September 16, 2014

Florida's NAACP backs medical-marijuana ballot initiative

 From a press release

Today, the Florida State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People proudly announced its support of United for Care and the passage of Amendment 2 this November. The amendment, which would legalize medicinal marijuana in Florida, will appear on the ballot on November 4, 2014.

NAACP Florida State Conference, including its Branches, Youth Councils and College Chapters, is a state affiliate of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization, has worked successfully with allies of all races and plays a significant role in improving the lives of minorities in America.

“Today is an exciting day for everyone working to pass Amendment 2 this November, especially for patients with debilitating diseases who could potentially benefit from compassionate care,” said Ben Pollara, Campaign Manager at United for Care. “It is welcome news to have earned the support of an organization that has such an incredible history of fighting for the rights of the people.”

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Miami-Dade commissioner slams county auto shop


Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata recently  got a lower auto repair bill than he had expected. And he's not happy. 

The vehicle in question was a county-issued truck for his office, and Zapata received two  estimates for the work. The county garage wanted $3,787 to replace the transmission. Perez Autoworks at 9375 SW 40th St. said the transmission was fine, blamed a faulty sensor and offered to do the job for $527.

Zapata went with Perez. "The truck is running fine," he said at Tuesday's commission meeting. 

The commissioner from western Miami-Dade called up the county's  procurement chief, Lester Sola, to explain the more than $3,000 gap between the two bills. Sola said county mechanics don't perform transmission work, and that a dealer would ultimately diagnose the problem and decide how much Zapata's office would need to pay for the fix. 

"The worst-case scenario was a $3,000 repair," Sola said.

Zapata wasn't satisfied. "We have people in the mechanics shop that don't know the difference between a broken sensor and a broken transmission," he said. "We always have an excuse.

"Any time these massive procurement issues come forward, I vote no," Zapata continued. "Because I don't have confidence, Lester." 

Download Copy of Vehicle # 25224 repair estimate

Download Perez Auto Works invoice (1)


Miami-Dade commission asks Gov. Scott to "reform" troubled child welfare system

Innocents LostMiami-Dade County commissioners urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature Tuesday to reform the state’s troubled child protection system, invoking the gruesome death last month of a 4-year-old boy in a resolution they adopted unanimously.

The resolution calls on Scott, lawmakers and Department of Children & Families Secretary Mike Carroll to empanel a committee of “experts to investigate, review and recommend changes in law and policy to protect children throughout Florida from the type of preventable harm that took the life of Javon Dade, Jr." who was mauled to death by dogs outside his father’s Goulds home last month. One of the dogs was a pit bull terrier.

Though pit bulls and similar dogs have been banned in Miami-Dade since 1989, DCF investigators took no action in 2011 when the agency was told Javon was in “danger” because his father kept six dogs, two of them pit bulls, and had failed to train them, the Miami Herald reported. The boy’s father, also named Javon Dade, also had been accused of dealing cocaine out of his house, carrying a gun, and being violent towards Javon’s mother and visitors to their house.

Javon was among about 500 children who died of abuse or neglect in Florida over the past six years after the state had received abuse or neglect reports concerning a caregiver. Their stories are detailed in a Miami Herald series, Innocents Lost. Full story by Carol Marbin Miller here. 



Liberal group to dispense 'Scott hand sanitizers'

The liberal advocacy group Florida for All plans a downtown Tampa protest Tuesday afternoon outside a fund-raiser for Gov. Rick Scott's re-election.  The group says it will distribute "Shady Rick Scott Hand Sanitizers" outside the event, which is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

Florida for All also listed what it calls Scott's "Ten Dirtiest Deeds" on its website, including his opposition to high speed rail, support for prison privatization and his switch from opposition to support for state funding of a Sarasota rowing center.   

Another Crist ad hitting Scott on education spending

Charlie Crist's latest TV ad takes aim again at Rick Scott's education budget cuts at the start of the Scott administration's term:

"They don't fly on private jets or float on fancy yachts, but the job Florida teachers do couldn't be more valuable. And when Rick Scott cut education by over a billion dollars thousands of them lost their jobs. Class sizes went up. Our kids paid the price. Why'd he do it? To pay for millions in handouts to big corporations."


Rep. Darryl Rouson lands gig at Clearwater law firm


More than a year after leaving a high-profile firm, state Rep. Darryl Rouson announced today that he has joined Clearwater-based personal injury firm Dolman Law Group.

Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, left his job at the Morgan & Morgan firm in May 2013. He had taken the opposite side of his boss John Morgan's very public support of a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. At the time, Rouson said he was leaving the firm to focus on his political career and both insisted the separation was amicable.

Rouson joined the Dolman firm two months ago, according to a press release, and the company is looking to open an office in St. Petersburg.

Rouson faces a write-in candidate and a candidate with no party affiliation in the general election race and is expected to win a fourth term in the Legislature.

Arts funding remains a battle in Miami-Dade budget debate


With Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez backing off a string of proposed budget cuts, subsidies for cultural institutions remain a battleground.

The Miami Children's Museum sent a letter to county commissioners Tuesday objecting to a proposed cut in its tax funding from $750,000 to $635,000. "I am not suggesting that any other organization's approved funding or recommended funding be touched on behalf of the Miami Children's Museum," Jeff Berkowitz, chairman of the museum's board, said in the letter. 

  Download Miami Children's Museum letter

Meanwhile, the Pérez Art Museum Miami continues to press for restoration of a $1.4 million funding increase that Gimenez initially proposed for the new facility but then scrapped to bridge a budget gap in the police department.

And with cultural grants also facing cuts, a string of non-profit art organizations packed commission chambers at a Sept. 4 budget hearing, including a youth symphony that played a brief work for commissioners. Look for an encore this Thursday, for the final hearing before a budget vote. 


Finalist for FSU president, Michael Martin, won't make his Wednesday interview


UPDATE 2:52 PM: Michael Martin, one of the finalists for the FSU presidency, was unable to make it to Tallahassee for his interview Wednesday because he had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina. No details yet about when his interview will be rescheduled or how it will affect the search timeline.

ORIGINAL POST: One of four finalists to become Florida State University's next president notified the school today that he is sick and unable to travel to Tallahassee for his interview on Wednesday.

Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, is one of the favorites of FSU faculty although the vast majority of the schools' community has not had a chance to get to know him. Renisha Gibbs, vice chairman of the search committee, said Martin is still considered a candidate and any decision about rescheduling his interview will be made by this afternoon.

All four finalists were expected to participate in full-day interviews on campus this week. State Sen. John Thrasher was Monday, former West Virginia University provost Michele Wheatly is up today, Martin was to appear Wednesday and Richard Marchase, vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is coming on Friday.

The presidential search advisory committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 22 to review feedback from FSU faculty, staff, students and supporters. They must recommend at least three of the finalists to the school's Board of Trustees. Those finalists would interview with trustees on Sept. 23 and a final selection is expected to be made that day.

Martin's rescheduled interview could alter that schedule, though no decisions have not been made yet. 

This blog will be updated.

Miami is the exception to Rand Paul claim that "income inequality is worse in towns run by Democrat mayors than in towns run by Republican mayors."

During a recent interview with NPR, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took aim at the belief -- widely held among Democrats -- that Republican policies are encouraging greater income inequality.

"I think inequality can be a problem, and interestingly seems to be getting a little bit worse under this administration," Paul said. "Income inequality is worse in towns run by Democrat mayors than in towns run by Republican mayors." (Here’s the full transcript.)

A reader asked PolitiFact to check whether Paul’s claim about cities under Democratic and Republican mayors is correct. So we did. Turn to Louis Jacobson's fact-check to learn how Miami fits into this claim.

Does Curbelo support raising flood insurance rates?

As thousands of Floridians faced the threat of a massive flood insurance hike in 2014, a deluge of protests from homeowners led Congress to delay some of the heftiest increases.

Now U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, says in a Sept. 5 Web ad that his Republican opponent Carlos Curbelo "supported raising flood insurance rates."

That’s a serious charge in Garcia’s district, which includes many homeowners in flood-prone Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. A few days later, the Garcia campaign unveiled a TV ad that makes a similar charge that Curbelo would let rates "skyrocket."

We dove right in to search for the facts: Has Curbelo supported raising flood insurance rates? Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer.