September 04, 2015

Miami-Dade voters, check your mail


If you vote in Miami-Dade County, you may want to keep an eye on your snail-mail box.

The elections department has started mailing out new voter cards and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks. The county finished redrawing its new precincts to ease overcrowding, which means about 12 percent of voters have been assigned a new polling place.

"Voters are encouraged to review their new card carefully to ensure they know where to vote before heading to the polls on Election Day, and are asked to contact the Department if they would like to make any updates to their voter record," Chief Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White said.

Environmentalists knock Miami-Dade budget for ignoring sea-level rise


Environmentalists slammed Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for only a passing mention of sea-level rise in his proposed 2016 budget and urged county leaders to make the problem a priority by dedicating tax dollars toward the issue.

At a hearing for a $6.8-billion budget that eases past spending cuts for libraries, charity grants, worker pay, parks and public safety, one speaker after another stepped to the microphone to criticize a lack of urgency by Miami-Dade toward the local consequences of climate change.

“In this three-volume budget, there is one mention of sea-level rise,” Maggie Fernandez, of the League of Women Voters, told county commissioners during the evening meeting. “This has to be a joke. Given that we’re Ground Zero for climate change.”

A PDF search of the Gimenez budget seemed to confirm the talking point: The phrase “sea-level rise” only appears once in the plan, on Page 265 of Volume 3. Even then, it’s on a list of “unfunded capital projects.” Officials said protecting coastal parks from higher seas would cost $175 million, but those funds aren’t in the budget.

More here.

September 03, 2015

Miami-Dade commission chairman to headline Annette Taddeo fundraiser



Annette Taddeo, the Democrat hoping to unseat Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, has lined up the support of Jean Monestime, the Miami-Dade County Commission chairman.

Monestime will be the featured guest at a sit-down dinner to raise money for Taddeo on Sept. 15 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. An invitation to the event obtained by the Miami Herald asks supporters to join Monestime "for a private dinner and conversation with his friend" Taddeo. Monestime is the highest-ranking Democrat on the commission, albeit in a nonpartisan post.

The suggested donation to attend is $5,400 from individuals to Taddeo's campaign ($2,700 each for the primary and general elections) or $5,000 from political action committees interested in contributing to the campaign. Taddeo herself isn't raising money for any PAC.

Taddeo lags behind Curbelo in the money race -- he's a top House Republican fundraiser -- and may continue to do so. Incumbents tend to draw early support from political committees and establishment donors; Taddeo may see more support from Democratic PACs closer to the election if she shows she's got a chance of defeating Curbelo.

Miami Beach commissioner closing his controversial PAC


Controversial political action committee Relentless for Progress has relented.

Citing personal reflection as his primary motivation, Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson announced Thursday afternoon that he will close his committee, which has raised more than $1 million from a gallery of city vendors, prominent developers and lobbyists. He said he will return what remains of the money to contributors, which is about half.

he PAC had become the talk of political circles both in and outside of Miami Beach for its rapid fundraising from entities who have business with the city, and its activity attracted the attention of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which started investigating.

The committee sparked a debate about the role of “soft money” in local politics — particularly in a city like Miami Beach, which has an ordinance that prohibits vendors, developers and lobbyists from donating directly or indirectly to candidates’ campaigns. Wolfson had planned on using Relentless for Progress — whose initials mirror the acronym for the way cities solicit city vendors, “request for proposal” — to back candidates in this year’s Beach elections. Three commission seats are up for grabs in November and Mayor Philip Levine has a challenger.

More here.

White House invites Miami-Dade mayor to climate-change summit


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is getting more White House love.

Gimenez has been invited -- and plans to attend -- the inaugural U.S.-China Climate Leaders Summit in two weeks in Los Angeles.

The summit is part of a U.S.-China effort to cooperate on curbing global warming and promoting clean energy, and will give the two countries something to boast about when Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Washington the following week for a state visit.

Mayors of cities in the U.S. and China -- 12 from each country, according to Gimenez's office -- were invited to share ideas and perhaps leave the two-day summit with some sort of commitment or "action statement."

"Mayor Gimenez looks forward to sharing Miami-Dade County's work to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise with fellow mayors from throughout the U.S. and China and learning from them," Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández said in a statement. "Miami-Dade is in a unique location and position to be at the forefront on the issue."

As it happens, Gimenez was getting criticized during the county's first budget hearing Thursday by residents worried that planning sea-level rise -- the top climate-change consequence for Miami-Dade -- was getting short shrift in the mayor's proposed spending plan. His office said he spoke to residents outside the County Hall chambers to try to reassure them.

This is the second time in two months that the White House has reached out to Gimenez, a Republican in a non-partisan post. He was the featured guest on a conference all last month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Gimenez spoke about Miami-Dade's efforts to make voting easier after a slew of embarrassing problems at the 2012 polls.

--with Douglas Hanks

Frederica Wilson endorses Iran deal


A day after hedging on whether she would back President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, said she'd vote for the deal. Wilson is one of the biggest proponent's of Obama's agenda, so the bigger news would have been if she had rejected the agreement.

Here's her statement:

After careful consideration of the arguments and analyses from all sides, I have decided that I will support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed upon by Iran and the P5+1.

I believe that the JCPOA is the best option for our national security and international stability. The agreement – which is based on verification, not trust – blocks the pathways for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, ensures greater stability in the Middle East, and decreases the possibility of armed conflict. I do not want to alienate the United States from the international community and our allies, and we cannot afford to enter into another war. I cannot in good conscience send more women and men to war, and this country, especially my constituents, cannot afford the economic consequences of another military engagement. No deal is perfect but now is the time for diplomacy.

The people of the 24th Congressional District of Florida are “war weary” and long for peace all over the world.

My commitment to Israel and my Jewish constituents is unbreakable, as exemplified by my legislative record and decades of work in our community. It is because of this commitment that I believe we must do everything in our power to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

I applaud President Obama, his cabinet officials, and the international community for their work in crafting a deal that will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. I stand with the majority of my democratic colleagues in supporting the JCPOA.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez launches attack ads against mayor


When budget season comes around, it’s common for Miami-Dade county commissioners to have a particular complaint or concern — but Commissioner Xavier Suarez is taking his budget beef to the airwaves.

Wednesday evening, TV commercials began airing with Suarez bashing Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez over transit spending. Miami-Dade’s half-penny transit tax, approved by voters in 2002, isn’t being spent to give voters the transit expansion they were promised, the ads proclaim.

“Mayor Gimenez insists on using nearly $100 million from the half-cent tax to manage the transportation system,” Suarez complains in the ad, which has a background of trains whizzing by, along with a budget pie chart and a Metrorail map.

“Say no to Gimenez and support me in this effort,” Suarez tells viewers.

In an interview, Suarez said he’s spending “more than $125,000” on the ads, which will run over a five-day span. The money comes from Suarez’s Imagine Miami political action committee.

The ads coincide with Miami-Dade’s first public budget hearing, which will take place at 5:01 p.m. Thursday in commission chambers at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW First St.

Voters have long complained they were deceived by the transit tax — and county leaders acknowledge they over-promised to get the measure passed. Voters approved the 2002 half-cent tax after they were promised a massive Metrorail expansion. But once county leaders got the money, they used much of it to fix budget deficits within the transportation department. The Metrorail expansion never happened.

Suarez, who has suggested he may run for mayor next year, may stir up some public anger with his new commercials. He may also raise his public profile just before launching a mayoral bid.

More here

New manager of Miami-Dade city once accused of squandering Hurricane Andrew rebuilding cash

via @katielepri @CTeproff

Steve Shiver — the former Homestead mayor whom county auditors lambasted for squandering millions of dollars that was supposed to go toward rebuilding the city after Hurricane Andrew — is Opa-locka’s new city manager.

After a five-hour meeting interviewing nine candidates, the commission voted 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon to install Shiver, 49, as manager.

“It was almost a no-brainer,” said Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder, highlighting Shiver’s past experience as a Miami-Dade County manager and Homestead mayor and councilman.

“It wasn’t very hard to see who the front-runner should be,” he added.

But what the Opa-locka commissioners didn’t talk about was how Shiver was nailed in a county audit for misusing county and city funds in a series of bad business deals connected to the city’s political elite. And they didn’t mention how he was part of an investment group that purchased a beloved Wild West theme park in the mountains of North Carolina, which the investors took into bankruptcy.

More here.

September 02, 2015

In Miami, Joe Biden gets feel for what campaigning again would be like

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Joe Biden came to Miami on Wednesday and sounded — at times — like a politician with another campaign in him.

Speaking at Miami Dade College’s North Campus about making higher education more affordable, the vice president touched on the sort of themes — immigration reform, the economy and the middle class — that presidential candidates like to deploy from the stump.

Biden isn’t running right now. But he’s thinking about it. And his two-day trip to Miami-Dade and Broward, the most Democratic counties in the country’s largest swing state, only stoked the fire among reporters and political observers that a Biden 2016 campaign could be for real.

“It’s amazing how good the school is. Look at all the press you’ve attracted,” Biden joked to about 150 people gathered at MDC’s Science Complex. “Their interest in community colleges impresses me. I hope that’s what they’re going to write about!”

He also made a reference to people unafraid to fail — a line that referred to the courage of older students returning to college that nevertheless could apply to potential candidates weighing a run for office.

“People who aren’t willing to risk failure never succeed,” Biden said. At the end of the event, when a couple of reporters yelled questions about his plans, Biden didn’t respond. An unidentified man in the audience, though, let his own feelings known: “Run, Joe!”

Continue reading "In Miami, Joe Biden gets feel for what campaigning again would be like" »

Miami-Dade street named after developer who was sued for discrimination


Calling him “a great man,” Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday named a street in honor of José Milton, a Cuban-American developer who built more than 50,000 South Florida rental units — but also faced allegations of racial discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Justice twice accused Milton of discriminating against black apartment-seekers. Citing those cases, two black Miami-Dade commissioners passionately argued against the street naming, but it passed anyway. Unless Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoes it, a portion of the Northwest 9500 block at the intersection with Fontainebleau Boulevard will now be called “José Milton Way.” The mayor’s office said he doesn’t intend to veto the naming.

Commissioners’ debate over the issue was tense.

“I will not support it, I cannot support it,” said Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who spoke out against the renaming with Commissioner Barbara Jordan. “I see a pattern that went on.”

Edmonson, who is black, was joined by two other black commissioners, Jordan and Dennis Moss, in voting no. Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who is white, also voted no.

“Mr. Milton’s company has an extensive record of discrimination,” Levine Cava said.

One of Milton’s sons, Cecil, later told the Herald that the focus on decades-old allegations was unfair. Cecil Milton said his father’s only mistake was not doing a better job training and monitoring his employees.

“My father was a builder, that’s what he loved to do, his passion was building,” Cecil Milton said. “He was not an administrator.”

Still, he said, “anybody who knew my father knew he was not a racist.”

More here.