April 02, 2014

From the Miami Herald archives, a tale about Carlton Moore

An interesting anecdote about Carlton Moore -- the former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner who died today -- from a Feb. 3, 1985 Miami Herald article shortly after he became the local NAACP president:

During a meeting with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Robert Dressler, Moore sat patiently while other blacks complained mildly about trash, abandoned houses and drug dealers in their neighborhoods.

Then it was Moore's turn. He blasted Dressler for the city's neglect of its black neighborhoods.

He had his say, then walked out.

"I felt (Dressler's meeting with black residents) was a political stunt, and I didn't want to accept it," said Moore, relaxing in a recliner in his modest Fort Lauderdale duplex.

"The mayor doesn't have a white leaders' meeting. Why do we need a black leaders' meeting? What we want is to be part of the mainstream."

As for walking out, Moore said he wasn't angry. He had to rush to another appointment.

Gaetz pushes open records bill, but for whom?


Senate President Don Gaetz is no ally of trial lawyers.

Since joining the Legislature in 2006, Gaetz has consistently tried to limit damage awards, which also limits lawyers' fees.

Just last year, the Panhandle Republican, who made his fortune in the hospice industry, supported a bill shielding hospitals from liability and limiting expert witness testimony in medical malpractice cases.

But this year, Gaetz's priorities include SB 1648, which could improve business for attorneys specializing in public records law suits, a group that includes a person close to Gaetz.

His son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

Read story here.

Charlie Crist gets an endorsement from a prominent Tampa philanthropist -- who's a Republican

David Straz, a retired banker and one of Tampa Bay's most prominent philanthropists, endorsed Charlie Crist for governor on Wednesday.

"I intend to support him a a big way," said Straz, a Republican and former Rick Scott supporter said inside the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

"It is the responsibility of each of us to give back to our communities," said Straz, who contributed an estimated $25-million to the Performing ArtsCenter. "Unfortunaly some outsiders come to Florida and just take. Rick Scott took from Floridians as a CEO and he is still taking from our state. He took away high speed transportation and jobs from the city of Tampa. He wanted to take away $4.8-billion from education and he took away access to affordable health care for 1.1-million Floridians."

Crist gave his own blistering assessment of Gov. Scott, contrasting Scott's business experience to Straz's.

"David's a businessman. We've got a guy in the governor's mansion who calls himself a businessman - but not a good one in my humble opinion," Crist said. " You all know the story. His company had to pay the largest fine for Medicare fraud in the history of the United States of America at the time - $1.7-billion. What kind of company was it? It was a health care company, HCA Columbia. And what did they do? They took money from poor people. They upcoded. You know what upcoding is? It's a fancy word that means they charged too much. when you charge too much you're stealing. And you're stealing from sick people, and that's wrong. I can't believe he's governor. But in seven months we can fix it and get Florida back on track."

About the auto registration fees that went up with Crist in charge and now are dropping under Scott's leadership, Crist made no apologies.

"We had to get through a tough time, and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. The fees went up on automobiles and we got through a time time. And we saved thousands of teachers jobs, law enforcement officers' jobs, firefighters' jobs. We maintained a decent economy that was struggling worse than it ever had since the Great Depression itself, and as a result before I left office we were starting to turn around Florida's economy. I'm very proud of that."

- Adam C. Smith, Tampa Bay Times

Mud slinging slows Miami-Dade sewer contract


The muck continues to fly in a months-long fight between two firms competing to oversee $1.6 billion in federally mandated repairs to Miami-Dade County’s dilapidated sewers.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration has already negotiated a still-undisclosed agreement with AECOM Technical Services. But Gimenez has yet to make a formal recommendation to county commissioners, who must ultimately award the contract, pending the completion of reviews by the mayor’s staff and by the Miami-Dade inspector general.

The additional scrutiny follows a slew of complaints by CH2M Hill, the second-ranked bidder, which has alleged AECOM misrepresented its qualifications to a selection committee. AECOM says the accusations are rubbish.

A federal judge must still sign the mandate, known as a consent decree, requiring Miami-Dade to upgrade its deteriorated pipes. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno suggested tweaks to the mandate last month.

More here.

What's in a name, Governor? It was 'Diane Roberts'

Was it just a slip of the tongue by Gov. Rick Scott? Or were his thoughts elsewhere Wednesday morning?

As he prepared to sign the auto tag fee reduction law into effect, Scott -- working from prepared remarks -- singled out the legislators who helped make it happen, such as Reps. Mike Hill and Marti Coley. He then got into hot water when he mentioned the tax collectors who were present.

"Diane Roberts," Scott said at the bill signing, televised on the Florida Channel.

Diane Roberts?

The tax collector who was standing behind Scott was Diane Nelson, the long-time Pinellas County tax collector and president of a statewide tax collectors' group (she has worked at the agency 47 years). Diane Roberts is the academic and commentator whose scheduled talk on the environment at a state-owned museum was abruptly cancelled late last week by Scott's administration, creating a major stir on social media.

But back to Scott's introductions. The next tax collector Scott mentioned was "Carole Jean Johnson." That would be Carole Jean Jordan of Indian River County, who has been a fixture in Republican politics and is a former state GOP chairwoman.


State worker quits to protest 'censorship' at museum

UPDATE, 5 p.m. Wednesday: Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a statement he contacted Diane Roberts and "she has agreed to speak on the topic of her choosing in the future." Detzner's statement added he learned of a staffer's resignation and said: "I plan to reach out to everyone involved to determine if everything was handled appropriately and ensure appropriate protocols were followed." Roberts said she would be "delighted" to give a talk. "He apologized, he was as nice as he could be. He told me about 400 times how much he values water," she said.

A graduate student at Florida State University who worked at the state-run Mission San Luis quit her job Tuesday in protest of the Department of State's decision to abruptly cancel a talk featuring FSU professor Diane Roberts.

Roberts, a scholar, writer and public radio commentator, has been an outspoken critic of Gov. Rick Scott's administration. The state abruptly cancelled her scheduled April 3 lecture on the subject of problems with Florida's lakes, springs and rivers.

Jessica Kindrick, 24, had an $11-an-hour job at the state-run museum. She said she decided to quit after a tense verbal exchange Tuesday with the mission's director, Robert Blount. "He said something along the lines of, 'If you have a serious problem with this then you probably should go ahead and resign. You've made a target of yourself,'^" Kindrick said. She also said Blount asked her if she had "a death wish."

Kindrick had anonymously posted highly critical comments of the controversy on a blog on the social media forum reddit.com under the headline "Rick Scott's cronies politically censor Tallahassee, FL museum lecture." Kindrick wrote: "As a museum professional, I am appalled and disgusted by this blatant political maneuvering at the expense of my, and my institution's, integrity and desire nothing more than to see this come to light."

Kindrick is completing her master's degree work at FSU in museum and cultural heritage studies. She has worked for the state since last June, and said she planned to leave at the end of the summer to take a teaching job in her home state of Texas.

Department of State spokeswoman Brittany Lesser has not yet responded to Times/Herald questions about Kindrick's resignation.


A compromise on immigrant tuition? Not so fast.

Sen. Jack Latvala misspoke when he said he would take the House version of the immigrant tuition bill, he said Wednesday.

"We're actually not taking the House version," Latvala told the Herald/Times. "We're going to have to match it up."

Latvala said he had been misinformed about several provisions in the House bill. For example, he said, he did not realize the House version allowed all colleges and universities to raise tuition 6 percent over the rate set by the legislature.

He also has lingering concerns with language in the House bill that designates some students as "nonresident for tuition purposes."

Latvala said he and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg would be working on a new version of the Senate bill (SB 1400) this week. They will likely propose a compromise on the tuition differential that would allow two universities to raise tuition, he said.

Stay tuned.

Scott inks tag-fee cut, calls out Crist by name

A Capitol bill-signing had the air of a partisan rally Wednesday as Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill to roll back some auto tag fees to pre-2009 levels, while repeatedly reminding his audience that former Gov. Charlie Crist approved them.

Scott made it clear the lower tag fees will be a centerpiece of his re-election strategy against Crist.

"We're here because in 2009, Charlie Crist raised this tax. We are going to right the wrong of this 2009 tax increase that Charlie Crist enacted," Scott said.

Crist was a Republican governor at the time and is now Scott's leading Democratic opponent. Left unsaid by Scott was that every Republican legislator but one also supported the fee increases, including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. A former Miami-Dade legislator, he was a House majority whip at the time and responsible for locking down GOP majorities on key legislation.

Asked by reporters about his vote in favor of the fee increases, Lopez-Cantera said: "When you're getting a strong message from the governor's office, and only given one option, it makes it more difficult. If Gov. Scott had been there in 2009, we wouldn't be here today with this issue."

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who celebrated the tag fee rollback with Scott Wednesday, also voted to impose the higher fees five years ago.

"It was presented as the only thing to do at the time," Gaetz recalled. "We were told by the governor's office that we would be closing the doors of schools and hospitals across the state if we didn't do what we were asked to do. Many of us gritted our teeth when we cast the votes that we did."

The tag fee increases were imposed along with a $1 a pack increase in cigarette taxes to get the state through a major budget shortfall.

At Wednesday's bill signing, Scott was surrounded by legislative leaders, county tax collectors and business lobbyists as he signed the bill (SB 156), which will reduce tag fees for motorists on Sept. 1, saving the typical driver $25 a year on each vehicle. He said he's sending a letter to all 67 county tax collectors, urging them to remind motorists that they should renew their registrations for one year, not two, so they can be eligible for the lower tag fees.


Former Fort Laud Commissioner Carlton Moore dies

Former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore, a strong advocate for improving the city's blighted neighborhoods, has died.

Moore’s political career began in 1985 when he took over as president of the Fort Lauderdale NAACP. In that role he fought against discriminatory lending practices by banks, against the closings of black-majority schools and in favor of single member districts in the city to strengthen the power of the black vote.

He would turn that activism into a career on the city commissioner where he first joined the dais in 1988.

When the Miami Herald endorsed Moore in 1988, the editorial board wrote: “Mr. Moore does have the fire, but needs to harness and channel it. Electing Carlton Moore would be a gamble that he would mature in office, but given the stakes for the city's minority community, it is a gamble worth taking.”

At age 34, Moore won the race to represent Fort Lauderdale's predominantly black Northwest section. He defeated Andrew DeGraffenreidt II, who had been the city's first black commissioner.

Moore served about two decades on the commission until he resigned in 2009 after losing a close county commission race to incumbent John Rodstrom.

Statement from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler:

“Fort Lauderdale has lost a true champion of the people.  Commissioner Moore’s decades of distinguished leadership provided a strong voice to our City and, in particular, to our Northwest community.  His vision and tireless efforts brought new residential and commercial development to the Midtown area, while laying the foundation for much of the progress and advancement we see today.  We are grateful for his many years of outstanding service to Fort Lauderdale and his countless contributions to moving our City forward.  Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with his family during this difficult time.”

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale):

“Carlton Moore was a mentor, a friend, and, above all, a surrogate father for me.

“We first began working together when he was the president of the Ft. Lauderdale branch of the NAACP. My mom was the secretary and I was very active in the organization’s Youth Council. He taught me the values of hard work, dedication and commitment to my community.

“Carlton is wholly responsible for my political career. One year out of FSU law school, he appointed me to the City of Ft. Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Board. He convinced me to run for the Florida House of Representatives, and remained a constant political and personal advisor to me.

“Ft. Lauderdale is a better place because of the tireless work he did as NAACP president to bring economic and social justice to the city. From downtown development to beautification and revitalization of Sistrunk Boulevard, his legacy will forever stand as one of the finest commissioners ever to have served our community.

“The city of Ft. Lauderdale, the state of Florida, and this nation have lost a tireless servant. And I have lost a great friend.”


Fed court goes out of its way to slap down Rick Scott's troubled voter purge


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration violated federal law by trying to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls too close to the 2012 presidential election, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in calling the mistake-prone effort “far from perfect.”

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta invalidated efforts by the Department of State to identify and remove non-citizens from the voter rolls in advance of an election in which a Florida victory was crucial to President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Federal law prohibits states from “systematic” removals of voters less than 90 days before a federal primary or general election.

Judges said they ruled in a case that might otherwise be moot to prevent Scott’s administration from undertaking a future purge effort.

“This is a big win for Florida voters and a significant victory for good election administration practices,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, which joined the case on the plaintiffs’ side. “Systematic computer purges are often wrong so they shouldn’t come just before an election, when the voter can’t get it corrected. ... This is a precedent-setting case that upholds a key protection for voters.”

More here