August 30, 2015

Jeb Bush to welcome donors to Coral Gables amid campaign fundraising questions


Tropical Storm Erika nearly forced Jeb Bush's presidential campaign to call off a donor reception planned for Monday night in Coral Gables. But the storm dissipated before reaching Florida and the event will still take place, at the home of auto executive Manny Kadre, one of the donors told the Miami Herald.

The hometown fundraiser comes as Bush tries to contend with slower summer fundraising and the phenomenon of Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner whose stunning rise in public-opinion polls has stunned veteran GOP campaign operatives. Bush has seen his popularity slip, in some polls behind both Trump and Ben Carson

Grappling with a tougher, longer slog of a campaign, Bush has started going after Trump. Some Florida donors were eager to see a more aggressive Bush -- like the politician they remember in the  Governor's Mansion -- but the shift in strategy has its risks. Bush used the term "anchor babies," which immigration advocates consider offensive, after Trump did, giving Bush the kind of unflattering headlines that make it more difficult for fundraisers to get donors to open their wallets.

Bush's staff has tightened some of its spending, as the New York Times reported. It also lost three fundraising consultants, as Politico reported, though the trio will remain active with Right to Rise USA, the super PAC backing Bush. (Saint Petersblog has an invitation to the Gables fundraiser here.)

Between the campaign and the super PAC, Bush reported more than $100 million raised last quarter, far more than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. But he also has a big staff that needs to get paid.

With most of Bush's early donors maxing out their contributions, the campaign has been forced to look for new people to tap for cash. That includes younger, less affluent professionals being courted by Bush's two sons, George P. (who lives in Texas) and Jeb Jr. (who lives in the Gables).

A Sept. 24 Miami event hosted by Jeb Bush Jr. lists 13 elected officials as "honorary co-chairs": U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, state Sen. Anitere Flores, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca and South Florida state Reps. Frank Artiles, Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz, Manny Diaz, Erik Fresen, Jose Oliva, Holly Raschein and Carlos Trujillo.

On Tuesday, Bush plans to stay in Miami and attend a back-to-school event at La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Little Havana.


August 29, 2015

The swift and firm-footed rise of Miami's Speaker-D Jose Oliva

Corcoran and OlivaRep. Jose Oliva kept an icy cool as he verbally sparred with his Senate counterpart Bill Galvano over the redistricting map that would force the Legislature’s special session to end in stalemate.

As the meeting adjourned Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, suggested they might do better to take the meeting to his house, where they could light up a cigar.

The 42-year-old CEO of Miami Lakes-based Oliva Cigar has made ample use of his namesake product as he climbed the political ladder in Tallahassee. He makes his cigars available for fundraisers — like Galvano’s annual charity golf tournament. He uses them to open doors, as he did when he campaigned. And he uses them to build relationships, as he does when he invites legislators to his rented house just blocks from the Capitol in Tallahassee to eat dinner, mingle on the porch, and choose a cigar kept fresh in the humidor.

“What ultimately results is a group of people sharing ideas and understanding each other’s perspective in a very collegial way,” he said, adding that the house bans lobbyists. “It really is a sanctuary.”

Elected in a special, off-year election in 2011 to replace Rep. Steve Bovo, R-Hialeah, Oliva quickly turned his skills to becoming speaker-designate of the Florida House for 2018, one of the three most powerful positions in Florida.

A conservative Republican, Oliva emerged as a thoughtful and unflappable leader in the recent redistricting session, where he was head of the House Reapportionment Committee.

More here. 

Photo: Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes, right, and Rep. Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes, huddle on the floor of the Florida House before the end of the regular session but after it was clear that no budget agreement was going to be reached. They are the future leadership of House Republicans. Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

August 28, 2015

UM biotech park seeking $10M from Miami-Dade taxpayers


The University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park wants to expand — and it wants county taxpayers to help pay for it.

The university’s partner developer, Wexford Miami LLC, is asking the county for $10 million in economic development grants. In return, the project is promising to create a 14-story, 244,000-square-foot expansion of its biotech park, which first opened in 2011.

The $112 million plan includes a hotel and a 646-car parking garage. In the developer’s application with the county, it promises the biotech project would create 476 jobs by the end of 2022. The UM biotech center is located near Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The proposal had its first public unveiling on Thursday, when an economic development committee of Miami-Dade County commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the project’s request. Commissioners Xavier Suarez, Bruno Barreiro, and Audrey Edmonson voted in favor, Commissioners Dennis Moss and Rebeca Sosa voted against.

“It’s bringing a lot of jobs,” said Edmonson, who sponsored the proposal.

More here.

Miami's Latin Builders Association breaks up with Donald Trump resort citing Trump's 'bigoted, sexist and ignorant' remarks



Miami's Latin Builders Association, which bills itself as the nation's largest Hispanic construction trade group, has dumped Donald Trump over Trump's strident remarks on immigration.

The LBA planned to hold its biennial gala for its new president at the Trump National Doral resort in November. The group gave the hotel notice Thursday that it is rescinding its contract.

"Most regrettably, Mr. Trump's recent pattern of bigoted, sexist and ignorant verbal assaults on immigrants, women and veterans have made hosting the installation gala at the resort unfeasible," LBA Executive Director Melissa Tapanes Llahues told members at a luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. 

"It is unfortunate that such a majestic location is now inextricably associated with someone who is simply antithetical and repugnant to the LBA's legacy and mission."

A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The LBA reserved the Trump venue last December, Tapanes Llahues said. Once Trump launched his presidential candidacy in June -- saying Mexico sends "rapists" and "criminals" to cross the U.S. border illegally -- group leaders began private discussions over what action, if any, to take, as first reported by Politico. The talks intensified as Trump's remarks turned into a "pattern," according to Tapanes Llahues. The group reached out to the resort to relay its concerns before rescinding its contract, she added.

Continue reading "Miami's Latin Builders Association breaks up with Donald Trump resort citing Trump's 'bigoted, sexist and ignorant' remarks" »

August 27, 2015

For Miami-Dade mayor, a clash over animal-shelter funds


Mayor Carlos Gimenez sparred with the leader of an animal-rights group Thursday in what turned out to be the tensest  exchange during eight town halls dedicated to his proposed 2016 budget for Miami-Dade County.

Rita Schwartz, a founder of the Pets' Trust advocacy group, was called as the last speaker at the West Dade Kendall Library when she began an extended critique of what she called the county's "watered down" plan for reduce stray cat and dogs.

"If you want to know the truth of what is really happening, Mr. Mayor, we've been asking you for over a year to meet with us," Schwartz replied.

He responded: "Ma'am, I've met with your group on a number of times. We disagree. And we will continue to disagree."

'You have to understand that we have to prioritize the money that we have," Gimenez continued. "I've had pets all my life. I've had cats. I've had dogs. I'm just as much of a pet lover as you are. But I have different priorities."

The exchange at Gimenez's final town hall came a day after the Pets' Trust failed to win support from a County Commission panel for adding $13 million to the 2016 Animal Services budget.

In 2012, the group successfully passed a non-binding ballot item that endorsed a special property tax for animal services, but Gimenez joined commissioners in declining to create the tax.  But recent budgets saw a 50 percent increase in Animal Services spending, and survival statistics are up in the county shelter.


Continue reading "For Miami-Dade mayor, a clash over animal-shelter funds" »

Joe Biden to speak at Miami Dade College

Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the Science Center at Miami Dade College on Sept. 2.

Update: The speech will take place sometime in the afternoon at North Campus, according to the university.

From a press release:

The Vice President will discuss the importance of helping more Americans go to college and the critical role that partnerships between community colleges and employers play in helping Americans obtain the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. On Thursday, September 3rd, the Vice President will meet with Jewish community leaders in Miami to discuss the nuclear deal reached with Iran.

Biden’s office has not released details about the meeting about the Iran deal but a Jewish leader invited to that event told Naked Politics yesterday that it will be held at the Jewish Community Center in Davie.

--with Patricia Mazzei

Amid tuition tussle, Miami-Dade commissioner teases a mayoral challenge


Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata found himself under the media spotlight this week, and he blames Mayor Carlos Gimenez's staff for the tempest. Now he's vowing to run for reelection next year unless he tries for another elected post -- Gimenez's. 

Wrapping up his first term in the western District 11, Zapata earlier this month returned $31,000 in county funds he had secured to cover fall tuition for a Harvard master's program in public administration. He reimbursed the county as Univision was  pursuing a story on the tuition money. 

"The question is who leaked it and why?" Zapata said Wednesday during an interview in his commission office. In an email first obtained by Univision, Zapata blamed county budget officials for "maliciously" leaking the information. "You all should be ashamed."

A Gimenez spokesman denied Zapata's allegation and blamed him for bad judgement.

In an interview with Naked Politics late Wednesday, Zapata countered by sounding more definitive about a bid for a second term in 2016. He also fired a shot across the bow toward Gimenez. 

Asked if he planned to run reelection, Zapata said:

"I'm planning on it now," he said. "And if the mayor's office keeps it up, I may just decide to run for another seat." 

Continue reading "Amid tuition tussle, Miami-Dade commissioner teases a mayoral challenge" »

Reinstated Miami Lakes mayor wants town to cover $3.2M in legal fees

via @Paradise_Afshar

Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has filed two lawsuits demanding that the town pay roughly $3.2 million to cover his legal fees associated with his federal criminal case and reinstatement.

The lawsuits are the latest development in the ongoing legal drama that has kept Pizzi and Miami Lakes in the headlines for the past two years. The mayor won the criminal case in August 2014, and his reinstatement case in April.

“I want nothing more than what every falsely accused and exonerated public official is entitled to under the law,” Pizzi told the Miami Herald on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Miami Lakes’ insurance company Brown & Brown are representing the town in these talks.

Now, the question of how much of those fees will be covered by insurance remains up in the air.

More here.

OAS to investigate U.S. police abuses -- including in Miami

via @NewsbySmiley

A delegate with the human-rights arm of the Organization of American States is traveling to Miami next month on a fact-finding mission into police abuses of African Americans in the United States.

The Magic City will be the first stop for Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, a commissioner of the semi-autonomous Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She plans to speak with police officials and Mayor Tomás Regalado on Sept. 21 before continuing on a five-day U.S. tour. Other stops may include Ferguson, Missouri, where the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a former police officer sparked racial tensions; New Orleans, and possibly Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed, according to correspondence with the State Department.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Belle and a second commission official involved in the planning of the trip were unsuccessful. Presumably, their interest in Miami is tied to a string of fatal shootings of black men in 2010 and 2011 that led Regalado to invite the Justice Department to investigate. Justice found the city’s police department had engaged in a pattern of excessive force when it came to pulling the trigger, and issued a series of recommendations in July of 2013 that have yet to result in a settlement.

“The main findings of this visit will be included in a report issued by the Commission analyzing the use of police force against African-Americans in the United States and its human rights implication,” Emilio Alvarez Icaza, executive director of the commission, wrote this month in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

More here.

Miami-Dade commissioner returns $31K in county money for his Harvard degree

@MrMikeVasquez @doug_hanks

Miami-Dade politicians have repeatedly traveled to Harvard University for good-government training — and sent the bill to county taxpayers. But in trying to get the county to pay for his Harvard master’s degree in public administration, County Commissioner Juan Zapata appears to have gone too far.

On Aug. 5, Miami-Dade County cut Zapata a check for $30,961, to be used for his Harvard tuition and fees. The money came from Zapata’s office account, and was blessed by County Attorney Robert Cuevas Jr., who wrote in an e-mail that same day that, under state law and county rules, “commissioners may utilize their office budget funds to cover expenses for travel and for training courses or education programs.”

But then Zapata’s fall semester took a turn for the worse.

News of the $30,961 check began to leak out. Earlier this week, Univision broke the story of Zapata attending Harvard on the public dime. The commissioner struggled to explain himself on camera to Univision investigative reporter Erika Carrillo, and at one point in the interview Zapata swallowed noticeably hard.

Records show that as Zapata’s college money began to be scrutinized, he became angry with county budget staff, whom he blames for revealing the details.

“Yesterday it came to my attention that the budget office maliciously leaked this information in order to cause political embarrassment,” Zapata wrote in an Aug. 13 e-mail to Operating Budget Coordinator Barbara Galvez. “You all should be ashamed.”

In that e-mail, Zapata wrote that he didn’t want the county’s money anymore: “Please let me know how to reimburse the county for the full amount.”

Read more here