October 19, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott promised a change at DCF but expert says 'numbers are cooked' as deaths kept off the books

UNDERCOUNT-Charlize_Terrell@Marbinus

In Lake County, a disfigured 2-month-old whose mother did not want him is left alone in a motel room for 90 minutes, and is later found smothered. His family had been the subject of 38 prior investigations by the state’s child welfare agency.

“It is a general consensus,” a report said, “that [the mother] was involved in the death of her child.”

In Santa Rosa County, child welfare authorities allow a “chronic and severe” drug addict to bring her newborn home, though her two older children had been removed from her care for their safety. Eighteen days later, the mother takes an unprescribed Lortab painkiller and places her baby next to her in bed. The child is found dead.

And in Polk County, a mother leaves two toddlers alone in a “kiddie pool” — and returns to find her 1-year-old daughter face-down in the water. Her 2-year-old son later discloses he pushed his sister down while she was crying. He now suffers nightmares. 

The children, who all perished last year, are tragically bound by more than death: Even as the Florida Department of Children & Families has promised greater openness, the three fatalities, and dozens of others like them, have never been counted among the state’s victims of fatal abuse or neglect.

No state can protect every child who is born to troubled, violent or drug-addicted parents, and even youngsters for whom child protection administrators make all the right choices can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. To ensure that state social service agencies learn from mistakes, the federal government requires that states count and investigate all child fatalities that result from abuse or neglect.

Regulators don’t, however, strenuously oversee how the counting and investigating occurs.

After the Miami Herald published a series examining the deaths of 477 children — and Florida’s failure to protect some of them from abusive or neglectful parents — the state promised a new era of openness and more rigor in the way it investigates child deaths.

But except for abiding by a new state law that required DCF to create awebsite listing all child fatalities, Florida has continued to undercount the number of children it fails.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott promised a change at DCF but expert says 'numbers are cooked' as deaths kept off the books" »

October 18, 2014

Race between Miami Rep. Joe Garcia and Carlos Curbelo comes down to the wire

@PatriciaMazzei

The ghost of David Rivera lingers over the fierce race for Florida’s southernmost congressional district.

Engulfed in scandals, he lost the seat two years ago and came in fourth place this year when he tried to win the Republican Party’s nomination again.

But his tainted legacy is never too far from his former opponents.

The man who won this year’s GOP primary, Carlos Curbelo, is campaigning as the anti-Rivera. The man Curbelo wants to defeat, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, is seeking reelection without having the vulnerable Rivera to use as target practice.

Garcia’s own 2012 political advertising — hammering Rivera as corrupt — has come back to haunt him.

More here.

CDC agrees to help Florida prepare for Ebola, sort of

The federal Centers for Disease Control agreed Saturday to some -- but not all -- of Gov. Rick Scott's Ebola-related requests.

The CDC will hold a conference call with Florida hospitals next week on best practices, Scott said Saturday. The organization has also given Florida the green light to spend about $7 million in federal grant funding on protective suits for health care workers. 

"The CDC indicated that we will receive formal approval next week, but based on this preliminary approval, we have already begun using these funds to enhance our Ebola preparedness efforts," Scott said in a statement.

The governor is still waiting on the CDC to contact passengers on a plane that stopped in Fort Lauderdale after carrying a nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola. 

He also has yet to receive 27 of the 30 Ebola testing kits he requested.

"With a population of more than 19 million people, tens of millions of tourists, and numerous ports and international airports, we must ensure Florida can rapidly test any future patients who have the potential for Ebola," he said.

The conference call with Florida hospitals will take place Monday at 3:30 p.m.

The call will provide "guidance for proper use of Personal Protective Equipment, safe handling of medical waste and effective clinical strategies within the hospital setting."

October 17, 2014

After FanGate, Scott pivots to Ebola

Two days after Florida’s gubernatorial debate turned into FanGate, Gov. Rick Scott convened a press conference in Dania Beach to talk about a more serious subject: Ebola.

The Republican incumbent assured reporters that Florida was prepared for a potential health crisis — and repeated calls for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contact passengers on a plane that stopped at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after carrying an Ebola patient.

"The CDC and the federal government have already failed to get ahead of the spread of Ebola in Texas and we’re not going to let that happen in Florida," Scott said.

But some observers say the news conference Friday was about more than emerging health concerns, pointing out that no cases of Ebola have been reported in Florida, and healthcare professionals consider it highly unlikely that any Fort Lauderdale passengers caught the virus.

"He’s playing politics with fear," said Charles Zelden, a professor of history, law and politics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. "He’s following the Republican Party playbook, which is to scare people into voting — and he’s trying his darndest to put FanGate behind him."

Read more here.

Rothenberg Political Report switches FL-26 rating to 'Pure Tossup'

@PatriciaMazzei

Did the race between Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo get a little tighter?

That's the opinion of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, which on Friday switched its rating of the contest to "Pure Tossup" from "Pure Tossup/Tilts Democratic."

Curbelo's campaign touted the change in a news release.

Congressional District 26 is one of two competitive races in Florida, and the most competitive in the country among districts where a majority of voters are Hispanic.

Rothenberg switched the rating in the state's other close race -- FL-02 -- to "Pure Tossup" from "Pure Tossup/Tilts Republican," benefiting Democrat Gwen Graham, who is challenging Republican Rep. Steve Southerland in the Panhandle.

Loophole allows Miami congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo to keep firm clients secret

@PatriciaMazzei

As a member of the Miami-Dade County school board, Carlos Curbelo has voted on education policies and schools contracts for four years. Now, running for a congressional seat, he’s looking to have a say in far more consequential government decisions.

For most of that time, Curbelo has been drawing a six-figure salary to represent government and public-relations clients.

Yet the Republican candidate refuses to disclose who the clients are.

Some of them are political candidates who have hired Curbelo as a campaign strategist or Spanish-language media spokesman. Those clients are publicly known. But the others aren’t, raising questions as to why Curbelo insists on keeping them secret.

“He’s violating the spirit of the rules,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a liberal watchdog group. “Technically, he is exploiting a loophole that allows him not to disclose.”

More here.

Florida Democratic Party releases new ad featuring the 'Fan'

A portion of the Florida Democratic Party press release:

Today, the Florida Democratic Party is releasing “Absent," a new TV ad holding Rick Scott accountable for refusing to debate Charlie Crist over something as trivial as a fan.

 

780k absentee ballots cast and GOP still leads. 'Here is what they don't tell you'

@MarcACaputo

Absentee ballots are still pouring in, with 778,876 cast of this morning. As yesterday, Republicans still hold the lead in returns over Democrats, 48-35 percent.

Here's a look at the top counties where ballots have been counted by party:

 Ballots cast  Party County % of total
      37,601 REP PIN 43%
      32,407 REP LEE 55%
      31,867 DEM PIN 37%
      28,281 REP DAD 47%
      22,126 DEM DAD 36%
      18,812 REP HIL 42%
      17,315 DEM HIL 39%
      16,353 DEM ORA 42%
      15,792 REP ORA 41%
      14,332 REP BRE 54%
      14,146 DEM LEE 24%
      14,119 REP DUV 55%
      14,087 REP VOL 48%
      14,058 NPA PIN 16%
      13,971 REP CLL 63%

Republicans have been crowing about their lead. But Democratic consultant Steve Schale says in a new memo that there's more than meets the eye:

[H]ere is what they don’t tell you.

Only 73 percent of people who have returned an absentee ballot voted in 2010. The other 27 percent – they didn’t vote in 2010. They are the so-called “irregular” or “Presidential” voters.

Let’s repeat that: Of the ballots cast to date – by the voters who are seemingly most interested in voting, 27 percent of the ballots have been cast by voters who did not vote in 2010. And Democrats have an edge, with 32 percent of their votes coming from voters who did not participate in 2010, compared to 20 percent of Republicans.

Republicans have long held an advantage in terms of absentee ballot voters. In fact, among the nearly 1.5 million voters currently holding an absentee ballot in their hands who voted in 2010, the GOP holds about an 180,000 voter advantage. They have more voters who always vote by absentee - so they will win among people who always vote by absentee.

But more importantly, the comparison of where were then (2010) versus now. In 2010 – on today’s day in the campaign, Republicans held an 18.5 percent advantage among returned ballots. Today it is less than 13.5 percent – and is trending Democratic. We’ve dropped the gap from 20% to 13.5% in just 10 days, and again, that is with reports that there are many ballots in three south Florida counties that have yet to be processed.

Again, the GOP advantage among people voting to date is almost exclusively from voters who voted in three of the last three races. However, the difference between their 18.5% advantage on this day in the campaign in 2010 and the 13.5% advantage today is due to the increase in returned ballots from non-2010 voters.

Sure Republicans will win absentees. They always do. But the margin will be tighter.

And keep in mind, Scott won by 61,000 votes in 2010.

Schale memo here

Chamber funds Crist attack in GOP markets: He's a trial lawyer

 The Florida Chamber of Commerce is out with a new television ad in several GOP-heavy media markets today predictably crediting Florida's job increases, which happened as the national economy improved, to Gov. Rick Scott and blaming the job losses, that occurred in the global economic meltdown, to Charlie Crist. 

Whether critically-thinking voters buy this faulty logic is yet to be seen, so they've thrown in what might be a more persuasive pitch -- at least for right-leaning independents and those who make up the 7 percent of those still undecided. It's that Crist is a trial lawyer. 

The ad is running in the I-4 corridor from Daytona to Tampa, Jacksonville, parts of the Panhandle as well as Southwest Florida.

Here's the transcript:

Rick Scott added over 600,000 jobs. 
Trial lawyer Charlie lost over 800,000 jobs.
Rick Scott has Florida’s economy headed in the right direction.
“I’m a trial lawyer,” says Charlie Crist.
Trial lawyers like Crist hurt our economy.
But Florida’s on the right track with Rick Scott.
The last thing we need are more trial lawyers. 
So give Charlie a call and let him know.
Oh, and if he’s out suing someone, leave him a message.

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.