August 05, 2015

Donald Trump wins! In Doral, Florida

By Daniel Hidalgo

Five months ago, Doral’s council presented Donald Trump with the key to the city.

“I feel so proud,” Mayor Luigi Boria told the owner of the Trump National Doral. “On behalf of the residents of the city of Doral, and on behalf of our city council, to give you the keys of the city of Doral because I think you deserve it. Thank you for what you’ve done.

Then in June, as Trump announced his GOP candidacy for president, he accused Mexican immigrants of “bringing crime, drugs and rape” to the United States.

Wednesday night, Mexican-born Doral Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz proposed a motion to publicly denounce Trump and demand the city take back its key. About 75 people, representing a coalition of residents, Hispanic labor unions, business interests, student and political organizations, came to City Hall to protest Trump.

Outside the council chambers, they chanted: “Donald Trump ... You’re fired!”

Inside the chambers, protesters held signs reading “Dump The Trump,” “Trump, You're Fired” and “What Do The People Say? Trump Out.”

Councilman Pete Cabrera requested all banners be removed from the chambers; the rest of the council shot down him down.

"If you can't take away Trump's key, I suggest the city change all the locks," said speaker Adrian Madriz, 27, who addressed the council in Spanish, even though he speaks English and was educated in the United States.

Several Doral residents said at the meeting the council shouldn’t give Trump so much importance.

After more than an hour of discussion, the council rejected Ruiz’s motion to take back the key.

Boria, Cabrera and Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez voted no; Ruiz and Councilwoman Christi Fraga voted yes.

The mayor said during the discussion that it was inappropriate to waste the city’s time on a such a “political issue.”

South Florida city home to Donald Trump golf resort considers rebuking him


The city council of Doral, a Miami suburb home to the Trump National Doral golf resort, may rebuke Donald Trump on Wednesday over his comments about Mexican immigrants.

Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, plans to file a resolution condemning Trump's remarks.

The resolution would not ask Trump, a Republican, to return the symbolic "key to the city" bestowed upon him -- after much controversy -- in March shortly after the city welcomed Miss Universe contestants (Trump partly owns the pageant organization). However, Ruiz suggested to el Nuevo Herald that revoking the key might be possible if another council member brought up the idea. A group of liberal-leaning community organizations has called on the city to do so.

Trump "has invested millions of dollars in a Doral property...and we wanted to be good neighbors, investing in Miss Universe because we knew it would be greatly beneficial to us," Ruiz, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post, told el Nuevo Herald. "But we also recognize that he was wrong, that his comments were very strong, very offensive and, from my point of view, racist."

Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, who was born in Venezuela, has also criticized Trump's remarks.

Trump reported in a financial disclosure form last month that Trump National Doral was his single highest source of income last year.

August 04, 2015

Florida elections chief tells Miami-Dade it wants succession plan for retiring supervisor


Saying he's "concerned" about the 2016 presidential election, Florida's elections chief has asked the Miami-Dade County mayor to plan for the approaching retirement of the local elections supervisor who oversaw an Election Day plagued with problems in 2012.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent Mayor Carlos Gimenez a letter last week requesting a written succession for how Miami-Dade will ensure a smooth transition after the retirement of Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley.

"As the state's chief election officer, I am concerned that Ms. Townsley's pending retirement may cause disruption in the orderly preparation, planning, and processes for the 2016 elections in Florida's most populous county unless the county has a satisfactory transition plan well in advance of Supervisor Townsley's departure date," Detzner wrote July 28.

The situation is unusual because Townsley is the only elections supervisor in the state who is appointed by the county mayor, rather than elected by voters. She has a mandatory retirement date of May 1, 2016, as part of the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, better known as DROP, which allows veteran public employees to set their last day of work up to five years in advance.

Detzner noted the May 1 date is six weeks after Florida's March 15 presidential primary and right before state and county candidates have to qualify for an August state primary.

Continue reading "Florida elections chief tells Miami-Dade it wants succession plan for retiring supervisor" »

July 31, 2015

Miami City Hall gets one-day pass for not responding to you


For one day, Miami City Hall gets a pass for ignoring your emails and phone calls.

An electrical surge Friday morning at Miami’s police headquarters knocked out power to the building and shut down computer systems for the department and the municipal administration, according to city officials.

Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes said the power spike happened after midnight, and 400 NW Second Ave. went dark. Computers in the building went down. Police officers were still able to use their laptops, and 911 calls went to a backup center at the Coconut Grove firefighter training facility, he said.

The city administration keeps its servers at the police department and lost its connection as well. The public couldn't access documents and city employees couldn't accept calls at their office or emails to their city addresses.

City Manager Daniel Alfonso texted that the city was getting by “with difficulty.”

Llanes said the department was getting back online around 5 p.m., but emails and the city’s website were still down as of this posting.

July 30, 2015

Miami commissioner hand-delivers publicly funded 'accomplishment' books


Knock Knock. Who's there?

Marc. Marc who?

Marc Sarnoff, the Miami commissioner who did all those great things for you over the last nine years.

Variations of this conversation have taken place the last few weeks, as Miami's District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has walked door-to-door hand-delivering bags from his office with a glossy booklet inside touting his accomplishments. The 50-page promotional piece, filled with flattering quotes from public figures like developer Jorge Perez, lays out Sarnoff's role in downtown's resurgence, the revitalization of neighborhoods like Wynwood, massive infrastructure projects like the Port Tunnel, and a series of smaller neighborhood initiatives.

Sarnoff says his office and the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) created and paid for the document, and he produced about 800 of them. He says he wants to make sure history accurately remembers his tenure.

“I think it’s important for people to know what we’ve done and – we’re not done yet -- but where we’ll likely end up,” he said.

Sarnoff said he and his staff have worked on the book for years, and its distribution coincides with the end of his time in office due to term limits. But it also comes as Teresa Sarnoff, his wife, campaigns to claim his seat in a November election. The booklet – which includes some pictures and mentions of her work – has some critics questioning why the public should pay for the Sarnoffs’ self-promotion.

“This isn’t a book about District 2. It’s a book about Marc,” said District 2 candidate Ken Russell. “It’s simply a cheerleading puff piece for himself.”

Continue reading "Miami commissioner hand-delivers publicly funded 'accomplishment' books" »

In Miami-Dade, almost a third of pre-schoolers live in poverty


One of the battle lines being drawn this year at the Miami-Dade County Commission is how best to address poverty in the county.

Jean Monestime, the new chair of the commission, launched a prosperity task force that's explored a series of proposals, including banning questions about arrests on employment applications, encouraging workforce housing, and reducing transportation costs. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is constructing a reelection strategy that relies in part on his anti-poverty efforts, including his Employ Miami-Dade hiring program and the reconstruction of the Liberty Square housing project.

Now, the county's economic-research arm is releasing a series of reports sure to surface in that ongoing discussion. The first installment dropped this week, and highlighted the start divide between Miami-Dade's wealthiest and poorest. From our story:

About 30 percent of Miami-Dade’s youngest children live in poverty, highlighting the income gap in a county where the poorest residents earn less than $170 a week.

The findings from a new county analysis of Census data reinforce Miami-Dade’s status as a prime example of the income divide: The wealthiest fifth of the population earned an average of $176,876 in 2013, compared with $8,829 for the poorest fifth.

“The extreme level of inequality — that jumped out,” said Robert Hesler, an author of the report titled Income & Poverty in Miami-Dade County: 2013.

More here

Miami-Dade Police gets to approve followers for new Twitter account aimed at reporters

via @ChuckRabin

Joining the social media revolution in full force, Miami-Dade County Police now have two Twitter portals -- but the general public can only see one of them. 

@MiamiDadePD is open for everyone to see, but @MDPDmedia is only for reporters, with the eighth-largest police force in the nation acting as the sole arbiter over who gets to follow the tweets. 

That seems like a no-no under Florida's broad public-records laws, but Miami-Dade Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said the practice is no different than many other police departments around the country and some local politicians like County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro (@BrunoABarreiro).  

Zabaleta does acknowledge tweets on @MDPDmedia must be provided to the public as requested but said the main goal is to keep local media up-to-date on minutiae like where public information officers plan to talk to cameras at crime scenes.

"I don't think the community needs to know where the staging area is," he said.

Earlier this year Broward/Palm Beach New Times jumped all over the Broward Sheriff's Office after learning filmmaker Billy Corben's Twitter account, @BillyCorben, had been blocked. BSO relented and and unblocked Corben. The problem wasn't Corben's tweets -- it was the thousands of his loyal followers who hammered away at BSO (@browardsheriff). 

Corben said he understands how aggravating that could be to law enforcement, but in the long run they would be better off being as open as possible to the public.

"Politicians and public agencies that block people from Twitter accounts just don't understand social media," said Corben. "It's what the kids call 'a bad look.' It looks like you have something to hide." 


Miami commissioner vows to 'silence the rabblerousers'


Tiring of criticisms and outside narratives of his job as a freshman Miami Commissioner, Keon Hardemon and his staff hosted a two-hour event at the historic Lyric Theater Wednesday in order to directly tout his accomplishments to the people who live in his district.

Hardemon, elected in 2013 to represent Liberty City, Overtown, Little Haiti, Wynwood and much of the Upper Eastside, drew hundreds to the Overtown theater, where a standing-room-only crowd watched a teenage filmmaker's video tribute to Hardemon and an interpretive dance, and listened to a 25-minute "state of the district" speech.

Hardemon talked about jumpstarting faltered efforts to upgrade Charles Hadley and African Square Park, issuing up to $60 million in bonds for long-delayed affordable housing and renovation projects in and around Overtown, and opening the Caribbean Marketplace in Little Haiti. He also passed an ordinance that guarantees workers on city-funded construction projects a responsible wage, and negotiated millions over the coming decades from the operators of Bayside Marketplace for a city agency tasked with revitalizing Liberty City.

Hardemon has been criticized by some who believe he has become inaccessible to the public while engaging in backroom deals. He has been hammered over the outcome of negotiations to give as much as $108 million in property taxes back to the developer of the Miami Worldcenter in exchange for local workforce and wage guarantees.

But Hardemon – who in recent months has held public meetings to discuss negotiations for projects like a Tri-Rail link downtown -- invited his critics to the event as well, and capped his speech by urging the hundreds of seniors, teenagers, activists and politicians in attendance to ignore his naysayers.

“The next time someone says to you that our office hasn’t made any progress, I want you to emphatically tell them that that’s not true. Things are happening in District 5” he said, talking about plans to fight slumlords and shrink Miami’s large income gap. “It is through those actions that we’ll continue to silence the rabble-rousers who incite our community and want us to live on forever as victims of circumstance. We must rid our communities of those who pretend to love us only to prosper from our despair.”

Kiara Garland, a media representative in Hardemon’s office, said the Lyric Theater waived a fee to rent its hall, but Hardemon’s office paid to staff the event. She said a cost of the event will be provided to the Miami Herald later Thursday.

July 29, 2015

Internal Affairs closes probe of Miami FOP president


A politically charged internal affairs probe tied to a failed reality series on the Miami Police Department has been closed without any finding of fault against Police union president Lt. Javier Ortiz.

Ortiz has been under investigation since late May, when he shared a video teaser of Miami Blue, produced by Coconut Grove-based Entertainment Dynamix. The company received permission from the city to film police in 2013, and some of the footage produced featured scantily clad female officers.

Ortiz told the media it was being used by the department to recruit new officers. He said he knew that to be true because former police chief Manuel Orosa told him during the 2013 Ultra Music Festival that crews filming police work at the event were working on a recruiting film.

Orosa said that's not true. And after stories ran in The Miami Herald and on WPLG-10, Orosa filed a complaint with Internal Affairs saying Ortiz violated department protocol requiring honesty from Miami's officers.

Internal affairs closed the case last week and ruled the allegation inconclusive. Ortiz said he received a copy of an investigative close-out memo Wednesday and provided it to the Miami Herald.

"What a waste of manpower and resources, especially at a time that we have a rising crime rate and a shortage of police officers," he wrote.

Download OrtizIA

WSJ: Top donor to Jeb Bush super PAC is Miami billionaire Mike Fernandez

From the Wall Street Journal:

A Texas oil man, a Wall Street financier and several former U.S. ambassadors are among the top donors to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, providing hard evidence the Republican establishment is rallying to his presidential candidacy as he girds for a long primary battle.

Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-American billionaire who gave $3 million, is the biggest donor to the Right to Rise super PAC, which set a record fundraising pace and bested all of Mr. Bush’s rivals—Democrats and Republicans—by amassing $103 million in the first six months of 2015.

The names help confirm that the Republican establishment, supplemented with a healthy dash of Florida financial backers from Mr. Bush’s days as governor, are prepared to deliver a powerful flow of money that no other GOP candidate is likely to match.

More here (subscription required).