Month of December 2009

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol. 10 No. 30 December 27, 2009

CONTENTS
Argus Report: Miami’s Bayfront Park sanitation employees keep four tons of dog droppings from washing into Biscayne Bay, as “toxic waste”

Florida: Gov. Crist losing support of Diaz-Balart brothers will cascade through Cuban voters political ranks in south Florida, County mayor Alvarez close to federal legislators

Miami-Dade County: Last few dozen people living under Julia Tuttle Causeway are harder to relocate; around 35 remain under bridge

Broward County: WDR: FEB: 15, 2009: Hail Seiler as new Ft. Lauderdale mayor, right temperament for the post, had $1.44 million net worth through Dec. 2006

Palm Beach County: WDR: MARCH 2009: Chair Koons net income for 2007 was $19.1 million; body is short one member after feds pick McCarty off for corruption

Manatee County: Gov. Crist appoints Morgan, Norica and Willis to board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel

Escambia County: Gov. Crist appoints Jackson, Laudicina and Halperin to State Retirement Commission

Monroe County: Message from the head of the Early Learning Coalition Miami-Dade/ Monroe Counties

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Investigative reporter DeFede grills board member Diaz de la Portilla on newsletter mailing

Public Health Trust: Trustee Arrizurieta gets some publicity from investigative reporter DeFede on suggested lobbying role

City of Miami: Commission gives stalled Island Gardens project 5-week extension, if mega plan fails; make it a park in the meantime

City of Miami Beach: Commissioner Gongora just a month in office; leaves dais when ECOMB office lease vote passed

City of Coral Gables: Mayor Slesnick says up in the air for the moment if he runs again for the job

Community Events: 25th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference Jan. 7 to 10 — Women of Tomorrow luncheon Jan 21 – Miami Beach preservationist is being honored for continued work

Editorials: PAST WDR: JAN. 2009: President Bush hosts luncheon of presidents for elect Obama, one of America’s great traditions, would not happen anywhere else — PAST WDR: Dec. 2004: Tough year for the Watchdog Report publisher with the death of Linda Ricker & William “Bill” Huggett

Letters: Reader wants end to Gov. Crist and Fed press releases, but WDR has picked up many statewide readers over the decade — Reader on WDR activity

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.)

knight foundation>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding the University of Miami’s Knight Center of International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University’s School of Communication www.miami.edu assistance to rebuild my web site www.watchdogreport.net that is now on line again, since the previous one was shut down in July 2008. Past reports will continue to go on line in the future, potentially as far back as May 2000.  This institutional support is a major break through for me, and I am deeply appreciative of the help these two substantial international institutions have given me at a time the site was an unbudgeted expense and to keep the Watchdog Report a community education resource, while also being a decade old news service.

>>> May you and your family have a Happy New Year in the days ahead, and lets us hope 2010 is better, because 2009 was something else for many in our community and around the world, especially those serving in harms way trying to keep the nation and world safe in these dangerous times.

>>> If you think it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider becoming a supporter or sponsor. For there is no trust fund and I do have to live. A convenient form is at the bottom of this week’s Watchdog Report with all the instructions on how to support this decade old newsletter and news service. Thank you.


ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Miami Bayfront Park sanitation workers keep four tons of dog droppings from washing into Biscayne Bay, as “toxic waste”

Who would have suspected having an urban downtown core would cause an ecological nightmare involving our four legged friends living in the condominiums with the owners across the street from Bayfront Park on Biscayne Bay. At Tuesday’s Bayfront Park Trust noon meeting, it was revealed that staff removed 8,000 lbs. of dog waste over a one-year period. I asked a number of people about this four-ton quantity and they all agreed that is a lot of poop. The park is dog friendly, our furry friends are required to be on a leash, and the owners are supposed to pick up the waste product after the animal does their business, but roughly “40 percent” of the time, that is not happening on a regular basis with many dog owners. The byproduct is considered as polluting as “oil and is toxic waste,” said Timothy Schmand, the park’s director and part of the organization for over the past decade. He also noted the “dog waste washes into the bay” and that runoff is environmentally unacceptable. They had tried handing out flyers asking owners to clean-up and one trustee remarked, “All scopes of people don’t clean-up after their dogs,” he thought. Miami Commissioner Vice chair Frank Carollo thought maybe “giving warnings or a first warning citation might do the trick, but others thought a stronger slap of the hand might get their attention like a fine, which NYC gives wayward owners going to Central Park, with a penalty that was said to be considerable in dollar size. The issue came up at the trust meeting because the administration wanted to hire off duty police ($33.00 an hour) to enforce the owner clean-up requirement and the question of would a code enforcement officer be better and cheaper sparked the discussion. Carollo chaired the body for the first time since his election and other trust members also chimed into the overall discussion of what to do with all that stuff since dogs generally are walked in the morning and evening, and 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. was deemed to be the general time frame for the oversight and expanded education activity.

What about the new bay walk tree landscaping?

Palm and Oak trees with new benches are gracing the bay walk at the park including new brick pavers and the trees look great, the change softens the walkway, and will be especially appreciated in the hot summer months. The trees are also under warranty in case these suffer shock in the coming months, but are expected to survive.  In addition, a new Rock Garden should be done by Jan. 20-said Ola Aluko, the Miami Capital Improvements Projects director. Aluko said both he and the trust administration were reluctant to do a project together but at the end of the day. Both sides said it was a pleasure to work together and Aluko offered to do any future capital items if there was a need, he said.

>>> U.S.C.G. Eagle lands in Miami July 23, favorite port of call with public

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy ship the Eagle is arriving July 23 and its visits to Miami in the past have been a smash hit with the public. Adolph Hitler christened the ship commandeered as World War II booty and the room he used on the ship is preserved in its original condition. I toured the ship when it arrived before in Miami with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and it is a great tour. For more information about the vessel go to >>>  United States Coast Guard Academy Link to Tall Ship EAGLE The Eagle is the Academy training ship and the only square … Admissions Hotline 800.883.USCG (8724) Main Number 866.435.7196 … http://www.cga.edu/

>>> Watchdog Report salutes three important local community organizations

The Watchdog Report ran into staff, supporters and young people that have been helped by Casa Valentina  in the Village West of Coconut Grove last week and the three-year old organization is going to expand to another facility in Miami Gardens as well said Chelsea Wilkerson, the organization’s executive director. The Watchdog Report a few years ago along with Miami commissioners toured the facility and it is impressive what they are accomplishing with a small budget in the scheme of things. I also traveled with commissioners one time to the St. Albans Child Enrichment Center and saw the most content and happy little people around four years year’s old and the kids’ just radiated happiness and that look on their faces was priceless. I also have included the Lotus House Shelter and the organization is also doing a incredible job at helping young people in need of there specialized help.

>>> Casa Valentina This fall, Casa Valentina celebrated its third anniversary of helping young women in Miami-Dade County. Because of the generous support and the dedication http://www.casavalentina.org/home.html

>>> St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center: Home Since its inception, St. Alban’s has evolved from being a daycare to … in Miami Dade County at three locations and through 10 Family Day Care Homes  http://www.stalbanschildcare.org

>>> About Us – Lotus House Shelter The Lotus House is a unique resource center and residential facility serving … in the heart of the historic African American district of Overtown, Miami, …http://www.lotushouseshelter.org/aboutus.html

>>> Over the past decade, the Miami River was successfully dredged using a broad array of funds but the two people that were never on board of the activity when it came to the river’s commercial potential was Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez and Mayor Manuel Diaz. Diaz despite being asked by Commissioners Johnny Winton and Joe Sanchez to see and meet with the Miami River Commission Chair. The mayor never did during his recent eight-year tenure as mayor.

>>> A reader in a letter below asks why the Watchdog Report is running all the U.S. attorney and Gov. Charlie Crist’s press releases every week and believes these are unnecessary. Over the past week I have asked over a dozen people about this information appearing and all seemed to like seeing what else was happening around the state, and who these appointments are to the many Florida boards that Crist gets to fill, many times only after Florida Senate approval. From my standpoint, while I may not know many of the people I do get e-mail traffic back, if there is any controversy and is one of the primary reasons I have added them in the report. Further, I have developed a statewide and Washington D.C. readership over the past decade and this is my tenth year a Watchdog Report went out over the Christmas Holiday’s, because the news never sleeps, regardless of the holiday. However, I am interested in what you think, should these be cut back or do readers like to see what is going on with leaders and appointments around the state or should it be cut back?

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: 39% Less “In the Mood” to Celebrate The Holidays This Year

Survey finds most Americans would rather shop online than at the mall; Debit cards more popular than cash or credit to pay for holiday gifts. Thirty-nine percent of Americans are less “in the mood” to celebrate the holidays this season than they were last year, nearly twice as many as say they are more in the mood (21%), a new Zogby Interactive poll shows. Another 40% say there is no difference in their mood to celebrate the holidays this year compared to last year. No matter what their mood, holiday shopping is on the agenda, and many Americans are choosing debit over credit to fund their gift-giving this year. Debit cards are the most popular form of payment, with 37% saying they will use a debit card to pay for the majority of holiday purchases, and cash and credit cards each chosen by 27%. Checks are now the primary payment choice of just 2%.

Other survey results included: When given choice of doing all holiday shopping online or at a mall, 61% chose the Internet and 23% said they would prefer the mall.

69% of Americans say they plan to purchase holiday gifts online this year. Amazon.com tops other online retailers, with 60% of online shoppers planning to shop there. Others plan to shop online at Wal-Mart (24%), eBay (21%), Target (19%), specialty clothing retailers (19%), Best Buy (15%), JC Penney (11%) and L.L. Bean (10%). Other choices provided all has less than 10%. Americans overwhelmingly say it is better to give than receive gifts—when given the choice of only giving or only receiving holiday gifts, 85% say they would rather give gifts—just 8% said they would rather receive them. This interactive survey of 3,072 adults nationwide was conducted December 8-10, 2009. A sampling of Zogby International’s online panel, which is representative of adult Americans, was invited to participate. Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, gender, and education to more accurately reflect the population. The margin of error is +/- 1.8 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1788

>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN  — Daniel Ricker –

watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.

This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary. In a former life Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”


FLORIDA

>>> Gov. Crist losing support of Diaz-Balart brothers will cascade through Hispanic political ranks, county mayor Alvarez close to legislators

Gov. Charlie Crist (net worth $466,000) after almost three-years of only getting the sunny side of the press and Florida voters is now facing significant obstacles in his quest to be the Republican Party’s champion for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by U.S. Sen. George LeMieux in 2010. LeMieux was the governor’s appointee to the office after Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez resigned from the body over the summer. In last week’s stunner, Crist lost the endorsement of two prominent South Florida Republican Congressmen; U.S. Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, both from Miami and it pushes a bigger wedge between Crist and his party’s Hispanic and Cuban voters who have one of their own, Marco Rubio, 38, in a dead heat with the governor in the most recent polls. Cuban voters while their number has diminished versus Hispanic voters in general in Miami-Dade. They are considered “super” voters who historically do turn out in party primaries.

In addition, the Diaz-Balart brothers are aligned with a number of key Republican Miami-Dade elected leaders including county Mayor Carlos Alvarez (net worth $1.66 million), state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami and state Rep. Marcello Llorente, R-Miami.  Former state Rep. Rubio left the legislative body in 2008 after being the first Cuban American Speaker of the House and his political career seemed essentially over. He had risen from a West Miami Commissioner to the state House in 2000 and was considered the “pick of the litter,” regarding that year’s delegation said state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach (net worth $973,000) who served with Rubio for eight years in the state body. The congressmen did not specify why they jumped ship, but it is a blow to the Crist campaign. And it remains to be seen if it will cut into the governor’s prodigious fund raising capabilities, that have become intertwined with the Scott Rothstein $1.2 billion Ponzi scandal that had the in jail attorney giving huge sums to Republican and Democratic Party candidates, including Democrat CFO Alex Sink (net worth $8.63 million). These different leaders have since returned the now tainted campaign contributions from the disgraced disbarred attorney.

Further, Crist and Rubio (net worth $8,351) will report in January what they raised over the last quarter for their campaigns and the New Year starts the primary race with the vote in August that has the governor yet to appoint a campaign head here in Miami-Dade. And because this primary is a divisive race and Florida is such an expensive place to run a statewide U.S. senate race. There is concern among Republican insiders if enough campaign money will be available after the primary, leading–up to the General Election, since it will suck up so much of the cash from both candidates campaigns in what is shaping up to be a bruising race. Whoever wins their party’s nod will likely face U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, (around $62,000 net worth in 2002) or former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre ($2.16 million net worth). However, as has been reported in past Watchdog Reports over the decades both of these men have some political baggage of their own that will be further examined in future issues as the election draws closer.


MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Last few dozen people living under Julie Tuttle Causeway are harder to relocate; around 35 remain under bridge

The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust had its monthly meeting and the number of S… P… under the Julia Tuttle Causeway is still at 35 people, said Ron Book at the board’s monthly meeting. Book, the trust chair along with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (net worth $5,000), Commissioner Chair Marc Sarnoff (net worth $2.28 million) and homeless trust staff have been working to reduce this number but the last few dozen are hard-core people who don’t want to live in proper housing. Sarnoff’s office said they once counted 124 people living under the bridge said Book but the trust only “counted 75 when we were [initially] there,” said the attorney. And while the hope was to have the encampment under the bridge “closed by Christmas” that seemed unlikely he said at the Dec. 17 meeting attended by 37 people.

What about the outdoor feeding program?

A indoor feeding program instituted three years ago and has served almost a million meals is getting disrupted again, by private people and organizations doing their own local feeding from vans and cars, and an article was even in www.miamiherald.com concerning some people doing it on their own and how great and kind it was to help the hungry and needy. However, Miami at one point considered criminalizing the activity and the compromise was to consolidate the sites where proper food preparation, sanitation, and bathroom facilities were available. David Raymond the trust’s executive director said Regalado had talked with them “trying to come-up with some solution.” The city “wants to regulate it” and Miami is doing outreach to people feeding residents “from their cars” and is not an attempt to chill a “citizens constitutional rights,” but the goal is “to have order” concerning the feeding activity.

Book said he “continues to support not criminalizing” the activity. He said what the Miami commission is considering is to “rein in the individuals feeding” in vacant lots or the streets. The municipal body is looking at legislation from a “regulatory process,” and would be based on “food and health issues,” Book told trustees. He noted officials were “not rushing to pass and ordinance” like in the past but Regalado and Sarnoff,  “all know there is a problem.” However, Ben Burton a homeless people advocate for years cautioned, “This shouldn’t be a health safety crackdown of people trying to help hungry people.” He believed such action would be “happening at the wrong time,” he thought.

>>> PAST WDR: JAN. 2009: Commission Chair Moss sets commission guidelines, plans to respond actively to any errors in media stories about county

Dennis Moss, the new county commission chair on Thursday set the tone and ground rules on how the commission meetings were going to be run, with all commissioner questions “going through the chair,” and he planned to fight the media head on by correcting any stories that were inaccurate and showed a video tape of a story done locally by www.cbs.com on how commissioners were spending their discretionary district funding that included a later clarification on the story. Moss (net worth $477,000 in 2008) said as chair he had taken this more aggressive approach by responding to the mainstream press and television and it was not an attempt to stifle the press.  However, the commission has its own media capability that includes in house pieces or press releases that are run in local free periodicals found throughout the county. These local papers range from The Gospel Truth, to Noticias del Social Security & Medicare to list just a few of the 72 participants in 2002 that got part of the $1.16 million spent and in 2005-2006 about 75 papers got $973,535 but that amount has been increased since then.

County writers write these mostly free periodicals pieces and the Watchdog Report has run many of them over the years but I also note they are a press release and most of the periodicals do not make that attribution and that is where the problem arises. For these stories while informative are pretty much puff pieces with no critical analysis offered. Moss also is asking other commissioners to be on time and asked the Sergeant at Arms to “do your job” and round–up the other commissioners when he sat down at the commission chamber’s dais before the commission met and had a quorum.

>>>PAST WDR: JAN. 2009:  Chair. Dennis Moss also started using a voice roll call vote for items on the commission agenda and commissioners. If they are to do this accurately, the leaders should always speak into their open mikes, so the clerk, audience and press can see how they are voting.

>>> Press release: Francis Suarez, City of Miami Commissioner District 4, has become the newest member on the MPO Governing Board, a twenty-three (23) member board that acts as the authority on all local transportation planning matters and ensures that all entities engaging in transportation-related activities conform to statutory requirements. Commissioner Suarez was born and raised in Miami and received his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Florida.  He is the CEO/Owner of Edge Title Company, Inc. and was former General Counsel for the Doctor’s Management Group. He serves as a Board Member for Spectrum Programs, Inc. of the Miami Behavioral Center, Inc., and served as a Board Member for the Coral Gate Homeowners Association. The Commissioner also served as a member of the Orange Bowl Restoration Committee of the City of Miami and is a member of the Florida and Federal Bar Associations. The MPO for the Miami Urbanized Area guides the transportation planning process in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Federal Statutes mandate the establishment of MPO’s as a precondition for the flow of federal transportation funds to urban areas. The Miami-Dade MPO was established in 1977 under Chapter 163 of the Florida Statutes. The MPO approves all federally required plans for the deployment of highways, mass transit, and other surface transportation facilities and services in the metropolitan area. If you would like more information about the MPO Governing Board, please call (305) 375-4507 or visit our website at www.miamidade.gov/mpo.

>>> Press release GMCVB: GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES RANKED #3 IN OCCUPANCY, #6 IN ROOM RATE  AND #4 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REV PAR) FOR NOVEMBER 2009 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS DESPITE GLOBAL ECONOMIC RECESSION >>For the month of November 2009, Miami was ranked #3 in occupancy at 66.9%,  #4 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $85.15 and #6 in average daily room rate at $127.23, among the Top 25 Markets in the U.S.  Smith Travel Research compares and ranks the top markets in the United States based on Occupancy, Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar).

Occupancy

(November 2009)

U.S. MARKETS: % % Change vs. 2008
#1.  New York 75.7% +0.1%
#2.  Oahu Island 72.6% +5.2%
#3.  Miami 66.9% -3.9%
#4. San Francisco 66.3% +4.6%
#5.  Los Angeles 60.3% -0.5%

The Average Daily Room Rate and RevPar our hotels are able to command based on the popularity of the destination and the outstanding hotel and service product we feature continues to be among the highest in the nation.

Room Rate

(November 2009)

TOP  U.S MARKETS: $ % Change vs. 2008
#1.  New York $245.91 -16.6%
#2.  Oahu Island $144.11 -7.9%
#3.  Washington, DC $139.17 -7.6%
#4.  Boston $133.58 -9.4%
#5. San Francisco $130.02 -11.1%
#6. Miami $127.23 -10.5%
Revenue Per Available Room

(Rev Par)     (November 2009)

TOP  U.S MARKETS: $ % Change vs. 2008
#1.  New York $186.09 -16.5%
#2.  Oahu Island $104.69 -3.0%
#3. San Francisco $86.27 -6.9%
#4.  Miami $85.15 -13.9%
#5. Washington $79.36 -9.3%

>>> PRO BOWL TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR JANUARY 31ST GAME — Get your tickets now! The Pro Bowl is coming to South Florida on January 31, 2010. The game will be played at Dolphin Stadium (also known as Land Shark Stadium). Tickets are now available to the public for purchase. Cost:  $50 to $195!  For more information on the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV visit www.SouthFloridaSuperBowl.com.

>>> Press release: On Thursday, January 14th at 7:00 pm, Dr. Michele Williams and Brian Conesa will present their data and photos about the excavations in the parade grounds at Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. This venture was sponsored by the Everglades National Park Service during Archaeology Month in 2009. Fort Jefferson is a six-sided building constructed of sixteen million hand-made red bricks, with the lighthouse being built in 1825. It was designated as a National Monument in 1935, and on October 26, 1992, the monument was upgraded to National Park status. A multi-phased, multi-year preservation project to stabilize Fort Jefferson has begun. The plan will include removing existing brick, documenting, cleaning then reusing these bricks with some parts of the park not accessible at times.

The free lecture will be held at the Visitor Center Auditorium at the Deering Estate at Cutler. In partnership with the Archaeological Society of Southern Florida, a non-profit, volunteer organization which acts as a support mechanism for the office of the Miami-Dade County Archaeologist, the Deering Estate at Cutler presents a free lecture (the second Thursday of each month) highlighting unique and interesting connections to our past. This serves as a focal point for local archaeology enthusiasts and professionals in the field, and helps to promote knowledge and appreciation of native archaeological and historical sites in the South Florida area. About the speakers: Michele Williams, Ph.D., RPA is the Director and Terrestrial Archaeologist for the Southeastern Region of Florida Public Archaeology Network.  Dr. Williams has participated in digs throughout the southeastern United States for the past 20 years.  Her specialty within archaeology is the use of plants by prehistoric Native Americans. Brian Conesa, Archaeological Society of Southern Florida Board member and officer, was invited to participate on this adventure and will assist Michele in the presentation.

On Thursday, January 28th, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, the Florida Division of Historical Resources and the Florida Public Archaeology Network – Southeast Region will host a free Historical and Archaeological Resources Training Seminar at the Deering Estate at Cutler. This training seminar is designed for participation by governmental administrators, land managers, and planners to learn about archaeological and historical resources, how best to manage these resources, and methods for promoting the resources for the benefit of your community. The training seminar is presented by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources, Department of State; and hosted by the Florida Public Archaeology Network Southeast Regional Center. >>> For more information, please email Michele Williams at 954-762-5174 or email sercpa@fau.edu. >>> About the Deering Estate at Cutler: The Deering Estate at Cutler, a Miami-Dade County Park, is located at 16701 SW 72 Avenue in Miami. This 444-acre natural and archeological preserve and historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a center for education, culture and recreation. Historic house tours are offered daily with admission to the Estate. EcoAdventure Tours are also offered throughout the year for an additional fee. For more information on the Deering Estate’s educational and cultural programs please visit www.deeringestate.org.

>>> Press release: The Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department will host a FREE Small Claims Court Clinic on Tuesday, January 19 at the South Dade Regional Library, 10750 S.W. 211th Street in Miami, at 6:30 p.m.  Attendees will receive hands-on help for filing their cases in Small Claims Court. The Small Claims Court process is used by individuals to address disputes involving $5,000 or less, without the costly assistance of an attorney.  The clinic is conducted by the department’s Consumer Advocate Leonard Elias, Esq.  Reservations are not required. Visit the Consumer Services Department website for instructions in English and Spanish on how to file in Small Claims Court as well as collect on a judgment.  Legal forms are also available for download from the website or at the clinic for a small fee. For questions regarding the clinics or additional information, call the Consumer Services Department at (305) 375-3677. WHO: Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department, WHAT: Free Small Claims Court Clinic, WHEN: Tuesday, January 19, 6:30 p.m., WHERE: South Dade Regional Library, 10750 S.W. 211th Street, Miami


BROWARD COUNTY

>>>PAST WDR: FEB. 15, 2008: Hail Seiler as new Ft. Lauderdale mayor, right temperament for the post, had $1.44 million net worth through Dec. 2006

Former state Rep. John P. Seiler, 45, was elected Tuesday as the new mayor of Ft. Lauderdale and the attorney is well suited for this new elected position. His broad legislative experience that had him on constitutional and civil law committees in the state house and the policy and budget council and he is known as a conciliator. He is following Mayor Jim Naugle, after his 18-years as a controversial mayor and Seiler bested three other mayoral candidates getting 57 percent of the vote. However, Seiler did have a considerable campaign war chest raising $256,000 for the race. The new mayor will take office on March 17.

What do we know about his finances?

Seiler’s last disclosure form with the state was through Dec. 2006 and back then, he had a net worth of $1.44 million and $205,000 in household goods for the year. The representative’s House District was 92 with his office in Pompano Beach. His home was valued at $561,000, vacant land was worth $18,000, investment firm Morgan Stanley had $102,000 in investments, and three properties are valued at $396,000, $71,000 and $82,000. His liabilities for the year were $96,000 in a home loan, an auto is owed $8,306, Ford credit wants $33,891 and North Andrews Property is owed $201,015. Seiler’s income was $79,999 and $203,792 from the law firm of Seiler, Zaden, Rimes and $30,576 came in from the state of Florida. He also lists a second income source from Rinker Materials of Florida, Inc. via the law firm.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following appointment and reappointment: Broward County Housing Authority

Rico J. Petrocelli, 55, of Plantation, self-employed, online newspaper, succeeding John Aurelius, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending October 31, 2013.

Mercedes J. Nunez, 61, of Weston, retired, reappointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending November 3, 2013.

>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.


PALM BEACH COUNTY

>>>PAST WDR: MARCH 2009: Chair Koons net income for 2007 was $19.1 million; body is short one member after feds pick McCarty off for corruption

Jeff Koons, the county commission chair finds he has a body that is one member short after Commissioner Mary McCarty got busted by the federal government and that is reflected on the commission web site where the District 4 commissioner is blank www.pbcgov.com and the ramifications of all the federal investigations is still reverberating through the tony county that does not usually get this kind of attention. Below is a past Watchdog Report run in July on Koons.

Commission vice Chair Koons in the spotlight, had $19.1 million net worth through Dec. 2007, $16.8 million in blind trust

County Commissioner Jeff Koons is in the Watchdog Report spotlight this week and he represents commission District 2, and he lives in West Palm Beach. He is a very successful businessman and is the commission vice-chair.

What do we know about his finances?

Koons through Dec. 31, 2007 had a net worth of $19.1 million and he lists $75,000 in household goods. There is $114,000 in a checking account, money market and CD’s account for $22,956 and $22,956 and he owes American Express $23,062. As a county commissioner he is paid $98,205, his home is valued at $600,000, a Mercedes Benz is worth $60,000 and in the Koons Blind Trust, and there is $16.89 million states his most recent financial disclosure form.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following reappointment: Palm Beach County Housing Authority

Roger B. Rukin, 57, of West Palm Beach, president of Rukin and Company CPAs, reappointed for a term beginning January 7, 2010 and ending January 6, 2014.


MANATEE COUNTY
>>> Gov. Crist appoints Morgan, Norica and Willis to board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel (Senate confirmation required)

Michele Morgan, 39, of Bradenton, campus president of Keiser University, succeeding Pamella Seay, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending October 31, 2012.

Judy Norcia, 59, of Tarpon Springs, vice president of quality systems for Florida Blood Services Inc., succeeding Andrea Gereg, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending October 31, 2012.

Dean Willis, 59, of Jacksonville, laboratory director and chief microbiologist of the Bureau of Laboratories within the Florida Department of Health, succeeding Alice Barr, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending October 31, 2011.


ESCAMBIA COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist appoints Jackson, Laudicina and Halperin to State Retirement Commission (Senate confirmation required)

Cheryl Jackson, 51, payroll and retirement manager, City of Pensacola, succeeding Millie Seay, appointed for a term beginning December 31, 2009, and ending December 31, 2013.

Carol Laudicina, 50, human resource manager, Manatee County Human Resources, succeeding Deborah Sanderson, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending December 31, 2012.

Patrick Halperin, 65, deputy, Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, succeeding Alice Meyers, appointed for a term beginning December 21, 2009, and ending December 31, 2011.


MONROE COUNTY

>>> Message from the head of the Early Learning Coalition Miami-Dade/ Monroe Counties

Calendar year 2009 presented many challenges and opportunities to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.  These included finding new efficiencies in our service delivery system to address reduced budgets, forging new partnerships at the state and local level, increasing the chances of school success for Florida’s children by better targeting our resources, finding new ways to support our early care and education providers, and measuring the success of our investments (a national challenge) with true outcome measures.
Growing and enhancing our Quality Rating Improvement System was another high priority. We began a systems realignment to better meet the needs of our community and increased demand for the program.  Our budget also presented a number of challenges due to the reduction in our School Readiness base allocation and the statewide deficit in the Voluntary Prekindergarten program.  While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds provided temporary assistance, the projected multi-billion dollar state deficit has created the concern that once the ARRA dollars are gone, many families and providers will be left without the resources they need to provide children with a high-quality early education.  We are fortunate to have an army of providers/partners and 31 ELC boards across the state that spend countless hours in every corner of Florida educating policy makers on the impact high-quality early education programs have on our communities, our economy and our children.  Now more than ever we must sustain our advocacy efforts.  We must speak frequently and reach as many people as possible.

Despite the many challenges, we were able to leverage our resources with the resources of our partners and capitalize on the high level of commitment of our staff, board members, community partners, and providers to make strategic investments and achieve significant accomplishments in 2009.These included: the highest number of children ever (well over 19,000) participating in the Voluntary Pre-kindergarten program; increasing Head Start’s participation in VPK from two classrooms to 91; authorizing a rate alignment for early care and education providers to increase reimbursement rates up to the maximum approved by our board; expanding the Quality Counts program to over 440 providers; implementing the Curriculum Learning Communities program; and encouraging early literacy by distributing books to over 27,000 children and engaging the community in the Reading Is Fundamental, Care to Read project, which encourages parents to spend time reading with their children. I wish you and your families the very best for the holidays and the new year. Sincerely, Evelio C. Torres, President & CEO, Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe



MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Investigative reporter DeFede grills board member Diaz de la Portilla on newsletter mailing

Investigative reporter Jim DeFede www.cbs4.com did a news piece last week on school board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla spending $23,400 of public money for a mailer that only went to select Republican super voters because of their pattern of always voting in primaries and elections. The school board member, an attorney left his prominent law firm over the summer and struck out on his own. One of his clients is the Public Health Trust, and he has been lobbying for the organization for well over a year. He also worked at the same law firm Grey & Robinson as new school board attorney Walter Harvey who also was a Public Health Trust board member for years. Harvey notified the trust he was leaving with Diaz de la Portilla first recusing himself when voting for Harvey on the board that ended in a tie. After the board member started his own firm, he then was able to vote for Harvey, and at a school board meeting that is what he did bringing the new attorney to the board.

The mailer also barely touched board District 5 voters and went largely to people in state Senate District 36 represented by his older brother Alex Diaz de la Portilla said the broadcast. The state senator is the Republican majority leader in the body and is termed out in 2010. His older brother Miguel, an attorney and former county commissioner is running for the open senate seat along with state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-South Miami. Robaina is crying foul calling it ‘shady’ regarding the mailer but the brothers carp he is a ‘failed’ and ‘ineffective’ legislator, states the story in www.miamiherald.com. Miguel, also a county lobbyist has raised over $300,000 for his campaign and the former South Miami mayor has $134,600 for his political war chest.

The upcoming state senate race was expected to be nasty but this early shot has also caught the eye of authorities. Because four invoices just under $6,000, were submitted by the firm doing the production and mailing allowing for a three-bid threshold for purchases over that number to be avoided given district procurement policies. The board member called the investigation and uproar a ‘tempest in a tea cup’ and he noted the newsletter going out “obtained a favorable opinion” from the school board attorney states The Herald. It is not known the impact such a communication would have with voters but Herald reporter Marc Caputo suggests it does reinforce name recognition with voters but it also brings-up some past and current issues regarding the senator, including his announced pending divorce from his lobbyist wife and some of her comments reported are not pretty. >>> Here are some of the past stories on the school board member and state senator >>> Click here: I-Team: School Board Member Being Investigated – cbs4.com >>> http://www.sptimes.com/2005/01/04/State/Senator_says_he_can_t.shtml >>> http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/florida/story/1385735.html >>> Senate web page information: Diaz de la Portilla, Alex – Senators :Member Pages : flsenate.gov Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Bills Introduced. District Office: 1481 NW 22nd Street Miami, FL 33142-7741 (305) 643-7200. Senate VOIP: 43600 …http://www.flsenate.gov/Legislators/S36 >>> His committee assignments are Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities, Chair, Policy and Steering Committee on Energy, Environment, and Land Use, Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, Ethics and Elections, Regulated Industries, Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations, Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, Alternating Chair


PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Trustee Arrizurieta gets some publicity from investigative reporter DeFede on suggested lobbying role

Investigative reporter Jim DeFede dropped in on a public trust meeting recently and he has broken a story concerning a fired whistleblower who claims she was dismissed as a foundation vice president for criticizing a program’s cost to draw paying foreign patients to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The story also brings in PHT trustee Jorge L. Arrizurieta, 44, who is said to have suggested the Jackson Memorial Foundation and Jackson Health System to possible use a government-lobbying firm he is now associated with in the future. However, no decision has been made. He notes he would not vote when items on the health trust board posed a conflict, but it does not look good to the general public and the inspector general is also taking a look at the issue.

Arrizurieta, a major Republican fundraiser and friend of former Gov. Jeb Bush began his career in the political world working as an aide in South Florida for then U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, R-FL and he was hired back then by current Gov. Charlie Crist. Since that time, he has worked for Wayne Huizenga, been close and a friend to Gov. Bush and worked in his brother’s administration in the early years. He also was head of the Free Trade Area of Americas organization in Miami in 2003 and has since worked at a high profile law firm to his current gig. In reviewing his trustee application and notarized county employee form, he filled out and signed Sept. 29, 2005. He has packed a lot into his public and private life, including being married with three children.

What about the IG and ethics commission at the PHT?

This kind of publicity could have been avoided if perhaps more than the six trustees attended a Nov. 23 ethics and IG training program as was reported in a past Watchdog Report and I attended the event.. The six  that listened to the over one hour presentation, along with President & CEO Eneida Roldan, M.D., were PHT Chair John Copeland, III, board Secretary Georgina Ford, and trustees Stanley Arkin, Joaquin del Cueto, Gladys Ayala, and Judy Rosenbaum.   At this meeting not attended by Arrizurieta or the other eight volunteer members of the board. Ethics commission director Robert Meyers said one of the things that get officials in trouble is there “cannot be the exploitation of ones official position.” The ethics maven also said trustees “cannot recommend professional services to anyone that wants a person to help in getting a contract with the public trust.” Further, when it comes to conflicts of interest during trust procurement. The list of conflicted people is much broader than the immediate family and conflicts can develop in over a dozen different relationships. To see the story go to >>> I-Team: Jackson Board Member “Suggests” His Firm


CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Commission gives stalled Island Gardens project 5 week extension, if mega plan fails, make it a park in the meantime

Mayor Tomas Regalado continues to ride shotgun with Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff on the Miami commission and at Tuesday’s continued commission meeting. The mayor ran interference with the developer of the proposed hotel complex on Watson Island that has the developer stiffing the city for past rent to the tune of about $500,000. The development in the fall of 2001 with great fanfare was selected by a committee headed up by Adolfo Henriques, the chair of Miami’s state appointed financial oversight board at the time. The Flagstone Island Gardens complex, including a mega-marina, was expected to cost around $281 million but has now jumped to $600 million. The project was to bring much needed general revenue to the city and that is what voters were thinking when they gave the project the go ahead in November 2001. However, since then, the numerous required permits have taken longer, cost more and the developer Mehmet Bayraktar says he has spent tens of millions of dollars so far in preparation of the project that got another nail in its possible coffin when the global economy collapsed. The developer says in such a financing market funding such a project just is not really feasible right now. He also noted he moved to Miami back then and has started no other project around the globe.

Brian May was the front man representing the developer. He asked commissioners Sarnoff, Frank Carollo and Francis Suarez for a little more time, and he believed the city had nothing to lose given there was a chance Miami could get something versus nothing if the plug was pulled at the commission meeting. Regalado had been meeting with the developer since Thursday’s commission meeting was continued and Tuesday’s meeting resulted in three commissioners on the dais giving the builder another five-weeks after some discussion. The Miami Herald’s editorial page weighed in on the subject Saturday www.miamiherald.com and the board is suggesting enough is enough and the commission should have acted and killed it on Tuesday. Now the commission will get a “progress report” on Jan. 14th but the city wants its money by then and the deadline keeping the deal alive or dead is Feb. 11.

However, the project also represents another Miami Dream that had elected leaders salivating at the expected windfall of new money that never materialized, and that is the real shame in a number of ways. But right now may be a time to pause if this project does not materialize and consider what is the best use of this waterfront land, where some form of a large park might do nicely while leaders consider their options in the current economic waters.

>>> Should public union retirement fund investments go overseas?

At a recent commission meeting, Charlie Cox, a union head asked the commissioners to agree to invest some of the retirement money overseas where a larger return on the investment was expected. However, commission Chair Marc Sarnoff said there has already been a major capital outflow from the United States and the request was a philosophical question in his mind. The attorney noted doing this might start a rush of thousands of government retirement funds around the nation investing abroad, something that historically had not happened before. The commissioner is right to bring-up the question and the issue should be fully debated for it also sends the signal that America’s economy cannot be trusted and that is not a good thing.

>>> The following e-mail was sent  to (now former) Mayor Manny Diaz using his e-mail address on his extensive city web-page on Sept. 13, 2008 at 9:38 a.m. and to date there has been no answer from the mayor.>>> “Mayor Diaz, I wanted to ask you in the chamber today but not in front of Chair Joe Sanchez. My question is where did the extra $400,000 in the 2007 disclosure form come from? I will run what ever you respond unedited but I would appreciate closing this issue, as I am sure you do. Sorry but I have to ask.  Best to all. Dan” >>>> The Watchdog Report through Dec.7 has yet to get a response or catch-up with Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz on where he got the extra $400,000 in cash listed in his 2007 financial disclosure forms. To see what CBS 4 reporter David Sutta’s take on this issue and the other city leaders financial disclosures go to cbs4.com Blogs . >>> Readers should stay tuned and catch the meeting on the city’s cable station channel 77. >>> Stream Channel 77, for all City of Miami meetings, (Commission, Village Council meetings, Waterfront, Zoning, PAB, Code, etc. hearings)    http://videos.miamigov.com/


CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Commissioner Gongora just a month in office, leaves dais when ECOMB office lease vote passed

Michael Gongora, in office just over a month continues to use the internet to contact his constituents and has a monthly e-letter that he sends out. Gongora at the Dec. 9 commission meeting had to recuse himself for the first time when a vote came up for some 1,251 sq. ft. of city owned property leased for three-years to The Miami Beach ECOMB, Inc. a local environmental group. Gongora, an attorney at a high profile law firm when he was last on the commission was criticized for conflicts and since his return he is taking it very carefully when it comes to perceived or actual conflicts of interest. Miami Beach has some of the toughest ethics legislation in the nation and the body is further tweaking some of these laws. >>> From Gongora’s newsletter: Important City Meetings to Attend in January: January 13, 2010- Miami Beach City Commission Meeting; January 19, 2010- Neighborhoods/Community Affairs Committee; January 19, 2010- Finance and Citywide Projects Meeting; and January 23, 2010- Land Use and Development Meeting.

>>> Press release: New Years Celebration 2009/2010 -Miami Beach Events at Public Venues -Free Fireworks on the beach at 8th Street at Midnight on New Years.

Traffic & Parking Restrictions: Ocean Drive will be open to pedestrians only from Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 7:00 a.m. to Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 7:00 a.m. in anticipation of large crowds during the holiday weekend. The 100 Block from Sixth to 14 streets will be closed from Ocean Court (alley) to Ocean Drive Free Transportation: The South Beach Local >> Miami-Dade Transit’s South Beach Local will be free of charge to riders on New Years Eve. The South Beach Local will operate on its normal route on Thursday, December 31, 2009, with extended hours from 8:00 a.m. December 31, 2009 until 7:00 a.m., Friday, January 1, 2010. Normal service will resume on Friday, January 1, at 10:00 a.m. with the usual fare of 25 cents.

>>> Parking: All city-owned parking lots and garages will have normal operations (open: 24/7). Residential parking zones citywide will be enforced. Valet operations normally on Ocean Drive will be relocated to Collins Avenue. Media Trucks: Parking will be available for media covering New Year’s fireworks, at the meters on 5th Street and Ocean Drive. Parking is not permitted on the grass. >>> Extended Hours -Some nightclubs will have extended hours on New Years Eve until 7:00 a.m. on January 1, 2010. Offices Closed: City of Miami Beach administrative offices will be closed Friday, January 1, 2010. >>> Information Hotline: Tourism Hotline: 305.673.7400 – 24 hours/seven days a week.


CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Mayor Slesnick says up in the air for the moment if he runs again for the job

Mayor Don Slesnick, II told the Watchdog Report over the holiday’s when I asked if he was running for mayor again after winning another term in the spring and would not be termed out. Slesnick would not confirm or deny what he planned to do but did reflect on the fact after being in public office since 2001., there might be a time in the future to move on.  The mayor when first elected along with Commissioners Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera, Jr., would considered change agents after the previous long serving mayor was beaten. If Slesnick decides not to run, a host of candidates are expected to vie for the job.

>>> City press releases: Season’s Greetings from the City of Coral Gables – May the beauty of the season in our City Beautiful brighten up your life and fill your days with love, smiles and happiness. The City of Coral Gables wishes you much joy and good cheer during this holiday season. To view a special e-card message, click here.

>>> Catch The Junior Orange Bowl Parade, Saturday, January 2 >>> The thunderous sounds of the marching bands, the cheering for the caravan of floats and vehicles that go by, and the laughter of family and friends getting together to watch the parade. Expect this and much more at the Junior Orange Bowl Parade which takes place on Saturday, January 2, 2010, beginning at 6 p.m. through the streets of downtown Coral Gables. Clifford, the Big Red Dog and Miami’s own Jeanine Mason, who was crowned as the winner of the popular show “So You Think You Can Dance,” are the evening’s Grand Marshal and Honorary Grand Marshal. The parade has been a Coral Gables tradition since 1948 and it’s the culmination of the largest youth arts and sports festival in the world. The event is free to the public. The parade begins at Biltmore Way and ends in Alhambra Circle. There will be no on-street parking enforcement in Downtown Coral Gables one hour before until one hour after the parade. For best viewing, grandstand seats are available at $12 each and can be purchased online at www.jrorangebowl.com or by phone by calling 866-999-9735. The Junior Orange Bowl Parade will be televised live on Coral Gables TV, Channel 77. On January 10 (8 p.m.), January 16 (9 p.m.) and January 17 (8 p.m.), WLRN will also air an hour-long version of the parade.

>>> Getting To Know More Of The Staff: Starting next week, the City Manager will be hosting “Lunch with the City Manager,” a luncheon with employees to take place once a month at City Hall. One employee from every department will be invited to participate and treated to lunch, compliments of the City Manager. Department Directors will select the employee for the first luncheon. Those employees who would like to attend will select a co-worker for the following month and so on. The goal of the program is to create meaningful dialogue with front-line employees (entry level to first-line supervisors) representing all City departments. It is also an opportunity to brainstorm ideas over lunch, for employees to learn about future City plans, and to get to know each other. These informal conversations will help the City Manager understand what’s important to employees and serve as a means to meet with them on a more personal level. In turn, employees can learn more about the City’s direction and provide input directly to the administrative decision-making process.


COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> 25th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference to be held in West Palm Beach January 7-10, 2010 Elected Officials, Environmental Groups, and Community Leaders to Discuss The Changing Face of Everglades Restoration

WHAT: The Everglades Coalition will host its 25th Annual Conference at the PGA Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. Hosted by the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, the conference will bring together leaders, elected officials, community and environmental activists, and the general public to discuss the Changing Face of Everglades Restoration, and develop solutions for the next ten years of the 2000 landmark law, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Conference sessions focus on the state of Florida’s River of Grass Initiative, climate change, diversity in restoration, national restoration initiatives, and ecosystem services programs, among other topics. WHO: The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 53 local, state, and national conservation, environmental, and civic organizations dedicated to full restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem. Its conference is the largest annual forum for Everglades conservation and restoration, bringing together the Coalition’s membership with its local, state, and federal partners. Members of Congress and the Florida state legislature, and other political figures come to the conference to discuss their positions, pledge their support and present challenges to the community.

Conference speakers confirmed to date: Former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tom Strickland Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink U.S. Congressman Ron Klein Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy –Speakers invited: Florida Governor Charlie Crist, U.S. Senator George LeMieux, FL, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, FL –WHEN: Conference Dates:  Thursday, January 7– Sunday, January 10, 2010 -*Press Conference:  January 8, 10:15-10:45 a.m. Note:  Press Conference will be preceded from 8:45 – 10:15 a.m. by Plenary Sessions I: 2020 Vision for the Everglades, moderated by John Adornato, National Parks Conservation Association, and will be followed by Plenary Session II: The River of Grass Initiative: An Historic Opportunity for Everyone to Win, moderated by Richard Grosso, Everglades Law Center, from 10:45-12:15 p.m. WHERE: PGA Resort and Spa, 400 Ave of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens, FL (800) 633-9150 Website: www.pgaresort.com >>> This year’s conference is located near the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, where our fieldtrip will be held on January 10.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton will address the Coalition, and guided tours will be available to a remnant of the Cypress forest that once stretched south to Miami-Dade; a butterfly garden; and an 80-acre microcosm of the Everglades where restoration techniques are tested. For more information about the Everglades Coalition and the Conference, or to register online, visit: www.evergladescoalition.org. To have a registration form faxed or mailed to you, contact Pat Carr (954) 942-3113 or patriciacarr@evergladescoalition.org For press credentials, materials, and questions, contact Shannon Andrea at 202-454-3371 or sandrea@npca.org.

>>> Two of our very special Women of Tomorrow people, Miami-Dade Coordinator Pam Edwards and Gala Chair Marisa Toccin, are being honored by the Weizmann Institute of Science at the 13th Women of Vision Luncheon, to be held Thursday, January 21, 2010 at the Miami Beach Resort & Spa, located at 4833 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach.

The Women of Vision Award is a wonderful honor that I am proud to have shared with them way back in 2001.  Several of our Mentors are already involved with Weizmann, in particular Dr. Randy Schenkman who is the Executive Committee Chair for the South Florida Region of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.  Other Women of Tomorrow Mentors who serve on this year’s luncheon committee include Dr. Shulamit Katzman, Terri Shikany, Millinda Sinnreich, and Eileen Youtie. Also being honored this year are long time WOT supporters Norma Quintero & Stephanie Sayfie-Aagaard. >>> If you would like to support Pam and Marisa as they receive their awards from the Weizmann Institute, you can call or email the Weizmann Institute of Science for event tickets:  Debra Herrmann, Development Associate, 954-964-8071, 305-940-7377, or debra@acwis.org. Tickets are $125 and space is limited so please contact Debra as soon as possible. Please see invitation below for more details and information. Best wishes, Jennifer Valoppi

>>> If you read Gerald Posner’s “Miami Babylon” you understand the lop-sided advantage developers and profiteers have over preservationists and environmentalists.  You also learn that it was the foresight of a few tenacious developers who saw the commercial potential of Art Deco preservation that rejuvenated Miami Beach.  Behind the scenes are the government officials, civil servants of integrity and vision, without whom the system would break down.  One of these is the self-effacing Director of Historic Preservation for Miami Beach, William Cary.  William after fifteen years out of the spotlight was in the middle of the action to recognize and preserve urban architectural uniqueness.  These efforts have paid off in sustainable property values, a walking environment, and a tourist draw – good for residents and for the local economy.>>>A host committee of eighteen preservationists, supported by the Urban Environment League, is sponsoring a dinner to honor William Cary, Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 6PM, at the Bay Room, 9 Island Avenue, Miami Beach.  If you wish to attend, the RSVP is by check, $40 per person, made out to Urban Environment League, c/o Nancy Liebman, 9 Island Ave. #408, Miami Beach, FL 33139, by January 9.  For info. Telephone (305) 609-4288.


EDITORIAL

>>> PAST WDR: JAN. 2009: President Bush hosts luncheon of presidents for elect Obama, one of America’s great traditions, would not happen anywhere else

With the countdown of the swearing in of President Elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20th at noon, one of Americas greatest traditions is the getting together of all the other past presidents alive for lunch and President George W. Bush, the 43rd is hosting that in the coming week and while their conversations are private, can you imagine such an event happening anywhere else in the world. The idea of a free flowing conversation with past, current and a future president for what is termed the loneliest job in the world is truly one of the nation’s great success’ because ultimately they are all just men and know one knows what they will confront on their watch that has the whole world watching. Presidents Bush, 41 will be there along with Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter and what a broad range of experiences they bring with Bush a World War II aviator shot down in the Pacific to the nuclear submariner Carter who graduated from the U.S. Navel Academy. America has many traditions but this is one of the best for it validates an orderly change of the administration, something many countries have a problem with and incumbent Bush like so many presidents in the past when his term is over leaves for private life.

Each of these presidents have their own style and personality and Obama or any president in the future will cherish and mull over these private conversations for months to come. For only someone that has experienced the office in this case can appreciate the scope and scale of the challenge. The Watchdog Report for one hopes this get together is fruitful, honest and beneficial to all the presidents attending for the stakes are high and Obama wants to hit the ground running, and that will be no easy task, given the array of challenges facing the nation and the world.

>>> PAST WDR: Dec. 2004 Watchdog Report — Tough year for the Watchdog Report publisher with the death of Linda Ricker & William “Bill” Huggett

The past year has been a difficult one for the me with the death of my mother Linda Evans Ricker in the spring followed by the death of a friend that was a mentor, father, husband, attorney, author and teacher, William Kelly Turner Huggett at the age of 65, after a sudden illness at the end of August. Both of these people played a different but key role in my life and while one raised and nurtured me the other helped guide me in this new course, I would take today.  I was the one that did not have children or a wife and it was clear to me at the time in 1997 that it would take someone without those responsibilities to do the job that needed to be done in this community.

I write about this because we all meet people in our lives even if it is briefly but sometimes given the circumstances, even a short encounter can have a lifelong difference and it is a gift when you meet someone that is full of life and changing the way we all live in a positive way. Doing the report I have had a unique opportunity to meet so many people in our community and have watched our future leaders be interviewed and selected over the years but through it all, it was about people and getting good ones into office.

When I began the Watchdog Report I had no idea that I would be still doing it today and for that I thank my friends and supporters, not only for the financial support but for your knowledge about issues that you passed on to me, your kind words when you liked a story I wrote, or offering to help in some way during a crisis period for me. All of these things have been appreciated more than you could imagine by the me (now over the past decade) and to all my readers I wish you and your family a Happy New Year and may your 2010 be one that is better than years before, with your health intact and your family continuing to spread their wings making their own mark on the world.


LETTERS

>>> Reader wants end to Gov. Crist and Fed press releases, but WDR has picked up many statewide readers over decade

Thanks for hanging in there with recorder and keyboard. I too would welcome a closer look by you at some of our local doings. But don’t worry about PB or Broward; your forte is right in and around Miami — and G-d knows there is plenty of material. As for your lament about the limitations of your solo enterprise, perhaps you would have more time for an additional Miami-Dade piece if you passed up those press releases about prosecutions and gubernatorial appointments in far corners of Florida. What does the Flagler County School Board or a judge in Levy County have to do with what’s rotten or right on Flagler Street? If there’s a connection, say so or at least hint. If not, spare me. I wish you only good things — salud y dinero, as my neighbors say in this season.

John

>>> Thank you for the work you do in our community. May you have a restful and happy holiday season. Very best wishes.
Eneida

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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you.   The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 250 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over one million words have been written on our community’s governments and events.  The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.

LETTER POLICY

I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report.  Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Daniel A. Ricker

Publisher & Editor

Watchdog Report

Est. 05.05.00

Copyright © of original material, 2009, Daniel A. Ricker

>>> Watchdog Report is expanding as a new service and this content is now available to other news media, no longer exclusive to The Miami Herald

The Watchdog Report is no longer exclusively with The Miami Herald, and excluding the one story a week that is printed in the paper on Monday in the Metro & State section by me. The rest of the 20 or so news stories weekly sent out Sunday in the Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me.  The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact.  If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at watchdogreport1@earthlink.net for further information.

>>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.

>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years.

Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL)

CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS

Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL)

MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED

Published on January 20, 2003, Page 1E, Orlando Sentinel, PAPERWORK TIGER, Miami’s citizen watchdog piles up government files in his quest to keep the “little people” informed.

>>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times  –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored.  Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html

From the spring of 2003:  U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill:  Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources

Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride.

Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter -www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/dan_ricker/ >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership. The Southern Media Landscape (PDF)  Daniel Ricker. Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald … circulation, 134,269. Dan Hoover leads the. publication’s ..www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf – 574k – View as html

General subscriber’s names will not be published in the Report. To subscribe to the Watchdog Report please use the form below as a subscription invoice.

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Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

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