July 19, 2015

Poll: Jeb Bush leads Marco Rubio in Miami-Dade County -- even among Cuban-Americans

GOP 2016 Bush(3)


For Republicans in Miami-Dade County, the only place in the country that can boast two local entries in the 2016 presidential race, one favorite son is more favorite than the other, a new poll shows.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio 35-25 percent among registered GOP voters, according to the public-opinion survey conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. No other contender in the Republican field of 15 declared candidates cracked double digits in the poll of Miami-Dade, the most populous county in the nation’s largest swing state.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in the poll is that Bush is more popular than Rubio even among Cuban-American Republicans, by 43-31 percent — even though Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. The other Cuban American in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, drew 7 percent support (so did “Undecided”).

“In spite of the fact that Jeb enjoys honorary Cuban status, he does that much better than the person who would be the first potential Cuban-American president of the United States,” pollster Fernand Amandi said. “It could be a very difficult number for Marco. When he can’t win over the heart of his base, what does that mean for his prospects of winning the primary in Florida?”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

Raquel Regalado far behind Carlos Gimenez in new poll on Dade mayoral race


With 13 months to go before the August 2016 primaries, school board member Raquel Regalado trails incumbent Carlos Gimenez by double digits in the Miami-Dade mayoral race. But Gimenez still finished second behind the undecided vote. 

Regalado, heir to one of the most prominent names in Miami politics, trailed Gimenez by 23 points in a survey done by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. Of the 600 registered county voters polled on their pick in the mayoral race, 40 percent chose Gimenez and 17 percent chose Regalado, a two-term school board member and daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

While Gimenez easily topped his lone challenger in the survey, 43 percent of respondents opted not to pick a candidate. That left Gimenez, in office since 2011, the second-place finisher behind the undecided category with a little more than a year to go before the August 2016 primary that could decide the race. 

Check out the full results here

July 18, 2015

It's activist vs. Miami-Dade commissioner in historic-preservation fight

via @AndresViglucci

A contentious and consequential battle over the future of historic preservation in Bay Harbor Islands and Surfside has now generated a blistering and unusual face-off between a Miami-Dade commissioner and a veteran preservationist, complete with mocking YouTube video and dueling complaints of ethical violations.

In one corner: Powerful Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, whose district includes Bay Harbor and Surfside, and who has aggressively led a charge against historic designation of buildings in either town.

In the other: Miami Beach activist and hotelier Mitch Novick, the assertive volunteer chairman of the county’s historic preservation board, who has presided over a push to save endangered Miami Modern and Art Deco buildings in both towns over the vocal objections of Heyman, town leaders and some residents.

Heyman, who had previously launched unusually public broadsides against the county’s historic preservation office for moving to protect significant buildings in both towns, took the first swing. She filed a confidential complaint with the county’s Inspector General’s office, claiming a possible conflict of interest on Novick’s part because he mentioned in an open hearing that he’s made a living restoring historic buildings in Bay Harbor and other places. Then she publicly broadcast her complaint in the middle of an appeal hearing on a historic designation in Bay Harbor that Novick supported.

Novick — who says he has no conflicts because he doesn’t own property in areas his board regulates — then swung back hard. He filed his own complaint with Inspector General Mary Cagle, claiming it’s Heyman who’s acted improperly. According to Novick, Heyman failed to disclose that she’s been carrying water in her preservation fight for developer Chateau Group, a campaign contributor that was contesting historic designation of its property in Surfside.

Novick didn’t stop there. He posted a video to YouTube — dubbing the commissioner “Surfside Sally” — that pokes fun at Heyman’s rambling and, according to Novick, “comically” uninformed anti-preservation tirades during a pair of public meetings.

More here.

July 14, 2015

Landlocked Florida City gets $1M oil spill settlement

via @ChuckRabin

Five years after the worst offshore oil spill in history, a small city in South Miami-Dade miles from any beach or coastline has received a hefty settlement for losses linked to the environmental disaster.

Landlocked Florida City — which bills itself as a gateway to the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park — last week accepted a $1.01 million settlement from British Petroleum, just a small piece of an $18.7 billion settlement the oil giant agreed to pay to four southern states for economic damages from the 2010 blowout of a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a city that receives a good chunk of its revenue from a half-mile strip of gas stations, hotels and restaurants along U.S. 1’s entrance to the Keys, the infusion of cash into its general fund had the mayor promising relief for homeowners this year.

“We haven’t made plans for it just yet,” said Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace. “But there won’t be any tax increases, that’s for sure.”

The million dollar settlement amounts to almost 10 percent of the entire operating budget for the city of 13,000 residents. The payout represents compensation for the thousands of tourists who avoided the Keys and Everglades in the months after the spill — and by extension didn’t drop dollars in Florida City’s hotels, restaurants or gas stations.

More here.

Two GOP presidential candidates have compared Mexican immigrants to Mariel boatlift Cubans


Donald Trump, having already infamously characterized Mexican who cross the border as criminals and rapists sent to by their government to pillage America, last week lumped another immigrant group in the same category: Cubans.

Trump told a conservative radio host that Mexican immigrants today are like Cuban exiles who arrived on Florida shores during the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

"If you remember, years ago, when Castro opened up his jails, his prisons, and he sent them all over to the United States because let the United States have them," Trump said in the interview, first reported by BuzzFeed News. "And you know, these were the many hardcore criminals that he sent over. And, you know, that was a long time ago but essentially Mexico is sending over."

He then went on to cite the death of 32-year-old woman in San Francisco, shot apparently at random by man who had previously been deported five times to Mexico. 

The same day, fellow GOP presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made a similar comparison in a Fox News interview. Though Paul didn't explicitly say Mexicans today are like Cubans in 1980, he used the boatlift as an example of why municipalities today should be banned from restricting their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

"Remember when the Marielitos were dumped here by Cuba? These were criminals," Paul said. "He emptied his jails, and he just dumped them on us. You want immigration services that work for the federal government to be able to ferret out are criminals being released in to the community."

Fidel Castro's government shipped prisoners and mentally ill patients on Mariel, mixed in with other refugees, and some Cuban exiles who had arrived in previous decades derided the Marielitos, in 1980 and to this day. But Cuban Americans are also fiercely defensive of their community -- and many of the people who immigrated in the boatlift are now voters and parents of voters. Will Trump and Paul -- if they make it that far -- make the same comparison in South Florida?



July 12, 2015

Miami Beach commissioners bicker over PAC flush with cash

via @joeflech

The scene begins with a taxi passing Mango’s Tropical Cafe during a sunny day in South Beach. With salsa music in the background, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine walks toward the camera.

“Here in Miami Beach we have a new saying,” he says, grinning. “Just get it done.”

Scenes of flooded streets, road construction and police cars flash over Levine’s narration, as he talks about recent local projects including installation of stormwater pumps, expedited roadwork and the naming of a new police chief. As the commercial comes to an end, just before Levine says “Welcome to a new Miami Beach,” a banner appears at the bottom of the frame: “Sponsored by Relentless for Progress.”

Even though the millionaire mayor currently running for reelection has repeatedly said he doesn’t need PAC money, the new political action committee — which has raised nearly $1 million since May from a small group of Miami Beach vendors and real estate developers — paid for the 30-second TV spot, which cost $30,000 to produce and nearly $127,000 for the media buy.

“It’s not a commercial for me,” he told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “It’s not telling you ‘Elect Philip Levine.’”

The committee’s fundraising blitz — including $5,000 from Levine himself — has spurred a conversation about the increasing role that so-called “soft money” has in Miami Beach politics. Even Relentless for Progress’s initials mirror the acronym for “request for proposal,” or the solicitation made to bidders for city contracts.

The cash keeps coming in.

More here.

July 08, 2015

Raquel Regalado posts video slamming Carlos Gimenez's budget


Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado produced another campaign video slamming the incumbent she wants to unseat next year, Mayor Carlos Gimenez. In the video, the two-term school board member accuses Gimenez of presenting a 2016 budget that uses the property taxes from a strong real estate market to undo some of his past austerity measures. 

In a statement, Jesse Manzano-Plaza, a spokesman for Gimenez political committee Miami-Dade Residents First, wrote: "Mayor Gimenez' stewardship has guided Miami-Dade out of some of the most difficult economic times our community has faced. We are looking forward to contrasting Mayor Gimenez' leadership, executive experience and record of accomplishments with any aspiring politician and their empty rhetoric." 


July 07, 2015

Miami police union president calls for NYPD-style policing slowdown


The fiery president of Miami's police union is not pleased with Mayor Tomás Regalado's budget proposal, which he believes takes further steps toward "union busting."

We won't get into the merits of those arguments here. Let's just say the union and city administration agree to vehemently disagree. But in a response to Regalado's budget Tuesday, Lt. Javier Ortiz called on Miami's rank-and-file to do as the New York Police Department did last year during a beef with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and ignore "quality of life" violations, like drinking in public and trespassing.

Ortiz (noting that over the weekend a Miami officer locked himself in the car to avoid a confrontation with a half-naked, knife-wielding man who was fatally Tasered by another Miami cop) wrote the following:

Due to the fact that the police department and our city manager is focused on saving money as if we are a business instead of focusing on supporting our sworn members, the FOP is taking the following position. We are asking that police officers use discretion when making arrests. Please don’t be tying yourself up on discretionary quality of life arrests (drinking in public, illegal flower vending, trespassing and minor misdemeanor crimes that aren’t mandated). Stay in service to be able to answer calls. Unless it’s something like domestic violence that an arrest is mandatory, keep yourself free to back up your fellow brother and sister. This is not a time to be proactive making traffic stops or putting yourself in harm’s way when there is no support from the city. Until the community and our elected officials get our backs, we need to protect our own. Continue to be professional. Do not answer a call without backup. If that officer involved in our last in-custody death would have taken action without backup, what would the community say? He should have waited for backup!

Police Chief Rudy Llanes wasn't thrilled with the message.

"I think he’s walking a fine line with violating the law there, because he’s asking his membership not to take enforcement action, which they’re duty-bound to take," Llanes said. "I’m very disappointed in that statement. We’re here to protect and serve our community."

Miami defense attorney suspended for 60 days over tax charges

via @DavidOvalle305

Prominent Miami criminal defense attorney Larry Handfield will be suspended from practicing law for 60 days after pleading guilty to federal charges of misdemeanor tax evasion.

Florida’s high court last week agreed with a judge’s recommendation on the suspension. Handfield, 57, must also complete six months of probation.

One of South Florida’s most prominent African-American lawyers and civic leaders, Handfield is also the former chairman of the Public Health Trust, Jackson Health System’s governing board.

Back in late 2013, Handfield agreed to repay $78,842 to the federal government after the IRS determined he filed false business tax returns in 2006 and 2007.

At a Florida Bar hearing in February, the judge heard from former clients, members of the clergy and a host of prominent supporters. Those included former Miami-Dade circuit judge Israel Reyes; Eugene Pettis, the past president of the Florida Bar, former Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker, prominent lawyer H.T. Smith and Florida State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

Even a senior Miami-Dade prosecutor, Gary Winston, testified about his professionalism and legal acumen” and how “innocent people will be hurt” if Handfield “is kept from the legal profession too long.”

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis, acting as the referee in the Florida Bar’s case, noted she was moved by the “genuine emotion, affection and appreciation expressed by so many witnesses.”

“I am very pleased the Bar and Supreme Court understood I made a mistake and recognized all that I have done in this community,” Handfield told the Miami Herald.


Yep, Greece and Miami metro have about the same GDP

Greek voters stuck a wrench into European finances with their rejection of an austerity-bailout package on July 5, 2015. With the referendum results all in, the possibility that Greece might ditch the Euro, the European Union’s common currency, became more likely than ever.

Before the vote though, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman warned that the greatest worry might have less to do with Greece than with other shaky economies in the Euro zone. On ABC’s This Week, Krugman downplayed the impact of the Greek economy per se.

"Greece is not a big economy," Krugman told host George Stephanopoulos. "It's about the size of metropolitan Miami. So if you asked how much direct spillover there is from whatever happens in Greece, not that much."

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact.