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229 posts from October 2013

October 31, 2013

Judge denies motion to halt vote on Miami waterfront plan


A judge on Thursday denied a request from a local activist to halt Tuesday’s vote by Miamians on whether to approve a major waterfront renewal project on city-owned land in Coconut Grove, and the 50-year lease that goes with it.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley said paralegal Grace Solares failed to prove her contention that the ballot language is misleading or that irreparable harm would result from allowing the vote to proceed. Solares filed an emergency motion with the court on Tuesday, a week before the Nov. 5 election and after thousands of early and absentee votes had already been cast.

“Seeking injunctive relief is an extraordinary measure,” Bagley told Solares and her attorney, Linda Carroll, after an hour-long emergency hearing in a courtroom filled with Grove residents fighting the development plan.

Solares argued the city charter forbids leases longer than five years on city-owned land, and that the charter question on the ballot is misleading and provides insufficient information.

More here.\

Federal judge: Miami will get hearing to make homeless case


A federal judge on Wednesday granted the city of Miami a hearing to prove it needs to modify a 15-year-old agreement that gave the homeless a handful of life-sustaining rights not afforded most others, like lighting fires in parks, public nudity, and sleeping on sidewalks.

The city asked the U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno in September to consider modifying the so-called Pottinger settlement because of significant changes to downtown Miami since 1998, including the construction of 20,000 new condos, the opening of more than 200 retail stores and restaurants, new cultural venues, and a population that has swelled from 39,000 to the current 65,000.

During an Oct. 23 hearing before Moreno, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union – which negotiated the Pottinger settlement with Miami in 1998 — argued the changes haven’t been significant enough to warrant an evidentiary hearing in which the city would try to prove its case. The attorneys acknowledged some of the changes to downtown, but argued that those changes don’t make living there any easier for the 500 or so homeless who still live there.

More here.

Homestead mayor's race is heated and expensive

By Lidia Dinkova

If Homestead residents thought the political waters would be calmed after Mayor Steve Bateman was indicted on corruption charges and then suspended from office, it looks like they were wrong.

The runoff between Mark Bell and Jeff Porter, which culminates in a vote next Tuesday, is a nasty, expensive affair.

There is the usual political back-and-forth: Porter, who owns Worldwide Supply Solutions, has hammered away at Bell’s lack of political experience, while Bell, an innkeeper, says Porter drove Homestead to “the brink of bankruptcy” during his previous stint as vice mayor (1997-’99) and councilman (’99-’07) and backed an unpopular rate hike by the city-owned power company.

But there are also claims of absentee ballot chicanery, an assertion that Bell received a $25,000 “gift” from the taxpayers of Homestead, a related, pending ethics complaint by Bell’s camp against Porter, and, perhaps strangest of all, a whispering campaign over a nearly 40-year-old animal control citation. The latter gripe has bubbled to the surface at a campaign event.

“It’s absurd,” said Councilwoman Judy Waldman, who is not on the ballot this year, speaking about the campaign literature piling up in her mailbox. “One day I got three mail-in pieces."

More here.

New poll shows support for destination casinos

Need evidence that the gaming debate is about to heat up?

On Thursday, the Tarrance Group released a poll showing that almost two-thirds of voters support legislation allowing a "limited number" destination casinos in Florida.

The group NoCasinos.org quickly fired back, linking the poll to the gambing giant Las Vegas Sands.

"So how did they get the results they wanted? Through carefully-crafted survey questions. After all, the casino bosses’ favorite trick is the sleight of hand. They’ve proven it once again with the wording of their poll," the group said in a press release of its own.

Continue reading "New poll shows support for destination casinos" »

PolitiFact: Senator says texting has surpassed alcohol as a lead cause of teen driving deaths

On the first day of Florida’s new texting-while-driving ban, state Sen. Maria Sachs, the Senate Democratic leader pro-tem, was already announcing a proposal to make the law tougher.

The new law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, which means an officer can’t ticket a motorist only for typing or reading messages while behind the wheel. Rather, the driver has to first commit another violation, like swerving or running a red light.

Sachs, of Delray Beach, has filed a bill to make texting while driving a primary offense, which she argues will make it easier to enforce. The penalties -- $30 for a first violation -- will remain.

At a press conference with AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson to announce her proposed changes, Sachs recited several somber statistics. PolitiFact checks this claim: "In 2011, texting surpassed alcohol as the leading contributing factor in teen driving deaths."

Clock running out for Common Core comments

Thursday marks the final day to share your thoughts on the controversial Common Core State Standards.

The state Department of Education has been collecting emails and online comments since September, when Gov. Rick Scott called for more public feedback on the national benchmarks.

So far, the department has received almost 16,000 submissions, including a 74-page document from former state Board of Education member Roberto Martinez. (The file includes a 6-page letter and four attachments.)

Martinez, an attorney and parent, makes the case for the Common Core. He argues that students in Florida need more rigorous standards and higher expectations. "The CCSS are benchmarked to internationally competitive levels in English and math," he writes. "They are designed to ensure that our students are learning the best standards taught in the world today."

To leave your Common Core comment with the state Department of Education, visit http://flstandards.org/.

Download Martinez

Florida takes steps to purge The Juice (O.J.) from Miami-Dade voter roll

Though O.J. Simpson remained on the Miami-Dade voter rolls five years after his 2008 felony conviction, he hasn't been voting absentee from behind bars in Nevada:

"Orenthal Simpson last voted in the November 4, 2004 General Election," says Christina White, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections. "The Miami-Dade Elections Department does not have the authority to remove a voter from the registration system without receiving documentation related to a felony conviction. We have been in communication with the Florida State Division of Elections regarding this matter, who we understand will be requesting a judgment from the State of Nevada. After which, we will be permitted to take removal action."

Read yesterday's post about how the notorious felon was still on the voting rolls in Florida. 

October 30, 2013

Gaetz, Weatherford challenging proposed medical marijuana amendment

The battle to get the medical marijuana issue to voters in 2014 has encountered one more challenge.

On Wednesday afternoon, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz submitted a notice of intent to file a brief to the Supreme Court as “interested persons” opposing the ballot initiative. 

The legislative leaders said they weren't addressing the issue of medical marijuana but the language in the ballot proposal, yet Weatherford said the amendment would put "marijuana shops on very street corner" if it passes.

The legislative leaders have joined Attorney General Pam Bondi, who on Oct. 24, sent the proposed medical marijuana constitutional amendment to the Florida Supreme Court and asked for an opinion on the petition’s validity. Bondi noted the conflict with federal law but said there are other reasons to throw it off the ballot.

Continue reading "Gaetz, Weatherford challenging proposed medical marijuana amendment" »

Bill Nelson wants feds to investigate Florida's unemployment website

via Brittany Davis, @brit_alana

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for a federal investigation into problems plaguing Florida’s new unemployment website.

The Florida Democrat has asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate what is going wrong with the $63 million overhaul, which has erroneously blocked some jobless people from applying for their benefits.

Continue reading "Bill Nelson wants feds to investigate Florida's unemployment website" »

OJ Simpson, convicted felon, remains on the Miami-Dade voting rolls

Updated with an explanation from the Florida Division of Elections:

Here's why OJ Simpson wasn't purged from Florida's voter rolls:

“Mr. Simpson’s name was not removed from the voter rolls because he was convicted in Nevada so his name was never sent to the Department of State for removal," elections spokeswoman Brittany Lesser said in an email. "We are working to improve how the voter rolls are updated in order to maintain the integrity of elections statewide.”

It appears that the state didn't have a process for checking to see if voters had been convicted in other states. The Florida statute that explains the process for removing felons from the voting rolls talks about convictions in general -- it doesn't suggest that only convictions that occurred in Florida are relevant.

Andrew Ladanowski, who has been on a mission to get Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to reorganize voting precincts, recently investigated if convicted felons were having their voting rights removed as the state requires. Simpson was the first felon he could confirm that should not be on the list.

Ladanowski emailed us information he found in the voter database which shows that Orenthal J Simpson registered in July 2000, lives at 9450 SW 112Th St. Simpson is listed as “no party affiliation” and the data states “You are currently eligible to vote in Miami-Dade County.”


Continue reading "OJ Simpson, convicted felon, remains on the Miami-Dade voting rolls" »