Month of March 2012

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.12 No.47 March 25, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Obama calls Martin’s shooting “tragic,” issue is searing America’s conscience about race & profiling

Florida: Gov. Scott faces first racial firestorm with shooting death of Martin, after a month, calls for task force to have public hearings on “Stand Your Ground” law

Miami-Dade County: Federal courts shot down county Cuba ordinance, new state law has Atty. Cuevas sticking to past federal court rulings, Esteban & Souto fight decision

Miami-Dade Public Schools: School administration asks students to respect wishes of Trayvon Martin’s mother in honoring her son’s memory

Public Health Trust: FRB Vice chair Sharpton drops $900 million bombshell that is Jackson’s liability to county if it goes down & Nurses get their day with commissioners

City of Miami: Commissioners vote 5-0 that Guba is the “preferred” Auditor until pay package is set, Carollo to do negotiations

City of Miami Beach: Mayor Bower & commissioners tap #2 Martinez as top cop, Tobin and Libbin give thumbs down

City of Coral Gables: Gables residents get to weigh in on no truck law Monday night, has been a controversial issue for some

City of Doral: Miami-Dade County, in partnership with the City of Doral and Dream in Green, is holding a Home Energy Savings Workshop

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Owner of Broward Tax Preparation Company Charged in Fraudulent Tax Return Conspiracy

Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott taps Filiberto Valero as chair of the Early Learning Coalition

Alachua County: Gov. Scott taps Phillip Pena, of Gainesville to County Court.

St. Lucie County: Gov. Scott names Marilyn A. Lawless and Candice L. Loupe to the Children’s Services Council

Lake County: Gov. Scott taps Jeanie L. Rowin to the Early Learning Coalition

Indian River County: Gov. Scott taps Alfonso A. Perez and Stacy F. Silvestri to the Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee Counties.

Monroe County: Early Learning Coalition premier speaker Dr. Winsler on school readiness for children Apr. 2

Community Events: Amigos for Kids event

Editorials: It’s a go Tuesday, MIA fires up 13 plus mile long new baggage system, well over 35,000 bags handled daily, small hic-up, but things going smoothly so far – Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers:  Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, Orlando Sun-Sentinel January 20, 2003

Letters: Physician on Jackson’s Health System staff cuts – Reader on Gloria Steinem’s 78th birthday

Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text

>>> 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 by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up quickly and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.

>>> HELP: I NEED FINANCIAL HELP IF THIS IS TOO CONTINUE AFTER 12-YEARS AND HEADING INTO 13-YEARS IN MAY:  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 and I hope you or your organization will consider helping in a small or larger way and help keep another voice on line 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.

>>> CORRECTION: On the Lincoln Town Car story last week, that is being donated to a Hialeah charity by Miami-Dade County, I made an error. “Dan, as you can see in the attached item that was presented to the committee, the vehicle has 148,708 miles.  The vehicle does leak, with water accumulation significant enough to require the use of a wet vacuum and causing a musty odor.  This vehicle was slated to be auctioned with other vehicles determined to be surplus; however, in accordance with Board policy, the Commissioner [Jose “Pepe” Diaz] requested that the vehicle be donated to this not-for-profit organization.  Let us know if you have any additional questions.

http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/legistarfiles/Matters/Y2012/120348.pdf ,” wrote Wendy Norris, the director of the Miami-Dade General Services Administration last week. The Watchdog Report apologizes for the error.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Obama calls Martin’s shooting “tragic,” issue is searing America’s conscience about race & profiling

The killing of seventeen-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida near Orlando is reverberating around the world and President Barack Obama weighed in Friday saying if he had a son, instead of their two girls. The young man would have looked just like Martin shot dead by a neighborhood watch organizer George Zimmerman and the president called the shooting “tragic.” Further, Zimmerman, 28, who has yet to be arrested or seen since then, his lack of arrest by police has prominent black leaders demanding his being thrown into jail, citing had it been the other way around, and a white man had died. Martin would have been thrown into a police car and hauled off to jail. They and many other people believe, and this lack of local prosecution has created this charged debate, especially within the minority communities.

Martin an A/B student who attended Dr. Michael Krop Senior High in Miami Gardens, doing a ten-day suspension from the school, was killed Feb 26, and the shooting that slide initially under the national media radar, has since exploded on the national scene highlighting the Florida “Stand You Ground” law. Where a person only has to feel threatened to use any force available to protect oneself. The law signed into law in 2005 has been controversial since it was passed by the state legislature by a wide majority of House and Senate members and Gov. Jeb Bush signed it into law. Critics at the time warned it gave carte blanche to potentially questionable shootings but only a few Florida legislators voted no. Since they did not want to be seen as soft on crime and the NRA was pushing the legislation. Now, seven years later, students in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties last week are walking out of schools and throughout the state in protest, and while school administrators are going along with the past protests. They expect kids to stay in public schools on Monday, but officials are holding their breath if that will be accomplished this coming week.

However, the incident now has the FBI looking into the investigation, looking at the forensic cell phone evidence to see if this could have been a hate crime, but the vague state law could be a problem in a prosecution. Zimmerman whose father and attorney say he is not a ‘racist’ and had mentored black kids in the past state’s www.miamiherald.com. But a national firestorm has been ignited about the law and whether the young man is dead just because he was black.  The boy had gone to a convenience store at half time of the NBA All Star Game, to get some Skittles and an Arizona ice tea drink, when Zimmerman spotted him. Who called 911 and said there was a suspicious black person in his gated community, while Martin at the same time was on his cell phone talking to his girlfriend, but something then happened after that, and Zimmerman, with a semiautomatic handgun shot the 11th grader dead.

Now it has become a national debate and Republican Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich have all weighed in on the shooting. Romney called for a ‘thorough investigation’ and the other two candidates thought ‘it appeared Zimmerman acted outside the bounds of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.’ Black leaders around the nation for years have accused law enforcement and white citizens of profiling African Americans and other minorities or religious groups, but this topic has now come center stage in the national debate. And demonstrations are occurring in Miami-Dade and in other cities and had the Miami Heat basketball players wearing hoodies in photos and putting the boy’s name on their sneakers for a game in his memory last week.

>>> U.S. Rep Ros-Lehtinen press release: Each March we celebrate National Women’s History Month – a month during which we highlight and celebrate the many contributions of women. This year, we focus on women’s education. In fact, this year’s theme “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment”, has struck a special chord with me. As a former teacher, I know the critical role education plays in the development of a new generation of women leaders.  Receiving a quality education undoubtedly offers a vital opportunity to succeed in life.

Less than 100 years ago, the 19th Amendment was signed into law, giving women the right to vote.  However, the trajectory and struggle for women’s rights did not end with suffrage.  Indeed, suffrage opened the door for women to fully participate in the democratic process and use it to further the cause of equality.  The women who led the suffrage movement were not asking for any special rights or privileges.  They simply wanted to be counted as equal and full citizens of this great nation.  They wanted to do their part and help our country.  South Florida has had its fair-share of incredible trailblazers.  Women like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Audrey Finklestein, Athalie Range and Teresa Zubizarreta have been leaders and pillars of our community.  They did not set out to break barriers, they simply wanted to use their talents and have the opportunity to follow their dream.

While women have made great strides securing rights, it is important to remember the young women who need strong role models and an encouraging environment so that they can take advantage of educational opportunities and grow up to become strong women of character. Investing in women’s education is an investment in our future, as the young women of today will lead the charge to transform themselves, their communities, and the world.  I am incredibly proud that in my home state of Florida, so many concerned citizens have recognized the importance of educating, encouraging, and empowering young women.

South Florida is home to several remarkable organizations that encourage young women to reach their maximum potential. One such remarkable organization is the Honey Shine Mentoring Program, which seeks to empower young women by providing mentorship and leadership opportunities in an encouraging and supportive environment.

Another great South Florida organization is Strong Women Strong Girls, which utilizes the lessons learned from strong women throughout history to encourage girls and young women to become strong women themselves.  This model aids the girls and young women in developing strong skills, building leadership and forming goals for future success. These organizations, and many others, are the result of concerned citizens taking action to better their communities. I applaud these and countless many more Floridians who have responded to the challenges facing women and girls in our country. As we commemorate Women’s History Month, we must continue to honor the tremendous contributions women have made and renew our commitment to advancing the rights of women everywhere. I also encourage you to take the time to consider the ways you can better the lives of those living in your community. >>> For more information on National Women’s History Month, and upcoming events in your area, please visit: http://womenshistorymonth.gov/

>>> Press release: Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) applauds the Florida East Coast Industries, Inc.  (FECI), for announcing their plans to develop a privately owned, operated, and maintained passenger rail service to connect South Florida and Orlando. Diaz-Balart comments:

“I commend Florida East Coast Industries for their leadership and dedication to South Florida. This new privately owned passenger rail will create approximately 6,000 much-needed jobs, create new economic opportunities, and provide an alternative mode of transportation as gas prices continue to skyrocket. This project will not only benefit those living in Florida, but also the millions of people who visit South and Central Florida annually. This is truly a ‘shovel ready’ project, and further proves Florida is becoming one of the best places for businesses to invest and grow.”

>>> Press release: Rep. Wasserman Schultz Amendment Protects Seniors in Nursing Homes

As the House Budget Committee began debate today on the Republican budget proposal for 2013, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) introduced an amendment to prevent cuts that would be detrimental to seniors across the country. “My amendment would stop the Republican’s proposed reckless and shameful cuts for seniors in nursing homes,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “In gutting Medicaid, their budget proposal jeopardizes health security for 5 million seniors, 10 million individuals with disabilities, and 28 million children.” Her amendment would ensure that funding does not run out for seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid assistance to help with the costs of their nursing home care and other necessary services.

In addition, the amendment accounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible for Medicaid, and works to ensure that they would receive assistance for paying their premiums and out-of-pocket costs. “The harmful spending cuts incorporated into this budget proposal go further than simply damaging a fragile recovery,” continued Wasserman Schultz. “These cuts pull the rug out from under our most vulnerable – our seniors, our children, and those with serious illness. We must not allow these backward policies to prevail, and instead our goal must be to work toward a future where we prevent our country’s families from falling into poverty.”

>>> Knight Center for International Media newsletter: One Water Continues to Reach Audiences Globally with Eight Screenings this World Water Day

The film continues to cross borders, physical and cultural, by showing at a variety of settings this World Water Day 2012.  With screenings spanning the globe, from British Columbia to Hungary, One Water continues to be a popular choice in media for discussing the world’s water crisis.  All screenings of the film are free.  If you are interested in organizing or holding a screening, large or small, please contact Lauren Janetos. For more about the film and related educational projects, visit http://onewater.org/educationwww.knightfoundation.org

>>> 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, twice in 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. Further, I am a frequent guest on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues, and have also appeared on  Eliott Rodriguez’s show News & Views.

FLORIDA

>>> Gov. Scott faces first racial firestorm with shooting death of Martin, after a month, calls for task force to have public hearings on “Stand Your Ground” law

Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $103 million) has named a special state prosecutor to get to the bottom of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the governor is facing his first statewide ethnic crisis since being sworn in January 2011. Since then Scott has focused on business and government regulations and creating jobs but this tragedy puts him and the state in the eye of the hurricane when it comes to race relations, including the long simmering issue of “driving while black,” and the profiling of minorities by law enforcement. The “Stand Your Ground” law passed seven years ago allows someone to defend themselves, if they feel threatened but that is a grey area, and Scott now is in the middle of this legal and social quicksand debate. He has called for a task force and to have public hearings on the issue of racial profiling and the state law and whether it should be modified and this action has caught Scott critics off guard.

And when it comes to the current and past state legislators who sponsored the bill. They claim Zimmerman seemed to have violated the intent of the law since he got out of his car and pursued the boy, before the struggle and shooting took place. However, since the man has not been arrested, was allowed to keep the gun because of the state law. National black leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton have demanded stronger action and the prosecution of the neighborhood watch member, but the investigation is continuing. And all Floridians know is another young black man is dead for what appears to be no apparent reason, except being an African American.

>>> Gov. Scott press release: Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi (Net worth $472,000) today worked together to appoint Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) as the newly Assigned State Attorney in the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Governor and Attorney General reached out to State Attorney Norman Wolfinger today. After the conversation, Wolfinger decided to step down from this investigation and turn it over to another state attorney. The Governor has also announced the formation of a task force which will convene following the conclusion of the investigation by State Attorney Corey. The Governor and General Bondi have full faith in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice and State Attorney Corey that a full and thorough investigation will be conducted. See below a statement from Governor Scott regarding the formation of the task force, and attached the Executive Order appointing Angela B. Corey as the Assigned State Attorney and a letter from State Attorney Norman Wolfinger requesting the assignment of another state attorney to the investigation.

>>> Statement from Florida Governor Rick Scott Regarding the Creation of a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection

“As law enforcement investigates the death of Trayvon Martin, Floridians and others around the country have rightly recognized this as a terrible tragedy.  Like all Floridians, I believe we must take steps to ensure tragedies like this are avoided.  After listening to many concerned citizens in recent days, I will call for a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all of our citizens – especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state.

“To this end, I have asked Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll to lead the Task Force, conduct public hearings, take testimony and recommend actions – legislative and otherwise – to both protect our citizens and safeguard our rights.  Reverend R. B. Holmes, Jr., the pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee has agreed to be the vice-chair of the Task Force.  I have also reached out to Attorney General Pam Bondi, Speaker Dean Cannon, President Mike Haridopolos and incoming presiding officers Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford who all agree that a Task Force needs to be assembled.  They will be recommending individuals for me to appoint to the Task Force, which will thoroughly review Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and any other laws, rules, regulations or programs that relate to public safety and citizen protection.

“It is my intention to have the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection convene immediately after the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin by the newly Assigned State Attorney Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) formally ends.  At that time they can define their mission and scope as well as set a timetable for a report, with recommendations to be delivered to my office and to the Florida Legislature.  The Task Force will hold public hearings, take testimony, solicit ideas and review all matters related to the rights of all Floridians to feel safe and secure in our state.  As we exercise our right to be free and secure both in public and in the privacy of our own homes it is important that we have an open and honest discussion on these issues so that we might help avoid such tragedies in the future.”

What about the new senate redistricting maps?

While the Florida Senate met last week to draw a second new senate redistricting map after a earlier version was thrown out by the state supreme court and if the court’s don’t approve this version. The judiciary will do it for the legislature and still has to get passed in from the state House. State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami (Net worth $486,000) had been seeking a fourth Hispanic senate seat in South Florida but that did not happen in this reiteration and state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami (Net worth $1.74 million) told the Watchdog Report last week that he was not happy about that fact. His party’s majority leader and termed out in 2012 said he had not made up his mind whether he and others local legislators would fight this lack of a fourth senate seat but the issue is heating up.

What about the Watchdog Report? People ask me all the time if I am armed?

And I just change the subject because it is none of their business whether I am or not armed. But the Martin shooting highlights the vagueness in the law that is obliviously on display in this case, and both the sheriff and state attorney handling the case have either been removed or stepped down from the now expanding investigation.

>>> Press release: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Warns Consumers about ‘National Sweepstakes’ Scam

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (Net worth $1.63 million) today warned consumers about an emerging scam related to requiring payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to collect “lottery winnings.” A company calling themselves National Sweepstakes has contacted a senior consumer in Palm Beach County claiming to require payments to the IRS in order for the consumer to collect her $1 million-plus prize. “Our department was able to keep this Floridian from giving away her life savings to these scam artists because an insurance professional acted on her instinct and made a call to our department,” CFO Atwater said. “I am proud of my department for acting quickly to avoid a much worse situation for this consumer, and I urge consumers to be on high alert for this and other such scams.”

Legitimate lotteries do not ask for money up front to collect winnings, and it should always be a red flag if you have been notified of winning a lottery for which you never submitted an entry. Daily callers who identified themselves as Western Union employees stated that, in order to claim her winnings, the consumer needed to send $20,000, in the form of a personal check, to the IRS. Because the entire amount was not readily available in her account and had to be transferred from another source, the “company” said they would accept installment payments. The consumer then wrote personal checks in the amounts of $2,000 and $7,500 and mailed them to an address in Washington. She had also written a $20,000 check and mailed it to a Maryland address. That check was being held until funds were in place.

An employee from the annuity company contacted the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services helpline because she knew something was amiss. An investigator from the Division of Insurance Fraud was at the consumer’s home within 30 minutes to explain the scam and assisted her in closing her bank account to secure her remaining savings. Consumers who are contacted by this company are encouraged to contact the department’s Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to report the scam.

>>> Press release: Volunteer Opportunity – Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program needs volunteers to join its corps of dedicated advocates who protect the rights of elders who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes.  The program’s local councils are seeking additional volunteers to identify, investigate and resolve residents’ concerns.  Special training and certification is provided. All interested individuals who care about protecting the health, safety, welfare and rights of long-term care facility residents — who often have no one else to advocate for them — are encouraged to call toll-free 1-888-831-0404 or visit the program’s website at http://ombudsman.myflorida.com.

>>> Press release: A weekend is a good time for taking a look at something special – and I promise this won’t take much time.

A real movement is built on the voices of its supporters and followers –  voices of vision, voices of frustration, voices of insistence on behalf of children. Today, thanks to the generosity of Rob Gidel and the Gidel Family Foundation, we introduce “Voices of Florida.” There you will find Floridians from so many walks of life telling, in their own words, why building a movement for Florida’s children is essential to their future and the future of our state and country. Here’s what I hope you will do: Visit the “Voices of Florida” website. Watch the videos (none more than two minutes). Read the stories. Tell us what you think. Share your story. Tell us why The Movement is important to you and your family. We are eager to feature more stories in “Voices of Florida.” Share “Voices” with others. That fuels The Movement. We each have a voice. What a difference we could make if we really — insistently and purposefully — used our voices. Wrote Dave Lawrence Jr., Chair The Children’s Movement

>>> Kristi House Press release: The Florida Safe Harbor Act Passes Unanimously! Thank you all!

Both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives have unanimously passed the Safe Harbor Act which is now on its way to Governor Rick Scott for signing. The new measure will provide services and protection rather than punishment to underage children caught up in a world of pimps and johns. This would not have been possible without your support! Thank you all for every call, email and letter sent on behalf of Kristi House. Today, because of your determination and dedication, commercially sexually exploited children will be recognized as victims – not criminals. We are incredibly thankful for the tireless efforts of our legislative leadership in Tallahassee – Senator Anitere Flores, Representative Erik Fresen and Representative Jeanette Nuñez. Your commitment and advocacy for these children has been nothing short of heroic! Thank you all so much!

With their leadership, we received an overwhelming amount of support from our state legislators. I know Sen. Flores, Rep. Fresen and Rep. Nuñez join me in thanking each and everyone of them for their support. We would like to especially thank Sen. Alexander, Sen. Storms, and Secretary Wilkins for their leadership and guidance in getting this bill to the Senate Floor with unanimous consensus. We are deeply thankful to you all. And finally, we must thank Kristi House Board Vice President Nelson Diaz, who has served as Kristi House’s pro bono advocate for the past three years of pushing for this legislation. In your words, Nelson – “It has been a long and, at times, arduous road, but it has certainly been a victorious conclusion and the beginning of many, many success stories for the children we serve.” We look forward to sharing these success stories with all of you! Trudy Novicki, Executive Director, Kristi House: Please read our Press Release http://www.kristihouse.org/pdf/SafeHarborPasses.pdf

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Federal courts shot down county Cuba ordinance, new state law has Atty. Cuevas sticking to past federal court rulings, Esteban & Souto fight decision

A variation of the past Cuba Ordinance passed by the Miami-Dade Commission in the 1990s but thrown out by federal courts in 2000 because foreign policy is the sole prerogative of the federal government, and not determined by state or local laws, is back on the front burner with some commissioners. Back then long serving legendary county Attorney Robert A. Ginsburg after the federal court ruling told sitting commissioners “don’t go there” when they tried to think of ways to avoid the restriction. And the discussions by commissioners went on for hours with Commissioner Javier Souto (Net worth $658,000) one of the members leading the discussion. But the top county attorney from 1980 to 2005 and a Harvard University law school graduate remained firm in his advice that the commission’s options were zero, the discussion was over and the federal judiciary had spoken. Now, fast forward to Tuesday where Souto during a discussion of what occurred in the state legislation session, where legislators passed a bill barring public money going to companies that do business in Cuba or Syria but flies into federal laws. Even though some counties around the nation are allowed to have such restrictions for Iran and the Sudan but that is only because the federal legislation allowed that local government involvement in a foreign policy.

And while the state bill got widespread support in the state legislature and was sponsored and supported by local legislators and is on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk to sign, veto or could let it become law July 1 without his signature. Ginsburg back then, while deeply appreciating the sensitive nature of this legislation within the exile Cuban community of the policy here. He totally shut down the notion that the county had the ability to make foreign policy and in this case, the same argument would apply to the state.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Jr., (Net worth $25,800) a former state representative who’s farther is a hero in the Cuban Exile community said he wanted Scott to sign the bill. And in a Mar. 22 memo he sent to county Attorney Robert Cuevas, he cited multiple cases where states were doing similar actions and he is also sponsoring a commission resolution on the matter. And Souto in a passionate speech said a trade show on Miami Beach recently included a “big picture of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.”  He said, “It was an insult to the Cuban people to have Mao” there at the event without a competing booth showing the horrors the man committed to his own people. Souto a former soldier in the Bay of Pigs failed operation along with Esteban’s father believes, “Some people will sell their soul to the devil,” referring to companies that did business with Cuba or China, both communist nations, and it “deeply hurts our community” and is a “deep problem,” he said.

Souto then referenced a past crane scandal around the mid 1990s at the port of Miami that involved Port honcho Carmen Lunetta and bond salesman Calvin Grigsby and how Grigsby had “taken the German companies [crane] plans and copied them.” And then he gave these to the Chinese, where Miami Port cranes 11 and 12 are now in use but were “made with slave labor and it was just about money,” he said. The former state senator also noted that Mao before his death in 1976 “had killed millions of people,” and essentially asked why did America trade with the nation given the human rights record within the Middle Kingdom. He closed saying he knew people and thousands of others that were executed by the Fidel Castro regime and he suggested it was a question of “Human Rights” versus “Freedom of Speech” and urged “the courts to debate,” the issue and make a ruling, he closed.


Souto

Esteban

>>> Does Commissioner Suarez have time for the political office?

The Watchdog Report is watching the political performance of Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez,(Net worth $328,500) elected to Commission District 7 last May and it is beginning to appear he might not have enough time to do the job the high maintenance constituents are used to, along with his private law practice.  He has yet to get a challenger for his race with the election on Aug.14 and he seems to think he is a shoe in for a full four-year term. And the engineer and Harvard trained attorney missed another Tuesday Commission meeting when he left around noon on Thursday in the middle of the commission hearing for the Jackson Health System employees. He said he had to leave to do a deposition with a federal judge and didn’t want to be late, he told his commission peers, prior to his departure from the dais.

Suarez, a former mayor of Miami that had his son Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez (Net worth $81,000) earlier in the day saying he understood what it was like to be related to a iconic figure of Miami politicos, while he gave recognition to Jorge Mas Canosa’s son Jorge R. Mas at a Miami commission meeting that he chaired. However, the son is 180 degrees different from the father that had the elder county commissioner saying in the past months. He had learned from Francis to “be more deliberate and conciliatory” in his dealings with people and colleagues. But his discomfort on the dais is almost visible and he asked Commission Chair Joe Martinez (Net worth $238,000) to be taken off his commission committee assignments, though Martinez declined that request.

County Commission District 7, snakes along the coast of Biscayne Bay and has a hefty tax base that Suarez calls like representing “Texas,” and he gets to “say yes a lot,” but the residents are high maintenance. And there is grumbling about his aloof nature and not being all that out going with new constituents, though he treats his friends with kid’s gloves. And a planned fundraiser on May 11 is promoted as the political event of a lifetime and is allowing him to test the fundraising waters where a chair goes for $100.00 and a table is a grand says the invite. This fundraiser if successful will allow Suarez to continue to “make invaluable contributions to our community,” states the invitation email. And if the event is highly successful, could propel him to jump into the mayoral race, already with around 12 candidates including incumbent Mayor Gimenez, County Commission Chair Joe Martinez and a host of others, ensuring there will be a runoff race in the November General Election.


Francis

Xavier Suarez

>>> What about the Coconut Grove Playhouse?

While Suarez has been rattling the cage of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (Net worth $923,000) and the administration’s supposed foot dragging on the shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse after the property was turned over from the state to the county. Gimenez on Thursday said he was only authorized by the county commission in February to review what the liabilities and lines are before he makes any move. He said he was going to be sure “due diligence” was done on the property before accepting the structure that has been hit by vandals, has a variety of liens on it and a number of past investor issues on some of the property. However, there is a Grove protest going on that involves tying yellow ribbons on trees and signs have popped up asking, “Take it back,” the Playhouse but the yellow ribbon is raising eyebrows since it usually applies to hostages or soldiers fighting in oversea wars. And Gimenez met with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff (Net worth $2.08 million), a critic of the slow pace the theater is preceding Thursday afternoon at Miami City Hall but what was said is unknown, but he did meet with the local commissioner after he drove himself to Dinner Key. >>> The county has $15 million from a 2004 $2.9 billion countywide bond and another $5 million is available for the theater that closed in 2006, but experts think $30 to $40 million may be necessary to restore the structure in its current or another form in the years ahead.

>>> It has begun, MIA fires up automated baggage handling system

The Watchdog Report last week contacted Miami International Airport (MIA) aviation director Jose Abreu asking about how the new Baggage Handling System (BHS) fired up on Tuesday in the North Terminal was going. In an email back Abreu wrote, “American Airlines and us have agreed on a criteria to evaluate the performance of the BHS during this trial period.  We will work together with AA in a cooperative manner in order for us to determine which is the best course of action after the trial period. We began our third day at about 4:30am.  Very minor issues so far.  All fingers are crossed,” wrote the professional engineer who plans to retire in November.

>>> PAST WDR:  MIA baggage system to start up on “trial basis” in April, MDAD & AA to review performance in May, says Abreu

After four weeks of past Watchdog Report stories covering the new $215 million, 13 mile automated security screening and baggage system’s implementation at Miami International Airport (MIA) North Terminal and the haggling between American Airline (AA) officials and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez (Net worth $923,000). Miami-Dade Aviation Director Jose Abreu said Friday night that a deal has been made with AA and the new Baggage Handling System (BHS) will be fired up on a “trial basis” starting in late March or early April he said. He noted there would be roughly a month of this trial run and then the “Miami-Dade Aviation Department and AA will evaluate the system for reliability in May,” he wrote Saturday. Abreu has had to pull the activation trigger despite AA concerns the system was not reliable, after the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in late January demanded it be implemented and would improve not only passenger’s baggage screening but also the customs and immigration process at the facility that processed 38.2 million passengers last year.

Since then some terse letters had come from AA senior management in February to MIA officials but as was reported last week the two entities leaders shook hands and agreed not to sue each other. Abreu said the meeting this week was also cordial and while the airline was concerned about another Apr. 1 “crisis” when the BHS was first briefly activated. They agreed the current aging legacy baggage system would stay in place until any kinks in the system were worked out and the county aviation guru noted. “We know now how to spot a crisis,” since it has been dealt with before. And since this April meltdown, two subsequent BHS tests were acceptable and the one occurring in October that had 7,500 bags tested, only resulted in the “mis-placing of four” of the bags, and now Abreu feels confident that the time has come to fire up the system, he said. >>> The Miami Herald weighed in on the issue last week and to see veteran county reporter Martha Brannigan’s story go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/28/2666234/mia-in-heated-feud-with-american.html


Abreu

Gimenez

>>> Vizcaya grappling with some fiscal issues

The Watchdog Report heard there were some issues with accreditation and funding at the Historic Vizcaya House and Gardens and I contacted Joel Hoffman, the curator of the community jewel last week. He wrote back in an email, “Vizcaya is accredited by the American Association of Museums. And, by the way, I am the only member of AAM’s Board of Directors from the Southeastern United States—something I consider an honor. However, we are in the middle of our re-accreditation process and the AAM Accreditation Commission, while acknowledging many positive developments over recent years, tabled our re-accreditation, principally because of concerns about Vizcaya’s long-term financial stability. Our projected shortfall for FY2012-2013 is larger than $600,000 at this very preliminary stage in the budget process,” wrote Hoffman.

>>> Press release: This past February, Miami-Dade Commissioners authorized the extension of an amnesty period for homeowners who have been unable to pay fines on their property due to building code violations. The item was brought before the Commission by Chairman Joe A. Martinez, who initiated this effort last year to assist residents during a difficult economy. In a recent report released by County Administration, the Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs has settled 36 cases since August 2, 2011, saving homeowners over $475,000 in fines. Chairman Martinez introduced the amnesty ordinance last July, with his colleagues passing the item on August 2.   The ordinance allowed homeowners a six-month grace period to bring their homes up to code and address any violations brought forth from the County.  After monitoring the success of the ordinance, Chairman Martinez asked to extend the amnesty period for an additional six months.

“This ordinance is allowing residents to fix existing issues with their homes without the stress of mounting fines from the County,” said Chairman Martinez. “Residents save money, a plus in a rough economy, and we can ensure that more homes are in compliance with our building standards.” Homeowners interested in seeing if they qualify for amnesty can contact the Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs at 786-315-2000.   To view the latest amnesty report click here.

>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County will have until July 1, 2013 to amend its scrap metal ordinance by incorporating changes to be made by the Scrap Metal Task Force created by Vice Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson to combat rampant and recent scrap metal and copper wire theft. In addition, scrap metal recyclers will pay higher penalties if they buy stolen copper or other metals for cash and without proper documentation, according to the legislation passed by the State Legislature in March. The law preempts new local ordinances but grandfathers existing ordinances. “I am very pleased that the State has recognized illegal scrap metal purchases and copper wire theft as a serious plague on our community and changed the law to reflect its concern,”  said Vice Chairwoman Edmonson.  “Every time a light pole goes dark because someone has ripped out the copper wire a citizen is put in danger because our streets become dark and dangerous. “I am looking forward to attacking this problem with the Task Force, relying on the expertise of not only municipalities and law enforcement but of the honest scrap metal dealers,” Vice Chairwoman Edmonson added.  “Our intent is not to cripple legitimate businesses—we just want to make it economically painful for those who unscrupulously buy and sell stolen goods.”

On October 4, 2011, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed an ordinance creating a task force to combat the rise of scrap metal and copper wire theft in the community.  The legislation, sponsored by Vice Chairwoman Edmonson, stipulates that the new task force will formulate recommendations to the Board on the enforcement of ordinances regulating junk dealers and scrap metal processors. The task force will be comprised of 21 members appointed by the Miami-Dade Commission, various municipalities and Miami-Dade department heads, the League of Cities, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Florida Power & Light, and residents. In April, 2011 Vice Chairwoman Edmonson sponsored legislation which strengthened local regulations on scrap metal processors and junk dealers.  The ordinance combines state statutes and existing County code provisions, while strengthening provisions regarding the sale of “restricted regulated items.” Skyrocketing prices for metals, especially copper, have resulted in a significant increase in the theft of copper, aluminum, and other ferrous and nonferrous metal material in Miami-Dade County.  Such thefts include metal materials from light poles, which create power outages and endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public particularly the elderly and children. According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), 30 lights along I-95 between NW 30th and 79th Streets have been targeted in the past year alone. This has become economically burdensome to Miami-Dade since the County is required to expend funds to replace or repair the stolen or vandalized street lights it owns. It costs approximately $1,000 to $1,500 to fix each damaged pole.

>>> County economist press release: An economic briefing presentation updated on March 13th to reflect the latest annual BLS revisions to employment and unemployment estimates is available for downloading. The presentation provides an overview economic conditions in 2011, recent trends in macroeconomic indicators and an economic outlook for Miami-Dade County in 2012.  The recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revisions to 2011 and 2010 local employment estimates indicate that private sector added more jobs in 2011 than they previously estimated. The unemployment estimates were also revised showing that peak (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rates did not exceed 12.6% in 2011, well below the 13.5% reported last year. The unemployment rate for January was reported at 10.2%.

Recent economic data reveal a local economy that is slowly but steadily recovering. The outlook for 2012 is one of continuing recovery at a modest pace, although there are risks to the forecast from a deceleration of growth in Europe and the emerging market countries, an increase in world energy prices, and financial instability in the euro zone, wrote Robert D. Cruz, PhD Chief Economist

<< CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE PRESENTATION >>

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Press release: School administration asks students to respect wishes of Trayvon Martin’s mother in honoring her son’s memory

Miami-Dade County Public Schools administrators have advised students that while the district respects their sentiments regarding the death of Trayvon Martin, who was a student at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, students are encouraged to make their first emphasis education. “While we respect the expression of emotion by our students, we ask that they remain focused on their education,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho. “Our most important mission is to provide a safe learning environment for students, and so we are asking them to respect the wishes of Trayvon’s mother by celebrating his memory not through walkouts, but through reflection and civic participation.”

Yesterday, Trayvon’s mother, Ms. Sybrina Fulton, contacted Miami-Dade County Public Schools to voice her disapproval of student walkouts and to encourage students to instead sign petitions, attend organized rallies, and pray.  Today, administrators at Miami-Dade’s secondary schools passed that information along to students, noting that respecting Ms. Fulton’s wishes is the best way to honor Trayvon’s memory in the most dignified manner. School administrators and Miami-Dade Schools Police, along with the police departments of local municipalities are working together to maintain vigilance and ensure safety as students demonstrate.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> FRB Vice chair Sharpton drops $900 million bombshell, that is Jackson’s liability to county if it goes down & Nurses get their day with commissioners

Daryl Sharpton, CPA, the Financial Recovery Board’s vice chair gave the monthly Jackson Health System report to the county commission Tuesday, and he noted they were still down to 15-days of cash on hand but stunned the public and commissioners when he said $900 million in liabilities were at risk if Jackson went bankrupt and closed. He said the bulk of the obligations are with bondholders but also included some $100 million in cost liabilities with Miami-Dade such as providing healthcare in the county’s jails and also includes leases of buildings and other such obligations. And he noted such a fiscal calamity would have profound affect on the local economy and since the county is backing the bonds could cause a cascading fiscal issue with other bondholders concerning the county’s own around $13 billion in issued paper.

What happened with the nurses and others commission presentation Thursday?

A marathon Miami-Dade Commission public hearing on the layoffs at Jackson Health System ended around 4:28 p.m., Thursday and while nothing changes when it comes to the 1,115 layoffs of a variety of staff, eliminating 195 vacancies, including a 20 percent cut of the administration. Commissioners after the lengthy discussion said it was a done deal even after Jackson employees warned of the medical danger of being short on nursing staff.  However, county commissioners did say there should be much more dialogue with the union representatives in crafting further changes or reductions in the future. Jackson has been in the news for decades concerning its fiscal health but got overwhelmed with uninsured and bad debt accounts from patients and the half-cent sales tax passed in 1991 could not keep up from 2000 on. With the first big fiscal warning coming back in 2004 when the health trust posted an $84 million loss, and made fiscal adjustments back to the late 1980s and paid a $42 million federal penalty.

Now, Jackson President and CEO Carlos Migoya, a former banker is faced with keeping the lights on at the venerable public hospital and the draconian action he says must be done to “right size” staff to patient volume that is down. The Watchdog Report contacted Miami-Dade Commission Chair Joe Martinez asking about the meeting and he responded by email. “We stepped out of their way. We heard the issues and I said many times, it wasn’t so much the layoffs, though they are devastating during these times, but we have to let them [the Financial Recovery Board] do their job or we may lose Jackson. And the state is banking on JHS failing. I will not allow that,” wrote Martinez first elected in 2000 and now running for county mayor in August.


Martinez

Sharpton

>>> Press release:  Monday’s FRB televised meeting: The March 26, 2012 Televised PHT Financial Recovery Board meeting agenda and supporting documents are available for view on the Jackson Health System website. As of June 2011 the Public Health Trust Financial Recovery Board committee and board meeting agendas and other supporting documents are now available for download in PDF format on the Jackson Health System’s website accessible at the following link:  https://www.jhsmiami.org/workfiles/wmApps/body.cfm?f_r=publicDocs&f_n=pDindex_PHT.cfm or http://www.jhsmiami.org/PHTmeetings

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Commissioners vote 5-0 that Guba is the “preferred” Auditor until pay package is set, Carollo to do negotiations

The Miami Commission tapped Ted Guba as the body’s new independent Auditor on Thursday by a 5 to 0 vote upon successful completion of his compensation package and the man currently is the auditor for the City of Doral. And his status is the “preferred candidate,” until his salary is negotiated by Commissioner Frank Carollo, (Net worth $707,000) also a CPA. Guba, who got the four-year post and cannot be removed without “just cause,” was considered the wiser choice by a selection committee made up of CPAs and attorneys and written about in last week’s Watchdog Report as the front-runner. He has been the auditor in years past at Florida International University (FIU) where he brought in the first IT auditor, and at the municipality there was “minimal turnover,” of staff, he told commissioners. Guba a consultant in his auditor function at Doral said he had solid “Management, technical and people skills,” and at Doral he had suggested to the five member mayor and council “seven recommendations.” But he also said Doral is different from Miami because given all the businesses in the area with only 34,456 residents and a property tax roll value of $8.92 billion, which is 4.6 percent of the county’s total property valuations. Doral was essentially a rich city and in there case, “They have too much money,” coming in from these different business entities which is far different from Miami’s tough fiscal situation.

What did commissioners say before the vote?

“I hate to hear about this [when it came to critical city department audits]” in the press and The Miami Herald said Commissioner Willie Gort (Net worth $226,000) during the discussion on the dais. He noted he has to “call his good friend Chuck [Rabin] the city beat reporter www.miamiherald.com if he wants to know “what is going on,” said Gort. However, Sarnoff said a better way to handle the Auditor notifying commissioners was “to follow generally accepted accounting principles.” And Commission Chair Francis Suarez chimed in that with the last Auditor Victor Igwe, there “were allegations [the Auditor’s office] was leaking reports to the media,” he said. Guba is expected to be in office in the coming days ahead and the expected salary is likely to be approved at the next commission meeting. The office had been vacant since June, Miami voters created the position over a decade ago and the office has played a key role over the past decade in identifying waste, fraud and abuse within the city.


Carollo

Gort

Sarnoff

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Mayor Bower & commissioners tap #2 Martinez as top cop, Tobin and Libbin give thumbs down

After some blistering comments from Miami Beach Commissioners Ed Tobin and Jerry Libbin about the need for an outsider to head the Miami Beach Police Department. The other commissioners and Mayor Matti Herrera Bower voted 4 to 2 to confirm Ray Martinez as the new Beach top cop. The department in the past has been plagued by a variety of instances including a major shoot out over Memorial Day. Martinez was the number two at the department at the time but since he temporarily took over the department the last four months. He was able to demonstrate he was changing the organization’s culture to “preventative policing,” accountability and “ownership” of police activities was the watchword of the day for the officers. He also introduced a new policing program that divides the city into eight sectors that will result in “accountability at all levels” and will “improve police and community relations,” states a handout document on the new sector program.

Martinez, a former Miami police officer before moving to the Beach in 2001 was doing the logistics for the department under Miami Police Chief William O’Brian during the federal extraction of the young Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez during the Easter Holiday in 2000. And many people in the community at the time believed Martinez was in the SUV federal agents used when the child was removed at around 3:00 a.m., Saturday morning. However, in fact the unidentified and mysterious man wearing a facemask in the seat was an ICE special agent and not the Miami officer, though he is said to have gotten some community blowback. And that controversy, plus O’Brian suddenly resigning after the April event may have contributed to his going to the new police force. After the highly controversial federal intervention that split the South Florida community into two distinct camps and tensions were charged between the local Cuban Exile community and the Anglos and African American communities.

>>> Clerk Parcher saying sayonara on Apr. 13, WDR gives him a Tip of the Hat for job well done

Robert E. Parcher, the long time Beach Clerk is saying sayonara on April 13 after filling the post back in 1996. He has been a great clerk and the Watchdog Report has never had a problem with him or how he treats the public. He said last week it “was his staff” that deserved the praise and the soft-spoken clerk will be missed with his retirement.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Gables residents get to weigh in on no truck law Monday night, has been a controversial issue for some

>>> Press release: The City of Coral Gables Planning and Zoning Board will hold a public hearing on Monday, March 26, 2012, and may make recommendations at this hearing on the regulation of truck parking in the City, as well as abandoned and junk motor vehicles. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the Board to review and discuss the current regulations and potential provisions related to trucks and abandoned and junk vehicles, and to allow the public an opportunity to comment as well. The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in the Commission Chambers located at City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way. Watch the meeting live on CGTV or on www.CoralGables.com.

CITY OF DORAL

>>> Press release:  Miami-Dade County, in partnership with the City of Doral and Dream in Green, is holding a Home Energy Savings Workshop on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm (registration begins at 6:00pm) at the City of Doral Council Chambers. The workshop is being held to educate residents on energy efficiency and conservation and provide homeowners with information, resources and incentives to reduce their utility costs. Participants will receive a free energy savings toolkit valued at over $100 and learn to track household energy consumption/reduction. More importantly, residents will save money by learning how to reduce energy use in their homes by 20-30 percent. “This is a great opportunity for our residents to save money in the long run,” said JC Bermudez, Mayor of the City of Doral, “and a great example of how the Federal, County and Municipal governments can work hand in hand to benefit the community at large and protect our environment.” The free energy savings toolkit includes items such as a programmable thermostat, hot water gauge, LED sensor nightlight and compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs). According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, we would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year, save about $700 million in annual energy costs, and prevent nine billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions of about 800,000 cars.

To register and for additional information, residents can call 3-1-1 or visit http://green.miamidade.gov. The workshop has limited space, and is open to the first 50 registered residents. Each participant will receive the free energy savings toolkit, limit one per household. The Home Energy Savings Workshops are part of the County’s award-winning Communitywide Energy Efficiency Campaign, an education program managed by the Office of Sustainability that engages residents to gain support for energy conservation, renewable energy, recycling, and waste reduction, and serve as a catalyst for long-term behavior changes resulting in reduced energy usage. To date, the campaign has resulted in a reduction of 4,041 metric tons of CO2e or $742,000 a year in energy savings. Other elements of the campaign include: showerhead and light bulb exchanges, $750 Savings Challenge, residential appliance rebate program and commercial rebate program. Learn more at http://green.miamidade.gov. On September 14, 2009, Miami-Dade County was awarded $12,523,700 through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and administered through the Department of Energy. The Countywide Energy Efficiency Campaign is one of 12 projects funded through EECBG. A complete project list is available at http://green.miamidade.gov.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Owner of Broward Tax Preparation Company Charged in Fraudulent Tax Return Conspiracy

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the indictment of defendant Shingirai Kasu, 31, formerly of Coconut Creek, in connection with a scheme to obtain significantly inflated tax refunds.

More specifically, the indictment charges Kasu with conspiracy to submit false claims to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286.  If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to ten years in prison.

According to the indictment, the defendant was the owner and operator of Right Quick Tax Services in Sunrise, Florida.  The defendant and other co-conspirators allegedly prepared tax returns that contained false and inflated claims for deductions, specifically for substantially inflated income tax withholding credits and telephone excise tax refund credits, in order to grossly inflate the tax refunds due to their clients.  The defendant and the other co-conspirators unjustly enriched their clients and themselves by preparing fraudulent tax returns that resulted in significant tax refund payments for their clients in addition to fees and compensation to themselves.

Kasu’s co-conspirators, defendants Teresa Francis-Kasu, 36, of Coconut Creek, and Tendai Busuman, 30, of Pompano Beach, were previously charged on March 5, 2012 in a criminal Information with conspiracy to submit false claims to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CID.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Katz. An indictment is only an accusation and 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 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.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Filiberto Valero as chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. Valero, 46, of Tampa, is a financial centers manager for Fifth Third Bank. He is appointed for a term beginning March 21, 2012, and ending April 30, 2013.

ALACHUA COUNTY

>>> Gov. Scott taps Phillip Pena, of Gainesville to County Court.

Pena, 41, has been an assistant state attorney with the State Attorney’s Office for the Eighth Judicial Circuit since 2001, except in 2010 when he practiced with the Keller Law Office. Previously, he was an assistant state attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit from 2000 to 2001 and the Twentieth Judicial Circuit from 1996 to 1999. In 1999, he practiced with Dell Graham. Pena received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree, with honors, from Florida State University. “Phillip has an excellent reputation as a skilled, hardworking and fair prosecutor,” Governor Scott said. “I am confident that he will bring these qualities to the bench, along with a deep respect for the role of the judiciary and the rule of law. He will serve the people of Alachua County well.” Pena will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Robert K. Groeb to the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Marilyn A. Lawless and Candice L. Loupe to the Children’s Services Council

Lawless, 72, of Port St. Lucie, is a registered nurse with the St. Lucie Medical Center.  She succeeds Cynthia Angelos and is appointed for a term beginning March 19, 2012, and ending November 13, 2014.

Loupe, 42, of Port St. Lucie, is a regional manager and senior vice president with PNC Bank.  She succeeds Dennis Corrick and is appointed for a term beginning March 19, 2012, and ending November 13, 2015

LAKE COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Jeanie L. Rowin to the Early Learning Coalition

Rowin, 62, of Tavares, is a branch manager for RBC Bank. She is reappointed for a term beginning March 19, 2012, and ending April 30, 2015.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Alfonso A. Perez and Stacy F. Silvestri to the Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee Counties.

Perez, 43, of Port St. Lucie, is a branch manager and vice president for BankAtlantic. He is appointed for a term beginning March 22, 2012, and ending April 30, 2015.

Silvestri, 47, of Stuart, is the co-owner of R&M Fabrics Inc. She is appointed for a term beginning March 22, 2012, and ending April 30, 2016.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Early Learning Coalition premier speaker Dr. Winsler on school readiness for children Apr. 2

Press release: The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe is proud to welcome Dr. Adam Winsler, Ph.D., to our Board Meeting on April 2, 2012. Dr. Winsler is a professor of Applied Developmental Psychology at George Mason University and editor of the Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Join us for a discussion of several recently published studies that emerged from the Early Learning Coalition’s school readiness assessment and intervention program in collaboration with George Mason University and Florida International University.

Specific topics will include: Prevalence of, and factors associated with, children’s delayed kindergarten entry and kindergarten retention, Long-term outcomes for children who are retained in kindergarten, Stability of childcare and children’s school readiness, The school readiness of Latino children attending family childcare vs. center-based care, Associations between child school readiness assessments at age 4 and performance (FCAT and grades) in 3rd grade, The school readiness of children born to low-income adolescent Latinas, The school readiness strengths and early school success for children of immigrant families.

Regular attendance in early elementary school is associated with student achievement, Factors associated with English language acquisition among ELL students. We look forward to seeing you at the Early Learning Coalition on April 2 at 8:00 a.m.  2555 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, FL 33134

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Amigos for Kids event: The Second Annual Celebration of Friendship Luncheon and Children’s Fashion show will be held on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Four Seasons. Many of you ask how you can get involved and help promote and support our mission of child abuse prevention & awareness. As you may know, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Amigos For Kids spearheads a Blue Ribbon Campaign in Miami-Dade County, including this fundraising event. If you would like your child to participate as one of the models in this year’s event, please respond to us by Tuesday, February 28, 2012. Space is limited, and commitment to participate is required.  Please feel free to forward this information to friends with children that may be interested. Fashion Show Theme – Island Cruising In The Tropics – Commitment requirements include: $ 20 fee per child ages 4 – 13 to participate as one of the models  One  ( 1 ) fitting session Two ( 2 ) practice sessions – Adult tickets to attend the event are $ 100 per person – tables set 12 and cost is $ 1,200.  Sponsorship & runway tables available. The attached form should be sent via email to: events@amigosforkids.org Thank you for your support and interest in our mission.  Rosa Maria Plasencia Executive Director Amigos For Kids, 801 S.W. Third Av., Suite 300 Miami, Florida 33130 P:  305 279 1155 F:  305 858 0794 www.amigosforkids.org

EDITORIALS

>>> It’s a go, MIA fires up new baggage system, well over 30,000 bags handled daily, small hic-up, but things going smoothly so far

Miami-Dade and South Florida residents should keep their fingers crossed as Miami International Airport (MIA) ramps up the new over 13-mile long Automatic Screening and Baggage Handling and Distribution system in the North Terminal used by American Airlines that will handle well over 42 million bags in the course of a year. And over the weekend handled over 35,000 bags per day that included hundred of thousands of tourists coming to Miami for the Ultra Music Festival along with cruise ship passengers.  MIA after almost two decades of rebuilding, expanding its now $6.2 billion north, and south terminals that were originally thought to cost under $2.2 billion. But that initial cost number was based on flawed cost estimates say experts familiar with the construction and had Miami-Dade Aviation Director Jose Abreu saying doing the massive project over a year ago. He said it was “like taking a shower while you retiled the bathroom,” since it is a working high volume international destination.

The MIA bonds some of which is backed by Miami-Dade County were used to finance MIA’s capital improvements and payments are at around 332 days before these bond payments reach $1 million a day. And it is vital that not only does tourism grow and use of the airport increases, but that the facility flourishes like never before. If the county’s general fund is not to be tapped, or landing fees to go even higher than these are now. The Watchdog Report for weeks recently wrote about this new MIA baggage technological tour de force and its activation that cost well over $200 million but the rubber is now hitting the road.

Tourism is one of the few bright spots for the local economy and the Watchdog Report wishes MIA and American Airlines the best of luck with this new baggage system that fuels tourism, which is the lifeblood of the South Florida in so many ways. And while it is a calculated gamble for AA, with over 70 percent of the airports gates. It was time to try the system after it passed a couple of recent tests that has not resulted in the catastrophic “crisis” that occurred in April 2011, making the international carrier in bankruptcy, gun shy when it came to its activation. MIA is now moving into new technological territory with the system beginning to ramp up but so far, so good, with only a slight hic-up on Saturday, and the flying public unaware of this new system’s activation is finding that their bags are arriving at their destination not somewhere else, and that is a good thing for all South Floridians who depend on the international facility in so many ways.

>>> Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers:  Paperwork Tiger

By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, January 20, 2003 — MIAMI – Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. It’s not by choice. Miami’s self-anointed citizen watchdog depends on the people he writes for and about to finance his quixotic quest to attend nearly every government meeting in Miami-Dade County. That’s a lot of mind-numbing meetings — as many as 2,500 a year — but not a lot of income. So Ricker is always teetering on bankruptcy. He dashes to his post-office box daily, hoping subscribers to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks.

LETTERS

>>> Local physician’s perspective on Jackson Health System staff cuts

Jackson Memorial Hospital, one of our finest teaching hospitals in the U.S., is stuck in a perpetual financial crisis caused, among other reason, by poor management. The proposed solutions do not follow surgical precision thinking but can only be compared with brute amputations threatening to destroy this great institution. The current management lacks strategic vision and obviously does not understand that the rapidly changing health care market demands flexibility and quick adaptation to evolving concepts of care delivery and reimbursement. This requires the development of team based care harvesting the creativity and experience of the highly skilled workforce.
Therefore, it is counter-intuitive to reduce the number of experienced health care workers who are needed to develop and sustain new care delivery systems such as the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH). Other hospital systems in the U.S. are successfully pursuing such concepts and are being rewarded financially. For example, all 11 hospitals and six large community health centers of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation have received medical home designation for delivering accessible, comprehensive and family-centered primary care to New Yorkers that aims to reduce avoidable healthcare costs over time.   The special designation was granted by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) to 616 primary care physicians who collectively care for nearly 100 percent of HHC’s primary care population of more than 477,000 adult and pediatric patients.  All of the HHC facilities received “Level 3″ designation, the highest ranking, which will qualify HHC for more than $15 million in Medicaid reimbursement rate increases every year.
The Patient Centered Medical Home is a model of care where each patient has an ongoing relationship with a personal clinician who leads a team that, together, takes responsibility for patient care. The clinician-led care team is responsible for providing all the patient’s health care needs and when needed, coordinating care across the health care system. The comprehensive care provided by the medical home leads to better health, longer lives, higher patient satisfaction and less expensive care. Jackson Memorial Hospital can lead the field in health care innovation and its not too late to implement changes. But we need a management team that can translate vision into reality.

Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD,FAAFP,FASAM

>>> Reader on Gloria Steinem’s 78th birthday

Sunday is Gloria Steinem’s 78th birthday — and no Equal Rights on the U.S. Constitution or Equal Representation in Congress yet, 236 years after independence from the British Empire! Meanwhile, the U.S.A is now 78th in the world for electing women (tied with Turkmenistan) or #95 on the list if you count the ties!  In her book “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Ms. Steinem wrote:  “I realize that, unless women organize, support each other, and force change, nothing basic is going to happen. Not even with the best of men. And I wonder: Are women — including me– willing to face that?” — As quoted in Chapter 1 (“Cutting to the Chase”) of my eBook “SMOKE & MIRRORS: The Truth About the Political Status of U.S. Women.”  In honor of Gloria Steinem, I am making that book available at no cost this weekend for your reading pleasure — if you are interested in the truth, that is…Click HERE to access the book and put in the discount coupon code XA38L when it asks you for one.  Have a great weekend, go U. Conn!  Paula Xanthopoulou (equalrepresentation.org) You can follow me on Twitter @paulax5050 and read my book Smoke & Mirrors -

>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000

ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S

HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr.

THE MIAMI HERALD     www.miamiherald.com (2000-2008)

ARTHUR HERTZ

WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)

ALFRED NOVAK

LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)

JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION  www.knightfoundation.org

THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE

>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com

RONALD HALL

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY  www.miamidade.gov

UNITED WAY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.unitedwaymiamidade.org

>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $1,000 a year

AKERMAN SENTERFITT   www.akerman.com

RON BOOK

LEWIS TEIN  www.lewistein.com

LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.

WILLIAM PALMER

SHUBIN & BASS     www.shubinbass.com

>>> Public, Educational & Social institutions – subscribers at $1,000 or less

CAMILLUS HOUSE, INC.   www.camillushouse.org

CITY OF MIAMI  www.miamigov.com.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES www.coralgables.com

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH www.miamibeachfl.gov

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.cph.org

THE STATE OF FLORIDA    www.myflorida.gov

GREATOR MIAMI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE www.miamichamber.com

GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU www.miamiandbeaches.com

HEALTH FOUNDATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA  www.hfsf.org

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY  www.miamidade.gov

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY ETHICS & PUBLIC TRUST COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov/ethics

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.net

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM   www.jhsmiami.org

THE BEACON COUNCIL   www.beaconcouncil.com

THE CHILDREN’S TRUST www.thechildrenstrust.org

THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES www.mdclc.org

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA    http://www.firstgov.gov/

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI             www.miami.edu

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 550 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, 2012, Daniel A. Ricker

>>> 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 >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>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 >>> 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.

********************************************************************

Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

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

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

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

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to: 3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133

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