November 30, 2017

The walls of this Miami politician’s new City Hall office hid a surprise from 1989

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@newsbysmiley

Manolo Reyes was apparently the ultimate Miami City Hall insider. It just took him 28 years to find out.

Reyes, an economist and Westland Hialeah Senior High teacher, tried six times to win an election to the city commission before breaking through this month at age 73. He was sworn in as Miami’s District 4 commissioner two weeks ago, finally ticking off one of the items on his personal bucket list.

But now that Reyes has won his way to public office, he’ll have to wait until he can actually occupy his public office.

Since Nov. 16, Reyes’ office has been undergoing renovations that according to Miami’s city manager have been planned for months in order to gut and clean the mold-ridden space, which was also damaged by Hurricane Irma. It’s not clear how much the work will cost, but City Manager Daniel Alfonso wrote a memo to Reyes noting that the city had budgeted $50,000 for standard renovations before finding unexpected water damage.

The construction has been a major inconvenience for Reyes and his staff, who represent Flagami and several other neighborhoods. But Reyes says it also revealed something unexpected: a June 1989 copy of Spanish-language periodico Combate that featured a picture of Satanic graffiti on the cover.

That was alarming, to be sure. Even more jarring, the journal also carried a photo inside of Reyes’ campaign kickoff that year.

Manolo Reyes says he and his staff found a June 1989 copy of Combate inside the wall of the District 4 office at Miami City Hall that included a photo of Reyes’ failed 1989 campaign launch. Reyes’ office is undergoing renovations and mold remediation.
 
“The workers found this old newspaper behind the Sheetrock,” said Reyes. “It was crazy.”

Read more here.

November 21, 2017

Bittel won't resign Miami-Dade committeeman post til Dec. 10, after new Democratic election

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@PatriciaMazzei

Ousted Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel plans to give up his post as Miami-Dade County's state committeeman -- but not until after his successor atop the state party is elected.

Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that Bittel will remain committeeman until a day after the scheduled, Dec. 9 election in Orlando to pick the state party's new chief.

"He intends to resign as committeeman on Dec. 10," Cuba said.

As Miami-Dade committeeman, Bittel holds power over 62 votes in the next chairman election, according to state party rules. That gives him the single largest share of the vote in the state.

Cuba’s announcement made it seem like Bittel was staying on to wield his outside influence on picking his successor. However, Cuba later clarified that Bittel plans to give Cuba his proxy to cast the votes on Miami-Dade Democrats’ behalf. 

After some members raised internal concerns about having their views — and not just Bittel’s behind-the-scenes wishes — represented in the proxy vote, Cuba said Miami-Dade Democrats will be able to cast an internal vote for state chair to determine his vote in Orlando.

Bittel was forced to step down over accusations from several women that he leered at them and treated them unprofessionally in the workplace.

The party's chief administrator, Sally Boynton Brown, who was hired by Bittel in April, also resigned Monday. 

The Herald had asked Cuba and the state party Monday if Bittel's resignation as chairman -- effective at 11:59 p.m. Monday -- would include resigning as committeeman. Cuba did not have an answer until Tuesday, when he emailed Miami-Dade DEC members to inform them about Bittel's decision and about turning a planned Dec. 11 holiday party into a regular meeting and county election instead. He later emailed them again noting that Bittel would give Cuba his voting proxy.

Contenders have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 to declare their candidacies and be listed on the party ballot. 

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

November 17, 2017

Franken cancels Miami Book Fair appearance

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via @HowardCohen

Sen. Al Franken canceled his Sunday appearance at Miami Book Fair amid allegations over sexual misconduct.

The call to Book Fair officials came Friday afternoon, said Juan Mendieta, director of communications for Miami Dade College, host site of the fair. No reason was given, he said, but the buzz is that the Minnesota senator is canceling his tour to promote his new book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.”

The Miami cancellation comes hours after the former “Saturday Night Live” comedian canceled his scheduled appearance at an Atlanta book festival on Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Chatter on the Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, where the Book Fair is held, dominated Friday that he would likely do the same here.

Franken’s book tour was scheduled long before he became embroiled Thursday in a sexual harassment scandal after broadcaster Leeann Tweeden said Franken aggressively kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth while rehearsing a skit for a USO tour they were starring in. In addition, she alleges that he placed his hands on her breasts while she slept. Someone took a picture of a smiling Franken with his hands on her chest.

More here.

Photo credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

Miami Democrat cites Trump’s silence after soldier’s death in run for Congress

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@PatriciaMazzei

Marvin Dunn, a former college psychology professor and longtime chronicler of Miami’s African-American history, is running for Congress as a Democrat, motivated by his growing anger at President Donald Trump.

“I don’t recognize this new America that Trump has created,” Dunn said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “I have the sense that we’re just an uncivil society now — that we’ve lost our moorings.”

He’d been toying with the idea of entering the race for Florida’s Democratic-leaning 27th district for a while, Dunn said, but his mind was made up after Trump was slow to address the deaths of four American soldiers, including the late Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.

“When I saw what happened with those bodies, coming back from Niger, I thought, I was in the service for six years. Had I lost my life for my country, and had my life been ignored for two weeks before the president even spoke — that was the last straw.”

Dunn also referenced the prospect of Republican Roy Moore winning a special Senate election in Alabama next month despite a slew of sexual-misconduct allegations against him. 

“When is a better time to send a psychologist to Washington than when they’re debating whether to seat a child molester in the Senate?” Dunn said. “I’m serious.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

November 16, 2017

Should Hispanic caucus have snubbed Curbelo? Miami Democrat endorsed by group won't say

@PatriciaMazzei

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the only Miami Democrat backed so far by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus ahead of the 2018 election, won't say whether the group should have allowed Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo into its ranks, chalking up the dispute to "political gamesmanship."

"I'm not focused on the political gamesmanship of D.C., in fact that's why I'm running, to change that," Rodríguez said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I'm focused on campaigning in my district and earning the trust and support of CD27 residents to be their voice and champion in Congress."

In September, Rodríguez made much ado about being one of only three Democratic candidates nationwide endorsed by the CHC's political arm. Rodríguez is one of eight Democrats trying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a district that leans even more Democratic than Curbelo's neighboring 26th district. 

Despite hailing from opposing political parties, Curbelo and Rodríguez share a Cuban-American heritage and a moderate approach to politics. 

The 30-member CHC is made up strictly of Democrats, some of whom argued that Curbelo -- who didn't seek membership as a freshman two years ago -- was pushing to join now solely to help him get reelected to a district where Hillary Clinton trounced Trump. Curbelo countered he sought to join in February, long before his reelection, to discuss issues affecting Hispanics.

--with Alex Daugherty in Washington

Emily's List backs Barzee Flores in Democratic race to replace Ros-Lehtinen

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Democrat Mary Barzee Flores won the endorsement Thursday of Emily's List, which backs progressive, pro-abortion rights female candidates.

Barzee Flores, a former state judge, is one of two women seeking to replace Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, in Florida's swing 27th congressional district.

"This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington," Emily's List president Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. "Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women's health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way."

Last week, Barzee Flores joined a small group of vocal Democrats across the country calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment.

The only other woman running in the packed field of eight Democrats is Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez., who sent supporters a fundraising email Thursday blasting Emily's List.

"Well, the establishment has spoken. Emily’s List has decided who your Congressperson should be. Did they ask you?" Rosen Gonzalez wrote. "No. They told me their endorsement came at a price. They told me I'd have to hire their consultants at astronomical prices as the price for their endorsement. I said 'No.' They said I'd have to sit in a room and 'dial for dollars' all day, putting the arm on all the special interests as the price for their endorsement. I said 'No.' Selling my independence is too high a price to pay."

The fundraising leader so far is Matt Haggman, former program director for the Knight Foundation.

This post has been updated.

November 14, 2017

Shakeup at Radio Mambí, a Cuban-exile stalwart, reshuffles host lineup

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@PatriciaMazzei

A shakeup at Radio Mambí, Miami’s leading Cuban-exile station, has resulted in the ouster of a well-known morning drive-time host and a shortened schedule for a late-night host who has been on the air for more than half a century.

Bernadette Pardo will no longer host her longstanding “Pedaleando con Bernie” (Pedaling with Bernie) local-news talk program on the station, whose call letters are WAQI-AM (710). Pardo was laid off Thursday shortly after the day’s program ended. Her termination was effective immediately, so she was unable to get behind the microphone Friday to bid her listeners goodbye.

“It was very shocking,” Pardo, an el Nuevo Herald columnist, told the Miami Herald when a reporter called to confirm her layoff. “I’ve been there for 30 years, and we were doing fine in the ratings.”

Also affected by the cutbacks: Martha Flores, host of the nightly program “La Noche y Usted” (The Night and You). Known as the “Queen of the Night,” Flores, a radio veteran of more than 50 years, will continue on air, but for fewer hours, said Rosemary Ravinal, a Univision spokeswoman who called Flores a “legend.”

Ravinal said the changes were part of a “minor restructuring” of Univision’s Spanish-language radio network. Fewer than 20 people from Univision stations across the country were affected, she said.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

November 09, 2017

Gov. Scott orders special election to replace Baez

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@PatriciaMazzei

A special election to replace a Miami-Dade County legislator who resigned last week will be held next spring, leaving Florida Democrats short a member during the entirety of the upcoming lawmaking session.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott scheduled the special House District 114 primary for Feb. 20 and the special general election for May 1. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 9.

Democrats will be left with only 40 members in the 120-member chamber. Republicans are on the verge of a super majority able to override the governor and give little heed to Democratic requests. Scott was under no obligation to set the election before session.

Rep. Daisy Baez of Coral Gables resigned Nov. 1 as part of a deal cut with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor perjury charge in a case involving her legal residency.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff

November 08, 2017

Baez pleads guilty to perjury charge

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via @DavidOvalle305

One week after resigning from office, former Miami State Rep. Daisy Baez pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying about her address on a voter-registration form.

The Coral Gables Democrat appeared in Miami court Wednesday to formally accept the plea deal that called for her to quit and agree to serve one year of probation. Baez lasted less than a year in office, and when she resigned last week became the third Florida lawmaker to resign amid scandal during the past six months.

Baez declined to speak to reporters after the brief hearing.

“She apologizes to the community for having mistaken her obligations in changing her voter registration early, earlier than she should have done,” said her attorney Ben Kuehne. “Today, she resumes her private citizen status.”

During the 2016 campaign, Baez was not actually living in the district for which she was running. Investigators believe Baez lied when she filled out a voter-registration form changing her address to a condo in the district days before the November 2016 election. 

On the form, Baez claimed to reside at the Anderson Avenue condo in the district.

But her friend, Maritza Jacobson, told investigators that Baez asked if she could list her home as her residence. Baez, while signing a lease indicating she rented a room at the condo, “never moved in nor did she ever stay at their residence for a single night,” according to a statement released by prosecutors.

“Deliberately swearing to false information essential to your role as a state legislator, as alleged in this case, eats at the credibility of our voting and political systems,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said in a statement. “I believe that there can never be a good reason for such action.”

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

Democratic congressional candidate calls for impeaching Trump

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami congressional candidate Mary Barzee Flores called for President Donald Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, joining a small but vocal group of national Democrats openly advocating for Trump’s removal from office.

In an op-ed published in the Miami Herald, Barzee Flores cited at least six reasons for Congress to impeach the president, including firing former FBI Director James Comey and hiring Michael Flynn — who has since been fired — as national security adviser despite having ties to Russia.

“As a former judge, I don’t make that statement lightly,” Barzee Flores wrote about urging impeachment, “but I have come to believe such steps, sadly, are necessary to restore trust, respect, and dignity to the American presidency.”

Whether to support Trump’s impeachment has become a dividing line among Democrats, with some arguing that it’s too early to contemplate such a drastic move — and that doing so would only galvanize Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterms. Democrats notched key victories in off-year election contests around the country Tuesday without relying on an impeachment message.

More here.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Barzee Flores campaign