July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)


The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

July 24, 2015

With 2 hometown candidates expected on stage, Miami-Dade Republicans plan debate watch parties


Just how eager are Miami-Dade County Republicans to see two of their own make their 2016 presidential debate debuts?

Plans are under way two weeks in advance for parties to watch the first debate, which will be aired Aug. 6 by Fox News. 

The Miami-Dade GOP has not endorsed Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, yet it has invited supporters to gather at a location at least geographically closer to Rubio: the Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility in Rubio's hometown of West Miami, named after his political godmother.

Some of Rubio's friends, though, have organized an event of their own.

Bernie Navarro and his wife, Claudia, along with Navarro's Benworth Capital Partners, a real-estate investment firm, will hold a watch party at Miami Dade College's Koubek Center in the city of Miami. Navarro hosted Rubio and close supporters the day before the candidate launched his campaign in April, as well as Rubio's first local fundraiser as a presidential contender.

Fox News and the Republican National Committee will limit the number of candidates on the first debate stage to 10 (16 have filed to run so far). Bush and Rubio are expected to make it, since both are polling near the top of the field.

July 23, 2015

It's Braman and Regalado v. Miami, but the billionaire pays the legal tab


Auto magnate Norman Braman and Miami-Dade mayoral hopeful Raquel Regalado are suing Miami and Miami-Dade County over county funding for the SkyRise Miami tower. And while both share billing as plaintiffs, it's the billionaire paying the lawyers.

In a financial disclosure form filed with the county school board, Regalado reported an $8,660 gift from Braman for her 50-percent share of the suit's legal bill for the first three months of 2015. The suit was filed Feb. 5 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, and the Carlton Fields law firm is representing Braman and Regalado, now in her second term on the school board. 

In her filing, Regalado, a former practicing lawyer now working as an unpaid radio host, said she did not believe ethics rules required the disclosure since Braman would be paying the lawyers whether or not she was involved in the suit.

She wrote she is disclosing the gift "for purposes of ensuring full transparency related to this issue." 

Read the disclosure form here

Miami Beach woman's push to replace Confederate general statue with environmentalist gains traction

via @DriscollAmy

The push by a Miami Beach woman to replace Florida’s statue of a Confederate general with one of Marjory Stoneman Douglas won support last week from the Miami-Dade Commission for Women.

The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to help Lynette Long ask Florida legislators to sponsor a bill to replace the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith, who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy, with one of the champion of the Everglades. Smith’s bronze figure has stood in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection since 1922, where each state is allowed two representatives.

Florida’s other place of honor belongs to John Gorrie, the inventor of air conditioning.

Long has worked for years to see women’s contributions better represented in the nation’s symbols. Her push to replace the statue comes as the U.S. has announced it will feature a woman’s face on the $10 bill and after South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from the state Capitol in the wake of the race-related slaughter of nine people in Charleston.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, called on Florida to replace Smith’s statue, calling it troubling “that one of Florida’s statues is an obscure Confederate war general."


Miami drops lawsuit vs. Homeless Trust


A seemingly bitter fight between the city of Miami and the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust may have reached a detente Thursday, with Miami commissioners voting to withdraw a lawsuit against the Trust.

The city filed suit on July 15 against the Trust and Miami-Dade County, looking to secure about $100,000 in public funds for a program that allows Miami police to refer the homeless to Camillus House, where they sleep on 115 mats beneath a pavilion and receive social services. The city initially sought the money from the Trust through a competitive process, but was ranked the lowest of seven bidders.

The ranking should not have been surprising. Trust executives and board chairman Ron Book have opposed the city's mat program, saying it does more to enable street life than dissuade it. But city officials say they filed suit after an appeal was rejected without even being considered.

On Thursday, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, perhaps the biggest proponent of the mat program and the loudest critic of the Trust, said the Trust rejected the appeal because it lacked the signature of City Manager Daniel Alfonso. He said the lawsuit was an effort by the city to "preserve" their right to appeal, but was proving counterproductive.

"We've learned this suit may have the unintended result of not bringing the county and Homeless Trust to the table," he said.

With the suit moot, the city is expected to meet Friday with the Trust and county.

July 22, 2015

Soccer talks teed up in Miami, as the county mayoral race looms


Looks like we can add Major League Soccer to the list of issues facing the 2016 mayoral race in Miami-Dade County. 

On Wednesday, David Beckham sent a letter to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado asking to begin talks on building a pro-soccer stadium next to Marlins Park. The letter notes Beckham and partners would like to negotiate "in cooperation with Miami-Dade County." 

While the city would provide the land for Beckham's MLS franchise, Miami-Dade County may end up owning it in order for Beckham's team to avoid a property-tax bill.

The twist: Regalado's daughter, school board member Raquel Regalado, is running against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. 

More here

Here's the Beckham letter: 

Miami Beckham United letter to Mayor Regalado

Tensions rise in Miami before Beckham stadium negotiations begin


Negotiations with David Beckham and his partners to build a soccer stadium next to Marlins Park haven't even begun yet, but already a key Miami city commissioner is frustrated with the process.

Commissioner Frank Carollo, whose district includes the city-owned land where Beckham's team is now looking to build a stadium for a Miami MLS franchise, says he's concerned that the project would also require purchasing a private apartment complex and displacing residents. More disconcerting, he says, is that those residents are now learning through the media that they might have to find a new home.

"I think it's unfair," said Carollo. "It's not the right way to start the conversation."

Carollo says he is also frustrated that he wasn't told about Beckham's interest in the site across from Marlins Stadium until after Mayor Tomás Regalado held a video conference Friday with Beckham partner, Marcelo Claure, and then called a news conference.

Carollo isn't against a Beckham stadium. A year ago, he proposed the vote in which the Miami Commission endorsed Beckham's efforts to build a stadium in Miami. But his frustrations -- while not terribly surprising -- inject tensions into a process that hasn't even begun yet.

City officials expect Beckham's team to hand-deliver a letter to City Hall Wednesday, stating their interest in the former Orange Bowl site in writing and kicking off formal negotiations. City Manager Daniel Alfonso stressed that negotiations haven't begun yet, but said his administration is sensitive to the impact the project would have on displaced residents.

"It’s not like we’re going to kick these people out to the curb," he said. "We know they’re renting. We’ll work to try and relocate them."

Miami commissioners are expected to take up the issue Thursday at Miami City Hall. Regalado could not be reached Wednesday morning, but said Tuesday that he and Alfonso didn't know what Claure wanted to speak about when he requested the video conference last week.

Regalado also said Tuesday that Beckham and his investors have been told by MLS that they 90 days to exercise their option to buy a franchise. If the deadline passes, he said, MLS will give the franchise to a team in Minnesota.

In Miami, worries about tourism and Cuban sand


Concerns over the tourism threat Cuba poses to Miami have reached the granular level: Who will have the better sand?

In pitching his new $40 million plan to combat beach erosion, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday pledged to find replacement sand white enough to hold its own against Cuba’s famously gleaming coast.

“It has some of the best beaches, and most beautiful beaches, in the world,” Gimenez said of Cuba, where he lived until age 7. “We have to face that.”

Gimenez’s warning captures the anxiety in tourism circles over how a newly accessible Cuba might upend the Caribbean vacation market once U.S. tourists are free to travel there. Miami is seen as vulnerable to a Cuban comeback as a U.S. vacation destination, given they both offer sunny getaways during the winter months.

More here.

Miami Beach woman wants Marjory Stoneman Douglas to replace Florida's Confederate general statue at U.S. Capitol

via @DriscollAmy

In the national collection of statues on display in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, each state is allotted two spots to showcase its most worthy representatives. Some states have chosen towering figures in history — Samuel Adams, father of the American revolution, represents Massachusetts — while others have gone with folksy types like humorist Will Rogers, representing Oklahoma.

And then there’s Florida. For its two picks, the Sunshine State chose John Gorrie, inventor of refrigeration and air conditioning, and Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy in Galveston, Texas.

As part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, Gorrie, carved from cool-looking marble, has been on exhibit since 1914. Smith, in bronze, has been in the place of honor since 1922, representing Florida for thousands of visitors a day who tour the Capitol.

A Miami Beach woman wants to change that. Lynette Long is proposing swapping out Smith’s statue for one she finds a lot more fitting: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, champion of the Everglades. If the effort succeeds, it would make Douglas the 10th woman in the collection — out of 100 statues representing the 50 states. Her statue would replace a Confederate general’s likeness at a time when such symbols have come under increasing criticism.

More here.

July 21, 2015

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, former Miami-Dade registered lobbyists

via @learyreports

Here’s another thing Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have in common: They have both been registered lobbyists in Miami-Dade County.

In 1991, Bush registered as a lobbyist in Miami-Dade on behalf of his real estate company with Armando Codina before he was elected to office, according to records reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Bush was representing Deering Bay residential development, which he and Codina sold after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Rubio was also listed as a registered lobbyist in Miami-Dade, from 1997 to 2005 while he worked for various law firms, mostly on land use. In 2003, Rubio was registered as a federal lobbyist while working for Becker & Poliakoff. His campaign told the Washington Post he did not recall filling out the document and that Rubio did not lobby. The firm in 2005 asked for the registration to be revoked.

Both Bush and Rubio say they were never really lobbyists in the generally accepted definition.

“Governor Bush was not working as a lobbyist,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Journal. “This was specific to the Deering Bay project where Governor Bush was a partner and the project required the Commission weigh in on permitting approval issues to move forward with work.”

Rubio’s camp has said law firms that did land use in Miami-Dade often registered lawyers “out of an abundance of caution.”

“In fact, all lawyers representing clients on land use matters are supposed to register as lobbyists,” campaign spokesman Alex Burgos told the Miami Herald in 2010, when Charlie Crist’s campaign tried to make an issue out of it. "While Marco worked on land use contracts and RFPs, he never met with elected officials to influence them on behalf of clients."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times