo Ortiz

Associate Vice President, Florida International University


Benjamin de la Pena

Director of Community and National Strategy, Knight Foundation


Gerard Philippeaux

Chief of Staff, Office of the Chair, Miami-Dade County


Joe Rasco

Director - Intergovernmental Affairs, Miami-Dade County


Michael Reininger

President/CEO, All Aboard Florida


Eric Riel

Planning, Design + Transportation, Miami Downtown Development Authority


Alyce Robertson

Executive Director, Miami Downtown Development Authority


Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Chair-Elect, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

President, Florida International University


The Honorable Marc Sarnoff

Commissioner - District 2, City of Miami


Paul Schwiep

Chair, Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust


Charles Scurr

Executive Director, Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust


Jason Smith

Legislative Director - District 8, Miami-Dade County


Ana Sotorrio

Public Policy Committee Chair, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

President, ASTS Inc.


The Honorable Francis Suarez

Commissioner - District 4, City of Miami


Daniel Tapia

Director, Governmental Affairs, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce


Anna Ward

First Vice Chair, Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust


Joseph Yesbeck

Executive Committee Member – Governmental Affairs Group Chair, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

Vice President, T.Y. Lin International


Robert Villar

Chief Budget and Performance Reporting, Miami-Dade County


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is flying to Denver next week for a look at the city's transit systems and how officials funded the expansion there. He's bringing with him a large delegation of elected leaders, lobbyists and business executives.

His office on Tuesday released the current delegation list of about 40 people. Most are paying their own way, while Miami-Dade is likely picking up the tab for county officials and elected leaders on the trip. (Gimenez's office did not have a trip budget immediately available Tuesday night.) 

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce organized the Aug. 5 to 7 trip, which is being billed as a "Transportation Fly-In." Registration costs were $200, plus lodging and airfare.   

Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández described the trip in a statement: 


Continue reading "Miami-Dade's mayor is going to Denver with a big crew to discuss transit" »

July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

July 24, 2015

With 2 hometown candidates expected on stage, Miami-Dade Republicans plan debate watch parties


Just how eager are Miami-Dade County Republicans to see two of their own make their 2016 presidential debate debuts?

Plans are under way two weeks in advance for parties to watch the first debate, which will be aired Aug. 6 by Fox News. 

The Miami-Dade GOP has not endorsed Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, yet it has invited supporters to gather at a location at least geographically closer to Rubio: the Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility in Rubio's hometown of West Miami, named after his political godmother.

Some of Rubio's friends, though, have organized an event of their own.

Bernie Navarro and his wife, Claudia, along with Navarro's Benworth Capital Partners, a real-estate investment firm, will hold a watch party at Miami Dade College's Koubek Center in the city of Miami. Navarro hosted Rubio and close supporters the day before the candidate launched his campaign in April, as well as Rubio's first local fundraiser as a presidential contender.

Fox News and the Republican National Committee will limit the number of candidates on the first debate stage to 10 (16 have filed to run so far). Bush and Rubio are expected to make it, since both are polling near the top of the field.