October 03, 2017

Miami Beach mayor and potential gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is a father

@joeflech

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's fiancee Caro Murciano has given birth to their son Henry Joel Levine. 

Levine, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, shared the news on his social media profiles Tuesday morning. The mayor has told the Miami Herald he expects to make a decision on a run for governor in November.

 

September 29, 2017

Fresen sentenced to 60 days in jail, probation in tax case

Erik5 fresen lnew cmg
@PatriciaMazzei

Former Miami state Rep. Erik Fresen will serve 60 days in jail and a year of probation for failing to file a 2011 tax return on more than $270,000 in income, a federal judge sentenced Friday.

He will begin his jail term on Nov. 17 and serve 15 days in jail per month for four months — an intermittent sentence intended to keep him earning some income to pay back his tax penalties.

“I want him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail so that every holiday for the rest of his life he’ll think back to that,” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said.

Fresen’s mother, wife and three sisters, seated two rows behind him in court, cried.

Fresen faced up to a year in prison. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of six months in jail and six months of house arrest, while Fresen’s defense attorneys requested only probation.

Scola said he couldn’t be as lenient as the defense requested because Fresen didn’t properly report his income to the Internal Revenue Service from 2007-16 — a nine-year period that included his eight years as a Republican lawmaker the Florida House.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

September 25, 2017

Open Miami-Dade House, Senate seats will be decided in Tuesday special election

Diaz and Taddeo

@ByKristenMClark

In a special election on Tuesday, voters in southwest Miami-Dade County will determine the successors for two seats in the state Legislature that opened up after a Miami Republican senator was forced to resign last spring when he made racist and insulting remarks in front of fellow senators at a bar near the state Capitol.

The fight for the District 40 Senate seat — formerly held by Frank Artiles, who stepped down in April — has been highly competitive for what it could mean, particularly for Democrats: The chance to flip the seat and narrow Republicans’ current 24-15 advantage in the chamber.

The House District 116 seat is also on the ballot, because Florida’s “resign to run” law required Miami Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz to vacate that seat when he chose to run in the District 40 contest.

More details here.

Photo credit: Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, left, and Democrat Annette Taddeo, right. [Miami Herald file photo.]

September 21, 2017

Annette Taddeo nabs late campaign endorsement from Joe Biden

2bBiden

@ByKristenMClark

Just how important is a win next week for Florida Democrats in the competitive special election for a state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County?

Important enough that former Vice President Joe Biden recorded a campaign call for Annette Taddeo in an effort to give a late boost to the Democrat’s candidacy against Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Taddeo’s campaign announced Biden’s endorsement — and the phone call he recorded for her — on Thursday afternoon, five days before the District 40 election will be decided on Tuesday. Voting early in person and by mail has already started.

“I wanted to call to remind you that voting is underway for a very important special election in your community,” Biden says in the 50-second recording to voters, which is a political ad paid for by Taddeo’s campaign.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

Civil liberties group offers Election Protection hotline to help Miami-Dade voters

Voting in Miami David Santiago elneuvoherald

@ByKristenMClark

Worried that poor and minority voters might be disenfranchised because of the impacts of Hurricane Irma, a national civil liberties group is promoting its Election Protection hotline in advance of Tuesday's special elections for open House and Senate seats in Miami-Dade County.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law -- a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that runs the hotline -- was among the groups that supported the Florida Democratic Party's request to Gov. Rick Scott for him to delay the special elections for Senate District 40 and House District 116.

Scott denied the request, ensuring the elections would happen as originally planned. Voting early in person and by mail is already underway. Tuesday is Election Day.

The organization said Scott postponed elections in Lee County -- also scheduled for Tuesday -- to Oct. 3, but "he did not provide the same relief for Miami-Dade voters."

"By choosing to delay some elections and not others, Governor Scott will deny minority voters who have been uniquely impacted by the destruction from Hurricane Irma, the opportunity to elect representatives of their choice," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said in a statement.

Scott's office noted that Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Christina White did not ask for the elections under her supervision to be re-scheduled, while local officials and elections supervisors overseeing city elections in Cape Coral and Fort Myers had.

“We rely on the independent supervisors of elections to guide decision-making on elections in their counties. Supervisor of Elections Christina White has requested to move forward with this election, and we will accept her guidance,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis had said last week.

Nonetheless, the committee has its concerns about storm victims not being able to make it to the polls.

The group wants eligible voters who have voting-related questions to call its hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

Photo credit: David Santiago / El Nuevo Herald

September 18, 2017

As state Senate election nears, Diaz, Taddeo debate 'lessons learned' from Hurricane Irma

Diaz taddeo debate 0917

@ByKristenMClark

The impacts and recovery efforts that followed Hurricane Irma have presented fresh fodder for political debate between the two main candidates who are seeking voters’ support in a bitter battle that will be decided next week for an open state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County.

On WPLG Local 10 News’ “This Week in South Florida” on Sunday, Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democrat Annette Taddeo sparred about the “lessons learned” from the storm.

They also used the 10-minute televised debate to trade attacks over which of them caters more to special interest groups and industries that came to the forefront during and after the hurricane, such as utilities and nursing home care.

“What we have learned is that industry has a great impact at the [Public Service Commission], at the Legislature. They have killed certain legislation so it could have prevented the lives that we lost at the nursing home,” Taddeo said on the Sunday morning show, referencing the eight elderly people who died last week in a Broward County facility that lacked air conditioning after the hurricane.

Whether it was the elder care industry or utilities, like Florida Power & Light, Taddeo said: “We need to make sure we have representatives that represent us — not the special interests. And that’s not what we have right now; we have had this problem in Florida for decades.”

Diaz — who’s served in the Florida House for seven years — countered that “it’s unfortunate that my opponent would try to paint me off as someone who’s beholden to special interests.”

“The only special interest that matters to me is the people of my community. Nobody’s worked harder during and after this storm than me,” Diaz said.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, left, and Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, debate during Sunday’s episode of “This Week in South Florida” on WPLG Local 10 News in Miami. Diaz and Taddeo are candidates for the open Senate District 40 seat in Miami-Dade County. [WPLG]

September 07, 2017

Miami-Dade expands mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Irma

@doug_hanks @PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez expanded evacuation orders Thursday to the county’s coast and other inland areas as Hurricane Irma threatened to bring severe flooding to South Florida.

Gimenez’s new order covers the rest of evacuation Zone B as well as Zone C, a rapid escalation of Miami-Dade’s efforts to get residents to flee areas considered most vulnerable to dangerous storm surge. On Wednedsay, Gimenez told residents in Zone A and the eastern part of Zone B — Miami Beach and the county’s other barrier islands — to begin evacuating at 7 a.m. Thursday.

The expanded order for all of Zone B includes Miami’s two main office and condo districts on Brickell Avenue and downtown, as well as large portions of South Dade. Parts of Cutler Bay, Florida City and Homestead — a city ravaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 — sit in the expanded evacuation area. For Zone C, the evacuation orders expand even further inland, encompassing the rest of Homestead, as well as at least parts of Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami Shores and North Miami Beach.

Gimenez said he decided to expand the orders after studying storm-surge maps provided Thursday morning by the National Hurricane Center. The new order will be effective sometime later Thursday. The mayor urged people to first seek shelter with friends and family before going to an emergency shelter.

“Now is the time for us to come together and help each other out,” Gimenez said.

More here.

Miami congressman might take family to shelter for Hurricane Irma

Curbelo rubio lnew cmg
@PatriciaMazzei @doug_hanks

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo lives in Miami's Kendall neighborhood -- not one of the low-lying coastal areas under mandatory evacuation orders for Hurricane Irma.

But the Republican might leave his house voluntarily anyway, for fear that strong winds could endanger his family.

"I am considering going to a shelter," Curbelo said in response to a reporter's question Thursday at the Miami-Dade County emergency operations center. "We do have some tall trees around our house, and given the strength and the magnitude of this storm, I don't feel entirely secure at home -- especially with our two little girls, ages 7 and 5."

Responding to the same question, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said his family is "still trying to debate" what to do though it is not in an evacuation zone, either.

"I'm confident my home will withstand" Irma, Rubio said, noting his West Miami house was built in 2005, after Hurricane Andrew. The 1992 Category 5 monster forced Florida to rewrite its building codes and make them stronger.

"The question is, how will we get in and out and, more importantly, how to get to my mom," added Rubio, who said he's studied 500-year flood maps for the area and found neighboring streets might flood.

Rubio said Irma's projected path, up Florida's east coast, should make residents in evacuation zones wary about trying to drive far.

"If you look at the map of Florida right now," he said, "there's not many places you look at and think, 'That looks like a pretty safe place.'"

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

September 06, 2017

Miami-Dade to unauthorized immigrants: Don’t fear Hurricane Irma shelters

Florida1 senators lnew cmg
@PatriciaMazzei

Immigrants in South Florida illegally should not fear deportation if they seek shelter during Hurricane Irma, according to political leaders who urged the undocumented to heed local evacuation orders.

“We don’t ask anybody for their identification,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a briefing late Wednesday from the county’s emergency operations center in Doral. “Everybody who needs shelter in Miami-Dade County is welcome, and you should do so without any fear of any repercussions.”

When Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas late last month, some unauthorized immigrants told aid workers and news reporters they stayed away from public shelters because they were scared federal authorities would inquire about their legal status and detain them. Their concerns were exacerbated when uniformed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents assisted in the recovery — even though the federal government said repeatedly the agents weren’t acting in any deportation capacity.

To avoid a similar situation in South Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio urged the Department of Homeland Security to explain in advance its role during Hurricane Irma. The agency said Wednesday it “will not conduct non-criminal immigration enforcement operations in the affected area,” though Homeland Security personnel will be deployed to help federal, state and local authorities in the storm’s aftermath.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

UPDATED: Taddeo, Diaz temporarily suspending Senate campaigns for Hurricane Irma

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida Legislature (34)The two candidates in a fierce battle for an open state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County have temporarily suspended their campaigns due to Hurricane Irma and say they have redirected their efforts to help with preparations for the massive storm.

Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo announced Wednesday morning she was putting a pause on her campaign and she called on her opponent -- Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz -- to do the same "to ensure our teams and their families can prepare for the storm."

“Our community’s safety must be our singular focus right now," Taddeo said in a statement. "Therefore, I have instructed my team to move to immediately suspend campaign activities and have asked that we pause any advertising from airing as soon as possible."

In a statement to the Herald/Times, Diaz indicated he had quietly already taken similar steps earlier this week.

"My main priority right now is to make sure that the residents of our community are safe and prepared," Diaz said. "Until Hurricane Irma clears, my state Senate campaign has refocused to emergency preparations mode."

Diaz said he's been in contact with state and local authorities in the past couple days and has also visited community centers and spoken with senior citizens to emphasize preparation. He said, "as of yesterday [Tuesday], all our radio ads were switched to hurricane preparedness messages."

"Needless to say, my efforts are focused on making sure that our community is safe, strong, and ready for the potential impacts of Hurricane Irma," Diaz said.

Taddeo also had urged Miami-Dade residents to heed weather warnings.

The general election for the District 40 seat in southwest Miami-Dade is on Sept. 26.

Photo credit: Annette Taddeo [top], Miami Herald file. Jose Felix Diaz [right], AP.

*This post was updated at 12:50 p.m.