July 18, 2014

Rick Scott admin to Obama's: tell FL more about unaccompanied immigrant kids

A letter from Gov. Rick Scott's administration:

                                                                                                         July 18, 2014


Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary                                                               Craig Fugate, Administrator
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services                                           Federal Emergency Management Agency
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.                                                               U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20201                                                                             500 C Street SW Washington, DC 20472


Secretary Burwell and Administrator Fugate:


The Florida Department of Health has received unconfirmed reports that the federal government is bringing unaccompanied minors from the border to Florida today. On July 17, we received unconfirmed information that dozens of children were being brought by plane into Miami on Friday. This same day, ABC news reported that "the federal government is so overwhelmed by the current tide of migrants crossing the border it cannot provide basic medical screening to all of these children before transporting them, often by air, to longer-term holding facilities across the country.” (Feds Struggling to Cope with Medical 'Breakdown' at the Border, ABC News, July 17, 2014.)

Specifically, ABC News reported that your Health and Human Services Department's Director of Refugee Health said you, "identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes.” This breakdown was described in the news report as "a systemic failure of the handoff of these children between Customs Border Protection (CBP) and Health and Human Services (HHS).”

If these reports are accurate, this "systemic failure” in the federal system is extremely worrisome. In order to fulfill my duties as Florida's State Surgeon General, I am asking you to immediately provide the below information. This information is urgently needed to guard the health and safety of Florida communities across our state and is vital to the well-being of those children from the border who may have come through the flawed federal system.

• Will you notify the Florida Department of Health immediately of any current or future unaccompanied minors coming to, or placed in, Florida, including their current location?
• Are you conducting health screenings both at the border and again at the time the children are placed in shelters?
• What medical services, if any, were provided to any children placed in Florida?
• Do you have any records of infectious diseases associated with the children currently in federal care in Florida?
• Have any of the children been hospitalized in Florida with fevers accompanying their illnesses? If so, where are they being treated?

Because of the urgency of this request, this letter is being immediately emailed and faxed to you. I expect a prompt response to my request for information on existing unaccompanied minors in Florida and would like to stress the importance of future timely communications.

Sincerely,

John H. Armstrong, MD, FACS
State Surgeon General and Secretary
Florida Department of Health

From Annette Taddeo to Annette Taddeo-Goldstein back to Annette Taddeo

@MarcACaputo

It’s a mouthful to say the entire name of Democrat Charlie Crist’s new running mate, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein.

“Taddeo-Goldstein is probably too long to print on a sign,” she said Thursday evening, pointing to a Crist placard in the window of the campaign’s Liberty City field office.

That’s a major reason that, in her past two campaigns for Congress and Miami-Dade County commission, she has stumped and had her name listed on the ballot as just Annette Taddeo. The Crist campaign Thursday announced her as just “Annette Taddeo.”

In an-only-in-Miami twist, her opponent also hails from Miami-Dade, has Hispanic and Jewish roots and has a hyphenated name: Carlos Lopez-Cantera. The sitting lieutenant governor, however, has always been known by his full name and the Rick Scott/Lopez-Cantera ticket is keeping it that way (for those counting, his last name is 12 letters long, hers is 15, which is one short of tying the length of U.S. Rep/DNC Debbie Wasserman-Schultz).

Taddeo-Goldstein denies Republican grumbling that she's trying to play up her Hispanic roots by dropping the Goldstein. 

What should we call her in print?

“It doesn’t matter,” she said.

But it used to. After taking over as the chair of the Miami-Dade Democrats, she preferred Taddeo-Goldstein.

This morning we asked the campaign again: What do we call her? Taddeo or Taddeo-Goldstein?

“Taddeo,” said spokesman Brendan Gilfillan.

Resolved. Annette Taddeo it is.

Again.

At least for now.

Latvala and Negron square off anew in Senate battle

Locked in a long-running fight for future control of the Florida Senate, Republicans Jack Latvala and Joe Negron both claim to have the inside track to clinch the presidency in 2016.

Negron claims to have “several more” signed pledges from senators than Latvala, but he wouldn’t show them or name names.

“I’m several votes ahead. We’re in a very strong position,” Negron told the Times/Herald. “I’m confident I’ll have the support to serve as a presiding officer.”

The Senate has 26 Republicans, so the winner needs 14 votes. Latvala described the current state of the race as a “virtual tie.”

“If he’s got the votes, then he ought to show his cards,” Latvala said, daring Negron to ask Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto to call a caucus vote to end the suspense and choose who will succeed Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. He will take over for two years in November.

Negron, 52, of Stuart, is the influential chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and has the support of the core Senate leadership, including Senate President Don Gaetz, Rules Chairman John Thrasher and Benacquisto. He has a strong Libertarian streak and has focused on the environment and higher education policy.

Latvala, 62, of Clearwater, is a political moderate, a maverick and a skillful tactician who had his most effective session in 2014 and is known for his vote-tallying ability, as he proved in winning passage of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants (which Negron opposed). His supporters are a varied group of conservatives such as Greg Evers and Alan Hays to moderates such as Charlie Dean and Nancy Detert.

“I’ll put my vote-counting ability in the Florida Senate up against anybody, anywhere,” Latvala said.

Latvala has a potential ace in the hole in South Florida. Former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale is seeking a comeback in a grudge match with Democrat Maria Sachs of Delray Beach. Bogdanoff and Latvala are long-time friends and allies and she supports him for the presidency.

In closely-contested leadership battles, pledge cards are closely-held secrets, which adds to the intrigue. History shows pledges can be withdrawn, too.

The Times/Herald made a written request for pledge cards, which the Senate denied, saying that what determines whether something is a public record is its content, now who has the records. Pledges are “political agreements (that) do not relate to the official business of the legislative branch,” Gaetz’s office said.

Ethics probe: Ast. Miami city attorney steered jobs to fiance's firm

@NewsbySmiley

An assistant Miami city attorney and current judicial candidate steered city jobs to her fiancé’s law firm through a third party and failed to disclose her ties, according to a newly closed ethics investigation.

Veronica Adriana Diaz in 2012 and 2013 hired Horvat Law Firm to conduct complicated real estate and title work for the city of Miami, according to an investigative memo released Thursday. Keri Lynda Horvat received about $7,500 for the work.

Horvat said she had never met Diaz. But acting on an anonymous tip, an ethics investigator found that by giving the jobs to Horvat, Diaz was essentially steering them to a pass-through for Alvarez, Carbonell, Feltman & DaSilva – a firm founded by Diaz’s fiancé, Benjamin Raul Alvarez.

"What the city didn't know at the time - and which nobody appears to have disclosed --- [Horvat] was required to transfer its entire fee to the law firm run by Diaz's live-in boyfriend, Alvarez, under the terms of Horvat's employment arrangement with Alvarez Carbonell," the memo states.

The requirement was triggered, according to the memo, because Alvarez brought the work to Horvat.

The no-bid contracts didn’t violate any purchasing laws, because the Miami City Attorney’s office isn’t bound by the city's bidding procedures for other departments, according to the memo. But the investigator wrote that “the appearance of impropriety is strong.”

“The only reason a complaint is not being filed under the anti-Nepotism provisions of the county code is because ‘fiancé’ or ‘long-term, live-in boyfriend’ are not included in the definitions of what constitutes an ‘immediate family’ member,” the memo states.

Diaz and Alvarez did not immediately respond Friday morning to phone calls and emails. The investigator noted that Horvat effectively performed her jobs for the city, and that she kept her $1,000 fee from her second city contract after being fired by Alvarez's firm.

Diaz is currently on leave from her position with the city to run for an open circuit court judge seat. Her opponent is former Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla.

The ethics commission did not pursue charges against Diaz. But it did refer the investigative file to Miami’s auditor general and suggest reforms in the city’s process for handling outside legal contracts.

Climate war update: Crist agrees to meet scientists, so gov follows

Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist fueled the climate wars Friday and called Florida State University oceanography professor Jeff Chanton offering to meet with the scientists who asked to meet with Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott said this week that someone in his administration would meet with the 10 climate scientists from universities and colleges across the state, but after Crist agreed to meet, them, the governor also agreed.

"I would be happy to meet with them. We have a great record on the environment and restoration projects in Florida," Scott said in a statement released by his campaign.

The state's top climate experts want to explain the research that shows the impact human-induced global warming is having on Florida.

But Jeff Chanton, the FSU oceanography professor who delivered the letter to the governor on Tuesday, told the Miami Herald that he was hoping to meet with the governor.
.

The letter has prompted media attention for Chanton all week and on Friday, after Crist's call and the governor's updated answer, he said he was "very pleased."

Crist was governor when climate change policies had become politically popular for Republicans like former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Crist launched a series of aggressive policies aimed at targeting greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global warming..


The GOP-controlled legislature has since dismantaled nearly all of those programs with the agreement of Scott, who in 2010 signaled he was in the climate change deniers camp.

In their letter delivered to Scott on Tuesday, asking for an opportunity to explain to him the impact
human-induced global warming will have on Florida, the scientists wrote:.

“We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change,” the professors wrote in a two-page letter to Scott. “You responded that you are ‘not a scientist.’ We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.”


In a statement about the letter on Wednesday, Scott said he was "focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water and families."

"We have made environmental restoration a top priority - investing record amounts in the Everglades and Springs projects all across Florida, even many that were not prioritized by the previous administration," he said.


Scott and his environmental officials face new deadlines under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan which requires states reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing power plants by specific levels by 2030.

July 17, 2014

Gay-marriage ruling prompts celebration in Tallahassee

Tallahassee1

There was dancing in the street in Tallahassee Thursday after a judge overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Literally.

About 50 supporters of marriage equality lined Monroe Street outside of the Historic Capitol to celebrate the ruling. They waved rainbow flags and signs adorned with hearts, and cheered when passing motorists honked in support.

There was no music, but some attendees were so happy they danced.

"It's hard to put into words," said Amanda James, who works in a real estate office. "I feel free now. It's like, I'm a real person. For the first time, I have the same rights as everybody else."

Others were already looking ahead.

"Today was an important first step," said Haley Cutler, who identifies as queer, and attended the celebration with her fiance, Andie Seeber, and their dog, Peanut. "But there is still a long road ahead. We have a lot of work to do."

Cutler said she was disappointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi's decision to appeal the ruling.

"This would be over if Bondi and the other Republicans in power weren't appealing it," Cutler said. "The voters need to remember that."

Congressional GOP candidates roll out TV ads

@PatriciaMazzei

Voters of Florida's 26th congressional district: time to turn on the TV.

Two of the five Republicans running in a primary to challenge Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia have launched advertisements to introduce themselves to the district, which extends from Kendall to Key West.

The first one to release ads was Cutler Bay Ed MacDougall, whose spot, "A Proven Record," began running a few weeks ago. It notes MacDougall's two military deployments in Vietnam and his careers as a Miami-Dade police officer and real-estate entrepreneur. (Also featured are the Mercedes-Benz Smart cars he has been using for his business for years.)

As mayor, he says in the ad, "I have kept taxes low and the community safe."

On Thursday, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo released two ads of his own -- "Too Long" in English, "Gran Comunidad" (great community) in Spanish.

“It's not easy to clean up the mess when it's been sitting for too long," Curbelo says in the English-language piece. "Like corrupt politicians. They get rich. We get forgotten. We need new leaders who will look out for Florida families, not themselves."

While both Curbelo ads touch on the same themes of integrity, fatherhood and education, the spots aren't identical, which is unusual -- and expensive. Curbelo has raised far more than his primary opponents, according to the latest campaign finance reports. 

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez and attorney Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck are also in the race.

Watch the ads below.

 

 

 

Miami-Dade commission wants FIU to expand into county fairgrounds

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County commissioners threw their political weight Thursday behind Florida International University, unanimously agreeing that the educational institution should expand onto neighboring, county-owned land.

But that property is not vacant. It’s an 86-acre portion of Tamiami Park leased to the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo, which county government would have to help move to make room for FIU.

And commissioners don’t know where the youth fair should go.

“We’re just saying, this is public land,” said Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, who represents the West Miami-Dade area. “It has a better use.”

The commission directed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration, which has been trying to relocate the fair for months to no avail, to recommend a site by Sept. 3. By that date, commissioners also want draft language for a ballot question asking county voters to approve turning over the public fairgrounds at Coral Way and Southwest 107th Avenue to FIU, as required by Miami-Dade rules.

Esteban “Steve” Bovo, the commissioner who made the request, said ideally the question would go to voters in the Nov. 4 general election. But that time frame sounds tight, considering the Miami-Dade elections department typically prints its ballots a few days after the end of the primary — which takes place Aug. 26.

Still, Thursday’s decision represents a victory for FIU, which lobbied for — and received — $10 million in state funding this year to help pay for the fair’s relocation. The fair doesn’t want to find a new home away from where it’s been for 43 years.

More here.

Crews fires warden at Dade Correctional saying it should 'send a message'

In a scathing rebuke to the leadership at the Dade Correctional Institution, Florida's prisons chief on Thursday fired the warden at the embattled prison and announced he wanted to "send a message" through the system.

Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews announced that he had terminated Warden Cummings, whom he had suspended last week, and replaced him with Warden Les Odom, Assistant Warden Jose Lugo and Colonel Victor Barber.

The prison had been under fire for weeks since the Miami Herald first reported on the suspicious scalding death of inmate Darren Rainey which prision officials were still investigating after two years. 

“I have not been satisfied with the information flow from Dade C.I. and we need leaders there who will act with urgency to protect the safety of the inmates and staff, and hold individuals accountable when needed,'' Crews said in a statement. "This change will send a message throughout the Department that service is a privilege and leaders must meet the fullest extent of their duty to Florida."

He also slapped the Miami Dade Police for its lengthy delay in the Rainey investigation. 

“Today I am also asking Miami-Dade to complete their investigation immediately,'' Crews said. "This investigation has taken too long and it is time to get the facts so we can take any additional action that may be necessary.”  

Continue reading "Crews fires warden at Dade Correctional saying it should 'send a message'" »

Climate scientist to Scott: meeting staff is fine, we'd like to meet with you

Gov. Rick Scott deflected calls to meet with climate scientists Wednesday and told reporters that his staff "would be happy to meet" with the state's top climate experts about the impact human-induced global warming is having on Florida.

But Jeff Chanton, the FSU oceanography professor who delivered the letter to the governor on Tuesday, told the Miami Herald that he is still hoping to meet with the guy in charge, Scott.

"I will meet with everyone and I'd be happy to meet with his staff,'' said Chanton, who noted that he is a Republican. He even offered a bit of political advice on the issue Scottt has been reluctant to address. "He could undercut Crist on the issue," Chanton said, referring to Scott's Democratic rival who had embarked a series of aggressive policies aimed at reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

The GOP-controlled legislature has since dismantaled nearly all of those programs with the agreement of Scott, who in 2010 signaled he was in the climate change deniers camp.

Ten of the state's top scientists in oceanography, climate and atmospheric sciences delivered a letter to Scott on Tuesday, asking for an opportunity to explain to him the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

“We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change,” the professors wrote in a two-page letter to Scott. “You responded that you are ‘not a scientist.’ We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.”

In a statement about the letter on Wednesday, Scott said he was "focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water and families."

"We have made environmental restoration a top priority - investing record amounts in the Everglades and Springs projects all across Florida, even many that were not prioritized by the previous administration," he said.

How important climate change will be this election cycle remains to be seen. Scott and his environmental officials face new deadlines under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan which requires states reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing power plants by specific levels by 2030.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has teamed up with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to conduct a "What's your plan, Gov?" campaign seeking promoting clean energy alternatives and transparency as the state works to meet the federal carbon pollution standards.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity has announced it has more than $3 million to spend on campaigns in Florida and it could use the money to encourage climate change naysayers to vote against Crist. 

And the a federal super PAC called NextGenClimate has targeted Scott and has identified Florida as one of the seven states it will be pouring money into this election year. The group had announced plans in May to spend at least $100 million in seven competitive Senate and gubernatorial races but recent reports show the money is not coming in.

Its founder, retired hedge fund manager and longtime Democratic donor Tom Steyer, put up $50 million of his own money, and the group said it would raise the rest from likeminded donors but the group has brought in less than $5 million from outside donors and only $1.2 million for its super PAC.