August 18, 2015

More coral damaged by PortMiami dredge than feds expected

via @jenstaletovich

Deepening Port Miami to make way for bigger ships has caused far more damage to rare coral at the bottom of Biscayne Bay than federal wildlife managers originally calculated.

In a series of letters and emails with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing dredge work, the National Marine Fisheries Service warned between February and June that damage “greatly exceeds” what was anticipated, risking harm to a stretch of reef on the south and north sides of Government Cut up to four times the size originally projected. Yet efforts to get an accurate take on damage have been rebuffed by Corps officials. And Fisheries Service divers hoping to survey the area have repeatedly encountered obstacles, they complained.

The correspondence reveals deep differences between the two federal agencies over impacts of a controversial Deep Dredge project long sought by PortMiami and South Florida political leaders but fought for years by environmentalists. In one count, a Corps contractor concluded that only a handful of coral showed stress — just 2 to 6 percent of the coral checked. But a Fisheries Service count of the same reef showed damage to 67 percent.

On Monday, five months after the agency asked the Corps to provide a complete survey, a Fisheries Service spokeswoman said the agency was still waiting. The Corps did not respond to repeated requests emailed Monday to several people.

Even as work winds down —the underwater excavation is expected to end this summer — tensions continue between agencies and groups monitoring the $205 million expansion which deepen the port to 52 feet by scooping up 6 million cubic yards of bay bottom.

More here.

August 13, 2015

Married same-sex couple sues Florida to list 2 moms on babies' birth certificates


via @SteveRothaus

The first same-sex couple to legally marry in Florida went back to court Thursday, one week after they had twins and the state refused to list the non-birth mother on the babies’ birth certificates.

Catherina Pareto and Karla P. Arguello of Coconut Grove, along with two other same-sex married couples who recently had children, sued Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong and state health department registrar Kenneth Jones in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

“Here we go again. It’s ridiculous,” said Pareto, who with Arguello, five other same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute, successfully sued in 2014 in for the right to marry in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

“Our twins were born last Thursday at Baptist Hospital,” Pareto said. “When it came time for Vital Records to prepare the birth certificates, when Karla requested that I be added as the second parent, I was denied.”

So far, the Florida Health Department has not publicly responded to the lawsuit. Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Pam Bondi, said the attorney general’s office “is not a party to this lawsuit” and has not discussed it with the health department.

More here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot, Miami Herald staff

City of Miami looking to unload riverside headquarters


Developers lusting for land on the Miami River have a new site on which they can salivate: the city of Miami's administrative headquarters.

The city is working with CBRE group to unload its Miami Riverside Center, according to City Manager Daniel Alfonso. The 320,000-square-foot complex, built in 1992, is located on two acres of land on the river's north bank, immediately east of I-95. The property has a market value of $22 million, according to the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser.

Alfonso said he's looking for a developer willing to build a new, larger, more modern administrative building on cheaper land and swap the property for the city's. Alfonso said the city would look to receive cash value if the property it receives is worth less than the land it is giving up.

The deal would require a voter referendum.

August 12, 2015

Former Miami commissioner's bar now included in marina solicitation


Miami administrators have reversed a decision to exclude a former city commissioner’s bayside bar and restaurant from a multi-million-dollar effort to redevelop the area around the Rickenbacker Marina.

City officials announced the change last week after the Miami Herald wrote about the Atlantica Seafood Restaurant & Market’s absence from a solicitation for proposals to operate an expanded marina and redevelop the surrounding area west of the Marine Stadium. The fish market, restaurant and supper club is operated by the family of former Miami Commissioner Armando Lacasa on a month-to-month management agreement.

The bar is located on a spit of land on the west side of Virginia Key, tucked amid dry boat storage stacks between the Rickenbacker Causeway and the Marine Stadium basin. Businessmen looking to bid on the marina solicitation said the restaurant’s exclusion inhibited their ability to design a top-notch facility, and questioned why the city would “gerrymander” the property out of its request for proposals.

Some believed the restaurant was set aside to benefit the Lacasas, even though the city is still owed $30,000 in unpaid rent on the building and the restaurant isn’t on the county’s tax rolls.

Armando Lacasa’s son, Carlos Lacasa -- who is considering bidding on the marina project -- has dismissed suggestions of favoritism, as has Mayor Tomas Regalado. City officials initially declined requests to include the property in the marina solicitation, but Regalado said they changed their minds after mulling it over.

“It became so complicated that the asset management people and the [city] manager said we should do it and get it over with,” he said.

August 11, 2015

Xavier Suarez won't rule out run for county mayor, but is running for reelection


Xavier Suarez doesn't want the talk of his potential mayoral run to end, but he is actively raising money to retain his seat on the county commission.

The former Miami mayor has publicly discussed his interest in challenging county Mayor Carlos Gimenez in the 2016 election and Suarez says he won't make a decision until the fall. But the latest batch of campaign-finance reports for the first time show Suarez raising money for his own commission seat.

Suarez holds the seat once filled by Gimenez in District 7, which includes Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, South Miami and parts of Miami. In July, Suarez raised $25,250 for his reelection campaign. He filed his candidacy papers July 1. 

Before the July report, Suarez limited contributions to his Imagine Miami political committee, and those funds can be used to indirectly support him in either race. Suarez held at least one small fund-raising reception in April and checks went to Imagine Miami.

But as he fills seats for a $200-a-head fundraising banquet on Oct. 10, he's having donors write checks to the "Xavier Suarez Campaign."  In past interviews, Suarez said he could always switch from a commission candidate to a mayoral candidate and then ask campaign donors for permission to shift their dollars to the other race. 

Continue reading "Xavier Suarez won't rule out run for county mayor, but is running for reelection" »

Fundraising slows, spending steady in Miami commission campaigns


WIth three months until election day, the Miami City Clerk's office has released campaign fundraising reports for the month of July, making two things clear:

  1. Candidates hoping to wrestle the powerful Miami Commission seat representing downtown away from the Sarnoffs are going to have to outwork them, because they're clearly not going to outspend them.
  2. Incumbents (and quasi-incumbents) are looking to veteran political consultant Steve Marin to help them stay in power

Fundraising reports for July show that Teresa Sarnoff's fundraising efforts hit a bit of a lull. In the first six months of the year, Sarnoff -- whose husband, Marc Sarnoff, is stepping down from the District 2 seat due to term limits -- raised more than $450,000, but she brought in only $18,400 in July. Still, her opponents weren't able to make up much ground, if any, and she maintains more than twice the buying power left of her best-funded competitor, Grace Solares.

Solares raised $32,000 in July between her campaign account and political committee, Taxpayers Engaged, which received a $20,000 contribution from Grove businessman Stephen Kneapler's SJK Advisors. Solares still had about $127,000 to spend at the start of August.

Ken Russell raised $11,000, but spent nearly all of that on television exposure and had about $33,000 left in his campaign coffers as of Aug. 1. Javier Gonzalez, who has mostly run a self-funded campaign, had less than $3,000 left in his account at the end of the month.

Combined, the four candidates have pumped $350,000 into the race on mailers, polling, neighborhood canvassing and political operatives. Gonzalez has paid $28,000 to Elias Egozi's Millennial Partnership. Russell has spent about $10,000 on Diez and Associates, run by Fernando Diez. Solares has paid Christian Ulvert's Edge Communications $12,000 and campaign manager Matt Williams $20,000. And Sarnoff has paid Steve Marin's Marin & Sons about $83,000 from her campaign account.

Marin has also been tapped by Francis Suarez to work for his re-election campaign, receiving about $12,000 so far. And Commission Chairman Wifredo "Willy" Gort paid Marin's firm $9,500 in July, the first month in which his campaign spent any of its cash.

This post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Elias Egozi's name.

August 10, 2015

Gimenez raises $101K in July to Regalado's $65K


Both candidates for Miami-Dade mayor saw a stream of campaign cash during the summer-vacation season. with deep-pocketed donors helping boost the totals for incumbent Carlos Gimenez and challenger Raquel Regalado

Numbers available Monday show Gimenez taking in $101,000 for his political committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, and Regalado, a two-term school board member, collecting $65,000 through her actual campaign and political committee, Serving Miamians. (Gimenez doesn't have a campaign committee because he hasn't yet filed to run for the 2016 race.) 

Gimenez's top donor for July was the Capo development group, which is Genting's partner in its Bimini casino. An affiliate of the Miami company, RJH Investments, gave $15,000. The July donations brought Gimenez's 2015 total to $1.3 million, with $235,000 spent so far. 

For Regalado,  developer Ricardo Tabet was the top donor. Through two corporate entities he gave $25,0000. The July influx of cash brings Regalado's 2015 total to about $422,000, with about $83,000 spent. 

For the second month in a row, Regalado's top donor, Miami auto magnate Norman Braman, wasn't on the list of donors. Braman gave $56,000 between the start of Regalado's campaign in March and his last $20,000 check in May. In a text message, Braman -- best known for his support of Sen. Marco Rubio -- said he still plans to actively back Regalado and will "support her in every way, including financially." 

Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado,

The expense sides of the campaigns are active, too -- particularly for Gimenez.

An older political committee of his, Common Sense Now, is receiving funds from Miami-Dade Residents First. Common Sense Now is using the money to pay a firm tied to former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo $6,000 a month in consulting fees. Carollo's firm, Consulting Associated Group, has earned $24,000 since April, according to finance reports.

Miami-Dade Residents First also continued to pay fund-raiser Brian Goldmeier's firm, BYG Strategies, $3,000 a week in July. Consultant Jesse Manzano-Plaza, part of the LSN lobbying and communications group, earns $7,000 a month for his part-time position with the committee and is paid through a company he formed in January, Tridente Strategies.

Regalado's brother, Jose, collected $5,000 from Serving Miamians in July for social-media work. That brings his total to $15,000 for the year. The committee also employed fund-raising firm Communication Solutions, which took in $7,581 in July and $29,000 so far for 2015.  The firm belongs to veteran fund-raiser Esther Nuhfer

August 07, 2015

Miami mayor: Marlins won't be deal-breaker for Beckham soccer stadium


An optimistic Tomas Regalado appeared on sports talk radio Friday morning to lay out the latest details of negotiations for a soccer stadium on public land and to downplay concerns that contractual rights held by the Miami Marlins over some of what happens next door could kill a deal with Miami Beckham United.

For several weeks now, Miami's mayor and other city leaders have been actively involved with negotiations with David Beckam's team for a stadium for an MLS franchise in Little Havana on land across from Marlins Park that is mostly owned by the city. Discussions remain preliminary, but a mini-firestorm erupted last week after Miami Today reported details of the Marlins stadium operating agreement that show the Marlins have some authority over a number of details about what goes on with a soccer stadium across the street, including stadium design and major sponsors.

Miami Beckham United has remained mum about how that complication affects their plans to play in Little Havana. But Marlins president David Samson took some steam out of concerns Thursday by telling the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson that the Marlins won't be an impediment to a soccer deal. And speaking to 104.3 The Ticket's Chris Wittyngham, Regalado said Friday that he doesn't see any one deal-breaker for a Miami soccer stadium. "I don’t see one single item to be the deal-breaker on this one unless the Beckham people say 'We don’t have the money,' which I believe that they do."

Continue reading "Miami mayor: Marlins won't be deal-breaker for Beckham soccer stadium" »

August 06, 2015

On White House call, it's Jarrett, Lynch and...Gimenez


When the White House held a press call Thursday touting the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, it put three people on the phone: Attorney General Loretta Lynch, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and... Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Miami-Dade's senior Republican was tapped to highlight the county’s efforts to fix the debacle of an Election Day in 2012, when thousands of voters waited hours in lines at overwhelmed precincts.

“It is a county that had challenges in the past, and they worked really hard to overcome those challenges,” Jarrett said. “We wanted to put the spotlight on a model that shows you can improve.”

More here.

Miami commission candidate submits qualifying petitions


Candidates for Miami's District 2 commission race won't qualify to run for another month, but Grace Solares got a jump on the competition Thursday when she submitted more than 1,000 voter signatures to the city clerk in order to waive the city's qualifying fee.

Solares, a longtime Miami activist, needed a little more than 400 signatures (1 percent of District 2's registered voters) to waive the nominal fee, but said she turned in more than 1,000 signatures. Solares said she has been collecting signatures since February, when she began knocking on doors.

"This shows me that I have the support of the people. It’s very easy to just go ahead and file and come and pay $410, whatever it is," she said. "But I wanted to do it this way to see the response of the people, see when I knocked on their doors the recognition of my name, the recognition of what I’ve done throughout these almost 20 years.”

Submitting petitions can be interpreted as a sign to Solares' opponents that she has a solid base of voters in an election where voter turnout is likely to be low. But qualifying by petition doesn't guarantee victory or even votes, as Williams Armbrister learned in 2011 when he avoided paying the qualifying fee but netted only 190 votes.

Solares is one of nine candidates in the race to claim the seat of term-limited Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. Election day is Nov. 3.