January 24, 2016

New Chuck Todd mini-doc portrays Miami, a city entering adulthood


Miami homeboy-done-good Chuck Todd has a new mini-documentary in which he explores how the city he grew up in has matured politically amid crises over the past few decades.

"How Politics Saved Miami" was put together NBC News' Meet The Press brand. It features a well-known Miami cast, including Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, MIami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen and filmmaker Billy Corben.

It's worth a look:


An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the documentary had been put together for Todd's MSNBC spinoff program, MTP Daily.

January 22, 2016

Miami billionaire backs St. Pete GOP congressman for U.S. Senate in Florida


A Miami billionaire political donor has made his pick for Florida's contested Republican U.S. Senate race.

Health-care magnate Mike Fernandez threw his support Friday behind U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, praising legislation Jolly proposed earlier this week to ban members of Congress from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Fernandez's backing will likely give Jolly a big financial boost in a primary where the congressman faces several other serious candidates.

Fernandez, who has been one of Jeb Bush's biggest political backers in the presidential race, has broken traditional South Florida GOP ranks and endorsed President Obama's policy toward Cuba. 

Here's Fernandez's endorsement of Jolly, as provided by Jolly's campaign:

As an immigrant who came to this country over 50 years ago, I learned that hard work and core-values will allow you to succeed in this great country. I will never be able to repay this great country for what is has given me and provided for my family, but if I can leave this country better than when I came here I consider that success. In order to leave this country better than it is today, we must have the proven leaders who are courageous enough to lead this great country and to act upon their morals and principles. I cannot think of a better proven leader with better morals and principles than David Jolly. He is a guy who is unafraid to speak his mind and call things like he sees it. His recent STOP Act proposal to get Congress working again is a prime example of that. We need more people who have the guts to shake things up in Washington.

January 21, 2016

Car2go car-sharing service pulling out of Miami, Miami Beach


Car2Go, the car-sharing service with the blue and white two-seaters, announced Thursday in a message to members that it is pulling out of Miami and Miami Beach at the end of next month. Here's the text of an email sent Thursday afternoon:

We’re writing to inform you of a difficult decision. Due to slower adoption in Miami than expected, car2go will suspend operations in Miami and Miami Beach effective March 1, 2016.
What factors led to this decision?
Since our launch in 2012, we have received strong support from our members in Miami, as well as the broader Miami community – and for that we are incredibly grateful. Together, we’ve been able to explore exciting new ways to help people move throughout urban areas with greater ease.
While we believe Miami can benefit greatly from a service like car2go, Florida’s rental-car tax doesn’t reflect the innovation we bring to the rental car sector, making Miami one of the most expensive cities in North America for one-way carsharing. Other services have also entered the mobility market, and are not subject to this additional tax.

Continue reading "Car2go car-sharing service pulling out of Miami, Miami Beach" »

Miami-Dade County leaders vote against a (hypothetical) Cuban consulate in Miami


Until democracy comes to Cuba, a Cuban consulate should not come to Miami, county leaders proclaimed Wednesday.

In a 9-3 vote, Miami-Dade County commissioners urged the federal government to avoid placing a Cuban consulate on their turf. The talk of a hypothetical consulate in Miami has grown as President Barack Obama pursues warmer relations with the island nation.

Cuba’s embassy in Washington reopened in July. The typical next step would be a U.S. consulate in a city with a large Cuban immigrant population.

Miami obviously fits that description, but County Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo — the son of a Bay of Pigs veteran — says the time is not right. Bovo, who sponsored the county’s anti-consulate resolution Wednesday, said talks between Washington and Havana haven’t produced meaningful changes in how the Cuban government treats its people. The Cuban government is still oppressive, he said, and a consulate location in Miami’s exile community could spark protests, and leave Miami-Dade taxpayers to foot the bill for the cost of protecting consular officials.

“To think for a second, to have the Cuban government here, the dictatorship basically, here in Miami, I think is an affront to a huge majority of the Cuban-American community,” Bovo told the Herald after his measure passed.

Bovo isn’t the only local elected official strongly opposed to the consulate idea. Earlier this week, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said he would sue to block a Cuban consulate from opening within city limits. A 2014 Bendixen & Amandi poll found that Cuban Americans nationally favored the idea of a Miami consulate (50 percent in support, 39 percent opposed) while exiles in Florida were less supportive, with 41 percent in support, and 46 percent opposed.

Bovo’s resolution is largely symbolic, and would not prevent the federal government from placing a consulate wherever it wants, including Miami. The county’s lobbying team in Washington will now have orders to push back against being chosen as a consulate location, and the county’s formal statement in opposition is being transmitted to President Obama, Florida’s congressional delegation and Secretary of State John Kerry.

More here.

January 20, 2016

White House sends science adviser to talk climate change in Miami

via @NickNehamas

South Florida business and political leaders must work together to protect the local economy from flooding and climate change, a White House adviser told a room of about 50 people including Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at a meeting in Brickell.

“There’s probably no place in the country where you can have less of an argument about climate change than South Florida,” said Robert Simon, an adviser in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. “You see it everyday in Miami Beach.”

Flooding and coastal erosion could threaten Miami’s tourism and real estate sectors, he said. And climate change-caused disruption around the world could disrupt the global supply chain, killing the region’s ability to import and export valuable goods.

“Business leaders are getting more and more engaged in discussion about climate change as they see it as a core threat to their future profitability and even their existence,” said Simon, who added that global warming was undeniably the result of human activity.

More here.

Miami Boat Show blames 'procedural oversight' on permit violation at Marine Stadium


Contractors eagerly began work this month on a grid of floating docks in the Marine Stadium basin after it appeared the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final environmental permit needed to host the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key.

Perhaps they were a little too eager.

Two days after Boat Show organizers acknowledged that work was underway at the site ahead of their President's Day weekend event, county environmental regulators cited Dock & Marine Construction Corporation for installing "multiple floating docks and piling in, on, over and upon tidal waters" in preparation for the Boat Show. County commissioners had voted weeks earlier in favor of issuing a Class I permit to allow for the construction of temporary docks in the water, but regulators said work began before the document was finalized the following day, on Jan. 8.

Continue reading "Miami Boat Show blames 'procedural oversight' on permit violation at Marine Stadium" »

January 18, 2016

Uber launches radio ad against Miami-Dade chairman over proposed legislation


Uber is targeting the chairman of Miami-Dade's County Commission with a new radio ad accusing him of "taking us backwards" with proposed regulations of the ride-hailing company.

The ad is the latest swing Uber has taken at Chairman Jean Monestime, whose legislation is competing with a pro-Uber ordinance proposed by the commission's vice-chairman, Esteban "Steve" Bovo. Both ordinances face a preliminary vote Wednesday.

"We must band together to send a clear message to Chairman Monestime to drop his attack on our jobs and access to transportation," the narrator says in the ads, which an Uber representative said will air on WHQT Hot105 FM and WMBM 1490 AM.

The 60-second spot starts with a mispronunciation of Monestime's first name. The ad's narrator uses the English pronunciation of Jean (sounds like "Gene") though Monestime, the commission's first Haitian-American chairman, uses the French or Creole pronunciation (which uses a soft "J" and rhymes with "Sean"). 

County Hall watchers know that's a fairly common mistake when Monestime's name is invoked during commission meetings or at other functions. But he consistently uses the French pronunciation, including at a Friday press conference on his proposed Uber legislation.

Monestime's Haitian heritage could get added attention in the Uber debate, since a large portion of Miami-Dade's taxi drivers also are Haitian-Americans. The taxi industry is warning of financial ruin from Uber's popular ride-hailing service, which would not be subject to the same fare regulations or permitting limits that taxis face. 

A Monestime spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. A full transcript of the ad follows. To hear the ad, click below. 

Listen Up Miami-Dade!

Jobs, transportation, and the future of our community are on the line in an important vote on Wednesday.

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime is taking us backwards with his legislative proposal against ride-sharing companies like Uber.

 Commissioner Monestime is putting at risk flexible income opportunities that give so many of our friends, family, and neighbors the chance to earn extra income and support their loved ones by providing this valuable service.

 If this bill passes, our community would no longer have access to safe, affordable, and reliable rides through the Uber app in Miami-Dade.

 We must band together to send a clear message to Chairman Monestime to drop his attack on our jobs and access to transportation.

Uber Monestime Ad

January 17, 2016

Uber fight looms in Miami-Dade; mayor promises a veto to keep Uber in Miami


For County Hall watchers in Miami-Dade, it's Uber time again.

The latest showdown is slated for Wednesday, the County Commission's chairman and vice-chairman are slated to square off over competing bills.

Chairman Jean Monestime proposed a package of regulations, including county screening of drivers, that Uber says are so restrictive it would force the company to abandon Miami-Dade if ever enacted.  Last week, it launched an ad campaign against Monestime, with online ads targeting his District 2 constituents and a phone campaign by Uber drivers to his office. 

Vice-Chairman Esteban "Steve" Bovo sponsored a pro-Uber ordinance, and both are on the agenda Wednesday for the regular twice-monthly meeting (which doesn't fall on the regular Tuesday slot this time). 

Insiders are already planning for a marathon session, with both the taxi industry and Uber drivers expected to show up in force. The last time taxi drivers spoke en masse at the commission (on June 30), it helped stretch the meeting well past midnight

One thing to watch is whether commissioners find a way to actually debate the Uber issue. Both proposed ordinances are up for preliminary votes, and commission rules bar discussion on "first reading" items. 

The rare instance of competing ordinances also represents a high-profile test for Monestime, since Uber representatives privately say they have the votes to pass Bovo's bill. With a final vote months away, commissioners on Uber's side could opt to give Monestime the votes need to advance his bill and spare him the embarrassment of seeing his proposal die on first reading. 

Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Friday came out against Monestime's ordinance, and over the weekend his spokesman said the mayor would veto it if it passed. 

"Mayor Gimenez would veto the Chairman's legislation because it would most likely result in Uber, Lyft and other app-based mobility options shutting down their services in Miami-Dade County," spokesman Michael Hernández wrote in a statement. 

January 15, 2016

Uber launches campaign targeting Miami-Dade commissioners


Uber is flexing its political muscle in Miami-Dade County. 

The ride-hailing company began running online ads this week slamming Commission Chairman Jean Monestime for proposing rules Uber deems too restrictive. And it's running at least one supportive ad for a commissioner dubbed an ally (namely, County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who supports a rival proposal to Monestime's that Uber endorses). 

Continue reading "Uber launches campaign targeting Miami-Dade commissioners" »

January 14, 2016

Facing possible Cuban student influx, Miami-Dade schools ask feds for money


The Miami-Dade County school district faces a possible influx of students coming from Cuba and wants the federal government to provide additional money to help educate them.

Board members on Wednesday unanimously decided to ask for more funding for schools, where almost 4,000 Cuban students have enrolled in the last six months alone. No number was attached, but Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald the cost to educate incoming students could be “upwards of $40 million.”

“This should not force a financial crunch on our school system,” he said. “This can be avoided if our federal government takes action.”

The Pew Research Center says there has been a 78 percent increase in the number of Cubans arriving in the country over the last year. Local municipalities and social service agencies are in preparation mode as an estimated 8,000 Cubans stuck in Costa Rica begin to move towards Mexico. The assumption is that many will end up in the U.S., where Cubans enjoy special immigration status that eases the path to legal residency and citizenship.

“This is not going to be the Mariel boatlift,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said in remarks to the school board. “But they’re coming, and they want to come to the City of Miami.”

More here.