Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.32 December 30, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Best to the WDR 2012 Part II
Argus Report: Human Trafficking king pins trying to use middle school boys as pimps, to lure girl classmates into sexual slavery, global market $12 billion, #2 illicit industry to drugs
Florida: Many Freshman House legislators are in the red when it comes to their personal finances
Florida Supreme Court: Retention of Justice Lewis in Nov. election in tea party cross hairs, opponents note there is a better way to remove judges than by elections, he had $3.3 million net worth through Apr. 2012
Miami-Dade County: Commission Chair Sosa brings conciliatory temperament to dais & Commissioner Souto says “OK” if Sweetwater only wants to annex FIU campus
Miami-Dade Public Schools: SB Audit & Budget Advisory Committee fires off critical letter to Rep. Lopez-Cantera protesting changing state legislation funding capital needs of charter schools facilities with public dollars, but not public assets
Public Health Trust: Ryder Trauma Center, community jewel since 1992, is fiscally hemorrhaging with $28 million loss for year in funding since Kendall Regional opened Level II trauma center
City of Miami: Political tensions will heighten if Commission Chair Suarez runs against Mayor Regalado in Nov., how low could this campaign go?
City of Miami Beach: Will new faces appear on Commission dais next Nov.? Termed out Mayor Bower may want back on the commission
City of Coral Gables: Candidate field widens in Group II commission race, Lago, Ebbert and Hancock now in the fray
City of South Miami: Commission sacks another manager, Mayor Stoddard says Mgr fired because he “under mined [his] bosses”
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Snipes elected unopposed, took over from controversial Oliphant suspended by Gov. Bush, incumbent had $608,000 net worth through 2011
City of Hollywood: Hollywood Man Convicted for Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud
Palm Beach County: Commissioner Abrams in the spotlight, came after past political purge, had $310,000 net worth through 2011
Monroe County: Keys Administrator Gastesi says, “Tourism is booming,” and come on down to magical Key West and the Keys
Community Events: – National Everglades Restoration yearly conference at Biltmore Hotel in January Everglades Coalition Conference — Regional Planning meetings around the South Florida counties
Editorials: FBI Dir. Muller is right, ending public corruption & all forms of fraud require residents help, you can call in info vital to ending this scourge — Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers: Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, Orlando Sun-Sentinel January 20, 2003 >>> And a 2004 UNC Chapel Hill study of the Southeast United States 15 states media outlet study where the Watchdog Report is listed as writing a “influential” column in Florida with over 100,000 readers: http://www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf
Letters: Readers on upcoming New Year – last week’s WDR
Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
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>>> Red Alert: If you think it is important to have an alternative mainstream news service, I hope you will consider becoming a financial supporter for I do have to live and pay my rent. I also want to thank again all those people and organizations that have supported me and I have been honored by that trust and support of my efforts over the past almost 14 years.
>>> This week’s Watchdog Report is a mixture of past reports during the year and current news stories and when you consider all the scandals in both Miami-Dade and Broward, especially when it comes to the local municipalities in the past days. Some success has been chalked up on the removing wayward public officials and public servants but more needs to be done to ferret out waste, fraud, abuse, and public corruption. And is why I have continued the Watchdog Report over the past almost 14-years.
>>> I want to wish you and your family a Great New Year, and may you all have great health and a robust and successful 2013. >>> Further, check out www.wpbt.org/issues this past Friday and Sunday where the WDR is a panelist with Marc Caputo, Tim Elfrink and Michael Mayo and Helen Ferre on Channel 2 hosts the show, where we discuss the last year’s top news stories.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> PAST MAY WDR: Human Trafficking king pins trying to use middle school boys as pimps, to lure girl classmates into sexual slavery, global market $12 billion, #2 illicit industry to drugs
When you think something cannot get any worse when it comes to the human trafficking of children, a local federal prosecutor and ICE special agent told the Miami-Dade School Board, little boys are now being used as pimps for seventh and eighth grade girls, and in general over 200,000 to 300,000 of America’s citizen children are ensnared in this human tragedy at all ages a year, state U.S. Dept of Justice support documents. Barbara A. Martinez, the Chief Special Prosecutor and coordinator for the Project Safe Childhood and Human Trafficking Task Force for the Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s office detailed this ugly activity, at this month’s Board meeting. And the shocked school board members along with the school administration are staging a massive outreach program for parents and children in May and June to report any attempt by people to lure their youth into this dark world. Where younger children, especially females, get a premium price in the global black market of human trafficking. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/factsheet.html >>> http://abcnews.go.com/US/domestic-sex-trafficking-increasing-united-states/story?id=10557194 >>> Here are some more heart wrenching child trafficking statistics: http://sctnow.org/contentpages.aspx?parentnavigationid=5827&viewcontentpageguid=29d295d1-5818-4e7a-bde1-f61690fa44a8
Only drugs are a bigger illicit industry
The human trafficking industry is the largest illicit industry after drugs state’s a U.S. State Department study, its value globally is roughly $12 billion and the activity is growing at a rapid rate, thanks to the internet, and webpage’s soliciting and drawing young people into the global pool of exploited children. Further, about 2.8 million kids runaway in the United States every year and roughly one-third of them in the first 48 hours of hitting the street. These runaways are now involved with prostitution or pornography, state’s the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Trafficking exists right in your backyards, in schools” and the “recruiting of these young people to become trafficking victims,” exists everywhere, said Carmen J. Pino, the ICE Asst. Special Agent in Charge in the Office of Investigation. “They hide in plain site,” and the mission is to get the message out to the community because it “is not just labor trafficking” like many people believe but we are “seeing more and more younger victims,” who are sexually assaulted sometimes up to two dozen times “in a night.”
Martinez said there are four federal prosecutors all focused on combating human trafficking and since 2004 this detail has been beefed up but she noted, “This does impact our schools, and the federal government prosecutes some 8 to 12 cases a year,” she noted. And “half of the sex traffic cases prosecuted is with minors” who many times have come from local junior and high schools, she closed. The Chair of the Kristi House Board Nelson Diaz, a local organization that protects and shelters such young victims and the organization helped get passed a new Safe Harbour bill in the Florida legislature this past session that decriminalizes minors caught and arrested in the trade, but were in the past prosecuted. He said, A 13 year old does not wake up and decide to become a prostitute” and these “victims have dreams.” These children “can be treated” and while there are some “700,000 new victims around the globe” these acts are a “viscous cycle of the past and present” and must be broken for ultimately it is “modern day slavery,” the private attorney closed.
School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall (Net worth $491,000) said she had “friends” who had to deal with this issue and this is more than “negative behavior,” these are “Mean and devious people,” and the students need to know “what the perils are,” she said. Board vice Chair Dr. Lawrence Feldman, who sponsored the board item, said if a student finds themselves facing such issues. They should “talk to their counselor” and they should “know you are not alone,” he said. And the former principal closed in a somber note saying, “Traffickers are trying to recruit girls from the middle and high schools” for this purpose which shows how entrenched the activity has become on a national and global scale. For information on Kristi House go to www.kristihouse.org >>> To report Human Trafficking to a federal authorities call 888.373.7888.
>>> Press release: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today released the following statement on the need for the State Department to implement all the reforms outlined in the Benghazi report. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “The Benghazi report made clear that the culture and bureaucracy of the State Department have serious systemic issues that go far beyond the failings of a few mid-level officials. The problem lies within the core of the Department and its leadership with respect to how information is disseminated, decisions are made, and funds are allocated. The evidence of this culture is clear with recent reports alleging that State has both failed to hold key individuals accountable by attempting to conceal their transfers to other departments, and has used them as scapegoats for the larger, systemic problems within the department.
“However the removal of a few individuals is merely a band-aid that will not address the much larger systemic failings facing the State Department: precisely, the mismanagement of funds for special projects and its inability to prioritize existing funds. How can the same bureaucracy that failed our consulate in Benghazi be trusted to implement all the critically needed reforms from the Benghazi report? How can we expect that the Department of State will fully enforce all of the recommendations from the Benghazi report, when in past Accountability Review Board reports, their recommendations were swept under the rug?
“Real change is needed and must be implemented now. These problems go beyond Benghazi and are part of a culture at State that seeks to shield itself from any failures and then continues business as usual. Individuals who failed to do everything in their capacities to help our frontline mission in Benghazi should be held accountable but the reforms should not end there. Without an honest approach to reforms to the bureaucracy at State and a change in the culture of the department, another Benghazi cannot be avoided. State’s leadership must stop looking for ways to hide their embarrassment and do what is best for the nation and fix these problems now.”
>>> 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 and was Best Citizen in the 2003 Best of Miami of The Miami New Times, profiled twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel ran a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003, and UNC Chapel Hill named 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 91.3 FM 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 on www.CBS4.com and The Florida Roundup on www.wlrn.org
>>> Many Freshman House legislators are in the red when it comes to their personal finances
Florida Trend www.floridatrend.com the monthly magazine recently ran the net worth of some new Florida legislators and when it comes to their net worth. The state representatives are on shaky ground with many of them having a negative financial condition when it comes to their personal finances. The magazine state’s Reps. Darren Soto has a negative net worth of $75,142, Ralph Bracy is worth $2,573, Manny Diaz Jr., is negative $20,800 and Katie Edwards has a negative net worth of $111,574. Florida House representative Dave Hood has a minus $246,500 in assets, Dave Kerner is minus $54,612, Kionne McGhee is in the red to the tune of $49,760, Jake Raburn is minus $51,564 and Ricardo Rangel is a negative $25,000. David Richardson is worth over $3.5 million, Jose Javier Rodriguez is minus $22,543 and Victor Torres’ net worth is negative $30,846.
>>> Press release: Celebrating 10 Years of Improving the Lives of Children and Families – The Children’s Trust marks its 10th anniversary by looking back on the impact it has made on the lives of children and families across Miami-Dade County. “Thanks to the tenacity of my predecessor and founding Board Chair, David Lawrence Jr., voters in our community voted in 2002 to tax themselves for children and then reaffirmed that commitment in 2008 with an astonishing margin of victory never seen before or since,” said Maria Alonso, chair of The Children’s Trust Board of Directors. “It shows what a generous community we really are – and that’s something I often hear as I travel around the state.” The Children’s Trust has sought to earn the public trust as worthy stewards of their hard-earned money and has done so by seeking data-driven results and by following the highest standards of ethics and transparency. Its diverse 33-member board is intentionally representative of the many players and organizations that serve children and families in Miami-Dade County and work to achieve systemic change.
Before its first grant award in the summer of 2004, the landscape was quite different. Quality summer camps were unaffordable for most working-class families; the summer option was essentially remedial instruction offered by public schools for students at risk of failing. After-school care was a way to pass the time until mom or dad finished work; and there was little or no assessment of children’s progress in these programs. Teens uninvolved in school sports or clubs had precious few other opportunities for healthy engagement and artistic expression. Teen pregnancy was on the rise, and young men prone to risky behavior frequently suffered run-ins with the law. School administrative staff were too often charged with deciding whether a student feeling ill should be sent home or return to class. One in five, or 110,000, Miami-Dade children under 18 were uninsured. Organized efforts to infuse early child care with educational standards were few; more than six in 10 youngsters were not ready to enter kindergarten. Parenting classes for the most part meant an intervention for when a parent, child or youth had gotten into trouble. “While our commitment has always been to serve ALL children, we also have been committed to investing most heavily in those neighborhoods and communities where our most vulnerable children live and where there are concentrations of violence and crime, school failure, and poor health outcomes,” said Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust.
Things have truly changed, and, while The Children’s Trust cannot take full credit, its role as an agent of change has been significant. Its focus on more universal programming has made after-school and summer programs available to far more families than ever before and these programs are more engaging, educational, and results-driven. It has greatly expanded opportunities for children with special needs by insisting upon inclusion as a condition of Trust funding. Instead of wandering the streets after school, thousands of teens and preteens now have more meaningful options to express themselves creatively and practice positive social behaviors. The teen birth rate has dropped from 39.8 to 24.4 births per thousand. The number of referrals/arrests for youths 10-17 has dipped from 7,882 to 4,285 over the past seven years. The Trust has created a national model for school-based health. Students who feel ill at school can be treated by a health professional at more than half the county’s schools, and services offered there now focus on the whole child – their physical as well as their mental health. The number of uninsured children has dropped to one in seven, or 79,000. Parents are learning more than ever that they are their child’s best first teacher, and that quality child care is central to their child’s future success. More early childhood educators are embracing quality standards and see their field as a respected and viable profession. Half of the county’s children are now ready to enter kindergarten, a percentage we certainly hope to continue to increase. While many factors have influenced these decreases, The Children’s Trust asserts that its programs and initiatives have contributed significantly to these shifts in the socio-economic terrain of the county to the benefit of children and families.
Since the inception of The Children’s Trust, 315,000 individual children, youth, parents, and caregivers have benefited from one or more ongoing service programs; nearly 97,400 students made 1.2 million visits to its school health suites; an estimated 67,800 infants and young children have been cared for by providers in The Trust’s child care quality improvement initiative; and hundreds of thousands of families have been served through The Children’s Trust 2-1-1 helpline, community outreach, and public awareness efforts – amounting to countless beneficiaries of its $623.5 million in investments throughout Miami-Dade County. Two years ago, The Trust launched its most ambitious initiative to date: Read to Learn. Helping children to become better readers has become a nationwide crusade, and locally The Children’s Trust is spearheading the campaign. Children learn to read beginning at birth and, by the age of eight must be able to make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. With the engagement of parents and the support of our partners and community, this bold initiative proposes that all children in the county will, at the critical third-grade juncture, read at or above grade level. In these 10 years, The Children’s Trust has come a long way and done a lot of good for the children and families in Miami-Dade County. By continuing to work together with all of its partners in the community, The Children’s Trust hopes to generate even more progress in the years ahead. The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County.
>>> Children’s Movement of Florida Voices of Florida – We all have a story, a story that defines us. It is our collective story, our challenges and our triumphs that inspire a movement. Floridians from all walks of life have joined together with an understanding that the future of our state rests on the well-being of our children. Visit The Children’s Movement website to read their stories and share your own. >>> I find it unacceptable, as all of us should, that at least a half-million children in Florida – all citizens — have no health insurance. How could this be in our beloved country that seeks to be a beacon to the world? Health insurance for all children is one of the five major planks of The Children’s Movement. With the support of Florida Covering Kids and Families, The Children’s Movement is working with dozens of local partners to help build a meaningful signing-up initiative in more than a dozen Florida communities. Already we have: Completed 18 KidCare trainings around the state. Signed up, trained and deployed more than a hundred volunteers. Begun to build a growing collaboration between local school districts and KidCare outreach coalitions. It’s a good start, but only the start. If you’d like to become a volunteer, just click here. Another way to help is to make a contribution – of any size – to help support this work. It is easy. Just click here. A real movement isn’t possible without your helping in some meaningful way. Dave Lawrence, Chair The Children’s Movement.
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
>>> PAST AUG. WDR: Retention of Justice Lewis in Nov. election tea party cross hairs, opponents note there is a better way to remove judges than by elections, he had $3.3 million net worth through Apr. 2012
Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis is in the spotlight this week and Lewis along with Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. Tea party activists who are upset with their perceived liberal judicial rulings are targeting the jurists and both sides are squaring off readying for what normally would be a routine election. The critics charge that the three justices are using the court for political purposes, and that their rulings are a reflection of their political beliefs. Since Lewis and Pariente were appointed by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Quince was a joint appointment by Chiles and former Gov. Jeb Bush (after Bush was elected in Nov. 1998 but had yet to take office in January 1999). But the three jurists have become a flash point for conservative activists and a statewide media and newspaper campaign by both sides is expected leading up to the general election. For more on the controversy go to: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/florida-supremes-face-political-battle-to-keep-job/nPsqM/
What do we know about Lewis’ finances?
Lewis through Apr. 20, 2012 had a net worth of $ $3.3 million and there is $300,000 in household goods. One property is worth $450,000, two homes are valued at $950,000 and $950,000, and his only creditor, Bank of America is owed $105,360. And his only income for the year was $155,800 from the state of Florida. >>> The mailing address is 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee FL 32399-1925. Attorneys or law students interested in clerkships in this office should check our Law Clerk Recruitment Page. There also is information on Internships.
>>> Commission Chair Sosa brings conciliatory temperament to dais, Commissioner Souto says “OK” if Sweetwater only wants to annex FIU campus
Rebeca Sosa, the incoming Chair of the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners Jan. 1 told the Watchdog Report there will be a commission meeting first Jan. 23, and there will be a separate swearing in ceremony of the new leadership. She said it was better for the public and people with issues before the commission that they should not have to sit through a swearing in ceremony that brings out a different crowd of people and supporters for the event. Sosa, an employee of the Miami-Dade Public Schools System and raised in Puerto Rico though she is Cuban American has been a moderating force on the 13-member commission, and she has come a long way since being the City of West Miami mayor in the late 1990s. She is also close to now U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and used to have her district office across the hall from Rubio’s and she watched his rise from a West Miami commissioner, to a state representative and Speaker of the House and now the United States Senate over the years.
What about Commissioner Javier Souto and the Sweetwater annexation?
Souto on Thursday at county hall told the Watchdog Report that he has known Sosa for decades and her relative; a doctor treated him over the years. He thought she will make a great chair and when I asked him about the City of Sweetwater controversial annexation, and the feud between Souto and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono that has gotten extensive press. The former state senator said Sweetwater was once his district when he was in the legislature, that he held “Town hall meetings” frequently there. And he still has a lot of friends in the city founded in the early 1930s by Russian circus performers. He said he has known the people there when the mayor at the time was “running around in diapers,” and in the past-believed Sweetwater was making an annexation grab to get the tax base for the city. However, Marono has said they only want to annex the Florida International University campus and some of the surrounding area and since FIU does not pay property taxes. He has said it was not for the property tax dollars, and when I asked Souto about it being only the public university’s campus. He said that was “Okay” but he still worried the city would expand its boundaries into “other parts of Westchester,” he said.
>>> Dec. 19, Miami-Dade Inspector General Report:
Final Report Re: Miami-Dade County Internal Services Department’s Failure to Obtain Building Permits for Work Located in the City of Miami; IG12-26, December 19, 2012.
>>> PAST MAR. WDR: Marlins President Samson raises eyebrows with controversial comments; Mayor Gimenez says he should apologize on WPBT Issues
Dave Samson, the President of the Miami Marlins has been taking a victory lap at community events last week with the opening of the new baseball stadium in early April. But his outspoken comments about government officials around the nation (partially mis-quoted) and getting things accomplished within government has raised the ire of some state and local elected leaders. The attorney gave a frank assessment of the strategy the team used to “leverage” the professional teams position in negotiations with city and county officials for a new $634 million baseball stadium with a retraceable roof in Little Havana on the old Orange Bowl site and elected leaders bought into it. The five foot, five inch man, a motivational speaker on the side said the talks with elected leaders in Miami and Miami-Dade County had stalled back in the mid 2000s and why he went to Texas and bought a big cowboy hat to wear to a baseball game in the Lone Star State and caused a brouhaha locally that the team was selling out Miami.
However, Samson said the television shot of him wearing the hat and the reaction was what he anticipated and after that shock treatment. He said leaders recommitted to getting the stadium done that finances out to around $2.5 billion through the life of the bonds that were floated. However, it also cost recalled Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas their jobs partially after a small turnout of voters recalled the two officials. Samson also carped that Norman Braman; the billionaire auto magnate should run for office himself rather than just complaining about what elected leaders are doing. He said recalling leaders is not the best method and the fact voters are so apathetic only highlights the dysfunctional nature of government. Where people just complain but do nothing about it. Braman in the press after the remarks essentially ignored the comments made by the point man for the team.
Samson made a slightly toned down variation of the controversial speech he made at a Tuesday Beacon Council breakfast (to see the video go to www.miamiherald.com ) at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on Wednesday. He said Miami-Dade is a great place to “do business” because “You can make a fortune in Miami” and in the case of the new ballpark. He said the 37,000 seat facility that broke ground 33 months ago that will feature 81 games will be a community game changer. He said he got a call from Pat Riley, the Miami Heat coach after a sports channel downgraded the channel for a Heat game that conflicted with a baseball game. Samson said Riley noted when it came to television ratings, “We crush you,” but Samson says that is changing. The father of three said that with the team winning two World Series in its essentially short history, he sees a bright future for the professional team and when it comes to South Florida. “Everything we do in Miami” is watched by the nation, we are a community that is “event driven”, and that is “who and what we are,” he said.
However, Samson’s exuberance at these meetings while understandable in some ways, gives the impression the team is poking the public in the eye given how then County Manager George Burgess who attended the Chamber luncheon structured the deal. The Manager at the time when it was being voted on said it was like buying a house and taking out a mortgage, but despite being asked the overall cost. The long time county employee brushed that off; as did Alvarez and county commissioners were never told the total future bond liability they were voting to approve when the stadium deal was consummated. Critic’s carp the Marlins should have kicked in more equity and the bulk of the bond payments come in the back half of the multi-decade’s long bonds and with the team’s attendance the worst in the league. One fan said last week that you always know when the Marlins are playing on television because “all the seats are empty,” and while the Marlins are flying high now. The team management has to make sure that lack of attendance never happens if the county’s general fund is not to be tapped into to cover any revenue shortfall in the years ahead.
>>> GMCVB press release: DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG ― GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES RANKS #4 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REV PAR), #4 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #5 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY FOR JANUARY-NOVEMBER 2012 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS – For January – November 2012, Greater Miami and the Beaches showed increases vs. 2011, ranking #4 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $122.83, #4 in Hotel Room Occupancy at 76.5% and #5 in Average Daily Room rate (ADR) at $160.51 among the Top 25 Markets in the U.S. Smith Travel Research compares the top markets in the United States based on Occupancy, Average Daily Room
Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar).
|JANUARY – NOVEMBER 2012|
|REVENUE PER AVAILABLE HOTEL ROOM (REV PAR)|
|Market||$||% Change vs. 2011|
|1. New York||$206.30||+6.9%|
|2. Oahu Island||$154.14||+17.1%|
|3. San Francisco||$141.36||+12.7%|
|AVERAGE DAILY OCCUPANCY|
|Market||% Occupancy||% Change vs. 2011|
|1. Oahu Island||84.9%||+5.3%|
|2. New York||83.4%||+2.7%|
|3. San Francisco||81.4%||+1.5%|
|5. Los Angeles||76.4%||+5.1%|
|AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE|
|Market||$||% Change vs. 2011|
|1. New York||$247.22||+2.6%|
|2. Oahu Island||$181.57||+11.2%|
|3. San Francisco||$173.62||+11.1%|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> PAST FEB. WDR: >>> SB Audit & Budget Advisory Committee fires off critical letter to Rep. Lopez-Cantera protesting changing state legislation funding capital needs of charter schools facilities with public dollars, but not public assets
The Miami-Dade Public Schools Audit and Budget Advisory Committee held a special meeting Friday afternoon to approve a letter addressed to state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami (Net worth $1.85 million) stating their financial concern to the nation’s fourth largest school district if Florida Senate Bill 1852 and a similar House Bill 903 is passed that would be “devastating,” to the district. Miami-Dade is the state’s biggest school district and the letter notes the diversion of $55 million in capital funds to Charter Schools last year yet “school districts received none,” is putting the larger districts around the state in a fiscal vice when it came to capital improvements and serving past debt load. Further, Miami-Dade has had to comply with the state’s Class Size Amendment, that the charter schools did not have too, that had a major public school construction boom take place in the early 2000s that had the bulk of the district’s debt being incurred prior to 2008. And with the reduction in property tax millage and “ the 28 percent erosion in property value that has decreased the capital budget from $2.3 billion to just over $500 million over the past five years,” and “certified taxable values are expected to continue to decline another three percent.” And in the case of Miami-Dade if the legislation passes, the public schools will be forced “to either drastically reduce maintenance or impact educational programs to pay debt service,” and that is an estimated loss of $198 million over four years forcing the district to fund capital costs from the general fund.
However, the overall thrust of the letter is the concern that public dollars are being used to pay for rent for charter school facilities that are “not owned by the charter schools, but secured on a rental basis from private entities, and would ultimately result in the acquisition of private assets with public money.” And while the Audit Committee “supports the establishment of charter schools” we are of the opinion that adequate and strict stewardship of public tax funds is a requisite for their productive functioning,” wrote Audit Committee Chair Jeffrey B. Shapiro, Esq and a former prosecutor in the drafted letter to the state legislator, who is also the majority leader in the Republican controlled state House.
What is the Audit Committee?
The Audit & Budget Advisory Committee is the community’s firewall overseeing over $4 billion in tax payer dollars and the committee is made-up of some of the top tax lawyers and Certified Public Accounts in South Florida and one of the reasons the public doesn’t hear about a lot of scandals any more within the district versus 10 or 15 years ago. I have been covering these audit meetings since late 1997, and since around 2004 there has been a normal rotation of leadership on the public board, that includes one voting school board member currently Board vice-Chair Lawrence Feldman, Ph.D. (Net worth $2.5 million) And the organization’s performance has been outstanding since then as these volunteers give their valuable time, to keep an eye on the sprawling public schools operations with over 350 schools, and roughly 347,000 students.
>>> The Fantastic 4 of school board members are reelected after going unchallenged, Holloway, Karp, Feldman and Curbelo sail back into office
Four veteran school board members were reelected last week without opposition and it was smooth sailing for Dr. Tee Holloway (net worth $675,000), Dr. Martin Karp (Net worth $2.22 million), Dr. Lawrence Feldman (Net worth $2.54 million), the Board vice chair, and Carlos Curbelo (Net worth $366,000) back to representing their respective districts on the nine member board over seeing the fourth largest public schools district in the nation. The Watchdog Report had reported that this was likely to occur, and it has come to pass. Holloway, a former state representative who was initially appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist (Net worth $461,000) after board member Robert Ingram passed has been a calm force on the board, has settled in since then, and is a solid board member.
Karp, a former educator with the district was first elected in a tough race in 2004 where he faced Michael Kosnitzky in the general election, a former Chair of the Public Health Trust and a tax attorney, but Karp prevailed in that race. Feldman, a former district principal ran in 2008 and bested incumbent school board member Evelyn Greer (Net worth $7.75 million), who was ill during the campaign, and Feldman had major teacher union support at the time. And Curbelo has been an aide to former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-FL, and a political consultant since 2002, has an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Miami and developed his political chops back at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School where in his senior year. He was the student council president. For more on the story go to: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/08/2839962/four-miami-dade-school-board-members.html
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> PAST JUL. WDR: Ryder Trauma Center celebrates 20 years in Aug. it took philanthropist Weiss only a few minutes to secure first $2.5 million in seed money from Ryder Corp. CEO Burns back in 1992, ultimately cost $28 million
In early August, the Ryder Trauma Center, the only Class I such center in South Florida will celebrate its 20th Anniversary and the community jewel is under siege financially. Now that a Class II Emergency Room has been opened at the private Kendall Regional Hospital in west Dade and is getting many of the car crashes that Ryder used to get, and includes many of these injured people having at least $10,000 in personal health insurance, PIP. Insurance that is required for automobile drivers and has helped buffer the cost of having a 24/7 facility that is fully staffed with physicians and surgeons regardless of the time of day.http://www.jhsmiami.org/body.cfm?id=204 >>> http://surgery.med.miami.edu/trauma/ >>> http://www.friendsofryder.org/index.php?p=details
The Watchdog Report covered the tenth anniversary of the facility back in 2002 and so did then Mayor Alex Penelas and when the Jackson Hospital CEO Ira Clark spoke during the celebration. Clark’s verbally confused and disjointed comments sparked a lot of conversation among attendees and had Penelas walking away saying essentially what was going on with the community icon running the hospital complex, who clearly was having some mental distress. And it would be known only later that Clark was in the first stages of Alzheimer disease and why he was having this difficulty. But Ryder over these years has become a community crown jewel and communities around the nation would kill for such a trauma facility for their own needy people, and south Florida residents should speak up and support this special trauma center that trains U.S. Army surgeons before they rotate to overseas military bases.
What about Jay Weiss?
Jay Weiss, a billionaire and local philanthropist told the Watchdog Report after the 10th Anniversary celebration was over that when he first called Ryder CEO M. Anthony Burns back in 1992. The conversation lasted only a few minutes and Burns agreed to help immediately, he said. But the dream of a new trauma center at the beginning was hampered because it needed some seed money to get started and Burns agreed to the first big donation of $2.5 million that ultimately cost $28 million to construct and furnish the trauma center with the high tech medical technology. That makes the center world known and accounts for the medical training of the majority of trauma surgeons practicing in Israel.
>>>Webpage Bio: A Fitting Tribute -The Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity is a fitting tribute to a man who was known in the Miami community and beyond as a champion of the poor and those in need and as having a generosity that knew no bounds. Often called the best friend of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital, Jay Weiss spent over two decades championing the cause of public health. He served in a variety of roles during that time including the University of Miami Board of Trustees, and Chairman of the Miami-Dade Public Health Trust, which oversees Jackson Memorial Hospital. Mr. Weiss also served eight years as the Chair of the board of governors of the University of Miami/Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was a founding member of the Jackson Memorial Foundation and started the Mary Beth Weiss Research Center in memory of his wife, who died of lymphoma in 1977.
Mr. Weiss worked untiringly to ensure that the county’s poorest residents had access to quality medical care. In 1991, working closely with Jose Cancela and Mike Abrams, he spearheaded the campaign to pass a half-penny sales tax to support Jackson Memorial Hospital. The passage of the half-cent sales tax referendum on September 3, 1991 has provided a steady income for Miami-Dade’s only public hospital where access to world class health care is available to the citizens of Miami-Dade County, whether they be rich or poor – supporting Mr. Weiss’ belief in one standard of care for all. Mr. Weiss raised more than $150 million for University of Miami, including millions in his own contributions. He was responsible for the fundraising effort to build the Ryder Trauma Center. The need behind this initiative was the radically increased demand for trauma services at Jackson. Leading the effort to raise the needed funds, he secured the key $2.5 million donation from then Ryder System Chairman, M. Anthony Burns. Mr. Weiss was then able to help raise other contributions that made the $28 million Ryder Trauma Center a reality…
>>> PAST NOV. WDR: Ryder Trauma Center, community jewel since 1992, is fiscally hemorrhaging with $28 million loss for year in funding since Kendall Regional opened Level II trauma center
The Ryder Trauma Center, the only Level 1 center in the county at Jackson Memorial Hospital is suffering financial hemorrhaging itself since a Level II Trauma Center was opened at Kendall Regional Hospital about a year ago. And the Ryder Center is losing about $2.4 million a month in revenue as patients are being siphoned off to the private hospital located and owned by Columbia/HCA in West Miami-Dade. Ryder, one of the nation’s premier trauma centers that is capable of landing a 20,000-pound Blackhawk Helicopter in case the president has been injured is the hospital of choice, and the facility is also is designated to care for U. S. Secret Service Special Agents. However, the trauma center has been under siege itself after Kendall won approval to open there own trauma center, but since it is only a Class II trauma center, not the fully staffed 24/7 Level I designation Ryder has. This new competitive facility is getting mostly car crashes where many of the drivers have at least $10,000 in medical insurance as part of the owners Florida auto insurance requirement, Ryder historically sees about 3,500 patients annually, and the institution has never diverted a patient to another facility.
The medical staff at Ryder is comprised of University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine physicians and includes some of the “nation’s leading trauma surgeons and specialists,” states a brochure on the institution’s past 20 years since being opened on Aug. 3, 1992. At Ryder at anyone time there are 25 surgeons training at the center, and when it comes to distance given the size of Miami-Dade County, “patients who came to Ryder from an area with a radius of 50 miles had no difference in outcomes,” states an objective analysis of the issue. Further, since Oct. 2001 Ryder has been the U.S. Army’s Forward Surgical Teams training center before being deployed to war zones and over the past 20 years. Ryder has treated around 75,000 critically injured people. The need for Ryder initially occurred after six hospitals in 1987 closed and dropped out of the local trauma care network and it was believed that creating one full service facility was the way to go. And this collaborative effort with JHS was assisted when voters in 1991 passed a countywide half-cent-sales tax for Jackson Memorial Hospital and gave the trauma center fiscal stability and allowed it to grow to its current stature and is a renowned globally known trauma institution.
What is the fiscal trend?
The Watchdog Report contacted Jackson Health System and UM last week and Ed O’Dell, the health trust spokesman in an email wrote that Ryder funding since Kendall Regional Medical Center opened has dropped $24 million over a ten month period, and when annualized out will be a $28 million funding hit to the community medical jewel. And with other Level II Centers being contemplated at Mercy Hospital and a few others in South Florida. This significant financial hit to Ryder is not only expected to continue, but grow if these other new trauma centers around the community are established.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Political tensions will heighten if Commission Chair Suarez runs against Mayor Regalado in Nov., how low could this future campaign go?
Miami Commission Chair Francis Suarez on Wednesday told the Watchdog Report that he was not ready to announce his bid to take on Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado in November for the city’s top leadership spot. Suarez said he has been surprised by how local government fails to get things done like the Flagstone mega project on Watson Island and approved by city voters in 2001 but the project has languished over the years since then. The young attorney also said when it came to Regalado. He was not sure what the mayor’s agenda for the city was besides the Miami Marine Stadium restoration and trying to get the Gusman Theater financially viable but that effort has fallen short from the initial expectations over the past year. Suarez also has suggested in the past during a discussion on the city’s charter that Miami might be better served with a strong mayor form of government, not the present style where the manager runs the city and is picked by the mayor and confirmed by the five-member commission.
The mayor fires back to some of this criticism that when he took over the city leadership reigns in 2009 that the past Mayor Manny Diaz had bled the city’s coffers dry when he departed from office and things like the two SEC investigations of bond sales now being dealt with, the bond deals were done under Diaz’s watch. However, Diaz has thrown his support with Suarez and recently had a fundraiser for Suarez’s PAC that already has over $100,000 in it to get the young commissioners political message out. Suarez is the eldest son of Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez’s four children and the elder Suarez is a former Miami Mayor himself and the son is considering following in his dad’s footsteps.
>>> PAST JUN. WDR: Bad deals becoming tag line for Miami with Jungle Island, city leaders lurch from one bad deal to another over decades
The mood was grim Tuesday morning while Miami Commissioners heard the wails of Jungle Island management and their lobbyist Brian May ask for a reset to the contract that if approved would give the attraction a 99 year lease at the Watson Island site, and expand its footprint acreage, consuming two local boat clubs and a Japanese Park. The commission (absent Commissioner Frank Carollo) listened and asked questions for a few hours. But with a looming $2.3 million U.S. HUD loan payment coming due on Aug. 1 that JI refuses to pay. The clock is ticking for this city and county deal that first opened in 2003 after relocating from Pinecrest and the commission is dealing with “another bad deal,” that has become the tag line for Miami over the past decades. Past bad deals have included the Flagstone project on Watson Island approved in 2001, but has not yet broken ground, the Knight Auditorium, and a host of other deals including the Miami Marlins stadium, and now the city faces another one.
>>> PAST JUL. WDR: Sarnoff with $1.98 million net worth leads the pack, Spence-Jones last with negative net worth of $173,000, much of debt in owed legal fees
With the passage of July 1, the due date for financial disclosure forms. The Watchdog Report has scanned all the financial disclosure forms for Miami elected leaders. And Commissioner Marc Sarnoff led the pack with a $1.98 million net worth (down from $2.08 million), followed by Commissioner Frank Carollo coming in at 748,000, (up from $707,000), Commissioner Willy Gort had $241,000, (up from $226,000). Mayor Tomas Regalado listed it at $18,801, (up from $7,500), Commission Chair Francis Suarez has a negative $99,500 net worth (down from $81,000), and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones because of past legal fees has a $175,315 negative net worth (down from $17,436 a few years ago).
>>> Sarnoff lists $694,000 in household goods, his law practice is valued at $500,000, and his home is valued at $1.3 million. There is $437,000 invested with Morgan Stanley, and he owes Bank of America $489,000, Citibank wants $160,000, HSBC is owed $209,000 and there is $20,178 in American Express charges.
>>> Carollo lists $55,000 in household goods, there is $82,000 in cash and there is also $879,000 in real estate. He owes Chase Bank $195,000 and another loan is for $82,000.
>>> Gort has $35,000 in household goods, a home in Tavernier is valued at $250,000 and a lot in Sebring is worth $7,000, and he owes Sallie Mae $145,000.
>>> Regalado lists $6,100 in household goods, his home, land is valued at $25,000, $59,601, a Jeep is worth $6,000, and there is $5,400 in savings. The mayor owes Chase $60,000 and Wells Fargo wants $23,300.
>>> Suarez has $15,000 in household goods, there is $152,757 in a savings account, his primary residence is values at $184,000 and another home is worth $68,980. His liabilities include owing Chase Bank $360,000 and Seterus Inc., wants $160,919.
>>> Spence –Jones has $38,000 in household goods, her home is worth $54,203, and there is $36,250 in an investment account. Because of past legal issues with the state attorney’s office, and later the charges being dropped after a key witness recanted their story. Spence-Jones now owes defense attorneys Michael Band $10,000, Lydecker & Lee want $71,363, Rachlin Cohen is owed $5,000 and Mortgage Star wants $217,000, state her financial disclosure form for the year.
What about Angel Zayon?
Zayon, the city of Miami communications director could have changed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s life back in 1999 when they ran against each other for a local state house seat in West Miami. Zayon beat Rubio in the initial race but in the runoff, Rubio garnered the win by 64 votes sending the young legislator to the Florida House where he rose to become the first Cuban American Speaker of the House and the attorney was an early protégé of Gov. Jeb Bush. Zayon would go back to broadcasting on Hispanic television but he is tight with Mayor Tomas Regalado but he is a magnet when it comes to controversy, especially after a nasty divorce recently. The flack signs off on all press releases coming out of city hall yet he has mixed relations with members of the press.
What do we know about his finances?
As a director for the City of Miami, Zayon is required to fill out a financial disclosure form but it is not as intrusive as the form elected leaders are required to fill out. In his case he lists his income being from the city of Miami, he has a second job with controversial attorney John Ruiz, which involves a “T.V. program.” And his liabilities include Bank of America and Ford Motor Company but the amount owed is not listed nor is the amount of any of his compensation for the two jobs.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Will new faces appear on Commission dais next Nov.? Termed out Mayor Bower may want back on the commission
Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower is taking her last lap in 2013 as mayor with a new election in November and she is said to be considering running for the commission again keeping her in the political loop. Bower, elected mayor in 2007 in a contentious election against Commissioner Simon Cruz was able to beat back Cruz with the help of then Mayor David Dermer. And her campaign got further support after Cruz came out with a controversial campaign flyer that incorporated a photo of the Holocaust Memorial on the Beach and suggested Bower might allow such a tragedy to occur again if she was elected. But the campaign flyer backfired and had Jewish leaders up in arms at the insensitivity of the campaign piece. And Bower since then during her time on the dais, it has resulted in multiple commission meetings being suddenly stopped because she did not like the tone or topic being discussed, and her control of the other commissioners on the dais periodically gets out of control. So far, only Commissioner Jerry Libbin has filed papers to run for mayor, but Commissioner Michael Gongora may be eyeing the spot as well and given the political movements. Some of the commission races could be wide open for some new comers to the six-member commission after November.
>>> PAST FEB. WDR: >>> Verbal Commission rumble during Lincoln Road contract harkens back to the past, Mayor Bower must ensure accurate public record
The Watchdog Report has been searching for a word to describe the Miami Beach Commission meeting Wednesday (and chaotic comes to mind), that on one private $3 million contract for the maintenance of Lincoln Road. The discussion went on for over two and a half hours, and had people shouting, speaking from the audience, clapping including hoots and howls, and all this resulted in a incredible inaccurate public record, as well as being disrespectful to elected leaders and the Beach’s residents watching on TV. The issue was whether a private company of Lincoln Road landowners should do the maintenance on the tony road filled with restaurants versus the city. But people either speaking in support or against the deal from both sides went at it at full verbal bore at the elected leaders on the dais.
Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower had her hands full keeping order during the discussion, that also had commissioners speaking directly to unidentified people in the audience, where there was an undercurrent of conversion in the audience, residents calling on cell phones, and even one person having lunch punctuated the overall proceedings. It was unruly and chaotic enough that I actually checked to make sure there was a Miami Beach Police Officer in the back of the chambers and he was diligently monitoring the situation but the turmoil harkened back to a past meeting around the 2000 time frame concerning some around $260 million in revenue bonds for Mt. Sinai Hospital. In addition, at that commission meeting, it also had prominent people speaking from the audience and I wrote the meeting up back then as well, because the public record was flawed. And when I asked the court reporter transcribing the meeting what she wrote when people spoke from the audience. She said, they were listed “as speaker unknown,” but the incomplete comments were now part of the public record. It is not just Miami Beach where this type of drama occurs, but at any public meeting the chair must ensure participants feel safe to speak their mind, passions must be controlled and anyone from the public must speak from the podium where there is a microphone that records their comments. Anything less than that creates an inaccurate public record, that many times leads to lawsuits depending on the issues, at a time when every tax dollar is precious and should not be put in jeopardy because of a flawed public record.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Candidate field widens in Group II commission race, Lago, Ebbert and Hancock now in the fray
With the mayoral and commission elections closing fast in April, the Watchdog Report checked who has thrown their hats into the political ring for the two commission seats being vacated by Commissioner Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera, Jr., who is running for mayor against incumbent Mayor Jim Cason. On the commission front for the Group II seat there are three candidates now and includes Marlin H. Ebbert, Vincent Carlos Lago and former state representative candidate Ross Hancock. And in the Group III commission seat race, Mary Martin Young will be taking on Patricia Keon for a seat on the dais. Historically, as the April 9 election grows closer in the City Beautiful. The charges start to fly and voter turnout is a key factor since there are only 29,355 registered voters as on June 2012 and these are winner take all races. The Gables mayor is paid $34,700 a year and commissioners are paid $28,225 per year.
>>> PAST OCT. WDR: Rapid sea level rise could put Gables and all of South FL at risk for flooding, becoming a significant issue in decades to come
In a major wakeup call when it comes to Global Warming, University of Miami Professor Harold R. Wanless, Ph.D., stunned a crowd of attendees of the Good Government Initiative on Tuesday held at the University’s BankUnited Center with the bleak prognosis and its coming impact on South Florida and the state as a whole. Wanless, the head of the university’s Department of Geological Sciences presented a presentation that showed the rapid depletion of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and Arctic pack and the diminishment of these ice packs in Greenland was staggering in the reductions. And will in the future result in the melting of the permafrost releasing large levels of methane gas into the planet’s atmosphere causing even faster global rises of the globe’s sea levels around the world. The scientist noted 18,000 years ago the sea level was “about 420 feet below the present level,” but as the earth warmed the “sea level responded through a series of rapid pulses of sea level rise of 3 to 30 feet in height as polar Ice Sheet sectors collapsed.” And he says that is what is happening now and in the future, and past models have been unable to account for all the variables causing the “rapid acceleration in ice melt and sea level rise. In addition, scientist are unable to predict now or in the future, “the onset of a pulse of major Ice Sheet collapse” and that has resulted in “modeling predictions [that] are severely overly conservative,” he said.
And for example, here in South Florida, there will be an increasing need to mitigate this water rise and on Miami Beach, a $200 million investment is planned to increase the height of sea walls and adjusting the infrastructure when it comes to water and sewer that will be impacted by the rising water levels. However, many other municipalities’ leaders in South Florida and around the coastal parts of the state have yet to consider what to do with this relentless problem coming their way in the decades to come.
Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson who is director and founder of the Good Government Initiative at UM put the luncheon event together entitled “Is Miami the next Atlantis?” And the sober event was kicked off by remarks by County Clerk Harvey Ruvin, considered one of the godfathers of the environmental movement in South Florida. The event looked at all angles of Global Warming from the education of the public and leaders, regional urban planning on how to help to stop or slow down this catastrophic natural event coming the planet’s way.
However, the Wanless presentation was the most depressing in nature since the visual photos showing the impacts to the environment of the past decades were so clear with huge reductions of ice formation in Greenland and the Arctic poles very apparent. For municipalities like Coral Gables, nicknamed the Venice of Florida, any rise in sea levels given its proximity to the ocean and the numerous canals. The City Beautiful along with Miami and Miami Beach will be ground zero and the first to feel this water level rise. And the cost to mitigate the sea level rise is not inconsequential, and has Miami-Dade County looking at a $1.2 billion expenditure for its own water and sewer system upgrade in the years ahead, but does not include mitigating the effects of the rising tides and sea levels to this new infrastructure in the years ahead.
CITY OF SOUTH MIAMI
>>> PAST NOV. WDR: Commission sacks another manager, Mayor Stoddard says Mgr fired because he “under mined [his] bosses”
With the firing of South Miami City Manager Hector Mirabile, another city manager bites the dust and continues the trend of high turnover over the years of the top manager spot that has cut across a number of different mayors. The commission voted 3 to 2 to cut the National Guard officer and former senior Miami official loose and the body named Kelly Barket as the acting city manager. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/09/3090392/fired-south-miami-city-manager.html I contacted the mayor and asked him about the issue on Saturday and he wrote back when I asked if it would be hard to find a replacement given the past turnover in the office. Mayor Philip Stoddard responded by email saying, “No, not once I explain the reason for what happened last night. When you undermine your bosses, you should expect them to sack you. A professional city manager would not do that. The outgoing manager even lied about my actions in his termination speech (violation of Citizens Bill of Rights), and I will present all relevant documentation to the public, so they understand the situation more clearly. The voters just turned over enforcement responsibility on such matters to the Commission on Ethics,” wrote Stoddard. >>> hhttp://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/09/v-fullstory/3089646/south-miami-mayor-city-cops-wrongly.html
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Snipes elected unopposed, took over from controversial Oliphant suspended by Gov. Bush, incumbent had $608,000 net worth through 2011
Brenda Snipes, the Broward Elections Supervisor is in the spotlight this week, she replaced Miriam Oliphant who was suspended from office after chaotic elections back in 2002, and then Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes to the office. Snipes in 2004 would later win the office in her own right, she has prevailed with county voters since then, and she ran again this year unopposed. Since her appointment, she has run a steady elections office though she has had budget battles with the Broward Commission over the years but overall Broward residents apparently are satisfied with her performance in office.
What do we know about her finances?
Snipes through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $608,000 and she lists $49,000 in household goods. Her Lauderdale Lakes home is valued at $92,000, two pieces of property in Alabama are worth $15,000 and $7,500, and there is $480,000 in a variety of bonds, annuities and savings accounts. Her only creditor is a credit card company owed $4,500 and her salary for the year was $142,000, Social Security kicked in $22,380 and the Florida Retirement System contributed $44,208.
CITY OF HOLLYWOOD
>>> Hollywood Man Convicted for Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Steven Steinberg, Chief, Aventura Police Department (Aventura PD), announced the conviction at trial of Jonathan Torres-Bonilla, 36, of two counts of access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(2) and 1029(a)(3), and four counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), in connection with an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, the defendant had been observed by plain-clothes Aventura PD officers at the Aventura Mall using multiple debit cards at multiple different ATMs on November 25, 2011. Aventura PD officers followed the defendant to the mall garage where he tried to flee in a minivan. The defendant was arrested when he refused to provide identification. The officers searched the defendant and his car and found 28 pre-paid debit cards (loaded with $117,000 in other people’s tax refunds), dozens of ATM receipts, and over $1,700 in cash. Torres-Bonilla is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2012. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 28 years. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of IRS-CID and Aventura PD for their work on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger .
>>> Dec. 20, 2012 Broward IG report on Town of Lauderdale Lakes http://www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/Documents/CPOP121014014LauderdaleLakesProcCodeReviewMemo.pdf
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Commissioner Abrams in the spotlight, came after past political purge, had $310,000 net worth through 2011
Steven L. Abrams, the vice chair of the Palm Beach Commission is in the spotlight this week and he is up for reelection in 2014. The man is the former mayor of Boca Raton and left that office after term limits in 2008 kicked in. He was first appointed to the county commission in 2009 after a member quite due to a scandal and he has served without major controversy since then.
What do we know about his finances?
Abrams through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $310,056 and his home is valued at $177,977. He has $38,000 in a bank account, there is $85,000 in securities and CDs and a 2007 Volvo is worth $14,700. His only liability for the year was $12,950 owed to Wells Fargo and his income was $92,090 as a county commissioner.
>>> Web bio: Steven L. Abrams currently serves on the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners as vice chairman. He was appointed to represent District 4 in 2009 and was subsequently elected in 2010 without opposition to a full four-year term. http://www.pbcgov.com/countycommissioners/district4/biography.htm
>>> County Administrator Gastesi says, “Tourism is booming,” and come on down to magical Key West and the Keys
The Watchdog Report wanted to check on Monroe County, the nation’s southern most county and the home of the tourist mecca Key West that is now bracing for the tony town’s annual New Year’s celebration. The county with around 70,000 people swells with tourists after the first snowstorms in the Northeast United States and in Europe settles in, local residents there seek a more inviting climate, and the Florida Keys fills the bill for many of them. I contacted the Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi and asked him how things were going down there and he responded. “We are doing great down here in paradise: tourism is booming, the weather has been wonderful, and our employees are doing a great job making the keys more beautiful everyday. Hello to everyone on the mainland, come down and visit,” wrote the veteran administrator of the Florida Keys.
>>> Introduction to Buddhism. Zen Village, Coconut Grove: Sat January 12, 2013
5pm – 7pm Donation: $50 ($45 if you pre-register by January 5, 2013) Master Tsai offers a compelling and thorough explanation of the basic concepts of the Buddhist philosophy and tradition in this 2-hour class. This class has been designed for those interested in learning more about this ancient religion, philosophy and tradition. Click here to register.
>>> South Florida Regional Planning Board Road Show in seven counties and for more information go to http://seven50.org/uncategorized/registration-work-group-road-show/
>>> The Arsht Center and Gelb Promotions present AN ACOUSTIC EVENING WITH MATISYAHU – “Hearing Matis sing a cappella was nothing less than a spiritual experience. His voice soared, on point and pure, never once faltering…” – Miami New Times
MATISYAHU brings his acoustic show back to the Arsht Center following a sold-out performance in 2011 that received rave reviews describing the artist’s voice and stage presence as “tremendous, Zen-like, and enlightening.” MATISYAHU returns with local guitarist and longtime friend Adam Weinberg for another special acoustic evening featuring songs from his entire repertoire including his latest release, Spark Seeker, which debuted at #19 on the Billboard Top 200. AN ACOUSTIC EVENING WITH MATISYAHU will also feature a post-show question-and-answer session with the audience, bringing closeness to the artist-fan relationship. MATISYAHU began performing stripped down acoustic shows in early 2009, giving fans a more intimate and personal experience while simultaneously showcasing the simple statement of his songs, incredible vocal range, and beat box talents. January 19, 2013 at 8:30 p.m., John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, Adrienne Arsht Center 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132 Tickets range from $35 to $99. All programs, artists, ticket prices, availability, dates and times are subject to change without notice. Visit www.arshtcenter.org for up-to-date information for details and schedules.
>>> PAST APR. WDR: FBI Dir. Muller is right, ending public corruption & all forms of fraud require residents help, you can call in info vital to ending this scourge
Public corruption in South Florida has been a brisk business over the last two decades and from Palm Beach South. The arrests of public officials have continued with federal prosecutors leading the way. Back in 2000, Guy Lewis the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida told the Watchdog Report that when it came to prosecuting “public corruption,” here at the U.S. Southern District of Florida’s Attorney’s office. It was the federal prosecutor’s “number one priority,” he said at the time before 9/11 changed everything. Since then many things have changed but it highlighted the local nature and scale of the public corruption issue that has only gotten bigger with subsequent arrests in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in the coming years since then. It was also this open nefarious activity in public institutions that helped create the Watchdog Report back in May 2000.
Since I began watching public institutions in a big way at roughly the end of 1997 and saw first hand how widespread it was. I realized the internet could create a public institution news nervous system that would be free to all, but would detail some of this activity. And while some areas down here like healthcare and mortgage frauds have mutated and grown in variety how scammers try to corrupt the system. And these wayward individuals develop new scams, like watering down cancer drugs, or billing Medicare and Medicaid for limb prosthetics that people don’t need, or homes bought by people with no job or income getting bank mortgages. And the fraud has grown almost exponentially in size and scope and while federal assets here in the Southern District are formidable.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, III is right that only with the American public’s help can this scourge and waste of taxpayers dollars be stamped out, and while identity theft in Miami has now also hit the number one spot in the nation. Ending that identity theft fraud cannot be done by law enforcement alone because the federal agencies will never have the human assets to pursue every fraud case and this is where the public comes in. It is up to each of us to do what we can when you see extortion, intimidation, or waste fraud and abuse of the public’s dime for the limited tax dollars are all of South Florida resident’s money, not a select few. And given the economic circumstances of South Florida, every dollar counts, and when it comes to wayward politicians and other public servants crossing the line for personal gain.
If the public steps up, and augments the FBI’s efforts in reporting the graft by phone or with a cell phone video camera. Elected leaders or public servants trying such a shake down maneuver not only will have to worry about if the person they are talking too is an undercover federal special agent, but what if they are also a responsible resident with a cell phone who just calls the information in? And that identity doubt of who another person is, can be just enough to stop a public servant or official from doing the wrong thing and is why, if you are smart. You don’t speed in front of a state trooper in a highway for example and is why these undercover investigations are so valuable. Because such a public resource raises doubts in the bribe takers mind, and this physiological deterrent element works with many people that might be tempted going to the dark side of the law, and that is a good thing. >>> To notify the FBI of any form of public corruption call 305.994.9101.
>>> PAST MAR. WDR: When leaders or public servants stop talking around the press or the WDR, what is the secret? Hopefully not nuclear launch codes
As I travel and cover government and public events here in South Florida one thing has struck me over the years in the field and that is when people stop talking around the press, or me, for they look guilty as sin when they do this. Over the years it has happened constantly and people if they don’t walk away from me switch to Spanish or Creole for example, in my presence. And it makes one wonder what the big secret is, perhaps a road is getting new asphalt. But it is odd and most of the time one has to ask what the great secret is is that cannot be said in public. I know it is not NORAD nuclear launch codes and this queasiness to speak issues in public is more than strange, it is poor public policy and a corrosive affect with the public when it comes to residents’ confidence of their elected officials. Whose leaders can only hope voters have a memory problem since they consistently act as if people don’t remember the past and what they had said or done in their official capacity.
And while political leaders always carp about the press, its bias or agenda. They fail to realize that this is part of the medias job and to hold these people accountable for their decisions and only later do past elected leaders appreciate the role of the lowly scribe in the community, and how the medias role of providing more information only breeds voter confidence. And officials in the digital age better get used to that fact, and just get with it when it comes to public conversation at meetings. For the way it is now, so many leaders look like a cat that ate a canary when it comes to making public policy, and how they do their elected jobs, and that is not a good thing for any of us.
>>> Hello The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS) wishes all our friends a wonderful New Year and WISH Year 2013 is free from the worries of the Fiscal Cliff, Health Care Coverage, Terrorism threats external or internal, Violence from Guns, Profiling and detention of Innocents, Security of Employment and Loosing our retirement savings. If at least part of these wishes come true WE WILL HAVE A HEALTHY,PEACEFUL AND STRESS FREE YEAR TO ENJOY WITH OUR CHILDREN,PARENTS AND FRIENDS. HAPPY NEW YEAR AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND HELP THROUGH 2012. The best part of 2013 will be the COSMOS “Community Appreciation Dinner” on February 9th, 2013.
>>> First best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year. You provide a very valuable service that the mother church formerly located by the bay seems no longer able to provide. You might want to add something to the balancing act for the editorial today. How many of the card-carrying middle managers in the private sector have their salaries published on their employer’s website? Keep up the good work and Happy New Year.
>>> Thank you for your journalistic efforts throughout the years and your clear and unbiased reporting. May you have a Merry Christmas and a bountiful 2013.
Dr. Raquel Marrero
>>> 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)
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
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
BADIA SPICES www.badiaspices.com
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com
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
BERKOWITZ POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.com
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
WILLIAM PALMER www.shutts.com
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 COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE COMMISSION OFFICE OF THE CHAIR 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
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 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 13th 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 600 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
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 email@example.com 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.