November 19, 2015

Could Marco Rubio's rise in the presidential race further delay federal investigation into David Rivera?


@PatriciaMazzei @jayhweaver

Federal prosecutors have circled David Rivera for three years, trying to build a strong enough criminal case to prove the former Miami Republican congressman propped up a ringer candidate in the 2012 election.

They got the ringer, Justin Lamar Sternad, to confess, and sent him to prison. They chased the woman who secretly funneled more than $81,000 to Sternad — Ana Alliegro, Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — to her Nicaragua hideout, and sent her to prison, too. They even got Alliegro, once out of prison, to testify to a grand jury that it was Rivera who had plotted the illegal campaign-finance scheme. 

That was almost a year ago. To date, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has filed no charges against Rivera — or closed the investigation against him.

“The judge had them name David Rivera as ‘Co-Conspirator A,’ and David Rivera has not been charged,” lamented Alliegro’s father, Anselmo Alliegro. “Nothing seems to be moving in that direction.”

As 2015 draws to a close, prosecutors may choose to wait even longer to resolve the case.

They have until 2017 to file charges, under the federal statute of limitations. And if Rivera’s friend and former housemate Marco Rubio continues to rise in the 2016 Republican presidential race, prosecutors may want to steer clear of the politically charged case, to avoid the appearance of meddling with an election.

More here.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

Miami congressman presses Obama on Cuban migrant surge


A surge of Cuban migrants, many of them trying to trek to the U.S. through Central America and Mexico, has prompted U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo to send President Barack Obama a letter asking him to take up the matter.

The Miami Republican wrote the president Thursday, requesting details on the White House's plans -- if there are any -- to manage the Cuban influx and coordinate with Mexican and Central American authorities.

"It is now clear that many Cubans are responding to the idea of a normal relationship between their oppressors and the United States with fear and desperation, leading many of them to risk their safety and their lives to escape the prison that is Castro's Cuba. I am concerned about what that means for my community in South Florida," wrote Curbelo, who is Cuban-American and represents a district that extends from Westchester to Key West. 

In an effort to stop Cuban migrants from as far south as Ecuador from heading north, Nicaragua shut down its border with Costa Rica on Sunday, leaving a couple thousand Cubans stranded. More than 45,000 Cubans arrived at U.S. checkpoints along the Mexican border in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The U.S. Coast Guard has also reported an increase in Cuban rafters intercepted at sea compared to 2014.

Read Curbelo's letter: here.

Marco Rubio plans grassroots fundraiser in West Miami

FullSizeRender (7)@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio will be home in West Miami on Dec. 5 for a fundraiser -- but not the kind of high-brow event that asks attendees for four-figure political contributions.

Instead, his campaign will host a Saturday breakfast (at 8 a.m.!) for local supporters. The requested donation? $20. 

The campaign has dubbed it the "Where It All Began" breakfast, since Rubio's first elected post was on the West Miami City Commission. The fundraiser will take place at the Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility, which is a few blocks from Rubio's house and was named after Rubio's political godmother. Sponsoring the event are Miami-area elected officials, politicians and community activists, including Sosa and West Miami City Manager Yolanda Aguilar

Rubio's presidential candidacy has been gaining traction, and he has been more in demand nationally, so the event is intended as a gesture for the community that backed him from the beginning. It also lets people who may not otherwise be able to afford mingling with the candidate to spend some time with him.

Jeb Bush plans final Miami fundraiser of 2015


Jeb Bush's Miami-Dade County campaign invited loyal supporters Wednesday to the candidate's final local fundraiser of 2015, raising the stakes for the event ahead of the campaign's next fundraising deadline Dec. 31.

The reception will take place Dec. 4 at the Key Biscayne home of Roxana and Raul Henriquez. The minimum contribution is $1,000, with hosts committing to raise $25,000.

"It is critical that this event be the success we know it will be, as all eyes will be watching to see if our support has increased or not as we prepare for the first primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire in mid February," Bush's county campaign chairman, Jorge Arrizurieta, wrote in the email sent with the invitation.

November 18, 2015

Miami-Dade ethics commission sues Hialeah mayor for trying to pay $4K fine with coins

Bucketvia @BrendaMedinar

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has sued Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez for trying to pay a $4,000 fine with 28 buckets of pennies and nickels, the commission said Wednesday.

The Commission also doubled the fine imposed on Hernandez, saying that he intentionally broke its regulations by sending the 360,000 coins even though he knew the panel accepts only checks.

“On November 6th, the Mayor sent 28 buckets of coins (along with several television crews) in an apparent attempt to pay the fine in disregard of the COE requirement that it be paid by check,” the commission said in a statement. “His ploy was deemed commercially unreasonable and contemptuous by COE staff, and therefore, rejected.”

“A small claims complaint was filed in County Court. A hearing was set for Dec. 9 to address the Mayor's non-compliance,” the statement added.

Hernandez’ office did not respond to El Nuevo Herald’s request for comment on the panel's decision. The Mayor has called the complaints against him “a political circus” and described members of the commission as “clowns.”

More here.

Photo courtesy Univision

Not yet a Miami Commissioner, Ken Russell wants district business to hold Thursday


Ken Russell may have won the District 2 commission seat in Tuesday night's election, but he won't be sworn in until Nov. 25 at the earliest. And that means he'll be a spectator at Thursday's bi-monthly city commission hearing.

So, though Marc Sarnoff will still be the district commissioner for one last meeting, Russell wants business in his district to wait.

Continue reading "Not yet a Miami Commissioner, Ken Russell wants district business to hold Thursday" »

HHS secretary visits Miami to promote Obamacare

via @dchangmiami

With more than a million Floridians signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange — and nearly as many still uninsured but eligible for some type of plan in 2015 — Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell visited Miami on Wednesday to make a hard sell for people to enroll.

She toured an enrollment center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus downtown, met privately with South Florida healthcare leaders and held a press conference where she introduced a Miami small business owner who pays $75 a month for coverage through the exchange.

Burwell also repeated slogans about the “affordability” of health plans sold on the exchange and trumpeted the “simplicity and ease” of enrollment with new user-friendly features, such as an “out-of-pocket cost estimator” tool that debuted this year on to help consumers estimate their plan deductibles, co-payments and other expenses.

About 1 million people nationwide — about one third of whom are new consumers — have selected a plan during the first two weeks of open enrollment, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, though people have to pick a plan by Dec. 15 to have coverage beginning on Jan. 1.

More here.

Miami Dade College professor wins Miami Beach commission seat in upset

Rosen Gonzalez@joeflech

Miami Dade College professor Kristen Rosen Gonzalez won a seat on the Miami Beach City Commission during Tuesday's runoff in an upset of well-funded and heavily-endorsed opponent Betsy Pérez.

Rosen Gonzalez based much of her campaign on her outsider status as a candidate who wasn't on Mayor Philip Levine's slate, branding herself as an independent voice.

More here.

Teresa Sarnoff gets 642 votes in predetermined Miami election


The results published Tuesday for Miami's District 2 Commission seat runoff election showed Ken Russell with 2,648 votes in his name, equal to 100 percent of the vote. But more than 600 people cast ballots in favor of Teresa Sarnoff, even though she pulled out of the race more than a week before Election Day.

When Sarnoff sent a letter to City Clerk Todd Hannon last week declaring her intent to withdraw from the race, the city responded by saying Miami would have to proceed with Tuesday's runoff election because the city charter requires that a winning candidate receive than 50 percent of the vote (Russell received only 41 percent on Nov. 3). But the city attorney said votes for Sarnoff were to be considered invalid and would not be published.

Votes for Sarnoff were, however, recorded and kept as public record. The Miami Herald requested a copy of those results from Hannon, who provided them early Wednesday morning. They show that despite Sarnoff's public withdrawal -- announced in a letter to the Miami Herald Editorial Board -- 642 people still voted for her, including 127 who went to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots.

November 17, 2015

Miami-Dade leaders join hands in prayer with France's Miami consul general

French prayer


On Tuesday, Miami-Dade's county commissioners and mayor joined hands with the head of France's Miami consulate and prayed. 

Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, the first Haitian-American to hold the post, asked the entire chambers to join hands for the event, sparking an unusually intimate version of a pre-meeting prayer typically accompanied only with bowed heads.

Monestime and his fellow commissioners joined Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Philippe Létrilliart, France's Miami consul general, in linked hands as local pastor Joanem Floreal conducted the prayer. 

Following the prayer, "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem, played on the chamber speakers before the meeting began. 

Photo caption: 

From left to right: Miami-Dade commissioners Daniella Levine Cava, Rebeca Sosa, Dennis Moss, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Consul General Philippe Létrilliart, Chairman Jean Monestime, and commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Barbara Jordan.