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July 30, 2015

Florida Senate minority leader to Jeb Bush: Apologize to black community


The office of state Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, the Democratic minority leader, sent over a letter Joyner addressed to Jeb Bush ahead of his speech Friday to the National Urban League's annual conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Joyner, who is black, used the letter to fault Bush for purging the Florida voter rolls and shortening early-voting hours as governor. Those are among the challenges Bush faces in addressing a primarily black audience as part of a campaign that he says will reach out to groups that vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

"If you are indeed sincere about being inclusive, then you need to first acknowledge your mistakes and unequivocally apologize directly to the community you wronged," Joyner wrote.

Here's the full text of her letter:

Continue reading "Florida Senate minority leader to Jeb Bush: Apologize to black community" »

Meet the black man who would 'run through walls' for Jeb Bush



The first time T. Willard Fair cast a ballot for Jeb Bush, he didn't know him.

Bush had just put his foot in his mouth, blurting out at a 1994 debate for Florida governor that, as governor, he would do "Probably nothing" for African Americans.

But it was not a gaffe to Fair, who is black. Instead, Fair felt he had found his candidate.

"'That's my man! I gotta vote for him,'" Fair recalled last month in an interview with the Miami Herald a few days before Bush launched his presidential campaign. "Part of what is broken in my community is people who know better won't say better. He says things that he believes, politically correct or not."

Fair would meet Bush soon thereafter. The Republican lost the 1994 race and wanted to donate his leftover campaign money to organizations working in education. The United Way sent Bush to one of its member groups, the Urban League of Greater Miami, which was led by Fair. Bush telephoned, and Fair told him to come by.

Continue reading "Meet the black man who would 'run through walls' for Jeb Bush" »

'There are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country,' Jeb Bush will tell Urban League

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush in his address Friday to the National Urban League will talk about a “listening and learning” phase following his 1994 campaign in which he made comments that were offensive to African-Americans, play up charter schools, criticize a "losing" war on poverty and discuss his decision as governor to take down the Confederate flag.

“I know that there are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country. Some we can see, others are unseen but just as real,” reads Bush’s speech, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. “So many lives can come to nothing, or come to grief, when we ignore problems, or fail to meet our own responsibilities. And so many people could do so much better in life if we could come together and get even a few big things right in government. I acted on that belief as governor of Florida. It’s a record I’ll gladly compare with that of anyone else in the field.

“Just for starters, leaders know that there are plenty of tough calls we have to make, and therefore we should not be wasting time agonizing over the easy calls. So, 13 years ago, when the question was whether to keep the Confederate flag on the grounds of the Florida State Capitol, I said no, and put it in a museum where it belongs.

Continue reading "'There are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country,' Jeb Bush will tell Urban League" »

Legislature unlikely to add gambling to special session agenda

It is unlikely that the Florida Legislature will add any new discussion of extending a statewide gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida when lawmakers meets in a special session in August to deal with Congressional redistricting, a key Senate leader said Thursday.

“It is very unlikely that we would expand the call to involve anything else, especially the compact,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton said.

Galvano, who led the original gambling compact negotiations in 2010 when he was in the House, said he’s going to advocate that the redistricting issue is simply too important and deserves the Legislature’s undivided attention.

On Friday, the state’s 5-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe that allows them to run blackjack and other table games at five of its casinos expires. In return for allowing the games, the state gets $1 billion, under the compact.

Under terms of the expiring compact, the Tribe would have to discontinue the lucrative card games within 90 days unless the Legislature agrees to extend the compact. In the spring, the Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have extended the compact for an additional year.

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Miami commissioner hand-delivers publicly funded 'accomplishment' books


Knock Knock. Who's there?

Marc. Marc who?

Marc Sarnoff, the Miami commissioner who did all those great things for you over the last nine years.

Variations of this conversation have taken place the last few weeks, as Miami's District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has walked door-to-door hand-delivering bags from his office with a glossy booklet inside touting his accomplishments. The 50-page promotional piece, filled with flattering quotes from public figures like developer Jorge Perez, lays out Sarnoff's role in downtown's resurgence, the revitalization of neighborhoods like Wynwood, massive infrastructure projects like the Port Tunnel, and a series of smaller neighborhood initiatives.

Sarnoff says his office and the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) created and paid for the document, and he produced about 800 of them. He says he wants to make sure history accurately remembers his tenure.

“I think it’s important for people to know what we’ve done and – we’re not done yet -- but where we’ll likely end up,” he said.

Sarnoff said he and his staff have worked on the book for years, and its distribution coincides with the end of his time in office due to term limits. But it also comes as Teresa Sarnoff, his wife, campaigns to claim his seat in a November election. The booklet – which includes some pictures and mentions of her work – has some critics questioning why the public should pay for the Sarnoffs’ self-promotion.

“This isn’t a book about District 2. It’s a book about Marc,” said District 2 candidate Ken Russell. “It’s simply a cheerleading puff piece for himself.”

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Walton County goes shopping on eBay for new Confederate flag

It has been two days since Walton County voted to replace its Southern Cross Confederate flag with an earlier "stars and bars" version. But in the latest twist to this controversy, a different flag is fluttering outside the North Florida courthouse: a rebel flag with seven stars, not the 13-star version commissioners approved after three hours of acrimonious debate Tuesday.

As it turns out, Walton County had to go shopping for a stars and bars flag. The county found one, all right, on eBay -- for $19.95 plus tax.

A vendor was found in Los Angeles, and the flag is on order and should arrive in DeFuniak Springs in two to three weeks, spokesman Louis Svehla said.

"We waited 15 minutes on hold and they told us that because of high demand from South Carolina they were out of stock and did not know when they would be getting any in," Svehla said.

Meanwhile, the debate rages over Walton County's decision to remain the only county in Florida to fly a Confederate flag on county grounds. In an editorial Thursday, the Northwest Florida Daily News excoriated the decision and singled out Commissioner Cindy Meadows, who said "outside forces" were trying to divide county residents against each other. The paper called on commissioners to take down the new flag.   

No U.S. Senate run for Rep. Jeff Miller

via @learyreports

Rep. Jeff Miller will not run for U.S. Senate, saying he will focus on fixing the "toxic culture" at the VA.

The North Florida Republican had been strongly considering entering the race for Marco Rubio's seat and said he would announce a decision after August.

But today he warned of a presidential veto of his Accountability Act.

"It became clear to me that this Administration is not committed to reforming the VA," Miller said in a statement. "My personal commitment to the veterans of this country is greater than my desire to seek higher office.

"I have made the determination that I can best serve veterans as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the member from the First District of Florida. I have decided to forgo my candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and instead continue my efforts to reform the toxic culture within the VA.

"Vicki and I have prayed about this for weeks, and we feel that we have come to the best decision.  We appreciate the outpouring of support from our family, friends, and supporters from all across the great State of Florida and throughout the Nation.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton to address National Urban League Friday

Rivals Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton will speak at the same event for the first time during the presidential campaign when they deliver their messages to black voters at the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, a gathering that will also draw three more 2016 contenders.

Bush has frequently said that he will campaign where Republicans often don’t venture, including in black communities that overwhelmingly vote Democratic and helped President Barack Obama win the swing state of Florida. But the goal for Bush is to chip away at that loyal blue base in Florida where the outcome — should he become the party’s nominee — could be razor thin.

The former Florida governor has tried to reach out to black voters by citing his achievements in and out of office, particularly his push to close the achievement gap and expand opportunities for minority students. Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is a civil-rights organization that aims to empower under-served communities.

Following the Fort Lauderdale event, Clinton will give a speech on Cuba policy at Florida International University in which she will call for lifting the U.S. trade embargo.

More here.

In Miami-Dade, almost a third of pre-schoolers live in poverty


One of the battle lines being drawn this year at the Miami-Dade County Commission is how best to address poverty in the county.

Jean Monestime, the new chair of the commission, launched a prosperity task force that's explored a series of proposals, including banning questions about arrests on employment applications, encouraging workforce housing, and reducing transportation costs. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is constructing a reelection strategy that relies in part on his anti-poverty efforts, including his Employ Miami-Dade hiring program and the reconstruction of the Liberty Square housing project.

Now, the county's economic-research arm is releasing a series of reports sure to surface in that ongoing discussion. The first installment dropped this week, and highlighted the start divide between Miami-Dade's wealthiest and poorest. From our story:

About 30 percent of Miami-Dade’s youngest children live in poverty, highlighting the income gap in a county where the poorest residents earn less than $170 a week.

The findings from a new county analysis of Census data reinforce Miami-Dade’s status as a prime example of the income divide: The wealthiest fifth of the population earned an average of $176,876 in 2013, compared with $8,829 for the poorest fifth.

“The extreme level of inequality — that jumped out,” said Robert Hesler, an author of the report titled Income & Poverty in Miami-Dade County: 2013.

More here

Miami-Dade Police gets to approve followers for new Twitter account aimed at reporters

via @ChuckRabin

Joining the social media revolution in full force, Miami-Dade County Police now have two Twitter portals -- but the general public can only see one of them. 

@MiamiDadePD is open for everyone to see, but @MDPDmedia is only for reporters, with the eighth-largest police force in the nation acting as the sole arbiter over who gets to follow the tweets. 

That seems like a no-no under Florida's broad public-records laws, but Miami-Dade Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said the practice is no different than many other police departments around the country and some local politicians like County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro (@BrunoABarreiro).  

Zabaleta does acknowledge tweets on @MDPDmedia must be provided to the public as requested but said the main goal is to keep local media up-to-date on minutiae like where public information officers plan to talk to cameras at crime scenes.

"I don't think the community needs to know where the staging area is," he said.

Earlier this year Broward/Palm Beach New Times jumped all over the Broward Sheriff's Office after learning filmmaker Billy Corben's Twitter account, @BillyCorben, had been blocked. BSO relented and and unblocked Corben. The problem wasn't Corben's tweets -- it was the thousands of his loyal followers who hammered away at BSO (@browardsheriff). 

Corben said he understands how aggravating that could be to law enforcement, but in the long run they would be better off being as open as possible to the public.

"Politicians and public agencies that block people from Twitter accounts just don't understand social media," said Corben. "It's what the kids call 'a bad look.' It looks like you have something to hide."