January 26, 2017

Miami-Dade mayor orders jails to comply with immigration detentions following Trump action


Fearing a loss of millions of dollars for defying immigration authorities, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday ordered county jails to comply with federal immigration detention requests — effectively gutting the county’s position as a “sanctuary” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Gimenez cited an executive order signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump that threatened to cut federal grants for any counties or cities that don’t cooperate fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since 2013, Miami-Dade has refused to indefinitely detain inmates who are in the country illegally and wanted by ICE — not based on principle, but because the federal government doesn’t fully reimburse the county for the expense.

“In light of the provisions of the Executive Order, I direct you and your staff to honor all immigration detainer requests received from the Department of Homeland Security,” Gimenez wrote Daniel Junior, the interim director of the corrections and rehabilitation department, in a brief, three-paragraph memo.

Unlike cities like San Francisco, Miami-Dade never declared itself a “sanctuary,” and has resisted the label ever since the Justice Department listed the county as one in a May 2016 report. Foreseeing Trump’s crackdown on “sanctuary” jurisdictions, the county asked the feds to review its status last year. A decision is still pending.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Gimenez, a Republican who attended Trump’s inauguration last week but said he voted for Hillary Clinton, said he made a financial decision. Last year, the county declined to hold some 100 inmates wanted by the feds. Keeping them in local jails would have cost about $52,000 — a relative drop in the bucket for a county with a total annual budget of $7 billion.

More here.

January 25, 2017

Fact-checking Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's Zika claim



Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that in 2016 the county became a global leader in fighting the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

"We were the first community in the world -- let me repeat that -- the first community and I believe the only community in the world to break the cycle of local transmission of the Zika virus," Gimenez said during his State of the County speechJan. 18.

However, Gimenez didn’t declare Zika dead forever -- he warned that the county must remain vigilant: "We may be in the off season, but that does not mean that our work is over."

Gimenez, a Republican re-elected to his last term in November, has a point about local transmission. The last of the four local transmission zones were cleared in Miami-Dade by mid December 2016. However, he omitted some caveats about Zika transmission and Miami-Dade’s special circumstances compared with the rest of the world.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Miami-Dade insists it's not sure it's a 'sanctuary' county


With the White House announcing Wednesday that he'll ask the Department of Homeland Security to stop funding communities that act as "sanctuaries" for immigrants in the country illegally, Miami-Dade County finds itself in limbo over whether it will be affected.

County government is awaiting a decision from the feds over whether Miami-Dade formally qualifies as a "sanctuary." Miami-Dade has never declared itself one, but in 2013 county commissioners voted to no longer comply with federal immigration authorities' requests to detain jailed undocumented immigrants indefinitely unless Immigration and Customs Enforcement paid the full detention cost.

Miami-Dade has asked the Justice Department, which listed the county as a sanctuary in May 2016 report, to review the county's standing for future reference.

"We're supposed to have a final determination by the beginning of summer or end of spring" of this year, said Michael Hernández, a spokesman for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Gimenez attended President Donald Trump's inauguration last week.

Trump's infrastructure priorities include Miami's I-395/I-95 interchange

via @lindsaywise

President Donald Trump’s team has compiled a list of about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities, according to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune.

The preliminary list, provided to the National Governor’s Association by the Trump transition team, offers a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges. The governor’s association shared that list with state officials in December. The group told the officials the projects on that list were “already being vetted.”

Among the projects could be a new terminal for the Kansas City airport, upgrades to Interstate 95 in North Carolina and a proposal to replace the nation’s radar-based air traffic control system with one called NextGen, based on satellites.

Another more detailed document obtained by the Star, circulated within the congressional and business communities, proposes funding an almost identical list of 50 projects as public-private partnerships, with half the money coming from private investment.

According to a senior congressional aide, the Trump team put together the priority list of “Emergency & National Security Projects.” It includes cost estimates and job impact numbers. It is not clear whether that document is a draft or a final version.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said on Wednesday that this more detailed document is “not an official White House document.”

More here. Check out page 37 for the Miami I-395/I-95 project.


January 17, 2017

Meet the South Florida protesters heading to the Women's March on Washington

via @harrisalexc

As the November election results came in and tears rolled down her face, Carrie Feit couldn’t stop thinking about her nieces.

Unlike her own 6-year-old daughter, Feit’s 12- and 14-year-old nieces were old enough to ask their mother about what they heard Donald Trump say on television. They wanted to know about the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape, of crude groping language infamy.

“My sister had to wake up the next day and tell her daughters that he won,” Feit said. “That ‘we’ elected him, that he won, that this country was OK with all that.”

Feit, 42, turned her anger into action. Two days after Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton, Feit was area captain for the Miami-Dade County section of the Women’s March on Washington, a catch-all demonstration for a slew of liberal causes planned for Saturday, the day after Trump’s inauguration. It’s expected to draw some 200,000 people from across the country.

“I thought about my nieces and all little girls that we want to empower,” Feit said. “The idea that they and other girls would think they did not deserve as much respect as anyone else pained me to the core.”

A robust contingent of Florida women is headed to the march any way they can. One bus from Miami-Dade — a nearly 20-hour ride away — sold out weeks before the trip. For those who can’t make it to D.C., a simultaneous local rally is planned at Bayfront Park.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

January 15, 2017

Miami affiliate debuts Havana-based news crew, a first for local U.S. stations

Hatzel_First Flight

via @HeraldMimi

WPLG Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela and photojournalist Brian Ely have become the ABC affiliate’s men in Havana.

The pair arrived last Wednesday to become the South Florida station’s full-time Havana-based crew. That gives WPLG the distinction of being the first local station in the United States to have a news crew in Cuba on a full-time basis.

Local 10 News Havana officially debuts Monday, but when news broke last Thursday that the United States was ending its policy of allowing the entry of Cuban migrants who arrive without visas, the pair had their first big story since the Cuban government granted them approval to set up shop on the island.

WPLG, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, doesn’t call its new office a bureau, but rather refers to the arrangement as having a Havana-based news team that lives and works in Cuba.

“Our goal is for this to last and be there for the long haul,” said Bill Pohovey, the station’s vice president of news. “At this point it is not a permanent thing; it is a trial run. We have to see how this works for us.”

More here.

January 14, 2017

Miami political players, including county mayor's son, meet with Trump

El Pais

The lobbyist son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Democratic political consultant Freddy Balsera of Coral Gables met quietly with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York this week to chat about Latin America.

Balsera and C.J. Gimenez were part of a foursome that also included Julio Ligorría, a former Guatemalan ambassador to the U.S., and David Duckenfield, a former deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the state department. The meeting was first reported by El País, a Spain-based newspaper.

Duckenfield works at Balsera Communications, Balsera's namesake public affairs and media relations firm. Until recently, so did Gimenez, a Republican attorney who in the past has lobbied locally for Trump's businesses, recently started his own consulting and lobbying shop with Ligorría. Balsera advised President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.

The four men sat down with Trump on Thursday. Among the topics discussed: U.S. policy toward Venezuela and the "northern triangle" nations -- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- in Central America. They also posed for what has become the classic thumbs-up Trump photo.

"Obviously I have a longstanding relationship with Mr. Trump and the organization," Gimenez told the Miami Herald on Saturday. "We had a discussion with folks on his team that thought it would be beneficial for us to sit down with him for a few minutes and bring up issues related to Latin America." 

Balsera told El País that Trump "was very interested in knowing our opinion about what's going on, about what's going to happen and about what has yet to happen" in Venezuela. Trump also inquired about Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo López, both political prisoners in the South American country.

"He knew everything we were talking about and responded with good questions and comments," Gimenez told the Herald. "We want to see freedom come back to Venezuela, and prosperity."

He said the meeting lasted 15-20 minutes. 

The men also discussed Argentina, which has sought closer relations with the incoming administration. "I think we can create opportunities for business and cultural ties with Latin America," Gimenez told the Herald.

Not mentioned: Trump's more contentious comments about Hispanics, including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Now that he's our president, I think it's very important that we find a way to work, to cooperate, with him, to have our voice heard in conversations taking place about Hispanics here or in Latin America," Balsera told El País. "If we want to influence his thinking and his policies, we have to have some sort of interaction with Mr. Trump."

Gimenez and his father, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, plan to attend Trump's inauguration next week, on their own dime. The elder Gimenez, a Republican in a nonpartisan post, was invited even though he said he voted for Hillary Clinton for president.

This post has been updated.

Photo: Screenshot of El País website 

January 13, 2017

How Miami got its own inauguration Women's March


A few days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Stephanie Myers scrolled down her Facebook feed and read a post by Laura Broder, an old Miami Palmetto Senior High School classmate she hadn’t spoken to in two decades.

Did anyone want to organize a South Florida event timed with the Women’s March on Washington, the big protest planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration?

Myers quickly wrote back: Me!

And so Myers, who has no history of political activism, and Broder, who does, began putting together what would become the Women’s Rally of South Florida.

“We really felt it was important for the rest of the country — and people around the world — to stand in solidarity with the people who can’t make it to D.C.,” said Myers, 42, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. “The rhetoric of this cycle was just so divisive.”

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

January 12, 2017

Miami Beach mayor will not run for third term and possibly run for governor



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appears to be preparing a run for governor after announcing Thursday that he will not seek a third term in the Beach this year.

He would enter what is shaping up to be a crowded field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates for the state's highest office, which will be vacated when Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited in 2018. Other names circulating statewide as possible Democratic candidates: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and trial lawyer John Morgan.

Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to lead the Republican field.

Read more here.

January 10, 2017

Former Opa-locka commissioner pleads guilty to bribery

Luis1 santiago lnew cmg
via @jayhweaver

Former Opa-locka Commissioner Luis Santiago admitted Tuesday that he plotted with other top officials and employees to pocket up to $40,000 in bribes in a scheme that shook down several local business owners and corrupted nearly every level of the city’s financially troubled government.

In an effort to reduce his prison time, Santiago pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to accept multiple bribes and extort businesses seeking city licenses, water connections and zoning permits — an offense that will likely put him behind bars for more than three years under a plea agreement.

Santiago, 55, who otherwise would have faced up to five years under the bribery law, acknowledged to a Miami federal judge that he wanted to accept responsibility for his crime.

“I think that’s the best way to go,” said Santiago, who was flanked by his defense attorney, Roderick Vereen.

Santiago, the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the still-widening FBI probe of Opa-locka City Hall corruption, will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams on March 30. Santiago, who remains free on bail until then, is not assisting authorities in the investigation.

Santiago lost his city commission seat in November after a series of Miami Herald stories reported that he was the main target of the probe of an alleged extortion scheme involving payoffs for official favors. The one-term commissioner, who surrendered to FBI agents in late December on the bribery charge, is the only politician to be convicted so far.

More here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, Miami Herald staff