Month of October 2010

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.11 No.23 October 17, 2010 Est. 05.05.00 I go when you cannot

CONTENTS

Argus Report: NYC Mayor Bloomberg, an independent, supports passage of Fair Districts Amendments 5 & 6; opponent Diaz-Balart says its “political” to help Democrats, and reduce minority diversity in legislature

Florida: Clock is ticking, how low will gubernatorial candidates Scott and Sink go to reach the governor’s mansion?

Miami-Dade County: Mayor Alvarez recall initiative gets into swing, but will $165,000 in new digital art in Clark Center be poster child for taxpayer anger?

Broward County: Elections Supt. Snipes tapped by Gov. Jeb Bush years ago, has won office in her own right, had net worth of $482,000 through 2009

Palm Beach County: Sheriff Bradshaw in the spotlight, first elected in 2004, had $1.49 million net worth through June 2010

Monroe County: Sheriff Peryam in the spotlight, watches over most southern county in nation, had net worth of $292,000 through July 2010

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Stinson, Barrera, and Rivas Logan say sayonara to board, three new faces coming, what will future bring?

Public Health Trust: Past WDR: July 2008: Jackson Memorial, 90 years old but will it run out of cash by 2011-2012 without major community help, check out the financial graphs

City of Miami: Will new civility & fiscal toughness by commissioners be the new watchword on the commission?

City of Miami Gardens: City installing red light cameras at sites throughout Miami Gardens, motorists beware if you run a light

City of North Miami: Community meeting on Biscayne Landing project status

City of Miami Beach: Mgr. Gonzalez to be honored by Dade Foundation, friends, after 10-years in the leadership saddle, no major scandals over the years

Coral Gables: Commission approves UM CDMP agreement after decades, concern by Baptist comes to late in process says Mayor Slesnick

Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum luncheon Oct. 20 – speaker – Norman Braman and county mayor recall initiative — Dec. 1 Forum luncheon speaker County Mayor Alvarez — 5th Annual Bingo Night for American Cancer Society — Don’t Just See Art ~ Be It ~ at the 6th Annual Heart Happening Fall Fundraiser at the Margulies Warehouse Benefiting Lotus House Artists

Editorials: PAST WDR: APRIL 2009: Watchdog Report is not a potted plant; I will start video recording potential Sunshine law violations in the future – PAST WDR: “I’m just doing my time” should be stricken from public servants vocabulary with national unemployment hovering around 10 percent

Letters: Open letter Sunday by Coral Gables Mayor Slesnick concerning leaf blower legislation and hostile e-mails

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 to financially support and maintain my webpage.

>>> 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. I almost did not write this week because of my financial condition. And while I as so many others are facing tough times. I hope you or your organization will consider helping in a small or larger way and help keep another voice on line and in the media. 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.

>>> There will be no Watchdog Report next week since I have to raise money, leave the field, at a time when elections and budgets are the topic of the day. And if you feel it is important to have a set of eyes watching over your $13 billion in public tax dollars, please consider becoming a contributor or corporate supporter. Thank you.

>>> I will be doing election campaign analysis and discuss the issues on the Nov. 2 ballot along with Miami Herald political Reporter Beth Reinhard www.miamiherald.com on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper and heard on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM – Nov.1 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. www.wlrn.org

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> NYC Mayor Bloomberg supports passage of Fair Districts Amendments; opponent Diaz-Balart says its “political” to help Democrats, and reduce minority diversity in legislature

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL was in Miami Friday at the InterContinental Hotel along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Miami Mayor Manuel “Manny” Diaz (Net worth $1.8 million), state Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach and other officials to support Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6 on the ballot that would strip the redistricting process from politicians. The current system favors the party in power and allows state legislators to draw gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts after the Census is done every ten-years and 2010 numbers will be available to the states and counties in March of next year. Bloomberg and Diaz are independents and they believe politicians stack the deck by drawing districts made up of mostly voters from one party. The New York mayor said such a system “kills any third party candidates having a chance” and the districts are “drawn to be either Republican or Democratic Party districts.” The billionaire also believes “you have the right to vote” for the candidates you want but have given up that and “allowed state legislators to take that right away,” he said. The third term mayor noted that in his election, it was a citywide vote, but when it came to state representation in Albany. “Gerrymandering took away some of my rights” since he is also a “citizen” of the state and nation.

What did Rep. Diaz-Balart say about the Amendments?

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami and U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville are fighting these two amendments that require a 60 percent statewide voter approval threshold for it to become law. They say it will take the “nation back to 1992,” when only a very small number of minorities were represented at the state and national bodies. Diaz-Balart fielded opposition questions after the earlier gathering broke up for a fundraiser. The congressional representative standing in the lobby of the hotel responded to reporters and he stayed on message that not having the legislator involved in drawing districts was not only a bad thing, but could push back minority diversity in the political realm. The congressman who drew his own congressional district back in 2002 said there also was a “political” component to the drive and the Democratic Party had more to gain in “political power” through this change, even though 20-years ago in the Florida legislature, controlled by Democrats at the time. When these Democratic Party leaders drew the new districts, Republicans over time ended up increasing their representation in Tallahassee to today where both bodies are controlled by the GOP.

What about NASA funding?

Nelson, who once was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle, said the Senate had passed a $19 billion authorization and it was consistent with the spending that President Barack Obama wanted for the endeavor. Nelson said he had worked hard to get the bill passed, since the jobs are so crucial to the state and he believes NASA and the “space program are ready to take-off,” the senior senator said Friday.

What about the U.S. Senate race?

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami (Net worth around $200,000) and Gov. Charlie Crist (Net worth $461,000) keep verbally chopping at former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami (Net worth $8,357) but no chips with voters are flying in a big way as the darling of the tea party continues to lead decisively in the polls where he needs only 35 percent of the vote to join the nation’s most exclusive club. Meek shot down any notion that he might drop out of the race last week and with both men vying for the second and third place in the race and with time running out. They are amping up their campaign attack ads contrasted to Rubio who is featuring a family piece showing his young four children and wife in a feel good piece with 16-days until the Nov. 2 general election, absentee ballots have long ago gone out, and early voting starts Monday.

Rubio’s ascent to the top is because “Marco does not live in fear of losing,” said Republican Al Cardenas last Monday at an Elephant Forum luncheon. The former state party chair said when Rubio first told him about his plans he thought it “was an unlikely win for him but I was wrong,” the attorney said. The former house speaker initially was considered a long shot after U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced he was leaving office last year and Crist appointed George LeMieux, his former chief of staff and campaign manager who the governor referred to as his “maestro” after the 2006 election. But Cardenas said while Rubio “knew the odds were against him but he had the passion and no fear” when it came to competing in the race and he ultimately drove Crist into the political wilderness of being an independent, with no conventional party organization to help get out his vote.  Further, Crist has another challenge; his name is far down on the ballot with Rubio and Meek in the first and second slot on the official ballot for the senate. >>> Editor’s note: The three candidates running for the U.S. Senate will debate here in South Florida Oct. 19 at 7:00 p.m. on www.cbs4.com/debate

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: GOP Now Leads Congressional Generic Ballot, 49%-40%; Obama Job Approval Falls To 44% Slip in Democratic Support Hurts Obama & Party’s Candidates – The latest Zogby Interactive survey found Republicans again taking the lead on the question of which party’s candidate likely voters plan to vote for on Nov. 2, and also showed a small drop in President Barack Obama’s job approval rating. The survey of 1,963 likely voters conducted from Oct. 12-14 has Republicans leading the Congressional generic ballot preference over Democrats, 49%-40%. A previous Zogby Interactive poll concluded on Oct. 11 showed the two parties tied at 45%-45%. The percentage of voters approving of the President’s job performance is now 44%, down from 49% in the previous poll. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1901

>>> Press release: Project Vote Smart: Last week we mailed you an advance copy of a new publication by Project Vote Smart titled the U.S. Government Owner’s Manual. This 97-page guide is free upon request to Florida citizens who want to keep an eagle eye on the behavior of their representatives and candidates. Click here to read news release: “U.S. Government Owner’s Manual Exposes Candidates” The Manual also introduces the most intriguing tool in Vote Smart’s arsenal to date: VoteEasy (www.voteeasy.org). VoteEasy is an exciting, interactive application that instantly compares voters’ positions on the major issues facing the nation with those of the congressional candidates who want their vote.  Florida voters may simply enter their zip code, answer the same questions Vote Smart asked candidates on the 2010 Political Courage Test, and receive a unique visual confirmation on which congressional candidates agree with them on the issues. VoteEasy is currently being released state-by-state and will be available in all fifty states by early October. We will notify you when Florida candidates are available in VoteEasy, but we encourage you to try VoteEasy now to preview what’s coming soon, and to urge people in your community to use it before the November 2nd elections. For more information on the 2010 U.S. Government Owner’s Manual or VoteEasy please contact  media@votesmart.org.
>>> 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! 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

>>> Clock is ticking, how low will gubernatorial candidates Scott and Sink go to reach the governor’s mansion?

Alex Sink (Net worth $9.22 million) and Rick Scott (Net worth $218 million) are locked in a tight race that has polls showing them essentially running dead even in their race for the governor’s mansion. Scott is hammering Sink, a retired banker and Florida Chief Financial Officer in ads questioning her business acumen, and honesty since she has some questionable baggage during her business career. Scott has his own elephant in the room after the firm he ran, Columbia/HCA paid a $1.7 billion federal penalty for Medicare fraud on a massive scale. He has spent almost $60 million of his own money for his campaign war chest after a bitter primary against Bill McCollum (Net worth$1.32 million) that only now has the state attorney general suggesting he might support Scott in the general election despite McCollum’s reputation for fighting Medicaid fraud in the state.

The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com ran two enlightening articles on Sink and Scott today and while we get a better understanding of what makes them tick. They both continue to be shy with the media, trying to control their message up to Election Day, and minimizing any missteps in the campaign, but as I wrote in a past Watchdog Report how either of them will be with the press and the state’s open record laws in the future if elected, is unknown at this time.

>>> Sink and Scott will be debating here in South Florida on Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on www.cbs4.com/debate and readers should listen in.

>>> For information about Miami-Dade College, Miami-Dade Public Schools or the Children’s Movement of Florida go to: Miami Dade College – Home Page State-sponsored community college offering two-year associate’s degrees through courses at several campuses as well as over the Internet. http://www.mdc.edu/ – 16k – Cached & Miami-Dade Public Schools go to www.dadeschools.netThe Children’s Movement of Florida

>>> State Rep. Fresen trying to be next Republican Party chair in Miami-Dade, elected in 2008 and has $330,000 net worth through 2009

State Rep. Erik Fresen is in the spotlight this week and the land use consultant is 34, and first elected in 2008. He represents House District 111 and has a challenger, Democrat Cristina Albright on Nov. 2.  Fresen, who is spotted at county hall periodically doing his day job is also looking to possible become the next chair of the Miami-Dade Republican Party if party leaders decide to elect him. Currently the local GOP chair is state Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami now running for congress and their seems to be a feeling among elected leaders that a state legislator should head up the party. Fresen is a Florida State University graduate with a B.S. and in the past worked as a legislative aide in Tallahassee.

What do we know about his finances?

Fresen through Dec. 2009 had a net worth of $330,000 and lists $10,000 in household goods on his required financial disclosure form for the year. His personal home is valued at $433,000 and his liabilities are $113,000 in student loans. His income for the year was $150,000 from Civica LLP, Neighborhood Strategies kicked in $12,000 and the state of Florida as an elected leader paid $30,112. for the year.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Mayor Alvarez recall initiative gets into swing, but will $165,000 in new digital art in Clark Center be poster child for taxpayer anger?

The recall effort by billionaire Norman Braman of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez (Net worth $1.74 million) has taken a life of its own as lines of people waiting to sign the petition snake around the six store fronts opened in the past week. Braman believes the recall is necessary after the mayor’s administration and eight commissioners voted for the new current $7.4 billion budget, but also gave $132 million in upward wage adjustments to the county’s 29,000 employees and that bump is what seems to have set off taxpayers and voters ire.  Alvarez says county workers have taken cuts in their salaries and pay for more of their benefits they get from the county, the millage rate passed in September kept social services for the elderly and poor intact, and believes it was a “responsible budget.” However, Braman says now is not the time to raise taxes with the economy tanking like it is and believes only drastic measures will work to get the county administration to change its tune. He says that is why he started the petition initiative requiring he get 52,000 voters signatures to get the issue on the county ballot within a set timeframe and is likely to achieve ahead of schedule at the current rate.

Further, Alvarez has lawyered up bringing on government attorney Bruce Rogow to his team and the mayor has started his own PAC to raise money and is hitting the airwaves and luncheon circuit trying to make his case. At the Downtown Bay Forum on Oct. 20, Braman will be the speaker and Helen Ferre is moderating the affair. And on Dec. 1, Mayor Alvarez will be the featured speaker at the Forum and I will be the moderator. www.downtownbayforum.com and voters can listen for themselves as each makes their respective cases.

>>> Clark center lobby to get $165,000 in digital artwork, but with mayoral recall, is timing wrong?

The lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center is a about to get a redo involving the spending of $165,000 for the fabrication and installation of “Lobby Artwork” that includes “wrapping a number of  the large scale-scale rectangular support columns in the main lobby with a series of LED screens” that creates an electronic second skin effect around the lower section of the structure, is interactive with its own digital collage and will interact with the motion of the surroundings, state’s the Oct. 12 memo from Michael Spring to the Art in Public Places Trust board. The commissioning of Ivan Depena to implement his artwork is funded by a contribution from the GSA department since it is building a project called the West lot Multi-Use facility and the county departments and the Public Health Trust have to contribute a small percentage of a projects value to this public art endeavor. However, given the state of the economy some critics question the timing and need for such a makeover in the lobby. They note over $1 million in art was bought for the new Intermodal Center near MIA, though the commission ordinance can be waived, as was the case with the new transit village project but that also came in over budget a few years ago.

>>> Past WDR: What is the down side of the recall?

I have been thinking about the downside of this recall effort and there are three scenarios that could play out in the future. First, what if Braman is unsuccessful in getting the 52,000 signatures that if done wrong could land the person getting the forms signed and notarized up to 60-days in jail, though I believe that number will be achieved since a professional organization is doing the signature gathering. The second is what if Alvarez prevails and is not recalled after this Herculean effort that will likely never occur again in South Florida, given the cost and risks in such a maneuver. And third is if Alvarez is removed, the county commission has 60-days to call an election or appoint someone by commission vote, and that appointment, would probable take place using the argument of avoiding another $5 million election cost, since the term ends in 2012 anyway. But an appointment opens a whole new bag of political issues and insider moves on the commission that I almost cannot contemplate at this time.

Further, a failed recall would eliminate any sort of citizen governor on keeping their elected officials in line since they run district wide, not countywide and that structure has successfully kept incumbents in office since 1994, unless they were arrested or just keeping the seat warm until new elections were held. Commissioners correctly note that elections every four–years  do occur but the threat of a recall is the only emergency parachute voters have otherwise in case some politician really goes rogue, and the general public and county voters should watch this process play out very closely. For it could effect the political landscape for decades to come as Democracy in action unfolds in Miami-Dade in the months ahead.

Quote of the week

During a Budget, Planning and Sustainability committee meeting last week, committee vice Chair Joe Martinez (Net worth $245,000) in response to Commissioner Sally Heyman (Net worth $425,000) wanting to get things going since she had work to do on a case she was involved in. Martinez turned and asked Heyman “don’t they have valium in Aventura?” jokingly suggesting she needed to relax and chill on the dais.

>>> Press release: More than 169,000 Miami-Dade Voters TO Receive Absentee Ballots BY Mail EARLY NEXT Week

The Miami-Dade County Elections Department will begin mailing absentee ballots to more than 169,000 voters for the November 2, 2010 General Election this Friday, October 8, 2010. The Election Department will continue mailing absentee ballots to voters upon request as long as the request is received by the deadline – Wednesday, October 27, 2010 by 5:00 p.m.  Absentee voting continues to gain popularity year after year. It has never been easier or more convenient to vote absentee,” said Supervisor of Elections Lester Sola. “Why not vote from the comfort of your home?”

An absentee ballot can be requested several ways – online via the Elections Department website, by phone at (305) 499-8444, in writing or in person. Written requests MUST include all of the following: Printed Name of the Voter, Date of Birth, Current Residence address. Address where the ballot is to be mailed.  If the ballot is to be sent to an address other than the residence, voter must include the reason why. Date of the election or elections for which an absentee ballot is needed. Signature of voter Ballot should send it to Miami-Dade Elections Department, P.O. Box 521550, Miami, Florida 33152. If requesting an absentee ballot in person, voters must bring a picture ID to: Election Department Main Office at 2700 NW 87th Ave., Miami, FL Voter Information Center (VIC) at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st Street, Suite #112, Miami, FL (located on the 1st Floor, West Lobby) -Voters are reminded the following: Submit your request by the deadline – October 27, 2010 by 5:00 p.m., Ensure your ballot is received by the Elections Department by Election Day, November 2, 2010 no later than 7:00 p.m. Ensure you sign the voter certificate on the outside of the absentee ballot envelope.  It is important that the signature on the absentee ballot envelope match the signature the Elections Department has on record.  Since it is common for signatures to change throughout the years, voters are encouraged to update their signature by submitting a voter registration application, which can be printed from the Elections Department website under “registration” or by calling the County’s Answer Center 3-1-1 and requesting a voter registration application. Be sure to check the “signature update” box. For more information, please call 3-1-1 or visit www.miamidade.gov/elections

>>> Press release: GMCVB: HAVE YOU RSVP’d? GMCVB’S ANNUAL MEETING IS OCTOBER 21, 2010 AT AMERICAN AIRLINES ARENA
GMCVB is “getting our game on” for an exciting new year. Our Annual Meeting will take place on Thursday, October 21, 2010 at AmericanAirlines Arena from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and an after party at Bongos from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.  You won’t want to miss great news, surprise guests and the chance to network and celebrate with industry colleagues, partners and friends.  We are looking forward to seeing you there! For ticket information, visit www.GMCVB.com/AnnualMeeting/.

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Elections Supt. Snipes tapped by Gov. Jeb Bush years ago, has won office in her own right, had net worth of $482,000 through 2009

Brenda Snipes, the county’s supervisor of elections is in the spotlight this week and Gov. Jeb Bush first appointed her after her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant was removed from office because of competency issues with elections. Snipes has since run in her own right last winning the office in 2008 and she has been relatively free of any critical press stories in the scheme of things after Oliphant’s tenure.

What do we know about her finances?

Snipes through Dec. 2009 had a net worth of $482,000 and lists $40,000 in household goods. Her home is worth $125,000 and property in Alabama is valued at $15,000 and $7,500, and there is $450,000 in bonds, annuities and savings. She has $7,500 owed to credit cards, and her income was $147,000 as the supervisor of elections, social security kicked in $22,380 and the Florida retirement Fund contributed $44,228.

>>> Snipes web-page: Dr. Brenda Calhoun Snipes – http://www.browardsoe.org/content.aspx?id=13

>>> 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

>>> Sheriff Bradshaw in the spotlight, first elected in 2004, had $1.49 million net worth through June 2010

Rick Bradshaw is in the spotlight this week and he was first elected to the countywide office in the 2004 general election. He has been at the local law enforcement helm as county commissioners were picked off by federal authorities for public corruption charges but his administration has caught little ink in the scheme of things. Further, he overseas an office with 3,400 employees in the state’s third largest county.

What do we know about his finances?

Bradshaw through June 2010 had a net worth of $1.49 million and he lists $185,000 in household goods. His home is valued at $843,000 another is worth $250,000 and a third and forth is valued at $250,000 and $263,000. He also owns two lots in Nags Head North Carolina valued at $ 263,000 and $179,000, there is $687,000 in a City of West Palm Beach pension and his total assets for the time frame are $2.71 million. He lists $1.22 million in liabilities including mortgages owed $173,000, $812,000 and $35,000 and income for the year was $125,108 from his pension and as sheriff. He earned $162,719.

>>> A Message From the Sheriff http://www.pbso.org/

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the citizens of Palm Beach County and other visitors to The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office official website. I sincerely hope you will easily find the information you are looking for as you explore the many services we provide to the public. Since taking office as Sheriff in January 2005, it has been one of my goals to be more informative to the public through the use of modern technology. To achieve this, we are constantly working to make this website more user friendly and enlightening. Another one of my goals is to implement a strong Community Policing effort throughout the county so that we are more visible and responsive to special needs in all areas. A high level of public satisfaction and input are our greatest assets when we look to expand and improve any area of the Sheriff’s Office.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has over 3,400 dedicated and professional employees waiting to help you in any way. As you visit with us here and meet some of them, I am confident you will see what an excellent team we have to address all of your needs. Together we will achieve the goal of being one of the most modern and advanced agencies in the country. I am deeply committed to providing this agency with the tools and resources to be effective and responsive, so that at the end of the day, we can say we delivered the best service possible to the people of this county.

This agency will be built on a foundation of trust and performance achieved through the setting of goals and the willingness to adapt. New ideas are not only welcome; but they are a necessity to guarantee our success in the future. I will always seek out and listen to suggestions for improvement and enhancement in the delivery of service to the citizens of Palm Beach County. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your ideas and suggestions about ways to improve our service to the community. I look forward to the coming years as we work together to make every year better than the one before it and I will need your continued help and input to make that a reality, and remain your Sheriff in the future.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Sheriff Peryam in the spotlight, watches over most southern county in nation, had net worth of $292,000 though July 2010

Sheriff Bob Peryam is in the spotlight this week and he deals with the 65,000 or so residents and millions of tourists that come down to the nation’s most southern community that has the tag line of being America’s Conch Republic. The tourist mecca for presidents, artists and a wide swath of others does not get the scrutiny that larger counties do around the nation. But over the years, federal and state prosecutors have done a decent business when it comes to public corruption prosecutions given the small population.

What do we know about his finances?

Peryam through July 10, 2010 had a net worth of $292,900 and he lists $80,000 in household goods for the year. The sheriff’s home is worth $300,000, another property is worth $15,000; deferred income has $98,000 in it, and in the Florida DROP program is $210,000. His liabilities are a mortgage owed $370,000, a student loan is owed $55,000 and two car loans are owed $4,000 and $1,500. His only reported income for the year was $144,000 as the county sheriff.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Stinson, Barrera, and Rivas Logan say sayonara to board, three new faces coming, what will future bring?

A sea change is occurring on the school board with three board members leaving and on Wednesday, they went down memory lane and discussed their time on the body over the years. Solomon Stinson Ph.D., (Net worth $1.22 million) the board chair after 50-years with the nation’s fourth largest public schools district as a teacher and senior administrator was first elected in the 1990s and is the dean of the body, with a grasp of the issues and board rules like no other member. He said it was time to step down and his no nonsense way of running a televised board meeting will be a future memory. When Stinson told speakers “you have two-minutes,” he was not kidding and included elected officials such as county Commissioner Katy Sorenson in the late 1990s. She responded to the chairman that she represented over 150,000 people, but that was ineffective when he intoned “a minute and a half.”

Rivas Logan Barrera Stinson Perez
Augustin “Gus” Barrera, first elected in 2002 ran on getting some accountability in the district’s school construction program and he is a past board chair as well. His support of past superintendent Rudy Crew however hurt him politically and he was criticized in the Spanish media during the four years Crew was at the helm and left in the summer of 2008. Ana Rivas Logan (Net worth $177,912) is leaving the board as well, the educator is running for the state House District 114, and she faces Democrat Millie Herrera and Denny Wood running as a no party affiliation candidate. Rivas Logan was first elected in 2004 in a crowded board race and she was also critical of Crew’s performance while in office, that had Board Member Marta Perez, Ph.D. the point of the verbal spear when it came criticizing the Crew administration.

What do we know about Barrera’s finances?

Barrera through June 30, 2010 had a net worth of $324,500 and he lists $30,000 in household goods. His home is worth $475,000, a condominium is valued at $155,000, there is $145,000 in a 401K, life insurance is worth $14,000 and he lists $8,000 in checking and savings accounts. His liabilities for the year are mortgages owed $303,000 and $7,000, two cars are owed $45,000 and there is $2,500 in credit card charges. The board member lists income of $125,000 from Leo Daly, the school district kicked in $38,000 and rental income contributed $3,600.

>>> Press release: THREE SUB-CONTRACTORS ENTER GUILTY PLEAS FOR EMPLOYING ILLEGAL ALIENS IN MIAMI-DADE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office, and Chris Mazzella, Inspector General, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Office of Inspector General (MD-OIG), announced that all three defendants charged with harboring undocumented aliens working on a Miami-Dade school construction project have entered guilty pleas. Luis Daniel, 59, the president of Hialeah-based Daniel Builders, Inc., his wife Marta Duque, 57, and Luis’ son, Ariel Daniel, 26, entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit mail fraud under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349 and conspiracy to induce aliens to remain in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I) and (B)(i). The pleas were accepted this morning by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro. When sentenced on December 10, 2010 at 10 a.m., they  face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. All three had been released on bond since June 9, 2010.

In February 2009, ICE special agents initiated an investigation after learning that undocumented aliens, as well as lawful residents and citizens of the United States, were paid substandard wages at a construction project of an addition to Southside Elementary School, located at 45 S.W. 13th Street in Miami. Daniel Builders, Inc., was the sub-contractor awarded a $2.714 million contract at Southside Elementary School in September, 2008. The construction workers hired for the project did not receive overtime wages.  In addition, social security and income taxes were not deducted from their paychecks. The Indictment charged that between October 2008, and March 13, 2009, the three defendants used their corporation, Daniel Builders, to hire and underpay illegal aliens to increase their profit margin.  Thereafter, the defendants created an elaborate scheme to conceal the fact that the work force at Daniel Builders was comprised primarily of undocumented aliens.  This scheme included using nominee corporations that acted as labor providers and payroll administrators, in order to insulate Daniel Builders from the responsibility and tax consequences of hiring illegal workers.  Among the nominee companies were Miami Metro Services, Inc., and Miami Dade Builders, Inc. This allowed Daniel Builders to enhance its profit margin primarily by paying substandard wages,  not paying overtime wages, and not withholding social security or employment taxes. >>> The investigation was conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine Tashman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Daniel. 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: EXPERIENCED TEACHERS WANTED — Are you an experienced teacher? Do you want to work in a profession where the rewards are priceless? Miami-Dade County Public Schools has just the opportunity for you. Biology, chemistry, physics, and science teachers are needed at schools across the District. You must be highly qualified and have a valid State of Florida teaching certificate. Other requirements may apply. To learn more about how you can teach in Miami-Dade County Public schools, visit www.jobs.dadeschools.net and select Recruitment Information.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Past WDR: July 2008: Jackson Memorial, 90 years old but will it run out of cash by 2011-2012 without major community help, check out the financial graphs

When PHT president & CEO Marvin O’Quinn gave his presentation to the joint Board of County Commission and PHT board recently he used the following two graphs to illustrate what the health trust faces in the future as far as the financial burdens. He noted cities that have had its public hospital fail creates a ripple effect on other near by medical institutions and many times other local hospitals will close a few years later. The graph below says it all, and from 2008 on the difference between revenue coming in and charity care given just gets wider as a deficit grows with the end coming in 2011-2012 . When there will be no cash left to make payroll and community leaders must work together now to try to figure out of a way to avoid this future calamity.


CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Will new civility & fiscal toughness by commissioners be the new watchword on the commission?

The City of Miami commission continues to evolve with new Commissioners Francis Suarez, Frank Carollo and veteran Willy Gort digging into the city’s budgets, drilling down farther than normal to better understand how the yearly budget of just over $500 million is being spent or misspent. Gort was a known quantity when he ran last year to replace Commissioner Angel Gonzalez after he stepped down under a agreement with the state attorney’s office, and Suarez, an attorney, along with Carollo, a CPA have brought a new perspective to colorful city government. Dynamics on public boards among the members has a major impact on how they function and govern in the public domain and if you look at Miami’s history over the decades. This new group is bringing a certain civility into the discourse as well and while there are sharp exchanges on the dais. It is nothing like the highly charged verbal exchanges that occurred on the dais 15-years ago that had the city in a financial meltdown and a state financial oversight board, made-up of non-Miami residents.

>>> Mayor aide Rojas arrested, wants her “day in court” after “failure to obey” county police officer

Ada Rojas a city of Miami employee was arrested and booked into county jail on Tuesday after she was stopped at a security checkpoint set up for the President Barak Obama fundraiser in South Dade. The Watchdog Report met with her Friday, she said she was innocent, had “credible witnesses,” that saw what happened, and she wants “to have my day in court,” she said. Rojas, a member of Mayor Tomas Regalado’s staff was the past director of the Miami community relations board and continues to do extensive community outreach. She also has worked extensively with law enforcement trying to resolve issues in the past. She said she has hired attorney Lida Rodriguez-Taseff and she was given a “civil traffic violation,” though she had to pay a $500 bond, and was charged with “failure to obey” a police officer.

>>> 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 GARDENS

>>> City installing red light cameras at sites throughout Miami Gardens, motorists beware if you run a red light

Press release:  New red light camera locations planned: Please be advised that the City of Miami Gardens will install new photo enforced (including right turn) Red Light Cameras at the following intersections: NW 27th Avenue at NW 183rd Street (Miami Gardens Drive) • NW 199th Street at NW 2nd Avenue • NW 2nd Avenue at NW 215th Street (County Line Road) • NW 7th Avenue at NW 183rd Street (Miami Gardens Drive) • NW 27th Avenue at NW 199 Street • NW 183rd Street at NW 37th Avenue • NW 27th Avenue at NW 175th Street • NW 2nd Avenue at NW 7th Ave Extension • NW 27th Avenue (North Side) at NW 167th Street • NW 167th Street at NW 27th Ave (South Side) • NW 17th Avenue at NW 183rd Street (Miami Gardens Drive) -This is a public safety program. The City’s goal is to prevent serious injuries or deaths as a result of motorists running red lights in the City of Miami Gardens. Cameras operate 24 hours a day and capture images of every vehicle running a red light (including right turns) at the intersection. The program is administered by American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS) with each violation reviewed and approved by the Miami Gardens Police Department prior to issuance. For more information call 305-474-1568 or visit www.miamigardenspolice.org

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Mgr. Gonzalez to be honored by Dade Foundation, friends, after 10-years in the leadership saddle, no major scandals over the years

The Dade Community Foundation is honoring Jorge Gonzalez, the manager of Miami Beach the last ten years Oct. 21 at the Loews Hotel on Miami Beach (for information about the $125.00 per person event and tickets go to www.dadecommunityfoundation.org ). Belkys Nerey will host the ceremony and Norman Braman is the honored speaker at the event. Gonzalez took over the post after starting his career in public service with Miami-Dade County years ago and got his real taste of what government does helping people start their lives over after Hurricane Andrew blew through South Dade in Aug. 1992. He told some visiting Russian students a few years back that when a place is devastated you start to rebuild from the ground up, with water, food, security and temporary shelter the first requirements after a man made or natural disaster and he has kept a good attitude and temperament over the years and the Watchdog Report has had no beef with Gonzalez over the past decade. All money will go to the foundation to fund programs and services in Miami Beach.

>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club -Meeting Date: Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 -Meeting Time: 8:30 AM -Meeting Place:         David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach. Gwen Margolis, past President of the Florida Senate, and current candidate for the open seat of outgoing Senator Dan Gelber, will be this weeks guest speaker at the October 19th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club.

Successfully beating her opponent in the August 2010 Democratic primary, Senator Margolis now faces another opponent, this one a Republican newcomer, in the November 2nd general election.  Senator Margolis is running on her experience and ability to get things done.  She has had a long and distinguished career in Florida politics, starting with her election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1974, where she was subsequently re-elected to three additional terms.  Her career in the Florida Senate started in 1980, and in 1990 she became the first women in the United States to serve as President of any state Senate. In 1994, she turned her intention to Miami-Dade politics and was elected to the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, where she served six years of her eight-year term as its Chairman.  In 2002 she returned to the Florida Senate, and today, in 2010, she is once again running as a candidate for the state Senate. Everyone is welcome to attend. David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club 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

>>> Land Use & Development Committee  Oct. 25, 4 p.m., City Manager’s Conference Room – 1700 Convention Center Drive, 4th Floor

>>> City Commission Meeting Oct. 27, 9 a.m. Commission Chambers – 1700 Convention Center Drive, 3rd Floor

CITY OF NORTH MIAMI

>>> Councilman Scott Galvin e-mail: Biscayne Landing Town Hall Monday, October 25 6:00 pm

The Receiver at Biscayne Landing will hold a Public Town Hall Meeting on Monday, October 25, 2010, beginning at 6:00 p.m.  The purpose of this meeting is for the Receiver to discuss the status of Biscayne Landing.  The meeting shall be held at Biscayne Landing Sales Center, 15055 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami, FL  33181. It is free and open to the public.  Please attend! As of this moment, I have nothing new I can tell you about what’s happening on the site, nor do I have any insight into what they will tell us.  But I know that you would probably like to attend.  Questions from the audience will be taken.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Commission approves UM CDMP agreement after decades, concern by Baptist comes to late in process says Mayor Slesnick

The Watchdog Report covered the CDMP vote by the commission for the comprehensive future plan for the University of Miami located in the heart of the city’s boundaries after decades of unable to reach a deal on Tuesday and the cambers were packed. The legislation, hundreds of pages long had a wide variety of components to it but it was the up to 200,000 square foot life and health science building that drew the most attention with the public and Baptist Health South Florida officials. Baptist has a hospital in the municipality and also one in South Miami and while representatives from the organization could not change the commission’s mind. Donna Shalala said the university would try to reach out to the Baptist administrators to work out or try to mitigate the concerns they might have. www.miamiherald.com

The Watchdog Report contacted city leaders about the vote and Mayor Donald Slesnick, II wrote back in an e-mail. “The items concerning the University of Miami comprehensive plan and the underlying zoning passed unanimously.  I (and others on the Commission) felt saddened that Baptist Health System was in opposition and that they came “to the table” too late for us to adequately respond to their concerns – they are a great corporate citizen of our city.  The ordinances were on second reading so the effort known as the “UM Development Agreement” has received the final approval needed to now move forward,” wrote the city’s longest serving mayor.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2010–11:30 AM – THE CASE FOR A RECALL WHAT EFFECT WILL THIS HAVE ON MIAMI-DADE? – SPEAKER: NORMAN BRAMAN -CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR ELECTION ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND. THEY WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO INTRODUCE THEMSELVES. MODERATOR: HELEN FERRE- CHANNEL 2 TALK SHOW HOST — MARRIOTT HOTEL–1633 N. BAYSHORE -Call ANNETTE EISENBERG (305)757-3633 Fax (305)754-2015 – LOCATION: MARRIOTT HOTEL–1633 N. BAYSHORE DR., MIAMI, $5.00 Valet Parking Available at Marriott Hotel — Call ANNETTE EISENBERG (305)757-3633 Fax (305)754-2015

>>> Don’t Just See Art ~ Be It ~ at the 6th Annual Heart Happening Fall Fundraiser at the Margulies Warehouse Benefiting Lotus House Artists from around the Country in Live Performances Sotheby’s to conduct live art auction during VIP reception

On Friday, October 22, more than 30 internationally-renowned performance artists will sing, dance, paint, write, video, photograph, play, weave and sew their way throughout the night, at the Margulies Art Warehouse in Wynwood, for Sixth Annual Fall Fundraiser benefiting the Lotus House Women’s Shelter. This year’s Heart Happening invites artists in every form of artistic medium to engage the audience in live performances, and includes a VIP champagne preview with live auction by Sothebys, silent auction and Chef’s tastings from Miami’s finest.  Now in its sixth year, the benefit will take place both in and outside the 45,000-square foot Margulies Art Warehouse in Miami (591 Northwest 27th Street), with all proceeds to benefit Lotus House. At Heart Happening, artists, dancers, musicians, performers and the audience will engage in a rare occurrence known as an “art happening,” creating “live works of art that explore the ways in which we see, hear, speak and act from our hearts. Participants will experience, first hand, weather balloons that sing, interactive videos in which they are the stars, street art painting, tapestry making, roaming poets, dancers and musicians, and a never before seen, meditation float truck (we never heard of it before either!), just to name a few of the performances that will touch mind, heart, body and soul over the course of the evening. It’s a unique style of art that has prompted the slogan, “Don’t just see art — be it,” by event organizers.  Adding an exclusive element to this year’s lineup will be a live auction by Sotheby’s, one of the world’s preeminent auction houses (its auctioneer flying in from NYC for the festivities), during the VIP champagne reception (7-8:30PM).  The doors open for the main event at 8:30 PM.

“Heart Happening is a critical component of Lotus House’s success, raising awareness through the arts and providing much needed resources for the shelter’s holistic programming and operations,” said Constance Collins Margulies, president of the Sundari Foundation, which operates Lotus House. “We are so grateful for the incredible support from artists and community alike that make this art event a ‘must experience for art enthusiasts and supporters,” added Collins Margulies.  “We invite participants to discover what it means to be part of an art happening, and history in the making in the art world in Miami.”

“The Lotus House/Margulies art happenings are unprecedented, and Sotheby’s live art auction and the silent auction are the best we have ever showcased,” said Martin Margulies, art collector and fundraiser co-host. “The artists went all out for us this year, and both established and budding art collectors alike are going to love the art. There is something for everyone.” Contemporary performance artists at this year’s event will include Gema Alava, Ben Fain, Roberto Lange, David Ellis, Steve Johnson, Trajal Harrell, The Minsky Sisters, Jen Zakrezewski, Marina Rosenfeld, Jason Schmidt and Lee Walton.  Local artists include Baby B Strings, Natasha Duwin, Miami Poetry Collective, Ruben Millares, Primary Flight, Antonia Wright, the TM Sisters, Agustina Woodgate, and the Wet Heat Project.

Chef’s tastings will be served gallery-style, courtesy of local restaurants, including Buena Vista French Bakery, Cafeina Wynwood, Latin Café on the Beach, Lido at the Standard, Lost and Found, Mercadito, Senora Martinez, and Yuga, among many others.  A focused silent auction, benefiting Lotus House, will feature both the works of art created “live” that evening as well as art works from artists in South Florida and around the country.  >> Tickets are $100 from the main event ($500 for VIP reception and live auction) and can be purchased by calling 305.365.2478 or online at www.lotushouseshelter.org. Current sponsors include: Audre Carlin, Art Miami, Irma and Norman Braman, Podhurst Orseck, P.A, Evelyn and Bruce Greer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Pat and Larry Stewart, Sol Taplin Charitable Foundation, Richard B. Bermont, Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, Diane Walder M.D., Angela W. Whitman, Carol and Vincent Damian, J.J. Segal Foundation, Debi and Jeff Wechsler, Miami Dolphins Foundation, Evelyn Aimis and Phyllis and Allan Wesler, among others. Limited sponsorship opportunities are still available. To learn about the Sundari Foundation, Inc. or how you can help, visit the Lotus House website at www.lotushouseshelter.org or call 305.365.2478.

>>> 5th ANNUAL BINGO NIGHT – Team Mission Not Impossible presents Bingo Night to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 23rd at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 14260 Old Cutler Road, Palmetto Bay.  A $20.00 donation will be collected at the door, which includes one bingo card and all games. There will be a cash bar, complimentary desserts and coffee, and LOTS OF PRIZES.

Please call 305-790-7696 to RSVP.

EDITORIALS

>>> PAST WDR: APRIL 2009: Watchdog Report is not a potted plant; I will start video recording potential Sunshine law violations in the future

The Watchdog Report is not a potted plant and elected leaders need to realize that if they are going to have conversations with each other, concerning policy issues in front of me. In the future, I will take out my video recorder and record the events. Last week at the Miami-Dade commission meeting Tuesday commissioner Natacha Seijas (Net worth $617,000) had extended conversations from the dais with both Commissioners Barbara Jordan (Net worth $1.97 million) and Audrey Edmonson (Net worth $281,000), and at one point Seijas had her hand covering her mouth so you could not even see what she was saying and if elected leaders hate the Florida Sunshine Amendment so much and feel it must be flaunted, then resign.

Further, later in the week Miami Commissioners Michelle Spence-Jones (Net worth $17,436) and Angel Gonzalez (Net worth $843,000) came out of city hall in the afternoon speaking with each other very earnestly and continued the conversation about 12 feet away from me and I almost joked they had better not be violating the Florida Sunshine laws and in the future. The camera is coming out and these interactions will be recorded for they create doubt about the integrity of the political process that here in Miami-Dade sometimes takes on the role of a wink and a nod way to frequently.

Further, in Florida over the past decade, the governor has suspended more elected leaders than any other state in the nation and Broward County in many ways is no better since in that case. At the state’s second largest county, Commissioners along with staff go out to a celebratory lunch after the new mayor is elected and when the Watchdog Report last saw this and went to the affair. I was told it was a “private party” and not allowed in, but that turned out to be okay since the meal was held in a glass room and I just watched through the glass as then Mayor Lois Wexler pointed and talked to port staff and other members of the administration and it did not look like they were talking about their grand children’s orthodontics. A explanation once given to me when six of the elected leaders ate lunch together between a commission meeting break, that included the chief administrator driving up to the table in his SUV and having a ongoing discussion with the elected officials. While a Miami Herald reporter and I watched from a near by table years ago in disbelief.

Democracy is a delicate form of government, one of the bedrocks besides having an educated public, is public policy transparency from its elected leaders, and while when I point this out many people say, “It is human nature.” However, that is not a satisfactory answer and highlights why in Miami-Dade’s case. The county’s 1957 Home Rule Charter Citizens’ Bill of Rights opens the document with these telling words. “This government has been created to protect the governed, not the governing. In order to provide the public with full and accurate information, to promote efficient administrative management, to make government more accountable, and to insure to all persons fair and equitable treatment …” An aspiration that is sometimes far from the actual truth and any constraint of Democracy must be resisted by all if we are to have a community that is of the people, for the people, and by the people, and not just a few powerful individuals in our society.

>>> “I’m just doing my time” should be stricken from public servants vocabulary with national unemployment hovering around 10 percent

“I’m just doing my time and spending more time on my retirement than my job,” is a refrain of a minority of government workers but given the economic times with unemployment hovering near 10 percent or higher in parts of the nation. That kind of verbal sentiment should adjust to the new realities for people, families and the community are suffering and this disconnect with some public servants who apparently did not get the memo is disturbing. If you are a public employee, you have health insurance, a retirement fund and other benefits but it is a contract with the public that must be maintained by both parties and shirking that responsibility to work and perform to the end, should not be tolerated.

LETTERS

>>> Open letter Sunday by Coral Gables Mayor Slesnick concerning leaf blower legislation and hostile e-mails

I try to respond to all e-mail, and usually in a personal fashion…but after receiving almost one hundred communications on this item – I prepared this explanation of my thinking on the matter: Who knew that a discussion of leaf blowers would cause such a “stir”?  I have been shocked at the animated debate between our citizens and the coverage received by the news media.  I have also been saddened by the harsh nature of some of the comments directed at the Commission and at other residents.  For the past nine years this Commission has worked diligently on hundreds of issues – some of which receive public attention and others that are important in their own right but do not attract much comment outside of City Hall.  The implication that the Commission is somehow wasting its time and not paying attention to important matters when we discuss issues such as “leaf blowers” is just erroneous.  In the last three months, we have spent hundreds of hours (cumulatively) debating budget, taxes, pensions, union contracts, development agreements with the University of Miami, etc.

We spent about 30 minutes discussing “leaf blowers”.  Commissioner Cabrera, concerned about noise and air pollution, brought this proposal forward after doing extensive research about the negative effects that the machines have on our environment and how other cities have taken action to reduce the impacts on the health of their citizens.  Another aspect, which has not been addressed by much of the feedback, is the unacceptable practice of lawn crews blowing debris from one person’s property onto other people’s private property and into public areas (streets and swales).  The debris blown into the streets is everyone’s mess and leads to clogged storm sewers, local flooding and additional taxpayer expense.  The proposed resolution was passed on first reading (as we do many items) to provide time for further research, discussion and public input.  It is a shame that some people feel that airing an issue is a bad thing.  Actually, this matter has come up in prior decades and before other Commissions – its resurfacing has truly given us the feedback, which is essential to make an informed decision.

For those of you who oppose the banning of such blowers, be aware that there are a number of your fellow citizens who have passionately written in support of the ban.  For those of you in favor of the ban, please know that (by e-mail count) you are outnumbered approximately four or five to one.  Most likely, there are ways to address some or all of the negative impacts caused by leaf blowers without the total ban of their use – and, as in most cases, a compromise solution may end up being the final determination.

Don Slesnick, II

Mayor

City of Coral Gables

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov

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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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