February 13, 2015

In Miami GOP stronghold, people sign up in droves for Obamacare -- but they don't necessarily like it


Obamacare a epfThe man stood up in a huff after spending half an hour of his Saturday in Hialeah reluctantly signing up for health insurance he didn’t want.

“It’s like Communism!” Pedro Fuentes said, spitting out the words after enrolling in a plan through the Affordable Care Act that would cost his family more than $90 a month.

No city in the country, when measured by ZIP codes, has more enrollments through the federal insurance exchange than Hialeah, one of the most Republican cities in America. But many of the people registering aren’t happy about it.

They don’t like President Obama. They don’t want health insurance. And they certainly can’t fathom having to pay a tax penalty for failing to get covered.

That has brought them here, to Ñooo Qué Barato (“Damn, How Cheap”), Hialeah’s best-known bargain store, where a banner by the entrance reads, in Spanish, REFORMA DE LA SALUD. Infórmese aquí. Inscríbase ahora.HEALTHCARE REFORM. Inform yourself here. Enroll now.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

February 12, 2015

WaPo: Defining the Marco Rubio-Jeb Bush relationship

The Washington Post interviewed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio about his connection to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, now that both men are thinking about running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Many in Florida have long seen Rubio as the student and Bush, 19 years his senior, as the teacher. But Rubio, who rose in the state legislature during Bush’s tenure and became House speaker after Bush left office, characterizes things differently — saying he learned by “watching him and working near him.”

“I wouldn’t diminish the relationship or exaggerate it,” Rubio said in an interview this week in Florida.

“It wasn’t that he sat me down and gave me a lecture about it; you learn from being exposed to people,” Rubio added.

More here.

February 11, 2015

Republicans, Democrats already jostling over FL-26


Miami's perennial swing congressional district is in the sights of both political parties, 21 months before U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- who was elected for the first time three months ago -- faces reelection.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has included Florida's 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, on its list of "One-Term Wonders" (so is Tampa-area Republican Rep. David Jolly). The party has created a website listing 15 GOP freshmen, including Curbelo, Democrats intend to target next year, when a presidential electorate tends to bring more liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Curbelo hasn't drawn an opponent yet.

But that has mattered little to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which last month jumped at the chance to poke Annette Taddeo, the former Florida lieutenant governor candidate who was spotted meeting with DCCC recruiters in Washington D.C. "Back to the Future IV," the party called it.

Taddeo told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she's still in "very serious conversations" with the DCCC.

"Haven't made a decision yet," she said. "I can tell you I'm not running for [Miami-Dade County] mayor."

Taddeo said she will be back in D.C. next week for a Democratic National Committee event.

February 10, 2015

Uber, Lyft sued in Miami federal court


Paralyzed by how to regulate Uber and Lyft, Miami-Dade County has for more than half a year essentially allowed the illegal ride-for-hire services to exist — under the continued threat of fines and car impoundings — while politicians figure out their next move.

Three taxicab companies and four chauffeur-permit owners have taken matters into their own hands and sued Lyft and Uber, asking a Miami federal court to prohibit the ride-for-hire companies from operating and force them to pay damages for hurting their business.

“We believe in the free-market system. We believe in competition,” said Ralph Patino, the attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit late last month, said at a news conference Tuesday. But, he added: “They have to abide by laws just like all of us.”

In separate statements, competitors Uber and Lyft said they would fight in court, as they have when they have been sued across the globe for similar reasons. A Lyft spokesman called the complaint “without merit.”

Lyft and Uber let passengers hail rides using their cellphones, from independent drivers using their own cars. Cabbies and limo chauffeurs must obtain, among other things, permits and car inspections from the county. Taxi drivers must also own or, more commonly, lease, a medallion — a coveted permit that, up to now, has been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars because there’s a fixed number of them.

More here.

February 09, 2015

Miami-Dade commissioner tries to lure David Beckham to Little Havana for MLS stadium


Local politicians are making overtures to David Beckham a year after Miami-Dade County rejected the international football star's proposal to build a new stadium for his proposed Major League Soccer team.

Last week, commissioners suggested that Beckham’s team play temporarily at Florida International University. Now, another commissioner has introduced legislation asking Beckham to consider building on a site mostly owned by the city of Miami next to Marlins Park.

The latest resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, requests that County Mayor Carlos Gimenez negotiate with Beckham over the potential site, part of the larger Little Havana property that housed the old Orange Bowl. The commission's economic prosperity committee is scheduled to consider Barreiro’s proposal Thursday.

Even if it’s adopted by the committee and later the full commission, however, the legislation means little in practice. Gimenez could certainly suggest ideas to Beckham’s investment group, Miami Beckham United, but the organization is under no obligation to sit down with the county to discuss any of them.

More here.

Democrats court former state senator for possible Miami-Dade mayoral run


Still hunting for a potential challenger next year to County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade Democrats have begun courting Dan Gelber, the former state senator and one-time Florida attorney general candidate.

"A few people have called," Gelber said when asked Monday by the Miami Herald.

But he said he's not seriously considering it -- at least not yet.

"It's interesting, but nothing more than that for now," Gelber said.

Democrats have set their sights on the powerful mayor's seat in part because Gimenez, if forced into a runoff, would be on the ballot during a presidential election, which usually draws Democrats to the polls.

Gimenez is a Republican, though the strong mayor's position is non-partisan. He has twice been elected to the office -- the first time to finish former Mayor Carlos Alvarez's term -- by a wide coalition of largely moderate voters. That includes Democrats, who haven't fielded a top-tier candidate in some time.

Gelber, of Miami Beach, served in the Legislature before running unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2010.

Possible candidates who have begun flirting with a mayoral run include County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, an independent, and school board member Raquel Regalado, a Republican.

Politico profiles Marco Rubio, FIU professor

Our former colleague Marc Caputo, now at Politico, writes about U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio testing themes for a potential GOP presidential campaign at the class he teaches at Florida International University:

Imagine, he tells his students at one point, that “despite your message, you can’t get through [to minority voters] because they’re convinced you hate them. That’s going to be a problem, too.”

Rubio explains the GOP’s dilemma like this: “Basically, Barack Obama got eight out of 10 votes from the fastest-growing groups in America. And Mitt Romney got 90 percent of his votes from the group that is diminishing in terms of its overall percentage of the population. And from that, political scientists and other political observers will say, ‘Boy, Republicans are doomed. You just take that out 20 years, 15 years, 10 years and that’s the end of Republicans as a viable national party.’ That’s what some people will argue.”

But the senator finishes on an optimistic note. “I would encourage you to challenge that thought,” he tell the class.

More here.

February 06, 2015

Marco Rubio to speak at Goldman Sachs event in Miami


As he revs up for a national book tour and potential presidential candidacy, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will speak Monday at the first graduation of a small-business program in Miami.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program helps educate local small-business owners. Rubio, a Florida Republican, will deliver remarks Monday in downtown Miami's Freedom Tower, which is part of Miami Dade College.

Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein and MDC President Eduardo Padrón will also speak, according to Rubio's office.

February 05, 2015

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen vs. 'Photoshopping'


Air-brushing away wrinkles, cellulite, a few pounds here and there? U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is not a fan.

The Miami Republican and eight other members of Congress have asked the Federal Trade Commission to hold a public meeting to discuss the potentially negative effects of "photoshopping" -- using software to enhance images -- in advertising.

In particular, the group wants a discussion into "how materially altering the appearance of the human body in ads solely to manipulate and persuade consumers may influence the health of people who view those ads." The lawmakers have concerns about ads creating unrealistic expectations, especially for children and teenagers, of what people "can and should look like."

They also point to a possible increase in healthcare costs due to beauty-enhancing medical procedures, and say the advertising industry has been unwilling to create a set of standards for when image-enhancement is acceptable.


Among the lawmakers who signed Ros-Lehtinen's request were Reps. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Alcee Hastings of Miramar, both Democrats.

February 04, 2015

On Jeb Bush and the Liberty City Charter School


In his first speech as an unofficial presidential candidate, Jeb Bush told the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday that cities should serve as laboratories for conservative government policies. As an example, his cited his hometown of Miami.

"In my city, the schools were failing, opportunity was scarce and for too many, simply being born in the wrong neighborhood meant the American Dream was cruelly out of reach," he said. "I joined my friend, T. Willard Fair, a courageous leader in the civil rights movement. We decided that the right to rise was also a civil right. So we went to work to change education in Florida."

Bush and Fair co-founded Florida’s first charter school – publicly funded but privately run – in 1996. After two years spent lobbying the Florida Legislature, they opened the school in the Miami inner city, with the promise that poor families could choose a better education for their children.

The Liberty City Charter School, which was located in El Portal, gave credibility to the fledgling charter-school movement, which has since exploded in Florida. It became a frequent Bush talking when he ran for governor in 2008. Once in the Governor’s Mansion, he championed educational reforms, including expanding charter schools, that were often controversial.

Bush didn't mention the Liberty City Charter School by name on Wednesday -- and for good reason. The school no longer exists.

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