Month of August 2010

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.11 No.16 August 29,2010 Est. 05.05.00 – I go when you cannot!


Argus Report: “We are all standing on her shoulders,” says U.S. Rep. Ros Lehtinen of feminist icon Bolton on 90th Anniversary of women’s suffrage

Florida: Scott edges out McCollum, AG yet to make nice; will Chiles bleed off Sink voters?

Miami-Dade County: Commissioners Souto & Diaz coast to victory, Rolle has a fight on his hands; Bell and Flynn face off in Dist. 8 race Nov. 2

Broward County: It’s over, Commissioner Gunzburger beats Geller in one of state’s nastiest races for county seat, Keechl cruises to victory, and will be joined by Sharief on dais

Palm Beach County: State Rep. Bogdanoff clears primary, faces Rep. Skidmore; she had $739,000 net worth through 2009

Citrus County: Gov. Crist’s appointments to: Guardian Ad Litem Qualifications Committee

Highlands County: Crist taps Zwayer as new County Tax Collector

Volusia County: Gov. Crist names Karen Lucas of Deland as this week’s Governor’s Point of Light

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Hantman, Regalado win outright, four candidates in two other races get to battle it out until Nov. 2

Public Health Trust: Jackson Grand Jury report lands with a thud at commission; some of 41-community leaders would apply to Trust, if governance model changed

City of Miami: Union negotiations topic of Special Commission meeting, leaders met again Friday morning, is car fire a warning if services cut back?

City of Miami Beach: With $32 million hole, combination of cuts & increases, upcoming budget gets balanced says Commission Weithorn & Manager Gonzalez

City of Coral Gables: Commissioner Cabrera says employment benefits cuts “had to be done,” believes “not done yet.”

City of South Miami: From educator and activist to Mayor Stoddard, must help slow the turnstile of new managers

Community Events: Ethics training for candidates  

Editorials: And the beat goes on, new revelations about Marlins finances, accountability as hard to find as Big Foot — The time has come to reduce days for early voting, dismal primary turnout does not justify the expense

Letters: Reader in Herald letter says, ERA is still necessary to guarantee women equality – Reader on need for Watchdog Report, including funding – Readers on past stories

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

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

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.

>>> 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.

>>> I will be on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on Sept. 2 from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. www.wlrn.org

>>> Correction: For some reason, I misspelled the Democratic Party last week in a headline and story. I apologize for the error.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> “We are all standing on her shoulders,” says U.S. Rep Ros Lehtinen of feminist icon Bolton on 90th Anniversary of women’s suffrage

Susan B. Anthony, the godmother of the nation’s women’s right to vote’s last public comments before her death were “Failure is impossible” when it came to the “the cause [as she referred to it]” of the woman suffrage movement that 14–years later would result in the 19th Amendment passing on Aug. 26, 1920 giving women the right to vote. The day was honored Thursday with community feminist icon Roxy Bolton being fêted at the county historical museum celebration and WPLG/ABC Channel 10 Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney was the MC www.justnews.com . “Roxy is a living legend,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami at the event and “we are all standing on her shoulders along with the other feminists [over the past centuries].” Bolton, a mother of three, helped start the first community rape center now named after the 84-year and she has been at the forefront of a host of controversial issues, including helping Haitian women stuck in Krome Federal Detention Center decades ago get help and medical treatment. An exhibit of Bolton’s memorabilia on display will include personal photos, her desk, a rocking chair, and other documents as well as her Red Cross uniform on loan from the Women’s Park and is now housed and featured at the HistoryMiami museum across from the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. For more information on the exhibition got to www.historymiami.org and >>> for more information about Anthony go to http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/anth-sus.htm

What about women in politics?

The Watchdog Report in an exclusive interview with the long serving congressional representative after the event. Ros-Lehtinen said when it came to women and how they vote. The issues important to them are the safety of their community, are their kids getting educated and of course the economy. She said now that Rick Scott is the Republican Party gubernatorial champion, in her case. She would support him and noted while she was a Bill McCollum supporter in the primary. The congressional representative would work to get Scott elected and does not agree with some of the policies of either candidate, but as a Republican. She and other establishment Republicans in the party will come together like the party usually does and support their candidate facing Florida CFO Alex Sink, and independent Lawton “Bud” Chiles in the general election, Ros-Lehtinen thought.

What about Linda E. Ricker?

My mother, a Quaker, who passed in 2004 at 87, was a “Depression Kid” attending later in her life Michigan State University while my father’s brothers and sisters all went to the University of Michigan in the 1930s. She was a strong feminist from the get-go, and one of the first to recycle in the mid-1950s and she happened to be president of the local school board in the late 1960s when integration and school busing was the issue of the day around the nation. She believed all people should have the right to a quality education and be able to vote and felt a woman’s opinion and voice meant something back then and she always spoke her mind. Something that at times was not always appreciated. Further, she supported what I was trying to do early in 2000 and in many ways. My writing has been a tribute to her over the past 11-years, and her spirit for gender and ethnic equality, that includes women getting commiserate wages for the job they do that currently lags behind what men are paid in the workplace of today.

What about the U.S. Senate race?

And they’re off; The dye is cast with Republican Marco Rubio facing Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Gov. Charlie Crist for entrance in the world’s most exclusive club, the U.S. Senate after Meek beat billionaire Jeff Greene in the Democratic Party primary by getting 57 percent of the statewide vote. Rubio, the darling of the Tea Party, gained national attention among conservative circles and has been keeping his nose to the campaign grindstone, while the Democratic Party’s champions battled it out in the primary. Greene initially surged in polls over Meek when he unleashed devastating political attack ads against the 8-year Congressman that included attacking his mother Carrie. And during the last few months both Rubio and Crist have tried to stay above the political fray but with the general election looming the gloves will be coming off. Rubio and Meek are attacking Crist for a recent flip-flop last week on whether he supported President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan that passed in Congress and the governor gave conflicting answers to the question.

Rubio, who has a tracker at every Crist event and chronicled what the candidate says has stayed on message with his conservative base, just as Meek is starting to gain significant traction within his own party that has gotten to know him. However, Crist has been buoyed in the polls with his extensive television spots and interviews about the Deepwater Horizon spill that was still spewing forth its toxic brew of oil and chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico. However, with the well’s capping, for many in the state the issue is slowly receding into their memory, especially in the interior of Florida and Crist has taken a hit in polls, with over two-months to go into the campaign that has national attention. The campaigns will be expensive and brutal when it comes to the negative political ads running in the airwaves.

>>> Press release: SETTINERI PLEADS GUILTY TO MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGE

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and John V. Gilles, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, announced today that Roberto Settineri, 42, of Miami Beach, pleaded guilty to a one count Superseding Information charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Sentencing is scheduled for November 3, 2010, before U.S. District Court Judge James I. Cohn.  Settineri faces a maximum sentence of five (5) years’ incarceration. According to the Information and statements made during the plea hearing, the defendant admitted to conspiring with others to launder $10 million of funds and conceal assets represented to be the proceeds of a large-scale fraudulent scheme.  The initial investigation was part of a joint U.S. and Italian law enforcement action. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Italian Ministries of the Interior and Justice, and the Italian National Police as well as the assistance provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Rome provided assistance in this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Stone and Criminal Division Trial Attorney Margaret Honrath of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. 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 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 www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: Obama Creeps Up to 46% Republicans Still Lead Congressional Generic

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among likely voters has risen to 46%, up three points from the last Zogby Interactive poll on August 12.

Obama Job Performance Aug
23
Aug
12
Aug
4
Jul
26
July
19
June
28
June
7
May
10
Apr
19
Apr
3
Mar
4
Feb
22
Feb
12
Feb
2
Jan
18
Approve 46% 43% 43% 46% 45% 46% 47% 47% 49% 48% 48% 49% 51% 50% 49%
Disapprove 53% 56% 57% 53% 54% 53% 53% 53% 51% 52% 51% 50% 49% 49% 50%
Not sure 1% 1% <1% 1% 1% <1% <1% 1% <1% <1% 1% 1% <1% 1% 1%

Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

This latest poll, conducted August 18-23, shows almost no change in the Congressional generic ballot from the August 12 poll. Congressional Generic Ballot In the Congressional race in 2010, for which party’s candidate do you intend to vote–Democrat of Republican?

Aug
23
Aug
12
Aug
4
Jul
26
July
19
June
28
June
7
Democrat 41% 41% 38% 40% 41% 41% 41%
Republican 43% 42% 46% 43% 43% 43% 41%
Neither 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3%
Not sure 13% 13% 13% 13% 13% 13% 16%

Other Poll Results – 56% of likely voters still say the nation is off on the wrong track, and just 35% say the nation is headed in right direction; 9% of likely voters are not sure. Congressional job approval is at 23%, with 75% of likely voters disapproving of the job Congress is doing. Democrats, though low, rate higher than Republicans. 36% of likely voters approve of Democrats’ performance while only 25% of voters approve of the job Republicans are doing in Congress.

The interactive poll consisted of 8,509 likely voters and has a margin of error of +/-1.1.  A sampling of Zogby International’s online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the U.S., was invited to participate.  Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, gender, and education to more accurately reflect the population. Please click the link below to view the news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1891

>>> 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 the WLRN/NPR showTopical 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

>>> Scott edges out McCollum, AG yet to make nice; will Chiles bleed off Sink voters?

Rick Scott, the insurgent Republican candidate for governor who spent some $35 million of his own money, got the nod with voters on Tuesday and his victory has turned the tables on the party establishment that is now trying to make–up after giving him the cold shoulder before the election. Scott (Net worth $218.6 million) took out long time politician and state Attorney General Bill McCollum, (Net worth $1.32 million) the former congressman’s third statewide loss since 2000 and Scott is facing Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (Net worth $9.22 million), a Democrat and Lawton “Bud” Chiles running as an independent. Scott benefited by having a three way race, with the third candidate Mike McCalister a relative unknown getting 10 percent of the statewide Republican vote. In Sink’s case, she has to be concerned that Chiles will draw some of her supporters in the general election Nov. 2 similar to what happened for Republicans in the primary giving Scott the edge that also had party voters turning out in large numbers in comparison to Democratic Party faithful.

>>> Diaz de la Portilla bests Robaina for Sen. 36 seat; attorney now becomes super lobbyist in M-D County

The race for state Senate Seat 36 was a hotly contested affair that pitted state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-South Miami (Net worth $661,000) against former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla whose brother Alex (Net worth $286,000 in 08) currently holds the seat and the attorney won at the end of the day. The former commissioner left elected office in 2000 after a failed county mayoral race but in this race, he got 52 percent of the vote, while Robaina got 44 percent with 5 percent going to an unknown challenger. Robaina was termed out in the state House as was Diaz de la Portilla’s older brother. Some Republican heavy weights weighed in on the local senate race backing Diaz de la Portilla including Gov. Jeb Bush and the former governor’s influence in the state, while taking a hit with McCollum losing his bid for governor in the primary, is still considerable. The new state senator also had a major fundraising advantage over the state representative. Further, Robaina had been close to Gov. Charlie Crist, was considered the more moderate Republican candidate, and only distanced himself from Crist when the governor became an independent in the spring.

However, Diaz de la Portilla is a county and municipal lobbyist, and through May of 2010 he has nine clients in front of the county state’s the clerk’s office lobbyist report, and he is now like many other state legislators that can not only make state laws, but can work very effectively as a project or company advocate for a fee and this duality has been a problem over the years where these two positions lines sometimes get blurred. I have been writing about this issue since 2001 when former state Sen. Ron Silver, D-Miami Beach, the Dean of the Senate at the time would periodically pop up at the Miami-Dade Commission and argue a contract for a competing firm, one case involved a marina, and he verbally slammed then Manager Merrett Stierheim and the administration’s choice. The newly elected state senator will find his public profile is elevated from when he was a county commissioner, and the clients he represents in his day job will be a reflection on him, and his role in the state’s highest legislative body.

>>> Press release: Fla. TaxWatch: Estimating Conferences Project More Money for the 2011 Legislature

Next Year’s Budget Shortfall May Be Less Than Previously Estimated

The new Florida TaxWatch report released today is the third in a series of Budget Watches examining the results of this summer’s meetings of the state’s Consensus Estimating Conference and their impact on the state budget picture.  This Budget Watch examines the newest estimates concerning a number of revenue sources in detail and analyzes what the estimates mean for next year’s budget.

Overall, after an unprecedented decrease in annual General Revenue collections for three straight years, it appears Florida has resumed the normal trend of annually increasing collections.  FY 2009/10 collections grew 2.4% and growth of 6.7% and 7.4% is expected in this fiscal year (FY 2010/11) and next (FY 2011/12).   It now appears legislators will have $3 billion more general revenue available to them next session then they spent this year.   There are also growing needs, including an expected $2 billion Medicaid shortfall, but the results of this summer’s Estimating Conference certainly point to a smaller shortfall than previously thought. Click here to read the full analysis of the new revenue estimates and their affect on next year’s budget >>> Thank You for your continued support and interest in Florida TaxWatch, without which the above work would not be possible.  You are helping us “get the job done” for the taxpayers of Florida. Please visit our website at www.floridataxwatch.org

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Commissioners Souto & Diaz coast to victory, Rolle has a fight on his hands, and Bell and Flynn face off in Dist. 8 race Nov. 2

Commissioners Javier Souto (Net worth $790,000) and Jose “Pepe” Diaz (Net worth $164,000) easily fended off challengers in their respective commission races and so far, not a single incumbent county commissioner has ever lost an election since 1994. Souto represents District 10 and got 77 percent of the vote and Diaz garnered 76 percent in his bid to retain District 12 on the 13-member body. Incumbent Commissioners Sally Heyman (Net worth $425,000) and Rebeca Sosa (Net worth $790,000) also retained their seats since they ran unopposed. However, two Commission races will have a runoff with Commissioner Dorrin Rolle (Net worth $1.01 million) facing off against Jean Monestime for the District 2 seat. And Eugene Flynn will face off against Lynda Bell for the District 8 seat being vacated by long serving Commissioner Katy Sorenson (Net worth $1.7 million).

In Rolle’s race, he got 41 percent of the vote, and Monestime got 26 percent with other candidates in the crowded field getting the rest of the votes. Flynn, the mayor of Palmetto Bay got 30 percent of the vote to Bell’s 25 percent in an also crowded field. Sorenson later announced after the primary that she was going to support Flynn over Bell and when Bell was Mayor of Homestead. The two women, one a Democrat and the mayor a Republican had a cool relationship when it came to working together and returning phone calls.

>>> County voters say sayonara to manager position in charter, effective 2012

County voters also approved changing the county Home Rule Charter and voters overwhelmingly approved legislation removing the manager’s position from the charter document, effective in 2012. Many elected leaders felt this was a duplication under a strong mayor form of government instituted in 2007 and should not be in the charter anymore. Mayor Carlos Alvarez (Net worth $1.7 million), who appoints the manager, had supported keeping the position, noting someone has to actually run the $7 billion plus government and the services, but 58 percent of voters said spike the position and it goes away at the end of Alvarez’s second term in office.

>>> County ethics commission report on salary & benefits: MIAMI-DADE COUNTY — Miami-Dade County’s “strong mayor” receives a base salary of $235,922, set by County ordinance and adjusted by the CPI. He also gets an annual vehicle allowance of $9,600 ($800 a month), expense allowance of $42,000 ($3,500 a month), “executive benefits” of $10,000, deferred compensation of $20,500 and $1,500 toward a retirement account.  The Mayor’s total annual salary and benefits package equals $319,522, according to analysts.

County Commissioners receive a base salary of $6,000 as established by the County’s charter. They have a total benefit package worth in excess of 10 times this base salary, however.   According to budget analysts, Commissioners are also paid $9,600 for vehicle-related expenses ($800 a month), an expense allowance of $24,000 ($2,000 a month), $10,000 in “executive benefits” and $11,500 towards a retirement account.  These items – totaling $61,500 – are treated as taxable income or as deferred earnings in the case of the retirement funds, according to budget analysts. The Mayor and County Commissioners are also eligible to receive a County purchasing card (known as “P-cards”) to be used mainly for travel-related expenses. The cards may not be used for any personal items or cash advances. Eleven out of 13 Commissioners used the P-cards in fiscal year 2007, with expenditures ranging from a low of $2,380 to a high of $26,399 according to analysts.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today announced the appointment of Joseph I. Davis Jr. of Miami to the Miami-Dade County Court.

“While practicing law for 36 years in Miami, Joe has gained vast courtroom experience and has always shown great professionalism and respect to his clients and colleagues,” said Governor Crist. “Now, as a county court judge, I know he will bring the same civility, as well as a strong commitment to public service, as he serves the people of Miami-Dade County.”

Davis, 62, has practiced with Markowitz, Davis, Ringel and Trusty since 1980. Previously, he was an associate with Friedman, Britton and Stettin from 1974 to 1980 and with Robert Crawford from 1973 to 1974. Davis received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University.

Davis will fill the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Jose L. Fernandez to the 11th Judicial Circuit.

>>> Two recent Miami-Dade Inspector General reports
Final Audit Report Re: Environmental Task Force Trust Funds Administered by the Miami-Dade Police Department, Ref. IG10-26, August 24, 2010.

Alleged Cone of Silence Violation, RFP MDAD-01-09, Luggage Wrapping Services, Ref. IG10-33, August 17, 2010.

>>> Press release: Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia (Net worth $1.23 million) is urging property owners to carefully study the Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (also called the TRIM -Truth In Millage – Notice) which his office will mail to more than one-million Miami-Dade property and business owners Tuesday, August 24.

In addition to the TRIM Notice, the package each property owner will receive contains a guide to help owners better understand the document, and a message from Mr. Garcia reflecting on the change in Miami-Dade’s real estate values. The TRIM Notice itself has valuable information about each individual property parcel, including:

Property values calculated as of January 1, 2010, the statutory assessment date, using 2009 sales and market data. Exemptions applied to the property Taxes calculated on the basis of the taxing authorities’ proposed millage rates The dates, times and venues of budget hearings which taxing authorities (such as the municipal governments) and the School Board are required to hold. The 2010 Certification of Taxable Value which the Property Appraiser released to the taxing authorities on July 1st showed a 13.4 percent county-wide decline in taxable values, with municipalities experiencing declines ranging from a low of 3.8 percent to a high of 31.2 percent.

While individual properties are likely to show similar declines in market value, depending on their location, Mr. Garcia has informed that some property owners, who have long benefited from the Save Our Homes cap on value increases for properties with Homestead Exemption, approved by Florida voters in 1994, may see a 2.7 percent increase in the property’s assessed value.  This increase is mandated by Florida law, which requires raising the assessed value of homesteaded properties by three percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. This only applies to homestead exempted properties with an assessed value lower than market value.

Property owners wishing to dispute their assessments have until September 20 to file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board (VAB). However, Mr. Garcia is encouraging property owners who have questions about their assessments or their exemptions to visit either the Downtown Miami (111 NW 1st Street 8th Floor) or South Dade Government Center (10710 SW 211th Street 2nd Floor) offices of the Property Appraiser to discuss and resolve these questions in one-on-one interviews with his staff.  They should bring to these interviews, any documents such as appraisals, photographs and insurance claim paperwork, which may support their case for an assessment reduction. >> Questions about property tax-rates, budgets, budget-hearings and related issues, should be directed to the respective taxing authority listed on the TRIM Notice. >>> Property owners can contact the Appraiser’s Office by calling 786-331-5321. or www.miamidade.gov/pa

>>> Press release: Commissioner Sally A. Heyman is urging residents in her district to attend one of several public meetings pertaining to the Miami-Dade County’s proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Members from the Office of Strategic Business Management will address any questions and concerns on the proposed adjustments to taxes and fees.

One meeting will be held in District 4 at Treasure Island Elementary, 7540 East Treasure Drive, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. If residents are unable to attend this meeting, several others will be held at the following locations:

>>> Monday, August 30, 2010

West Dade Regional Library – 6 p.m.                              Wynwood Community Center – 6 p.m.

9445 Coral Way                                                             2902 NW 2nd Avenue

>>> Tuesday, August 31, 2010

North Dade Regional Library – 6 p.m.                              FIU Performing Arts Center – 7 p.m.

2455 NW 183rd Street                                                    10910 SW 17th Street

Ronald Reagan/Doral Sr. High – 6 p.m.

8600 NW 107th Avenue

>>>Wednesday, September 1, 2010

South Dade Regional Library – 6 p.m.                             Joseph Caleb Center – 6 p.m. 10750 SW 211th Street                                                  5400 NW 22nd Avenue

New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church – 6 p.m. 777 NW 85th Street

“This is a perfect forum for taxpayers to ask questions and provide feedback on what will affect property taxes and additional fees for County services,” said Commissioner Heyman. For more information on these meetings, please contact 305-375-5428. or go to www.miamidade.gov

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> It’s over, Gunzburger beats Geller in one of state’s nastiest races for seat, Keechl cruises to victory, and will be joined by Sharief on dais

Well it is over; Commissioner Sue Gunzburger prevailed over state Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hollywood in a bruising and hotly contested race for county Commission District 6. The veteran incumbent got 56 percent of the vote over the attorney and the race provoked verbal incidents that were a sight to see with inflammatory words, the spoken word of the day. Geller hounded Gunzburger for a company her now deceased husband owned, and she called the conflict of interest charges “a lie.” Further, during interviews on www.justnews.com and www.wpbt.org the two candidates went at it and it was clear the candidates had no love for one another. Other incumbent Commissioners that won their races were Ken Keechl (who has already had a fundraiser for his 2014 campaign) and commission newcomer Barbara Sharief won the District 8 race.

>>> Commission Atty. Newton announces his resignation, leaves in 90-days

Jeffrey Newton the Broward Commission attorney has resigned and he will leave his office in 90-days writes Bob Norman on http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/. Newton, gained notoriety recently for writing a legal document that suggested limiting some of the ethics commission’s recommendations and watering down the legislation, that later was disregarded by the commission. The commission years ago did a national search for a new attorney and the Watchdog Report back then attended some of the public interviews of the short listed candidates, including Newton. And after he was selected. He took his office up after he healed from a medical issue back then. Norman has more details on this than I do so check out his blog.

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist taps of Michael A. Robinson to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

“During Mike’s two-decade long career, he has demonstrated a strong, honest commitment to public service,” said Governor Crist. “I am confident he will continue to serve the people of Florida with fairness, integrity, and poise.”

Robinson, 55, has been serving as a general magistrate for the state of Florida since 2007.  Previously, he was a sole practitioner from 1990 to 2006 and practiced with Krupnick Campbell P.A. from 1986 to 1990.  From 1983 to 1986, Robinson was an assistant public defender with the Broward County Office of the Public Defender. Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and law degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Robinson will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Ana I. Gardiner.

>>> 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

>>> State Rep. Bogdanoff clears primary, faces Rep. Skidmore; she had $739,000 net worth through 2009

State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale won her Republican party bid to be the candidate to represent Florida Senate District 25, by beating Carl Domino with a 58 percent majority. The attorney first ran for her house seat in a special election in 2004 facing a crowded field of challengers but she prevailed and would later become the majority party whip in the House. The race against her opponent in the primary was well financed but she held on to win and will face state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton in the general election.

What do we know about her finances?

Bogdanoff through Dec. 31, 2009 had a net worth of $739,000 and she lists $165,000 in household goods. Her home is worth $507,000, an office building is valued at $254,000, there is $65,253 and $10,027 in IRAs, and there is $10,826 in cash and bonds. The legislators liabilities are mortgages with B&A owed $160,000 and $104,000, and two other loans with the bank are owed $116,000 and $171,000. Her income for the year was $30,292 as a state legislator, and other income was $2,270.

CITRUS COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist made the following reappointment and appointment: Guardian Ad Litem Qualifications Committee

Robert “Bob” Butterworth, 68, of Hollywood, attorney with Atkinson, Diner, Stone, Mankuta & Ploucha P.A., reappointed for a term beginning August 23, 2010, and ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

Debbie Ressler, 60, of Inverness, registered nurse, Hospice of Citrus County, succeeding James Kallinger, appointed for a term beginning August 23, 2010, and ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

HIGHLANDS COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist today taps Zwayer as new Highlands County Tax Collector

Eric T. Zwayer, 30, of Sebring, director of administration for the Highlands County Clerk of Courts, succeeding Charles Bryan, appointed for a term beginning August 26, 2010.

VOLUSIA COUNTY

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today recognized Karen Lucas of Deland as this week’s Governor’s Point of Light in honor of Senior/Military Awareness Month.

“Karen is a generous volunteer and an honorable retired Florida National Guardswoman,” said Governor Crist. “She has the heart of a public servant, and her spirit of giving and sacrifice is continuing Florida’s reputation as a military-friendly state.” Lucas is a retired Florida National Guard commissioned officer.  For over a decade, she has been a volunteer and advocate for family programs within the Florida National Guard and currently serves on their State Family Readiness Advisory Team.  She not only works directly with military families but also helps develop policies and initiatives for programs serving families.  She regularly attends send-off and welcome home ceremonies, counsels soldiers preparing to deploy, and organizes toys for the Operation Homefront’s Christmas Toy Drive.  >>> 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. Florida’s Foundation manages the program. For more information, or to submit a nomination, go to www.FloridasFoundation.org.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Hantman, Regalado win outright, four candidates in two other races get to battle it out until Nov. 2

Perla Tabares Hantman (Net worth $7.75 million), the longest serving school board member trounced her challenger getting 60 percent of the vote for another four-year term on the board of the nation’s fourth largest public school district, with over 80 charter schools. She faced Manny Diaz in the District 4 race and he was said to be a credible candidate, but is not related to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz as many in the community thought.

Political neophyte Raquel Regalado also won outright Tuesday getting 57 percent of the vote in her first foray into politics and she is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. The father told me Tuesday before doing a television interview on Miami’s real estate market. He believed his daughter would win out right; she had the largest campaign war chest and was well known in the community she was hoping to represent. The younger Regalado is divorced, has two children and is a practicing attorney and media personality. During the campaign, she blanketed the district with flyers, and at least in my mailbox. I got an apple in a box, and a pencil with a plastic sharpener as part of her campaign material.

Two other school board races will have a run off after neither of the candidates got over 50 percent of the vote. Former state Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, D-Miami is now facing off with school district administrator Rhonda Vangates in November for the board spot. Further, the District 7 race has also produced a runoff with Carlos Curbelo getting 39 percent, and his challenger Libby Perez garnered 19 percent of the district vote.

>>> Press release: M-DCPS 2010-2011 BACK-TO-SCHOOL TOOL KIT NOW ONLINE

Miami-Dade County Public Schools “2010-2011 Back-to-School Tool Kit” is now available online for parents and students. The tool kit was created to inform parents about different programs that support students’ needs. Students can benefit from information found in the tool kit, and parents may also use it to find out about important dates and policies regarding their child’s education. The tool kit has pertinent information on subjects ranging from choice schools through dual enrollment, graduation requirements to parent involvement and school safety. The tool kit is available in English, Haitian-Creole and Spanish.

Please visit http://news.dadeschools.net/toolkit1011.htm for information in English, http://news.dadeschools.net/toolkit1011span.htm for information in Spanish and http://news.dadeschools.net/toolkit1011cr.htm for information in Haitian-Creole.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Jackson Grand Jury report lands with a thud at commission; some of 41-community leaders would apply to Trust, if governance changed

The Aug. 5 Miami-Dade County Grand Jury report was received by the county commission like an old set of Yellow Pages and Commission Chair Dennis Moss was unable to get seven commissioner signatures to schedule a Commission meeting to discuss the report last week, on Thursday, but was canceled. Moss on Wednesday when discussing the report during a commission budget workshop said essentially, what he had in the previous week and reported in last week’s Watchdog Report. He said the report was like others that get “rid of the commission” and its oversight authority of Jackson. And Commissioner Natacha Seijas felt the report “did not go far enough.” Further, George Burgess has fired back with an Aug. 25 memo critical of some of the grand jury report’s portrayal of the administration and commission’s actions over the past years. And on Thursday, community leader representatives that signed a joint letter that ran in The Herald www.maimiherald.com a few months ago critical of how Jackson was being governed sent the Watchdog Report their letter to Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Moss and other commissioners. Dickinson, the former President of Carnival Cruise Lines wrote, “We developed this [response] after reading your Watchdog Report article relaying Commissioner Dennis Moss’ comments.” Here is the letter unedited.

>>> Letter to the Honorable Mayor Alvarez, Chairman Moss and Members of the County Commission

Ladies and Gentleman: We have recently been informed of some publicly expressed sentiments by Miami-Dade officials as to why more community leaders, including those of us whose names appeared in the full-page ad we purchased from the Miami Herald, have not stepped forward to offer themselves as candidates for appointment to the Public Health Trust.

We have queried the members of our group and there is a consensus among us. It is our belief that the present structure of governance of the Public Health Trust must be changed. This has been the case nationally where 90% of public hospitals have restructured their governance to be insulated from political pressure.  The recent Grand Jury report echoes our strong belief in independent governance.

We believe that the fiscal solvency and sustainability of the Jackson Health System safety net can only be achieved through independent governance.  Therefore, it is our hope that the Mayor and County Commission will rise to that responsibility and, with courageous leadership and responsible action, affect the required changes. We are fully prepared to help and support you in that effort. We also pledge that when it comes time to structure the governance of a new, truly independent, stand-alone board, many of our members and other prominent, qualified citizens will offer themselves in service.

The time for positive action is at hand. The proposed budget does not reflect long-term sustainability.  As a result, until the governance issue is addressed, services will continue to shrink in an effort to stem systemic losses.

Respectfully, Bob Dickinson and Merrett Stierheim on behalf of our group

What about the Nominating Council?

The Council after receiving 15 applications by the deadline, with six more coming in later. The members decided to rerun the advertisement for board applicants, and the new application deadline is Aug. 30 at 4:00 p.m. and the application is online at www.miamidade.gov or contact the Clerk’s office at clerkbcc@miamidade.gov . The Council will meet again on Sept 7 at 10:00 a.m. to shortlist the applicants and the future candidate interview dates will be Sept. 29 and 30 starting at 9:00 a.m. and the commission on Oct. 19 will vote on the seven-member slate selected, of which five will be chosen for the 15-mamber citizen board plus two voting county commissioners.

>>> Here is the advertisement: OPENINGS FOR THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

Applications are now being accepted for the Board of Trustees of the Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, the governing authority for Jackson Health System. Trustees serve without compensation for staggered terms of three years. There are five vacancies for the 2010 appointment process. The PHT Nominating Council will contact applicants selected for interviews and will require a background check. The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, upon recommendation of the Nominating Council, will make appointments to the Board of Trustees. This is a re-advertisement. Subsequent to the initial advertisement period that ended August 9, 2010, the Nominating Council voted to extend the deadline.  If you already submitted your application prior to 4pm on August 9, you do NOT need to reapply.

Application forms may be obtained from the County Executive Office, 111 NW 1st Street, Suite 2910, or online at www.miamidade.gov. All applications must be submitted with a current resume or curriculum vitae and must be received by Diane Collins, Acting Division Chief, Clerk of the Board, at 111 NW 1st Street, Suite 17-202, Miami Florida, 33128 no later than August 30, 2010 by 4:00pm. Emails or facsimiles of the application will be accepted and can be sent to clerkbcc@miamidade.gov or faxed to 305-375-2484. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure electronic receipt of the application by calling the Clerk of the Board at 305-375-1652.  For additional information regarding the application process, please call 305-375-5311.

>>> PAST WDR: What about the claim people did not know Jackson was in trouble?

The Watchdog Report has covered the PHT weekly for 11-years, and when I did not write a story, it was because I was either broke, sick, or a hurricane was bearing down on Miami-Dade. And while I have now around 100,000 readers that did not include the hundreds of thousands of people who read The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com during my time as an independent guest editorial columnist in 2000 and as a independent featured weekly news columnist from 2003-2007 with the general circulation paper. I wrote dozens of stories about Jackson that ran in The Herald during this time, the public hospitals financial challenges and my readers even wondered why I wrote about the health trust so much. However, now everyone knows why, because this public institution is a medical jewel and community treasure but unless there is true community will. The ongoing financial and governance issues will remain, and all indications are very little of the Grand Jury report’s recommendations will be acted upon by the county commission in the Watchdog Report’s opinion.

>>> To read the Grand Jury report go to Miami Dade Office of the State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit …
>>> County IG Report: Final Report on OIG Review of the Jackson Health System Business Plan for Civica Tower, Prepared January 2010, Ref. IG09-89, August 26, 2010.   The Business Plan  or see the story in www.miamiherald.com

>>> Next week in the WDR: “It is a sin” that more county employees are not signing up for “Jackson Health System Plan,” said trustee Rosy Cancela and the Watchdog Report will explain why she made these remarks a recent meeting.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Union negotiations topic of Special Commission meeting, leaders met again Friday morning, is car fire a warning if services cut back?

Friday was a big day down at City Hall with commissioners and Mayor Tomas Regalado holding another closed executive committee meeting all morning concerning the union contracts negotiations that will be discussed at a Special Commission Meeting Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. in the commission chambers. The unions representing Fire fighters, cops, and sanitation workers are at the top of the discussions that has the city in a declared state of financial emergency and the commission will vote on what the final cuts in benefits will be on Tuesday. The city is facing a $100 million budget hole and only by these concessions by union employees can it stave off firing over 1,100 employee’s state’s manager Carlos Migoya. In the afternoon on Friday, senior union representatives could be seen going into city hall to potentially hear the preliminary news on the matter but one representative said they have already made extensive concessions, but the administration wants to stick it to them further. Readers should stay tuned and see how this pans out in the coming days because the city’s leaders need to come  with a new city budget by Sept. 30.

Anything unusual happen at the city hall parking lot?

The parking lot area where city commission staff park was filled with smoke after a woman’s older model Jaguar sedan burst into flames and burned the six-cylinder engine to a crisp at around 2:00 p.m. The fire caused a lot of smoke and fire with a number of people near by speculating it might be the mayor’s car but that was not the case. In the mayor’s case, he has a spot right in front of the entrance to city hall and not along the periphery parking area where the fire occurred and commissioner staff park.

>>> Check out the Volvo Ocean Race coming to Miami in the spring of 2012, its impact on the economy and how much money the organization is asking for from the city of Miami. For more information go to www.volvooceanracemiami.org

>>> 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

>>> With $32 million budget hole, combination of cuts & increases, upcoming budget gets balanced says Commission Weithorn & Manager Gonzalez

The Watchdog Report last week after the finance committee meeting Wednesday contacted commissioners, the mayor and Manager Jorge Gonzalez regarding what was presented and how the body was going to resolve a $32 million reduction in the city budget. Commissioner Deede Weithorn, CPA, e-mailed back, “We were able to both make cuts, increase revenue, enhance certain service levels and lower the original proposed millage rate. We agreed upon a few new cuts, we re-instated a few ones, we agreed to cut previously (school crossing guards, certain positions in the police department) and we will be enhancing our code enforcement. Certain fees will increase to reflect market rates, specifically in the tennis center and on-street parking. We also lowered the originally proposed millage by .2 mills. One sad note is that the City Manager declared an impasse with one of our unions CWA. The budget assumes cuts in departments served by that union and the details for those cuts have not been finalized. However, the manager proposed, outsourcing, eliminating positions and increasing part-time employees rather than full-time employees,” wrote the commissioner.

The city manager wrote in his response; “I think it went well. We finalized the pending issues regarding the budget. We discussed budgeting the expected employee concessions from the CWA union, now that we have declared “impasse.” Also, strategies such as layoffs and outsourcing that will be implemented as a result of the impasse were discussed. Finally, through revised revenues and expenditure estimates and some increases to parking rates and enforcement hours, the Committee reached a general consensus to reduce the Tentative Millage by almost two tenths of a mill. This will take place in September. We are balanced!” wrote the veteran city administrator.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Commissioner Cabrera says employment benefits cuts “had to be done,” believes “not done yet.”

The Watchdog Report caught up with veteran commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., at the 90th Anniversary of women getting the right to vote on Thursday after Monday’s contentious Special Impasse meeting with the city’s unions that saw the organizations facing some cuts in their past and future benefits. I asked Cabrera how it went and he said, “It had to be done, it had to be done [and while] I dislike taking benefits from our employees.” The administration and commission was forced to take these actions and he “suspect’s we are not done yet” when it came to cutting back benefits for city workers. On Monday at the meeting where these union negotiations were discussed and the cuts voted on, only Mayor Donald Slesnick, II voted no. For more on this story go to www.miamiherald.com

CITY OF SOUTH MIAMI

>>> From educator and activist to Mayor Stoddard, must slow the turnstile of new managers

The Watchdog Report stopped by South Miami city hall on Tuesday because it was noticed as a primary day voting site (which it wasn’t) but I was able to catch-up with Mayor Philip K. Stoddard, Ph.D. The mayor, an educator and activist for years has settled in as the new face of the city, though the turnstile of city managers continues to churn, with a new shortlist of candidates being considered for the post, after a national search was done for candidates. The mayor also has to work with a lively commission that has had its own share of turbulence on the dais, and some of this contentious behavior has come before the Miami-Dade ethics commission in the past. The Watchdog Report believes the city needs to settle down when it comes to the turnover rate of top management and the commissioners should realize decisions have consequences in the short and long term. Further, the city is facing a SEC investigation on some city bonds sold, that may drag on for months, but is a significant cloud hanging over the city and its taxpayer residents. For more information about the manager search go to www.miamiherald.com in Sunday’s Neighbors section. Or the city at www.cityofsouthmiami.net

>>> County ethics report on salary & benefits; The City of South Miami’s mayor receives a salary of $14,000 annually.  City Commissioners are paid a yearly salary of $12,000. They do not receive expense allowances or other taxable items. Commissioners can use their own cellular phones and receive reimbursements of up to $962.40 a year, or have the city provide them with a phone. The Mayor receives up to $1,150 for cellular phone usage.

The Mayor receives a $500 yearly vehicle allowance.  The item is not treated as taxable income. Commissioners do not receive either a car allowance or mileage reimbursement. Commissioners are provided a non-taxable discretionary fund of $1,500 a year for local events and charities, while the Mayor has a similar fund of $2,000.  The City Manager’s Office controls all spending from the funds.

The City also budgets $5,000 for travel for elected officials so they can attend Dade Days in Tallahassee, League of Cities meetings and other official events.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Press release:  Back by popular demand!

As the 2010 campaign season heats up, many candidates seeking future offices have asked for another training session on election and fundraising regulations.  They can get it next month at the Campaign Skills Seminar sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.   Many Miami-Dade municipalities – including some of the largest – will hold elections in 2011.  Now is the time for candidates, campaign staff members and volunteers to learn the rules for running a clean race. The seminar, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2010, at the Miami City Commission Chambers, will provide essential information to declared candidates, individuals considering running for election or anyone who wants to understand the legal and ethical obligations of seeking public office.  Speakers include representatives of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, the State Attorney’s Office, the Elections Department and the Miami-Dade League of Cities. The event is free and open to the public.  Attorneys can earn Continuing Legal Education credits from the Florida Bar. Campaign Skills Seminar Thursday, September 30, 2010 6:30 p.m.,  Miami City Hall Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive, Miami, FL 33133 For more information, call Robert Thompson at 305-350-0630 or e-mail robthom@miamidade.gov. >>> 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, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

EDITORIALS

>>> And the beat goes on, new revelations about Marlins finances, accountability as hard to find as Big Foot

Hold people accountable and judge them on competence is the public watch word of the day, yet its practice in reality is so elusive that it should be considered a endangered species, and government in its vastness makes the concept impossible to achieve. Here in Miami-Dade the latest instance is Jackson Memorial Hospital and the recent Grand Jury report that uses words like a “two-headed monster of a system” when it comes to the institutions governance, creating a “schizophrenic” relationship and the arrangement is considered “insanity” because the cycle just keeps repeating itself with the same conclusion.

Now the community finds that the Florida Marlins, a professional baseball team that cried poor mouth, threatened to leave South Florida unless the team got a new enclosed stadium with a retractable roof now in fact was not in such dire straits leaving the public holding the bag. People forget that this push by the team for the facility began in late 1999-2000, but picked up speed the last few years resulting in a signed deal with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. The contract was challenged by auto magnate Norman Braman asking for a countywide vote on the project, the team open its books, but failed in the courts, but the team did strike a worse deal over this time, than the original one with government officials and people should thank Braman for that enhancement in the final deal. But now the community finds out the team was not as strapped financially as they let on, the mayor and commission in Miami and at the county accepted the new deal, that when financing is included, comes out at $2.4 billion to pay for the complex over the next three decades.

And local taxpayers are outraged at the dupe, but they will find a contract is a contract when it comes to trying to get new concessions like those that Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado suggested last week to the media on Friday afternoon. And when all is said and done, the current deal will continue, with elected officials saying it is not general fund money, but is tourist hotel and bed tax money, and thus taxpayers should keep their cool and live with it, and once again holding someone accountable will slip by the wayside as the years click by. For the local elections validate that the incumbents are here to stay unless they get indicted or die in office, and that is their pass when it comes to these kind of deals, and once again Miami-Dade residents are called “suckers” when it comes to the siren song promise of short and long term jobs, yet rarely achieved given the robust numbers promised.

Years ago, an older retiree living on Miami Beach said she did not mind so much that we were corrupt or incompetent. It was the fact “we were so cheap” that bothered her and the comment while not implying corruption in this case with the Marlins. The public officials striking the deal got the short end of the stick with this public commitment with the private franchise, and once again, “we were so cheap.” Editor’s note: See Braman’s column in Sunday’s Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com

>>> The time has come to reduce days for early voting, dismal primary turnout does not justify the expense

While the Watchdog Report is for early voting, including absentee ballots, it is clear after the Aug. 24 primary and the incredible low voter turnout at the sites. It needs to be a week shorter and does not justify the cost during this time of cash strapped cities and counties. At these early voting sites, less than a dozen voters might be coming all morning and it is clear given the explosion of absentee voters, that it is time to rethink the current duration that is a work program for poll workers who stand around with nothing to do.

I have called Elections the stepchild of government in that to many elected leaders they are a hassle but must take place in a Republic, and why funding up until the 2000 general election for the elections departments around the state was the bare minimum. However, since the fiasco of that election, resources have been thrown at the issue in the tens of millions of dollars and voting machines have changed costing taxpayers tens of millions more though we do now have a paper ballot trail. But when it comes to so many days of early voting, it is clear that time has passed and here in Miami-Dade. The county commission and administration in the future should change the duration, for voter participation at this level does not warrant the extra expense of the days. A sad fact when it comes to voter apathy but true.

LETTERS

>>> Letter on ERA published in www.miamiherald.com Printed/Posted on Thu, Aug. 26, 2010 – ERA is still necessary to guarantee women equality

The conclusion reached in Colleen Wright’s Aug. 21 Speakup column, “ERA not really necessary, but it couldn’t hurt” falls painfully short. Should we be mollified by a statement like: “For the most part women are already protected in society?” Or should we be keenly aware that every law that protects women on any level can be repealed or amended at any time, efforts to weaken Title IX being a good example. The Equal Rights Amendment would inscribe equality into the highest law of the land, not simply “affirm” it. This is the core of the issue, no matter how our legislators in Tallahassee dance around it. “Factors” are not disqualifying facts, just lame excuses not to ratify the ERA.

Lack of equal rights at that highest legal level is why attorney Gloria Allred — who has fought many discrimination cases — is fasting. She understands how the law ultimately undercuts equality for women and forces us to file repetitive, expensive lawsuits to right the many wrongs still being perpetrated. Why must we continue to endure such debilitating injustice? Focusing on the lack of equal rights for women is actually the original purpose of Women’s Equality Day this Thursday, as proclaimed by Congress in 1970; the day was never meant just to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Hats off to Allred for continuing the legacy of Alice Paul, famed suffragist who fasted in jail for the right to vote and then went on to author the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. Would Paul want to see us sitting around celebrating something so long overdue or moving forward to make full equality a reality? That is what every woman in this country should not only wish for, but fight for. Instead, we are constantly being deluded into believing that everything is just fine the way it is. That hurts!

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU,

Miami

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/26/v-print/1792665/era-is-still-necessary-to-guarantee.html#ixzz0xjQPgYl5

>>> Reader on Watchdog Report coverage of South Florida

First, I hope you are healthy.  We need you  badly. You should be properly compensated by non-political donations. Similarly, we need everyone to Vote:  even if they do not like any of the candidates.  Then vote for themselves.  They cannot discuss or complain when they did not Vote.  Rather they need to Shut-up.  If I were a county commissioner, I would discuss anything with anyone, but they must have Voted and that would be my first question:  Did you Vote?  Vote for a loser? OK but you exercised your right and obligation. And can complain about the winner’s activity.

While I am on it, the county commissioners should be adequately paid e.g. $150,000/year (they deal with an enormous budget) and it should be a full time position (no outside jobs). It should not apply to those currently elected, but only to those who are elected, knowing that this is what they will be paid.  Also, they should not have a slush fund, which amounts to bribery, which they give to their district constituents, even though a non-profit, “Vote me back in Office and you will again be so reimbursed”. Also, they should not be able to accept more than $25 from anyone.  Thus do away with any controlling (obligating) donations.  We should, however, know who they (the candidate) are and so, if they are truly a viable candidate, they should, after getting, say, 1,000 signatures saying so, receive public funds, to tell who they are, in the amount of, say, $50,000.

Keep up the good work, pauper.

Jim Jude

>>> Hi Dan, you were great on Issues…saw it this morning.

Carmen Caldwell

>>> Good reporting!

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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

NOTE: Invoice is for Yearly supporter/sponsorship Rates: Thank you.

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

Corporate Sponsors $1,000 (All levels above will be listed in the report with web-site link if desired)

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to

3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133

Fax 305-668-4784 -To contact the Publisher please e-mail watchdogreport1@earthlink.net