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332 posts from March 2013

March 29, 2013

Florida unemployment drops, Scott releases new job-creation chart on Easter egg

Via Doug Hanks

 Job growth continues in South Florida, despite thinned-out payrolls in local government that now serve as the main anchor to a full recovery in hiring for the region.

The February employment report generally brought good news statewide, as a recovery that once seemed at risk of stalling has appeared to regain steam. Broward and Miami-Dade added about 27,000 positions to payrolls, though Miami-Dade is down 5,400 jobs at the local-government level.

But there were two signs of concern in Miami-Dade’s report. The first: unemployment is on the rise again, leaping from 9.3 percent in January to 9.7 percent in February, the highest in 12 months. The numbers are seasonally adjusted, and considered a reliable barometer of month-to-month changes in hiring.

Part of the reason behind the spike looks encouraging: Miami-Dade has about 7,000 more job seekers in February than it did in January. That’s generally a positive trend, since it shows optimism toward hiring conditions. But the same survey of households found only a tiny uptick in people describing themselves as employed: up less than 1,000 in Miami-Dade.

Statewide, unemployment inched down to 7.7 percent from a revised 7.9 percent in January. Both employment and the labor force grew in Florida. Broward receives only raw unemployment numbers, and its jobless rate went from 6.7 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s the lowest since October 2008.

Read more here

 Gov. Rick Scott took time Friday to tout the state's falling unemployment rate, in a new "It's Working" video. 

"2013 has been a great year for Florida families," he said. 

See the video below:


Retiring MIA director recalls 'helter skelter' of taking over airport


It was José Abreu’s last groundbreaking ceremony, and the owner of a company building a new hangar at Opa-locka Executive Airport waved him over to grab a gold-plated shovel and stand for the photo op.

But Abreu, director of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, gently lifted his palm and shook his head. He remained in the wings, beaming and applauding. Afterward, a businessman came up to say hello.

“So sorry you’re leaving, from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

Abreu chuckled. “I’m not dying or anything!”

What he is doing is retiring Friday after nearly eight years as chief of the county-owned Miami International Airport. Unlike his predecessor, who was pressured to leave, the county has repeatedly asked Abreu to stay.

“We’re going to be calling you,” Commissioner Barbara Jordan joked at the Opa-locka event.

His replacement, Emilio González, has been shadowing Abreu for a week, learning the basics before Abreu becomes senior vice president for the international engineering firm Gannett Fleming. González, the former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was selected for the aviation job by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who did not conduct a national search for the high-profile position.

Abreu took the reins in 2005, plucked from his post as Florida Department of Transportation secretary two weeks after the county took over the beleaguered MIA North Terminal project from American Airlines. Abreu’s task: Complete the project, plagued by cost overruns and lawsuits.

“I showed up fat, dumb and happy,” he recalled. “It was helter skelter.”

More here.

Miami city commission: confiscate gambling 'maquinitas'

A week after Miami’s mayor called the video-gaming machines he once championed “illegal,’’ city commissioners directed the administration to arrange the seizure of the 1,000 or so machines scattered across cafeterias and video arcades.

Commissioners, riding an anti-gaming wave flowing through the state legislature — which is set on making the machines illegal — said the devices are out of compliance because not a single operating permit mandated by a 2010 city ordinance has been purchased.

The elected body unanimously told City Manager Johnny Martinez to seize the machines, and urged state legislators to finally declare them illegal.

“I don’t think you can make an argument; they either have a [permit], or they don’t,’’ said Commissioner Francis Suarez, who sponsored the resolution.

Martinez said he will direct police, not code enforcement officers, to confiscate the machines because some of the seizures are likely to be accompanied by arrests. He could not provide a timetable.

More from Charles Rabin here.

Yoani Sánchez arrives in Miami, visits shrine of Cuba's patron saint

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez touched down at Miami International Airport Thursday afternoon and reacted emotionally to reuniting with her family as well as arriving in the heartland of Cuban exiles.

Via her Twitter account, Sánchez said she would be spending the next few days with her sister Yunia, brother-in-law and niece before beginning a public agenda Monday.

One of her first stops Thursday was at La Ermita de la Caridad, the Coconut Grove shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint. She met with Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Rev. Richard Vigoa and Rev. Juan Rumín, rector of the bayside shrine. She also had a picture taken of herself sitting on the seawall at the shrine and dubbed it the “malecon of Miami.’’

Sánchez, who was denied permission to leave Cuba for a dozen years despite many invitations to travel abroad, finally received her passport and began an international tour in February that has already taken her to Latin America, Europe, New York and Washington.

Her outspoken style about daily life in Cuba and the plight of dissidents in her Generación Y blog has earned her well over 15 million hits a month and she has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter.

More from Mimi Whitefield here.

Marco Rubio op-ed: President Obama's policies don't help Miami's middle class

In a Miami Herald op-ed Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, urged President Barack Obama to think of policies to help small businesses, immigrants and the middle class grow. Obama is scheduled to visit PortMiami in the afternoon to promote investment in highways and other public works projects.

From Rubio's op-ed:

As President Obama arrives in Miami Friday to discuss the economy, I welcome and encourage him to visit some of South Florida’s many small businesses. Our community’s job creators would certainly discuss with him — as they often do with me all over town — how much more difficult operating a business has become in today’s economy because of the regulations and policies coming out of Washington.

President Obama should also listen to the stories of many of my neighbors to get a true sense of the effect more tax increases and spending hikes will have on our nation’s middle class. By listening to them, he would learn that many aspects of policies like Obamacare have ended up hurting many middle-class families instead of helping them. He would find that the expanding role of our government has created uncertainty by establishing rules that many small businesses can’t afford to follow.

Miami is where I learned that America’s private sector — if allowed to operate freely — is the greatest engine for prosperity and economic mobility the world has ever known. I learned this by watching my parents work hard in middle-class jobs, which existed because someone started a business and was successful enough to hire them. It was these jobs and my parents’ efforts that allowed me to live a better life than theirs. Had there been burdensome regulations or taxes on these businesses, the owners may not have been able to keep my parents on staff, or they might have reduced their hours to part-time. Either would have been devastating to our family.

More here.

March 28, 2013

Charlie Crist and the curiosity surrounding his flight on Air Ramba

Is someone stalking Charlie Crist?

The former governor last month was a passenger on a private plane owned by Tallahassee lobbyist Dave Ramba, who runs an air charter service. The flight was chartered by Fowler White, a Tallahassee law firm, and nobody but Crist and the law firm knew about the flight.

Ramba said he was surprised when he was later asked by a client who came to his office demanding to know, "Why are you flying Crist around?"

Continue reading "Charlie Crist and the curiosity surrounding his flight on Air Ramba" »

Poll shows Floridians want texting ban; bill awaits next step

Ninety-five percent of respondents questioned in a poll released Thursday by the University of Florida would support a ban on texting while driving, but supporters are waiting to see if legislative attempts to get a law on the books pass the finish line this year.

“Ninety-five percent -- that’s pretty substantial. You don’t hear that often,” said Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, who has been trying to get a texting while driving ban passed for five years. 

If passed this session, House Bill 13, would make texting while driving a secondary offense, which means police would have to pull a driver over for another offense, like swerving, then the driver would be cited for both offenses. Florida is one of only five states without any type of restriction on texting while driving.

The House and Senate bills seemed to have momentum, quickly passing two subcommittees, but they’ve yet to be scheduled for their last committee stop.

Continue reading "Poll shows Floridians want texting ban; bill awaits next step" »

Florida universities anticipate big boost in state funding

The mood among Florida's state universities is far different than a year ago, when they felt blind-sided by state budget cuts and were powerless to prevent them.

House and Senate leaders say they plan to boost funding for the 12 public universities by over $100 million this year, in addition to restoring $300 million cut from university budgets last year. Some of the money will be tied to university performance.

The University of Florida and Florida State University would receive even more money, as much as $30 million, as part of a proposal to grant them special status as the state's top-ranked institutions.

House leaders are even considering a 6 percent tuition increase that would add $37 million to the schools' coffers.

"We're having a very good legislative session," university system chancellor Frank Brogan said this week.

Read more here.

Rick Scott's $1 million fundraising month

As Florida legislators sit on their hands with a fundraising ban for session, Gov. Rick Scott has been holding fundraisers and collecting cash -- $1 million of it -- for his political committee, Let's Get to Work. 

Admittedly half of it came in the form of a whopping check of $500,000 check from the St. Petersburg-based William L. Edwards Trust, with other large donations coming from health care, sugar, insurance, utilities, his appointees to boards and even other political committees.

Two of the biggest checks -- from the Treasure Island entertainment and finance mogul Bill Edwards  and Gary Chartrand, the governor's appointee to the Florida Board of Education -- came on March 26. That was the same day the governor launched his new web ad at his new campaign-like web site, ItsWorkingFlorida.com. The checks also came one day after the governor told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that he couldn't support the $5,000 cap on campaign donations to statewide candidates (and $3,000 for everyone else) in the House campaign finance bill because it was too high. 

(Coincidentally, an amendment by Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, to the House campaign finance bill would have prohibited the governor from soliciting or accepting campaign money during the legislative session, as legislators are required to do. It was voted down by Republicans 71-43 last week on the floor.)

Nevertheless, Scott's campaign committee continues to accept checks of unlimited amounts. Since session began, Scott has held at least one fundraiser -- on March 12 outside of Tallahassee in Havana. According to his political committee web site, he collected $116,000 in checks that day and about $90,000 in the two days after it. 

The largest contributions this month include: 

Continue reading "Rick Scott's $1 million fundraising month " »

Joe and George Scarborough, meet Will Weatherford

Morning Joe co-host and former congressman Joe Scarborough mingled with a few House leaders at the Capitol Wednesday, including House Speaker Will Weatherford.

In tow: his brother George Scarborough, a Pensacola consultant mulling a run for the Panhandle House seat formerly held by Clay Ford, who died last week of cancer. George Scarborough lost the Republican primary for that seat to Ford in a 2007 special election.

"It wasn’t a meeting to discuss his brother’s potential candidacy for Ford’s seat," said Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy of the impromptu meeting. "The speaker had never met him and wanted to introduce himself and say hi."

The brothers met with speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli and had lunch with "old friend" Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose sister Erin is a producer on MSNBC's Morning Joe, at the Governor's Club.

"He's thinking about it," Gaetz said of George running for HD 2. Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, also likes another candidate for the seat, Gulf Breeze financier Ed Gray III, so he's not endorsing one over the other.