Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.46 April 14, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Ryder CEO Sanchez says company on a roll, “fleet management and logistics new company mantra, after yellow rental trucks shed in 1990s

Florida: While Legislature passes $74 billion plus budget, what will body and Gov. Scott do when it comes to bumping up tourist development taxes for Miami Dolphins Stadium upgrades?

Miami-Dade County: Dolphin upgrade deal passes county commission with referendum, but will deal clear Florida legislature?

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Board Attorney Harvey gets nod to change salary schedule slightly for new attorneys, office more frugal than in past years

City of Miami: Commissioner Spence-Jones gets thumbs down on third term, charter language clear and passed by 73 percent citywide vote back in 1999

City of Miami Beach: South of Fifth Neighbors update on Apr. 4 general meeting, big turnout and included elected leaders

City of Coral Gables: Hail Mayor Cason, Commissioners Lago and Keon as they take the dais, 23 % turnout decent for April election in City Beautiful

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Broward County Resident Convicted in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Using Stolen Identities

City of Miramar: Husband and Wife Sentenced in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

Franklin County: Gov. Scott taps Martin Fitzpatrick to the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit

Community Events: The Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami invites you to a Community Conversation & Luncheon — Guns, Politics & Public Health.

Editorials: With reviving Miami-Dade economy & house values, now is time to bank some of the extra public tax dollars in the future, reduce public debt, but has this lesson been learned?   – 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: M-DC OIG sponsored by Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla – Child Advocate and reader on positive thinking and helping others – Epilepsy advocate regarding state funding

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

>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.

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

>>> 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 trying to keep the community, state, nation and world informed of the political and governmental happenings in South Florida. How to support and contribute to the WDR is at the bottom of the Report.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Ryder CEO Sanchez says company on a roll, “fleet management and logistics new company mantra, after yellow rental trucks shed in 1990s

Robert E. Sanchez, the President & CEO of the 80-year old Ryder Corporation in Doral gave the keynote address at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon recently that was a walk down memory lane when it came to the storied organization. A company founded by Jim Ryder that got its first big lift in the early 1930s distributing Champion Velvet beer with their trucks after Prohibition in Miami. Another big break for Ryder came when The Miami Herald in 1945 came to Ryder and the news organization “needed dedicated trucks,” and it has now been “68-years” since that first deal was inked with the general circulation daily and the “relationship is the longest in the company’s history,” said Sanchez. He noted one of the company’s watchwords was “listen to customers” needs “and come up with solutions” and by 1955 the company had gone public and by the 1980s the company was valued at around $1 billion and was highly “diversified,” he said. However with that diversification came trouble and in the future years the value of the company fell and by the 1990s Ryder had “divested the yellow truck business,” and the new company mantra was “fleet management and logistical services to large companies.” And since 1991 the company’s stock price had “increased 230 percent by today.” He also noted Ryder is generally behind the scenes, puts the logos of their trucks clients like Dunkin Doughnut on the leased company’s delivery trucks and for “many fast food restaurants. The food is delivered on Ryder trucks and in the case of shipments to CVS Pharmacies. The Ryder drivers even wear “CVS uniforms,” he said. And today Ryder employs 28,000 employees around the globe, supplies around 120,000 trucks to thousands of companies and has “20,000 leased vehicles in England,” he said. And not only does Ryder “purchase the trucks, but we also maintain them and the firm has “800 truck maintenance locations” around the globe and the companies job is to keep these “trucks running for their customers.” That includes getting “thousands of parts to car manufacturing plants and assembly lines “including to GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen.” And he said to keep this fleet of trucks running and the needed “diesel mechanics.” He said, “They get the best of the best.”

Sanchez a Miami boy who went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for his MBA, also holds an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Miami, and prior to joining Ryder in 1993. He worked for a while with Florida Power & Light. Sanchez made it clear the company, once known for its yellow truck rentals has morphed into a totally different business model that now concentrates on providing logistics and transportation services for a host of companies around the world and when it comes to hiring returning military veterans. The company has a hiring program that over the last two and a half years has resulted in the hiring of some “1,000 returning veterans,” he closed his comments.

Sanchez

Ryder Corp. photo

>>> Company Bio of Sanchez: President and Chief Executive Officer

Mr Sanchez is President and Chief Executive Officer of Ryder System, Inc., a FORTUNE 500® transportation and supply chain management solutions company. Over the course of two decades at Ryder, Mr. Sanchez has served in senior executive leadership positions in operations, finance, and information technology. He has been a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Team since 2003. Most recently, Mr. Sanchez held the role of President and Chief Operating Officer, in which he was responsible for the general management of all business operations. Prior to that, he served as President of Global Fleet Management Solutions (FMS), Ryder’s largest business segment. Earlier, he served in a broad range of leadership positions for the corporation and each of its business segments, including: Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Ryder System, Inc.; Executive Vice President of Operations (FMS); Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Ryder System, Inc.; Senior Vice President of Transportation Management within Supply Chain Solutions (SCS); and Vice President of Asset Management (FMS).

Mr. Sanchez joined Ryder in 1993 and served with distinction in positions of increasing responsibility, including Regional Finance Director for SCS; Group Director of Financial Analysis and Pricing for SCS; and Manager of Strategic Planning. Prior to joining Ryder in 1993, he worked as an Applications Engineer at Florida Power & Light and as a Controls Engineer at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

Mr. Sanchez was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of Texas Instruments in March 2011, and serves on the board’s audit committee. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA), as well as the Association of Cuban Engineers (ACE), for which he chairs the Scholarship Foundation. Additionally, he is a member of the University of Miami President’s Council and the College of Engineering Visiting Committee. He is also a mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters School to Work Program. In 2010, The South Florida Business Journal named Mr. Sanchez CFO of the Year for the South Florida region, recognizing the important role he and his team played in maintaining Ryder’s strong financial position during the difficult economic environment of 2009. In 2002, he also received the Young Hispanic Leadership Award, and in 2001, he was named ACE Engineer of the Year. Mr. Sanchez earned his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Finance and Strategic Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in Computer Science from the University of Miami

>>> The Greater Miami Chamber taps FP&L executive Rodriguez for Henry Flagler Award, played a key early role with the Watchdog Report

Manny Rodriguez, the Florida Power & Light Manager of Corporate and External Affairs will be awarded the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Henry M. Flagler Community Builder Award and the man has a Watchdog Report connection. Back in May of 2000 when I first started the WDR entering its 14th year May 5. Out of the blue at a time came a check when I was having trouble paying my electric bill to FP&L and was going to Jorge’s Pharmacy on Coral Way to stand in line and pay the utility bill with a host of others. I came back to my mailbox after such a trip, there was a check for $500.00 from the company, and six months later, another arrived and was a critical payment when I was first beginning this free community news service. I later found out it was Rodriguez that was the initiator of this and later FP&L became a listed $2,000 a year sponsor and the company is listed at the end of the WDR as a Founding Sponsor. And for that faith and support of me, I wish Manny many happy years in retirement, with his grandchildren and family and I give him a Tip of the Hat for believing in me back then when many other people did not have that same confidence.

CELEBRATION OF LIFE

>>> Friends of Miami-Dade County GOP Party Chair Mary Ellen Miller who passed last month will gather on her birthday, April 20th, at 11am. It will be at her church: Faith Lutheran Church, 293 Hialeah Drive. Miller passed last month and was a low-key but beloved driving force within the Republican Party over the past decades.

>>> President’s Budget Shows Strong Support for Advancing Next Phase of Bridging for Tamiami Trail

Press release: “We are thrilled by the Obama Administration’s recognition of the importance for advancing America’s Everglades with today’s release of the FY2014 Presidential Budget that proposes $95.5 million for the Department of the Interior, including $30 million for Tamiami Trail Next Steps bridging. “Historically, Tamiami Trail has obstructed freshwater flow into the Everglades since its construction in 1928, acting like a dam and blocking critical water flows back to its natural path, south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.  Today’s proposed funding levels will help bridge Tamiami Trail an additional 5.5 miles, which is vital to protecting critical habitat, restoring historic water flows into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, and ensuring America’s Everglades will be preserved for future generations.

“America’s Everglades is one of the world’s most diverse and productive wetlands and is a tremendous economic generator.  According to the National Park Service, Tamiami Trail Next Steps bridging will bring an estimated 3,700 jobs to the state, many of which are in the hard-hit construction sector. So far, these direct economic benefits are in addition to those from constructing the first one-mile bridge, which was completed last month, creating more than 1,200 jobs in two years. For every dollar invested in Everglades restoration, $4 is generated in economic benefits to the public. “We celebrate the President’s commitment to advancing the construction of an additional 5.5 miles of bridging on Tamiami Trail and urge Congress to support strong funding for Tamiami Trail Next Steps bridging.”

>>> Shusen Wei, 45, a citizen of China, pleaded guilty Friday in Miami federal court to charges stemming & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.

Press release: Wei entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, who scheduled sentencing for April 29, 2013.  Wei faces a possible term in prison of up to 10 years on the single count filed against him, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

According to documents filed in Court, Wei traveled from China to Miami, Fla., in January 2013, to attend the Original Miami Beach Antique Show.  While attending the show, he roomed with another Chinese national who was later arrested for smuggling of rhinoceros horns from the United States to China.  In pleading guilty, Wei admitted that he paid commissions to this other individual to purchase objects made of rhino horn in the United States and smuggle them to China and that he knew that this individual was engaged in the smuggling of protected species of wildlife, including rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory. Wei also knew that this individual had paid bribes to Chinese customs officials to assist in his smuggling.  Special Agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service learned that Wei had previously purchased libation cups made from carved rhinoceros horns from this same individual. One of those items was sold at a U.S. auction house for $242,500.  This and other photographs of carved rhinoceros horns were found on Wei’s cell phone.

Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans. All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered. Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by 178 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population. As a result, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970. South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to 668 in 2012.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and thanked the U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Eastern District of New York and the District of New Jersey for their assistance. The case is part of “Operation Crash” (named for the term used to describe a herd of rhinoceros) which is an ongoing multi-agency effort to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns.  This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Richard A. Udell, a Senior Counsel with the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. >>> 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.

>>> Two Miami Men Convicted in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Involving over 1,000 Victims

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), Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Sergio Velazquez, Chief, Hialeah Police Department (HPD), announced the conviction at trial of Earnest Baldwin, 36 of Miami, and Earl Baldwin, 42 of Miami, for their participating in a tax refund scheme using stolen identities  to convert government monies for their own use.  More specifically, both were convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of access device fraud, and multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, in connection with an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, the defendants were involved in an identity theft tax fraud scheme that operated from July 2011 through June 2012.  During the course of their fraud scheme, approximately $1.7 million in fraudulent refund claims were submitted to the IRS for payment.  Nearly all of these claims requested payment of the refunds onto pre-paid debit cards and some of these claims were filed from Earl Baldwin’s residence.

The trial testimony and evidence further showed that Earnest Baldwin was found with over 1,000 individual names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers and approximately 40 pre-paid debit cards in other people’s names.  Some of these papers seized included high school report cards with identity information and data from an organization for disabled persons containing identity information.  The evidence at trial also showed that both defendants withdrew money from debit cards loaded with fraudulent refunds in the names of victims in the papers and notebooks found on Earnest Baldwin. Sentencing for both defendants has been scheduled for June 17, 2013 beginning at 8:30 AM before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga.  Defendant Earnest Baldwin faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 41 years and defendant Earl Baldwin faces a maximum possible prison sentence of 29 years.

Two additional co-conspirators, Lineten Belizaire, 22, and Marckell Steward, 21, both of Miami, previously pled guilty in this matter.  Belizaire pled guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft on March 18, 2013.  She faces a maximum possible sentence of 12 years and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 28, 2013 at 8:30 AM before Judge Altonaga.  Steward pled guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft on January 31, 2013.  He faces a maximum possible sentence of 12 years and is scheduled to be at a later date. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended IRS-CID, USPIS, and HPD for their work on the case.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael N. Berger and Maurice Johnson.

>>> 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

FLORIDA

>>> While Legislature passes $74 billion plus budget, what will body and Gov. Scott do when it comes to bumping up tourist development taxes for Miami Dolphins Stadium upgrades?

With May 3 fast approaching and the ending of the Florida Legislative Session, the Florida House and Senate have passed the one thing lawmakers are constitutionally charged to do and have passed respective budgets for the coming year that begins Oct.1. The Senate version comes in at $74 billion and the House weighed in with a $74.4 billion budget proposal that now goes to conference between the two legislative branches. This is the first year that the legislature is not dealing with rising expenses and lower state revenues that they have had to deal with since 2008 when the nation’s economic downturn and property values went into free fall and the state’s funding coffers dried up to a great extent. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/10/3334245/fla-senate-passes-74-billion-budget.html http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/12/3340371/house-democrats-stand-down-in.html

However, one issue locally the legislature has to deal with is the deal hammered out by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez for a public referendum on whether tourist development tax dollars should be spent on a major Sun Life Stadium upgrade for the Miami Dolphins. The overall deal hinges on getting the state to approve asking voters to increase this tourist tax to seven percent, up from six percent, of which 75 percent of the one percent would go to the team over 26 years. Proponents say it will create jobs and keep the facility competitive for high profile marquee events like future Super Bowls and critics say it is “corporate welfare” for billionaires and has divided the local legislative delegation and has both local parties leadership jointly agreeing the deal should get a thumbs down and no action in the state legislature would kill the deal.

Further, while the Senate is more receptive to the agreement, in the House it is getting a tepid response and GOP lawmakers know they still have to deal with Tea Party supporters throughout Florida who are going ballistic at what is considered another major gift to well heeled professional team owners and any vote in the state legislative chambers could come back to haunt the representatives, especially in the closed GOP primaries, in the next election cycle in 2014 that also has Gov. Rick Scott up for reelection as well. Moreover, Scott could be a critical factor since any legislation supporting the deal has to be signed by the governor who is reeling from flip-flopping and now supporting accepting three years of funding under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). But the House has rejected Scott’s proposal based on what is seen as future costs of the program and a belief the program will not produce the anticipated savings and would add new burdensome costs to the state budget and the nation as a whole. >>> For more on the stadium deal go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/13/v-fullstory/3342759/a-breakdown-of-the-miami-dolphins.html

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott released the following statement on Senate passage of SB 92, “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act”: Gov. Scott said, “I believe that privacy should be protected and I look forward to signing Senator Negron’s drone bill.  This law will ensure that the rights of Florida families are protected from the unwarranted use of drones and other unmanned aircraft.”

>>> 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.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Dolphin upgrade deal passes county commission, but will deal clear Florida legislature?

While Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez got a deal with the Miami Dolphins to renovate Sun Life Stadium that gives the team $289 million in a payout of $7.8 million over 26 years and has the professional football team repaying roughly $112 to $129 million of that back. The county commission spent hours vetting the contract and setting a referendum vote for May 14, in time for the team to know the stadium’s status before the NFL chooses the sites for the 50th and 51st Super Bowls on May 22. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/11/3336080_p2/miami-dolphins-stadium-renovation.html And the only three dissenting votes on the commission were Commissioners Juan Zapata, Xavier Suarez and Estephan Bovo. They were cautious about the deal, that is nothing like the Miami Marlins enclosed stadium deal in Little Havana costing $2.5 billion. When the bond financing is included and has outraged the community, embarrassed the commission and hangs like a dark cloud over the football stadium deal that polled voters were totally against but now might be lukewarm at best now that the overall deal is known.

Gimenez rose to the mayoral post in many ways because of his opposition of the struggling Miami Marlins new enclosed stadium and people are criticizing his role in this deal that he says is nothing like the baseball stadium. He says the public purse is protected in this case and only tourist development tax dollars are involved and no other public money, and there are plenty of protections for taxpayers. Gimenez has said he just wanted to give the team they’re day in court and he did demand that the public vote on the issue, to tamp down and give legitimacy to the deal after voters were denied this vote with the Marlins deal. And it signaled to the Florida Legislature now meeting that local government was behind the deal, though has both Miami-Dade Democratic and Republican Party leaders in rare agreement giving a thumbs down to what is seen as “corporate welfare” for Steven Ross who has a net worth of over $4. billion and many people believe the owner should be able to finance the expansions and upgrades himself say the deals critics.

What about the team’s community outreach?

On Tuesday, just before the commission vote was being taken the seats were packed with a broad spectrum of lobbyists and community spokespeople that have been brought on board by the Dolphins to help convince voters that this is a good deal for the public and community, and that they should vote for it in what is considered to be a low turnout election, and it’s approval will benefit all residents of South Florida. Leading the public relations effort is highly respected attorney H.T. Smith and former George W. Bush appointee Jorge Arrizurieta, who was also a long time member on the Public Health Trust overseeing Jackson Health System.

However, one deal stopping obstacle remains and that is the Florida Legislature and while the Senate is in favor of some tax breaks. The Dolphin stadium legislation in the House is getting a lukewarm reception and local state lawmakers are feeling the heat from their local constituents against the tax breaks the deal is requesting. And any failure to get any of the needed concessions in this deal ends the effort that had the football team’s front man Mike Dee delivering a $7.87 million check to pay for the Special Election in May on Friday. But the public mood is sour, after the botched Marlins deal, when it comes to private sports franchises and opening up the public purse, especially when such a owner as Ross has his own money that could be used if he really wanted too. However, Dee says Ross feels outside the team’s well over $200 million contribution to the roughly $380 million expansion that he cannot make any further investment, and some in the media have jumped on this fact.

Commissioners Dennis Moss, Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime all pushed for minority participation in the multi-year project and they got a pledge of “aspirational goals,” when it came to diversity of the workforce doing the upgrades for the facility located in the City of Miami Gardens. However, while the commission may be on board, the body’s nemesis auto magnate Norman Braman has vowed to fight this deal believing Ross should pony up the money himself and it was “corporate welfare for a billionaire,” Braman, a billionaire himself has said. Further, Braman who was the point of the spear against the Marlins stadium in the past has said he will throw whatever resources that are necessary if in fact the deal clears all the hurdles in the state in the weeks ahead. Moreover, he is currently now focused on trying to kill the deal by derailing the concessions the team wants in the state legislature.

>>> Miami Dolphins press release: Miami-Dade: Miami First, a coalition of Miami-Dade business and community leaders supporting the efforts to modernize Sun Life Stadium, will kick off the campaign to protect the future of Super Bowls, college championships, and international soccer in Miami-Dade ahead of the referendum on May 14th. From now until the May 14th Election Day, Miami First will work to ensure that residents of Miami-Dade know about the project, which will create over 4,000 jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. >>> For a longer analysis of the Dolphin Sun Life Stadium deal go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/13/3342759/a-breakdown-of-the-miami-dolphins.html >>> And to hear Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s comments on Michael Putney’s This Week in South Florida show Sunday go to http://www.local10.com/-/1717430/19520008/-/5x4vf5z/-/index.html

>>> Two veteran Herald reporters join Ethics Commission as investigators

The Miami-Dade Ethics and Public Trust has hired two new investigators after some 100 people applied for the job. The new hires are Robert Steinback and Larry Lebowitz, both former reporters with The Miami Herald and they are a superb choice for the job, given their past investigative and writing skills detailed in the past in The Herald. The men follow in the footsteps of other Herald reporters Karl Ross and in the past Don Finefrock who was the first Herald reporter to join the Ethics Commission back in 2001. And Finefrock now works for The South Florida Parks Foundation.

>>> Press release: Two former Miami Herald journalists will soon join the investigative staff of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Executive Director Joseph Centorino announced at today’s monthly meeting that Robert Steinback and Lawrence Lebowitz will begin work in early May.  Steinback spent a quarter of a century at Miami’s flagship newspaper in a variety of capacities, including reporter, assistant city editor and columnist, and most recently served as a deputy editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.   The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer earned an Economics Degree at the University of Rochester and a Master’s in Journalism at Northwestern University.  Lebowitz wrote award-winning investigative stories during ten years at the Miami Herald and also reported several years for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other publications.  The Boston University graduate has been co-owner of an eco-tourism company.

“We received more than 100 applications from very well-qualified individuals to fill the investigator positions that were open due to recent staff attrition, but these two stood out,” said Centorino.  He added, “The Ethics Commission has been well-served previously by journalists, whose training, experience, knowledge of local government and ability to ferret out the truth have proven to be a winning formula for our agency.”

>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG IN JANUARY – FEBRUARY 2013 RESULTING IN INCREASES IN GREATER MIAMI’S TOURIST-RELATED TAX COLLECTIONS
Through the first two months of 2013, the 2% Tourist Development tax collections (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) totaled $4,916,961 compared to $4,214,894 in 2012 for an increase of +16.7%. The 3% Convention Development tax (CDT) collections for Greater Miami and the Beaches totaled $14,257,146 compared to $12,534,811 for the same period last year representing a +13.7% increase in 2013. The 2% Hotel Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels in Miami-Dade (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $1,449,130 compared to $1,299,173 in 2012, for an increase of +11.5%.

City of Miami Beach 3% Resort Tax Collections totaled $6,991,345 compared to $6,081,324 for an increase of +15.0%. The 2% Food and Beverage tax collections in Miami Beach generated $5,048,544 compared to $4,455,831 in 2012, for an increase of +13.3%.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
2% TOURIST DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012 % Change
$4,916,961 $4,214,894 +16.7%
3% CONVENTION DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012 % Change
$14,257,146 $12,534,811 +13.7%
2% HOTEL FOOD AND BEVERAGE TAX COLLECTIONS
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012 % Change
$1,449,130 $1,299,173 +11.5%
MIAMI BEACH
3% RESORT TAX COLLECTIONS
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012 % Change
$6,991,345 $6,081,324 +15.0%
2% HOTEL FOOD AND BEVERAGE TAX COLLECTIONS
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2013 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012 % Change
$5,084,544 $4,455,831 +13.3%

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Board Attorney Harvey gets nod to change salary schedule for new attorneys, office more frugal than in past years

The school Board’s attorney’s office was the talk of a committee meeting Wednesday, and since taking over four years ago, Walter Harvey has kept the office budget low, has used fewer outside attorney’s than his predecessors and overall has run a lean shop. Though he has lost some experienced attorney’s because they can make so much more in the private sector. Harvey is a Harvard Law school graduate, used to be a long serving trustee of the Public Health Trust that oversees Jackson Memorial Hospital and he was appointed the school board’s attorney in 2009 after his predecessor left after a scandal concerning her not moving to Miami-Dade from Palm Beach but kept the

relocation bonus anyway and was brought to light by www.miamiherald.com .

Harvey said to committee members that a change in the salary schedule was not giving current attorneys any raises, but the change gave him more flexibility in hiring future attorneys. School Board member Marta Perez thought it was important that the public not think the District is flush with money, since voters in November passed a $1.2 billion technology and school renovation bond and she noted there are many fine attorneys out in the market that don’t have a job and would work for less. Board Member Carlos Curbelo was also concerned about the perception and any increase would be within the guidelines that teachers got when they got a raise, around some 2.7 percent on average. Historically the office had farmed out much of its legal work to high priced law firms. But Harvey has reined that activity in and school Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, many times critical of the practice in the past. She complemented Harvey for his frugality in the way he ran the roughly 15 attorney office that represents the nation’s fourth largest public schools district, has 350,000 students and a roughly $4.3 billion budget.

Harvey’s bio: http://attorneys.dadeschools.net/bio_harveyw.asp

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Commissioner Spence-Jones gets thumbs down on third term, charter language clear and passed by 73 percent citywide vote back in 1999

While the ruling of Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jorge Cueto that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones could not run for a third term after Gov. Charlie Crist suspended her twice keeping her out of office for 21 months has caused controversy, including the judge not disclosing, prior working for the state attorney’s public corruption unit investigating her. Now it is likely that she will get a new judge to hear her challenge but Cueto made a compelling legal case, that while it may anger Spence-Jones supporters. The 1999 charter change language establishing term limits for the mayor and commissioners for two terms is very clear. In addition, while she argued it was vague and ambiguous. The court found the language was not ambiguous and clear and she fulfilled the key criteria as a candidate who qualified for the two terms and thus would be termed out and could not seek a third term as she believes she is entitled.

What about the history of the term limit ballot question?

Back in 1999, the city Commission established a charter review commission and the issue of creating term limits was on the front burner. At the time, two Miami commissioners had gone to jail, Miller Dawkins and Humberto Hernandez. Cesar Odio a city manager was imprisoned and in the 1999 November election, 29 year Miami Commissioner J.L. Plummer lost to insurgent candidate Johnny Winton and voters clearly wanted changes. This pressure also manifested itself in the passage of the term limit charter change by a 73 percent vote and the city also was under the thumb of Gov. Jeb Bush and a state Financial Oversight Board that had to approve anything the commission did and would be dissolved in November of 2001. And I was very clear that term limits of elected leaders were a high priority among voters, especially coming off a earlier mayoral election that was thrown out and nullified. And involved the election of then Mayor Xavier Suarez, who was never charged but resulted in the arrests of a number of other people involved with the election and included Manuel Yip voting back then, even though the man had died years earlier.

Thus the term limit legislation’s language was considered iron clad, had been extensively discussed by the charter review committee chaired by then Miami Commissioner Willy Gort and the Watchdog Report was there at these meetings, that were eventually held in the commission chambers after I made a stink about them being held in the commissioner’s conference room office. Further, it wasn’t until months later that the proceedings were actually televised even though many of the members would talk to the cameras as if these were actually on. But that was not the case and I became the first person to speak when they finally allowed public testimony. >>> To see what I said on the judge’s ruling on the WPBT2 show Issues hosted by Helen Ferre over the weekend go to http://ka.uvuvideo.org/_Issues-City-of-Miami-Term-Limits/video/1828740/86294.html

Spence-Jones

What do we know about Judge Cueto finances?

Cueto through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $780,000, down from $825,000 in 2010, he lists two residences valued at $239,000 and $230,000, and art collectables are appraised at $200,000. He lists no debt and his income for the year was $140,187 from the state of Florida, and he got $31,000 from the Florida Division of Retirement and he lists receiving no gifts over $100.00 for the year.

>>> WDR correction and clarification to last week’s Miami story

In Last week’s Watchdog Report for Miami, there were a number of errors that need to be corrected. I apologize to my readers for this inaccuracy. While I asked Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez if he had gotten a $20,000 campaign contribution from the TrueStar Group which he did not and I reported that fact. Suarez did get an earlier $10,000 contribution from Sinapsis Trading USA, an affiliate organization in October 2012 to his political PAC. The PAC was initially created to help fund a push for voter approval of a strong mayor form of government for the City of Miami, and now for his run for mayor against Mayor Tomas Regalado.

And Suarez in an email last week further clarified his time on the commission. “Thank you for that clarification regarding the rumor about the [recent shrink wrap campaign] contribution. Also, Please note that I am on my second term (reelected in 2011 without opposition) to a term that ends in 2015 not my first.  I could also run for reelection and could potentially serve as commissioner until 2019 (when term limits kick in). As to my resignation [to run for mayor], my understanding is that my resignation must be made revocable by the end of the qualifying period which I believe is sometime in September not June,” wrote Suarez. >>> Editor’s note: Again, I apologize for this error.

Suarez

Miami Man Sentenced in $1.6 Million Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, and Rafael P. Hernandez, Jr., Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, announced that defendant Frantz Charles, 38, of Miami, was sentenced yesterday for his participation in a $1.648 million stolen identity tax refund scheme.  Specifically, U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas sentenced Charles to 61 months in prison, followed by 4 years of supervised release, and restitution in the amount of $1.648 million.  Charles previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to file false and fraudulent claims and another count of aggravated identity theft.

According to information in court documents, Charles was charged in a multi-count indictment along with other co-conspirators for participating in an identity theft tax refund scheme involving the use of the identities of over 900 deceased individuals to file fraudulent income tax returns.  The tax refunds generated from the filing of these fraudulent returns were, in turn, deposited into bank accounts controlled by the defendant and other co-conspirators. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID, the U.S. Secret Service, and the North Miami Beach Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Bonau. 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.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> South of Fifth Neighbors update on Apr. 4 general meeting, big turnout and included elected leaders

Dear South of Fifth Neighbors, Thanks to everyone from the City and our neighborhood for the success of the last SOFNA general meeting on April 4.  More than 100 residents and city officials attended, addressing among other matters the South Pointe Park off-leash dog area; upcoming police preparations for Memorial Day Weekend; Code Compliance issues affecting our neighborhood; and the ongoing sewage system capacity upgrade as well as the Alton Road reconstruction project.

The Board unanimously passed the following resolutions:

1)  SOFNA supports an off leash dog area in South Pointe Park, at a location selected in consultation with professionals as well as the input of the community.

2)  SOFNA does not support the expansion of sale of alcohol on the beach.

For those of you interested in the South Pointe Park off-leash dog area, the City of Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department is holding a community meeting to discuss it tomorrow, Monday, April 15, at 6 pm, at the South Pointe Park Community Room, 1 Washington Avenue. Also regarding the Park, the city’s Art in Public Places Committee recently issued a “Call to Artists” for an artistic intervention for the South Pointe Park Pier ”Gate” at the entrance to the pier. Four proposals were received. Those proposals and the Committee’s recommendation may be viewed at the following link: http://www.miamibeachfl.gov/tcd/aipp/default.aspx?id=28214 Again, many thanks for your continuing support and feedback. The SOFNA Board of Directors.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Hail Mayor Cason, Commissioners Lago and Keon as they take the dais, 23 % turnout decent for April election in City Beautiful

It’s over, after a bruising high campaign dollar election incumbent Mayor Jim Cason retained his seat and Patricia “Pat” Keon and Vincent Lago were elected to replace termed out Commissioners Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera, Jr., who lost his bid for mayor to Cason. Voter turnout in the tony burg was a respectable 23.15 percent, Cason garnered 70.80 percent of the vote, with Lago getting 52.7 percent for the Group 2 seat, and Keon got 48.98 percent for her Group 3 seat on the five-member dais. Of the city’s 30,672 registered voters, 7,101 cast their vote on Tuesday. The polls in many cases were empty during most of the day with more candidates, and supporters at the 18 open polls than voters were for most of the day. Further, some 2,000 absentee votes were cast and during the swearing in on Friday at noon at the Gables Commission Chambers. Elected leaders and supporters packed the chambers including County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, his son Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez and a chair was even reserved for new Miami Beach Manager Jimmy Morales. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/12/3340606/coral-gables-officially-inducts.html

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Broward County Resident Convicted in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Using Stolen Identities

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announced that yesterday a jury convicted Lee Ervin Dale, 30, of Fort Lauderdale, for his participation in a tax refund scheme using stolen identities to convert government monies to his own use, and to make and present false, fictitious and fraudulent claims to the IRS.  More specifically, Dale was convicted of two counts of converting  government funds to his own use (income tax refund checks), six counts of making and presenting false claims to the IRS (presenting income tax returns for refunds), and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing has been scheduled for June 17, 2013, at 9:00 A.M. before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams.  At sentencing, the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison on each count of theft of government funds, up to 5 years in prison on each count of making and presenting a false claim to the government, and two years consecutive to the other sentences on the aggravated identity theft charges.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, 291 handwritten tax returns claiming more than $2 million in refunds were filed between 2006 and 2009 using stolen identities and listing the Dale’s P.O. Box address.  Although the IRS was able to prevent refund checks from being issued on most of these claims, approximately $195,000 in refund checks were mailed to Dale’s P.O. Box.  Several of these checks were deposited directly into bank accounts bearing both Dale’s name and the identity theft victim’s name.  Other checks were cashed at a check cashing store in Oakland Park, Florida, in exchange for cash and money orders that the Defendant then deposited into his own accounts. Mr. Ferrer thanked the agents at IRS-CI for their work on this case.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laurie E. Rucoba and Jared Strauss. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.

CITY OF MIRAMAR

>>> Husband and Wife Sentenced in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

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, Rafael P. Hernandez, Jr., Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, announced that defendants Douglas Michael Young, a/k/a “Douglas Pierre,” 41, and his wife, Nicole Young, a/k/a “Nicole Pierre,” a/k/a Nicole Pierre Smith, 42, both of Miramar, were sentenced yesterday for their participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme.  Douglas Young was sentenced to 61 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.  Nicole Young was sentenced to 54 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.  In addition, the defendants were ordered to pay joint and several liability restitution in the amount of $849,052.87.  Douglas and Nicole Young (the Youngs) had previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal government property, one count of theft of government property, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

On October 5, 2011, six (6) defendants were charged in a nine count indictment for their participation in a tax refund scheme that resulted in the submission of approximately $1,207,389.00 in fraudulent claims for refunds using the personal identification information of unknowing.  Charged in the indictment were Douglas Young and Nicole Young, Jeffrey Andre Young,  Jr., 31, and Ernest V. Charles, 37, both of Miami, and Joseph Bshara, 27, and Siham Benabdallah, 23, both of Miami Shores, Florida.

According to the indictment, the Youngs owned and operated two tax preparation companies, Supreme Tax and Young Professional Services, Inc.  The Youngs would obtain identification information from unknowing victims and use their identification information without their authorization to file fraudulent refund claims.  In furtherance of the scheme, the Youngs charged the unknowing victims a “fee” for their purported tax preparation services.  The Youngs would deduct the “fee” from any tax refunds and would deposit the “fee” into bank accounts they controlled.  The remainder of the refunds would be converted into personal checks that would be deposited into bank accounts controlled by co-defendants Ernest V. Charles, Joseph Bshara, and Siham Benabdallah.  Defendant Jeffrey Andre Young, Jr. would deliver the personal checks to Joseph Bshara and Siham Benabdallah for deposit into the bank accounts that they controlled.

On April 9, 2013, co-defendant Jeffrey Andre Young, Jr was sentenced to 34 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release after having previously pled guilty to one count of theft of government property and one count of aggravated identity theft.  On that same date, Siham Benabdallah, was sentenced to time served followed by supervised release of three years after having pled guilty to one count of theft of government property. On January 29, 2013, co-defendant Joseph Bshara pled guilty to one count of theft of government property and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Defendant Ernest V. Charles remains at large.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to IRS-CI and the North Miami Beach Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Lunkenheimer. 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.

FRANKLIN COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Martin Fitzpatrick to the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit (consisting of Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Wakulla, Leon and Jefferson Counties).

Fitzpatrick, 44, of Tallahassee, has practiced with Broad and Cassel since 2001. From 1997-2001, he practiced with Sternstein, Rainer & Clarke, and from 1996-1997, he practiced with Smith, Hulsey & Busey. Fitzpatrick earned his bachelor’s degree from Stetson University and his law degree from Florida State University. He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mark W. Walker, who was appointed to the Federal bench. Governor Rick Scott said, “Marty Fitzpatrick is a great addition to our bench and he will become a distinguished judge. I am confident that he will ensure that all Floridians are treated fairly and respectfully.”

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> 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!oi

EDITORIAL

>>> With reviving Miami-Dade economy & house values, now is time to bank some of the extra public tax dollars in the future, reduce public debt, but has this lesson been learned?

Since the Great Recession in 2008, county and local governments have had a fiscal blow torch on they’re past  spending habits and keeping a tight watch on the limited public tax dollars had been the watchword of the day. However, with the stabilization of property tax dollars and now a slight increase. Some of these public institutions leaders are slowly going back to their old ways of tax and spend, and saving for a rainy day that will surly come again in the future is being put on the back burner. For when it comes to public tax dollars, elected leaders at all levels are much like crack addicts when it comes to this money and there never is enough for their habit. And that attitude is starting to take root again after the last almost five years of fiscal misery and spending restraint.

What is funny about this fiscal attitude when it comes to public money is how cavalier some people used to be before the crash and had one county commissioner calling money from the public campaign finance budget “surplus money,” said Commissioner Sally Heyman and the Watchdog Report called her out on this back in 2006. When she doled out this $300,000 for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, to help cover its bills and salaries of some of the stiffed workers when it closed suddenly back then. However, I was not commenting on the use of the money but the expression she used and that is the problem. For this attitude is rearing its ugly head again now that the public tax dollar spigot is being turned on again and the one thing local government should get out of the past few years of the economic recession is it can happen again.

And these public institutions cannot be so leveraged in debt because we now know the good times can end or an economic turndown can occur again and some of this new public money has got to be banked and put into reserves for a slump will come again. The question is after this most severe one, will your elected officials just go about business as usual, or will they have learned their lesson. Let’s hope they have for the coming generations’ sake.

LETTERS

>>> Miami-Dade County Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla sponsored the ordinance that created the Office of the Inspector General in Miami Dade County.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami

>>> Now that I’m in my 35th year of advocacy for family policies which prevent problems and promote programs that ensure safety, health and educational success, you can confidently assume I’ve been around the block a few times…and have learned a lesson or two worth sharing. It’s clear to me that effective communications is the key to effective advocacy.  Knowledge, experience and core passion are important ingredients to influence policy-makers, but without the right message, conveyed by the right messengers, progress cannot be achieved.  The root of advocacy is “voca” – the voice.  And just the right set of voices is vital to influence positive change.

Over the decades, professionals in a wide diversity of fields have created a body of knowledge from practical experience, supported by research, that builds a credible case for reform and investment in programs that make a difference in the lives of others.  I honor that perspective and would never disrespect the role of professionals as experts. But professional expertise alone does not move the needle far enough in advocacy.  It takes the authentic voices of “real people” and their stories of life-challenges and life-changing experiences to influence others and motivate action.

Many examples of authentic voices making a difference flash to mind. All great movements for reform of unjust policies…..the struggle for civil rights, child labor and fair access for the disabled, women’s suffrage, gender equality for academic, athletic and military programs, and non-discriminatory workplace, housing and economic justice….all have required individuals to step forward to shine the light of reality on the problem and give compelling testimony for change.

There are great debates underway in our nation:  Immigration and firearms policy, access to affordable health care and the needs of a growing population of elders, the crises of substance abuse and mental health services, family violence and suicide, equality for gay and lesbian family members, and achieving the balance between reducing the national debt, promoting economic growth, supplying energy, and protecting our natural environment. Reaching positive solutions to every one of these diverse critical issues must be informed by expert analysis of facts and offering proposals which make sense.  A key ingredient, however, is the willingness of people to open up and give voice to their concerns on a personal level.  Yes, it’s easy to hide behind the perception that politics is a monstrous machine which cares less about anything but money and partisan power.  We are inundated by messages that deafen us with defeatist rhetoric. Some would have us believe that nothing we do or say matters….that exercising our voices is foolish and a futile waste of time and energy. Please don’t buy into that negativity.  It’s not in anyone’s interest to become CAVE people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything!

Honoring those who fought for our freedoms, and to this day are in combat to defend the rights of others to peace and freedom, requires us to take our rights seriously.  I believe that with every right comes a responsibility, and with every concern comes a commitment to make a difference. Our actions do matter and can bring about positive change in the lives of others.  Every day I meet people who give their valuable time, talents and part of their treasure for the benefit of others. I learn so much about what it means to be a caring member of the human family by listening to the voices of people who have overcome adversity by dedicating themselves to doing the right thing. My heart leaps to witness how many foster youth are reaching back to help younger brothers and sisters overcome their abusive experience by advocating on their behalf.

I’ve met so many foster and adoptive parents whose hearts and homes have been opened to share the most basic of all gifts…..love and life-long commitment.

I so admire advocates for abused children in our dependency courts, those who mentor troubled youth and offer opportunities for young offenders who need a second chance to succeed. Our communities offer literacy services for young children and adults alike through one-on-one reading sessions making life-long learning a reality. How heroic are those who have suffered the perils of substance addiction and are actively building their new life by helping others on their path to recovery. How inspiring are the efforts of family members who have lost a loved one to some destructive disease or tragic event but choose to lessen their grief by giving the gift of life through organ donation, assistance to military veterans, and help for the homeless, hungry and victims of violence.

And those who give the gift of time and attention to lonely elders, and visit people in their last days of life in hospice, are proving every day that aging deserves dignity. The story of progress is told every day by those who give voice and bear witness to their faith through their actions. I hope you will resolve to join with me in striving to become the most positive person in the room….sharing your optimism and spirit of enrichment, energy and enthusiasm. Yes, of course it’s easier said than done….but never have we been given more opportunity to make good on the gifts we have been given so others can reach their fullest potential.

Jack Levine, Founder
4Generations Institute
Jack@4Gen.org

http://4Gen.org

850.567.5252 (mobile/voicemail)
P.O. Box 10875 Tallahassee, FL 32302

>>> There is still time to lend your voice in support of funding for epilepsy programs in Florida.  Please take some time today to send a message to your legislators.  If you have already acted, thank you! Please share this alert with friends and family.

In our home state, more than 375,000 Floridians live with epilepsy; approximately 84,000 of these are children. Today, 12 percent of Americans with epilepsy live in Florida and indicators are that this number may increase, not only as the baby boomers age but also because Florida is home to the second largest veteran population in the nation–with the incidence of post-traumatic epilepsy the highest in the military than the general population. It’s clearly in our state’s interest to respond to the growing health care and support needs of this vulnerable population. The good news is that with prevention, early intervention, education, medical treatment, support services and on-going case management, we can greatly improve quality of life for those with epilepsy and their families while also saving money and resources. Florida’s Epilepsy Service Providers (FESP) address these needs and provide vital, specialized, safety-net services that are cost-effective and work!

Your Voice is Needed! Take a moment to share your support for FESP programs by thanking your legislators. Click here to take action! Although funding for the FESP was in jeopardy, the state legislature has come out strongly to support these programs! Both the Florida Senate and House has included the needs of Floridians with epilepsy in their budgets! Please take a moment today to thank the legislature, share your personal story, and support for these important programs by emailing your legislators now! For more information on our programs, please visit our website: www.EpilepsyFLA.org

Karen Basha Egozi
Epilepsy Foundation of Florida
>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000

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

HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com .

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

ARTHUR HERTZ

WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)

ALFRED NOVAK

LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)

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

THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE

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

BADIA SPICES    www.badiaspices.com

RONALD HALL

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov

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

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

AKERMAN SENTERFITT   www.akerman.com

BERKOWITZ POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.com

RON BOOK

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.

LETTER POLICY

I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report.  Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Daniel A. Ricker

Publisher & Editor

Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net

Est. 05.05.00

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 watchdogreport1@earthlink.net for further information.  >>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.

>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times  –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored.  Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html

From the spring of 2003:  U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill:  Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources

Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.

General subscriber’s names will not be published in the Report. To subscribe to the Watchdog Report please use the form below as a subscription invoice.

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Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

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

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

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

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to: 3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133 To contact the Publisher please e-mail watchdogreport1@earthlink.net


 
 
 

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