Argus Report: Obama, second president to visit Port of Miami where Dir. Johnson says its, “Full Speed Ahead,” after turnaround of lost business years ago
Obituary: U.S Army Capt. Pedersen-Keel of South Miami killed in action in Afghanistan
Florida: Florida, we have a problem when ten and eleven year olds are committing armed robberies on bicycles, says Chief Boyd of Miami Gardens
Miami-Dade County: MIA Dir. Abreu says sayonara, replacement Gonzalez will have his hands full running facility and navigating county hall, first test on Tuesday is baggage shrink-wrap contract vetoed by Mayor Gimenez
Miami-Dade Courts: Governor Rick Scott taps Jason Dimitris to the Miami-Dade County Courts
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Recent investigation done by the public school’s District Office of the Inspector General:
City of Miami: Ultra Music festival is over, #1 event when it comes to overall contributing to city coffers to tune of roughly $3.6 million
City of Miami Beach: Two years of infrastructure work on Alton Road starts Apr. 1, Will be new Mgr. Morales first big test
City of Coral Gables: Will Winners of Apr.9 elections be based on low voter turnout? Electorate participation critical in Gables races with large field of candidates
City of South Miami: Gov. Scott taps Margaret “Meg” Kerr and reappointed Gerardo Castiello and Thomas Sculco as Compensation Claims Judges.
>>> Other stories around Florida
Palm Beach County: Palm Beach County Man Convicted as Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Nassau County: Gov. Scott taped Wesley R. Poole to the Nassau County Court.
Dixie County: Gov. Scott taps Cynthia S. Munkittrick to the Dixie County Court
Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum luncheon on Gun Control – NON-PROFIT & CULTURAL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: APPLY NOW TO BE FEATURED AT PHILANTHROFEST 2013 – April 6th, 2013 Miami Dade
Editorials: How sweet it is, state House lawmakers getting yearly healthcare insurance for $400.00, the rest of Floridians would kill for such a deal — 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: Correction of Miami-Dade County Ethics and Public Trust new website - Reader on roadwork on Miami Beach – New Reader from WLRN/NPR show-
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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>>> May you and your family have a happy, safe and reflective Passover and Easter if these are your faiths.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Obama, second president to visit Port of Miami where Dir. Johnson says its “Full Speed Ahead,” after turnaround of lost business
At the Port of Miami, the motto is “Full Speed Ahead,” said Port Director Bill Johnson at a Thursday luncheon with Palmetto Bay leaders and citizens promoting economic development and to make his point. President Barack Obama came to the facility to see for himself on Friday (President George W. Bush made a similar visit back in 2006). Obama inspected the new $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel now being constructed and promised this project that was a public/private venture and funded locally, along with state and federal money was the wave of the future. Johnson, a long serving county employee has cut his management chops on the likes of the American Airlines Arena, and later the Adrianne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts construction and was charged with completing these facilities after these became mired in delays, cost overruns and other issues. He told the crowd of about 100 people that the Port would in the years ahead have the only 50 foot channel south of Norfolk Virginia and the added depth was to be a key component for shipping the 90 percent of goods that come into America by sea once the $5.4 billion plus expansion of the Panama Canel is completed, he said.
However, Gov. Rick Scott wants the Obama administration to kick in $77 million more that the state has already provided in funding for the $180 million dredging project and Johnson said getting federal funding was a primary task for him and puts him in the nation’s capital almost “weekly,” he told attendees. And the Obama administration also provided a $23 million grant to reestablish rail service from the Port to the Florida East Coast Railway. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/29/3313067/in-miami-obama-to-propose-new.html And in Johnson’s case, he had just come back from a trade mission from the Philippines trying to bolster business and trade ties with the important Asia region.
The Port of Miami is the second largest economic engine generating some $27 billion in economic growth, with 26,000 jobs involved and the enterprise plowed $31 million in profits back into Port improvements, said Johnson. And next to Miami International Airport’s $33 billion in economic impact and the two facilities are critical given the role of tourism and the cruise ship lines to the South Florida economy. The two transportation hubs are the linchpin of an industry that generates tens of billions of dollars and employs tens of thousands of workers, that at the Port pay a minimum of “about $56,000 per year,” he said.
Johnson who has served nine county managers in his career at Miami-Dade said while the public owns the port, it is being run as a business and given the 34 acres, the Port sits on. It has never been “fiscally better” in its 100 year history and noted prior to his arrival in the mid 2000s. It “was a port that was failing, losing market share in 2006 and 18 percent of the container business was gone and the cruise ship lines were talking about moving,” he said. “I love competition,” noting they are competing with ports in Savannah and Houston and predicted “two years from now the Port will be one of the most modern and efficient in the nation.” He noted the two-lane tunnel would be completed in May 2014 and with the “direct access to containers and with rail. There will be a “25 percent cost reduction in moving products,” he said. And when the deep dredge is completed in “2015, Miami will be the first Port north of Panama” capable of handling the Panamax ships that carry some six times the cargo as current ships. And when it came to passengers going on cruises, “the port exceeded 4 million passengers and is shooting for 5 million in the current year, he said.
What about his staff?
Johnson said when it comes to diversity in the workforce he embraces it. He has “15 women in the management team,” and while I “drive my staff hard,” he carped. In his case he has had “no raise or bonus over the past seven years,” nor had they and joked he could do a lot better financially in the private sector but he loves public service.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott issued a statement on President Obama’s visit to PortMiami:
“We’re glad Florida provided the President with a tremendous backdrop to highlight our state’s continued job growth – especially with today’s news that we dropped to 7.7 percent unemployment and have created more than 290,000 private-sector jobs in the past two years. In Florida, we’ve managed to grow jobs by cutting taxes, paying down debt and balancing the budget – a stark contrast to the ways of Washington.
“While we’re happy to host the President, we hoped to hear a commitment to reimburse Florida taxpayers the millions of dollars the state invested for the federal portion of port projects in Miami and Jacksonville. We hope this reimbursement will be included in the President’s budget proposal next week.
“In the meantime we will not wait on Washington. We will continue to invest in Florida ports so we make Florida a top hub for international commerce. Florida taxpayers have already invested $425 million in our ports to take advantage of the benefits of growing international trade, and we’ll continue making targeted port investments to grow jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
>>>Press release: The Great Optimism Divide, By: John Zogby, Forbes.com Contributor The nation is divided on so many things: God, guns, gay marriage, Obamacare, the fiscal cliff, abortion, the President’s job performance, and optimism. Optimism? Even that.
Now on the surface, Americans are feeling better about the next fours than they have in a while: 53% told us in our March 14-15 Zogby Poll that they were “very optimistic” or somewhat optimistic” about “the next four years in America”. Four in ten (42%), however, said they were either “very pessimistic” or “somewhat pessimistic”.
But what is puzzling – actually troubling – is what this pollster sees in the cross-tabulations. It doesn’t appear that optimism or pessimism has that much to do with people’s lives and the sense of their own personal future. For starters, if you supported President Obama’s re-election, then you are optimistic. If you did not, you are pessimistic. So the real metric here seems to be based on ideology. Thus, 84% of Democrats are optimistic while 28% of Republicans are optimistic. One exception: only 40% of independents are optimistic, 50% are pessimistic. Yet independents voted for Mr. Obama.
The most optimistic Americans are Hispanics (84%) and African Americans (86%), liberals (84%), moderates (57%), 18-29 year olds (57%), 30-49 year olds (59%), Catholics (61%), union members (67%), Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers (61%), Investor Class (61%), NASCAR Fans 57%, Catholics (60%), and Creative Class (61%). Among income groups: the most optimistic are those earning over $100,000 a year. Please click the link below to read the full release:
>>> 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
>>> Capt. Pedersen-Keel of South Miami killed in action in Afghanistan
Henry Keel, a long time member of the Miami community’s son, Captain Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel, was killed while serving in Afghanistan and friends say he was a wonderful person and a fine officer. Here is what came from Gov. Rick Scott’s office on the soldier’s death and my condolences to the Henry and his family in the loss of their brave son. Captain Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel, of South Miami, Florida, died on March 11, 2013, in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Captain Pedersen-Keel was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
By virtue of the power and authority vested in me by 4 U.S.C. § 7(m), as amended on June 29, 2007, and the laws and Constitution of the State of Florida, I, Governor Rick Scott, hereby proclaim and direct as follows: All National and State flags shall be flown at half-staff at the County Courthouse of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and at the City Hall of South Miami, Florida, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in honor of Captain Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel. The National and State flags at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida, shall also be flown at half-staff on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, in honor of Captain Andrew M. Pedersen-Keel.
>>> Florida, we have a problem when ten and eleven year olds are committing armed robberies on bicycles, says Chief Boyd of Miami Gardens
Mathew Boyd, the only Miami Gardens Police Chief the municipality has ever had since its creation in 2003 had some grim words for South Florida and Florida residents in general and that is people committing violent crimes are now ranging from “12 to 27 years old,” and similar demographics are occurring around the state. Boyd a veteran municipal cop in the largest African American city in Florida with over 100,000 residents told the Downtown Bay Forum luncheon crowd in Miami on Wednesday that this trend of younger people committing crimes started in the 1990s. But is now reaching epidemic proportions when it comes to violent felons in the inner city. He noted the police force recently arrested a ten and eleven year old boy’s “on bikes doing armed robberies” saying “It is going to get worse.” And he noted in his municipality some “75 percent of the arrests” were of people in this age group and “it is alarming,” and will continue unless society and communities begin to “address the generation behind.”
The Chief said these young felons “have No Fear,” and he said when it came to rappers. He believes they contribute to be the problem with these young impressionable teenagers and the glorifying of the thug life. Boyd said look at the “Lyrics and videos,” which condones many of these antisocial ideals and the coolness of violence. He said three times in the past he has stopped a rapper’s student “book bag give away” and he said, “It is not happening.” Because the rappers are not the role models, inner city kids should emulate. He further, noted that the rappers are rich, send their “kids to private schools” and believes “rappers don’t want to have anything to do with [helping] inner city youth. “Look what they are putting on their videos” as proof, and the chief believes parents have “to stand up” and object to this influence because the children will “want to emulate what they do,” he said.
Boyd was on a panel at the event to discuss the use of military style guns and high capacity round magazines and gun violence and the overall national gun control debate with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan who recently got five county commission resolutions passed asking the Florida Legislature to ban military type high capacity magazines with over ten bullets, but Boyd noted when it came to the AK 47. These guns only account “for 10 percent of the killings” and it is handguns and other weapons that are used for the bulk of the shootings, he said.
What about ethnic tensions in Florida and the Trayvon Martin shooting?
This trend of younger criminals committing armed robberies or killing people in the state’s urban cores has statewide significance overall. And this culture of violence and stereotyping Black residents indirectly will be put to a test when a hearing for George Zimmerman in April begins where he says he shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin last year in self-defense. And he says this is a Stand Your Ground case and there is a expected court motion hearing in April, and “Zimmerman may be exonerated,” and the “situation is explosive,” and “whatever the outcome, someone will be disappointed,” said Dr. Walter T. Richardson at a Feb. 20 Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board meeting and that has raised ethnic tensions in Florida to a new high.
Miami-Dade with the oldest Community Relations Board (CRB) in the state and founded in 1963 is working with the United States Justice System and Richardson, the CRB chair has been asked to make “A trip to Sanford Florida to meet with community members and clergy there,” and if there is a trial. “They have arranged for the CRB to have seats in the courtroom so that we have communication, the minister wrote. He noted he is “wearing several hats,” but overall he is doing all “we can to dissuade any negative elements,” that could possible surface from supporters from either side of the highly charged controversy. However, all these forces seem to be coming together in many communities around the state, that also feeds into the youth joining gangs and in Miami Gardens. Jordan said there used to be “13 known gangs,” but over the years, that number has grown to “now about 29 including the Cripps and Blood. And these gangs help fuel this attitude about using guns to kill and the when kids join such an organization. She said, “They feel like they are in a family,” and there must be an alternative to this life for the community’s youth. Further, Jordan said while “I support the Second Amendment, you don’t need 90 bullet magazines to try to kill a deer,” and while she is urging the Florida Legislature to ban high capacity magazines. She also believes there just needs “better enforcement” of existing laws, and background checks in many cases. >>> Here is a breaking shooting of a child that has just died. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/31/3316173/four-year-old-girl-shot-to-death.html
>>> Rebounding Florida budget gives lawmakers some flexibility after six years of belt tightening
With state coffers bouncing back, House and Senate budgets along with Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $74.2 billion, which is lower than the legislative side by some one to two hundred million dollars. Legislative largess seems to be in the air and state employees after six years, may finally get a raise, along with the state’s teachers. Moreover, public university funding is gradually clawing its way back to what higher education officials were asking for. www.miamiherald.com after a $300 million funding whack during the legislative session last year.
>>> Scandal free Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade looking for new CEO to replace Abety after 11-years in top child advocate administrative slot
The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County created by county voters in 2002 and reaffirmed overwhelmingly by a 79 percent majority of county voters in 2008 is looking for a new president to run the around $100 million Trust. Modesto Abety, the only top administrator of the organization since its creation is prohibited from taking the job during a six-month period he has to leave. Since he is in the Florida Retirement System, but a new CEO is expected to be found in the meantime before he could reapply for the job. In addition, long serving senior administrator Charles Auslander will be the interim CEO when Abety formally leaves at the end of March.
>>> 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.
>>> MIA Dir. Abreu says sayonara, replacement Gonzalez will have his hands full running facility and navigating county hall, first test on Tuesday is baggage shrink-wrap contract passed by commission, vetoed by Mayor Gimenez
Jose Abreu, the “little guy that just parks the planes,” at Miami International Airport is saying sayonara today after running the facility as the Miami-Dade Director of Aviation that also includes a couple of General Aviation facilities as well. Abreu was brought in after Angela Gittens, his predecessor was forced out and he did what was considered almost impossible. When he actually finished the new North and South Terminals at MIA, a massive project that was delayed by years, and ultimately came in at around $6.4 billion to complete and is said to be a jewel of a facility now. Though clearing customs and immigration is still said to be a nightmare, and thousands of tourists a day fail to connect with flights because of the processing delays.
Abreu has been asking the President Barack Obama administration for more federal staff to help with the situation but help has been slow in coming, especially since the $85 billion in federal sequester cuts this year have started to kick in, and staffing cuts are expected to only get worse. Since the federal cuts are across the board and are affecting all levels of federal activities, from the military, to Homeland Security to Medicare cuts in the future. Abreu, a former Florida Transportation Secretary before being tapped to run MIA in 2005 is a civil engineer by training and University of Miami graduate and he is going to the private sector upon his retirement on Friday. He is being replaced in the pressure cooker job by Emillio Gonzalez, the former Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez taped him for the job, but the man is little known in aviation circles some insiders say. For Gimenez, who has pondered Abreu’s replacement for months since it was first reported he was leaving in the Watchdog Report. This choice by Gimenez is one of his most critical appointments and puts Gonzalez right in the Commission Chambers, where past MIA contracts have resulted in bitter battles, between the administration and the 13-member body. Which on Tuesday will vote again on the matter and whether to override the mayoral veto of the controversial contract for the Shrink-wrapping of bags at MIA and has been a protracted contract battle since 2000. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/28/3311707/director-bows-out-friday-after.html
However, Gonzalez is about to find out what Abreu already knows and that with the billions of capital improvement bonds paying for the past construction. The repayment of this paper is a top priority and involves getting as much vender revenue at MIA into county coffers as possible to fulfill these obligations into the years ahead. And when it comes to the county commissioners, as Abreu once confessed. “I am out of gas,” and I can’t take much more of the verbal pounding by commissioners after about 18 months on the job in 2006 when he had to deal with past commission decisions that were causing some of the problems he was facing. In addition, the well-dressed man, with trendy rectangular frame eyeglasses told the Watchdog Report after another heated exchange more recently with a commissioner. “You would think I had kidnapped his child,” he seriously joked and now Gonzalez gets to enter this political arena. And he will find it is no cakewalk once he gets down to business and learns the ropes of this enterprise that generates around $33 billion in economic development.
>>> Recent Miami-Dade Inspector General Report: http://www.miamidadeig.org/newsreleases2013/IG10.19CutlerConviction.pdf
>>> GMCVB press release: Hospitality Jobs, Jobs, Jobs… RECORD ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD SERVICE JOBS IN GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REPORTED FOR FEBRUARY 2013 – MARKING 3 YEARS AND 2 MONTHS OF CONSECUTIVE JOB INCREASES
Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service jobs increased +5.5% in February 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. This marks 3 Years and 2 months of consecutive increased employment in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service Industry. In February 2013, 110,600 people were employed in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service sector compared to 104,800 in February 2012, a +5.5% increase.
GREATER MIAMI LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JOBS
|February 2013||February 2012||% Change|
>>> Governor Rick Scott taps Jason Dimitris to the Miami-Dade County Court.
Press release: Dimitris, 42, has served as the General Counsel for the Florida Department of Management Services since 2011. From 2007-2011, Dimitris served as the Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Children and Families. From 2005-2007, he was an Assistant United States Attorney with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and from 2003-2005, he was the Assistant Statewide Prosecutor for the Florida Office of Statewide prosecution. From 1998-2003, Dimitris served as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and his law degree from Stetson University. Dimitris will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Eric Hendon to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Throughout his career, Jason has served the public honorably. His time working in leadership positions, combined with his experience in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office makes him a great fit for the county bench. I am confident Jason will continue to serve the state of Florida well.”
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Here is a recent investigation done by the public school’s District Office of the Inspector General: http://www.miamidadeig.org/MDCPS2013/IG09.99SB.robinson.pdf
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Ultra Music festival is over, #1 event when it comes to overall contributing to city coffers to tune of roughly $3.6 million
With the Ultra Music Festival, a two-week event over, the management of the Bayfront Park Trust where the event was held, briefed the trustees on the event on Tuesday, while the massive infrastructure was just beginning to be disassembled and should be completed by April 6. The global event in its 15th year has grown in size, a television crew from the Netherlands handled that side of the show, and while periodically, fans stormed the front trying to get in, many without tickets, and resulted over all in 167 arrests. Given the fact that 284,000 tickets were sold, senior staff concluded it “was a challenging and successful weekend,” said Trust CEO Tim Schmand. Trust Chair Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo said he had talked to “a lot of businesses” in the area and “everyone is very happy, including the hotels, restaurants and even Walgreen’s” across the way from the event. The commissioner said while some people in the condominiums were critical of the loud music going late into the night, and they’re “was a perception about the event being a little crazy.” He believed that was overstated and “not true” in reality. And when it came to the money, the event brought into the city’s coffers, including police and fire rescue services. The total revenue is estimated to be $3.6 million and Ultra is the single most profitable show the city puts on in a year.
The Bayfront Park Trust was not always a moneymaker for the city, and back in the late 1990s, the Watchdog Report attended these board meetings where at the time the organization was being subsidized by the city to the tune of some $400,000 a year. However, after a scandal erupted and the former CEO back then went to jail, it has slowly bounced back and is now a major revenue producer for the city, that now includes a $500,000 contribution to the city’s budget this year.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Two years of infrastructure work on Alton Road starts Apr. 1, Will be new Mgr. Morales first big test
Residents and businesses on the Beach along Alton Road Monday are bracing for the beginning of extensive water and sewer upgrades, expected to take two-years, including a couple of new pumping stations needed to try to mitigate the extensive flooding occurring on the municipality’s roads. Further aggravated by the rise of sea levels due to global warming. Moreover, around Miami Beach, there already is extensive infrastructure work going on as well. And this work will challenge new Miami Beach Manager Jimmy Morales, expected to be anointed April 1. Moreover, he will face this nightmare from day one, this could be his first real test to mitigate the hassle, and loss of revenue such work causes surrounding businesses as well as the hassle to residents trying to make their way on congested city’s streets.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Will Winners of Apr.9 elections be based on low voter turnout? Electorate participation critical in Gables races with large field of candidates
With the clock ticking until the April 9 mayoral and commission elections, retiring Commissioners Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera, Jr., got their last licks in when it came to criticizing Gables Manager Pat Salerno who has been in their cross hairs for the past year when they called for a vote to fire him, but lost that battle after a 3 to 2 vote on the five member dais. Anderson at Tuesday’s last commission meeting she will be on. The woman said essentially, what she wrote last week in the Watchdog Report and I got a number of comments on the piece since then. Further, I emailed Mayor Jim Cason who Cabrera is challenging as mayor for any response he would like to make to Anderson’s charges, but by my deadline the former diplomat had not responded to two emails
The race has gotten uglier as the winner take all election approaches and at one debate, Cabrera got personal when it came to Salerno and the comment got a mixed response. Both men have been verbally pounding each other with Cabrera claiming there is a rise in crime and Cason says it is actually down given numbers from the city’s police department. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/29/3313811/candidates-for-coral-gables-mayor.html But on Tuesday the Watchdog Report could not help but think one of the two men was a politically dead man walking since there could be only one winner to the top spot, a two year term, and has had Cabrera on the commission for the last 12 years, and Cason was elected two years ago in a bitter race beating out former Mayor Donald Slesnick, II and Tom Korge. The City Beautiful homes are now littered with campaign signs for the mayoral race or the two open commission seats and the attack campaign brochures are hitting the mailboxes. Moreover, some of my friends in the Gables are surprised at some of the charges, and the amount that is being raised for the campaigns that has in total mayoral and commission candidates raising over $633,000.
Cason, the commission and administration Tuesday also got come good news. When it was disclosed in the city’s yearly Comprehensive Audited Financial Report that the municipal reserves had grown to $21.1 million and the city was on target in the future if that was kept up. To possible have the bond agencies review the current AA bond grade, and perhaps elevate it back to AAA bond status. a level that was lost during the great recession and property values plummeted, while also pension liabilities skyrocketed to now $235 million but further growth of the employee pension plan has been mitigated in the past five or six years.
The Watchdog Report knows many of the candidates and I am just glad voters have choices, for an elected official who wins unopposed begins to feel entitled to that position and regardless to how well they do the job. A political campaign makes candidates better, allows voters to question and challenge their views and the only question now is how low will the voter turnout be?
>>> PAST WDR: With winner take all race, Group (III) race with five candidates, victor may win with small majority of Gables voters
With the Apr. 9 election drawing closer and the Feb. 22 qualifying date past, the races for Coral Gables Mayor and two commission seats is set. The city clerk’s election webpage lists only Mayor Jim Cason and Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., running for the top spot on the dais that pays $34,736 and in two commission seat races for the vacated Group (II) and the Group (III) seat for the first spot on the dais there is Marlin Holland Ebbert, Ross Hancock and Vincente Carlos Lago running.
And for the latter Group (III) commission seat, the packed field includes Jackson “Rip” Holmes, Patricia A. Keon, P.J. Mitchell, Norman Anthony Newell and Mary Martin Young in a winner take all race. A commissioner is paid $28,225 and serves a four-year term to the mayor’s term that is every two years. That fact is important for the commission races especially in the Group (III) race. For with five candidates, whoever wins will likely have well less than a majority of the potential 29,355 registered voters as of Jun. 2012 that turn out for the election. Here is the latest campaign report information. http://www.gableshomepage.com/2013/01/14/gables-candidates-report-over-334000-in-donations-loans/
CITY OF SOUTH MIAMI
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Margaret “Meg” Kerr and reappointed Gerardo Castiello and Thomas Sculco as Compensation Claims Judges.
Kerr, 52, of South Miami, has practiced with Arrick, Peacock & Kerr since 2007. Previously, Kerr practiced with Kubicki Draper from 1995-2007, and with Underwood, Karcher and Anderson from 1992 to 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kent, in the United Kingdom, and her law degree from the University of Miami. Kerr fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Henry Harnage. Governor Rick Scott said, “Meg has demonstrated intelligence and a keen understanding of the law during her career. I am confident that she will make a great Compensation Claims Judge and will serve Floridians with honor and dignity.”
Castiello, 49, of Miami, has been a Judge of Compensation Claims since 2001. From 1995-2001, he practiced as staff counsel for Kemper Insurance, and from 1992-1995, he practiced with Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson, P.A. From 1991-1992, Castiello practiced with Walton, Lantaff, Schroeder & Carson, P.A., and Castiello also served as an Assistant Public Defender in the Miami Office of the Public Defender. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and his law degree from Florida State University. He is reappointed for a four-year term commencing April 5, 2013. Governor Scott said, “Judge Castiello has proven to be a fair and honorable judge since 2001. It is my pleasure to reappoint him knowing that he will continue to serve all Floridians with fairness.”
Sculco, 50, of Winter Park, has been a Judge of Compensation Claims since 2005. From 1997-2005, he practiced with the Law Offices of John J. Pine. From 1993-1997, Sculco practiced with Zimmerman, Shuffield, Kiser & Sutcliffe. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his law degree from Boston College. He is reappointed for a four-year term commencing March 21, 2013. Governor Scott said, “Judge Sculco has served as a Compensation Claims Judge honorably and I know he will continue to serve Floridians well.”
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> 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
>>> Palm Beach County Man Convicted as Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and G. Matthew Immler, Chief, Boynton Beach Police Department, announced today that following a three day trial in West Palm Beach, Florida, a jury convicted defendant William W. Boatley, 34, of Palm Beach County, of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Sentencing is scheduled for June 29, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra. At sentencing, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years up to a maximum term of life imprisonment, to be followed by up to 5 years of supervised release.
According to evidence presented at trial, on August 18, 2012, Boynton Beach Police patrol officers observed a vehicle illegally parked with an expired license plate while on routine patrol. While running from the police, the defendant was observed throwing an object, which was later recovered and determined to be a .22 caliber H & R revolver. The firearm was loaded with nine .22 caliber rounds of ammunition. According to evidence introduced in trial, the defendant had previously been convicted of a number of felony offenses and was not legally able to carry a firearm. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF and the Boynton Beach Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer C. Millien. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
>>> Gov. Scott names four appointments and four reappointments to the Florida Inland Navigation District.
Paul U. Dritenbas, 61, of Vero Beach, is an architect with Edlund Dritenbas Binkley Architects. He succeeds Bruce D. Barkett, and is appointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
Charles C. Isiminger, 41, of North Palm Beach, is an engineer at Isiminger & Stubbs Engineering Inc. He succeeds Donn R. Colee, and is appointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2015.
Susanne McCabe, 55, of Port Orange, is a lawyer and partner at Bonus McCabe PLLC. She succeeds Nancy J. Freeman, and is appointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
Lynn A. Williams, 73, of Fernandina, is the former vice president and general manager of Ingersoll Machine. He succeeds Stanley N. Bray, and is appointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
J. Carl Blow, 59, of St. Augustine, is a real estate property manager for Great Oaks Properties. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
E. Tyler Chappell, 38, of Pompano Beach, is the vice president of The Chappell Group Inc. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
Donald J. Cuozzo, 55, of Stuart, is a planning consultant with Cuozzo Design Group Inc. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2017.
Jonathan S. Netts, 70, of Palm Coast, is the captain of Orion Towing & Salvage. He is reappointed for a term starting March 29, 2013, and ending January 9, 2015. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Gov. Scott taped Wesley R. Poole to the Nassau County Court.
Poole, 63, of Fernandina Beach, has been a partner with Poole & Poole, P.A. since 1994. From 1997-2001, Poole served as a city attorney with the City of Fernandina Beach. From 1990-1994, Poole practiced with Wood & Poole, from 1981-1990 he practiced with Burgess, Wood & Poole. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and his law degree from the University of Florida. Poole will fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge Granville C. Burgess, who died on December 6, 2012. Governor Rick Scott said, “Wesley is a native of Fernandina Beach and has been an integral part of the community his entire life. Throughout his law career, he has demonstrated the qualities that will make him a great judge. He will serve on the Nassau County bench with distinction.”
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Cynthia S. Munkittrick to the Dixie County Court.
Munkittrick, 62, has been a solo practitioner since 1996. From 1974-1976, she served in the United States Army Reserves. Munkittrick earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and her law degree from the University of Florida. Munkittrick will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Frederick Koberlein. Governor Rick Scott said, “Cynthia’s intelligence and her eagerness to serve her fellow Floridians will be a great asset to our state during her time on the bench. Cynthia will make a great Dixie County Judge and will work diligently to ensure all citizens are treated fairly.”
>>> NON-PROFIT & CULTURAL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: APPLY NOW TO BE FEATURED AT PHILANTHROFEST 2013 – April 6th, 2013 Miami Dade College Wolfson 300 NE 2nd Ave
Philanthrofest is a volunteer-based organization that connects people, passion and philanthropy in South Florida. The PhilanthroFest team celebrates the South Florida arts community, philanthropic organizations and community resources annually in a free, large-scale community event. Now in its second year,
PhilanthroFest 2013 will take place on Saturday, April 6th and be located at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. It provides an incredible opportunity to connect thousands of South Florida residents to valuable resources and services in the areas of Business & Economic Development, City/County Services, Civic Engagement/Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Cultural/Arts/Humanities, Educational, Environmental, Health/Human Services/Disease Prevention, Poverty/Welfare, Animal Related, Food/Agriculture/Nutrition, Recreation & Sports, and Youth Development & Services.
The primary goal is to bring potential volunteers and donors together with not-for-profit organizations, while creating an environment that promotes civic engagement, deepens community connections and sparks the philanthropic spirit of South Florida. PhilanthroFest also strives to provide educational resources to non-profits in the areas of social media and on-line engagement, digital marketing and web development via collaborations between public/private partners and industry experts to create events such as our Non-Profit Community Engagement Institutes. We are excited to announce that we are just one month away from PhilanthroFest’s main event, and there are only days left for non-profits to apply in order to be featured in PhilanthroFest 2013. If you or someone you know works and/or volunteers for a non-profit/cultural arts organization based in South Florida, please encourage the organization to submit an application on-line by Friday, March 15th. Application is FREE and space is limited, so do not delay and visit this link today to learn more. To apply, visit the application page. If you have any questions regarding the above, please email Naomi Ross at
>>> The Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami Invites you to a Community Conversation & Luncheon — Guns, Politics & Public Health, Wednesday, April 17, 2013 Hurricane 100 Room at UM Bank United Center
1245 Dauer Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146 11:30 a.m. registration, 12 p.m. lunch
12:30 p.m. Conversation. How does talking about mental health impact decisions about gun control, gun rights and community safety? Join Judge Steven Leifman, Special Advisor on Criminal Justice & Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida; Francisco Alvarado, Reporter, Miami New Times; Jorge Corbato, Rifle Manufacturer; Lisa Peters, NRA member; Judy Schaechter, M.D. Pediatrician and Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; as they discuss the politics of gun regulation and its effect on public health. Moderated by Katy Sorenson, President and CEO of the Good Government Initiative. >>> Ticket Prices: $35 Individual Ticket $30 GGI Member*
$50 GGI Contributor (Individual Ticket + $15 donation) $500 Table of 10 Sponsor Table) $20 Student/Concerned Citizen, *made a donation of at least $100 this year. Don’t wait — space is limited! Register Now!
>>> How sweet it is, state House lawmakers getting yearly healthcare insurance for $400.00, the rest of Floridians would kill for such a deal
The Watchdog Report was shocked to see in www.miamiherald.com last week that Florida House Representatives get yearly healthcare insurance for $400.00 and Senators pay roughly $2,200 a year for family coverage. Moreover, while I appreciate, the citizen legislature in salary for their public service only get around $29,500 in the House and around $31,000 in the Senate. This is a sweet deal and one the average citizen would kill to get. The public appreciates that these low paying legislative positions should come with benefits. Since the yearly session is 60-days long, many times depriving lawmakers of outside income during this time. The low cost for these people for healthcare in these legislative bodies, could explain why some lawmakers seem so out of touch for the need for affordable healthcare insurance for the millions of Florida’s uninsured residents, that many times if they can find it, can top well over $500.00 per month in premiums and taxes a person’s finances. If they are not financially well off or already have a subsidized healthcare policy.
The cost of getting healthcare insurance has gone through the roof for the average Floridian and while legislators get this sweet deal. They should remember those residents that are not given this perk and have to deal with health issues on their own. Which results in many of them presenting at a hospital emergency room, where medical care is the most expensive and can cost up to ten times the amount when it comes to getting care. For it is disparities like this in perks when in elected office that drives regular taxpayers crazy, and should remind lawmakers around the nation that what may be good for the goose, should also be good for the gander in some way, even if they are lowly Floridians just trying to get by and to keep their own health.
>>> Please get the word out that the Ethics Commission website does not have the ‘www.’ prefix to its address. It should be http://ethics.miamidade.gov
Rhonda Victor Sibilia, Communications Director
Miami-Dade County Ethics and Public Trust Commission
>>> Beach resident on new infrastructure work and traffic for traffic and bikes
Kathie, I attended the FDOT resident meeting at PAL. The other day Residents attending expressed displeasure at the traffic and bike routing proposed for Alton and Collins. Both roads should not be closed or reduced to single lane at same time as planned, especially with one project taking over a year and a half and the other taking over two and a half years. What happens if we get a hurricane? And how are buses and fire trucks going to cope. FDOT should not attempt to do both projects at the same time. And assuming the convention center project goes forward, there will no way to accommodate its traffic.
>>> Last Monday when I listened to you on Topical currents you said you had a free blog. I would love to receive it. I am interested in politics and what goes on in the state of Florida. Best government money can buy.
M. J. S.
>>> 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
THE MIAMI FOUNDATION www.miamifoundation.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, 2013, 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.