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July 22, 2015

Tensions rise in Miami before Beckham stadium negotiations begin


Negotiations with David Beckham and his partners to build a soccer stadium next to Marlins Park haven't even begun yet, but already a key Miami city commissioner is frustrated with the process.

Commissioner Frank Carollo, whose district includes the city-owned land where Beckham's team is now looking to build a stadium for a Miami MLS franchise, says he's concerned that the project would also require purchasing a private apartment complex and displacing residents. More disconcerting, he says, is that those residents are now learning through the media that they might have to find a new home.

"I think it's unfair," said Carollo. "It's not the right way to start the conversation."

Carollo says he is also frustrated that he wasn't told about Beckham's interest in the site across from Marlins Stadium until after Mayor Tomás Regalado held a video conference Friday with Beckham partner, Marcelo Claure, and then called a news conference.

Carollo isn't against a Beckham stadium. A year ago, he proposed the vote in which the Miami Commission endorsed Beckham's efforts to build a stadium in Miami. But his frustrations -- while not terribly surprising -- inject tensions into a process that hasn't even begun yet.

City officials expect Beckham's team to hand-deliver a letter to City Hall Wednesday, stating their interest in the former Orange Bowl site in writing and kicking off formal negotiations. City Manager Daniel Alfonso stressed that negotiations haven't begun yet, but said his administration is sensitive to the impact the project would have on displaced residents.

"It’s not like we’re going to kick these people out to the curb," he said. "We know they’re renting. We’ll work to try and relocate them."

Miami commissioners are expected to take up the issue Thursday at Miami City Hall. Regalado could not be reached Wednesday morning, but said Tuesday that he and Alfonso didn't know what Claure wanted to speak about when he requested the video conference last week.

Regalado also said Tuesday that Beckham and his investors have been told by MLS that they 90 days to exercise their option to buy a franchise. If the deadline passes, he said, MLS will give the franchise to a team in Minnesota.

Lawyer in Gov. Rick Scott's administration runs for Congress as Republican

Republican Mary Thomas, general counsel in the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, announced Wednesday that she'll run for Congress in the 2nd District, hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham.

Announcing her campaign in Tallahassee, Thomas said she plans to bring conservative ideals to Congress representing the heavily Democratic district. Among her objectives: repeal the Affordable Care Act, put a hard line against undocumented immigration, eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and Common Core standards, and instituting a less progressive tax scale.

"As a conservative Republican, it has been an honor working for Republican Gov. Rick Scott," she said. "Gov. Scott and his administration have proven that free-market principles work. Washington could take a few lessons from what we've done here in Florida.

Thomas has worked for Scott since his administration began in 2011. She grew up in Palm Harbor and attended Florida State University College of Law.

If elected, Thomas would be the first Indian-American woman ever elected to Congress. Her parents, Tom and Annie Thomas are physicians who immigrated from India in 1972, which Thomas says is why she has such strong opposition to undocumented immigration.

"My family story is a shining example of the American dream," she said. "Illegal immigration is deeply personal to me and my family."

The 2nd District is one that could be caught up in redistricting that the state Legislature will begin in August. Thomas says she's confident that she will appeal to voters, no matter who she runs against -- be it Graham or another member of the House.

Former GOP Rep. Steve Southerland has been rumored to be thinking about the 2nd District seat, as well, but Thomas says she has his support.

Florida medical marijuana campaign submits 100K ballot petitions for review


United for Care, the campaign to once again get medical marijuana on the Florida ballot, said Wednesday it has submitted 100,000 petitions to county elections supervisors for review.

The supervisors now have 30 days to validate the signatures and send them to Tallahassee. The Florida Supreme Court would then have to schedule a review of the proposed constitutional amended to legalize medical pot.

"This is a massive head start over the previous campaign -- which started late," campaign manager Ben Pollara said in a statement. "If we can sustain this pace, we should ensure our place on the ballot before the holidays."

A total of 68,317 valid petitions are required to obtain Supreme Court review for the amendment language (about a quarter to a third usually get rejected for various reasons, which is why campaigns collect more than petitions). Even more petitions -- 683,179 -- would be required to actually get the OK'ed language on the 2016 ballot.

Pollara said United for Care expects to get a Supreme Court review date around mid-August. He said the campaign has about 13,000 volunteers working to collect signatures, no doubt propelled by how well the amendment did in 2014. It garnered nearly 58 percent support, which was slightly short of the 60-percent threshold required for constitutional amendments.

The campaign expects to do even better in a presidential year, with a more left-leaning electorate.

Marco Rubio says Obama has 'no class,' cites Daily Show interview, likens him to Donald Trump


With Jon Stewart in his final weeks as host, President Obama made a visit Tuesday to Comedy Central's The Daily Show

Obama gave a lengthy interview in which he joked he had signed an executive order forbidding Stewart from leaving the show. He also defended the deal his administration negotiated to try to contain Iran's nuclear program.

"When you hear the critics talk about, 'Well, it's a bad deal; we could have got a better deal,' you then ask them, 'Well, what represents a better deal? What is it that you think could happen?'" Obama said.

"Typically they're vague, and they fall back on, 'Well, if you'd beat your chest a little bit more... Or if you'd brought Dick Cheney to the negotiations, then everything would be fine.'" ("Let's not get crazy," Stewart interjected.)

The Cheney line drew criticism Wednesday morning from Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, himself a Daily Show veteran, who said on Fox News that he didn't like Obama's joke.

Rubio wove in the criticism of Obama as he slammed rival Donald Trump, telling Fox and Friends that Trump's style isn't fit for the Oval Office.

"It is important that we have– to conduct the presidency, it has to be done in a dignified way, with a level of class," he said. " don't think [Trump's] behavior the last few weeks is either dignified or worthy of office he seeks."

"We already have a president now that has no class," Rubio continued, referring to Obama. "I mean, we have a president now that does selfie-stick videos, that invites YouTube stars there, people that you know eat cereal out of a bathtub... You just saw the interview he did right now where he goes on comedy shows to talk about something as serious as Iran. The list goes on and on.

"It is important for us to have a presidency that restores dignity and class to the White House, and I don't believe that some of the language that Mr. Trump is employing is worthy of the office. I just do not."


In Miami, worries about tourism and Cuban sand


Concerns over the tourism threat Cuba poses to Miami have reached the granular level: Who will have the better sand?

In pitching his new $40 million plan to combat beach erosion, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday pledged to find replacement sand white enough to hold its own against Cuba’s famously gleaming coast.

“It has some of the best beaches, and most beautiful beaches, in the world,” Gimenez said of Cuba, where he lived until age 7. “We have to face that.”

Gimenez’s warning captures the anxiety in tourism circles over how a newly accessible Cuba might upend the Caribbean vacation market once U.S. tourists are free to travel there. Miami is seen as vulnerable to a Cuban comeback as a U.S. vacation destination, given they both offer sunny getaways during the winter months.

More here.

Quinnipiac poll: Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush best Hillary Clinton in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia


Miami's two Republican presidential contenders, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, along with Wisconsin's Scott Walker, lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups in three key swing states, according to a new public-opinion survey.

The Quinnipiac University poll found Clinton trails or is statistically tied in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia with the three GOP candidates:

                               Colorado           Iowa            Virginia

Clinton                        38                    36                    41

Rubio                          46                    44                    43


Clinton                        36                    36                    39

Bush                            41                    42                    42


Clinton                        38                    37                    40

Walker                         47                    45                    43

In some cases in Iowa and Colorado, Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont does the same or better than Clinton against Bush, Rubio and Walker, according to the poll, which has an error margin of 2.8 percentage points. The results indicate the 2016 general election could be a close one, assuming Democrats nominate Clinton and Republicans nominate Walker, Bush or Rubio.

Clinton has negative favorability ratings in all three states -- but they're better than Republican Donald Trump, the most negatively viewed of all presidential candidates, according to the poll.

Miami Beach woman wants Marjory Stoneman Douglas to replace Florida's Confederate general statue at U.S. Capitol

via @DriscollAmy

In the national collection of statues on display in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol, each state is allotted two spots to showcase its most worthy representatives. Some states have chosen towering figures in history — Samuel Adams, father of the American revolution, represents Massachusetts — while others have gone with folksy types like humorist Will Rogers, representing Oklahoma.

And then there’s Florida. For its two picks, the Sunshine State chose John Gorrie, inventor of refrigeration and air conditioning, and Edmund Kirby Smith, a Confederate general who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy in Galveston, Texas.

As part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, Gorrie, carved from cool-looking marble, has been on exhibit since 1914. Smith, in bronze, has been in the place of honor since 1922, representing Florida for thousands of visitors a day who tour the Capitol.

A Miami Beach woman wants to change that. Lynette Long is proposing swapping out Smith’s statue for one she finds a lot more fitting: Marjory Stoneman Douglas, champion of the Everglades. If the effort succeeds, it would make Douglas the 10th woman in the collection — out of 100 statues representing the 50 states. Her statue would replace a Confederate general’s likeness at a time when such symbols have come under increasing criticism.

More here.

Pompano Beach bank becomes first to sign agreement with Cuban bank

via @HeraldMimi

In the first major business deal since the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations, Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Banks said Wednesday that it is setting up a correspondent banking relationship with a Cuban financial institution.

Stonegate, a commercial bank with 21 branches in Florida, signed an agreement Tuesday in Havana with Banco Internacional de Comercio. It’s the first correspondent banking deal signed by a U.S. bank with Cuba since the United States and Cuba announced Dec. 17 that they planned to work toward normalization of relations.

BICSA, which was formed in 1993, handles foreign trade financing and foreign exchange transactions and correspondent relationships with banks overseas. Audited annually by Ernst & Young, it has more than 600 correspondent relationships around the world.

“This is another step in terms of normalizing commercial relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” said David Seleski, president and chief executive of Stonegate. “The ability to move money easily between the two countries will only increase trade and benefit American companies wishing to do business in Cuba.”

Under the opening with Cuba, there are also more opportunities for U.S. companies to trade with Cuba, although much of the U.S. trade embargo against the island still remains intact.

More here.

Miami businessman to meet with Obama over Export-Import Bank

via @learyreports

President Obama will make a public push for the Export-Import Bank today by meeting with small business owners, including one from Miami. The push comes as the U.S. Senate is considering a highway bill amendment to reauthorize the bank.

The bank, a target of conservatives, has been without a charter since June 30 due to the House. But it has new life in the Senate, and Obama is sitting down at the White House with 10 small and medium-sized business owners.

The Miami businessman is Luis Arguello, chairman and CEO of DemeTech, which makes and exports surgical sutures and blades to more than 100 countries around the world.

Continue reading "Miami businessman to meet with Obama over Export-Import Bank" »

Did a law pass under Bill Clinton to ban guns at military recruiting sites as Jeb Bush says?

A day after the shooting rampage at two military sites in Chattanooga that would ultimately take the lives of four Marines and a Navy petty officer, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- a Republican presidential candidate -- pointed the finger at former President Bill Clinton’s administration for a law that he said banned the carrying of guns by military recruiters.

The shootings took place at two sites -- a military recruiting office in a strip mall and a Navy Operational Support Center. The gunman -- Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, a native of Kuwait who had lived in Tennessee for most of his life -- was shot dead by police. Authorities are investigating the killings but haven’t yet confirmed a terrorist motive.

Speaking at a Carson City, Nev., town hall on July 17, Bush said, "A law was passed, apparently in the Clinton administration, about whether, in recruiting offices … Marines or other military should be able to have guns. Apparently it is prohibited."

Bush was one of several Republican candidates to call for an end to such a gun prohibition. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another GOP presidential candidate, also pointed blame at Clinton.

Bush’s claim raised two questions for us: Are guns prohibited at recruiting offices? And if so, is that due to a law passed under President Clinton?

See what PolitiFact Florida found and see Bush's full Truth-O-Meter record.