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199 posts from November 2013

November 25, 2013

State's order on absentee ballots upsets election supervisors

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official issued an order Monday that imposes new restrictions on how and where voters can return completed absentee ballots in future elections.

At least two county election supervisors, Brian Corley in Pasco County and Deborah Clark in Pinellas, are troubled by the decision, say they were never consulted by the state and predicted that it could depress turnout.Pinellas is also the county where voters will soon elect a new member of Congress to replace the late C.W. Bill Young.

The two-page order, called a "directive," was issued by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

In it, Detzner said his office "has been asked for clarification" on the return of absentees, but he didn't say by whom. He wrote: "Supervisors should not solicit return of absentee ballots at any place other than a supervisor's office, except for the purpose of having the absentee ballot cancelled if the voter wants to vote in person."

Detzner noted that another part of the elections code instructs voters to mail absentee ballots to supervisors' offices.

His directive prohibits Clark from opening ballot drop-off locations for the convenience of voters. Clark is a strong proponent of letting voters vote by mail and had 14 secure drop-off sites in the 2012 presidential election, including local tax collectors' offices and public libraries.

Clark said other large counties also use absentee ballot drop-off sites, and she said the effect of Detzner's order is to inconvenience voters by making them drive longer distances to return their ballots. Her three offices are in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo.

"I think this is going to have a major impact statewide," Clark said. "This is not helpful for increasing ballot accessibility, and I am just stunned as to why they would come out with something like this."

Corley said the Scott administration directive was not "pro-voter." Said Corley: "I have the utmost respect for Secretary Detzner, but he has never run an election and this directive appears to show that. It does not have the most pro-voter sentiment for the political process, and that gives me great concerns ... Maybe they should consider consulting with some of us supervisors of elections before they issue something like this."

-- Steve Bousquet

Sheriff says 'No thanks' to Gov. Scott's offer as possible L.G.

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger on Monday formally declined Gov. Rick Scott's offer to be considered as a possible lieutenant governor, becoming the second person on Scott's four-person short list to turn him down.

Eslinger sent an email to his employees saying he was "flattered and honored" to be considered, but that he will keep the job that he was first elected to in 1990. Last week, St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Joyner also rejected Scott's offer.

The moves by Eslinger and Joyner suggest that neither men knew he was under consideration for the No. 2 post until they found out when the Times/Herald broke the story last week.

As a result, Scott now is down to two known candidates for the job, both from Hillsborough County: Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Here's the full text of Eslinger's message to his employees:

"As you may be aware, I was recently selected to be considered among four nominees for an appointment as the Lieutenant Governor of Florida. I spoke with Governor Rick Scott this morning and expressed how flattered and honored I was to be considered for the office of Lieutenant Governor.  I did, however, respectfully decline to be further considered for this position.  It is my intention to continue serving the people of Seminole County as their Sheriff. With your untiring assistance and dedication, we have built our organization into one of the finest law enforcement and corrections agencies known throughout our state.  I am extremely proud to serve with each of you and appreciate the professional service you provide daily to our citizens.

"I have assured Governor Scott that he has my full support and cooperation now, and in the future, as we work in partnership to ensure the best possible quality of life for the citizens of Seminole County and the State of Florida."

-- Steve Bousquet

As Rep. Trey Radel rehabs, staffers bail & home-county GOP mulls asking him to resign


U.S. Rep. Trey Radel is in rehab for his substance abuse problem, but his political trouble is only mounting in his district.

Two Radel staffers are leaving him, the specter of top-tier challengers are mounting and the Lee County Republican Executive Committee plans to hold an emergency meeting tonight to decide whether to get involved.

"I've heard of every scenario: A) ask him to step down, B) ask him not to seek reelection next year or C) say nothing with him staying put," Lee County GOP Chairman Terry Miller said of the meeting.

Continue reading "As Rep. Trey Radel rehabs, staffers bail & home-county GOP mulls asking him to resign" »

In Miami, Medicare comes with white-glove treatment


The scene at Leon Medical Centers’ Healthy Living Facility in Miami on a recent Thursday resembled a cross between a luxury hotel and a theme park.

White-gloved doormen wearing porter uniforms ushered elderly patients from white vans into a gleaming lobby with colored terrazzo floors and a bubbling fountain. Greeters in green vests and ear bud radios welcomed the Medicare members and made sure their doctors knew that they’d arrived. Refreshments were proffered: Would they like a cafecito and pastelito for the wait?

And that was just the entranceway. Three more floors of the sprawling center bustled with Leon members meeting with physicians or dentists, taking healthy cooking classes, exercising in the fitness center or learning to use Facebook in a lecture hall.

It’s a one-stop shopping approach for healthcare based on a level of customer service and attention that, members tell the federal government, sets Leon Medical Centers apart in the highly-lucrative and super-competitive world of South Florida’s privately managed Medicare plans, or Medicare Advantage.

As the country grapples with far-reaching challenges in healthcare, companies like Leon are carving out a niche that is increasingly popular with Medicare beneficiaries — and demonstrating improvements in customer satisfaction and medical outcomes that translate into bigger profits.

More here.

New Miami Beach mayor: from CEO to City Hall


Philip Levine is used to calling the shots as the CEO of a multi-million dollar media business.

On Nov. 25, he’ll take the helm of Miami Beach’s commission as mayor, after winning his first run for political office in a hard-fought campaign against a sitting commissioner.

As a corporate mogul, but newbie politician, Levine will have to learn how to run a different kind of shop — one in which his powers are significantly limited. Unlike the role he’s played in business, the mayorship comes with no executive authority.

Miami Beach has a city manager form of government, which means a hired employee handles the day-to-day dealings of city government. The mayor and commission decide on policy issues, and it’s up to city employees to implement those policies.

So instead of being boss, Levine will have just one vote among a seven-member commission. He’ll have to explain his decisions to a demanding activist community and an intensely interested press. And getting things done will take longer than in private business.

In those ways, the roles and responsibilities of a mayor in a city manager form of government are far different than having complete control over your own company.

More here.

November 24, 2013

Cocaine, contradiction and Congressman Trey Radel


Trey Radel owes Big Government. Big time.

Like other tea partiers, the freshman political newcomer from Fort Myers went to Washington to keep government out of our lives and to fight government spending.

At the same time, Radel and some buddies were snorting cocaine. In his private tea parties, the question of one-lump-or-two of sugar had a whole different meaning.

On Oct. 29, the two parties collided.

Radel was busted after an undercover agent in Washington sold him what’s known as an “8 Ball,” an eighth of an ounce of cocaine, or 3.5 grams for $260.

So time to rail against Big Government telling a private citizen what he can do, right? Time to question the governmental costs of the drug war, eh? Maybe even wonder about equal treatment under the law? Growing police power and the Fourth Amendment?


Radel, 37, just apologized and went to rehab.

All the talk of less government, big spending, personal freedom and the Constitution were blown away amid the Republican’s expressions of contrition in a case that highlights our political contradictions, especially when it comes to drugs.

“A lot of Republicans say they’re against big government, but they’re not,” said Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist and fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute.

“Most politicians are for big government,” Miron said. “The question is: Which big government are they for?”

Column here

November 22, 2013

Rick Scott's health care adviser predicts odds of Medicaid expansion 'very low'


“My name is Alan Levine. I'm a conservative," the head of Health Management Associates introduced himself Thursday to a group of healthcare journalists in Doral. Who better than the Republican party healthcare guru to forecast the state's chances of expanding Medicaid? 

"Very low," was Levine's take on those chances, and, on further prodding, "less than 30 percent."

Timing is one of the biggest reasons for his low vote of likelihood. With upcoming elections and the fumbles of the Affordable Care Act's launch, Republicans think they have the upper political hand to stay their course of resistance to Medicaid expansion, even if it means forfeiting billions of federal funds and hurts the poor.

Continue reading "Rick Scott's health care adviser predicts odds of Medicaid expansion 'very low'" »

Q-poll shows how President Obama, seen as untrustworthy, hurts Democrats in FL


Florida voters are souring on President Obama and his signature healthcare law — and it’s hurting Democrats in the state, a new poll indicates.

The president’s job-approval numbers are near an all-time low — 40 percent approve, 57 percent don’t — and a majority of Florida voters now view him as being untrustworthy, the Quinnipiac University poll released Friday showed.

Obama’s waning support is probably weighing down Democrats from Charlie Crist to Hillary Clinton, who are now seeing stiffer competition from Republicans, said Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown.

“Politics is a team sport,” Brown said. “Obama’s the blue team captain and he’s not doing well. So it’s no surprise the president’s teammates are not doing well, either.”

Continue reading "Q-poll shows how President Obama, seen as untrustworthy, hurts Democrats in FL" »

Feds circling tainted Sweetwater police department

@msanchezMIA @BrendaMedinar @jayhweaver

The way those who have been arrested in Sweetwater tell it, cops in this small city targeted low-level criminals, people with little credibility and no resources to defend themselves.

“I know my brother isn’t innocent,” said Leslie Anne Torres, who is trying to recover the three vehicles and other belongings Sweetwater police seized from her brother after a credit-card fraud arrest. “But if the police go to your house and steal your things, then they ain’t no better than my brother.”

Federal authorities are investigating accounts like this one in a widening criminal probe of problems in the Sweetwater Police Department that range from excessive use of force to the unreasonable seizure of suspects’ vehicles.

So far, the FBI has arrested just a single detective on separate fraud charges, though he is also suspected of playing a central role in the larger alleged abuses of power. Two other detectives face possible charges for brutality and theft.

Others have also been tainted by the scandal, including an officer-turned-city-commissioner who was once responsible for the evidence room where thousands of dollars in cash went missing, and a commander who supervised the detectives accused of the most egregious offenses.

More here.

Store video catches Miami Gardens cops in the act


Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.

He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

It’s a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black.

And, like Sampson, many of them have been cited for minor infractions, sometimes as often as three times in the same day.

Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police.

More here.