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16 posts from August 15, 2016

August 15, 2016

Group planning lawsuit in Miami-Dade to force new campaign-cash rules on November ballot


Backers of proposed campaign-cash rules said Monday they would sue Miami-Dade County to force the petition count needed to place their proposal on the November ballot.

An organizer of the petition drive, funded in part by union dollars, said his group plans to ask a judge Tuesday to instruct Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to order a count of about 127,000 signatures delivered to Elections Headquarters in two U-Haul trucks on Aug. 2.

The proposed rules would ban campaign donations from lobbyists and government vendors and lower the cap on individual gifts from $1,000 to $250. It also would expand Miami-Dade’s little-used public-financing option for candidates.

“The County’s failure to act not only goes against the will of the people, but it’s a failure to comply with county law,” Accountable Miami-Dade, a group led in part by a local union chief , said in a statement Monday. “The Mayor should be leading the effort to ensure that the voices of over 127,000 voters are heard, not hiding behind others.”

The petition delivery sparked a legal fight over the next steps. Miami-Dade’s charter says the County Commission “shall within 30 days order” a count of the petitions to make sure there are enough of them to win a spot on the ballot. But commissioners failed to muster a quorum at a special meeting last week, and another commission meeting is not scheduled this month.

In order for the measure to make the Nov. 8 ballot, the signatures must be verified and counted by the first week in September. Otherwise, the next opportunity for a countywide vote that wouldn’t require an expensive special election isn’t until 2018.

County lawyers issued a brief memo Friday declaring Gimenez does not have the authority to step in and order the count himself.

“I want those petitions to be counted. I want to get it on the November ballot,” Gimenez said Sunday during a televised debate with challenger Raquel Regalado on Channel 10’s “This Week in South Florida.” “Unfortunately I don’t have that power.”

Read the story here

Environmentalist's remarks rile water managers who attack with tax talking points

Old World climbing fernIn a press release proclaiming that South Florida residents should "Get the Facts," the South Florida Water Management District moved from neutral regulator to attack dog Monday using a press release to criticize Audubon of Florida for disagreeing with the district's decision to rollback property taxes instead of paying for invasive species control in the Arthur Marshall National Wildlife Refuge.

Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper appeared before the governing board at its meeting last week and urged it to use money from reserve funds to address what district officials say is an emergency situation in which an infestation of invasive Old World climbing fern is threatening to collapse the tree canopy.

"It is absolutely an emergency, but you have the resources,'' Draper told the governing board. "And it is your land. Fund it."

He added that if the district chooses not to use the money in its reserves, the board could also "change your mind about rolling back the millage" rate and use the increase in property tax collections, generated by the increase in property values, to pay for the emergency. 

"It is not an appropriate or smart strategy to say to Congress, which is cutting its budget and struggling with a federal deficit, to spend that money when you are not willing to increase the amount of money you are spending to control that,'' he said. 

SFWMD executive director Pete Antonacci replied. He said the district has spent $2.3 million to control the invasive plant, also known as Lygodium microphyllum"Money that you are under no obligation to spend and still we have not seen our federal colleagues to do something similar,'' he said.

Draper's remarks hit a nerve. Rather than direct the blame at the federal government, which the district says is violating a provision in the 2002 management agreement that requires it to control exotic plants, the SFWMD used its press release to turn the focus on taxes, and blast Draper for suggesting the state shouldn't wait for the federal government. 

"Audubon Florida is asking the SFWMD Governing Board to raise taxes to make up for the federal government's failure to control an infestation of invasive Old World climbing fern in the Refuge,'' the release said. 

Taxes have been one of the most important messages coming out of the district under Gov. Rick Scott. Last year, as property values rose another $21 million in the district, the former head of the SFWMD, Blake Guillory, proposed ending the practice of cutting back taxes and leaving the tax rate alone to keep the district from dipping into reserves to pay for its projects. 

Within two weeks, the board of governors reversed the decision and Guillory was forced to resign. The board replaced him with Scott's general counsel, Antonacci. 

The district's Monday "Get the Facts" did not mention all the facts, including that that Audubon of Florida is supportive of the district but wants it to work with the federal government, that the district wants $25 million over three years from Congress to attack the problem, and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an annual budget of $1 million for exotic plant control and has spent another $1 million over the last three years for invasive plant control at the refuge.

Randy Smith, spokesperson for the district, defended the attack on Audubon as "factual information that is pertinent for the taxpayers to understand." 

He said that Draper wanted "to let the federal government slide" and that the press release was signed off on by the district's executive team, including Antonacci.

Draper responded. 

"Enough fighting,'' he said in a statement to the Herald/Times. "State and federal agencies need to work together to solve Florida’s invasive species problems.  The district has money in its budget and under its spending caps to manage its land.  And, yes, taking care of a special place like the Arthur Marshall National Wildlife Refuge might be more important than cutting taxes this year."

The attack jarred others in the environmental community. 

"I can't recall a state agency targeting a non-profit organization before,'' said Jonathan Ullman of Sierra Club of South Florida. "A public agency saying that 'Audubon Florida wants to raise your taxes,' is over the line,'' he said, noting that Sierra Club has been a target of a similar attack.

"I don't know who or what is behind 'Just the Facts,' but these emails are entirely inappropriate. The agency has become an attack dog, rather than a public service."

Here is the text of the SFWMD press release: 

Continue reading "Environmentalist's remarks rile water managers who attack with tax talking points" »

Rubio won't say whom he voted for in Miami-Dade mayor's race

VWW16 Voting news rk
@PatriciaMazzei @alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio is happy to tell voters that he cast his early ballot Monday for himself in Florida's Republican race for U.S. Senate.

But don't ask him which other candidates he selected.

"I'm not going to tell you," he told a Miami Herald reporter who asked him about his choice in the Miami-Dade County mayor's race. "That would be an endorsement."

Later, after casting his ballot at the West Miami Community Center, Rubio continued to stay mum on the non-partisan mayoral contest chiefly between incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado.

Both are Republicans. Regalado was an early supporter of Rubio's presidential candidacy, while Gimenez endorsed him after rival Jeb Bush ended his campaign. Unlike Rubio, neither Gimenez nor Regalado back Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"To be honest with you, I know them both. I know them well," Rubio said. "I'm just not going to take a position publicly on that race."

Rubio has endorsed in a far smaller municipal race, for Miami Lakes mayor. He's backing Councilman Manny Cid over incumbent Mayor Michael Pizzi and former Mayor Wayne Slaton.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Trump revisits Guantánamo question, says foreigners would be tried there


Donald Trump said Monday he would continue to try suspected foreign terrorists at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- an apparent attempt to clarify his remarks from an interview with the Miami Herald last week in which he said he might support trying Americans in Guántanamo, too.

"Foreign combatants will be tried in military commissions," Trump said in a terrorism speech he delivered in Ohio.

He made no mention of Americans, who under current law can't be tried in military commissions.

Asked last week if he would push for that as president, Trump told the Herald, "I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine." His comment drew national attention.

On Monday, Trump reiterated he would keep the Guántanamo detention center open, "and place a renewed emphasis on human intelligence."

"Drone strikes will remain part of our strategy, but we will also seek to capture high-value targets to gain needed information to dismantle their organizations," he said.

The Pentagon disclosed Monday that over the weekend it sent 15 Guántanamo detainees to the Untied Arab Emirates.

Photo credit: Ty Wright, Bloomberg

FDLE spent $2.1 million on ground travel and security for governor

The cost of ground transportation and security for Gov. Rick Scott for the past year cost Florida taxpayers $2.1 million -- the first time those costs have topped the $2 million mark.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued its annual report Monday that reflects the cost of protecting the governor, first lady and the Governor's Mansion grounds in addition to costs for security and transportation from visiting dignitaries, mostly governors from other states on both official and personal trips to the Sunshine State.

The cost of protecting the state's chief executive was $2.1 million in the year ending June 30, compared to $1.8 million the year before. That works out to about $5,700 per day.

FDLE spent $1,830,421 on salaries for agents to protect the governor and $335,127 to protect First Lady Ann Scott during the 12-month period. Transportation and other expenses for the first couple cost an additional $300,638, and protection for other members of the Scott family and for the mansion grounds brought the total costs for the year to $2,649,996. Scott maintains a busy travel schedule and is the first governor in Florida history who flies in his own plane at his expense.

Florida taxpayers paid $6,610 for five visits to the state by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and $4,556 for two visits by former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and members of his family. And no surprise here: The most popular month for out-of-state politicians to visit Florida was December.


Leaked Democratic Party documents paint Joe Garcia in a negative light

Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia speak to the Miami Herald editorial board. They’re running in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 26th congressional district.



An anonymous hacker believed to have connections with the Russian government released more stolen documents Monday afternoon detailing campaign strategy for Democrats in certain Florida congressional districts -- including Miami's most competitive race.

"Here are the DCCC docs on Florida: reports, memos, briefings, dossiers, etc," hacker Guccifer 2 wrote. "You can have a look at who you are going to elect now. It may seem the congressional primaries are also becoming a farce."

The stolen documents, released via a WordPress website, include strategy memos on Florida's 26th District, where Democrats Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo are waging a primary campaign to challenge Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Garcia, a former congressman who did not receive the support of the DCCC this year, was painted in a negative light in a document titled "FL-26 Path to Victory Summary" that was last updated April 1. The DCCC highlighted two Garcia gaffes during his time in office.  

"Garcia also made a large misstep during the campaign saying 'communism works; which did not sit well in an area with a large Cuban refugee population," the document says. "More embarrassingly, Garcia was caught on a CSPAN feed picking his earwax and seemingly eating it and the video made the rounds on the internet." 

The document goes on to highlight other Democratic goals to unseat Curbelo in District 26, notably getting 45 percent support from Hispanic/Latino voters, 57 percent from women voters, increased turnout among voters under 45 years of age, increased turnout among African-American voters in Homestead and at least 53.5 percent of the early vote. 

The DCCC also criticized Garcia's failed 2014 re-election campaign, saying it "was not a model to follow" and his direct-mail vendor was "subpar." It also said that Garcia's ground operation "struggled to garner support from local Democratic committees."

A second document titled "FL-26 Campaign Overview" from April 8 also acknowledged Taddeo's political vulnerabilities. 

"Annette has also proven to be a somewhat poor fundraiser and she has gained a reputation as an inadequate campaigner among some of the talkers in the community," the document says.

“As previously noted, the DCCC has been the target of a cybersecurity incident, and we are cooperating with federal law enforcement in their ongoing investigation," DCCC National Press Secretary Meredith Kelly said. "We are aware of reports that documents claimed to be from our network have been released and are investigating their authenticity."

UPDATE from Garcia campaign: "Today’s hack of Taddeo campaign documents shows that Annette Taddeo spent thousands of dollars on a private investigator to dig up dirt on Joe Garcia and then hired a Republican strategist to spin those lies into an insult-based campaign Florida Republicans are famous for -- the Garcia campaign has done none of the above and voters in Florida’s 26th district deserve better from Taddeo," Garcia spokesman Juan Peñalosa said in a statement. 

Former 2 Live Crew member endorses state Senate candidate, trashes another

Luther campbell


Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell has come a long way since being arrested for uttering provocative lyrics at a concert over 25 years ago as a member of 2 Live Crew, a Miami-based rap group.

Campbell, once known by his stage name Luke Skyywalker, is now a fixture in Liberty City through his work with youth football programs, the defensive coordinator at Miami Jackson High School and a former candidate for Miami-Dade mayor. 

He announced his support for former Miami Beach commissioner Michael Góngora last week in the District 38 state Senate race and cautioned against voting for state Rep. Daphne Campbell.

"In the crowded field to replace retiring state Sen. Gwen Margolis — forced out after making dumb comments about Haitians coming after her seat — the most recognizable names are state Rep. Daphne Campbell and former Miami Beach commissioner Michael Góngora," Campbell said on his blog last week. "I've seen signs for Campbell all over northeast Miami-Dade County, but I never heard of her until a quick Google search revealed a trail of news stories documenting fraudulent schemes she and her family members have been involved in since she got into office. So I’m going with Góngora, who hasn’t been rocked by scandal and who has been reaching out to black voters." 

Campbell endorsed U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson over primary challenger and ex-Miami football star Randall Hill in the District 24 U.S. House race, notable because Campbell is a longtime supporter of the University of Miami football program. He also endorsed challenger Steve Gallon over incumbent Wilbert "Tee" Holloway in the District 1 school board race and incumbent Oliver Gilbert in the Miami Gardens mayoral election. 

Libertarians Gary Johnson, Bill Weld coming to Miami

Ohio Elections Libertarians

The Libertarian Party presidential ticket is getting a piece of the political campaign action in South Florida.

Nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, will host an event for supporters Wednesday at Miami’s Florida International University. It will be their first local appearance since their nomination in Orlando in May.

The event, titled “An Evening with Govs. Johnson and Weld,” will take place at 7 p.m. at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 10910 SW 17th St. Johnson is a former New Mexico governor; Weld is a former Massachusetts governor. Both are former Republicans.

For now, Johnson’s top goal is to make it into a televised presidential debate against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, but that's a long shot. He needs to reach 15 percent support in several key polls to qualify.

The latest Florida polls show Johnson with as much as 9 percent support (in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll) and as little as 5 percent support (in aCBS/YouGov online poll). The other significant third-party candidate running is Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee.

More here.

Photo credit: John Raoux, Associated Press

Rubio doesn't take back calling Trump a 'con man'

VBN16 Voting News rk

In the heat of the Republican presidential primary, Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a “con man.” And he doesn’t take it back.

“I’ve stood by everything I ever said in my campaign,” Rubio told the Miami Herald editorial board Monday.

But Rubio still supports Trump for president. In fact, Rubio insists, Trump is partly why he reversed himself and chose to run for the U.S. Senate again.

“We’re in a different place now. Now we have a binary choice — not a choice between 15 people or 12 people. There are two people in the world that are going to be the next president, either Donald or HillaryClinton, he said. “In our republic, while the presidency is powerful, there is a balance of power in this country, and a significant amount of it resides in the United States Senate. It’s one of the reasons why I seek to run again.”

Rubio rejected the idea that on foreign policy, one of his signature areas of expertise, his views align more with Clinton’s than Trump’s.

“I disagree with many of her foreign-policy positions,” he said, rattling off a list of criticisms on how the Obama administration handled Russia, ISIS, the Syrian civil war, Libya after the Arab Spring and the Iran nuclear deal.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Carlos Beruff releases new ad against Marco Rubio


With just two weeks to go before the GOP primary election, Carlos Beruff is continuing to take swings at Marco Rubio on television, releasing a new ad that features people who say they used to support Rubio but no longer do.

“He didn’t do what he said he was going to do,” one of six unidentified voters featured in the ad that points out Rubio missed votes in the Senate.

Beruff has spent more than $8 million on television ads since he jumped into the race in February, and about half of that has come since Rubio rejoined the Senate campaign. Beruff is self-funding the majority of his campaign. 

The new ad fits with a more aggressive posture he began taking earlier this month. In television ads Beruff had on cable stations around the state last week, he compared Rubio to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, saying both were "political opportunists."