Month of March 2011

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.11 No.44 March 27, 2011 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot

CONTENTS

Argus Report: House Foreign Affairs Chair Ros-Lehtinen questions what “security interests are at stake” with attack on Libya by U.S. lead military coalition

Florida: Sen. President Haridopolis goes to bat for JMH with Gov. Scott, but what about $140 million in reduced LIP funding in the future?

Miami-Dade County: Six charter questions to go on ballot, with Mayor & commission race, but critics balk at 12-year term limits ending in 2024

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Board member Diaz de la Portilla wants analysis of cost to administer the 90 charter schools in Miami-Dade, 450 such schools statewide

Public Health Trust: Dueling PHT leadership boards, current one and new one of Lapciuc, Arrizrieta, Zilber and incumbent Ford

City of Miami: Miami makes $27 million reconciliation adjustment, for current year only $8 million below revenue budget, but reserves running out

City of Miami Beach: Mayor Bower frustrated at difficulty in getting to Beach from mainland on causeways, hassle for residents, hurts business as well

City of Coral Gables: Clock ticking for candidates for mayor & commission – how low will they go until Apr.12 election?

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Physician charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics

Leon County: Gov. Scott today taps Kelvin L. Lawson, Rufus N. Montgomery Jr., and Belinda R. Shannon to the Board of Trustees, Florida A&M University.

Marion County: Gov. Scott taps Anthony “Tony” Tatti of Ocala to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court. 

Monroe County: Chief Administrator Gastesi on Monroe’s legislative priorities approved by commission in Tallahassee

Community Events: Tribute to Women Awards at Biltmore Hotel – Downtown Bay Forum Luncheon — How to run a clean political campaign forum held by county ethics commission – Baptist Health CEO Keeley speaking at Greater Miami Chamber luncheon – Ethics forum

Editorials: Elected leaders and staff playing with fire by accepting free gifts and tickets — Candidates should realize their past life is a narrative that includes good and bad

Letters: Reader on Affordable Care Act one year anniversary — Reader on how Canada deals with children

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 will start its 12th Anniversary on May 5.

>>> I will be on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM Monday Mar.28th on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. and here is the promo piece for the radio show www.wlrn.org/topicalcurrents . Topical Currents discusses pressing Miami-Dade issues, with Watchdog Report publisher Dan Ricker. A special election will be held to elect a successor to Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Many candidates vie for the job, so a subsequent run-off is probable. There’s also a clamor for county charter amendments . . . especially for Commission term limits and county-wide representation. And more.  Governor Rick Scott wants to divert tax dollars from public to private hospitals . . . which could greatly impact Jackson Memorial Hospital.

>>> CORRECTION: In last week’s Report, I referenced recalled Gov. Grey Davis of California with the wrong last name.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> House Foreign Affairs Chair Ros-Lehtinen questions what “security interests at stake” with attack on Libya by U.S. lead military coalition

With the U.S. military taking the lead in trying to stop Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi killing his rebellious people after a U.N. resolution supported by the Arab League gave NATO and its allies political cover to try to stop the massacres of civilians.  After the strongman said rebels and cities residents supporting the uprising would be wiped out when his forces reoccupied the towns. President Barack Obama made the decision to launch cruise missiles and jets on the policy fly believing that a Rwanda type genocide could take place if the Libyan army prevails. But the Congress is not happy, and this discontent crosses both party lines about the new involvement in a third war in a Muslim nation.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami told the Watchdog Report Monday in an exclusive interview that she did not believe Obama had really built a case for the U.S. to take on Libya and its leader Muammar Gaddafi. She said these remarks after meeting with the local Miami Coast Guard officials Monday afternoon to discuss the possibility of a Cuban oilrig off the shores of Cuba, funded with other countries help. Which she thought was unacceptable, given the Deepwater Horizon spill last year that gripped the nation, as the crude oil gushed out and was seen by a camera to the world’s horror, and the money that would go to the Castro brothers’ regime.

What about Libya?

“I think the president needs to be more forthcoming [about the Libyan strategy] with the American people and let us know what U.S. security issues are at stake here,” said Ros-Lehtinen, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Obama said, “We could not stand by” and watch this massacre of civilians, but the congresswoman said that “has never been true” and we don’t have the military assets to police the world, she said. The 22-year congressional representative also challenged the president’s logic because “there is unrest in Yemen and Bahrain, counties allied to America where we can’t do it [intervene],” yet “in Libya,” we can and it just does not make sense, she thought.

Obama is going to lay out his reasons for the new conflict to the nation on Monday night that has liberal Democrats wondering why this third war was initiated and Congressional leaders are fuming for the lack of a heads up before the attack began. Though Obama says, it was because of the urgent need before Gaddafi’s troops got to the cities and started to butcher the residents as they closed in on protestors and rebel forces, that are now generally holding their own or forcing back the army. Further, the cost of this intervention is estimated to be costing the United States around $100 million a day though Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense on Sunday said that plans are already being worked on to withdraw and lessen America’s participation that will have Great Britain, France and Turkey providing more military firepower as this very fluid situation evolves over the coming weeks.

What about the recall of Mayor Alvarez and Commissioner Seijas?

Ros-Lehtinen, first elected in 1989 said the county voters have spoken and they are mad and elected leaders that ignore the vote and the will of voters, now and in the future, will do it at their political peril, she thought.

>>> Ros-Lehtinen was on Michael Putney’s show This Week In South Florida today and she discussed Libya, the presidents actions, what is the national strategy and are we recommending regime change or not. www.wplg10.com

>>> Ros-Lehtinen Says Attack in Jerusalem Sobering Reminder that Israel Under Siege

Press release: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the attack at a bus stop near Jerusalem’s central bus station, and the growing rocket, missile, and mortar attacks by Hamas and other violent extremist groups against civilian targets in southern Israel, are sobering reminders that Israel remains under siege by extremist elements.  Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “This attack in Jerusalem, and the continued attacks on Israel from Gaza, are sobering reminders that extremist groups and their state sponsors continue to pose a clear and growing threat to Israel.

“Violence against Israel perpetrated by extremist groups is relentless, and illustrates the need for the U.S. to continue to provide robust security assistance to our key ally.  The same extremists who seek Israel’s destruction also seek the destruction of the United States.  Strengthening Israel’s security against our common enemies also strengthens U.S. security. “We must also provide strong and unequivocal political support for Israel by opposing efforts to pressure Israel into making concessions, as well as efforts to deny Israel and other democracies the right to defend themselves against extremist threats.”

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: Majority Supports No-Fly Zone in Libya with Most Being Open to the Possibility of Further Engagement Obama Approval at 45%

A small majority backs the U.S.-led no-fly zone in Libya, including a third who would consider taking additional military action according to the latest IBOPE Zogby Interactive poll. These results are from a poll of 2,168 likely voters conducted from March 18-21, 2011. The United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action and the imposition of a no-flight zone on March 18 and an ensuing air campaign led by the U.S. began the next day. A total of 57% approve of the no-fly zone. This consists of 24% who favor only the no-fly zone and another 33% who also support it “with an open possibility of further engagement.” A fifth thinks the U.S. should be offering only humanitarian help. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website:
http://www.zogby.com/news/2011/03/21/zogby-interactive-majority-supports-no-fly-zone-libya-most-being-open-possibility-further-engagement/

>>> Getty photographer Raedle freed from Libyan army soldiers, keen eye and good man

The Watchdog Report wants to welcome back photojournalist Joe Raedle after his release from captors in Libya where he was covering the rebellion-taking place and has a coalition of nations militarily participating trying to level the playing field. His wife Nancy San Martin, a Herald journalist wrote a great story and account regarding what happened to her husband and it ran today in www.miamiherald.com Joe is a hard working affable man who I have gotten to know in the field locally and he has a keen eye as a shooter for Getty Images. Welcome back Joe and the community is glad you are safe and sound. See you at a future news event that clearly won’t present the same risk.

>>> Press release: BARRY MINKOW CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO MANIPULATE COMMON STOCK OF FORTUNE 500 COMPANY

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and William J. Maddalena, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the filing of a criminal Information charging Barry Minkow, 44, of San Diego, CA, with conspiracy to manipulate the stock price of Lennar Corporation (Lennar), a former Fortune 500 company doing business in Miami-Dade, by making false and misleading statements about Lennar’s business operations and management.  Minkow is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court next week. According to the charging document, Minkow operated Fraud Discovery Institute, a for profit fraud investigation firm based in California.   In this way, Minkow developed ties with federal law enforcement agencies as a purported fraud-finder.  Today, Minkow was charged with making false and misleading statements alleging wide-spread improprieties in Lennar Corporation’s financial reporting and business structure, and attacking the personal character of Lennar’s management.

According to the Information, Minkow was hired to put economic pressure on Lennar to pay money demanded by a business partner in a prior land deal.  To this end, beginning in January 2009, Minkow used the Internet, press releases, e-mail communications, Youtube.com videos, and the U.S. mail to broadcast false and misleading statements about Lennar, with the intent of artificially depressing Lennar’s stock price. In addition, the Information alleges that Minkow abused his relationship with federal law enforcement agencies to report false allegations of criminal conduct purportedly committed by Lennar and its management.  Once Minkow confirmed that his allegations had successfully induced law enforcement to open a criminal investigation, Minkow allegedly used that knowledge and information to trade Lennar securities for his own benefit. U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated, “In this case, Minkow’s manipulation of the market and his relationship with the FBI for his personal gain caused a severe drop in the stock prices of a large local corporation.  This type of deceit and abuse of trust will not be tolerated.

Together with the FBI and the cooperative efforts of the SEC, we will investigate and prosecute stock manipulation cases to help protect the integrity of our capital markets.” William J. Maddalena, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office, stated, “When false statements are disseminated to deceive the investing public, whether they’re designed to prop up a company or tear it down, the FBI will dedicate all available resources to bring disseminators of such falsehoods to justice.” >> If convicted, Minkow faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the cooperative efforts of the Miami Regional Office and the Washington DC Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Dwight O’Quinn and Cristina Perez Soto. An Information is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at www.watchdogreport.net on Monday sometime during the day usually. >>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for I am a low cost news service yet 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 numerous times over the past decade.

FLORIDA

>>> Sen. President Haridopolis goes to bat for JMH with Gov. Scott, but what about $140 million in reduced LIP funding in the future?

State Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R- Melbourne (Net worth $233,000) has written to Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $218 million) www.miamiherald.com./editorial asking that the $35 million appropriated for Jackson Memorial Hospital in last year’s budget be released and the health trust has fulfilled the required conditions attached to the money. The senate president is a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012 and knows the 1.2 million voters in Miami-Dade are needed for any successful candidate. However, Scott a former healthcare executive who ran over 300 hospitals before leaving Columbia/HCA in the late 1990s (the company later paid a $1.7 billion federal penalty to settle Medicare fraud charges) has been reticent to discuss in depth many of his plans for some of Florida’s public institutions. And he caught the state’s public hospitals administrators by surprise, when he formed a commission to review taxpayer funded tax districts last week. Locally Jackson Memorial Health system is faced with the biggest challenges, while trying to give around $700 million in charity care, mainly funded by about $320 million in sales tax, county general funds and further augmented by state and federal Medicare/Medicaid payments.

Haridopolis

What about the memo from Roldan to Miami-Dade Commission Chair Martinez, re the LIP program?

Jackson has also seen other funding cuts and in a Mar. 21 memo written by PHT President Eneida Roldan, M.D. who will leave at the end of June, after she resigned months earlier and a search is being done for her replacement that has five people being interviewed on Wednesday. She writes to Miami-Dade Commission Chair Joe Martinez that the Low Income Pool (LIP) program and its reimbursement model must be “preserved to insure the availability of services to this large and vulnerable population.” The physician notes in 2010 to 2011 the program along with the disproportionate share program (DSH) brought to the institution $273 million, but the pool has “encountered a deficit situation” forcing all beneficiaries to take a reduction, but public hospitals are the most effected by this situation. These reductions include up to an $86 million reduction based on the current LIP Council recommendation and includes a one-time payment of $35 million in the current year, she wrote. Roldan also notes the legislature is moving “to managed care to control costs of this population,” Medicaid was never designed to cover the full costs of care and thus, “cost of services exceed the reimbursement” and have to be covered and would reduce funding by up to $140 million, she wrote.

>>> Press release: Today, Governor Rick Scott signed Executive Order 11-63, creating the Commission on Review of Taxpayer Funded Hospital Districts. The Commission will consider whether government-run hospitals are in the best interest of taxpayers and recommend a cost-effective and efficient model for providing Florida with a health care safety net. The Commission’s focus will be to identify efficient models for how government-run hospitals are: Providing access to care for the broadest population. Compensating physicians. Ensuring predictable costs to taxpayers. The Commission will also review sale or lease proposals of public hospitals to ensure taxpayers get the best return for their investment and that the competitive process is fair. “I am confident this new Commission will protect Florida taxpayers,” Governor Scott said.  “At the same time, the Commission’s guidance will help provide Floridians a high-quality health care system.”

>>> Press release: Please find attached Executive Order 11-68, regarding a special election to be held in House District 110, to fill the vacancy that now exists in the state House of Representatives.  A special primary election shall be held on May 24, 2011, and a special general election shall be held on June 28, 2011 to select the State House Representative for House District 110.

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott today announced the reappointment of Claudia Puig and the appointments of Dr. Jose J. Armas and Mayi De La Vega to the Board of Trustees, Florida International University.

Puig, 58, is senior vice president and East Coast regional manager for Univision Radio.  She is reappointed for a term beginning March 22, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Armas, 52, is the chief executive officer and president of MCCI Group Holdings LLC.  He succeeds Albert Maury and is appointed for a term beginning March 22, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

De La Vega, 56, is the founder and owner of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty.  She succeeds Albert Dotson and is appointed for a term beginning March 22, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Six charter questions to go on ballot, with Mayor & commission race, but critics balk at 12 year term limits ending in 2024

In what was considered an agonizing long all day Special Commission meeting to discuss whether to hold an election for a new county mayor and commissioner for District 13, along with proposed county Charter Changes. The commission went from perhaps asking voters to take a straw vote of any charter changes, to actually crafting six questions that would be on the same ballot as the mayor’s and commission race. The questions, if passed will include 12-year term limits, pay  a $92,000 salary, restrict lobbying for two years by elected leaders, end the strong mayor form of government (Passed by county voters in early 2007), and put the county’s Office of the Inspector General in the Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter giving the office more independence. The IG currently is the creation of the county commission by an ordinance in the mid 1990s. The election is likely to be set for May 24 and that will be done at an Apr. 11 commission meeting.

However, critics such as Victor Diaz, Jr., and Norman Braman, the billionaire auto dealership magnate who spear headed the recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez (Net worth $1.74 million) removed from office on Mar. 15 after 88 percent of the 17.2 percent of county’s 1.2 million voters took out the mayor and Natacha Seijas (Net worth $617,000), the district commissioner since 1992. The two men are saying after the commission meeting Thursday www.miamiherald.com these charter questions were not enough and specifically took aim at the term limit question saying it should only be two terms in office, which is eight years, and could leave current commissioners in office until 2024. Diaz an attorney who chaired the 2007-2008 Miami-Dade Charter Review Committee told the Watchdog Report Thursday. “They don’t get it,” regarding what he believes county voters are looking for when it comes to their governance and any reforms. Braman and the former Miami Beach Commissioner for a year, are planning to announce a ‘major statement’ and ‘Our actions will go beyond urging voters to reject these proposals,’ the art’s philanthropist is quoted in the paper saying last week.

What about the question of removing the strong mayor position?

Commissioners are also trying to get back some of the powers stripped from the body when the strong mayor of government passed in 2007 and they discussed possible looking at a Council form of government, where the mayor essentially just gets to set the agenda, but also only has any power given to the office, by the commission, said Commissioner Carlos Gimenez (Net worth $871,000), who does not support a strong mayor form of government. He says it gives one person too much power, and while he had no ethics beef with Alvarez during his time since it passed. The former Miami manager wondered what would happen if someone were not so straight and they could do considerable “damage” to county government if left unchecked. That comment surprised commission Chair Joe Martinez (Net worth $245,000), a mayoral candidate in 2012 and he has bristled that the media and Braman were trying to highjack the board and what it does. At a previous Sunshine meeting with PHT trustee Jorge Arrizurieta recently. Martinez used the acronym “WDBW or What Does Braman Want,” when discussing the relationship between the PHT board and the county commission though Martinez noted that when he speaks or votes on the PHT board. “I speak for myself,” he said. Other commissioners disagreed about the governance model and this is one of the key questions that will have to be answered if voters agree to dissolve the strong mayor legislation in the coming months. And if that is the case, county government will have gone through two types of governance in only four-years, after Alvarez did not make the position what voters thought it would be when it was approved back then. When he kept county Manager George Burgess continuing running the bulk of the county administration.

>>> Charter Chair Diaz goes on offensive on Issues

Victor Diaz, Jr., was on Helen Ferre’s show Issues www.wpbt2.org/issues over the weekend discussing  the Miami-Dade Charter questions. Diaz is the past chair of the 2007-2008 Charter Review Committee.

What about the mayoral candidates?

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, state Rep. Marcello Llorente, R-Miami, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and on Friday former county District 12 Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cancio, Sr., has also thrown his hat into the ring. Other candidates include former 2 Live Crew rapper Luther Campbell. Cancio a former commissioner appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush filled in from May 2002 after ex Commissioner Miriam Alonso was suspended, later convicted and went to jail. He would only be an interim mayor and not run again in 2012.  Further, Gimenez, Llorente and Robaina had their first candidate debate at a Latin Builders luncheon Friday and the candidates are feeling each other out looking for a political opening. The race likened to an election sprint given the short time to campaign and political pundits say the only way to win is to go negative, tear down your opponents, because there won’t be time to really discuss issues of policy that would connect candidates with voters, so political attack ads will be the order of the day.


Gimenez

Llorente

Robaina

>>> will Suarez & Robaina go head to head for District 7 vacated seat?

The race for commission District 7 is heating up now that Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez is running for county mayor. The active candidates so far are former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez and former state Rep. Julio Robaina, R- South Miami (Net worth $661,000) and a former South Miami mayor.

>>> Press release: Ethics Commission Sets Timetable to Select New Director

Members of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust Monday set a May 13th deadline to accept applications for a new executive director with hopes of having that person in place by July first.   Robert Meyers, who has served in the position since the Ethics Commission was created in 1998, last month announced his resignation, effective April 30th. However, today he said he would be able to stay on to help his successor through what is expected to be a challenging budget process.  The Commission approved the language of an advertisement that will be published in many print and electronic listings.  To be considered, applicants must be members of the Florida Bar.  Management or administration experience in public policy, knowledge of local government, and a background in education or outreach are considered highly desirable qualifications.

>>> In other action today, the Commission selected member Charlton Copeland as Vice-Chair. The University of Miami Law School faculty member was appointed to the Ethics Commission in May 2010.

>>> The Ethics Commission determined that a company which provides specifications that will be included in a County Request for Price Quotation may also bid on that Request.  The question (RQO 11-5) comes from the Design and Construction Division of the General Services Administration, which is seeking to modernize lighting systems at two libraries to make them more energy efficient.   Since the system has to be compatible with the existing infrastructure, GSA asked Delta Controls to provide technical information for the solicitation.   Commissioners ruled that Delta may also submit a price quotation and proposal to install the new system, since the information the company provides to GSA will be available to all proposers for the job.

>>> However, a company that provides consulting services to the Miami-Dade Solid Waste Department to oversee the clean-up of the former Munisport Landfill in North Miami may not simultaneously serve as Owner’s Representative for the Winson Water Treatment Plant for the City.  The Ethics Commission opined (RQO 11-8) that ADA Engineering would have an impermissible conflict under the two roles if the firm works for the City at the same time it is evaluating the City’s remediation plans and payment requests.

>>> Teenagers who were sworn in last week as members of the Miami-Dade County Youth Commission will not have to file annual financial disclosure forms, as is required by other advisory board members.   The County Commission created the 26-member group of high school students to provide them an opportunity to learn about local government while advising elected officials on issues important to tenth through twelfth graders.  The members serve one-year terms and do not have any delegated authority nor will they perform oversight of any County function.  For those reasons, and because it’s unlikely the members own property or have clients to report, the Ethics Commission ruled in response to a question from the Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners (RQO 11-7) that the students don’t have to file the annual financial statements. >>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.

>>> New IG report: County Vendor Arrested for Forging Documents, IG09-77, March 16, 2011.

>>> Beacon Council press release: Miami-Dade County’s February 2011 unemployment rate drops to 11.8 percent from 12.1 percent in January 2011

Miami-Dade County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for February 2011 was 11.8 percent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to January 2011 (12.1 percent). This is the second month in a row that the unemployment rate dropped, although it is too early to know if this trend will continue. The unemployment rate for February 2010 was 11.2 percent, 0.6 percentage points lower than February 2011. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (taking in consideration seasonal fluctuations in the labor force) for February 2011 was 13.1 percent compared to 13.3 percent in January 2011. Miami-Dade County is the only county in Florida that has seasonally adjusted rates. Therefore, the following county data are not seasonally adjusted.

The February 2011 unemployment rate for the State of Florida was 11.0 percent, a decrease of 0.8 percentage points compared to January 2011. The United States unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in February 2011, a decrease of 0.9 percentage points from January 2011.

For neighboring Broward County, the unemployment rate in February 2011 was 9.7 percent, a decrease of 0.8 percentage points compared to January 2011 and a decrease of 0.2 percentage points compared to February 2010. For Palm Beach County, it was 11.1 percent, a decrease of 0.9 percentage points compared to January 2011 and a decrease of 0.3 percentage points compared to February 2010. The overall unemployment rate for the tri-county area in February 2011 was 10.9 percent, down from 11.5 percent in January 2011. The South Florida region (Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach MSA) added 11,600 non-agricultural jobs between February 2010 and February 2011. Between January 2011 and February 2011, the region added 16,800 new jobs. Non-agricultural companies in Miami-Dade County added 9,400 new jobs between February 2010 and February 2011, an increase of 1.0 percent. Between January 2011 and February 2011, 8,000 jobs were created or a 0.8 percent increase. Major sectors that added jobs between January 2011 and February 2011 included Wholesale Trade, Financial Activities, Hospitals and Leisure and Hospitality. The only major sector to lose jobs was Retail Trade (1,400 jobs lost or 1.1 percent decline between January 2011 and February 2011).

Sector

January 2011 – February 2011 Job Change

(% Change)

Leisure & Hospitality 3,400 (+3.3%)
Professional & Business Services 1,900 (+1.5%)
Wholesale Trade 1,400 (+2.1%)
Leisure & Hospitality 1,100 (1.0%)
Construction 900 (+3.0%)
Financial Activities 600 (+1.0%)
Ambulatory Health Care Services 600 (+1.2%)
Hospitals 600 (+1.4%)
State Government 400 (+2.3%)
Manufacturing 100 (+0.3%)
Air Transportation 100 (+0.7%)

Between February 2010 and February 2011, several sectors saw improvements, including Wholesale Trade (1,000 new jobs or +1.8%), Retail Trade (1,100 new jobs or +0.9%), Financial Activities (200 new jobs or +0.3%), Professional and Business Services (600 new jobs lost or +0.5%), Ambulatory Health Care Services (1,700 new jobs or +3.4%), Hospitals (1,200 new jobs or +2.9%), Leisure and Hospitality (3,100 new jobs or +2.9%) and Total Government (1,000 new jobs or +0.7%). Both Construction and Manufacturing lost 1,100 jobs between February 2010 and February 2011. Even with the positive drop in the February unemployment rate after record unemployment levels in 2010, the community needs to continue to focus on job creation projects in order to create new job opportunities for people looking for jobs. >>> The Beacon Council continues to aggressively work on attracting new companies to our community and working on the expansion and retention of existing business. We promote Miami-Dade County as a global business center through our “Miami: Where Worlds Meet” campaign. We strongly urge that a top focus of both the public and private sector continues to be on the retention and recruitment of new jobs.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Board member Diaz de la Portilla wants analysis of cost to administer the 90 charter schools in Miami-Dade, 450 such schools statewide

The school board Audit Committee is meeting this Tuesday and one of the items is to elect a new vice Chair of the committee. Frederick Thornburgh is the chair, this board is the oversight firewall for the public, and is the watchdog looking at how public tax dollars are being spent to the tune of $4.3 billion. It is this body that also reviews the audits of the 90 Charter Schools the nation’s fourth largest public school district has, while also educating over 346,000 students in some 390 public schools throughout Miami-Dade. In this audit committee agenda is an item sponsored by school board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla asking that the district do an analysis of how much it is costing to administer these charter schools. Currently state statuettes provide that five percent of the funding going to full time students at charter schools can go towards district administration costs. In the item, it notes these schools were created by the Florida legislature in 1996 and since that time, there are 450 charter schools in the state.

Diaz de la Portilla

Any new AC board members?

The audit committee will get a new member on Tuesday, Jose I. Rasco, CPA.

>>> To see the agenda and back-up materials go to: http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_March_2011/Agenda.pdf

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Dueling PHT leadership boards, current one and new one of Lapciuc, Arrizrieta, Zilber and incumbent Ford

There will be two options for the PHT board to vote on Monday at its monthly meeting, either to keep the current officers or go with a new slate selected Friday at the 2011 PHT Nominating Committee chaired by board Secretary Georgena Ford, RN. The other members on the committee are trustees Jorge Arrizurieta, Gladys Ayala, Ernesto de la Fe (a former PHT chair) and Joaquin del Cueto. The debate at the past meeting of the group was whether to keep the current leadership, since the organization is searching for a new President and CEO, and also facing financial issues while going through $4.5 million in cash a day, or try some new people to lead the charge to right the health system and make it sustainable, in a changing healthcare world that the institution is behind keeping up with. The current PHT board leadership is Chair John Copeland, III, Angel Medina is the vice chair, Marcos Lapciuc is the treasurer and Ford is the secretary.

However, the nominating committee noted their job was to provide a slate and they voted to recommend making Marcos Lapciuc the new PHT board chair, Jorge Arrizurieta the vice chair, Martin Zilber would become the new treasurer and Ford would continue as secretary of the 17-member board that includes two county commissioners as voting members. The board if they want to continue with the incumbents whose time in this capacity ends at the end of March must have a super majority vote by the PHT board to be retained, said Gene Shy, the assistant county attorney assigned to the Trust. Lapciuc has been the previous treasurer and has done a yeoman’s job in this tough capacity, knows the numbers cold and has been a rock solid PHT trustee over the years and Zilber said he would help mentor him in this major leadership capacity if they are selected Monday. Zilber also confirmed to the committee he had the time for this expanded responsibility and thought is was important for him to meet with Miami-Dade Commissioners where he said he “had a relationship” with the body. Zilber, an attorney said he was a “government policy practice” consultant, has worked in mergers and acquisitions in the past and wanted to work “on finding a [new] funding source” and noted he sees the urgent need since he chairs the facilities committee and the institution having such a “capital need.” He also thought the “treasurer should be going out to the community” and explain to residents the true situation and that “people understand our true fiscal picture,” he told the committee.

What about trustee Zilber?

Zilber as has been reported in past Watchdog Reports for years has been a disappointment, I called him once a Citizen Lite, takes his duties in many ways with a casual nature and is always on his communication devices (now two) during meetings, and dresses like a carnival barker even when meetings are televised including the joint PHT/BCC meeting last month where every other man on the dais had a tie on. Something he apparently rarely wears even though he represents almost 200,000 Miami-Dade residents by being on the board. Further, for three years after his appointment to the PHT he continued on the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council even though on the PHT trustee application at the end where the applicant signs their name. It clearly states the applicant agrees they would resign immediately if confirmed by the county commission from any other county board, but failed to comply with that requirement. He finally did when I forced the issue when he was up for renewal after three years and he wrote to county attorney Shy his resignation from the Council and why he had not resigned earlier and I ran his lame excuse about his desire to just do public service, and I got one email asking if English was his first language. I would not go into any of this, if he was just a board member but as many people that know him say.

He is “oblivious,” said one older respected person who has known the man since he was five because he inherited millions from his father Ziggy Zilber; a local taxi magnate after the father sold the business, and he just does not care what others may think or how it looks in this public office capacity that now could be a significant leadership position as the trust fights for its financial life. Further, Zilber in a news article after the sale of the taxi business in the late 1990s said when it came to future ambitions. He wanted to get involved in “politics,” and even ran to become a county judge in 2000, but voters shot down that move when he got only around 25 percent of the vote. He has since been on the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council and a member and Chair of the Coconut Grove Village Council, an advisory board that looks after the Grove. Further, at the PHT in the past, he has said he was late because he was interviewing a new head of personnel, even though that function does not really apply to a PHT trustee. Whose only management job is to vote on who should be at the top of the $1.9 billion health system as its president and CEO, and approve contracts and other policy decisions but he is doing this other activity as well. And the man’s own mother, Linda a former  municipal mayor and now Chair of the Miami-Dade CITT board once told me that she told her son when he was a teenager that he would have a family “of mutants” since he was on the phone so much. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Miami law school but he must demonstrate a greater concentration and time commitment to the trust if the public is to be served by him in this new financial position. Editor’s note: I take no pleasure in writing the above story; I have no animosity toward Zilber, but even after county commissioners chastised him years ago. He just ignores any advice to improve his public persona and concentration on this very important public board.

Zilber (he does own a tie)

>>> The five candidates short-listed to be selected, as the new President and CEO of Jackson Health System are Carlos Migoya, Jodie Mansfield, Ram Raju M.D., Bill Vaneski and Myles Lash. The candidates will be brought in for interviews in the future after an extensive background check. For more go to www.miamiherald.com

>>> Former state Rep. Mike Abrams, D-Miami was on www.wpbt2.org/issues hosted by Helen Ferre and he discussed Jackson Memorial Hospital, some past history, why the trust was created, but is now facing huge financial challenges and readers should check out the show.

Upcoming public meetings dealing with PHT

>>> March 28th -Televised PHT Board of Trustees Meeting -3 p.m., Stephen P. Clark Center, Board of County Commission Chambers, 2nd Floor, 111 N. W. 1st Street, Miami, FL 33128

>>> March 30th -President’s Search Committee -10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Location TBD

>>> A initial M-DC Hospital Governance Taskforce is being held Mar. 28 starting at 8:30 a.m. at The Beacon Council office located at 80 SW 8th Street, Suite 2400 and the contact person is Donna Palmer at 305.375.4573 The Taskforce’s mission is to study and report on alternative governance models for the Public Health Trust.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Miami makes $27 million reconciliation adjustment, for current year only $8 million below budget, but reserves running out

The city made a $27 million reconciliation adjustment to its 2009-2010 close out budget and in the current year, it is an $8 million negative correction said Commissioner Francis Suarez last week in city hall. I had reported this weeks ago but I could not get the number firmed up but commissioners dealt with it at Thursday’s commission meeting. The city has seen its reserves dwindle over the past few years under Mayor Manuel Diaz (Net worth $1.8 million) and Mayor Tomas Regalado (Net worth $5,000) and unless the financial hemorrhaging ends. There will be no reserves to tap into and is the concern of commissioners, the administration and residents. The reason the financial red lights are on is because Miami in the mid 1990s had a financial meltdown. And its governance was done by a small state financial emergency board made up of leaders of South Florida but did not live in the city. This oversight entity for five years watched over the rebuilding of the city’s reserves with a financial blowtorch, but ended up well over $100 million back then but that amount has shrunk substantially to less than $10 million.


Regalado

Suarez

>>> 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, PAB,CIP, Code, etc. hearings)    http://videos.miamigov.com/

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Mayor Bower frustrated at difficulty in getting to Beach from mainland on causeways, hassle for residents, hurts business as well

Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower attended a Sunshine meeting with Miami-Dade Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Jean Monestime along with city manager Jorge Gonzalez and while the talk concerned the expansion of the county’s NW 79th Street CRA and the 7th Avenue CRA. Her issue is with the Port of Miami tunnel being built, repairs on the Venetian Causeway and getting to the island city was becoming much more challenging and is hurting business and making it difficult for residents as well. The Beach

has a population of about 88,000 residents but it is a major tourist mecca and these visitors are the lifeblood of the city. She noted these two main arteries going onto the Beach are critical and any other way to get over to Miami Beach must be enhanced so that people have alternative causeways to get to their beach destination that had traffic backed-up on the MacArthur Causeway for about 25 minutes when I shot over Friday.

>>> Press release: County ethics commission ruling: The Ethics Commission revisited a Request for Opinion (RQO 10-24) to a business associate of a City of Miami Beach advisory board member. In the opinion provided today, Russell Galbut was advised that he may lobby the city, except on behalf of entities in which he and Planning Board member Seth Frohlich have a business connection. Currently, Frohlich has a financial interest in the Mondrian Condominium Hotel, and Galbut is employed by an investment company that has a partial ownership of the Mondrian. The Ethics Commission stated that even though the men do have a business relationship, Galbut may appear before the City on matters unrelated to that relationship. Additionally, Frohlich must recuse himself on all matters that come before the Planning Board involving the Mondrian.

>>> Press release: Miami Beach city commissioner Jonah Wolfson will be the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club speaker, March 29, 2011, 8:30AM – 10:00AM, David’s Cafe II, 1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach.


Commissioner Jonah Wolfson
Group 4 – Current Term:  2007-2011 – First Elected: 2007 – Profession: Attorney -Email:  Jonah@miamibeachfl.gov

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Clock ticking for candidates for mayor & commission – how low will they go?

The sprint is on with just over two weeks to go for the Apr. 12 mayor and commission race and things are getting ugly as voters find political attack ads landing in their mail boxes and these races are expected to ratchet up further as election day looms closer. Local municipal races either are a quite affair or cut throat depending on if there is a wedge issue to galvanize voters, for either an incumbent or wanting a new face on the dais. And the mayor’s race is becoming such an affair that pits Mayor Donald Slesnick, II against two challengers Tom Korge, an attorney and Jim Cason, a former Ambassador and diplomat. Slesnick after a decade in office believes he has the votes for one more term, which is a winner take all race. However, the races are in voters hands soon with absentee voting in a few days and we will see what the voter turnout is like and if it will be a blowout or a staid electorate affair.

>>> Press release: www.poncebusiness.com -”Keeping you abreast of the pressing issues affecting Coral Gables.” If you missed our Candidate forum for Coral Gables City Commission Seat 5 or would like to review the event, it is now available to view on our website.  The link is www.poncebusiness.com/Candidate_Forum_Link_COAK.html The link provides the individual questions, as well as the opening and closing statements of each candidate. The Ponce Business Association would like to extend our thanks to all the candidates that participated in our Forums.  Remember to vote on election day April 12, 2011.

PAST WDR: What about the mayoral candidates war chests?

Slesnick who entered the race late has raised $80,645 during the reporting period that ended on Friday for a total of $131,770 state’s www.miamiherald.com Tom Korge has $108,635 in his campaign, and Cason, a former Ambassador has $28,040 available for the race. Slesnick in a past forum with the other candidates went on the offensive promoting all the things that had been achieved over the past decade. But Korge and Cason hammered him on past scandals; the city’s building department performance and other issues. However, with these political funds each candidate will do their best to get their message out, it is a winner take all race, and all that is needed is one more vote than the other two candidates to win under the city’s Charter.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Press release: Physician charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), West Palm Beach Bureau, William J. Maddalena, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations, John F. Khin, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and the Greater Palm Beach Health Care Fraud Task Force, announced the arrest of Dr. Selwyn Carrington, a 57 year old physician living in Miami, Florida.  The criminal complaint charges the defendant, Dr. Carrington, with conspiring to dispense and distribute, and to cause the dispensing and distribution of controlled substances through medical clinics in Hallandale and West Palm Beach, Florida, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846 and 841(a)(1).  If convicted, Dr. Carrington faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years.  Selwyn Carrington is a licensed physician in the State of Florida.  Carrington’s primary practice is at 1613 North Hiatus Road, Pembroke Pines, Florida.

According to the complaint and corresponding affidavit, Dr. Carrington served as the Medical Director of Primary Care Primary Care Practitioners, a family medical practice owned by two Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs).  Primary Care Practitioners operates clinics in Hallandale and West Palm Beach, Florida. According to court documents, the investigation revealed that Dr. Carrington did not treat or evaluate any clients at the clinics and he was not at the clinics during their normal business hours.  The investigation revealed that, in exchange for $5,000 per month, Dr. Carrington went to the clinics approximately once per week to sign progress notes for patients that had been previously seen by the ARNPs and to pre-sign blank prescriptions so that the ARNPs and other employees, who have no medical licenses, could illegally prescribe controlled substances to their clients.  According to the charging documents, Percocet, Oxycodone, and Xanax were all illegally prescribed in this manner. An analysis of the payments made by Florida Medicaid for the time period from March 2005 through January 2011 indicated that over 300,000 pills containing controlled substances were dispensed to Primary Care Practitioner’s clients due to the prescriptions pre-signed by Dr. Carrington.  The Florida Medicaid Program paid for these pills.  The 300,000 pill total includes 150,000 pills containing Schedule II control substances.  Schedule II controlled substances, such as Oxycodone, have a high level of abuse or misuse and so their use is severely restricted in the United States. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the MFCU, the FBI, HHS OIG, DCIS, and the Greater Palm Beach Health Care Fraud Task Force.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Evans. A criminal complaint is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls .

>>> 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.

LEON COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott today taps Kelvin L. Lawson, Rufus N. Montgomery Jr., and Belinda R. Shannon to the Board of Trustees, Florida A&M University.

Lawson, 47, of Jacksonville, is a national client services director for Acosta Sales and Marketing.  He succeeds R. B. Holmes and is appointed for a term beginning March 23, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Montgomery, 39, of Atlanta, Georgia, is the managing director of governmental affairs for Hall Booth Smith and Slover P.C.  He succeeds Daryl Parks and is appointed for a term beginning March 23, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Shannon, 50, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, is the vice president of corporate human resources for GlaxoSmithKline.  She succeeds Angela Rouson and is appointed for a term beginning March 23, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

MARION COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Anthony “Tony” Tatti of Ocala to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

“As someone who has both defended and prosecuted the most serious of criminal cases, Tony has demonstrated both dedication to public service and respect for the rule of law,” Governor Scott said. “Tony’s experience on both sides of the courtroom give him a unique understanding of the impact of decisions from the bench. I am confident he will appropriately consider all cases before him in a principled and judicially conservative manner.” Tatti, 49, has been an assistant state attorney with the State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court since 1988. Previously, he was an assistant public defender in the Fifth Circuit from 1985 to 1988. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and his law degree from the University of Florida. Tatti will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Stephen O. Rushing.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Chief Administrator Gastesi on Monroe’s legislative priorities approved by commission in Tallahassee

Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County Administrator is getting the message out about what Monroe County’s approved legislative agenda is and below is his email on the subject. Monroe, the nation’s most southern county many times is forgotten about in the scheme of things of state government and the Watchdog Report gives the administration a little help. He writes, “Support the appropriation $200 million in state funding to finance the construction costs of mandated wastewater projects in the Florida Keys. Oppose any additional cost shifts or unfunded mandates from the State to the County. Oppose any measure that would adversely affect County revenues, or further restricts local decision-making related to revenue and expenditures. Support preservation of existing state funding for public infrastructure, county services and community programs (roads and bridges, county health departments, libraries, and judicial services, for example.) Support windstorm insurance legislation that will provide lower, more accurate rates to residents of Monroe County. Support reauthorization and increased funding for the Florida Forever Trust Fund.

Developing legislative issues: During this Legislative Session, 2,048 bills have been introduced, with hundreds of those potentially impacting Monroe County.  Staff is apprising and evaluating these bills as they flow through dozens of committees and a very dynamic amendment and approval process.  Commissioners, staff, lobbyists, and interested stakeholders are also monitoring and evaluating the bills as time permits.   Below are some bills that have peaked our interest so far this session, particularly those related to growth management, permitting, insurance, cost shifting, and those with revenue impacts.   Please be aware that the BOCC has not officially acted on many of these, and, as this process is fluid and rapidly changing, by the time you read this, this list may be outdated.

House Bill (HB) 991 / Senate Bill (SB) 1404 : As drafted, this bill could be detrimental to Monroe County environmental protection, as it restricts local governments from requiring environmental agency permitting PRIOR to issuing local government permits.  As an Area of State Critical Concern, the primacy of state and federal agency permitting is central to our local permitting process, code, comprehensive plan and principles for guiding development. This bill will shift the responsibility (with associated workload and staffing costs) and legal liability for permitting entirely to Monroe County.  We should oppose the bill.  Alternatively, we would support an insertion in the bill that would exempt Areas of Critical State Concern.

HB 407 / SB 580: Under threat of probation and possible suspension from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Monroe County adopted an ordinance (§ 6-107 of M.C.C.) that requires any person seeking a permit for any improvement on their property to have an inspection of any living area below base flood elevation.  At the time, the number of illegal apartments and other living area space built within the floodplain were thought to number into the thousands.  Section 6-107 was adopted as part of an effort to verify that number and encourage compliance with the floodplain ordinances and federal floodplain standards.  If HB 407/SB580 pass, Monroe County’s ordinance (§6-107) would be pre-empted by state law so the County would be prohibited from requiring and performing inspections on areas of a structure that are not subject to the permitting requested by the owner.  If passed, Monroe County would, of course, work toward alternative solutions to enforce removal of structures below base flood elevation through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

HB 1406: The House Pension Reform bill passed the House State Affairs Committee yesterday, requiring an employee contribution, reduced from 5 percent to 3 percent for members of all classes. The Senate bill addressing pension reform requires employee contribution, but is tiered based on salary, with those earning 75,000 and under paying 2% and those earning over 75,000 paying 4%.

SB 1714 / HB1243: will allow Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to sharply raise windstorm insurance rates; prohibit Citizens policyholders from seeking assistance from public adjusters in claims disputes; and would limit Citizens from writing new policies for coastal properties.  The bill proposes a three-year phase-out of most annual policies; allows Citizens to deny new or renewal policies for homes valued at $1 million or more as of Jan. 1, 2012, $750,000 or more as of Jan. 1, 2014, and $500,000 or more as of Jan. 1, 2016. SB 1462/HB 4115: will strip the Insurance Consumer Advocate of the ability to issue grades to insurance companies; SB 1330/ HB 0885: would deregulate insurance rates, allowing rate hikes by as much as 30% a year without approval from the Office of Insurance Regulation; SB 1592HB 1187: revises and limits consumer ability to bring civil actions against insurer. >> 2011 Florida Legislative Session Important Dates: March 8: Regular Session Convenes (also, deadline for filing of bills.), March 29: 2011 Florida Keys Legislative Day – April 26: Last Day of Regularly Scheduled Committees May 2: All bills certified, May 6: Session closes.Florida Legislature House Calendar and Meeting Dates , Florida Legislature Senate Calendar and Dates, Track Senate Bills, Track House Bills, wrote Gastesi last week.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Press release: In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department (MDPR) and the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women are hosting the 23rd Annual In the Company of Women Awards Celebration on Thursday, March 31, from 6-9 p.m., at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  The event includes a cocktail-reception and an awards-presentation recognizing 12 local women for their long-standing contributions to the residents of Miami-Dade County.

WPLG Channel 10 reporter Neki Mohan will emcee the festivities.  As part of the program, a representative from the Office of the Mayor will present the Mayor’s Pioneer Award, which honors a woman who has proven leadership, creativity, and vision in addressing community issues in Miami-Dade County within the past 10 years. The honorees include: Arts & Entertainment–Eveline Pierre, Founder of the Haitian Heritage Museum; Business & Economics–Patricia Thorp, Senior Counselor, RBB Public Relations; Communications & Literature–Michele Gillen, Chief Investigative Reporter, CBS Miami; Education & Research–Dr. Stacey Mancuso, Principle, DASH; Government & Law–Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Health & Human Services–Lucy Morillo-Agnetti, President & CEO, Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation; Science & Technology–Sherry Thompson Giordano, Executive Director, IT Women, and June Randall, Chief, Administration & Technology Division, Miami-Dade County Police; Sports & Athletics–Marta Montenegro, Founder, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief, SoBeFit Magazine; Mayor’s Pioneer Award–Elaine Bloom, former member of the Florida House of Representatives; Community Spirit Award–Donna Ginn, Founder & Managing Partner, Crossroad Consulting Group; and posthumous honors–Amanda Haworth, Detective, Miami-Dade Police Warrants Bureau.

Nominations were solicited from the general public from October through December 2010.  Nominees must have a history of continued accomplishments in their field and have met these five criteria: professional development, community responsibility, leadership and vision, contribution to women’s progress and promotion of pluralism.  Award recipients were selected by a panel, comprised of some of last year’s winners and the event’s organizing committee.

Tickets for In the Company of Women $40 and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 305-358-5885, or visiting their web site: www.ticketmaster.com; or at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 West Flagler Street. For more information about the event, call Lisa Fernandez at the Women’s Park, 305-480-1717.

>>> Downtown Bay Forum monthly luncheon on Mar. 30-titled Economic and Social Dimension of Job Creation in Miami-Dade County. For more information go to  www.downtownbayforum.com

>>> Press release: How to Run a Clean Campaign — Citizens considering running for elected office can learn how to do it right by attending the next Campaign Skills Seminar sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. The seminar, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, 2011, at the North Miami Police Department’s Community Service Room, will provide essential information on fundraising and record keeping to candidates, campaign treasurers, volunteers and 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 and the Elections Department.  The event is free and open to the public.  Attorneys can earn Continuing Legal Education credits from the Florida Bar. Campaign Skills Seminar, Thursday, April 7, 2011 6:30 p.m., Community Service Room at the North Miami Police Department, 700 NE 124 Street, North Miami, Florida 33161 >>For more information or to reserve a seat, 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 and outreach, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

>>> Healthcare 2011 and Beyond, is the title of the Apr. 6 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Luncheon featuring Brian Keeley, the President and CEO of Baptist Health South Florida. For further information go to http://www.miamichamber.com/cwt/External/WCPages/WCEvents/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=2701

>>> Conference Focuses on Ethics in Public Office - Some of Florida’s most respected legal and political leaders will share their insights on challenges to the values and principles of those holding and seeking public office at a daylong conference sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, St. Thomas University and the Daily Business Review.  “When Politics and Ethics Collide:  A Symposium on the Interplay of Ethical Standards in the Public Arena” will take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on  Friday, April 15, 2011, at the St. Thomas School of Law, 16401 NW 37 Ave., in Miami Gardens.

The keynote speaker will be Bob Butterworth, who has distinguished himself as former Florida Attorney General and Director of the Department of Children & Families, St. Thomas Law School Dean, Broward County Sheriff and judge.  Featured panelists include Retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, Broward County Mayor Sue Gunzburger, Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Joe Centorino, Former Miami-Dade County Manager and School Superintendent Merrett Stierheim, Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner and President of the University of Miami Good Government Initiative Katy Sorenson, Florida Atlantic University Public Ethics Academy Director Norm Ostrau, Former Miami Mayor and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Maurice Ferre, among others. Topics for discussion will focus on the climate of corruption, campaigning and elections, the appearance of impropriety, lobbying and conflicts of interest. The registration fee includes morning refreshments, lunch and all materials. The cost is $40 if paid by April 13 and $50 at the door.  CLE credits will be available.  For more information and registration, log on to www.stu.edu/ethics or call Cathy Hayes at 305-623-2324. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers.  It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each.  Through a program of education and outreach, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

EDITORIALS

>>> Elected leaders and staff playing with fire by accepting free gifts and tickets

In a Aug. 27, 2008 memo on gift disclosures by elected leaders and employees around the county done by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, its director Robert Meyers questions why only 74 different individuals that filed 112 forms for 2007 given the tens of thousands of county and municipal employees and officials in the reporting pool. In 2007 Meyers writes in the four different quarters 26, 38, 13 and 45 forms came in during the quarters and these disclosed gifts came to about $163,000, though one filer reported a wedding gift in excess of $50,000. When this is discarded that left 73 filers reporting gifts of around $110,000, “which equates to roughly $1,350 per filer,” states the document.

The gift ordinance applies to any gift over a $100 and must be reported by government employees and officials but in many municipalities and the county the acceptance of tickets and other perks from commercial interests continue and this practice should be examined. For as one Miami employee said, it was legal and why should they not take advantage since everyone else was doing it and that is the wrong answer. Since 2000, I have written often about free tickets to sporting events, shows and other performances to elected leaders. But in today’s New Norm, this policy should be verboten for it sends a message of entitlement and arrogance and with the political winds the way they are blowing today. Elected leaders and administrative staff might think twice before asking or accepting tickets, and at a minimum must disclose they were received, and who used them if the public is not to further mistrust their elected leaders and given the mood of the electorate, that doubt is not a good thing for a politician in today’s world.

>>> Candidates should realize their past life is a narrative that includes good and bad

The Miami Herald in the Neighbors section www.miamiherald.com reporter Tania Valdemoro today profiled the commission candidates running for seat 4 being vacated by long serving Commissioner Wayne “Chip” Withers, but what surprised the Watchdog Report was some of the pasts the candidates have and one candidate who embellished their education credentials. People that run for public office need to remember their life is a narrative when they decide to throw their hat into the ring for elected office. And these candidates are not the first to minimize their past with one of the more memorable explanations being a candidate’s political ad where she says, “I am not a witch,” after the issue came up last November in a race in Delaware.

Further, some people embellish who their relatives might be and if these people are a Great One. It is very easy for the media to check and discover if they are in fact a member of the prominent family and I have never understood why someone would try this fabrication of their lives. The point is candidates need to get in front of the issues by being frank and open about their past, for if accurate, it many times inoculates the candidate politically. But denying something that can easily be checked is not the way to go for you will be caught, and could be a pivotal reason why voters did not support you. Something any new or seasoned candidate should not want if they wish to win an elected office.

LETTERS

>>> Reader on Affordable Care Act one year anniversary

Today commemorates the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.  In Florida, the celebration, like our health care outlook, is dim.  There are over four million uninsured residents in Florida. More than 500,000 residents in Miami-Dade County and 400,000 in Broward County are uninsured. Despite those numbers, our legislative leadership turned down even bigger numbers: one million dollars in federal funds that were to be used for planning to cover the uninsured and another one million dollars for a health insurance exchange to help small businesses access health coverage for their employees.

States that are accepting planning grants will enable their small businesses to receive hefty federal tax breaks for employee coverage as they prepare to launch a health insurance exchange. In spite of what our legislators’ did not do to plan for improving health care access, the historic Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law of the land right now, provides much-needed popular consumer protections currently being enjoyed by millions of Americans:

•        Young adults now enjoy the benefit of having access to their parent’s health insurance.

•        Florida’s 3,180,000 seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare will no longer have to pay for preventive services, and many will have more help paying for prescriptions

*   Seniors and policyholders with new plans can now get preventative care for annual check ups, mammograms and cancer screenings with no co-pay.

*   Soon, not one of the 129 million Americans can be denied health coverage for a pre-existing condition or chronic disease.

*   Insurance companies will now have a limit on profits and CEO pay by spending at least 80% of premium dollars on care.

*   2,521,000 uninsured Floridians will gain insurance coverage by 2019

With Florida’s health care crisis, we need to do something.  The law is not perfect but it is a giant step in the right direction. The protections afforded under the Affordable Care Act move us forward to a time when every citizen won’t have to be so sick to go to emergency rooms for the most expensive care because they will have coverage to go to a family or primary care doctor. But before you look forward to a healthier Florida and nation, here’s a dose of reality. The benefits from consumer protections are increasingly at risk of being taken away. The actions of many of Florida’s elected officials reflect a lack of concern for thousands of our low wage workers and other citizens who will go without care and instead declare personal bankruptcy over a medical emergency. This leads to community bankruptcy for unpaid, expensive medical and hospital bills.

Is this what Floridians deserve?  I don’t think so. Let’s get behind this law and tell our officials to do the same, it will attract businesses and jobs to Florida by reducing costs dragging down our economy.  Let Florida join the other states in planning by taking the federal money offered to create a brighter and healthier future for all Floridians.

Steven E. Marcus, Ed.D.

President  & CEO

Health Foundation of South Florida

>>> Reader on how Canada handles children health issues

This link is to an important series of papers. While it speaks to the health of Canada’s children, it has echoes that resound in the U.S. and not a small number of other countries. I would suggest that every Canadian should be aware of the information in this report, which includes four separate papers that unfortunately could not be written for an eighth grade reading level. However, what is reviewed in these papers has significance beyond Canada, and I would offer that citizens of the United States would also do well do understand what children in Canada have to deal with…because we in the U.S. are not only not doing any better, but I would suggest generally are doing worse by our children.

Wil

The health of Canada?s children 4 part series available http://tinyurl.com/4sc6s4a

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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, 2011, 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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