February 15, 2017

Miami U.S. attorney, who was appointed by Obama, to step down

via @jayhweaver

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, who served almost seven years in the longest tenure for South Florida's top law enforcement official, said Wednesday that he will be stepping down on March 3.

Ferrer, who will be replaced temporarily by his first assistant, career prosecutor Ben Greenberg, announced his resignation so he can begin considering other opportunities in the legal community while the newly elected president, Donald Trump, decides his permanent successor.

Ferrer, the son of Cuban immigrants who rose to the top of his class at Hialeah Senior High School and the University of Miami before obtaining his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, told the Miami Herald that it has been a “sad day, but it was time.”

Ferrer, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2010, oversaw an office with nearly 250 lawyers that stretches from Key West to Fort Pierce. It has been recognized for decades as one of the busiest and most colorful districts for federal criminal prosecutions in the country.

More here.

February 10, 2017

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida


Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Donald Trump-connected Kushner may buy Marlins


@via kaufsports

So, it turns out that it may, in fact, be a member of the Trump-connected Kushner family who is interested in buying the Miami Marlins, just not Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law Charles Kushner, as originally reported.

According to the New York Times, it is Joshua Kushner, Ivanka’s brother-in-law, who has been pursuing the Marlins “for several months.” Joshua is the younger brother of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor.

Joshua, a venture capitalist who invested in Instagram and is very involved in the family’s real estate dealings, and his brother-in-law Joseph Meyer are said to have proposed a complicated financial package for the Marlins that would include other partners. According to the Times, the Marlins negotiations do not involve Jared or his father, Charles, who served a prison sentence for tax evasion, illegal campaign donations and witness tampering.

Keep reading Michelle Kaufman's story here.
Miami Herald photo by Charles Trainor Jr. is of Jeffrey Loria

In Miami Gardens, Khizr Khan celebrates court ruling against Trump ban


Less than two hours after an appeals court refused to restore President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, Khizr Khan, perhaps the most famous Muslim American of last year’s campaign, celebrated the news among his admirers at the Islamic Center of Greater Miami.

“There will not be any ban,” Khan predicted.

“I am sure all of you have heard by now that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal unanimously — all judges — have stayed the ban permanently,” he added, as the crowd at the Miami Gardens mosque broke into applause and a couple of hollers.

“That speaks volumes to the malice that Donald Trump and a few members of his Cabinet, a few members of his [national] security staff, have against Muslims. They will be defeated. There are patriotic Americans among Republicans that know that these are not the values of this country.”

Khan called the ban — and Trump’s hostile reaction to the judiciary — “an embarrassment.”

“I hope somebody translates into easy English to him,” he said of the ruling. (“Donald Trump is an immigrant,” Khan added. “Two-thirds of his wives are immigrants. Mothers of his children are immigrants. How dare he has forgotten that! So we will remind him.”)

It was a rallying cry from Khan, the Gold Star father who became an overnight political celebrity after he spoke against Trump in July at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Khan’s 27-year-old son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004.

“Have you even read the United States Constitution?” the elder Khan asked of Trump as he pulled a copy of the Constitution from his pocket at the convention. “You have sacrificed nothing.”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

February 09, 2017

Congressmen Curbelo and Deutch expand bipartisan climate change caucus

Climate Time 01 EKM


A bipartisan climate change caucus launched by two South Florida members has added four new members including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, announced Thursday that the caucus now has 24 members and is evenly split between both parties. Both Curbelo and Deutch represent coastal areas that are impacted by climate change.

The other new members are David Reichert, R-WA, Earl Blumenauer, D-OR and Don Bacon, R-NE.

Curbelo has been a leading Republican voice speaking in favor of finding solutions to combat climate change.

The mission of the caucus is to explore options that address the impacts and causes related to climate change.

“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and coastal communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient,” Curbelo said in a statement. “The caucus has such a diverse group of members that each brings unique perspectives to the table. I’m confident that together we can work on bipartisan solutions that will unleash a new era of American innovation and protect our environment, infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods.”

Deutch said in a statement: “Across the country, Americans understand the urgency of climate change. Whether they see rising tides in Fort Lauderdale, intensifying tornadoes along the Central Plains, or worsening droughts affecting farm production, Americans are starting to feel the impacts of climate change to their homes, their livelihoods, and their wallets. They want action from their elected officials, and I’m proud that this Caucus offers a space to develop bipartisan solutions.”


February 08, 2017

Trump wants cops to turn over 'bad' undocumented immigrants

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wants local cops to do exactly what Miami-Dade County police say they would like to avoid: work much more closely with federal immigration authorities.

Speaking to a conference of police chiefs in Washington, Trump urged cops to turn over “bad” immigrants who are in the country illegally to the Department of Homeland Security. That’s home to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees deportations.

Trump told police they could tell Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — the former head of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral — “who the illegal immigrant gang members are.”

“You know the illegals. You know them by their first name. You know them by their nicknames,” Trump said. “You’re in the neighborhoods: You know the bad ones, you know the good ones. I want you to turn in the bad ones.”

Miami-Dade police have no qualms about alerting immigration to violent criminals they have arrested. But the definition of “bad” is hazy, and local cops still have lingering questions over how far the administration may push them to cooperate.

“It’s clear that they haven’t established any policies yet,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Pérez, who attended the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriff’s Association conference where Trump spoke. “It’s still too soon.”

More here.

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

February 02, 2017

State of Florida joins lawsuit against Miami Beach’s minimum wage law



When Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine proposed creating a mandatory citywide minimum wage, he touted the proposal in radio ads that ran in California while Gov. Rick Scott was there recruiting companies to move to Florida.

It was a clear move by Levine, a Democrat, to distinguish himself from the Republican governor and an indication the mayor might be eyeing a run for higher office.

Now, Tallahassee is joining a lawsuit filed by business associations against Miami Beach over the city law. Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion to intervene in the suit and defend the constitutionality of a state law that the Beach is challenging.

Attorneys at City Hall who drafted and championed the ordinance welcome the challenge. So does Levine, who is now seriously considering a run for governor in 2018, when Scott is term-limited out. The mayor looks to raise his profile during a tour of Florida this spring.

"So to the state, I say, see you in court," said Levine in a statement Thursday.

Read more here.

January 31, 2017

Billionaire Miami developer calls Trump's wall 'idiotic'


by @nicknehemas

Billionaire Miami developer Jorge Pérez — a friend and former business partner of President Donald Trump — thinks the plan for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico is “idiotic,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Pérez told Bloomberg that Trump asked him if he would be interested in working on the project, an offer the Related Group honcho declined.

“The wall is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life,” Pérez said in a Tuesday interview with Bloomberg. “A wall for what? You think a wall is going to stop people that are hungry? Good employment in Mexico, economic growth in Mexico, equality is going to stop people from coming over the border.”

Keep reading here.

January 29, 2017

Protesters bash Trump and his refugee order at Miami International Airport

via @joeflech

A national wave of protests against President Donald Trump’s immigration order hit Miami on Sunday when about 300 people demonstrated outside the airport.

Soaked from a constant drizzle amid temperatures in the 50s, a diverse group of protesters demonstrated for hours near a courtyard flanked by flagpoles at the center of Miami International Airport. Passing drivers honked their horns. Travelers took pictures and video with their cellphones.

“We are Muslims, and we love everyone and respect everyone,” said Azhar Dalal, 37. “That is what our religion teaches us.”

The Miami resident brought his wife and three young children to the protest, which was organized by 26-year-old Florida International University graduate student Allison Sardinas. Many families made up the crowd that chanted and waved signs for four hours, at times spilling into the roadway and blocking traffic.

“As an immigrant, I’m appalled with what Trump did,” said Lulu Chrzaszcz, 62. Born in the United Kingdom, she has lived in the United States for 40 years and became a naturalized citizen last year to vote in the presidential election. Trump did not win her vote. “We need to stop from going down the road he’s on.”

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union were present, and two Democratic members of Florida Legislature arrived to support the crowd.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff