April 19, 2018

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo compares Mayor Francis Suarez to Maduro over strong mayor initiative



Recently-elected Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has long wanted to see his position turned into the city's chief administrator. He's launched an ballot petition effort to convince voters to change the city charter so he could run the city's day-to-day operations, as opposed to a mayor-appointed city manager.

But right on cue, recently-returned Commissioner Joe Carollo has issued his sharpest criticism yet of the young mayor. He compared Suarez's effort to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's consolidation of power through a pro-government assembly he created last year that effectively supersedes the opposition-led congress.

Carollo's barbs in a Miami Herald interview Tuesday underscored what onlookers expect from the relationship between the longtime Miami politician and the new mayor — friction.

"You look at what Maduro did with the Constituyente," Carollo said. "This is the Miami version."

Suarez believes the change will bring more transparency, efficiency and accountability to a municipal government with a reputation for dysfunction. He tried twice before to get a strong mayor question on the ballot through the commission, both times finding little support on the dais. Now he's going to the ballot petition route. 

Read more.

April 16, 2018

A second Republican emerges in the race to replace Ros-Lehtinen



Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March. 

Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend. 

The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC. 

Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 


April 11, 2018

Miami Beach commissioner decides against run for county commission


@joeflech and @doug_hanks

Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora will not run for the open seat on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.

The District 5 seat, left open after Bruno Barreiro resigned March 31 to run for Congress, is up for grabs after the Miami-Dade commission decided to call a special election for May 22 to replace Barreiro. Barreiro, a Republican, is running for the the District 27 seat in Congress, the seat Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is leaving when she retires this year.

Góngora flirted with a run for the Miami-Dade commission, and he had until the end of Saturday to file to run, but he made the call Wednesday.

"I'm staying put," he told the Miami Herald.

He had been waiting on the results of some polling to gauge his chances. He said on Wednesday he hasn't received results, but he made his decision after hearing from voters who ushered him onto the Miami Beach City Commission in November.

"I did some soul searching, and I decided to stay here and finish the job I was elected to do," he said. "The county seat wasn’t in my plans for 2018, and I decided not let someone else’s decision impact my decision and life. And my voters and supporters have reached out in the dozens asking me to stay."

Three candidates have entered the sprint for the county commission post.

Zoraida Barreiro, wife of the former commissioner, has filed to run. So have Eileen Higgins, president of Miami's Downtown Dems, and Carlos Martinez Garin, who lists income as an Uber driver and art and acting teacher.

Former state senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla said he was interested, but has not filed.

Because of a recently-enacted resign-to-run law, Barreiro was forced to step down in order to campaign for the Congressional seat. But even though the law was crafted in a way that would've allowed Barreiro to make delay his effective date through the fall, the commissioner stepped down early. He denied resigning early in order to give his wife an advantage amid a tight timeline in the run up to a May special election, saying his Congressional campaign has to be a priority as he eyes the Republican nomination ahead of the August primary.

April 05, 2018

Nineteen months before election, open Miami City Commission seat attracts candidate



Well before voters in Miami's District 1 select a new representative, an active civic figure has announced his intention to run for City Commission.

Horacio S. Aguirre, chairman of the Miami River Commission and member of the Civilian Investigative Panel, announced on Thursday he will run for District 1 seat on the Miami City Commission.

The election isn't until November 2019, but Aguirre is already jumping in. The current District 1 representative, Commissioner Wilfredo "Willy" Gort, is term-limited next year.  

Aguirre, son of the founder of Spanish-language newspaper Diario de las Américas, told the Miami Herald he wants to use the experience from serving on municipal boards to service on the commission.

"I think I can translate all of that into something tangible for District 1," he said. 

District 1 includes Allapattah, Grapeland Heights, parts of Little Havana and the area around Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Another district 1 candidate has already begun fundraising. Miguel Angel Cabela, who has twice lost to Gort, opened his campaign account in February and has raised about $4,600. 

March 06, 2018

After dramatic rejection of New York job, Carvalho gets the royal treatment in Miami



At his first major public appearance since turning down a job as head of New York City schools, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho got the royal treatment — literally.

“So Alberto, Mister Superintendent, Your Highness,” joked moderator Steve Clemons, Washington Editor at Large for The Atlantic. “I know the top three or four reasons why I would choose Miami over New York, but what were yours?”

Clemons’ reference to last week’s dramatic school board meeting in which children and adults begged Carvalho not to leave Miami-Dade was met with laughter from the audience at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. But it also elicited a new explanation from the superintendent, and one that was decidedly less kingly than the reasons he gave for his decision last week.

“I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.

The superintendent also repeated his earlier explanations that he was dedicated to Miami-Dade and that he had been moved by the response from local teachers, parents and students to his appointment as New York City schools chancellor. The football metaphor, however, appears to confirm a Politico report that Mayor Bill de Blasio wasn’t going to let Carvalho pick his own chief of staff or human resources director and that retiring Chancellor Carmen Fariña would have had a continuing influence on the school district. Read more here.

February 12, 2018

Miami-Dade Commission chair meets with Trump ahead of latest infrastructure plan

Steve bovo


President Donald Trump is going to unveil his latest $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan on Monday and Miami-Dade County Commission chair Esteban “Steve” Bovo will be on hand. 

Bovo, head of the county's transit committee, was part of about two dozen governors, state legislators, mayors and local officials from around the country invited to the White House. 

"In DC today for meetings with before the roll out of trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Funding for transportation and transit is critical to the ," Bovo tweeted. 

Miami-Dade will need federal funds to move forward with the SMART transit plan which aims to reduce traffic along six major travel routes in and out of downtown Miami. The White House plan calls for $200 billion in direct federal funding with the bulk of the $1.5 trillion to come from state and local governments along with private firms.  

November 30, 2017

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



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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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

Al Franken file(2)
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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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