November 17, 2015

More Marco Rubio fliers hit Miami mailboxes, to recruit volunteers


Two fliers from Marco Rubio's presidential campaign have hit Miami mailboxes in the past week, urging supporters to sign up to volunteer for the Republican U.S. senator (though he doesn't yet have a Florida campaign office).

One is personalized to list the recipient's street so the person can "make sure" it "is Marco Rubio country!" The other one boasts Rubio "received an A rating from the NRA, acquired a 100% pro-life voting record, stopped Charlie Crist's liberal agenda and proposed the largest tax cut in Florida history."

It's not Rubio's first round of mail in his home state.

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November 16, 2015

Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho may get a raise, promises to donate his salary


Speculation about the future of Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho may help him land a raise.

But Carvalho insists he’s not leaving before his contract is up in 2020, and on Monday he offered a bold promise: that he’d donate his salary back to the school district in his last year of service.

“I want that to be my gift to the community -- one year’s worth of salary,” he said, noting the end of his contract will mark 30 years of service with the school district. 


Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times called Carvalho a top contender to lead that city’s school system, the second largest in the country. That prompted Miami-Dade school board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman to ask Carvalho at a committee meeting Monday whether the 2014 Superintendent of the Year was contemplating the offer.

Carvalho, once again, said no.

“I love this community. I love what we’re doing,” he said. “I cannot see myself doing my work with anybody else.”

But the latest speculation about Carvalho’s future was enough for Hantman to recommend opening up the superintendent’s contract for renegotiation. In response, the board lavished Carvalho with praise for his work -- Marta Perez Wurtz described him as being as close to perfect as possible -- and multiple members suggested he’s due for a raise.

“There is a price you pay for not having someone like you. So with that, I would like to say that we have to address you. We have not given you a raise,” said board member Lubby Navarro.

Carvalho’s base salary is $318,000, according to his contract. That’s less than his predecessor, who made $345,000. Carvalho, who became superintendent in 2008, said he wants to keep it that way.

He also said he has already given back the equivalent of one year of his salary through a variety of ways, like allowing vacation time to expire, donating speaking fees and sticking with the same SUV his predecessor drove.

“It is the fair thing to do,” he said.

Hantman said she plans on bringing an agenda item to discuss the superintendent’s contract to the board’s December meeting.

Obama to award Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gloria and Emilio Estefan



President Barack Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to Gloria and Emilio Estefan, a source told the Miami Herald on Monday.

The Cuban-American power couple from Miami will be among the17  medal recipients named by the White House on Monday afternoon, along with other luminaries such as the late baseball player and manager Yogi Berra, theater composer Stephen Sondheim and film director Steven Spielberg. Obama will present the medals Nov. 24 at the White House.

Singer Gloria Estefan will be recognized as an artist "who introduced Latin music to a global audience." Her husband, music producer Emilio Estefan, will be recognized for having "influenced a generation of artists" and "helped popularize Latin music around the world."

A publicist for the couple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Estefans have been involved in politics for years. They hosted a fundraiser with Obama at their Miami Beach home in 2010 -- while maintaining that their interest in politics is nonpartisan -- and Gloria Estefan asked Obama questions for a Univision program in 2009. Earlier that year, Obama had named Emilio Estefan to a commission to study the creation of a national Latino museum.

The 17 recipients are: Yogi Berra (posthumous), Bonnie CarrollShirley Chisholm (posthumous), Emilio EstefanGloria Estefan, Billy Frank, Jr. (posthumous), Lee HamiltonKatherine G. JohnsonWillie Mays, Barbara Mikulski, Itzhak Perlman, William RuckelshausStephen SondheimSteven SpielbergBarbra StreisandJames Taylor and Minoru Yasui (posthumous).

Photo courtesy HBO

Broadcaster Raquel Regalado, running for Miami-Dade mayor while on the air

Gimenez regalado tv show


On a recent Thursday afternoon, an elderly woman was in tears when she phoned Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado. They talked about the hard life that can await immigrants from Cuba, and the bittersweet value of resiliency.

“My husband left me when I was very young,” the woman told Regalado in choked-up Spanish. “I have two healthy hands and two legs. I don’t need any help.”

The talk may have been personal, but the setting was far from intimate. Regalado listened from her regular perch behind a microphone at La Poderosa 670 AM, where she hosts an afternoon call-in show with a following among Miami’s Cuban community.

“I am grateful to your generation,” Regalado, 41, told the caller. “You are the ones who made it possible for me to be here.”

Nine months into her bid to unseat Carlos Gimenez in the 2016 county mayoral race, Regalado finds herself well behind in both polling and fundraising. But even the incumbent mayor of Florida’s largest county hasn’t matched Regalado when it comes to broadcast time. Regalado hosts her hourlong La Poderosa show, Las Dos Caras de la Noticia (“The Two Faces of the News”) Monday through Thursday and then anchors a weekly public affairs show on Mira TV every Sunday morning.

Regalado’s near daily presence on the local airwaves provide a uniquely Miami lens for viewing her campaign to unseat Gimenez, 61, and become Miami-Dade’s first female mayor. And they’re raising questions about both her financial arrangements with the broadcasters, and the propriety of an active candidate having such ready access to the airwaves.

She brings to the race a political and media legacy inherited from parents Tomás and Raquel Regalado, once the leading couple of Miami’s Spanish-language radio. Regalado followed her father into elected politics — she’s a two-term member of the school board while he’s finishing up his second term as Miami’s mayor. And she followed her mother and namesake into the radio booth, taking over at La Poderosa after the elder Raquel Regalado died suddenly in 2008.

“My mom’s voice wasn’t silenced once she passed away,” said Tomás Regalado Jr., the oldest of the three Regalado children and a producer at the federally funded TV Martí in Miami. “She has continued what my mom did for so many years.”

More here

November 12, 2015

David Beckham meets with schools chief at SoHo House during Miami swing


Trying to close a stadium deal with local governments, David Beckham this week greeted the man who would be his landlord: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

The Wednesday meeting was at Miami Beach's SoHo Beach House, the luxe hotel and private club that is Beckham's regular base of operations during visits to the Miami area.

"We spent a lot of time talking about kids," Carvalho said Thursday night. "I came away feeling very comfortable about the decency of this guy."

The unannounced meeting was one stop on Beckham's Miami swing, which included filming part of a soccer documentary for UNICEF and a nighttime visit with the University of Miami women's soccer team. Beckham, a global fashion icon, was photographed wearing an orange T-Shirt emblazoned with "The U" in photos posted on Twitter from the encounter.

Beckham's appearances come as his two-year stadium quest has never been closer to a final deal, but also as his negotiators warn it could still fall apart over real estate prices.

The plan is for his investment group to pay for a $200 million stadium to rise next to Marlins Park on a mix of privately-owned land and parcels currently owned by the city of Miami. Beckham's group has agreed to pay Miami for the real estate, while negotiating separate deals with the private owners.

The stadium and site would be transferred to the school system in order to shield it from property taxes, and in exchange Beckham's group would provide free space for large school events and some form of sports-related education for visiting classes and students. The Beckham group would also sponsor some school activities, including buying band uniforms and supplies.  

Carvalho said Beckham's people contacted him early in the week about a meeting.

The sit down marks something of a do-over for the Beckham group, which failed to invite school officials to a VIP reception with the soccer star in early 2014. The who's-who event launched Beckham's extended pursuit of a stadium site, and the stream of party pics of politicians and business leaders posing with the soccer celebrity came to represent the limits of star power to overcome political complications and commercial interests in Miami. 

Carvalho said no photos were taken at his afternoon meeting with Beckham. "When I met Mr. Beckham, I was clear in telling him that I've seen how he comes to town, and everybody wants a Beckham kiss and a hug and a Beckham selfie. I said I'll take a Beckham handshake. He laughed."

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Marco Rubio unveils campaign chairs in all Florida counties


ORLANDO -- Marco Rubio unveiled a list Thursday of supporters for his presidential candidacy in every Florida county.

Rubio has lagged behind Jeb Bush in home-state endorsements. But the sitting U.S. senator is the one climbing in presidential polls, sticking to his strategy of rolling out his campaign slowly and methodically in an effort to save money and not peak too soon.

His campaign published the names a few hours before Rubio was scheduled to speak at the Republican Party of Florida's annual Statesman's Dinner in Orlando, and before a two-day party event featuring Rubio and 12 of his rivals for the 2016 nomination. Rubio will open the Sunshine Summit on Friday.

Rubio named a campaign chairman in all 67 Florida counties, and named other supporters from the state legislature and municipalities. In June, Rubio announced his Florida effort would be headed by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney and former House Majority Leader Rep. Adam Hasner.

"These county chairs are proof that Floridians are tired of electing the same politicians with the same 20th Century ideas and are eager to embrace Marco's vision for a vibrant 21st Century," Rooney said in a statement. 

In his own statement, Hasner noted many of them are "new to the political arena."

Notable South Florida backers include Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, Miami-Dade County Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Rebeca Sosa. Sosa was Rubio's political godmother in West Miami, where he began his career in elected office; two current city leaders -- West Miami Mayor Eduardo Muhina and Vice Mayor Juan Blanes -- have endorsed Rubio.

The Miami-Dade list also includes Miami Young Republicans President Jessica Fernandez.

Here is the full list:

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November 11, 2015

Miami Commissioner 'Willy' Gort sworn in to fourth term


Reelected Nov. 3 by a wide margin, Miami Commissioner Wifredo "Willy" Gort was sworn in Wednesday to a fourth term in office overseeing Miami's first district.

Gort, a 74-year-old former investment banker, will serve four more years representing Allapattah, Flagami, the city's health district and Grapeland. Miami's charter limits elected officials to two consecutive full terms. Gort served two terms in the 1990s, took a nearly decade-long break after running an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 2001, and was elected back into office in 2010 after former Commissioner Angel Gonzalez was removed from office due to public corruption charges.

Gort won the Nov. 3 election for District 1 by 11 points.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Army veteran gathered at city hall with family and supporters to launch his (likely) final term on the commission. He said his immediate priorities are to push money into fixing streets and sidewalks in some neglected neighborhoods, and to boost transportation options.

"You walk through the city of Miami and you see all the needs, especially the old neighborhoods," he said. "A lot of streets are in very bad shape."

Miami Beach mayor called 'Bloomberg South' in Vanity Fair story on sea-level rise



Fresh off his reelection last week, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine may see his political stock rise even higher after publication of a Vanity Fair story titled Can Miami Beach Survive Global Warming? paints the mayor in a very favorable light for pushing the city's anti-flooding pumps program amid rising tides.

Levine, a wealthy cruise industry entrepreneur, is compared to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg no less than four times in the piece, which delves into the Beach's uncertain future in the face of sea-level rise and the pumps plan. The article comes on the heels of the Miami Herald's two-part series on the topic, published before last month's king tides.

Beach officials started planning for how to deal with sea rise a few years before Levine was elected, and the mayor was part of a more recent team of a politicians and engineers who trumpeted the pumps and raising roads as a newer, better solution — even though scientists are still studying what the environmental impacts the expelled water may have on Biscayne Bay.

This kind of positive press on a timely issue might play into Levine's future political aspirations, if he has them. Rumors persist that he does, and he is often mentioned in conversations about potential Democratic candidates for governor or U.S. Senate in 2018.

Levine has stressed that he’s focused on the next two years in Miami Beach. Still, he's building political capital locally and across the state. Last year, he paid to advertise his own "State of the City" speech in another big Florida market — the Tampa Bay area.

Committees behind Miami election attacks claim they spent no money


Two political organizations out of Tampa that produced mailers last month ripping a candidate seeking Miami's District 2 commission seat have claimed in financial disclosures with the state that they brought in and spent no money in October, a possible violation of state law.

The political committee Working Together for Families sent at least two mailers just ahead of the election attacking Grace Solares over the source of her campaign funds and her career as an activist. An electioneering organization called Committee for Progressive Values also sent mailers attacking Solares, who ultimately finished third in the race, won by Ken Russell.

None of the candidates campaigning for the position claimed association with the mailers, and both organizations showed little to no funds in their coffers as of the start of October. Financial reports due with the state Tuesday were expected to reveal who was attacking Solares. But the state records show both committees filed a report waiver, meaning they had no financial activity.

"I was shocked to see that Progressive Values and Working Together for Families filed waivers of no activity in October given the fact they sent multiple mailers in October attacking Grace Solares," said Christian Ulvert, Solares' political consultant.

Anthony Pedicini, the political operative listed as the registered agent for the Committee for Progressive Values, did not respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment. A call to a number listed for Working Together for Families was likewise not returned.

State law shows political committees and electioneering organizations must report contributions and expenditures. They are prohibited from claiming ownership of a political advertisement that they did not pay for. The Florida Elections Commission can issue civil fines for violations.

"This flies in the face of disclosure requirements and is another example of how we have a broken campaign finance system in our state," Ulvert.

A spokeswoman with the Florida Division of Elections, the entity which accepts campaign reports, has not yet responded with a comment.

Shake-up in Miami-Dade commission chairman's office


Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Jean Monestime has dismissed his chief of staff, Gerard Philippeaux, as Monestime prepares for the final year in his two-year term as presiding officer of the 13-member board. 

There was no explanation offered for Philippeaux's firing, which was officially carried out by a blunt letter from Monestime to Philippeaux on Monday.

"I want to sincerely thank you for your committed service to the residents of District 2 and the Office of the Chair," Monestime wrote. "Effective immediately, you are placed on administrative leave and should no longer report to work."

The letter said Philippeaux's last day on the payroll would be Nov. 20, and invited him to seek other opportunities within county government. "I wish you success in your future endeavors," Monestime concluded. 

In a statement, Monestime called the commission veteran a "consummate professional" and said "the separation was on good terms." Philippeaux, who has worked for Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and former commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, said "I had a lot of fun for the past 14 years. I have no regrets."

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