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213 posts from August 2013

August 26, 2013

Homestead mayor under investigation gets pink slip from nonprofit


Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman has been fired.

Not from his mayoral office, the one that pays a modest $6,000 a year.

He has been dumped from the one that paid him the real money — $125 an hour. That’s his job with Community Health of South Florida, Inc., a nonprofit that needs favors from the city.

Early this year, Bateman leveraged his elective office to secure a secret side job as construction consultant for CHI.

Now, Bateman said, because of an article in the Miami Herald and a television piece by CBS4’s Jim DeFede, CHI has let him go. Both reports revealed the lucrative relationship between the mayor and the healthcare outfit.

That relationship is part of an ongoing investigation of the mayor by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

More here.

For Common Core, a new challenge -- from the left

Conventional wisdom held that liberals and teachers supported the new Common Core curriculum standards.

Until the Badass Teachers Association crashed the party.

The 25,000 BATs, as they call themselves, are pushing back against the national standards with Twitter strikes, town hall meetings and snarky Internet memes. They have no qualms with the theory behind the new benchmarks, but they fear the larger movement places too much emphasis on testing and will stifle creativity in the classroom.

“It’s not just the Tea Party that’s skeptical of the Common Core,” said Bonnie Cunard, a Fort Myers teacher who manages the Facebook page for the 1,200 Florida BATs. “We on the left, like the folks on the right, are saying we want local control.”

The BATs represent a new wave of liberal opposition to the Common Core standards, which includes some union leaders, progressive activists and Democratic lawmakers. They are joining forces with Tea Party groups and libertarians, who want states like Florida to slow down efforts to adopt the new benchmarks and corresponding tests.

They face an uphill battle. The Common Core standards have a strong base of support that includes both Democrats and Republicans. What’s more, the standards are already being taught across all grade levels in Florida.

“Our commitment [to the Common Core] is strong because it is the best decision for the future of our state and most importantly, the future of our students,” interim state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a statement.

Read more here.

Goodwill Industries uses federal exemption to pay workers below minimum wage


On the factory floor at Goodwill Industries of South Florida, cerebral palsy doesn’t stop Donnie Williams from stitching one button hole after another into the military trousers the Miami non-profit makes for the Pentagon.

But workplace productivity calculations did conclude the disability prevents the 58-year-old from stitching as many button holes as would someone without the condition. As a result, Williams earns $4.22 an hour, according to a Goodwill supervisor, about 45 percent below Florida’s minimum hourly wage of $7.79.

The gap is allowed under a federal program designed to create jobs for people with significant disabilities, both as a way to train them for a spot in the workforce and to help them lead more active lives. Disclosure forms show Goodwill in recent years paid some workers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale less than 40 cents an hour, while the average wage hit $4.76 for nearly 300 garment workers like Williams in the program. More here.



August 25, 2013

Context Florida launches

From Saint Petersblog:

Launching online today is Context Florida, a statewide opinion network focused on Florida politics and public affairs. The non-profit project is the brainchild of Peter Schorsch, the executive editor of SaintPetersBlog, one of the most influential political websites in Florida.

Context Florida will produce original commentary from a stable of respected, veteran journalists, as well as several leading new media voices and will be edited by Thomas O’Hara, formerly the managing editor of The Palm Beach Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Schorsch and O’Hara, as well as many of the columnists writing for Context Florida, contributed to the Florida Voices website.

Among those who will be published on Context Florida are Barney Bishop, former Miami Herald editor Doug Clifton, Julie Delegal, Sen. Dan Gelber, blogger Ben Kirby, Steve Kurlander, former Tampa Bay Times deputy editor of editorials Martin Dyckman, former Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp, Rick Outzen, Dr. Ed Moore, political scientist Dr. Darryl Paulson, Democratic strategists Steve Schale and Ashley Walker, Andrew Skeritt, Patrick Slevin, Florence Snyder, and Republican political consultant Bob Sparks.

From possible juggernaut to punchline of joke, Florida Democrats struggle


With a 500,000 edge in registered voters and a victory by President Barack Obama’s well-organized campaign in the state, the Florida Democratic Party had all the makings of a possible political juggernaut at the start of the year.

Last week, however, it looked like a joke.

The party’s Florida Chief Financial Officer candidate, Allie Braswell, withdrew Monday just days after announcing his bid. Braswell quit after Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union reported he had a few bankruptcies in his past — a damaging bit of history for someone running to manage the finances of the fourth most-populous state in the nation.

“The bright spotlight of a statewide campaign has cast the ups and downs of my life into harsh relief, and I now know that this campaign is not the way I was meant to serve my community,” Braswell said in a written statement.

Continue reading "From possible juggernaut to punchline of joke, Florida Democrats struggle" »

August 24, 2013

Miami mayoral candidate: I did not consider dropping out over absentee-ballot investigation


Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez said a state investigation into his campaign for unlawfully submitting absentee-ballot requests online did not make him consider dropping out of the high-profile race.

The probe ended Friday with his campaign manager and cousin Esteban "Steve" Suarez and operations manager Juan Pablo Baggini receiving probation after each was charged with a misdemeanor for violating Florida elections law.

Francis Suarez, a city commissioner, said in an interview with the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald on Friday that having his well-heeled campaign engulfed in an absentee-ballot scandal never forced him to think of leaving the race against incumbent Mayor Tomás Regalado.

"I am not planning on dropping out," he said. "I've run this race for the year. I've run it very hard."

Of dropping out, he added: "That's never been my intent."

Continue reading "Miami mayoral candidate: I did not consider dropping out over absentee-ballot investigation" »

August 23, 2013

Hialeah allows video-game maquinitas to remain despite new Florida law

@kikeflor @joeflech

Hialeah is permitting the operation of video gambling machines in stores, even though a state law declared them illegal four months ago, city police said Thursday.

"We have changed our stance," said Carl Zogby, spokesman for the Hialeah Police Department. "For now, we’re not prohibiting the machines in Hialeah businesses so long as they’re not used for the payment of prizes."

The city is basing its approach on a legal opinion it says it received from the state Attorney General’s Office. But a spokeswoman for that agency told the Miami Herald on Friday that no such opinion exists.

Zogby said the city adopted its approach after several Hialeah businesses defied the state law that made the machines illegal starting in April.

The state law was passed in response to a three-year investigation on illegal betting in the Internet cafes affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World, a purported charitable organization based in St. Augustine.

More here.

2 aides for Miami mayoral candidate receive probation in absentee-ballot case

@PatriciaMazzei @msanchezMIA

To make the most of its booth at a Cinco de Mayo festival on Mary Brickell Village, Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez’s campaign paid two women who worked for an event promoter to sign up voters for absentee ballots.

Few questions were asked. Many of the voters were tipsy, according to Miami-Dade prosecutors. So were the two women. One drank shots of alcohol with partygoers in exchange for their signing forms authorizing the campaign to request ballots on their behalf.

Obtaining those permissions was legal. How the campaign used them was not.

Instead of mailing the forms to the county Elections Department, Juan Pablo Baggini, Suarez’s operations manager, submitted the requests online on May 29. Each time, he had to swear or affirm that he was the voter or an immediate family member, as required by Florida elections law.

On Friday, Baggini and campaign manager Esteban “Steve” Suarez, whom the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office contends directed Baggini, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to submit an absentee ballot request of behalf of voters. They agreed to serve up to a year of probation for unlawfully submitting 20 of the ballot requests online.

The charges appear to be a reflection of inexperienced and unsophisticated campaign workers who did not realize what they were doing was wrong. A source close to the investigation repeatedly referred to the way things played out as a “comedy of errors.”

More here.

Dolphins owner Ross to fundraise for Scott re-election


Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who polls show facing a difficult reelection fight, is fundraising this weekend at the Hamptons home of Steve Ross — the Miami Dolphins owner who has become a lead antagonist of some of Florida’s Republican lawmakers.

Scott and his wife will be feted at cocktails and dinner by Ross on Sunday night, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO.

It puts Scott in a slightly delicate position with members of his own party in his state. Ross recently launched a super PAC aimed at supporting Scott and slamming lawmakers of both parties over the rejection of a one-cent increase in the hotel bed tax to help fund a refurbishing of the Dolphins’ stadium.

Conservative groups to hold anti-Common Core meeting in Miami

Last week, we wrote about growing opposition to the new Common Core standards.

On Saturday, the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition will host a town hall in Miami.

Speakers include Karen Effrem, of Education Liberty Watch; Emmot McGroarty of The American Principles Project; Thais Alvares, of Florida Parents Against Common Core; and Randy Osborne of the Florida Eagle Forum.

The event begins at 10 a.m. at New Testament Baptist Church, 6601 NW 167th St.