August 21, 2016

Miami Beach mayor talks Zika outbreak on New York radio show


UPDATE: It's not completely clear from the audio, but the first segment of the radio show referenced in this post was pre-recorded Tuesday, Aug. 16. Mayor Philip Levine's statements about Zika in South Florida were made before news reports a few days later about the virus spreading to Miami Beach. Levine spoke with the host again in a follow-up phone interview (attached to the end of the segment) after Friday's announcement that Zika had spread. This post has been updated to reflect the timeline.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appeared on a Sunday morning AM radio show in New York to talk about the Zika outbreak in South Florida.

Speaking in a pre-recorded segment from last Tuesday on the CATS Roundtable, a weekly show hosted by millionaire grocery-chain owner John Catsimatidis, he said the "small, little outbreak of Zika" in Wynwood was contained and compared increased concerns to an old wive's tale.

“We have have a Jewish word for it. It’s called a "bubbameister," Levine said. "It’s a grandmother's tale. I mean, the media loves to build it up, but you know, it’s something that we’re watching, it’s closely contained and it certainly hasn’t disrupted the business of Miami.”

Listen to the entire segment here.

"Right now, business is booming," Levine said. "Everyone’s coming to Miami Beach."

That might not be the case going forward. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott told the press — even before he told local elected officials — that Zika had arrived in Miami Beach with five confirmed cases.

After Friday's announcement, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women were advised not to travel to a majority of South Beach, Levine spoke with Catsimatidis again for the show via phone. He talked about the city's ramped-up efforts to eliminate standing water across the city so mosquitoes can't breed.

"We hope to get that advisory for that one small section taken away as soon as possible," he said.

On Saturday night, it certainly seemed like nothing in South Beach had slowed down. A day after state officials confirmed five cases of Zika in the Beach and announced the new zone of local transmission, the tourist hotspot was business as usual.

Cher raises $130,000 for Hillary Clinton in Miami


Cher's fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in the LGBT community in Miami Friday night raised about $130,000, said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, a gay rights group.

The fundraiser was hosted by gay rights activist Bradley Carlson in Wynwood. State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, the first openly gay state legislator, officiated. Clinton didn't attend.

Clinton has been courting the LGBT vote in Florida and other states. She is a supporter of gay rights and announced her support for same-sex marriage in 2013 before she ran for president. Donald Trump has consistently opposed same-sex marriage since 2000.

Both Clinton and Trump have made repeat visits to South Florida this summer as they seek votes in the swing state.

Clinton's running mate, Gov. Tim Kaine, will fundraise in Broward County Friday. No public events have been announced yet.

Photo supplied by Lima who is pictured above (left) with his partner Yonel Galano.

August 20, 2016

Miami Beach mayor accuses Rick Scott of "playing politics" with Zika information



Amid the public health concerns and worries about impacts on tourism, the news of Zika spreading to Miami Beach has set off a political quarrel between Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — rumored to be eying a gubernatorial run in 2018 — and Gov. Rick Scott.

He's taken to cable news channels to accuse Scott of withholding information from him about the presence of Zika in the popular resort city, which is a crucial economic engine for the region's tourism industry.

Fourteen hours after Levine told reporters late Thursday that there was "no outbreak, no epidemic of Zika on Miami Beach," Scott held his own press conference in Miami to announce that five cases were confirmed and Zika was being transmitted locally in South Beach. 

On Friday, Levine blamed Scott for a lack of communication that left the mayor unaware of what was going on in his own city. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the mayor took to cable news networks to blast the governor. 

"On Friday, the governor played politics with this horrible issue," Levine told CNN's Martin Savidge on a live segment aired just after 1 p.m. Saturday.

That's after a Friday night appearance on MSNBC.


"It is so sad that this governor is withholding life-saving information and playing politics with it," he said.

When the Herald asked Scott's office for a comment Friday, a spokesperson seemed to say, in the same breath, that Scott has been in contact with local officials, but he didn't tell them about the new local cases until after his press conference.

"Governor Scott has been in contact with mayors, local officials and community leaders for weeks and will continue to keep them informed," a spokesperson wrote. "Friday afternoon, the Governor hosted a call with all of the local officials in Miami-Dade to give them updates on what is going on."

Meanwhile, Levine himself could benefit politically by throwing darts at Scott.

This isn't the first time the millionaire mayor has taken on Scott. Earlier this year, Levine bought a radio ad in California touting his proposal to create a citywide minimum wage, and the ad ran while Scott was in California. During that trip, Scott criticized the state's high taxes and labor costs.

He's also promoted Beach issues on a national level, putting the oceanside city in the spotlight when it comes to sea-level rise and U.S.-Cuba relations. And he is now a regular contributor on cable news shows talking about the presidential election (he's a Hillary Clinton surrogate and personal friend of the candidate).

Levine has said he wants to run for a third term as mayor, but he has not ruled out a run for the top spot in Tallahassee. 

Doral may try to get Trump golf resort to pay more in taxes

via @MoniqueOMadan

Doral wants Donald Trump to pay up.

Doral City Council members will discuss a proposed resolution Tuesday urging county appraisers to reassess Trump’s lavish golf resort — the Trump National Doral, located off Northwest 87th Avenue and 41st Street — after a council member complained that the property has been undervalued for years.

“In the past year, Mr. Trump has cost the people of Doral millions in unfair tax breaks, and I am introducing legislation to ensure Mr. Trump pays his fair share,” Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz, who is running for Doral mayor, said in a statement.

A majority of council members told the Miami Herald they are inclined to vote for the resolution, although other than Ruiz, they asked that their names not be used. One council member didn’t return a phone call.

One council member, however, said he would vote against the resolution. “I don’t really see what the purpose of it is. It’s the property appraiser’s job, not ours, to assess properties,” Councilman Pete Cabrera said. “I don’t believe in creating a resolution for one specific property.”

More here.

Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

Two days, two Zika stories from Miami Beach mayor

 via @joeflech @alextdaugherty

On Thursday, hours after the Miami Herald reported that Zika was being transmitted in Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine looked at the TV cameras and made a blunt statement.

“There is no epidemic, no outbreak of Zika on Miami Beach,” he told reporters at a press conference. He added there were two cases that had “not been confirmed for Miami Beach.”

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott made a stop in Miami to make an announcement: There were five confirmed cases of Zika on the Beach and a new area of local transmission that covers the majority of the county’s tourism central — South Beach.

Was Levine spinning, or was he just ignorant of a burgeoning public health crisis in his own city?

More here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

August 17, 2016

Diaz-Balart's awkward political position when it comes to Trump


In blue, Hispanic Miami-Dade County, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is an outlier: He's the only local Republican congressman who's maintained he'll vote for Donald Trump.

Except Diaz-Balart doesn't actually say Trump. His written statements mention backing the "nominee." When he goes on Spanish-language TV news shows, Diaz-Balart makes a point to separate himself from some of Trump's positions and comments.

So, is Diaz-Balart reconsidering?

Diaz-Balart's spokeswoman, Katrina Valdes, referred a Miami Herald reporter to the congressman's statement from May, in which he said he intended to vote for "the Republican nominee" and wouldn't consider voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"Obviously, there are some basic Republican principles the nominee must adhere to: set forth an economic agenda that will revitalize our economy and provide robust resources for our military, provide unwavering support to America's best allies, such as Israel, Great Britain, Taiwan, and Poland, to name a few, confront our enemies and adversaries in places like Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, and support the opposition movements and heroic leaders within those countries," Diaz-Balart said at the time. "These are things that have to be addressed."

So far, in Diaz-Balart's view, Trump hasn't addressed those issues, Valdes said.

The congressman, she added, has been in touch with the Trump campaign by phone to try to get "clarification."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

August 16, 2016

Police: Miami-Dade judge smashed windshield at teen's party with a pipe

DUIDeathPlea0718 Brennan MS
via @DavidOvalle305

While angrily trying to boot her teen son’s drunk pals from her Key Largo home, police say a Miami judge used a metal pipe to smash the windshield of one young man’s pickup truck.

The episode led to a strange South Florida legal saga — for most of July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Brennan quietly was facing an arrest warrant for criminal mischief in Monroe County, a period when she briefly sat on the bench presiding over criminal cases.

Brennan never had to surrender to face a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, according to a police report obtained by the Miami Herald.

That’s because Brennan paid the victim restitution and he agreed to not pursue charges. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office then called the Key West judge to ask “about recalling the warrant.”

“It was random. She’s a judge,” truck owner Victor Garcia told the Miami Herald, refusing to say how much he got. “She took care of what she did. They paid more more than what it was worth. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Brennan was not in court Monday after taking leave. But the case isn’t over yet.

More here.

Photo credit: Marsha Halper, Miami Herald staff

August 15, 2016

Rubio won't say whom he voted for in Miami-Dade mayor's race

VWW16 Voting news rk
@PatriciaMazzei @alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio is happy to tell voters that he cast his early ballot Monday for himself in Florida's Republican race for U.S. Senate.

But don't ask him which other candidates he selected.

"I'm not going to tell you," he told a Miami Herald reporter who asked him about his choice in the Miami-Dade County mayor's race. "That would be an endorsement."

Later, after casting his ballot at the West Miami Community Center, Rubio continued to stay mum on the non-partisan mayoral contest chiefly between incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado.

Both are Republicans. Regalado was an early supporter of Rubio's presidential candidacy, while Gimenez endorsed him after rival Jeb Bush ended his campaign. Unlike Rubio, neither Gimenez nor Regalado back Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"To be honest with you, I know them both. I know them well," Rubio said. "I'm just not going to take a position publicly on that race."

Rubio has endorsed in a far smaller municipal race, for Miami Lakes mayor. He's backing Councilman Manny Cid over incumbent Mayor Michael Pizzi and former Mayor Wayne Slaton.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Libertarians Gary Johnson, Bill Weld coming to Miami

Ohio Elections Libertarians

The Libertarian Party presidential ticket is getting a piece of the political campaign action in South Florida.

Nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, will host an event for supporters Wednesday at Miami’s Florida International University. It will be their first local appearance since their nomination in Orlando in May.

The event, titled “An Evening with Govs. Johnson and Weld,” will take place at 7 p.m. at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 10910 SW 17th St. Johnson is a former New Mexico governor; Weld is a former Massachusetts governor. Both are former Republicans.

For now, Johnson’s top goal is to make it into a televised presidential debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, but that's a long shot. He needs to reach 15 percent support in several key polls to qualify.

The latest Florida polls show Johnson with as much as 9 percent support (in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll) and as little as 5 percent support (in aCBS/YouGov online poll). The other significant third-party candidate running is Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee.

More here.

Photo credit: John Raoux, Associated Press

Taddeo releases 2nd TV ad in Miami congressional race



Joe Garcia, who?

Annette Taddeo released her second TV ad Monday -- and, like her first spot, it ignores her Democratic rival for Congress and takes aim at the Republican presidential nominee instead.

"Our kids are counting on us to ensure working families can thrive, to protect healthcare for moms and daughters," Taddeo says in the ad, "and to take a stand against the offensive rhetoric from Donald Trump that hurts so many of us."

Trump won't be on the Aug. 30 ballot when Taddeo and Garcia face off in the Democratic primary for Florida's 26th congressional district. They're vying to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- a Trump opponent -- on Nov. 8.