Watchdog Report Vol.15 No.51 March 22, 2015 EST.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot Celebrating 15 Years

CONTENTS

Argus Report: EX Congressman Rivera’s saga gets weirder in a memo to self, charges federal prosecutor was ambitious, wanted help as next U.S .Atty. all deny claims and  he has yet to be charged

Florida: FL legislature still playing “chicken” when it comes to losing up to $50 billion over a decade in federal LIP funds, state’s $1 billion surplus disappears, Gov. Scott faces dilemma with lawmakers

Miami-Dade County: Behemoth Mall coming to NE Dade, “you will see something good,” says Developer to County Commission Chair Monestime

Miami–Dade County Public Schools: Bd. Will be following up on VAB District Audit seeking reforms, Regalado and Hantman will be pushing the matter for the school board

Public Health Trust: PHT closes past month “$3 million over past year,” says CFO Knight at Thursday Committee meeting

City of Miami: City may close the year “with $14.5 million estimated surplus,” for the year says budget guru Rose to Finance Committee

City of Miami Beach: City warming up to its 100th Anniversary bash March. 26, will it be the party of the Century thousands are expected at attend?

Village of Coconut Grove: >>> With the potential resurrection of the Grove Playhouse, has a new star been born? One theater goer says County Commissioner Suarez is “hilarious!”

City of Coral Gables: The Coral Gables Forum will hold three debates for the upcoming City of Coral Gables biennial election on April 14, 2015.

Monroe County: Miami-Dade OIG finds irregularities with classifications of Early Learning Coalition children after investigation

Community Events: Jackson Transplant Gala — the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board invites you to a community forum on enhancing Trust between Residents and Police — Margulies Warehouse opens in Oct. Lotus House benefits, public students enter free

City of Miramar: M-DC Ethics Commission finds no probable cause against Billy Hardemon

City of Homestead: County Ethics Commission rules on “wholesale waiver of ethics prohibition of travel related expenses”

Editorials: Convoluted discussion on 40’ articulated buses costing $900,000 each does not bode well for solving transit issues anytime soon

Letters: Grove attorney gives update on HEP board hearing on St. Gaudens home – Reader wishes me a speedy recovery from stroke

Sponsors - Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue

>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message.

>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center www.knightfoundation.org to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.

>>>> The Watchdog Report publisher needs help and I hope you will consider supporting me allowing me to stay out in the field so that I can keep at this and report back how your billions of public dollars in government are being spent on a weekly basis. And how to do that is at the end of the WDR. Thank You.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>>> EX Congressman Rivera’s saga gets weirder and in a memo to self, he charges a federal prosecutor was ambitious, wanted his help as next U.S .Atty. all deny claims and he is yet to be charged

The U.S. Rep David Rivera, R-Miami saga continues and just gets stranger since he left office in 2010 and is trying to fend off federal investigators after a case one by the state attorney’s office ran onto a statutes of limitations issue and the office never charged Rivera of any crimes and that is being criticized by some in the community, but the man has been a political enigma and his ongoing travail  just got odder after he accused federal prosecutors of asking him to assist the corruption prosecutor to be appointed as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article15382286.html That all parties are denying occurred but Rivera continuing being in the spotlight is not helping the Republican brand and the frequent revelations just keep the man who settled a Ethics fine as well under a significant cloud. Since he used to own a house in Tallahassee with prominent and possible presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl who is trying to keep his distance saying he wishes his friend all the best in getting this resolved Rubio has told the media in the past.

>>>> C Grove grapevine turns a decade May 8th Congratulations Tom Falco!

Tom Falco the publisher and editor of the http://coconutgrovegrapevine.blogspot.com/ is turning 10 years May 8th and through his hard work he has kept Groveites informed in ways other media has not and people cannot appreciate how hard Falco works to put important stories on line of issues unique to the Grove and The Watchdog Report gives Falco a Tip of the Hat for a job well done and may you have another ten years.

>>> Press release: Hillary Train Is Leaving the Station and No GOP Candidate Is Catching Up: New Zogby Analytics Poll By: John Zogby Forbes.com Contributor

This has been a big week for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has been giving big statesmanlike speeches and responding to global crises on the eve of releasing a new book of memoirs. She is getting that Old Monica Thing out of the way early. She is going to be a Grandma, the coolest thing in the world.

And she is so far and convincingly ahead of three of the biggest guns the GOP has to offer for 2016 that it is hardly even a horse race at this point. According to the latest nationwide poll by Zogby Analytics (893 likely voters, May 2-3, +/-3 points), Mrs. Clinton leads former Florida Governor Jeb Bush 52%-36%, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul 52% to 35%, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie 50%-34%. The fact that she hits 50% against all three candidates is significant, as is the size of each of her leads.

Please click on the link below to view the full release:
http://zogbyanalytics.com/news/438-hillary-train-is-leaving-the-station-and-no-gop-candidate-is-catching-up-new-zogby-analytics-poll

FLORIDA

>>> FL legislature still playing “chicken” when it comes to losing up to $50 billion over a decade in federal LIP funds, state’s $1 billion surplus disappears, Gov. Scott faces dilemma with lawmakers

Gov. Crick Scott is finding some of his proposed lofty budget proposals are hitting the rocks now that the state is facing a $1.2 billion hole versus having at one point a $1 billion surplus in extra money and had Scott calling for some $750 million in fee cuts for Florida consumers on their cable bills and more funding for education but the GOP controlled Legislature is dealing with another issue since the House budget is $76.2 billion to the Senate’s $80.4 billion budget and Sen. Tom Lee, R    the Appropriations Committee Chair says the difference especially when it comes to healthcare funding of  the Federal Lower income Pool (LIP) program that draws down federal healthcare funds is ending this year since the ACA is in force. And Lee says the budget difference could cost Tampa General a public hospital some $120 million in lost funding and he said to

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article15519245.h cuts must be made up and could from a variety of sources including changing the Gov.”s request for $673 million in tax cuts and the loss of the LIPprogram “( that nets Jackson Health System some $515 million),” could have major funding impacts on other public hospitals and South Florida has had a major advocate for the expansion of the Medicaid program in Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah who has been on the community circuit urging people to talk to their legislators to support the expansion because the lost federal dollars will not be used to pay down the nation’s $18 trillion debt, but will be given to other states and over a decades could represent some $10 billion in federal funding and he notes people should think about how many jobs that would create given the needs of the ageing Florida population expecting to drive healthcare to even higher robust levels as of now. And JHS provides $350 million of the federal matching funds to draw down these dollars and CEO Carlos Migoya believes the federal money will come but his concern is in the outgoing years with the federal Low Income Pool Program.

What about Scott running against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018?

Within political circles Florida Gov. Rick Scott is discussing thinking about running against Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, 72, in 2018 and Nelson is the only Democratic Party statewide elected politician in the state and Nelson was first elected to the nation’s most exclusive club in 2000. And he was considered a possible gubernatorial candidate challenging Scott last year, but he gave that race a miss since he was last reelected in 2012 and had a full-term in the Senate and he is a long term Floridian but getting up in the years and he was a Payload Specialist on a Space Shuttle flight years ago and is considered a moderate in political circles. Further, Scott does not know if there will be voter fatigue of him that is afflicting many long  term politicians and Nelson is a more effective campaigner than Scott who has the personality of a CEO and currently is dealing with his own issues that are continuing since he fired FDLE Dir. Gerald Bailey and the highly respected man has since gone to federal prosecutors concerning the matter and the matter is dragging the Florida Cabinet into the fiasco and political tensions among the politicians is getting strained.

>>> Dir. Bailey’s firing continues to dog Gov. Scott, Bailey speaks to federal authorities in? Tries to dispel it with a press release but will Ag. Commissioner Putnam buy into it?

With The Shake-Up at FDLE, the new Gov. Rick Scott administration is getting off to a shaky start when it comes to transparency and good governance and conflicting charges are flying about what exactly went down with the termination of the long serving Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Director Gerald Bailey and whether he was fired or resigned as the governor said. But the controversy continues in the media and is becoming a major distraction for Scott, “who is quoted saying Bailey did a great job [and is being petty,” and a further news story in the Herald shows the debate will not be going away. Since the law enforcement agency has a rich history of being apolitical and not getting involved in political matters. And since then Bailey has been talking to federal prosecutors about the whole affair though no one will confirm the story http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article15025937.html

What about the U.S. Atty. in North Florida?

And while Gov. Rick Scott is still being hammered over the firing, of Florida department of Law Enforcement Director Gerald Bailey. Some of the Cabinet members are calling for an independent investigator be used to investigate the matter. That caught Florida Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater taken unaware when asked by the press about the firing. Further, Adam Putnam a former congressman for a decade prior to taking state wide office in 2010 is considered to have a bright political future and potentially a gubernatorial candidate in the next cycle in 2020 and he is starting to take the lead in the matter and Putnam knows how serious the ramifications could be of the possible political intrusion with the FDLE that has a long storied history of being a nonpartisan state law enforcement arm but the controversy whether Bailey was fired by Scott and his contradictory statement by the governor that Bailey quite, which the special agent denies since Bailey was set to retire in just a few months which also puzzles critics. And for Putnam the political stakes are the highest and he needs to be the point of the spear in getting this matter cleared up for the longer it festers and lingers it will be corrosive not only to Scott but how the Florid Cabinet is viewed as a whole  and that dark cloud may well infect Putman’s future political career if not resolved for he is in a position to do something about getting to the root of the story and while below is a press release from the governor’s office on the controversy trying to end the debate and it remains to be seen if this explanation will tamp down the controversy, especially since Putnam is a longtime Floridian and he has the reputation of being a straight shooter.

Putnam

What do we know about Putnam’s finances?

Putnam through Dec. 2013 had a $7.8 million net worth and to read his full disclosure form go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2013/234671-Form6.pdf

On the well-being of our children. Visit The Children’s Movement website to read their stories and share your own. >>> I find it unacceptable, as all of us should, that at least a half-million children in Florida – all citizens — have no health insurance. How could this be in our beloved country that seeks to be a beacon to the world? Health insurance for all children is one of the five major planks of The Children’s Movement. With the support of Florida Covering Kids and Families, The Children’s Movement is working with dozens of local partners to help build a meaningful signing-up initiative in more than a dozen Florida communities. Already we have: Completed 18 KidCare trainings around the state. Signed up, trained and deployed more than a hundred volunteers. Begun to build a growing collaboration between local school districts and KidCare outreach coalitions. It’s a good start, but only the start. If you’d like to become a volunteer, just click here. Another way to help is to make a contribution – of any size – to help support this work. It is easy. Just click here. A real movement isn’t possible without your helping in some meaningful way. Dave Lawrence, Jr., Chair the Children’s Movement. >>> Update: Two encouraging meetings… The first, a visit from the Governor to the Rainbow Intergenerational Child Care center in Little Havana where he discussed his early learning priorities. That includes his support for “Help Me Grow,” a statewide parent resource system where parents would be able — via phone and online — to get and she thought answers to questions about their child’s development and connected with the proper resources. The second, a meeting with future House Speaker, Rep. Jose Oliva from Hialeah. He’s a father of three, a real reader of history and student of policy, and committed to better understanding early learning. Dave Lawrence, Chair The Children’s Movement.

Three of the basics of building a real movement for all children:

Nothing is more important than a caring and knowledgeable parent. (Know that 71 percent of American mothers with children between birth and age 5 work outside the home, meaning high-quality, brain-stimulating child care is a major necessity.)
85 percent of brain growth occurs by age 3.
Early learning is a continuum between before birth and age 8. (“Families are the ultimate pre-pre-school,” wrote Clare Huntington in The New York Times last September, adding, “I don’t want to rain on the pre-K parade, but we can’t pretend that school preparation begins at age 4. Four is better than 5, but zero is better than 4.”)

All that brings to me to a Miami-Dade Public Schools initiative focused on the transition from child care to kindergarten. This week I spent time at the superb YMCA in Allapattah, a bit north of downtown Miami. I spoke with Drs. Maggie Abrahante and Marisel Elias-Miranda, two key people responsible for early childhood programs that the superintendent has made a priority in this nationally honored school system. They’ve put together an excellent handbook for parents of children headed for kindergarten, and also:

Five retired school administrators with a special interest in early childhood already have met with 400 child care center directors to give them a sense of what school is all about and the expectations for children.
Principals are meeting with center directors.
Parents are offered superb neighborhood workshops, one of which I attended.

Wouldn’t that be smart to do in every school system?

Dave Lawrence
Chair
The Children’s Movement of Florida

>>>>And if you would like to see you’re County or state elected leaders financial

Disclosures forms on file go to website (www.et hics.state.fl.us):

MIIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Behemoth Mall coming to NE Dade, “you will see something good,” says Developer Jacob Ghermezian, to County Commission Chair Monestime

The soon to be largest Mega Mall at 2000 acres is coming to North West Miami –Dade after it cleared hurdles at the Miami-Dade County Commission and the County’s Public Schools Board last week and the $4 billion project  will have a film studio and two hotels, skiing and a host of other attractions is expected to bump the tourist trade to new heights in the coming years, and is not using public tax dollars yet and County Commissioners carped at the speed of the announced project( though the Beacon Council knew about it over a year ago), and it was being pushed by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and has critics howling about the increased traffic and demands on the County’s Water and Sewer System that Gimenez says if there are water issues, they will get the water somewhere else. And his administration would not allow it to move forward if there were problems with water demand in the years to head, he told commissioners from the dais. “You will see something good,” at the end of the discussion intoned the developer Jacob Ghermezian to commissioners last Tuesday.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article12605384.html and here is a critical article on mega Malls

llshttp://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article14525900.html

Regalado  
Gimenez

What about mayoral Candidate Raquel Regalado?

Regalado comes from a family of journalists and she is effectively utilizing the media and last week at the school Board there was a extensive discussion of the Audit of the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) something she has been championing since the school during the budget process has to deal with a $40 million budget hole since it takes the County so long to clear property  tax appeals and the attempt was to see if there was some structural issue that must be corrected to mitigate this delay in funding owed to the nation’s fourth largest public schools district. And at Wednesday’s Board Meeting when a transfer of land for the large Mall passed.  She probable got some decent television time in the Spanish media and she is staying on the airwaves on a consistent basis( as to be fair so is Gimenez) but  his message is generally dour and not as upbeat in tone to Regalado’s whose father is also campaigning for his daughter as well in the coming months but she is now defining herself with the county’s voters who see her race a big stretch from being on the schools board since there is a Superintendent and in the County’s case there is a strong mayor form of government and she will have to run the colossus herself with well over 26,0000 employees, and that competency was a known fact since Gimenez at one point was Manager of the City of Miami and a Miami Fire Chief, but with some people voter fatigue is setting in and Regalado the daughter is young and energetic  and she is slowly making her case with county voters, some are saying, but there is a long way to go before the Nov. 2016 general election. And the VAB issue sand the Mega Mall are likely to be campaign issues in the months ahead and readers should stay tuned and see how this development being done by Triple Five turns out for critics argue there are some downsides to this type of developments. And here is a critical storyhttp on Mega Malls http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article14525900.html

What about any other challengers?

Further, So far no one has officially announced they will be challenging Gimenez for the office but former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez is eyeing the post as well along with School Board Member Raquel Regalado and the mayor’s dynamics with voters has changed since he first ran for the office back in 2011 and he is seen as being overly sensitive if anyone criticizes him and there is some media footage that does make him seem angry when he is criticized and not a warm and cuddly mayor and that imperious attitude is getting old for some voters. And the discontent started with voters when he paid numerous vice mayors significant salaries and benefits that he says is necessary to get top people into government, but critics argue maybe these people should not be in public service. Since it might be for the wrong reasons, since government positions traditionally pay less than the private sector but also comes with a number of perks not found in the private sector.

What did Mayor Regalado say about all aboard Florida’s plan Sunday on TWISFl?

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado Sunday told Michael Putney and Glenna MIlberg http://www.local10.com/news/this-week-in-south-florida-march-15/31810968 that  he is not supporting the deal the city is being asked to approve that includes a $9 million contribution from the Miami general fund For All Aboard Florida http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article12514622.html and Regalado says he will veto the legislation being heard this Thursday at the Miami Commission meeting and the goal is to have trains run from Miami to Palm Beach County and would reduce traffic significantly officials hope and the state of FL is kicking in some $20 million of the $69 million needed. And Regalado when I asked him Wednesday about the Tri Rail deal “he questioned how many Overtown residents would be wanting to go to Palm Beach and watch Polo matches?” He responded and the issue is intertwining with the 2016 County mayoral race where Raquel Regalado is challenging Mayor Carlos Gimenez for the strong mayor position.

What did Sarnoff say about signalization of traffic lights?

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff during the television show told Putney that when it came to reducing traffic congestion that synchronized “signalization, was like moving the deck chairs on chairs on the Titanic,” and the fix will not achieve the trafficking results many people are anticipating despite the long time taking to implement it.

Press release: Miami-Dade County to Host First Charter Amendment Town Hall Meeting

(MIAMI, June 16, 2014) – Miami-Dade County is hosting a series of town hall meetings, where residents can provide input and ask County staff about the proposed amendment to the Home Rule Charter  to permit additional uses and facilities at Parks, Legistar 141370, sponsored by Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Jr. On July 7, 2011, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners adopted Ordinance 11-44, which states “the County shall hold six public meetings regarding any resolution calling an election on a proposed Home Rule Charter amendment.”

Amended proposal

When and where:

Tuesday, June 17, 6:00 p.m.

West Kendall Regional Library

10201 Hammocks Blvd.

Miami, FL 33196

305-385-7135

Wednesday, June 18, 6:00 p.m.

North Dade Regional Library

2455 NW 183 Street

Miami, FL 33056

305-625-6424

Wednesday, June 18, 6:00 p.m.

South Dade Regional Library

10750 SW 211 Street

Miami, FL 33189

305-233-8140

Thursday, June 19, 6:00 p.m.

Arcola Lakes Library

8240 NW 7th Avenue

Miami, FL 33150

305-694-2707

Monday, June 23, 6:00 p.m.

Miami Beach Regional Library

227 22nd Street

Miami Beach, FL 33139

305-535-4219

Tuesday, June 24, 6:00 p.m.

Kendall Library

9101 SW 97th Avenue

Miami, FL 33176

305-279-0520

Wednesday, June 25, 6:00 p.m.

Miami Lakes Library

6699 Windmill Gate Road

Miami Lakes, FL 33014

305-822-6520

Thursday, June 26, 6:00 p.m.

West Dade Regional Library

9445 Coral Way

Miami Beach, FL 33165

305-553-1134

>>>> Foster parenting is not considered ‘outside employment’

Press release: M-DC Ethics Com. Press release: The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today determined that a county employee who serves as a foster parent is not engaging in outside employment, and therefore, does not have to submit a “Request for Outside Employment” or complete an “Outside Employment Statement” each year.  The response to the Request for Opinion (RQO 15-01) is based on determinations by both the State of Florida, which considers foster parenting as a volunteer activity, and the Internal Revenue Service, which exempts foster care payments as part of a parent’s income.  The opinion notes that while foster parents do receive a stipend, those dollars are intended for the care of the child and are not considered compensation.

>>> A city commission may not approve a wholesale waiver of the ethics prohibition of travel-related expenses paid by government vendors, according to another opinion approved by the Ethics Commission today.  It came in response to a Request for Opinion (RQO 15-02) regarding a proposed City of Homestead resolution that would waive the ban on payment for meals and other activities at 14 upcoming out-of-town events, but does not name the public officials, contributing vendors nor the value of the benefits anticipated.  The Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance specifically prohibits elected officials and public employees from accepting travel and related expenses by vendors to avoid undue influence or exploitation and, at the very least, the appearance of impropriety.  That ban may be waived by a majority vote of the county or city commission.  Today’s opinion states that such a waiver must be decided by a separate public vote of the governing body and include the disclosure of who is providing any travel-related benefit to a public official, as well as the identity of the public official receiving the benefit.

Press release: In other action today, The Ethics commission approved a resolution to honor retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan with a “Lifetime Achievement Award for Ethics in Public Service.”   In addition to his legal and judicial experience in the state and county courts, Judge Kogan has served as President of the Alliance for Ethical Government and as a member of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Ethics Advisory Committee.  He has been an adviser and mentor to countless public servants, attorneys and citizens, as well as law students at four different universities.   The award will be presented at the opening session of the “Ethics In Education: A to Z” conference on Friday, May 1, 2015 at the University of Miami’s Storer Auditorium beginning at 5:30 p.m.  Anyone wishing to take part may learn more and register by visiting www.ethics.miamidade.gov >>> Finally, the Ethics Commission paid tribute today to Deputy General Counsel Miriam Soler Ramos, who is leaving the agency after more than nine years.  Ms. Ramos begins her new position as Deputy City Attorney in Coral Gables on March 16th.

STORY – MIAMI RANKS #1 IN TOP 25 MARKETS WITH RECORD FEBRUARY 2015
>>> Press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES IN FEBRUARY 2015 MARKS SECOND CONSECUTIVE MONTH OF #1 RANKING IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), #1 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #1 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS AS DEFINED BY SMITH TRAVEL RESEARCH.
Record February 2015 – Miami #1
Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR)
February 2015 February 2014 % Change vs. 2014
$226.88 $200.95 +12.9%
Average Daily Room Rate (ADR)
February 2015 February 2014 % Change vs. 2014
$259.07 $232.59 +11.4%
Average Daily Occupancy
February 2015 February 2014 % Change vs. 2014
87.6% 86.4% +1.4%

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Bd. Will be following up on VAB District Audit seeking reforms, Regalado and Hantman will be pushing the matter for the school board

>>>>The Long awaited audit of the Miami-Dade County’s Value Adjustment Board (VAB) is out with some recommendations, and the County’s OIG was copied. The long awaited audit pushed by Board Member Raquel Regalado and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho by the Miami-Dade County School Board of the Miami-Dade County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) has been released and the report makes a number of recommendations and the County’s Office of Inspector General is copied on the document that has become a political hot potato since legal suits are in play and the roughly $40 million funding impact it is having on the District because of taxpayer appeals and the length of processing these filings. To read the audit go to http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_March_10_2015/item3.pdf. And there was extensive discussion at Wednesday’s monthly school board meeting on the matter and Regalado is going to be the point of the spear when it comes to the VAB and trying to “reform” it said board members and Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman will also lend her weight to the proceedings and the need for changes and the District Auditor is still waiting for some responses from the County entities involved in this VAB process.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> PHT closes past month “$3 million over past year,” says CFO Knight at Thursday Committee meeting

For the first time in a while the Watchdog Repot attended the all-day PHT committee meeting Thursday and CEO Carlos Migoya has added some new staff and one new member to the administration is former Miami CFO Larry Spring and his job is to enhance efficiencies in the staffing operations he told the board during a presentation Thursday and the Trust continues it’s remarkable turnaround.

What about the finances

Jackson is reporting $1 million over budget for the past month and that is “$3 million over the prior year,” said Trust CFO Mark Knight. And the health trust is benefitting from strong countywide one percent sales tax collections that came in “$1.5 million ahead of budget,” and since consumer “spending is up,” sales tax revenues for the month came in at “$8.8 million ahead of what was budgeted,” said Knight. And cash on hand is 28 days and reflects the stringer performance of the health system that at one point only had about 12 days of cash on hand.

What about any County Lobbyists at the committee meeting?

Al Maloof, a county lobbyist registered with “Perez Gurri Corp., doing business as N.J. Construction Maloof,” attended the public meeting and  he left his card and while I did not see the influential county lobbyist who was also on the Miami Expressway Authority (MDX) Board he left his card on the Trust board table and I don’t know why he was there but with $830 million in bond proceeds for massive infrastructure improvements I have been waiting for the County lobbyists to arrive at the PHT and also the County school board with some $1.2 billion in contracts to award in the coming months for construction and school enhancements.

What about the UM President Search?

The Miami Herald is reporting the search to replace University of Miami President Donna Shalala, Ph.D. has come down to a short list and the Watchdog Report was unable to attend a joint public meeting of the University’s search committee with Public Health Trust trustees recently but the fact there is a joint meeting and the PHT is being kept informed is a good thing since UM has a 50 plus year affiliation with Jackson Health System and the relationship is complex and has the University with an  Annual Operating Agreement (AOA) where Jackson pays some $125 million in medical services and has been a source of tensions over the past few years, especially after UM bought the Old Cedars of Sinai Hospital next door to Jackson and here is the meeting announcement, and the current AOA is a better more detailed agreement than in years past. And here is the meeting announcement.

12Joint Meeting- University of Miami President’s Search Committee and PHT Board of Trustees

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> City may close the year with $14.5 million estimated surplus for the year says budget guru Rose to Finance Committee

The Watchdog Report attended the City’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday and the volunteer board watches over the city’s finances and is a very important board for it helps keep the city off the fiscal rocks as has occurred so many times over the years including having for five years a state appointed financial Advisory board appointed by then Gov. Jeb Bush and only dissolved in November 2001. Staff told committee members that “the budget process is well underway,” and budget Director Chris Rose said he will be making a presentation “next week to the commission, “and he indicated the preliminary surplus for the year was likely to be “$14.5,” million but that number is not set in stone. And Rose also updated the committee on union negotiations and he stated the tentativily agreed contract with AFSCME made up of “general employees passed a union vote by 579 to four against he told committee members. Rose said the new agreement gives all employees a “three percent” raise across the board and “fixes pay tables,” that for many employees was prevalent, Rose said. He also mentioned a major new “Wellness Program” for the City’s workers and a gym is becoming available that “has the same rehabilitation equipment,” and “getting workers more healthy is a win win,” the budget guru concluded, and over the years the increased costs for diabetes, for example has shot through the roof for Miami employees and was discussed a couple of years ago at a past meeting I covered.

What about Jungle Island?

One of the committee members said he recently went to Jungle Island that has a $25 million HUD loan that is part of the County’s HUD obligations of around $225 million and he noted it took some “ 40 minutes just to get into the uncrowded attraction and he only found the Flamingoes by accident with his family and he noted the Commission Auditor 2013 had done a report on the attraction and the report was critical of the attraction and the man wanted to know the status of “the going concern issues,”  his report cited and he noted that the fiscal status can change from year to year and he wondered if it was under the committees sphere of responsibility but the city attorney who was not the usual attorney of the board and was not aware of the request for a legal ruling he said. And Mayor Tomas Regalado said later JI had made the January million dollar payment but it was the big one in the summer that he expects the attraction to pay to be compliant with the contract with the city and the loan runs to 2020. He also noted when I asked about the attendance issue that the attraction makes much of its money holding banquet events there for a wide range of organizations.

What about Miami’s bond holdings?

The City of Miami has some $200 million in bond holdings and the Signa Cyber Security guidelines after a breach a while ago was discussed by one of the board members and Cyber Security in a host of ways is becoming a major worry for municipalities.

What about the Miami Audit Committee?

Because of the lack of appointments by the Miami commission the critical Audit Committee has not met in the “past year,” and commissioners need to make appointments to this critical oversight board for it also plays an important role in keeping the city on an even fiscal keel.

What about the other candidates for the Dist.2 seat becoming open?

Teresa Sarnoff has decided to knock on doors with her husband Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff who she wants to follow in his seat since he is termed out after eight years in the office and there is clearly voter fatigue for the man. Who comes off irritating and has trouble connecting with people and could be the wife’s downfall in the crowded Dist.2 Miami Commission race with a host of challengers who just need to get 50.1 percent to prevail in the primary and the expected general election in late November and having a strong organization getting voters to the polls will be key to any victor.

And When it comes to the Miami Commission District 2 race things are very quiet and the Watchdog Report has yet to see any of the candidates in my neighborhood or down at Miami Commission meetings but campaign reports show candidate Grace Solaris has raised some $77,210, (up from 57,680) to her likely challenger’s Teresa Sarnoff who has increased her war chest to $172,149 through February,  

Gimenez

(Up from $82, 875,). And in the District 4 race incumbent Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez is reporting $23,125 for his campaign and the younger Suarez is facing long time perennial candidate Manolo Reyes who has raised $70,710 and another challenger Antonio J. Diaz has $23,125 for his own campaign but Reyes has been trying to get elected for years. And there are gaps on who contributed this money and the only listed expense was $3,360 paid to Dark Horse Strategies and for more on the company go to  and to review all the candidates campaign contributions go to: http://www.ci.miami.fl.us/City_Clerk/Pages/Elections/CampaignReports15.asp and for more on Dark Horse go to  http://www.darkhorsestrategies.org/meetus.html

Village of Coconut Grove

>>> PAST WDR:  With the potential resurrection of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, has a new star been born? One theater goer says County Commissioner Suarez is “hilarious!”

The Discussion on the proposed agreement for the Coconut Grove playhouse plan had county commissioner Xavier Suarez Thursday at the commission Chambers starring in the lead role. As Gables Stage, run by Joe Adler was picked to be the artistic arm of the planned renovation that will have a 300 seat intimate theater and possible an 11,000 seat larger stage. If there is funding (though arts maven Mike Eidson said he and a foundation are looking to raise some $40 million for the effort If there is space to put the larger theater in the Historic Building and is vital to the Grove’s prosperity given the number of theater goers prior to its sudden closing in 2006 and Suarez chaired the County Commission committee meeting that discussed a host of issues to the bored audience of theater supporters in the audience for a couple (while commissioners discussed low cost and affordable housing issues) for  hours before taking up the Playhouse discussions that had a good turnout of theater activists who came to the Chambers in strength and Suarez  just asked the potentially hostile crowds to be “civil,” and brief in their comments  and everyone was given two minutes each to speak on the iconic heater, but Suarez seemed a little rusty on the dais and he made  numerous little quips including saying he felt like “Rodney Dangerfield,” and noted one of his staff members “a Vassar College” grad was capable of cleaning up his spilled coffee and it was an odd comment and after “Waiting for Godot was brought up a number of times, He joked about the Samuel Beckett play asking rhetorically “did Godot” every show up? He wondered but his fascination with how many seconds the speakers did not use just extended the meeting even longer and the economic prosperity committee passed the agreement and the full BCC will vote on it again on April 21.

Why was Suarez “hilarious?”

A woman new to the County Commission Chamber said she was a constituent of Suarez’s but had never met him before, and she told him in her remarks, that “he was hilarious,” as the Harvard trained attorney kept thanking speakers for saving “6 seconds,” for example while  clearly his many side remarks slowed the proceedings going but his many side remarks just lengthened the length of the committee meeting but proponents for some kind of action got their wish and the full county Commission will hear the item and vote on April, 21 on the final contract with Gables Stage that also has an affiliation with FIU to provide training for a graduate degree in acting. And a host of high profile people spoke in support of Adler with one person calling him “a god” who seems to have limitless energy said many people and Adler seems to be considered a community treasure. And here is what Playhouse activists are saying about the proceedings last week http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/coconut-grove/article13911635.html and see what is being said on the Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse web page and you can see he passions the theater generates. And a video of the proceedings. SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/saveourplayhouse SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE, Miami, Florida. 9656 likes · 827 talking about this. This is dedicated to the efforts of preserving the Playhouse from.

Suarez

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> City warming up to its 100th Anniversary bash March. 26, will it be the party of the Century?

With Miami Beach warming up for its 100th Anniversary March 26 and the bash of the year is expected to take place during the celebrations that will highlight the past years changes and how the sleepy retirement community morphed into a tourist Mecca and the place to be and the Watchdog Report gives the Beach a Tip of the Hat for reaching this benchmark and in many ways is the tourist crown jewel for Miami-Dade that depends so much on tourist tax dollars. And for more http://www.local10.com/news/free-concert-to-o to: feature-andrea-bocelli-kymani-marley-barry-gibb/31298890 And officials will be hosting a major party the Beach is throwing and will feature the Bee Gees and a host of other performer’s, in a free signature concert.

What about the Watson Island project the City of Miami wants to allow?

Beach residents are gearing up to fight the large project proposed by a local developer for Watson Island and has been delayed since voters approved it back in 1999 and was selected because they agreed to pay the highest fees back to the city back then but since then traffic on the MacArthur Causeway has ben horrendous and is becoming a nightmare that this new development would only make worse and the lawsuits are flying.

TUESDAY MORNING BREAKFAST CLUB

>>> Meeting Date: Tuesday March 17th, Meeting Time: 8:30 AM, Meeting Place: Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach. Roger Craver and Stephen Herbits of the Coalition against Causeway Chaos, the moving force behind the challenge to the Watson Island Flagstone project, will be the guest speakers at the March 17th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. The Watson Island project is a major mixed-use development (hotels, condos, shopping, and a mega yacht marina) approved by voters about ten years ago but never built.  Flagstone is now seeking approval to enlarge the scope of the project which could cause major traffic problems for the McArthur Causeway and Miami Beach. There is no charge for attending and everyone is welcome.

Visit our web site at www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club).

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>>> The Coral Gables upcoming elections got a surprise when Jeanette Slesnick filed candidate papers recently to run for the open commission seat when Commissioner Bill Kerdyk Jr. steps down in the spring. Slesnick is the wife of former three term Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, II and the candidates will have further forums in the weeks ahead. And Slesnick’s wife may get some blowback from voters for things her husband Don did when he was mayor. In a surprise move Gables realtor Jeanette Slesnick has filed running for the slot on the dais and other candidates are Tony Newell, Sandra Murado and P.J. Mitchell. And Rip Holmes rounds out the field of candidates and to review the candidate list go to http://www.coralgables.com/index.aspx?page=292 and the low key election is April 14 and the elections are a winner take all race. Since his time as mayor Slesnick’s wife has continued to be active in Gables issues and her entry could make the race a little more exciting.

>>> Press release: The Coral Gables Forum will hold its bi-annual Candidates Forum for the upcoming city elections.  Our first forum will be for Group IV and V on March 2nd.  Our second forum will be for the Mayor’s race (Group I) on March 9th.  Both events will be held at the Coral Gables Congregational Church (3010 DeSoto Boulevard) from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.The doors will be open at 6:45pm so audience members can submit questions to ask the candidates.  Our moderator will be Eliott Rodriguez of CBS WFOR-TV.  If you have any questions please contact us at coralgablesforum@gmail.com.For more information on the Candidates Forum and future events please visit our website at www.coralgablesforum.com and here are other planned debates:

The Coral Gables Forum, Inc. “Keeping you abreast of the pressing issues affecting Coral Gables.” We meet the first and third Mondays of the month at JohnMartin’s restaurant (253 Miracle Mile – 2nd floor) at noon.  Lunch is $20 for members and $25 for non-members

>>>> The Coral Gables Forum will hold three debates for the upcoming City of Coral Gables biennial election on April 14, 2015.

The third debate will be Group IV, at the Coral Gables Congregational Church (3010 De Soto Boulevard) this Monday March 16, 2015.  This event will be held in the Church’s main chamber.  The candidates for this Seat are:

1.)  Frank C. Quesada (Incumbent)

2.)  Enrique Lopez

Mr. Eliott Rodriguez of CBS-WFOR television will be the moderator.  The doors will be open to the public at 6:45pm.  Entry will be through Fellowship Hall where cards will be distributed to the audience to submit questions to the candidates.

The forum will begin at 7:00pm.  You may RSVP at coralgablesforum@gmail.com.  The final debate will be on March 16th for Group IV.

For more information please visit our website at www.coralgablesforum.com

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Miami-Dade OIG finds irregularities with classifications of children after investigation

The Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General found some irregularities with how children were being classified at the Early Learning Coalition of Monroe County and the IG report is a good read at http://www.miamidadeig.org/newsreleases2015/IG13.06CHSarrests.pdf

CITY OF MIRAMAR

>>> M-DC Ethics Commission finds no probable cause against Billy Hardemon

M-DC Ethics Commission press release: The COE found No Probable Cause that a former county employee exploited his public position in assisting a recently-elected Miramar City Commissioner transition into office during time he was on the Miami-Dade payroll.  Billy Hardemon retired from his job as a senior administrator in the county’s Public Works and Waste Management Department on August 31, 2013. A former colleague of Hardemon’s in Public Works, Yvette Colbourne, ran for and won election to the Miramar City Commission in March of that year.  An investigation found that on several days between March and August, Hardemon was in Miramar during regular business hours attending meetings and working as a de-facto Chief of Staff to Colbourne, without requesting leave time.  While Ethics Commissioners agreed they did not approve of his actions, because of the broad definition of “job-basis employee,” which permits staff to work variable hours as long as they  fulfill their responsibilities, they could not prove that Hardemon did not accomplish his County duties or that he directly used his position to provide a special benefit to anyone.   The COE did find Probable Cause to one count of the complaint (C 14-41) that accuses Hardemon of failing to report outside income during Colbourne’s campaign that he earned for “B&B Consulting,” owned by Hardemon’s wife, Barbara.

CITY OF HOMESTEAD

>>> County Ethics Commission rules on “wholesale waiver of ethics prohibition of travel related expenses”

M-DC Ethics Commission: A city commission may not approve a wholesale waiver of the ethics prohibition of travel-related expenses paid by government vendors, according to another opinion approved by the Ethics Commission today.  It came in response to a Request for Opinion (RQO 15-02) regarding a proposed City of Homestead resolution that would waive the ban on payment for meals and other activities at 14 upcoming out-of-town events, but does not name the public officials, contributing vendors nor the value of the benefits anticipated.  The Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance specifically prohibits elected officials and public employees from accepting travel and related expenses by vendors to avoid undue influence or exploitation and, at the very least, the appearance of impropriety.  That ban may be waived by a majority vote of the county or city commission.  Today’s opinion states that such a waiver must be decided by a separate public vote of the governing body and include the disclosure of who is providing any travel-related benefit to a public official, as well as the identity of the public official receiving the benefit.

OMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> KITTEN SEASON IS HERE! MIAMI-DADE ANIMAL SERVICES OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENSURE THE BEST CHANCES OF SURVIVAL FOR KITTENS TOO YOUNG TO FEED THEMSELVES

Press release: Spring is near and as the weather gets warmer unaltered stray cats begin to reproduce prolifically. As a result, it is not uncommon to find nests of what appear to be unattended or abandoned newborn kittens. Before jumping to the rescue, Miami-Dade County Animal Services (Animal Services) advises residents to consider the following recommendations to ensure the best chances of survival for the kittens.

WHAT TO DO SHOULD YOU FIND A LITTER OF KITTENS

Resist the urge to immediately touch them or move them. Instead, observe the kittens quietly from a distance for 12 to 24 hours as the mother may simply be out looking for food or a better place to move them to and is likely to return to care for them. Very young kittens cannot fully feed themselves and need their mother’s milk to survive until they are fully able to eat on their own or weaned off the mother.

You can put out cat food for the mom and a box that the mother could use to keep her kittens in (don’t put the kittens inside it, just put it near them). Don’t disturb the kittens as this may discourage the mother from returning to them, or she may move them away from you.

If you sense the kittens are in immediate danger or a dangerous area, such as underneath a car, in an area that is flooding due to rain, etc., look for the nearest safe area to which you can move them—close enough to the original spot— that will still allow the mother to find them. Place them in a sheltered area, away from direct sun, rain or traffic and continue to watch for the mother.

Only take them in if you have observed the kittens for 12 to 24 hours and are SURE the mother is not likely to return. Get tips on how to care for them at home by visiting www.alleycat.org or www.peggyadams.org

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

The best way to reduce the overwhelming number of unwanted cats is to spay or neuter your cats starting at 4 months old. Miami-Dade Animal Service offers low cost spay/neuter surgeries as well as free a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for community cats. For information on low-cost spay/neuter surgeries or free TNR call 3-1-1 or visit animals.miamidade.gov. Become a foster parent or volunteer at Animal Services. Volunteers and foster parents receive training and supplies and the joy that comes from saving a precious little animal’s life. For information on becoming a pet foster parent or volunteer email: pets@miamidade.gov
For more information click here or visit: http://www.brucesilverstein.com/

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), The Fish, c. 1924, gelatin silver print, printed c. 1924, 7 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

Auxiliary gallery at the warehouse

Photographs by Miami artist Annette Bonnier
India’s Elephants

The photographs of South Florida artist Annette Bonnier capture the many facets of elephant’s lives and their interaction with humanity. This collection of photographs is a cultural documentation of elephants in Indian society. The elephant’s role is changing as wildlife conservation and concerns for the health and safety of domesticated elephants are growing. This complex and majestic animal, with its intelligence, intricate social hierarchy, and highly evolved communication skills, is caught in a changing world between the past and the future.

For more information visit: http://www.annettebonnier.com

EDITORIAL

>>>> Convoluted discussion on 40’ articulated buses costing $9, 00,000 does not bode well for solving transit issues anytime soon

A discussion at a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting that involved a discussion of articulated buses turned painful Tuesday when staff took forever to answer questions clearly like how much did a 40 foot articulated bus cost? $900,000 and this lack of clear goals and determination by staff has the county drifting when it comes  to a thoughtful mass transit system and a half cent sales tax dedicated to helping to alleviate that historically that  has had numerous carve outs and what this funding would resolve was over sold  to the public back in 20002 and there is now a transit bureaucracy and while there is a Citizens Independent Transit Trust (CITT) these people can only approve items after the county commission has weighed in and the body is not truly independent  and it has spawned the need for county staff  and its CEO Charles Scurr is the poster child of why so little progress has been made and he is not cheap, getting some $200,0000 in salary that should be measured by what he has gotten accomplished  for no one seems to have a handle on transit  yet the CITT still rakes in millions that come in with the half cent sales tax, and only passed after a 20009 effort for a full cent sales tax failed after numerous scandals and no oversight on how this money was going to be spent but the tax went down in flames in a late July vote back then that commissioners thought they could sneak through the sales tax, since many voters were out of town, but that was not the case and it went down and the second effort in 2002 was much more transparent and was on the ballot of a general election day and it passed but  little progress has been made since then and plans lurch forward after one study after another and this legislative grid lock needs to end and the department needs to pick up the pace for voters want solutions now and in keeping what they were promised.

>>>> New Commission Chairs shaking up the House at County Hall

A revolution is  occurring at County Hall and Miami-Dade County Commissioners are leading it as they continue to challenge the strong Mayor (Form of government) and the Carlos Gimenez administration and commissioners are pushing county staff to explain more fully how the County’s 25 Departments are running and what they are trying to do versus other things they have not been done but were requested  in the past by commissioners and one of the challenges is to actually create a new mass transit corridor that has been discussed and studied to death but has yielded no real results and Gimenez up for reelection in 2016 is going to have to deal with the new found independent voice of the commission that seems to relish challenging the administrative assumptions and the way things have been done in the past and given the new budget cycle in September, Readers should expect commissioners to have framed the overall budget to their liking much more than in the past for the 13 member legislative body is feeling more empowered in their deliberations and this past week’s County Commission Committee meetings. Could be just a taste of this new found freedom With the Gimenez administration and the Commission now being Chaired by Jean Monestime who is pushing a “prosperity initiative” and the role of the body under this new legislative relationship the strong mayor form of government created and resulted in ex-Mayor Carlos Alvarez getting recalled by voters overwhelmingly in 2011 and he was succeeded by Gimenez in the office.

LETTERS

>>> Grove attorney gives update on HEP board hearing on St. Gaudens home

Good afternoon. Please note that the City of Miami’s Preservation Officer, Megan Schmitt, has advised us that the hearing before the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board on the 3529 St. Gaudens Road Historic Resource Nomination application will not take place on March 3, 2015. Instead, it will take place on April 7, 2015. We will keep you informed and hope that all of you can attend.

Regards,

Richard M. Zelman, Esq.

Sacher, Zelman, Hartman,

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