Month of June 2010

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol. 11 No. 8 June 27, 2010 – Celebrating My 11th Anniversary

CONTENTS

Argus Report: South Florida ground zero for Climate Change, sea level is rising, but can it be mitigated in time?

Florida: There he goes again, Gov. Crist suspends 40th public official, almost one a month since Jan. 2007

Miami-Dade County: Bad week for Mayor Alvarez, aide settles ethics complaint, senior police officer resigns after probe of trust & outside consulting

Broward County: Commissioner Jacobs the environmental champion, county faces $160 million budget shortfall, says Sheriff  & PA budgets must be reduced

Palm Beach County: Feds charge Straub who bought old Miami Arena with two counts of violating Clean Water Act in Wellington

Lake County: Gov. Crist appoints James R. Baxley of Eustis to the Lake County Court.

Monroe County: Administrator Gastesi says, “Tourism is stable,” but “advance reservations” of concern

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Round three, school board’s audit committee to hear about negotiations with Friends of WLRN

Public Health Trust: Wanted for public service, diligent trustees, but no pay to watch over Jackson Health system, applications should start next month

City of Miami: Employee count drops to 3,531 through June; but with $100 million budget hole, will another 1,100 follow?

City of Miami Beach: Commissioner Wolfson on Beach economy pick-up & Elected leaders salary & benefits

City of Coral Gables: Mayor Slesnick draws challenger in Korge, says “not likely” to run for reelection

City of Doral: Residents get new “performance dashboard” on city services, supposed to save money as well & Elected leaders salary & benefits

Community Events: Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, June 29th, 2010:  Dr. Martin Karp, School Board Member for District 3 — Downtown Bay Forum of Miami to offer debate between major congressional District 25 candidates on June 30th

Editorials: Watchdog Report touches a nerve when it comes to elected leaders paying their property taxes — PAST WDR: SEPT. 2008: Elected leaders should humor the general public by following the Florida Sunshine Law

Letters: Readers on the Watchdog Report

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.)

>>> I will be on Topical Currents heard on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on July 1 from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., and readers should listen in, and it is on line at www.wlrn.org

>>> 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.

>>> 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 newsletter and news service that started its 11th Anniversary on May 5.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> South Florida ground zero for Climate Change, sea level is rising, but can it be mitigated in time?

Global Warming was the topic of the day Wednesday at the Miami-Dade County commission chambers with a wide range of speakers on the topic from representatives of the President Barack Obama administration on down the political food chain. There are more than 20 federal agencies involved in studying this climate change activity, while seeking solutions and these organizations come together as the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, and here locally Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin (Net worth $1.5 million) chaired the local task force, and on the commission, Commissioner Katy Sorenson (Net worth $1.34 million) has been the point of the ecological spear here in South Florida. Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., a marine ecologist and environmental scientist and the first female NOAA administrator said the Obama administration when it came to climate changes had a “sense of hope, yet urgency” and the administration was not sitting on the sidelines when it came to the subject. She noted numbers coming out of NOAA concerning the temperatures of land and seawaters are “the warmest on record going back to the 1880s,” she noted. The scientist also said there would be record “reductions in snow and ice” in the decades ahead and when it came to the Deepwater Horizon ongoing spill in its 69th day. “It is an extremely difficult time” as the widening spill hits new state shorelines and while the residents and BP are “doing what they can to mitigate” the ecological disaster. “The health of our local community, in this case the Gulf of Mexico,” has been severely impacted, and dramatically highlights the role nature and our oceans play regarding life on the planet and local communities.

>>> Congressman Meek and Greene go at it, one mother is in campaign ad, and another is a lobbyist

The two U.S. Senate candidates for the Democratic Party came out swinging this week during the first live debate by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami (Net worth around $62,000 in 2002) and Jeff Greene. Greene, a political unknown, is a billionaire who bet in financial markets that the nation’s real estate market would tank and he made a fortune when the investment worked, and it is a legal activity www.miamiherald.com or www.wpbt.org . Meek spoke of his long ties with the party and is not an interloper like Greene who had run years before as a Republican in California. But Greene fired back at the veteran congressman first elected in 2002 that his mother, Carrie Meek, 83, a former ten-year congresswoman and now a lobbyist was the problem. He cited the scandal surrounding a proposed biomedical park in the Overtown area that never materialized with developer Dennis Stackhouse, now facing charges and awaiting trial in Miami. The two candidates, neck and neck in the polls will ultimately face off on Aug. 24 and Greene has said he will spend tens of millions of his own money to get his new political message across to the party faithful. To watch the Meek and Greene debate on line go to www.palmbeachpost.com

What about Rubio and Crist’s U.S. Senate race?

Marco Rubio, (Net worth $8,351) the former speaker of the Florida House led an insurgent campaign that toppled Gov. Charlie Crist (Net worth $466,000) who a year ago had a lock on the Republican nomination for the nation’s most exclusive club. However, Rubio worked hard at the local level where many Republicans at first bulked at the anointing of Crist by national party leadership as the chosen one, and that discontent later spiked after Crist gave President Barack Obama the hug in Tampa, and the governor’s support with hard core Republicans dried up forcing him to become an independent. Crist has tacked to the political center and he is trying to woe voters from either party, with an eye to the key 20 percent of voters that are no party affiliation, and in a three-way race will likely be the deciding factor on who is victorious.

>>> Reporters Haggman of The Herald & Polansky of Miami Today honored

Mathew Haggman, the reporter that covers Miami-Dade County for The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com recently was awarded, the Best of Miami by Miami New Times www.miaminewtimes.com for his coverage of county hall. Haggman, besides a scribe is an attorney as well, and the honor is well deserved.

Risa Polansky, who the Watchdog Report honored last week, got another send off when the Miami Commission gave the hard working scribe a proclamation for her four years of news coverage of the body. The document signed by both Mayor Tomas Regalado and commission Chair Marc Sarnoff described her past four-years of journalistic work with Miami Today, was well written in its description of her work, and is definitely a resume builder. To see her stories go to www.miamitodaynews.com

>>> White House press release: Bromwich Launches Investigative/Compliance Team to Spur Reform, Restructuring of Offshore Oil and Gas Regulation

New Team will Report Directly to Bureau of Ocean Energy Director

Michael R. Bromwich, the former Department of Justice Inspector General who now leads Interior Department reform initiatives to strengthen oversight and policing of offshore oil and gas development, today announced that he will establish an investigations and review unit that will help to expedite his oversight, enforcement and re-organization mandates. “The new unit will provide us the capacity to investigate allegations of misconduct, to provide unified and coordinated monitoring of compliance with laws and regulations, and to respond swiftly to emerging and urgent issues on a Bureau-wide level and in the industry,” said Bromwich, who is the director of the newly established Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (Bureau of Ocean Energy or “BOE”).  The new Bureau, established by Secretarial Order, replaced the former Minerals Management Service which was responsible for overseeing oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. “In light of the response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the impending reorganization of Interior’s offshore oil and gas management and enforcement missions and the new Bureau’s mandate to implement broad reforms, it is critical that we have an internal compliance and investigations team that can act quickly and report directly to me,” Bromwich said.

The unit would have the following functions and capabilities.

Investigation of allegations of misconduct.  A key component to reforming the Bureau is establishing the ability to promptly respond to allegations or evidence of misconduct by Bureau employees as well as by members of industry.  This will empower the Bureau to deal with some of its internal problems swiftly and effectively. This capacity is intended, and will be designed, as a complement to the work of the Interior Department Inspector General’s office.  The unit will coordinate with the IG’s office on matters it investigates, will pursue investigations with the IG’s consent and knowledge, and will advise the IG of the status and results of its investigations.  The new team also will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating the Bureau’s internal auditing, regulatory oversight and enforcement systems. Response to high priority issues.  The compliance and monitoring unit will provide the Bureau with the ability to respond quickly to emerging issues and major events.  The unit will be responsible for swiftly responding to and assessing significant incidents, including spills, accidents, and other matters.  The unit will have a role in immediately coordinating and managing the Bureau’s response to significant events. Implementing the re-organization. The planned re-organization will be a major undertaking, conducted under a strict timetable that will involve, among other things, maintaining clear lines of communication among Bureau personnel and outside consultants responsible for implementing the re-organization; coordinating the collection and transfer of significant volumes of data and information; and process management.  The team will support project managers in providing centralized planning, coordination, and oversight capacity in connection with the implementation of the re-organization.

>>> Zogby Poll: Zogby Interactive:  50% Say Obama Spill Response ‘Too Passive,’ 75% Approve of Deal With BP 72% Believe Spill Will Impact Energy Legislation

One-half of U.S. adults believe President Barack Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill has been “too passive,” and 75% approve of the agreement he struck with British Petroleum to set aside $20 billion to pay for damages caused by the spill. As we found in previous surveys about the oil spill, small majorities believe off-shore drilling is still, “a safe, reliable and cost-efficient method of producing oil” and that expansion of offshore drilling will lead to an increase in environmental problems. The interactive poll of 2,099 adults was conducted from June 18-21, and had a margin of error of +/-2.2%. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1872

>>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for no money came in over the last week and I do have to live, thank you! The report is also shorter and with less real content because I am still weak and do not have my past energy level that allowed me to write all day Saturday and Sunday as in the past almost 11-years  that I have been doing this. I ask for my readers understanding during this time. >>> Further, I have been honored over the years by being named a WFOR-4 Hometown Hero in 2000, being profiled in a major way by The Miami New Times, The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel which ran as a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003 and UNC Chapel Hill naming me one of the top columnists in Florida in a  multi-state study of the media back in 2004. I also thank Joseph Cooper for the opportunity to be on Topical Currents on www.wlrn.org since 2000, including yearly election coverage since then and also the opportunity to be on Helen Ferre’s show Issues on issues@wpbt.org numerous times over the past decade.

>>> 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

>>> There he goes again, Gov. Crist suspends 40th public official, almost one a month since Jan. 2007

There he goes again, Gov. Charlie Crist gets number 40 under his belt with the suspension of Tamarac City Commissioner Patricia “Patte” Atkins-Grad for accepting money from a prominent developer and not disclosing the financial relationship when she voted on zoning issues concerning the massive project now stalled. The Broward state attorney brought the public corruption charges against the official and is part of ongoing investigations of elected officials in the county that has a county commissioner and school board member already in federal prison, and a third ex municipal commissioner is awaiting sentencing. Crist requested a statewide grand jury look into Florida’s “culture of corruption” and the body is meeting and hearing testimony in Broward, where Tamarac is located and one of the county’s 31 municipalities.

What about the NBC Today Show coming to the Beach?

Crist when he visited the Loews Hotel on Miami Beach recently meeting with tourist and government officials that expressed the need for positive publicity about how great the beaches were in South Florida. State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach said, “Perception is reality, and let’s invite The Today Show to Miami Beach,” the state lawmaker suggested. The governor nodding his head yes, said he “would call Matt Lauer as soon as we leave,” and it is unknown if Crist was able to make his pitch to bring a show to the Beach. >>> For more information about the NBC show go to TODAYshow.com: Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Al Roker … TODAYshow.com: Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, Al Roker, Natalie Morales.

>>> Independent candidate Lawton “Bud” Chiles, III was on www.wpbt2.org discussing his run for governor. He is the son of Lawton Chiles, a deceased governor and U.S. Senator that made his name “Walking Lawton” when he first ran by walking the state. However, the concern is Chiles will steal votes from Democratic candidate Alex Sink, and could be a spoiler in the general election in November.  He will either likely face on the Republican side, AG Bill McCollum (Net worth $1.1 million) or businessman Rick Scott (Net worth $218 million). To see the Chiles interview go to http://channel2.typepad.com/issues/2010/06/watch-this-weeks-issues-3.html. To date Chiles has resisted that call for him to drop out and over the weekend. He campaigned in Coconut Grove, but few people seem to know him when asked by Michael Putney in his weekly news show. To see Putney’s show go to Michael Putney – Station News Story – WPLG Miami Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of “This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney.” http://www.justnews.com/station/269244/detail.html

>>> Gov. Crist today announced the following appointments: Seaport Security Standard Advisory Council

Colonel James A. Brown, 50, of Tallahassee, director of the Division of Law Enforcement within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, appointed for a term beginning June 25, 2010, and ending August 13, 2013.

Colonel David A. Dees, 52, of Tallahassee, director of the Motor Carrier Compliance Office within the Florida Department of Transportation, succeeding David Binder, appointed for a term beginning June 25, 2010, and ending August 13, 2013.

John “Jeff” Fiser, 52, of Jupiter, assistant vice president of Logistics and Marine with Tropical Shipping, appointed for a term beginning June 25, 2010, and ending August 13, 2013.

Luis R. Gonzalez, 57, of Plantation, vice president of International Longshoremen’s Association, Local 1922, appointed for a term beginning June 25, 2010, and ending August 13, 2013.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Bad week for Mayor Alvarez, aide settles ethics complaint, senior police officer resigns after probe of trust & outside consulting

The last few weeks have not been all that great for Mayor Carlos Alvarez (Net worth $1.66 million) after a senior police official retired and his former chief of staff, now a Sargent in the police force was hit with an ethics complaint and settled last week. The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com and www.WFOR4.com covered the stories on Frank Vecin, a high ranking Miami-Dade police officer who oversaw a environmental trust fund and also worked as a private consultant, and Denis Morales, the mayor’s top staffer and someone Alvarez had mentored over the years and both are close to him. Alvarez first elected in 2004, and again in 2008 where a community activist got about 30 percent of the vote that was considered by many people as a protest vote at the time. He pushed for strong mayor powers and county voters granted that new authority a few years ago, but he has puzzled some residents by keeping the county manager in place, at a salary above his own. The former Miami-Dade Police Department director is straight forward in many ways but he is finding it  hard to keep some of his close friends out of trouble or in the media spotlight, and when challenged on these and other policy matters. He has lashed out at the press challenging their timing or slant of a critical article.

>>> Homeless trust gears up for census, now late July or August

The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust is gearing up for its biannual census scheduled for late July or early August said David Raymond, the executive director of the trust. These census counts of population living on the streets are a reliable indicator of how many people are actually living this way that in the early 1990s had over 8,000 homeless in the county. Since the trust’s creation back then, the number over the years has dropped too currently where it is below 1,000 people living on the streets.

>>> Ethics commission press release: Former Mayoral Chief of Staff Morales Settles Ethics Charges

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust today accepted a negotiated settlement from Miami-Dade Police Sergeant Denis Morales over charges he exploited his official position when he was chief of staff for Mayor Carlos Alvarez.  Morales paid a fine of $1,500 and will receive a public reprimand for the misappropriation of 40 hours of paid leave in March of 2009, while he was earning outside income teaching in Panama.  Investigation of the complaint (C 10-25) found that Morales violated the County’s Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance by citing earned leave for overtime work long after it expired, exempting himself from standard leave procedures and destroying payroll records.

>>> The Ethics Commission denied a motion to dismiss the case against North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner for exploitation of official position.  Complaints filed last year (C 09-02 & C 09-04) alleged that, while he was a member of the City Council, Rosner used his influence to obtain permits for additions to his private home without seeking required variances.   The mayor, who is a licensed building contractor and a member of the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals, will face a public hearing on the charge.

>>> It was announced today that a county court appellate panel has upheld charges (C 07-28) against a former Bal Harbour Village Councilman who violated the Ethics Code by the late filing of a financial disclosure form, by not fully disclosing rental income and by misrepresenting the location of rental property.  The Ethics Commission levied fines of $4,500 against Joel Jacobi, who appealed the case, but his conviction has been affirmed.

>>> A former municipal advisory board member will be fined $500 after failing to disclose his source of income, as required by the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.  Wilfred Pierre, who was a member of Miami’s Equal Opportunity Advisory Board in 2007, refused to respond to several notices or to appear before the Ethics Commission in a public hearing on the complaint (C 10-21).   A similar complaint (C 10-17) against Rosa Green, who was a member of the OAB/Overtown Community Oversight Board during 2007 and 2008, was dismissed after she filed the required information.

>>> No probable cause was found to a complaint (C 10-20) against two Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department officials.  A former tennis instructor, Francisco Montana, accused Department Director Jack Kardys and Crandon Park Tennis Center Facility Manager Rick Pardon of wrongdoing associated with tournaments operated by Pardon’s son, Jason.  The investigation revealed, among other findings, that since Jason Pardon is not a county employee and his father does not profit from the tournaments, there is no violation of county ethic laws.

>>> A complaint (C 10-24) filed against the Director of the County’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was dismissed.  Timothy Ryan was accused by labor leader Walter Clark of lying to state investigators who were reviewing the department’s hiring practices.  The Ethics Commission ruled that since the complaint concerns personnel allegations outside its jurisdiction, it is legally insufficient.

>>> In response to a Request for Opinion (RQO 10-16), the Ethics Commission ruled that A.D.A. Engineering, Inc., which provides consulting services to the Miami-Dade Solid Waste Department relating to the clean-up of the former Munisport Landfill in North Miami, may not provide engineering services for that city.   The Commission found that the firm would have a conflict of interest if it is responsible for reviewing the city’s progress in closing the landfill while working for the that same municipality.

>>> Two Requests for Opinions centered on the County’s “Cone of Silence” ordinance, which limits communication between a potential vendor and county officials between the time a bid is advertised and a recommendation for its award is made.  In RQO 10-17, the Department of Procurement Management asked if the rule is in effect after the County Commission agreed to allow the County Manager to negotiate with the highest bidder.  The Ethics Commission ruled that since staff recommended negotiations with a single proposer, that constitutes an award for recommendation and the Cone of Silence is lifted for that project.

>>> On the other hand, County Commissioner Sally Heyman sought clarification (RQO 10-18) after the committee she chairs voted to amend a proposed federal lobbying contract to divide the work among five firms instead of the recommended three.  Since the county manager was asked to review changing the size of the bid award and expanding the number of winning respondents, Ethics Commissioners opined that the Cone of Silence would have to be re-imposed. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers.  It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each.  Through a program of education and outreach, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

>>> Need a speaker on ethics?

Community and other groups interested in county ethics and what the ethics commission does can request a speaker through www.miamidadeethics.com or call to request a speaker at 305.350.0630 and ask for Robert A. Thompson.

>>> GMCVB – Press release: JOB$…JOB$…JOB$:  GREATER MIAMI’S LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY JOB$ REMAIN SOLID IN MAY 2010 — In the month of May 2010, Greater Miami’s Leisure and Hospitality Industry employment reached 99.3% of the employment reported for the same period in 2009.  An average of 102,600 people were employed in Greater Miami’s Leisure and Hospitality sector in May 2010, compared to 103,300 during the same period in 2009. .

LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JOB$

May 2010 May 2009 % of Previous Year Level
102,600 jobs 103,300 jobs 99.3%

>>> GMCVB AWARDED $1.25 MILLION TO HELP DISPEL PERCEPTIONS OF GULF OIL SPILL IMPACT ON GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES

The GMCVB has been awarded $1.25 million in emergency marketing funds from Florida Governor Crist and the State Division of Emergency Management to assist the destination in correcting misperceptions among potential visitors about the effects of the Gulf oil spill. Dispelling these perceptions is critical, since tourism is Miami-Dade’s number one industry.  We are grateful to Governor Crist for his leadership, and for recognizing that the oil spill is a statewide issue, affecting not only the areas already seeing oil sheen and/or tar balls, but the rest of the State, which suffers from the perception that they are affected, too. Securing these funds would not have been possible without the support of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, and the leadership of Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. Unlike many other parts of the State, nearly 50% of all Greater Miami visitors come from international markets, and so the campaign supported by these funds will be carrying our message internationally.  This $1.25 million allocation is the amount requested for this stage in the crisis, where we have seen some minor cancellations. However, if the situation worsens, we will renew our original request for an additional $4 million, for a total of $5.25 million.  Thank you Governor Crist.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today recognized Anthony Shriver of Miami as a Point of Light for Disability Awareness Month.

“Anthony’s extraordinary service has impacted the lives of persons with developmental disabilities not only in the local community but throughout world,” said Governor Crist. “His innovation and compassion has allowed his international organization to continually expand programs and opportunities for persons with disabilities.” For over 20 years, Shriver has been dedicated to serving persons with disabilities. In 1989, he founded Best Buddies International, an organization that allows volunteers to serve persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities by establishing one-to-one friendships and integrated employment and leadership development opportunities. These services include offering participants friendship through the Peer Buddy Program, job opportunities through Best Buddies Jobs, and e-mail pen pals via e-buddies. He also developed opportunities for students from colleges, high schools, and middle schools, as well as members of business and civic organizations, to ensure that programs are available to individuals of all ages. His organization now spans six continents and serves 700,000 participants every year.  For more information on Best Buddies International, please visit www.BestBuddies.org . >>> AAA Auto Club South is the supporting sponsor of the Governor’s Points of Light Award. Walt Disney World is an in-kind supporter.  This program recognizes Florida residents who demonstrate exemplary service to the community. Award recipients are announced weekly.  A panel of judges comprised of leaders in the areas of volunteerism and service evaluate all nominations and make recommendations to the Governor. The Volunteer Florida Foundation manages the program. For more information, or to submit a nomination, go to www.VolunteerFloridaFoundation.

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Commissioner Jacobs the environmental champion, county faces $160 million budget shortfall, says Sheriff & PA budgets must be reduced

Kristin Jacobs, the county commissioner that represents District 2 took a road trip Wednesday when she attended a Climate Change Adaptation Task Force meeting held at the Miami-Dade Commission Chambers. Jacobs, dubbed the “Katy Sorenson” of Broward spoke in front of the body and reminded the task force when it came to Broward County, two-thirds of it is occupied by the Everglades. She said the county with 1.8 million residents swells in the millions during the weeks as people come from other parts of the state to work in the state’s second largest county. The commissioner recently won another four-year term on the dais after she was reelected unopposed, and just in case, there is $96,000 in the campaign war chest and she expended $15,100 for the race.

What about the $160 million budget hole?

Jacobs when asked about the county budget for the next year said $160 million in cuts are necessary and it is the Sheriff’s Office budget under Al Lamberti (Net worth ($642,000) and the Office of the Property Appraiser under Lori Parrish (Net worth ($647,000) that needs to make more budget reductions, like the rest of the county’s operations. Broward with 31 municiaplities has a smaller county government administration than say Miami-Dade, where over 1 million residents live in an unincorporated area.

What about the ethics & IG controversy?

Jacobs after the task force meeting told the Watchdog Report that when it came to some of the suggested ethics proposals, some said to be unconstitutional by the county attorney, and causing widespread media criticism. People are over playing the disagreement and said the commission is scheduled to vote Aug. 10 and there seems to be enough votes on the dais that it will pass and go onto the November ballot. The veteran commissioner said one of the controversial points was concerning family members or variations there of, such as half brothers, cousins etc. and such a broad definition for a conflict of interest was unworkable. In Miami-Dade where there is both an IG and ethics commission, the definition of immediate family when it came to conflicts of interest are defined as immediate family, mother, father, brother and sisters but that is all. For more information about Jacobs go to Broward County – Commissioner Kristin Jacobs – District 2 Kristin Jacobs, Commissioner Broward County. Broward County Governmental Center 115 South Andrews Ave., Room 414. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 954- 357-7002 …http://www.broward.org/jacobs/

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist appoints Melinda Kirsch Brown of Plantation to the Broward County Court.

“Mindy has nearly two decades of practical experience with the law and how it affects people’s personal lives,” said Governor Crist. “Her patience and respect for people and knowledge of the law will serve Broward County well.” Brown, 52, has served as a General Magistrate of the 17th Judicial Circuit since 2004. Previously, she practiced with Brown and Brown from 1998 to 2004 and as a sole practitioner from 1994 to 1997.  She was an assistant attorney general in the Fort Lauderdale Office of the Attorney General from 1997 to 1998 and an assistant state attorney in the Broward State Attorney’s Office from 1988 to 1994.  Before attending law school, she was a correctional officer with Miami-Dade County from 1981 to 1983 and a rehabilitation counselor with Evergreen Rehab in Miami from 1983 to 1984. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminology from Florida State University and a law degree from Nova Southeastern University Law Center. Brown will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Peggy Gehl.

>>> 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

>>> Feds charge Straub who bought old Miami Arena, with two counts of violating Clean Water Act in Wellington

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Maureen O’Hara, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, announced filing of an indictment of Palm Beach Polo Holdings, Inc., and its president, Glenn Straub, 63, of Wellington, with two counts of violating the Clean Water Act, Title 33, United States Code, Section 1319(c)(2)(A).  The defendants are expected to make an initial appearance in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale on June 30, 2010 at 10 a.m. According to the indictment, which was returned yesterday, Palm Beach Polo Holdings and Straub violated the Clean Water Act by knowingly discharging pollutants into waters of the United States, including wetlands, during June and July 2005, without a permit.  The affected wetlands are located in properties that, at that time, were owned by Palm Beach Polo Holdings.  The affected properties are described in the indictment as Peacock Pond and Parcel F, or Pod F, in the Wellington Country Place Planned Unit Development in the Village of Wellington, in Palm Beach County. If convicted of the charges, Palm Beach Polo Holdings faces a criminal fine in the amount of $50,000 per day of violation, or $500,000, whichever is greater, as to each count.  Straub faces up to three (3) years’ imprisonment for each count. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Bonau. An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

LAKE COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist appoints James R. Baxley of Eustis to the Lake County Court.

“James understands the temperament a judge needs in order to treat everyone in the courtroom with dignity, respect, fairness and compassion,” said Governor Crist. “His life experiences and work ethic, as well as his legal experience in both the private and government sectors, have helped him develop the ability to carefully review the law and come to logical conclusions.”

Baxley, 41, has practiced with Hatfield and Baxley since 2004. Previously, he was an assistant public defender from 1999 to 2004, while also being a sole practitioner from 1998 to 2004. He practiced with Kosto and Rotella from 1996 to 1997. Baxley earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. Baxley will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Richard W. Boylson.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Administrator Gastesi says, “Tourism is stable,” but “advance reservations” of concern

The Watchdog Report continues to keep an eye on the nation’s most southern county with a population of about 65,000 residents, but is a tourist mecca and a natural treasure with scuba diving and reefs that rank with the best found around the world.  I contacted Roman Gastesi, the Monroe Administrator and asked how things were going when it came to tourists and the general situation down there. He e-mailed back Saturday, “Tourism is stable for now; we actually had a good month of May. We’re hoping for a great 4th of July weekend. Our problem is advance reservations, they are down significantly, obviously folks are waiting until the last minute to come down. Conveying accurate information is our biggest challenge. Once folks realize that oil is over 300 miles away, our water is pristine and fishing is great, they come down,” wrote Gastesi.

>>> Press release: A number of important bills from the 2010 legislative session have been signed into law by the Governor.  Among these bills is the Early Learning Bill, SB2014.  The language in this bill was considerably amended from its original 2009 version based on input from stakeholders that included Early Learning Coalitions, state agencies, provider organizations and accrediting bodies.  A couple of late amendments that impact local communities were also added. Now that the bill has become law, the rulemaking process begins.  This process is used to create/promulgate rules that allow state agencies to implement the laws.  Under this process, the public is informed and allowed to comment on proposed rules before they take effect.  This process is publicly noticed.  Rulemaking hearings take place in different parts of the state and are announced in advance.  Rules adopted by the state will affect child care stakeholders.  I encourage everyone to participate in the hearings either directly or through a representative.  For a copy of SB2014 and other important legislation that affects early learning, please visit our website at www.elcmdm.org and click on the legislative updates link, wrote Evelio C. Torres, President & CEO  Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Round three, school board’s audit committee to hear about negotiations with Friends of WLRN

The school board audit committee is meeting Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., at the large ninth floor conference room at the downtown administrative office and one of the items to be discussed is the relationship between the district and Friends of WLRN, the fundraising arm of the schools radio and television stations. As has been previously reported in past Watchdog Reports that included written comments from the different sides and the not-for-profit organization’s past history with the district that has been tense since Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took over in the fall of 2008.

Carvalho has been butting heads with the Friend’s board and the organization had been given 90 days back in January to settle the issue, and the audit committee after a lengthy discussion at the last meeting gave them another 30 days to hash out their differences. I will be covering the meeting and will let readers know what happened at this very important oversight meeting of the nation’s fourth larges public school district.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Wanted for public service, diligent trustees, but no pay to watch over Jackson Health system, new application process cycle should start next month

The process for applicants to apply to be on the Public Health Trust is about to start again in July and there are a number of openings on the oversight board that has received wide spread media attention over the past six-months. The 17-member Trust board that includes two voting county commissioners is made-up of volunteers, they put in about 30-hours a month, and they fall under the purview of the county’s ethics commission and inspector general’s offices. Commission Chair Dennis Moss (Net worth $477,000) has been the PHT’s Nominating Council chair and he is expected to call an organization meeting that will authorize public ads asking for the best of the best in the community to apply, and a background check is done.

There will be a number of openings on the PHT board this year and the University of Miami will be appointing someone to replace Stanley Arkin who has left the PHT board after doing a yeoman’s job. Another trustees to leave in the late fall was Diego Mella, and current trustee Rosy Cancela is termed out on the board and it is unknown how many of the current trustees up for renewal will reapply to the high profile oversight board. The new and reappointed trustees after going through the process and selected, generally are sworn in at the end of October after the county commission approves the names.

What about Commissioner Seijas?

At a recent PHT all day committee meeting, county Commissioner Natacha Seijas (Net worth $655,000) spoke to the fiscal and purchasing committee about recent articles in the press and a open letter that ran in The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com written by civic leaders, stating the costs of nurses being used at the health trust was out of whack, and she challenged those numbers with her own data that paints a different picture. In a June 8 memo to board chair John Copeland, III. Seijas believes the cost per nurse did not square in the past stories and that some costs were left out of the calculations that had Jackson paying a higher dollar number than the surrounding hospitals were for their nursing staff. The commissioner has been a strong supporter of the county’s different unions for years, and she can have a biting tongue on the commission dais.

She also was critical of the “self-appointed Civic Group” and the www.miamiherald.com because the data that was used was skewed and “were not equitable comparisons” and unfortunately were used to attack the unions and were not “an ‘apples to apples’ comparison,” she thought. Her memo says some costs were left out of the published numbers and were not captured in the cost comparisons. She closed the document writing “Jackson does not have the highest operating costs” and the hospital systems financial problems are “not the responsibility of the high quality public employees who work here.” The commissioner also took a shot at management for allowing this misperception in the community and believes “this misinformation about labor costs continues to distract the leadership of this institution from addressing the true challenges of its financial situation,” she wrote. Further, the Watchdog Report received a nicely done flyer in the mail from SEIU 1991 stating that the Jackson Hospital unions have already sacrificed to the tune of over 500 employees laid off and a overall “voluntary”  savings to the health trust of $106 million and they have a website www.savejackson.com to get their message out there. Readers should stay tuned and see how this issue plays out in the future.

>>> The PHT is having the televised monthly board meeting Monday at 3:00 p.m. at the Ira Clark Diagnostic Center on the second floor and it is open to the public or can be seen on Miami-Dade County’s television station or go to www.miamidade.gov

>>> This is why I have been doing the Watchdog Report for 11-years — Since May of 2000, I have been covering the PHT in all its aspects over the years and its financial challenges since then have never been far below the surface of any story over this time. In 2004, I ran the headline about the $84 million charge the organization was having to take for the year and the numbers in many ways never got that much better, week after week, month after month, to where we are today. Some of the county commissioners are carping about all the sudden press and media attention the hospital system with 12,000 employees is getting but that is what happens in Florida where the state sunshine and open records laws makes all these activities public events. However, the commissioners should also be asking why they and the Fourth Estate did not kick in earlier to alert South Florida of the pending financial train wreck. The chronic problem was apparent to anyone that read the Watchdog Report over the decade, but in many ways, my role seems to be of Cassandra for we, as a community did not necessarily have to be where we are today, if corrective action had occurred years ago.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Employee count drops to 3,531 through June, but with $100 million budget hole, will another 1,100 follow?

At a Thursday Budget Task Force meeting made up of citizens, and administration staff including over the weeks Mayor Tomas Regalado (Net worth $5,000) and Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff (Net worth $2.28 million) elected leaders, a graph of city employee headcount was passed out and staffing peaked in Jan. 2010 at 3,666 from Jul. 1, 2009 through June 21, 2010. The graph shows in July 2009 there were 3,647 city workers and now in June 2010, that number has dropped to 3,531 and that number is expected to go lower in the coming months. Miami Manager Carlos Migoya, a former banker told commissioners during a budget discussion recently suggested over 1,100 people could hit the streets depending on what happened at the commission and the ongoing battle with the unions in the months ahead, with the city’s reserves at a low point not seen since before the city’s financial meltdown in the mid 1990s.

>>> Will Miami’s 114th Birthday be the last hurrah for awhile?

While Miami may celebrate its 114th Birthday July 28 with a party at the American Airlines Arena with the proceeds going to charities, it may be a last hurrah before the September budget hearings that will be brutal in nature. The city has to cut another $100 million in the coming budget year, without major union concessions and on Monday the commission listened to local social local service agencies beg for continued or more funding for such things as meals on wheels for the elderly, help for domestic violence victims and a host of others, and it reminded the Watchdog Report how socialized many basic services have become for city residents. Miami is a city of contrasts, great wealth while having one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. The elderly especially are benefactors of some of this government largess and they have gotten use over the past decade of getting food from charities but these programs are facing enormous demands and the money at any level is not there and the community will see how this plays out in the months ahead.

>>> The commission on Thursday voted to modify how the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) would select panel members, and suspended and indicted Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones sponsored the original legislation over a year ago. The 4-1 vote had commission Chair Marc Sarnoff the only dissenter and he warned the commission should tread carefully when it came to this panel, that city voters approved creating by around 75 percent in 2001, and it also has subpoena power and is generally charged at reviewing police abuse.

>>> Former Atty. Fernandez lawsuit gets another closed session; legal bill over $250,000, meter is running!

Jorge Fernandez, the former City of Miami attorney is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to his lawsuit and the commission had another closed-door executive meeting to discuss the attorney’s case against the city. The suit has already racked up a $250,000 legal fee for the city said commissioner Francis Suarez to the Watchdog Report in the past. Fernandez is challenging his firing after a controversial investigation stated he used city money for personal uses among other things.

>>> 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. It currently goes to his new e-mail address.>>> “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 Wolfson newsletter on beach businesses – Economy on the rebound

There is no doubt Miami Beach residents and businesses have felt the impact of the economic downturn.  And everyone is hoping for a turnaround.  That’s why the record numbers from our March Resort Tax Collections come as welcome news.  Our resort tax is collected in increments of 2% and 3% of sales of food and beverage and hotels respectively.  The amount of these collections is a strong indicator of the health of the Miami Beach economy as they are based off of sales. Trish Walker is the City of Miami Beach Finance Director.  Her staff oversees Utility and Revenue Billing, Collections, Liens, Business Tax Receipts, Treasury Management, Payroll, Capital Projects Accounting, Grant Management, our Annual Audit, Financial Reporting, Resort Tax Collections, and so on.  With respect to the March Resort Tax Collections, she said, “The March revenues are the highest we have seen.  It looks like things are starting to turn around here”.

Our record March collections were $4,992,944.00.  This includes both hotel collections and collections for food and beverage sales and is up 13.8% from last year.  From a rolling 12-month perspective, the revenues for hotel collections only are up 4.96% from where we were this time last year.  On that same rolling 12-month calendar, the food and beverage revenues are up 9.83%. For residents, the resort tax collections supplement and pay for many local services.  They are appropriate as our City’s daily population swells due to our great visitors who we seek to provide great services as well.  We are working to ensure that this promising news keeps coming!

>>> Ethics commission report on salaries and benefits of Beach elected leaders done a couple of years ago. CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

In the City of Miami Beach, City Code Section 2.02, Term and Compensation, establishes the compensation for the Mayor and Commissioners.  Specifically, the City Code states: “The annual compensation for the Office of Commissioner shall be six thousand dollars ($6,000.00) and the compensation for the Office of Mayor shall be ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00); any increase in salary for Mayor and/or Commissioner shall require approval of a majority of the electorate voting at a City election.”

Based on COE inquiry of the City Clerk, the total taxable compensation for the Mayor was $10,000 and $6,000 each for the City Commissioners in the calendar 2007. With regards to taxable annual expense allowances, the Mayor and Commissioners each receive a $6,000 taxable vehicle allowance.  These funds are authorized annually via the City’s annual budget. Additionally, through its annual budget process, the City authorizes nontaxable expense allowances to its elected officials in the following amounts: Total nontaxable expense allowance for the Mayor in 2007 was $24,000. Total nontaxable expense allowance for each City Commissioner in 2007 was $18,000. Elected officials are also provided with a government-issued cell phone, which is paid for by the City on a monthly basis; therefore, there is no taxable cell phone allowance. Lastly, the City Clerk stated that neither the Mayor nor the Commissioners are provided with a government credit card or a public relations allowance.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Mayor Slesnick draws challenger in Korge, says “not likely” to run for reelection

Mayor Donald Slesnick, II has drawn a challenger next year if he decides to run for another term in office. Slesnick, first elected in the spring of 2001 has served ever since then though he has drawn challengers in the past but he fended them off at the ballot box. Slesnick is an attorney in his private life and a retired U.S. Army officer and in an e-mail last week; he wrote, “I have consistently said that I was not likely to run for re-election next year.  Tom Korge was gracious enough to ask on several occasions as to my intentions before he opened an account.  I am already the longest serving Mayor in Coral Gables history (at 9 years) and next year will mark a full decade in office. [However]  I have not ruled out that at some point I could change my mind based on what is happening in the City,” wrote the mayor.

>>> City web-page: Your Opinion Counts:  Please Fill Out The Coral Gables Police Survey

The Police Department is currently undergoing the renewal of accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). This accreditation ensures that the Police Department remains in compliance with the high standards set forth by CALEA in all areas of policy and procedure. In order to assist in this process, the City of Coral Gables is asking you to participate in a short 12-question online or phone survey. Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey by July 15, 2010. To complete the survey by phone, contact the Police Department Community Affairs Office at 305-460-5491 and leave your name and number for someone to contact you. To complete the survey online, click here.

CITY OF DORAL

>>> Residents get new “ performance dashboard” on city services, supposed to save money as well

Press release: On the seventh anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Doral, city officials launched a web-based information dashboard for members of the community to access city information conveniently via the Internet. This new technology aids in the transparency of government, and helps the City become more efficient, resulting in improved operations, quicker dissemination of critical information, improved overall services and reduced costs. Members of the public can view the City of Doral Performance Dashboard online at www.cityofdoral.com/dashboard.

“The value of the dashboard is that it gives the members of our community real-time access to information that directly affects them,” said Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez. “The information keeps everyone informed and up to date on what’s going on in our city, therefore keeping the government transparent. The technology also makes our City more efficient, saving us money and giving us the data we need to continually improve.” During the launch event, held at the Morgan Levy Park Community Center, members of the community and City of Doral elected officials navigated through the Performance Dashboard. They used laptops donated for that purpose by One Click, a local business.

The Performance Dashboard integrates data from a variety of City departments into one system, providing easy access to information from the City Manager and Clerk’s offices and City departments that include Finance, Planning and Zoning, Public Works, Parks and Recreation as well as Police. Data collected from these departments conveniently rolls into a web-based dashboard view, giving people access to real-time information on key aspects of the community, including: Capital Projects (status of projects and timelines), Community Programs, Green Initiatives, Public Safety Information and Statistics, Community Wellness Programs, General performance data and statistics from City departments. The Performance Dashboard is the result of a two-year IT project the City undertook with the help of EMA Inc., the national management and technology consulting and services organization who implemented the new technology and dashboard functionality. The Performance Dashboard is a work-in-progress, and the program will evolve as the City takes into account feedback from residents and other members of the community. >> About the City of Doral: Incorporated on June 24, 2003, the City of Doral is one of 34 municipalities in Miami-Dade County, Fla. Located one mile from Miami International Airport and 12 miles from Downtown Miami, Doral is 15 square miles in size. The City is home to about 36,000 residents and has more than 100,000 people who work within the City. The City of Doral has operated under the Mayor-Council-Manager form of government since incorporation. The City offers a wide range of services through its departments including the Office of the City Manager, Office of the City Clerk, Finance Department, Community Development Department, Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation Department, and Police Department. Described as the premier place to live, work and play, Doral provides for a superior quality of life in an urban center that is well known for its commerce.

>>> Ethics Commission report last year on municipalities and leaders salary & benefits unedited

The City of Doral’s Mayor receives compensation in the amount of $50,000 per fiscal year.  City Council Members receive compensation in the amount of $12,000 per fiscal year. Compensation for Council Members and the Mayor shall be increased each calendar year consistent with the CPI.  The Council also receives reimbursement in accordance with applicable law, or as may be otherwise provided by ordinance, for authorized expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties. The Mayor and Council Members do not receive either vehicle or travel allowance.  There is no “personal” public relations budget for the Mayor or for the Council Members.

The City pays all cell phone invoices for the Mayor and the Council Members.  Government credit cards are provided to the Mayor and Council Members. In 2007, the Mayor received $25,342.92 in taxable expense reimbursements and $1,005 in non-taxable expense reimbursements. Council Members Ruiz and Van Name received $13,228 in taxable expense reimbursements.  Council Member Ruiz received $772 in non-taxable expense reimbursements and Council Member Van Name received $675.  Council Members DiPietro and Cabrera received $12,735 in taxable expense reimbursements.  Council Member DiPietro received $540 in non-taxable expense reimbursements and Council Member Cabrera received $1,953 in non-taxable expense reimbursements.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, Meeting Date: Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Meeting Time: 8:30 AM, Meeting Place:    David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach: Dr. Martin Karp, School Board Member for District 3 (Miami Beach), will be this week’s guest speaker at the June 29th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club.

Dr. Karp was first elected to the School Board in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008.  Dr. Karp serves on two School Board committees: as Chairman of the Institutional Excellence and Community Engagement Committee, and as Vice-Chair. of the School Support Accountability Committee.  He earned a Doctorate of Education at the University of Miami and is a life-long resident of Miami-Dade County. The current 2009/10 operating budget for the Miami-Dade School Board is approx. $2.69 billion dollars – funded primarily from local property taxes and contributions from the state.  As property values have gone down, so have property tax collections, including the portion that goes to the School Board.  The reduction in property taxes and reductions in state support may force the School Board to make cut-backs, which will be discussed. Everyone is welcome to attend. For more information contact David Kelsey.  To be placed on the Breakfast Club’s mailing list, contact Harry Cherry.  Both can be reached at TuesdayMorningBreakfastClub@Yahoo.com Visit our new web site at: www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club).

>>> Downtown Bay Forum of Miami to offer debate between major congressional District 25 candidates on June 30th

The Downtown Bay Forum of Miami is planning a debate among candidates running for Congressional District 25 and it could be the first verbal debate from the candidates. People vying for their party’s nod are state Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami and Paul Crespo trying to represent the Republican Party and Joe Garcia, a member in the Obama administration is expected to be the Democratic Party’s challenger. Rivera, also Chair of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade is skilled at running campaigns and Crespo is a veteran Marine officer with a wide range of skills and is a good orator. Garcia tried for the district in 2008 against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami but was beaten back though the race was closer than two other congressional races taking place back then between his older brother Lincoln who bested former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami beat off Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo, who is now running for the county commission. The luncheon event is now scheduled for June 30. For more information go to www.downtownbayforum.com

EDITORIALS

>>> Watchdog Report touches a nerve when it comes to elected leaders paying their property taxes

Last week’s lead Argus Report story on elected leaders that are in the rears concerning their property taxes has apparently struck a nerve for I am getting information from readers of others in public office that also are delinquent in paying their taxes. This issue is important because in the months ahead these same elected leaders will be setting property millage rates and other levies and to say they have a conflict is an understatement. These records are public and when it comes to officials with multiple years of unpaid taxes. One has to ask how that could happen and what occurred behind the scenes for an average citizen and homeowner would be out on the street by now.

It is understandable that some people in these tough economic times have these issues, for the foreclosure swath is broad and long, but when it comes to those that set the community’s taxes. They must be compliant like the people they govern and I am reminded of the 1957 Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter Citizens’ Bill of Rights that opens with, “This government has been created to protect the governed, not the governing” and all such words mean in spirit and action.

What about the other Florida counties and municipalities?

Readers should check out their local leaders’ property tax standing in Broward and Palm Beach Counties and the 31 municipalities officials in Broward should also be reviewed because these documents are public and available to be reviewed by the respective elected county property appraiser. To review these property tax records go to http://www.miamidade.gov/pa/ >>>  http://www.bcpa.net >>> http://www.pbcgov.com/papa

>>> PAST WDR: SEPT. 2008: Elected leaders should humor the general public by following the Florida Sunshine Law

At Tuesday’s Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, there were a lot of comments and discussions going on at the dais, while another commissioner was speaking, the microphones picked that up and the Watchdog Report reminds the body they fall under the Florida Sunshine Amendment. Some of the comments were jokes but others fell into that grey area and commissioners, along with others on public boards should remember this is the law and to skirt it, risks fines and other sanctions. Many elected leaders chafe at the transparency that the law is to provide at public meetings and institutions and while there is a cost for this open public discussion. It is well worth the price for government, its actions almost by definition wants to remain hidden, and that only leads to cronyism and poor public policy.

Further, it is just not here in Miami-Dade but in Broward as well where after the new mayor was elected last year. The body has the custom of going out to lunch with over 30 members of county staff, and this was a private event I was told when I tried to attend inside the private room, that unfortunately for them was held in a glass room and I just sat outside and watched the proceedings, that definitely looked more than just a social event. As Mayor Lois Wexler worked the room and other commissioners talked to department directors where they sometimes pointed at the staff members during the discussion.

The recent reelection of all the county commissioners in both counties in August shows that they are in a very secure position with the county electorate, regardless of the scandals or cost overruns of public projects and the elected body and others falling under this state Sunshine law should just abide by the restrictions, for you are very secure in your office and just humor county residents with this one little perk, because eventually if you do not. It will come back to bite you and that would not be a good thing.

LETTERS

I salute you Ricker and raise a toast to U! You are one of the few truly honorable people I know!

Jacqui H

>>> Just wanted to take a minute to say thank you for the info you provide…

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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, 2010, 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.

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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