May 28, 2015

Miami cops couldn't get uniforms, played basketball

@NewsbySmiley

For three weeks, and perhaps longer, about a dozen Miami police officers played basketball and twiddled their thumbs because the department couldn't get them uniforms, according to Police Chief Rudy Llanes.

Speaking Thursday during Miami's bi-annual commission meeting, Llanes acknowledged that 13 officers went weeks without uniforms recently after the department's vendor defaulted on a contract. He said the problem delayed the officers' "scenario-based training," but the department has now contracted with an emergency vendor.

Llanes acknowledged the problem after Commissioner Marc Sarnoff noted the city's police union had raised the issue. Fraternal Order of Police president Lt. Javier Ortiz then said there are two female officers who have been waiting since January, which Llanes couldn't confirm or deny.

"They are sitting around. They are waiting," he said.

There are about 1,150 officers in the Miami Police Department.

May 27, 2015

In Miami, Obama sets stage for Democratic donors to wade into 2016

@PatriciaMazzei

In Miami, the early 2016 presidential campaign has for months played out as the Jeb and Marco Show, starring two Republican hometown candidates with little attention paid to anyone else.

Now it’s Democrats’ turn to vie for the spotlight.

President Barack Obama unofficially kicked off his political party’s own local fund-raising season Wednesday, attending a pair of $33,400-per-person events in Coconut Grove to benefit the Democratic National Committee for next year’s election.

Though he didn’t name her, Obama set the stage for his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to ramp up her own check-collecting from South Florida’s well-heeled donors. Clinton has two private receptions planned for Thursday in the Grove and Coral Gables, followed by two more events Friday in Parkland and outside Orlando.

“An eight-year span in the life of a country is pretty short,” Obama said. “We can get a lot done, but part of what we’re also doing is laying the foundation so that we then pass that baton to the next administration, and we institutionalize some of the progress that we’ve been making.”

More here.

May 26, 2015

Virginia governor, a Hillary Clinton ally, backs Florida state Senate candidate

@PatriciaMazzei

It's not typical for another state's sitting governor to make a political donation to a Florida Senate candidate -- especially when that candidate technically isn't running until 2020.

But that's what happened last month: Andrew Korge accepted a $1,000 contribution from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and another $1,000 from McAuliffe's wife, Dorothy.

Korge is the son of Chris Korge, a longtime friend and major fund-raiser for 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe chaired Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, and earlier worker for her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The younger Korge filed to run for Democratic state Sen. Gwen Margolis' Miami-based seat once Margolis is term-limited in 2020. The early campaign positions Andrew Korge to make a run for the seat in 2016 if Margolis decides to retire.

"It is especially meaningful to me that the Governor and First Lady of Virginia have taken an interest in our campaign," Korge said in a statement. "Florida, Virginia, and many states in the Union have similar challenges in this new century," he added, listing climate change and education among them.

By tapping his family's fund-raising network in Florida and elsewhere, Korge has been able to raise more than $126,000 since March 17 -- an aggressive number he probably hopes will make others think twice before running in the race. So far, the only other Democrat with an account is state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach.

(UPDATE: A political committee backing Korge -- aptly named Friends of Andrew Korge, and run by his dad -- has raised another $201,000.)

Richardson, who registered for the 2016 election but said he'd only run if Margolis retired, didn't report any fund-raising in April during the annual lawmaking session, when legislators are banned from collecting campaign checks.

May 21, 2015

Miami Mayor helping District 2 candidate fundraise

via @NewsbySmiley

Things might be getting a little awkward at Miami City Hall from here on out.

Mayor Tomas Regalado is helping District 2 candidate Grace Solares raise funds for her bid to claim the seat of term-limited Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, according to Solares' campaign. Her most notable opponent: Sarnoff's wife, Teresa Sarnoff.

On Thursday, Solares' camp sent out an email inviting supporters to join the mayor and other supporters in raising money for the candidate and long-time neighborhood activist. And while it's been known that Regalado was supportive of Solares -- he gave $100 to her campaign in November and reportedly appeared at a past fundraiser -- he has not publicly endorsed her so far nor actively campaigned for her in the past.

Regalado did not return multiple requests for comment Thursday. The press release from Solares' campaign is below:

Continue reading "Miami Mayor helping District 2 candidate fundraise" »

Marco Rubio to host South Florida fundraisers for Iowa senator

@PatriciaMazzei

To court Iowa, Marco Rubio plans to host three events next week for Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley -- in South Florida.

Grassley will hit three counties on Tuesday: Miami-Dade for breakfast, Broward for lunch and Palm Beach for dinner, according to an invitation emailed Thursday to some of Rubio's local political donors.

Breakfast will take place at the Coral Gables office of Jorge Luis Lopez, an attorney and lobbyist; lunch at the Pompano Beach headquarters of Allegiance Crane & Equipment, an equipment-rental company whose chief executive is Jim Robertson; and dinner at the Palm Beach home of Amanda and Chuck Schumacher, an auto dealer. 

Donors will have to fork over $1,000 each -- or $2,700 to get more access -- for the breakfast and lunch. Dinner with Grassley requires a $10,400 contribution, though $2,700 will get donors into a larger reception. The money will go to Grassley Hawkeye Fund, the senator's political committee.

"Chairman Grassley -- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee -- has been very supportive of our friend and Miami's native son, Marco Rubio in Iowa and we proudly want to reciprocate," Lopez wrote in an email to supporters Thursday.

As one of two Republican senators in Iowa, which holds the first presidential caucuses of 2016, Grassley is used to being wined and dined by candidates. Jeb Bush attended a fund-raising lunch for Grassley in Iowa City last week.

May 18, 2015

Elián González, now 21, tells ABC News he'd like to visit Miami

BY JORGE CORRALES

Elián González, the 6-year-old boy who was on every Miami television screen in 2000, made his way back to American airwaves Monday morning.

In an interview with Jim Avila of ABC News, he opened up about his his life in Cuba and his feelings toward the United States.

“I want to take the time to thank the American people for their love,” González said in English.

Elián first came into the public eye in 1999 when fishermen found him clinging to an inner tube in the Atlantic. A boat carrying his mother and 10 other Cubans fleeing the country capsized, killing everyone aboard — except the young boy.

“I was floating alone in the middle of the sea, that’s the last thing I remember,” he told ABC in the first of several interviews airing through the day and evening.

His rescue led to an international custody battle between his father, Juan Miguel González, and his Miami relatives who took him in.

The standoff ended in April 2000 when armed federal agents entered the Miami home where Elián was staying and seized the boy. Within hours, he was on a plane back to Cuba.

That 6-year-old boy is now a 21-year-old man with a beard and a fiancée.

In the interview, he said that he is not angry with his American relatives. He even added that he would like to visit the United States one day.

He also said he would visit his family in Miami again — under one condition that the network did not immediately reveal.

Part of the interview aired early on Good Morning America. Other parts will air Monday evening onWorld News Tonight with David Murr and on Nightline.

May 17, 2015

Miami-Dade County to finish redrawing voter precincts

@PatriciaMazzei

Voting lineAt long last, Miami-Dade County plans to finish drawing new voter precincts, a once-a-decade task that contributed to waits of up to seven hours outside the polls on Election Day in 2012.

Later this year, the Miami-Dade elections department plans to send updated registration cards to the county’s nearly 1.3 million voters. About 12 percent of them will find they’ve been moved to a different polling place, under a proposal scheduled for county commissioners’ approval Tuesday.

That’s far less than the 55 percent of voters Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said last year would be displaced in 2015. Her office redrew a minimal number of precinct boundaries — only the ones of the most crowded precincts — to displace as few voters as possible before the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Last year’s moves, coupled with the purchase of electronic voter sign-in devices and the expansion of early voting, proved more effective than expected, so Townsley’s department no longer intends to be as aggressive in redrawing the rest of the precincts. There were no embarrassing lines last November.

Her more modest proposal is better because it affects fewer voters, Townsley told commissioners last week.

“It costs less,” she added. “It provides more compact precincts with improved voter distribution across the county.”

More here.

Photo credit: David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald

May 15, 2015

For Miami-Dade's 2016 mayoral race, the paid teams assemble

@doug_hanks

As the 2016 Miami-Dade mayoral race heats up, so does the spending.

Joe Carollo, best known as a former Miami mayor but most recently an embattled manager of Doral, is working as a consultant for the reelection effort of incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Carollo worked for Gimenez's 2012 campaign, too, and an allied Gimenez committee is paying Carollo $6,000 a month through the firm Consulting Associates Group, according to finance records and interviews. Gimenez served as city manager of Miami when Carollo was the city's mayor in the early 2000s. Carollo was fired from his Doral job in April 2014. 

"We've always had a close relationship," Carollo said Friday. 

The committee, Miami-Dade Residents First, has raised more than $1 million and last month paid pollster Dario Moreno $19,000. In April, Jesse Manzano-Plaza, a lobbyist and Gimenez's 2012 campaign manager, signed on for a $7,000-a-month part-time job as committee spokesman and consultant. Professional fundraiser Brian Goldmeier's firm is so far earning $3,000 a week working for the committee. 

Gimenez's rival, Raquel Regalado, also is assembling a team. Records filed by the committee she's using to challenge Gimenez, Serving Miamians, show one of her brothers, Jose Regalado, earning $10,000 since February for social-media work. He's received about $57,000 from the committee since 2013, when Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, father to both Regalados, was using the committee for his reelection bid.  (Jose Regalado has said at least some of the money was pass-through payments for Facebook ads.)

Both Regalados worked for their father's campaign, and Raquel, a two-term member of the school board, earned about $10,000 through January 2014.    

A company owned by Brian Andrews, the former WFOR-CBS 4 reporter who now works as a media consultant, received $10,000 from the committee in March. Andrews handled media arrangements for Regalado's March 8 campaign announcement. The committee in January also paid $8,000 to Creative Ideas, an advertising firm connected to campaign consultant Armando Gutierrez, a longtime ally of the Regalado family. 

Between Serving Miamians and her campaign committee, Regalado has raised about $174,000 this year.

 

This was post was updated to include Joe Carollo's role, and to correct the month Creative Ideas received $8,000 from Serving Miamians.  

 

May 14, 2015

Downtown Miami booster agency creates crap map

via @NewsbySmiley

Tasked with marketing Miami to tourists and investors, the tax-funded Downtown Development Authority has plenty of maps highlighting restaurants, tourist attractions and real estate development.

On Thursday, they unveiled the latest -- showing where people pop a squat on the street.

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the agency’s chairman, displayed the map during the city's bi-weekly commission meeting. It shows the downtown grid, with smiling poop emojis documenting where the agency says feces was spotted during a sanitation worker’s eight-hour Friday shift.

The map is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute between the DDA and the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, which receives tens of millions in tax dollars to oversee the county's homeless services. In creating the map, the DDA hopes to both urge the Trust to support portable toilets and temporary shelter programs, and to embarrass the Trust's powerful chairman, Ron Book, who has dismissed sanitation issues as a downtown problem and proposed solutions as "pie-in-the-sky."

"As the chief advocate for downtown Miami's growing base of residents, businesses and visitors from around the world, the Miami DDA has been making the case that homelessness is having a disproportionate impact on our urban core for years, and yet The Homeless Trust has resorted to passing the buck and ignoring the problem," executive director Alyce Robertson said in a statement. "We're hopeful the map we've created will finally motivate The Homeless Trust to put its multimillion dollar budget to good use on downtown Miami's streets."

No one from the Trust attended Thursday’s meeting, although a spokeswoman said they were watching Thursday's hearing.

A previous version of this story misidentified Ron Book's position with the Homeless Trust. He is chairman of the board.

May 12, 2015

Miami International Boat Show to host reassuring webinar for exhibitors

via @NewsbySmiley

With their move to the Miami Marine Stadium grounds and basin sparking lawsuits and political tensions, the Miami International Boat Show's parent company wants to reassure their exhibitors that everything is going smoothly.

According to a Monday report by Trade Only Today, a daily publication for marine industry professionals, the National Marine Manufacturers Association is hosting an invite-only webinar for exhibitors on May 20. The webinar was announced in a letter by NMMA president Thom Dammrich, who wants to update participants on the progress of the move from the Miami Beach Convention Center to Marine Stadium in February, and address allegations raised in a lawsuit by the Village of Key Biscayne against the association.

Trade Only Today reported that it obtained the letter, in which Dammrich wrote that he wants to correct "misinformation and misinterpretations that are being broadcast as a result of the high-profile and political nature of our move to Miami Marine Stadium Park.”

Village officials have accused the Boat Show operators of breaking Florida's government in the sunshine law -- a criminal violation -- and have also sued the city to stop the project. They worry that the event will cause gridlock on the one road in and out of the island.

“You should know that NMMA is responding to the claims in the lawsuit, which we believe are completely unfounded,” Dammrich wrote in the letter obtained by Trade Only Today. "I've made statements in the press recently that we are confident that the show you trust us to produce will move forward as planned and that the Miami International Boat Show remains committed to being a good neighbor to Key Biscayne. I’ve made these statements because they are true.”

Miami administrators say they're moving forward with construction to prepare the stadium grounds for the boat show. Meanwhile, they expect to finally sign a license agreement with the association tomorrow.