Eighteen local and state elected officials have been chosen to
take part in the third class of the Good Government Initiative at the University
of Miami. The program, created by former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, is designed to train politicians to be
more effective in office.
“It’s inspiring to be able to convene another group of committed,
thoughtful elected officials who are eager to serve their communities in an
honorable and intelligent way,” Sorenson said Tuesday in a statement.
The new class members are, from Miami-Dade: Cutler Bay Council
member Peggy Bell, North Bay Village Commissioner Richard Chervony, Aventura Commissioner Enbar Cohen, North Miami Beach Council member Anthony DeFillipo, Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor John DuBois, Homestead Council member Patricia Fairclough-McCormick, Miami Gardens Council
member Erhabor Ighodaro, Biscayne Park Mayor Noah Jacobs, Surfside Commissioner Michelle Kligman, Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago, Miami Lakes Council member Anthony Lama, Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami, and Bay Harbor Islands Council
member Kelly Reid.
From Broward: Miramar Commissioner Yvette
Colbourne, Davie Council member Caryl Hattan,
and Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow.
From Monroe: Republican state Rep. Holly
Raschein of Key Largo.
From Palm Beach: Palm Beach Shores Commissioner Myra Koutzen.
Rosanna Taveras figured the federal budget cuts from the so-called sequester would go unnoticed at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami.
But Taveras, the agency’s director, will close a Miami Gardens program that serves about 30 hot lunches a day to elderly residents of an apartment building.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think we were going to be cut,’’ Taveras recalled. “But in the beginning of April, I realized I had to close something.”
Friday’s scheduled closing of the free-lunch program at the Saint Monica senior apartment building captures a string of ripple effects in South Florida from the sequester, a collection of $85 billion worth of spending cuts triggered by the failure of the White House and Congress to agree on deficit-reduction plan.
Although the nation’s airports caught most of the attention from the sequester, the cuts are being blamed for a string of smaller reductions at all levels of government, affecting mostly the elderly and poor.
Miami-Dade County last week alone issued a tally of estimated costs from the sequester for its operations, and the bulk of the $12 million tally comes from $9.5 million worth of security and immigration reductions at Miami International Airport. Beyond the high-profile airport impacts, the summary from Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office shows smaller cuts to social services, including $730,000 in stipends to help the poor pay their utility bills and $25,000 for the county’s victims-assistance office.
The breakdown offers the first detailed look at the sequester’s estimated impact on Miami-Dade, Florida’s biggest county. With the sequester about to enter its third month, the ripple effects from the federal cuts still haven’t been fully measured or estimated by the local governments who rely on Washington to subsidize programs and facilities.
“No! No! No! Arrrrgh,” cried out Barbara Sciandra in a strangled tone, hands clutching the sides of her head in anguish as the numbskull newbie in front of the video slot machine — that is, me — botched yet another game, another 8 cents frittered away to rookie incomprehension.
“Sorry,” she continued a moment later, in a calmer tone. “But you had three ‘cross fever’ symbols in the corners. You should have held them and raised your bet. If you get four, a jackpot is almost inevitable.”
Actually, the jackpot would have been entirely theoretical, as were those 8 cents I lost. We were playing the machine secretly and for free, in a South Florida arcade closed last month when the Florida Legislature passed a harsh new video gambling law.
The owner opened it up, reinstalled the computer motherboards in several of the machines, and invited a few of the arcade’s regular customers back for an afternoon so I could test one of the frequent criticisms of the slots: that they’re pure games of chance in which skill plays no part.
The no-skill allegation came up again during the legislative debate this spring over a bill, which eventually passed, to ban video gambling in senior arcades, gas stations and mom-and-pop cafes. “They are not games of skill,” lobbyist Ron Book — who represents pari-mutuel racetracks, which wanted to stamp out competition for their casinos — told the Florida House. “They are clearly games of gambling and chance.”
Nobody denies the machines involve gambling; you play them for pennies in hopes of winning a much more valuable prize. And they certainly involve an element of chance, like all games, even chess. (Many statistical studies have shown that the player who gets the white pieces and the first move, which is typically decided with a coin flip or something similar, wins between 52 and 56 percent of the time.)
But if skill plays a part in the video games, even a small one, then they aren’t gambling devices under Florida law. And if my afternoon at the arcade means anything, skill matters a lot.
A written statement from Republican operative-turned-Libertarian Roger Stone:
While I am sorely tempted to be a candidate for Governor of Florida, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate. I have come to the conclusion that my own, shall we say, colorful lifestyle and the bumps and scars of hundreds of political fights would be a distraction from our message of Liberty. I am also a political realist. Florida is one of the most expensive media states in the country. It will take millions of dollars to even make voters aware that there is an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. If there is any lesson from last year’s Presidential campaign it is this- it doesn’t do any good to have a compelling platform if no one knows about it.
You could shake hands with voters everyday between now and Election Day and not reach as many voters as one prime-time television spot in the Miami media market. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics” as a great politician once said.
South Beach’s Memorial Day 2013 bash is a party in a police state.
Barricades line the South Beach streets. Mobile watchtowers rise on Ocean Drive.
And packs of officers on foot, bicycles and ATVs keep the partiers — and
even the guys grilling on the beach — in line.
The result as of Saturday afternoon: No one got shot, unlike in 2011. No one had his face chewed off, unlike 2012.
And few seem too concerned with a police presence. But many feel
it’s a little too heavy and a little too targeted toward
African-American youth, who have made Memorial Day on South Beach as big
as it is controversial.
“A lot of people say it’s a hassle,” said
Evan McCloud, a 30-year-old from Bridgeport Conn. “But it’s not that
bad if you’re minding your own business.”
“It’s not like the police are just bothering people,” he said.
later, a pack of bike-mounted police officers stopped to talk to him
and his two friends as they cooked with two $4 Publix-bought disposable
grills balanced on a section of wall between the beach and the
“No grilling,” one officer said. “You have to put that out.”
Later, about 11:15 p.m. Saturday around Drexel Avenue and 14th Street, a gaggle of Miami Beach Police and at least one federal marshal had stopped 4 black males, pulled them out of their car and appeared to be searching it.
When I tried to get a photograph from a safe distance (a street corner sidewalk), one cop said " get the fuck out of here." That's when the record button on the iPhone was pushed.
Man, some cops sure hate cameras. Most of the good ones don't. They have nothing to hide. And most police are good, decent and hard-working people who have a tough job. But not all are.
A good example of a professional officer: Miami Beach Detective Juan Sam Pedro, who diffused the situation. A department spokesman said the agency has made sure that its officers respect the rights of the press after a run-in with a Channel 10 camera man in 2011.
"All Miami Beach Police Officers were trained into the 'do’s and don’ts' when it comes to picture taking in a public area by anyone including News Media Personnel," Robert Hernandez said.
The two officers who wanted all recording stopped were not city police, Hernandez said. It's therefore likely they were both with the marshal's service.
Of course, there will be those who think it's perfectly OK for police to command a person (reporter or simply private citizen) to move. However, it's well-accepted case law in Florida that a person has the right to photograph a public scene in public, provided it doesn't interfere with law enforcement's legitimate investigation. In this case, I was well away from the crime scene, and there was no threat.
And had I been allowed to photograph from the safe distance away, there would have been no confrontation -- and no video.
The Republican Party of Florida came to Gov. Rick Scott's defense Friday after former state Senator Dan Gelber wrote a letter asking the governor to return a $110,000 contribution he received from an insurance startup that could get $52 million from the state-run insurance giant.
RPOF slammed Gelber, saying the Miami Beach Democrat was doing "dirty work" for former governor and potential 2014 candidate Charlie Crist. RPOF used the opportunity to ask Gelber about Crist's questionable "allies," including convicted felons Jim Greer and Scott Rothstein.
The list of lawmakers criticizing Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for a $52 million takeout deal continues to grow, as House Speaker Will Weatherford said Friday that he had "serious concerns" about the plan.
Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Citizens did not provide sufficient notice to the Legislature before quickly approving the $52 million deal that was unveiled and voted on this week.
"I have serious concerns about the latest takeout agreement between Citizens and the Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, particularly the lengthy backdated payments for coverage that Heritage did not provide," Weatherford said in a statment. "Once again, Citizens did not provide a sufficient advanced briefing to the Legislature, and the proposal was hastily pushed through a sharply divided board."
Gov. Rick Scott is signing the texting while driving bill (SB
52) at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School in
Miami, but the state law doesn't take effect until Oct. 1.
bill prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering multiple
letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless
communications device, which includes text messaging, emailing and
instant messaging through smart phones. Texting would be allowed in
hands-off, high-tech cars and when a car is stopped at a red light or in
a traffic jam.
Florida has been one of the last five states in the country without any type of texting ban.
announcing the bill signing, Scott said "As a father and a grandfather,
texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones
are on the road. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are
known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers.
do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and
everyone on our roads safe. I cannot think of a better time to
officially sign this bill into law.
Gov. Rick Scott today sent letters to the boards of trustees of Florida’s 12 universities urging them to forgo any tuition increase this year.
already has vetoed a 3 percent tuition increase included in the state
budget, but some people believe universities have the power to increase
tuition 1.7 percent to keep up with inflation.
consistently fought to hold the line on tuition, and to stop any tax
increases, in Florida. Higher education should be affordable so it is as
accessible to as many Florida families as possible,” Scott wrote.
“I would be proud for you to join me in our fight to hold the line on tuition.”
Rep. Mike Fasano is the latest official to raise questions about a $52
million take-out deal between an upstart St. Petersburg insurance company and Citizens
Property Insurance Corp.
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, penned a
letter to the state’s Insurance Commissioner on Friday questioning whether Heritage
Property and Casualty Insurance has already violated a May 17 consent
order from the Office of Insurance Regulation. Heritage has firmly denied
Fasano alleged that Heritage had
been contacting insurance agents and policyholders prior to May 23, when the
company officially received approval to take out some 60,000 policies in a $52
million deal. That would be a violation of the OIR’s consent order, Fasano
said, citing a part of the agreement that bans Heritage from contacting “any
potential policyholder, including sending communication regarding this
depopulation” prior to the deal being signed.
Heritage firmly denies that it has
been contacting policyholders, and said the company contacted agents last week
as part of a standard procedure to alert them to an upcoming potential takeout.
The company’s chairman, Bruce Lucas, said there was nothing untoward about
“We are required to publish a wishlist,” of policies, he
said. “We contact agents and say, ‘In the future we attempt to do a
McCarty’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about the rules on when a takeout company can contact agents.
Lucas said the company only began sending letters to homeowners today, after receiving consent from OIR.
As evidence, Fasano presented a
letter and email received by Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley with regards to a takeout
offer from Heritage. A May 17 letter from Corley’s insurance agent informs him that
Heritage has “selected” his policy for an “upcoming takeout.” The proposed
takeout was approved by Citizens' board of governors on May 22, in a 3-2 vote.
Corley received an email response from a Heritage employee on May 22, prior to
the vote, saying that Heritage “offers a better policy” than Citizens.
Heritage has maintained that this
was an “automated” message in response to Corley, and OIR general counsel Belinda Miller said she did
not believe this form of communication violated the consent order’s ban on
communicating with policyholders prior to approval of the takeout.