October 17, 2014

Teachers union honors influential religious leader who blasted its lawsuit

The statewide teachers union on Friday will honor Bishop Victor T. Curry with its Human and Civil Rights Leadership Award.

That's the same Bishop Victor T. Curry who last month blasted the union's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the school voucher program.

Members of the Florida Education Association's Human and Civil Rights Committee said they chose Curry, an influential religious leader in Miami who also has a popular radio show, for his "unwavering dedication to the less fortunate, the overlooked and the disenfranchised."

"His involvement in local, state, and even national issues, that affect civil rights of so many have made a difference in the advancement of people, not just of color, but of all races and gender background," United Teachers of Dade President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement. "Bishop Curry believes in and stands up for what is right and fair for all people."

Last month, Curry decried the FEA's efforts to end the school voucher program in a letter to The Miami Herald.

Other influential ministers, including the Rev. H.K. Matthews, asked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist to take a similar position on the lawsuit. Crist refused -- a move Matthews said could hurt Crist's standing among black voters.

The FEA is supporting Crist's bid for re-election.

Curry was scheduled to be honored Friday during the union's annual Delegate Assembly in Orlando. 

A Florida Education Association spokesman said the faith-based leader would not be able to attend the event.

Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them

 Gov. Rick Scott asked for solutions and so they brought them.

Scientists, business leaders, local elected officials came up with a lengthy list of ways Florida could help to address climate change and on Friday delivered a letter to the governor and asking him for, yes, another meeting.

This comes as the governor's silence on climate change, his campaign's receipt of millions from the utility industry, and his failure to create a state energy policy in the face of rising sea waters has become a vulnerability in his race for governor.

NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid. They are running television ads in the crucial Tampa Bay media market, have opened 21 offices, and say they have more than 500 staffers, canvassers and volunteers across Florida. They also built an ark and trucked it across the state to get TV time. 

Scott won't say if he believes that humans, fossil fuel or other factors contribute to the earth's warming but he did agree to meet with five scientists Aug. 19 in his office. Before the meeting, he said he was a less interested in causes than he was in addressing them. During the meeting, he asked no issue-related questions but said he was a "solutions guy." 

The scientists took that as a call to action. They joined with elected officials and business leaders and convened the Climate Science & Solutions Summit at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg last week. It was a standing room only crowd.

A summary of the suggestions that emerged was written up for the governor and signed by 50 of the participants, delivered to the governor's office today with a request for a in-person meeting. 

Continue reading "Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them" »

Miami-Dade commissioners lash out at mayor


Tension between Miami-Dade commissioners and Mayor Carlos Gimenez is hardly a novelty, but the tone of a Thursday committee meeting seemed unusually harsh. 

The commission's Economic Development committee convened to consider a batch of grants the Gimenez administration had recommended for approval. But on the eve of the hearing, Gimenez announced he wanted to change course and shift the dollars to larger projects,  including Miami's planned SkyRise observation  tower. 

Lynda Bell, the outgoing commissioner who chairs the committee, refused to let Gimenez deputy Jack Osterholt brief commissioners  on the new grant plan. (Gimenez didn't attend.)

Bell was already steamed at Gimenez for softening his formerly hard-line on union contracts during her losing reelection campaign against a union-backed challenger, Daniella Levine Cava.  

"I was not pleased to read in the newspaper that the mayor has once again changed his mind," Bell said at the start of the debate, which ended with most of the grants being recommended to the full commission. "It's inappropriate to have the mayor's office call each of us [to] sponsor these items... now the mayor changes his mind.

"It's almost schizophrenic," she continued. "I'm not going to put up with it." 

(We should note that Bell did her own about-face on these grants, too. She sponsored a $5 million request for a commercial complex backed by her top campaign donor, Wayne Rosen, then dropped the sponsorship when the grant program sparked controversy during the campaign. Bell returned as Rosen's sponsor after she lost the election. In her comments, Bell said the mayor's office asked her to sponsor Rosen's project.) 

Osterholt sat silent throughout the meeting, but left during Bell's concluding remarks,  which continued her broadside against the administration.

"We either have a process, or we don't," Bell said after the meeting. "I'm tired of the nonsense."

The mayor's office said it had no comment on the meeting.

Read the story here.  

Scott calls on CDC to help prevent Ebola in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday called on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reach out to passengers on a plane that apparently carried an Ebola patient the day before it stopped at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

"The CDC has already admitted that they have been slow to respond to developing cases of Ebola, and we do not want to take any risk of Ebola coming to Florida," Scott said in a statement. "Their immediate action to contact all these passengers is essential to explaining any potential health risks to themselves and their family."

The CDC did not respond to emails from the Herald/Times.

There have been no cases of Ebola reported in Florida.

Read more here.

Marco Rubio name-dropped in ad for Miami-Dade property appraiser candidate


It's not every day that a U.S. senator makes an appearance in a relatively lowly property appraiser's race.

But there's Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, being name-dropped in an advertisement for state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez's bid for Miami-Dade County appraiser.

The Spanish-language radio ad, by a political group backing Gonzalez, notes Rubio has endorsed his fellow Republican in the nonpartisan contest. It also mentions an endorsement by County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The other candidate, former appraiser Pedro J. Garcia, is also a Republican. He held the appraiser job before losing two years ago to Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who earlier this year was appointed Gov. Rick Scott's lieutenant.

"Pedro Garcia had his chance and failed us," says the ad, paid for by Conservative Principles for Florida. The political action committee is chaired by state Rep. Jose Oliva, a Hialeah Republican like Gonzalez.

Garcia, who won endorsements from several powerful county labor unions, has campaigned much as he did in 2012, as a professional appraiser fighting politicians looking for their next elected gig. Lopez-Cantera ran after being term-limited as a state lawmaker. Gonzalez is doing the same, though unlike Lopez-Cantera, he has no background in real estate.

In a five-way contest Aug. 26, Garcia garnered the largest percentage of votes, with Gonzalez coming in second.

Comedy writers of America pledge allegiance to Florida

Florida, you did it again.

Just when we thought you had maxed out on becoming a national punchline, you do something like Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate at Broward College in Davie.

Now known as FanGate, the legendary moment in Florida political history did the full Ginsburg on Thursday night’s late night comedy shows.

First up in its 11 p.m. time slot, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart played the escapade for some startling “can they say that on pay cable?” low brow laughs.

Jon Stewart started by lamenting at the top of the show that it had been a miserable last few weeks of bad news.

“But keep fighting because as Frodo taught us, if the world is horse----, if you dig around long enough, there’s a pony in there somewhere,” Stewart said. “It turns out ladies and gentlemen, I found a pony, last night, in Florida.”

Cue footage of Wednesday night’s surreal opening of the debate.

Rick Scottt, our incumbent governor and the Republican candidate for governor, is also in the building,” said Eliott Rodriguez, CBS4 anchor and debate host. “We have been told Gov. Scott will not be participating in this debate.”

“He can’t not participate!” Stewart chimed in. “A debate must have two parties to be considered a debate. Otherwise it’s known as a," well, you get the point.

It only got classier.

Dubbing Scott the “hairless, serpentine incumbent,” Stewart said he must have gotten sidetracked looking for a snack.

“It was the reason for Scott’s absence that reminded me why life is so beautiful," Stewart said.

Cuts to footage showing that former Gov. Charlie Crist had a small fan at the lectern.

“For that reason, I’m being told, Gov. Scott won’t be joining us for the debate,” Rodriguez tells the audience in the footage.

Cut back to Stewart.

“Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has refused to debate former Gov. Charlie Crist because former Gov. Crist has a fan that appears to be providing a small amount of respite for his presumably sweaty balls,” Stewart said.

A light from above shines on Stewart, who looks up and says: “Thank you Jesus.”

The segment, dubbed “The Last Perspiration of Crist”, lasted eight minutes.

“There’s a humid environment in Florida,” Stewart said. “Crist’s boys got sweaty so the former governor pops down and picks up a fan at, what do you call it there, Beds, Balls and Beyond, what’s the issue?

“I’m sorry, we could have delved into all the terrible, actual answers Rick Scott gave in the debate about  his horrifying policies for Florida, but that’s not nearly as fun as him missing four minutes of a debate because his opponent had a fan pointed at his balls.”

Stewart then asked Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee to provide analysis.

Standing before a map of phallic-looking Florida, Bee explained that Florida politics has a “long history of electoral ball coolery.”

If testicular humor is your bag, check it out.


Next up, on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert led with a segment on the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But after a commercial break, he led with FanGate.

Continue reading "Comedy writers of America pledge allegiance to Florida" »

October 16, 2014

After fangate, blowback for Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott’s sudden absence at the start of a statewide TV debate reshaped the governor’s race Thursday as event sponsors accused Charlie Crist of breaking the rules and Scott’s side fretted over whether he damaged his re-election prospects.

At the center of the storm was a $20 fan that viewers couldn’t see, quietly whirring at Crist’s feet as he stood alone on stage Wednesday night at Broward College in Davie.

Scott denied that he refused to go on, even though viewers saw his empty podium for seven chaotic minutes. Crist’s campaign and debate organizers gave contradictory accounts of what led to “Fangate” and pundits had another reason to make fun of Florida politics as the fan flap drowned out talk on jobs, education and health care.

“He was sweating and he needed a fan,” Scott told CNN. “I’m surprised he didn’t try to ask for dry ice.”

That’s what worries many Republicans.

“It was a missed opportunity. It was very odd,” said Fort Lauderdale lawyer Ed Pozzuoli, a Scott ally and former Broward County GOP chairman who echoed numerous Republicans. “Gov. Scott has a record that he needs to extol at every opportunity, and the only thing being discussed now is the fan.”

More here

Scott tells Wolf Blitzer he never saw the fan during debate, or the amended rules before

CNN fanGov. Rick Scott appeared on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room Thursday and was asked about the single most important thing in politics in Florida today -- the fan.
The news organization led its politics page with a story and headline that read: Florida Gov. Rick Scott stalls debate over opponent's fan.
Here's the transcript from CNN:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST:  And the Florida governor, Rick Scott, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.  He's joining us.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us.
All this over a fan.  I guess the key question, what were you thinking?
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA:  Hard to believe, isn't it?  I was anxious to get out there.  I wanted to talk -- you know, we did a debate last weekend.  He didn't like talking about 832,000 jobs lost.  So I think he was just -- he was just worried he was going to sweat.  I'm surprised he just didn't bring some dry ice with him or something to keep himself cool, because he worried so much when I keep -- kept bringing up that he'd lost 832,000 jobs.  But we -- I came out and we did the debate.  He -- you know, he didn't want to talk about jobs.  We talked about jobs and education.
You know what's too bad -- ?
BLITZER:  Let me interrupt.  Quick question on the fan.  
What's the big deal?  
Why wouldn’t you let him -- if he needs a fan, what's the big deal?  Let him have a fan.
Why was this even an issue going into the debate between your staff and his staff?
SCOTT:  I have no idea.  I was sitting in the back.  I was told he wasn't going to show up, and so I was sitting back there waiting for them to tell us to come out.
And they didn't tell us to come out.  And then he went out there.  So we came out --
BLITZER:  He does have a long history of requesting that a fan be there for whatever reason.  And in that document that the Florida gubernatorial debate put out, it explains all the rules.  
But he wrote -- or somebody wrote that there can be no fan with the understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan, if necessary.  So that was clearly written into this document, which I'm sure you've seen.
SCOTT:  No, I haven't seen the document.  I mean, I was out there to talk about jobs.  We've added 643,000 jobs.  But I was waiting to go on.  I was anxious to go on.
BLITZER:  So who told you not to go out there?
SCOTT:  The organizers.  They said that he wasn't going to show up.  He was balking without his fan.  So I didn't even know he was going to have a fan.
BLITZER:  So he had a fan.  So eventually you went out and the fan was operating, I guess, throughout the debate, right?
SCOTT:  Yes, I didn't see it.
BLITZER:  So it was not -- it was not a factor after that.
But are you surprised by all this commotion over a fan?
What's been --
SCOTT:  It was too bad.  This debate ought to be about jobs, ought to be about education.  That's what Floridians care about, the -- what's the future going to be like?
So it's too bad they're talking about fans.  But look, I'm out on the campaign trail every day, talking about how we've added 643,000 jobs.  We have 261,000 job openings.  We have a record funding for K-12 education, state colleges, universities.  
That's what I talk about every day.  So but it's sort of -- you know, remember last time I did the CNN debate, my opponent cheated during the debate.  So hopefully nothing will happen next Tuesday when we do the CNN debate.
BLITZER:  There's going to be another debate.  I take it there won't be a fan for him at that debate, is that your understanding?
SCOTT:  You know, I don't care if he brings a microwave, if he brings a humidifier, whatever he wants to bring, if it makes him feel better, he ought to bring his microwave, humidifier, toaster, whatever he wants.
BLITZER:  CNN rules are no fan.  So I guess, unless -- he won't show up without the fan, but I've been told definitively by CNN, no fan at that debatenext Tuesday night, 7:00 pm --
SCOTT:  We'll see what happens.  I hope we talk about jobs and education.
BLITZER:  So anything you -- if you had a do-over, what would you have done differently?
Because the criticism of you is you refused to debate the guy because he had a fan.
SCOTT:  I never did.  I was waiting -- I was -- I was told he wasn't going to -- he wasn’t going to come out.  He wasn't going to do the debate.
BLITZER:  Well, once he's out there on the stage, you knew he was on the stage.
SCOTT:  No.  No.  No, we -- because they had us in -- well, at least they had me -- I was in a trailer just waiting to go out.
BLITZER:  And so who said to you, wait?   The staff?
SCOTT:  Yes, the whole team, they said just wait until we're ready to take you out.
BLITZER:  And the staff said the organizers didn't want you to go out there?  Is that what --
SCOTT:  Yes, because --
BLITZER:  The moderators, they were all stunned.
SCOTT:  Because what -- the others I've done, you walk out at the same time.  So and that's why I think they were trying to organize.
BLITZER:  So are you alleging that Chris broke the rules?
SCOTT:  Look, I just want to do a debate, I wanted to talk about jobs and education.  I don't know why he did what he did.  But I'm, look, I think it's crazy that that's what they're talking about.  We ought to talk about jobs and education.  I don't care if he has --
BLITZER:  You don't want to make that flat accusation that he actually broke the rules of the debate?
SCOTT:  Well, he clearly broke the rules, but that's not the point.  The point is we should talk about jobs and education, what people care about in their state.  That's why I got elected the first time.
BLITZER:  Because he says he didn't break the rules because he saw this little addendum that was handwritten on this agreement.
SCOTT:  No, I don't know.
BLITZER:  So you don't buy that?

Did Crist break the debate rules? Well, the language changed. And it's not so clear


Amy Sherman at PolitiFact Florida had the unenviable task today of poring through debate rules to determine if Democrat Charlie Crist broke the rules of Wednesday night's debate when someone from his campaign put a fan at his lectern.

Was it a clear violation of the rules? Depends. 

"By Monday night, there were two separate signed agreements: one by the Scott campaign that excluded fans and one by the Crist campaign that had a handwritten addition allowing the fan. There was no follow-up, either written or in conversation, about who would get to decide if a fan was necessary.

There were two sets of rules, in July and then in October. And each campaign operated under different assumptions.

In July, the rules said no "electronic devices." In most debates, this means no smartphones and the like. That way, candidates can't get instant pointers. In the October rules, something changed. The word "fans" was added. Why? Maybe it had something to do with Scott's camp insisting Crist not use his fan and the fact that a debate sponsor, Leadership Florida, has ties to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which backs.... Scott. It should be noted the debate was co-sponsored with the Florida Press Association, a news-media lobby group.

Scott's team signed the rules quickly. Crist's team delayed until late Monday, when it signed the rules with an addendum in which it essentially stipulated that it might use a fan.

Two campaigns. Two sets of rules. And one state known as Flori-duh.

Here's the PolitiFact item

Charlie Crist downplays the fan incident

Gov. Charlie Crist downplayed the incident during a campaign stop in New Port Richey where he spoke to roughly 200 supporters in the Gulf Harbors Civic Association.

"I think it's much ado about nothing,'' he told reporters. "What it seems to me is what we need to talk about is issues like education, the environment, ethical leadership.''

Did he violate the rules that said there was to be no fan? "That's just not true.''

Did he ever say he would not go on stage without a fan? "I did not.''

Is he going to have a fan at his next debate in Jacksonville? "I have no idea."

Is he going to insist on it? "It's not something I'm concerned about.''

Is this a blessing for the campaign? "Well, it hasn't been a bad thing.''

"I think what it's done is really bring a focus to the issues we talked about last night, too. Obviously, it has a distractive quality to it, if you want to call it that. But I think a lot more people tuned it and we were able to talk about education. we were able to talk about the problems with Rick Scott And, frankly, and more importantly, a hopeful future for Florida.''

What is it about the fan that is part of the campaign, part of your standard procedure? "It's just nice to be cool.''

Later, he reiterated his initial comments during a remote interview with Chris Matthews.

"This is kind of a trivial issue. Let's face it,'' Crist said.

A quarter-mile away House Speaker Will Weatherford joined nine other Scott supporters waving signs and criticizing Crist for the jobs lost during his four years as governor.

"His record was abysmal,'' said Weatherford. "There was no leadership. He just didn't understand how to lead.''

And the debate? "It's no surprise that Gov. (Crist) doesn't think the rules apply to him.'' 

-- C.T. Bowen, Tampa Bay Times