September 19, 2016

David Rivera briefly listed as 'special guest' to Miami-Dade GOP campaign office opening

FullSizeRender (11)@PatriciaMazzei

The Miami-Dade Republican Party plans a grand opening for its West Dade campaign headquarters Saturday.

An invitation by the party lists the office address as 12747 SW 42nd St. and urges supporters to come by to volunteer, make calls and later be served food and refreshments. No campaigns or candidates are listed.

But a draft version of the invitation, which leaked Monday evening, listed former U.S. Rep. David Rivera -- now running for the state House -- and local GOP Chairman Nelson Diaz as "special guests." The draft also showed off logos for the campaigns of Rivera, state Rep. Frank Artiles (who is running for state Senate), U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, though it seemed unlikely all of those campaigns signed off.

The draft was reworked after making the rounds among local political players, who circulated it privately either to note the lack of a required political disclaimer (a sign that it was, in fact, an unfinished invitation) or to criticize Rivera's involvement. He remains under federal criminal investigation into an unlawful 2012 campaign-finance scheme but nevertheless won the Republican primary last month for state House District 118.  FullSizeRender (12)

By the time a final invitation was completed Monday night, the logos and names had been removed -- and a disclaimer had been put in. 

The West Dade HQ is one of two offices recently opened by the local party (the other one is in Hialeah). Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Sharon Day of Broward touted the offices Friday night at a Trump rally in downtown Miami.

September 16, 2016

Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti: Trump learns to play Miami's ethnic politics


@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Donald Trump offered a little bit Friday to almost every one in Miami. To Cubans, he vowed to reverse President Barack Obama’s reengagement policy. To Venezuelans, he promised to stand with their “oppressed” countrymen. To Haitians, he pledged to be their “champion.”

Fifty-three days before the election, Trump seemed to have finally assimilated a fundamental rule of Miami’s heavily ethnic politics: Candidates must target their messages to each community.

Short on time until Nov. 8, Trump tried to ingratiate himself with several groups in a single afternoon. He dropped by the Little Haiti Cultural Center to meet privately with Haitian-American professionals. Then he raced to downtown Miami’s James L. Knight Center for a pulsating rally attended by some 2,500 people — in spite of horrendous traffic fueled in part by a pair of Friday night concerts by Kanye West and Meghan Trainor.

“Welcome to all of you deplorables!” he said, riffing off Hillary Clinton’s recent gaffe. For the first time, Trump entered one of his rallies to the tune of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” from the musical “Les Miserables.” The digital screen behind him read: “Les Deplorables.”

“Boy oh boy, we’re going to have a good time tonight!” Trump declared.

Trump sounded more than ever like a traditional Republican nominee, calling Obama’s renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba “one-sided” and helpful only to the Castro regime.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald staff

September 15, 2016

Everglades restoration plan passes senate

Everglades aerial (2)

by @jenstaletovich

Everglades restoration took a step forward Thursday when the U.S. Senate passed a massive waterworks bill that includes a plan aimed at fixing the overlooked heart of the vast wetlands.

In 94-3 vote, senators approved the Water Resources Development Act, which includes about $2 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The project, launched in 2011 to speed up restoration and focus efforts on central wetlands critical to moving fresh water south into Florida Bay, got a big assist in the spring when Sen. Jim Inhofe vowed to throw his weight behind it. The powerful chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, remembered for being the only no vote opposing the original comprehensive restoration plan in 2000, said he changed his mind after Sen. Marco Rubio convinced the work was necessary.

The vote comes after a brutal winter for the region. Record rain forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeatedly release dirty water from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries, triggering a massive algae bloom along the Treasure Coast.

The WRDA still has to pass the House, no small hurdle, which has not yet scheduled a vote. However, including $220 million in emergency funding to address the water crisis in Flint is drawing support that may help push it through.

"It addresses a lot of big ticket items that have gotten a ton of attention this year," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, deputy director of policy for Audubon Florida.

Hill-Gabriel was hopeful the House schedules a vote this year on the plan. Two years ago, the plan stalled when the Corps, which oversees work, balked at approving it in time for that year's WRDA bill.



"We’re hopeful it will happen this year," Hill-Gabriel said. "Whether it’s next week or the lame duck session, we hope the House steps up and gets it done."



Miami-Dade schools chief may have run afoul of Florida gift law

0555 School Board memebers 071316 ADD
via @KyraGurney

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho might have violated state law by accepting event tickets and neckties worth more than $100 and failing to initially report the gifts.

The Florida Commission on Ethics announced Wednesday that it had found probable cause that Carvalho violated the gift law, but decided not to take any further action. “[B]ecause Mr. Carvalho was forthcoming, accepted responsibility for the failure to report certain gifts and ultimately reported those gifts on a Form 9 [a quarterly gift disclosure form], the Commission will take no further action on the allegations unless he requests an administrative hearing,” the commission said in a press release.

The gifts included tickets to events featuring Harry Connick Jr. and Kevin Spacey and a two-day cruise benefiting the United Way, the Associated Press reported.

School district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said Carvalho’s attendance at the events was part of his community outreach efforts.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Angry Instagram comments from animal activists on Miami-Dade mayor's account prompt police query

via @DavidOvalle305

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s Instagram account contains a collection of snapshots typical of a politician: speaking at a budget hearing, reading to schoolchildren, taking a selfie with other leaders.

But just about every humdrum photo has been received with unusual venom from social media commenters.

“INNOCENT ANIMALS ARE BEING KILLED LIKE TRASH AND IT'S YOUR FAULT!” And “you’re disgusting for what you’ve done to our animals!!!!” And “I can certainly tell you where to put that selfie stick.” And so on.

The mayor’s Instagram account has been largely hijacked by a particular group: animal-rights activists who have long railed against euthanizing unwanted pets in Miami-Dade County. It’s gotten this bad: One commenter — irate even in far-off Canada — warned he might try to put down the mayor or his family, a threat Miami-Dade police are now investigating.

Despite a gleaming new county animal shelter and the county’s claim that few animals are euthanized any more, online commenters continue to target Gimenez – who is running for re-election against Raquel Regalado, an opponent who enjoys the support of some of the county’s high-profile animal activists.

The mayor said he’s troubled by the dark tone the social media heckling has taken.

More here.

Photo credit: Peter Andrew Bosch, Miami Herald staff

September 14, 2016

Trump wants to meet with wary Haitian Americans in Miami

Campaign 2016 Trump (2)
@Jacquiecharles @PatriciaMazzei

Eager to make political inroads in crucial South Florida, Donald Trump’s campaign has spent the past few days trying to arrange a private meeting with prominent Haitian Americans ahead of Trump’s Miami campaign rally Friday.

So far, a meeting has yet to be set — in part because the Haitian diaspora appears wary of Trump.

“I don’t think I can vote for him,” said former North Miami Mayor Josaphat “Joe” Celestin, a Republican and son of immigrants who has been invited to the meeting. “When I heard the rhetoric and some of the responses he gave during some of the debates, I was extremely disappointed.”

Trump supporters are well aware of Haitian Americans’ reluctance, which is why they’re trying to get community leaders in front of the candidate himself to change their minds.

“He needs to address the Haitian people directly,” said Michael Barnett, the Palm Beach County Republican Party chairman putting the meeting together. “He knows how to listen to people and find out what the problems are.”

Haitian Americans are already skeptical about Hillary Clinton. Many still feel seething anger toward Clinton and her husband over their political and philanthropic involvement in Haiti.

“Voters have a very tough plate in front of them,” said Celestin, who in 2001 became the first Haitian American elected mayor of a sizable U.S. city. “I think this election cycle, most Haitians are going to stay home. They don’t want to vote for Trump, and they don’t want to vote for Hillary — and we don’t have an alternative.”

More here.

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

FIU poll: Most Miami-Dade Cubans favor new U.S.-Cuba policy

Cuba plane

In the 18 months since President Barack Obama announced a new U.S.-Cuba policy, his views have won bigger support among his most skeptic audience: Miami-Dade County Cuban Americans.

A new Florida International University poll shows a majority of local Cuban Americans — 56 percent — “strongly” or “mostly” favors reengagement with the island.

The results are from FIU’s first Cuba poll since Dec. 17, 2014, the date when Obama said he would reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba, and March 2016, when Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in more than eight decades. Prior surveys, which the university began conducting in 1991, had a trend of increasing public support for normalizing Cuba relations. The latest data suggest Obama’s policy has pushed that trend even further.

“It’s given kind of a space for that kind of attitude — out of frustration, out of hope, out of something — where it can be expressed more,” said Guillermo Grenier, one of the professors who conducted the survey of 1,000 respondents for the university’s Cuban Research Institute.

For the first time in the poll’s history, a clear majority of respondents — 54 percent — also wants to end the Cuban embargo, compared to 32 percent who want to keep it (14 percent don’t know or wouldn’t say). The last time FIU conducted the poll, in 2014, respondents were against the embargo by 45-41 percent, with 12 percent in the don’t-know/wouldn’t-answer category.

Asked if the embargo was successful, 55 percent said it wasn’t “at all.” Only 17 percent said it worked well or very well, with 19 percent saying it had worked “not very well.”

This being a presidential election year, the pollsters also tried to gauge the popularity of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump among local Cubans. They favored Trump by 36-31 percent, though that number is somewhat stale because the survey was conducted from July 11-Aug. 12.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

September 13, 2016

'Just call me POTUS': Obama goes live on Miami R&B radio for Clinton

Obama Campaign 2016 Clinton

Listeners who tuned in to Miami’s Hot 105 radio for the usual afternoon banter and R&B tunes got something a little different Tuesday: a voting pitch directly from President Barack Obama.

“Y’all stayin’ out of trouble?” he said by way of greeting when he called in and went on air with hosts Rick Party and Benji Brown.

When Party and Brown quipped that they didn’t know how to address him — “PBO? Or Barry B? Or BO?” — Obama replied: “You know, just call me POTUS, man.”

A hard-hitting interview it was not.

Instead, Obama got a chance to do some campaigning for Hillary Clinton to African-Americans in Democrat-rich Miami-Dade County. A few hours earlier, he had rallied Clinton supporters in Philadelphia.

“Hillary Clinton is somebody who I have worked with, who I know, who I have confidence in, who has a track record of working on behalf of civil-rights issues and voting-rights issues and criminal-justice issues and health care and children’s-poverty issues,” he told Hot 105. “And the other guy, you know, I don’t know what he’s done to help somebody other than himself.”

More here.

Photo credit: Matt Rourke, Associated Press

September 12, 2016

Rubio goes on air on Miami Spanish-language TV


Marco Rubio has put out his first TV ad of the general election in Spanish. It's a translated version of a spot he's already aired in English.  

The spot, airing in Miami's crowded Spanish-language TV market, features the mother of a young woman who had breast cancer. She talks about how, desperate for an experimental drug for her daughter, she contacted Rubio's office -- and they helped her.

"He didn't hesitate for a second," Blanquita Trabold of Orlando says of the Florida Republican senator.

Her daughter, she adds, implored her, "Never forget what he did for us." 



September 08, 2016

Jeb Bush endorses in his local Florida House race


Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush backed a state House candidate late Thursday to represent the Coral Gables-based district where he lives. 

His choice was hardly a surprise: Bush endorsed Republican John Couriel over Democrat Daisy Baez. The two candidates are battling to replace term-limited Republican Rep. Erik Fresen in District 114.

"Having known John since he was a college student, I'm delighted that I get to vote for him to be my state representative," Bush said in a statement. "He speaks with clarity and optimism about the challenges we face as a community and nation: promoting economic opportunity for all, making our kids career-ready, and making health care more affordable and transparent."

Couriel is a GOP establishment darling who's certain to use the big-name endorsement as a way to introduce himself to voters. But Bush's lone local legislative endorsement in the primary didn't seem to do much good for Republican Lynda Bell. She placed third in District 118, behind David Rivera and Anthony Rodriguez.

UPDATE: Bush is headlining a fundraiser for Couriel Sept. 23 at the Biltmore Hotel.