Watchdog Report Vol.14 No.1 May 5, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – Celebrating today my 14th Anniversary! I go when you cannot
Argus Report: It’s official: The Watchdog Report is 14 years old, I have taken a licking over the past years, but have kept on ticking with some special people’s & organizations help – Thank You!
Florida: Miami Dolphins take their football and go home, after House bill for Sun Life upgrades tax breaks dies when legislative session ends
Miami-Dade County: Will failure of Miami Dolphins deal help Mayor Gimenez’s political fortunes in the future?
Miami-Dade Public Schools: MAST principle Garraox challenges Herald letter writer claims of falling academic performance standards at award winning institution
Public Health Trust: Apr. 29, 2013 Legislative mandated report finds JHS has “zero” net worth, but public health system gives hundreds of millions in community benefit
City of Miami: Commission Chair Sarnoff, wants more cops, 300 due to retire in next 30 months, starts petition drive trying to force Mgr. Martinez and Mayor Regalado administration to do something
City of Miami Beach: Mayor Bower confirms she will run for commissioner, now that she is termed out on dais
City of Coral Gables: Mayor Cason savors substantial reelection win, believes calm has come to dais, and is vindicated after first term with 70 percent plus win of the vote, but burglaries increasing
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Upcoming BCC agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting
City of Miramar: Two Defendants Charged in Theft from Seminole Tribe
Monroe County: Gov. Scott taps Phillip D. Pierce, Dr. Lesley J. Salinero and Dr. Mary L. Chambers, and reappoints John R. Padget to the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District, Monroe County.
Community Events: League of Women Voter’s get together to discuss Human Trafficking – Downtown Bay Forum Fla. legislative round-up – 44th Annual Health Council of South Flroida luncheon honoring Mayor Gimenez & Rivera
Editorials: PAST WDR: JULY 2012: Is mass murder becoming as American as apple pie and milk? All of us must help end this scourge of violence and finally learn it will eventually touch us all — 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: Fla. League of Women Voters on state Legislative reforms for voting – Broward reader on 14th Anniversary of WDR!
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
>>> It’s official: The Watchdog Report is 14 years old, I have taken a licking over the past years, but have kept on ticking with some special people’s & organizations help – Thank You!
The Watchdog Report is Celebrating it’s 14th Anniversary today and I could not have done this without the help of around a hundred people and organizations over those years and to each of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and while some earlier supporters have passed away, or can no longer help in some capacity. You each still stepped up and helped me at a time I needed it, and that help has allowed me to get to this date and time. And when I started, I only knew the power of the internet would give the report internet wings that fly’s over the globe via the email list every week, people sending it on to others by their own list, or the www.watchdogreport.net webpage.
I also thought long and hard about when to publish, and most weekly papers in South Florida run on Wednesday, the big dailies have there own schedule of what is published over the weekend, and there was a news opening I thought. If someone was willing to work essentially 24/7 and publish late Sunday afternoon. Today, I mark this new anniversary and there has been so much news that has been reported on in the weekly report over those years, as my past readers know and for the first time this past year. I have published 52 weeks in a row. (Back in 2011- 2012).
And that publishing milestone is no small feat and it has left me exhausted, broke and later in the month. I will take a break since my web person is going on vacation. However, I also want to thank all of you that have helped in some way to get to this milestone. Since I work alone and battled a major medical issue back in February 2010, that included two lifesaving surgeries. One critical case done at 4:00 a.m. by Vascular Surgeon Jorge Rabaza, M.D. at Baptist Health’s South Miami Hospital, when I had become totally septic and my survival was in doubt and my chances of surviving at the time was he said “a flip of the coin.” After I came through the operation and I thank him for being successful and keeping me alive. And since that time, it has given me a different perspective about life and its fragility and throughout these past years. I have tried my best to fight public corruption and I have done what I could to make public institutions more transparent, ethical and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse of the community’s precious public tax dollars but it has been a rough road for me financially.
Why did I start the Watchdog Report?
When I first started, I knew two things, the internet and the Florida Open Records Sunshine Law opened a door to watching public institutions and what elected leaders did like never before, and I would make the Watchdog Report free to all that were interested. I wanted the richest and the poorest and in need of us to get the Report if they wanted it. Because I also hoped to increase the civic depth and understanding of all people interested in how politics were affecting their lives. Since as Pericles said, “You may not take an interest in politics but politics may take an interest in you,” and that has been my tag line since the beginning back in 2000. However, financially it has been slow going and while I have saved hundreds of millions of public tax dollars over these years, by killing some expenditure or getting the PHT a break on a new stents contract where over $12 million was saved along with others help in 1998. And I have done this fiscal questioning for almost 17 years now and it adds up quickly given the aggregate sum of public dollars in play, now around $13 billion yearly that we have in our public institutions in Miami-Dade. In addition, one example in 2002 included the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) considering giving a politically connected person. Dr. Rudy Moise around $10 million to do traffic updates on a Creole AM radio station he owned and was being pushed by Ron Krongold, one of the co founders of Jungle Island.
After I spoke to some county commissioners before the MPO vote back then. I pointed out other radio stations were doing it free as part of their public service component. Further, I also noted we should at least put the traffic updates in Creole and for that amount of money, and we could buy our own radio station at the time since the market was not that competitive. Miami-Dade Commissioners ended up voting it down at the time, with Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez telling Krongold who pushed the deal very hard at the dais. “You are on fire, bail out, bail out,” he joked when it was clear the issue was dead with the other MPO members (After this incident, Krongold would later be removed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the MPO board since he was the governor’s appointment), but there have been so many other cases like this over the years, and this saving of tax dollars is a very strong reason why I kept at the Watchdog Report. Also, another example was in the late 1990s at a school board committee meeting when then long serving Board Member Betsy Kaplan said to me after what I call an incident. “Dan, you’re trying to keep us out of jail,” she mused and yes, that was another objective in my attempt to help be part of building a community that was informed and civically engaged with minimal public corruption.
Why are there not more Watchdogs like this?
I reflect on this because I doubt anyone will ever do this again in South Florida when I am gone for it took a broad set of circumstances to take a international businessman on this path after living in Japan, almost five years in Sydney while traveling extensively throughout Asia, and spending extensive time in China since my 1974 degree from George Washington University’s (Sino-Soviet Institute at the time) was in Chinese Studies. Further, I am divorced with no children, thought back in the mid 1990s someone needed to fight for the residents and people who did not have time to participate in governmental affairs, and when no one else stepped forward, I did. And that decision was partly driven by some of the social and financial injustice that pervaded the community back then with scandals in the headlines ranging from MIA to Miami-Dade, the county school board and the city of Miami being the poster child. Where city managers were fired like eating M&Ms and elected leaders and two city managers went to jail.
Further, I was given the gift of being a featured Miami Herald editorial columnist back in the spring and summer of 2000, sharing the Tuesday Editorial page with controversial award winning writers Max Castro and Carl Hiaasen. I was writing as the ‘Public Citizen’ back then and later in 2003 as a featured weekly independent news columnist for The Herald www.miamiherald.com as the Watchdog Report, where one of my weekly stories ran in the general circulation daily up to the time McClatchy bought out Knight–Ridder. And this mainstream media exposure expanded my readership to around 100,000 readers in 2004. A University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study of the media in the southern states estimated and named me one of Florida’s “influential columnists.” Further, I have been a regular contributor on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on Joseph Cooper’s show Topical Currents www.wlrn.org since 2000. I also appear frequently on Helen Ferre’s show Issues on www.wpbt2.org . And past Watchdog Report stories early on have run in the Community Newspapers as well as in Spanish publications and all of this back then allowed me to gain credibility and a readership base unheard of at the time, and now, for a single individual reporter working on his own.
And after all of that media help, I also thank the many new people I have met on this strange journey, their thoughts, opinions and information that they have given me. For I have tried to represent the average person when I have gotten the chance to interview such people like then candidate President Barack Obama, Presidential candidates Senators John Kerry and John McCain, Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist almost weekly when they were in office, as well as people like former Soviet Union Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former CBS anchor Dan Rather, and the U.S. Ambassador from Pakistan over the years to name a few of the people.
Only in South Florida would a WDR exist
And covering South Florida brings these people here and I am convinced there is nowhere else in the country; just a citizen armed with the internet could accomplish this. For when you say Miami anywhere you go in the world, someone will have some colorful comment be it a German tourist to a retired headhunter in Borneo. And I like to joke that South Florida “is like the dysfunctional half brother or half sister every family has, but we have great weather, beautiful beaches, and stone crabs the size of small children!” And that has been what has made Miami one of the top destination spots in the world, and where else but here, would a Watchdog Report spring up back in May of 2000.
What about the early years around 2000 – 2003?
Back in May of 2000, the community was divisively split after federal officials extracted the young Cuban Child Elian Gonzalez from his relative’s home in Little Havana and returned to his father in Cuba and Miami erupted. Some of the bizarre sites at the time were Anglos with Confederate Flags protesting along with Blacks residents in Homestead railing against the local Cuban American population, as fires, and barricades popped up around Miami in protests. And after that event, I thought anything I would write could not make anything any worse than it was down here and thus was born the online news service Watchdog Report. Since then, tens of thousands of stories and Extras have gone out and I have written hundreds of columns for a variety of papers including The Miami Herald.
When I first began watching government as “just a citizen,” in 1997, the community’s large public institutions were like giant ships in the night that passed each other having no idea what the other was doing and not caring as well. I tried later in May 2000 to create an information nervous system between these institutions and to make the organizations proceedings more transparent and known to the public. And part of the mission ranged from having school board committee meetings being taped and archived (When I had the only tapes of the actual proceedings) to the televising of the Public Health Trust board meetings that over sees Jackson Health System. In the Trust’s case, the institution was resisting televising the meetings back in 2003 and the Watchdog Report wrote extensively on the matter at the time, and while that might seem small at first, it has changed the whole culture at the trust in many ways. And back then Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Barbara Carey-Shuler at the time when I interviewed her on the matter she said. “Yeah, why should we have all the fun?” The Trust needs to “let the county’s inspector general have an office there” and the PHT board meetings “needed to be televised,” she concurred. And that later occurred.
>>> 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
>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN Daniel Ricker – www.watchdogreport.net
Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.
This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary (Now its 14th year). In a former life, Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”
>>> U.S. Rep Ileana-Ros says Chechen Boston Marathon bombers, a “wake-up call once again,” of global terrorism dangers
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami in an exclusive interview with the Watchdog Report Thursday when asked about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and federal investigative officials work to date. The former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and ranking congressional member in South Florida said. “It’s too early to chastise any federal agency for dropping the ball because we are still putting all the pieces together,” and when everything is “aligned” in the ongoing investigations then it could be reviewed but “I don’t want the public to feel our agencies have not been doing what they should be doing.” She noted it “certainly looks like we were warned about these people and some steps should have been taken, but I commend the agencies for everything they do.” She said the region is a “very difficult area” after it was created with the breakup of the Soviet Union into multiple new Republics, including the Chechen Republic where the two bombers were from before they immigrated to America. She said some of these “breakaway Republics” can be a problem since many of them have “a lot of extremist” leaders “that want to hang onto power.” However, “it does not mean everyone there is an extremist or Islamic terrorist but it is a wake-up call once again,” to ongoing threats to the nation’s security the long serving congressional representative said.
>>> U.S. State Dept. Press release: Statement by Secretary KERRY Commemorating World Press Freedom Day
Today we mark World Press Freedom Day, an annual occasion to recognize, honor, and underscore the essential role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democratic principles. We take this opportunity to express our solidarity with independent media in all corners of the world, recall journalists who have lost their lives and sacrificed their freedom or personal well-being, and recognize and honor those who fight against repressive regimes that target the press. In the United States, we hold press freedom as a fundamental component of our democratic fabric, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.
However, in many countries, those who try to exercise their freedom of expression face repression and harassment, from financially crippling lawsuits to imprisonment and death. Journalists are increasingly confronted by the failure of governments to protect this freedom, and even as technology increases the possibilities for innovative expression online, the space for free media is shrinking. The United States remains firmly committed to promoting and protecting press freedom, and to supporting United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) dedication to freedom of expression across the globe. We call upon all governments to take the necessary steps to foster an environment where journalists can operate freely, independently, and without fear, and to release all imprisoned journalists wherever they are held.
>>> Press release: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement on the State Department’s recommendation to not change Cuba status on the State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“The State Department’s announcement yesterday that it intends to keep Cuba on the State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list reaffirms that the Castro regime is, and has always been, a supporter and facilitator of terrorism. The unlawful actions against our nation include the Castro regime’s order of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down in 1996, which caused the deaths of U.S. citizens over international waters. “The Cuban tyranny continues to undermine our interests at every turn and provides a safe haven for members of terrorist organizations like the FARC and ETA. The Castro brothers have long been collaborators with fellow SST members Iran and Syria, and Cuba acts as a sanctuary for fugitives from our country, including Joanne Chesimard wanted for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. Cuba also continues to operate its vast spy network within the United States, posing a direct threat to our national security.
“While I’m pleased that the State Department isn’t taking Cuba off the SST list, I am disappointed it has not indicated a willingness to re-designate North Korea as an SST country. Removing North Korea form the SST list was a poor decision and it has not stopped the Pyongyang regime from undermining U.S. interests and from continuing its support to other SST members such as Iran and Syria. The illicit actions by the regimes in Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan all warrant their inclusions on the SST list.” Note: This week, a bipartisan group of Congressional Members (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Albio Sires) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry explaining the reasons why Cuba should remain on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
>>> 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
>>> Miami Dolphins take their football and go home, after House bill for Sun Life upgrades tax breaks dies when legislative session ends
Its over, the Florida Legislative session ended late Friday afternoon and the biggest loser was the Miami Dolphins push for $280 million in tax breaks over thirty years to renovate Sun Life Stadium, that was a critical part of the financing to a proposed $350 million renovation and upgrade package to the ageing stadium. The bill with the item never got out of the Florida House, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R- Wesley Chapel is getting the blame from pro football team owner Stephen Ross. The public/private deal hashed out between the team and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has faced heavy headwinds among the local legislative delegations on both sides of the aisle. And the point of the spear issue for those opposing lawmakers position was the botched new Miami Marlins baseball stadium that costs out through the life of the financing bonds to $2.5 billion and gives very little fiscal benefit to the public taxpayer. The pro football team had been touting the 4,000 jobs that would be created and that the deal had nothing similar to the Marlins stadium deal since Ross was investing over fifty percent of the cost to do the remodeling that included a roof over the stands, new lighting, and reconfiguring some of the seats that were originally modified when the Marlins played at Sun Life prior to moving to the team’s new digs in Little Havana. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/03/3379238/lawmakers-reject-dolphins-stadium.html
What about the ten bed maternity unit at Miami Children’s Hospital?
While the legislation for a 10 bed maternity unit at Miami Children’s Hospital passed after all, even though a state Certificate of Need was not in place. The fact it was tied to a bill authorizing a nursing home at the Villages was the key factor say Tallahassee insiders. The nursing homes sponsor was state Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla (Net worth $476,153) whose district the sprawling retirement development resides and is owned by mega GOP contributor H. Gary Moss. Hayes pushed the issue even though there is a state moratorium in place on new nursing homes, and a new one was built outside the Villages with 85 beds that is not filled to capacity. And Hayes role in the parent trigger bill legislation, giving parents more involvement in failing public schools, where last year he voted no on the bill but this year he voted yes for the legislation. And insiders say this was part of the horse-trading done in the Senate to get the nursing home approval, as well as for Children’s Hospital legislation.
What about the Villages in Sumter County”
The Villages retirement development in 2012 had about 92,000 residents that are two to one registered Republicans, 80 percent of the residents vote, and the sprawling development encompasses mainly Sumter County along with Lake and Marion Counties. Moreover, the development has made Moss a significant player in national and state politics, and he gave around $1 million to the GOP when Gov. Jeb Bush was in office. And critics charge because of his party connections and contributions in the Republican controlled legislature. He got the inside track and essentially the maternity unit at Children’s was along for the legislative ride.
How many bills did the legislature pass?
The Florida Legislature at the end of Friday after its sixty-day session passed 234 bills; Gov. Rick Scott has signed 37 of the bills and has vetoed one bill. The one involving changing alimony agreements, and possible reopen past divorce settlement agreements. For more on the specific bills go to: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/04/3380497/legislature-2013-winners-and-losers.html
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott issued a statement on the passage of HB 7065 related to Everglades restoration:
Governor Scott said, “This is an historic investment in Florida’s Everglades – and I want to thank the Legislature, and particularly the House and Senate leadership, for seeing the value of Florida’s natural treasures to our communities. We’ll continue to work closely with local communities and environmental organizations to ensure we’re taking the steps necessary to be good stewards of Florida’s environment.” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said, “Today, the Florida Legislature showed its support for Governor Scott’s historic water quality plan for the Everglades, a major step in moving forward with restoration rather than focusing on costly litigation.”
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan is funded, in part, by a $32 million annual appropriation by the Florida Legislature, is a partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, stakeholders in the Everglades Agricultural Area and all of South Florida to address water quality in the Everglades. In turn, addressing the quality of water flowing into the Everglades will enhance the environment and the economy of Florida.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott announced that the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees have proposed $58 million in early restoration projects for Florida. To date, Phases I and II of early restoration projects for Florida have totaled $11.4 million. Governor Scott said, “We’re committed to restoring the environment and economy that families have relied upon in the Gulf for generations. These $58 million in Florida projects represent a critical step forward in recovering from the natural resource and recreational losses that resulted from the BP oil spill. We will continue to work with our state, federal and local partners toward solutions that ensure impacted areas are revitalized for families.”
>>> Gov. Scott: press release: Florida’s Proposed NRDA Phase III Projects: Approximately $58 million Florida Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery/ Enhancement Center, Escambia County. Approximately $20 million
Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay counties. Approximately $11.4 million –Pensacola Bay Living Shoreline, Escambia County. Approximately $11 million –Florida Oyster Reef Restoration Escambia, Santa Rosa, Bay and Franklin counties. Approximately $5.4 million — Scallop Enhancement for Increased Recreational Fishing Opportunity in the Florida Panhandle, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, and Franklin counties. Approximately $3 million –Florida Bay Seagrass Recovery Project, Gulf, Franklin and Bay counties. Approximately $2.7 million — Big Lagoon State Park Boat Ramp Improvement, Escambia County. Approximately $1.5 million — Bob Sikes Pier Restoration, Escambia County. Approximately $1 million — Shell Point Beach Nourishment, Wakulla County. Approximately $880,000 — Florida Cat Point Living Shoreline Project, Franklin County. Approximately $800,000 — Perdido Key Boardwalk Improvements, Escambia County. Approximately $600,000 –Perdido Key Dune Restoration, Escambia County. Approximately $600,000
These projects, if successfully finalized after public review and comment, are in addition to the seven projects, on which Florida has been working, including several boat ramps, a dune restoration project and projects to protect and restore shorebird and sea turtle nesting habitat. With the additional projects, Florida will have allocated nearly $69 million of the $100 million available through the early restoration process defined in the April 2011 Framework Agreement between BP and the Trustees. The Trustees intend to propose the early restoration projects using a method similar to previous draft restoration plans in order to continue the process of using early restoration funding to restore natural resources, ecological services and human use services injured or lost as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. This next set of projects includes many of the proposals that citizens have been suggesting, such as oyster and scallop restoration, seagrass restoration, artificial reefs, living shorelines, recreational beach restoration, state park improvements, and a hatchery project which will help restore the fisheries in north Florida as well as provide much needed research into the area of fisheries management and restoration. The Trustees have worked to develop and negotiate the 28 proposed projects Gulf-wide, of which 12 are being proposed by Florida.
>>> 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.
>>> The wisest words I saw this week…They came in an important, thought-provoking piece by a Stanford University professor named Sean Reardon, and ran in The New York Times: “There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and ‘improving’ teacher quality,’ but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents,” he says, “so they can better invest in their children. This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves…. It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and (child) care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone. The more we do to ensure that children have similar cognitively early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills – how to solve complex problems, how to think critically, and how to collaborate – essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.” When, oh when, are we going to act as though we really know that? Dave Lawrence, Chair – The Children’s Movement of Florida P.S.: To read the full article, just click here.
>>> Will failure of Miami Dolphins deal help Mayor Gimenez’s political fortunes in the future?
With the Miami Dolphins Sun Life Stadium $350 million in upgrades, and about $280 million in tax concessions over 30 years going down in flames on Friday night in the Florida Legislature. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez may have dodged a political bullet in the future when it comes to his reelection cycle in 2016, even while countywide voting on the deal had proceeded the past week and some 60,000 people had voted at the polls or by absentee ballot. Gimenez said he had struck a much tougher deal than the one for the Miami Marlins stadium, much criticized by county residents and said he just wanted to give the professional football team its day in court, and let the voters decide if it should have gone forward.
However, that is all a moot point now and the Dolphins are evaluating their options as team owner Stephen Ross, worth $4.4 billion decides if he will do some of the renovations and upgrades himself, or will try again next year in the state legislative body. However, with this deal falling through and fails to meet the NFL deadline of May 22 when the sites for the 50th and 51st Super Bowls will be held is decided with San Francisco the likely choice now. Especially since the team’s new stadium there is also a public/private project. However, local voters have had a bad taste in they’re mouth since the Miami Marlins new stadium deal where the public feels they were “hosed” when one looks at the lopsided deal. Where the professional team gets almost all the benefits, and Gimenez fought the deal when he was a county commissioner, and had the public and local government getting only the monetary scarps critics say. And this current deal while better was getting mixed traction with county voters, and had the legislation been successful. Gimenez in the next reelection cycle could have felt some political blowback from the deal, a problem that he now will avoid.
Moreover, while the Dolphin deal was said to generate 4,000 new jobs over the next few years, had a host of community leaders as the front men and women for the effort. The team could not avoid the obstacles of a local legislative delegation who overall were against the deal that statewide also involved potential funding for five or six other stadium or racetrack facilities. And the legislation was seen as a major legislative policy decision that had not been sufficiently vetted by state legislative leaders. The two local legislators that pushed he deal, and had the most to politically lose were state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens and delegation chair state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah since ultimately their efforts were in vain.
>>> MIAMI-DADE COUNTY MAYOR CARLOS A. GIMENEZ STATEMENT
REGARDING DOLPHINS BILL OUTCOME
Press release: “The State Legislature did not take action on the bill to provide an additional 1% mainland tourist tax for the Dolphins’ stadium renovations. As a result, and in accordance with the resolution calling the special election, I have instructed our Elections Department to cancel the special election effective immediately. The two scheduled municipal elections will proceed according to plan. It is important to point out that the special election did not cost tax payers any money, as the Dolphins paid the County $4.7 million to cover election expenses – in fact, we estimate that there will be over one million dollars left over that can be used to meet other County needs. I would like to thank those voters who took advantage of early voting to express their opinion on the stadium issue. My priority from the beginning of this process has been to give our voters the final say.”
>>> Press release: Statement from Steve Ross on Speaker Weatherford’s Failure to Allow Vote On Legislation Allowing Miami Dade Voters the Right to Decide on Tourist Tax
Tonight, Speaker Weatherford did far more than just deny the people of Miami Dade the right to vote on an issue critical to the future of our local economy. The Speaker single-handedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong.
I am deeply disappointed by the Speaker’s decision. He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.
I want to thank Mayor Gimenez for his leadership. He was a tough negotiator whose persistence led to an agreement that offered taxpayers the strongest protections of any agreement of this kind in the country. I also want to thank our bill sponsors and supporters in Tallahassee, especially Senator Oscar Braynon, Representative Erik Fresen and Representative Eddy Gonzalez; our County Commission sponsors, Commissioners Jordan, Diaz and Barreiro, as well as all of our supporters on the County Commission; HT Smith and Jorge Arrizurietta, the Co-Chairs of the Miami First Campaign; The University of Miami; The Orange Bowl Committee; The Greater Miami Hotel Association; the many volunteers who lent their support to our campaign, and the members of the Dolphins organization and our campaign team who worked so hard in the last several weeks. I believe without a doubt that the voters would have supported this project if given a chance to vote.
In the weeks ahead, I will do all I can to convince my fellow owners to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami Dade. The Bid Committee has done a tremendous job to give us a great shot, and my only hope is that it is enough to overcome the terrible message Speaker Weatherford has sent to the NFL tonight. In addition, I will continue to do all I can to build a winning team for the people of Miami Dade. In the future, I will look to play an important role in fixing the dysfunction in Tallahassee and will continue to work to create good jobs in Miami Dade and throughout South Florida.
>>> Port of Miami boring machine Harriet breaks out Monday morning on last tunnel
The Port of Miami tunnel project is about to be completed when it comes to the boring machine named Harriet’s work and it is expected to break through on Watson Island on Monday morning. The almost $1 billion project that is a public private venture, being done by a foreign firm and is expected to enhance the flow of trucks throughout downtown Miami and was one of a variety of Global Projects costing $2.9 billion that were agreed to by the county and City of Miami around 2008. The Port is the areas second largest economic engine, is in the process of a major expansion, that includes in the future dredging the channel to 50 feet to allow mega cargo ships called Panamax ships that will come through the expanded Panama Canel and will make Miami a prime port of these goods deliveries.
>>> Press release: Harriet-the hardworking Tunnel Boring Machine-is now 99% done and is expected to breakout on Watson Island at approximately 8 a.m. on Monday, May 6. To join the watch, arrive no later than 7:30 a.m. at tunnel portal site. Be sure to dress for a construction site-closed toe shoes and long pants. Parking: driving from the MacArthur Causeway, turn at entrance to Jungle Island and follow loop road around-workers will direct you to parking and short walk to tunnel portal site. See attached map for further instructions.
>>> Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera Takes Action Against Improper Homestead Exemptions Claimed by Assisted Living Facilities
Press release: The Office of the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser is ensuring that Homestead Exemptions are only received by those entitled to them. The Office has concluded its first round of investigations of Assisted Living Facilities, which are improperly claiming homestead exemptions while operating as businesses known as Community Residential Homes. The facilities found to be in violation of homestead exemption law have been sent a notice of intent to lien.
This month, the Office has issued a total of $3 million in liens, $1.7 million of which are from assisted living facilities that have been determined to be in violation of requirements for a full homestead exemption.
A total of 201 community residential homes have been investigated to date in Miami-Dade County and 186 were found to be operating primarily as an Assisted Living Facility while the owner was claiming a homestead exemption, in most cases without residing on the property. Violations are assessed back taxes with 50% penalty and 15% interest per Florida Statute 196.161. In a statement regarding this investigation, Mr. Lopez-Cantera said, “When someone receives an exemption they are not entitled to, it increases the burden on all other property owners. Though these facilities provide important services, they cannot be allowed to ignore the law to the detriment of others.” >>> For additional information, please call the Property Appraiser’s Office at (305) 375-4155.
>>> Press release: The Beacon Council Foundation invites the community to a One Community One Goal update
The Beacon Council Economic Development Foundation invites the community to listen to an update on the One Community One Goal (OCOG) strategic plan to grow jobs and investment in Miami-Dade County at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 8 at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. “This is an opportunity for the community to hear about progress achieved and challenges ahead, as we work for sustained economic development in Miami-Dade County,” said Joe Pallot, The Beacon Council Chairman. The free event will be held at the Wolfson Auditorium, located at 300 N.E. Second Ave., Building 1, Room 1261, with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The program includes updates provided by OCOG Co-Chairs Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez: Art Torno, Vice President of Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America for American Airlines, and George W. Foyo, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer at Baptist Health South Florida. The event will also feature a panel discussion by the OCOG Academic Leaders Council comprised of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent and presidents of local higher education institutions, and breakout sessions in each of the seven target industries by OCOG Committee Leaders (below). The breakout sessions will begin at 10:30 a.m. headed by the following business leaders: Aviation: Aviv Tzur, President & CEO, Avbiz Aerospace Ventures LLC Creative Design: Joe Roisman, Executive Vice-President, Perry Ellis International Hospitality & Tourism: Gene Prescott, President, Biltmore Hotel International Banking & Finance: Ernie Diaz, Regional President, TD Bank Information Technology: Diane Sanchez, CEO, Technology Foundation of Americas Life Science & Healthcare: Nelson Lazo, CEO, Doctors Hospital Trade & Logistics: Gary Goldfarb, CEO, Goldfarb Management Services LLC and Charlotte Gallogly, President, World Trade Center Miami.The Beacon Council and The Beacon Council Foundation work in partnership with many public and private organizations that have provided continued assistance and involvement. In addition to the sponsors of the project, OCOG has involved more than 50 additional organizational partners who have donated their time and expertise to serve on the OCOG Steering Committee. >>> For more information on the OCOG, visit www.onecommunityonegoal.com and to register for the event, visit www.beaconcouncil.com/events About The Beacon Council Economic Development Foundation The Beacon Council Economic Development Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c )(3) Florida Not For Profit Corporation created exclusively for charitable and educational purposes: to compile, prepare, and publish statistical data concerning Miami-Dade County Florida and make such data available to all segments of the community to set charitable and educational goals to improve the local economy. The sole member of the Foundation is The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Inc.
>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa is a longtime supporter of banning texting-while-driving in Florida. She has the following message regarding yesterday’s adoption by the Senate of a House-amended legislation to approve the ban.
“I applaud our State Legislature for finally passing this much needed law that will save many lives and prevent property damage. I hope that this ban will make drivers more cautious with their actions while driving. Texting is a deadly distraction and I’m relieved that Florida will soon have safer roads,” said Chairwoman Sosa. Since 2008, Chairwoman Sosa has sponsored legislation advocating the ban on texting-while-driving in Florida.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG IN MARCH 2013 RESULTING IN INCREASES IN GREATER MIAMI’S TOURIST-RELATED TAX COLLECTIONS
For the month of March, the 3% Convention Development Tax (CDT) collections for Greater Miami and the Beaches totaled $8,779,587 compared to $7,221,172 for the same period last year, representing a 21.8% increase in 2013. In the month of March 2013, the 2% Tourist Development Tax collections (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) totaled $2,842,751, compared to $2,439,109 in 2012, for an increase of 16.6%. The 2% Hotel Food and Beverage Tax collections from hotels in Miami-Dade (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $751,600, compared to $699,888 in 2012, for an increase of 7.4%.
|3% CONVENTION DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS|
|MARCH 2013||MARCH 2012||% Change|
|2% TOURIST DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS|
|MARCH 2013||MARCH 2012||% Change|
|2% HOTEL FOOD AND BEVERAGE TAX COLLECTIONS|
|MARCH 2013||MARCH 2012||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> MAST principle Garraox challenges Herald letter writer claims of falling academic performance standards at award winning institution
A letter in The Miami Herald on the perceived dropping of academic achievement of the acclaimed MAST Academy on Virginia Key has caused a firestorm within the district. And public schools Board Member Raquel Regalado whose district the school is in has sent the Watchdog Report the response to the claim by the letter writer, that academic standards have dropped and become diluted since changes were made last summer to the highly competitive school requirements to get in. That federal education authorities have said were illegal and discriminatory in nature. Regalado in an email wrote, “The letter below from the principal of MAST was sent to The Herald in response to a letter to the editor from Michael Bax. He suggests that standards at MAST Academy have been lowered, citing this year’s U.S. News & World Report’s listing of best high schools. He is wrong on several counts. First, the entrance guidelines are federally established standards.
Furthermore, the magazine’s ranking relies heavily on the number of Advanced Placement (AP) exams given at each school, not on overall student achievement. Finally, the data that was used for this year’s list came from May of 2010, two full years before the MAST conversion began. >>> Here is the Apr. 30 response letter to The Herald from the MAST Principle: “As the principal of MAST Academy, I would like to respond to Michael Bax’s April 28th letter in The Herald’s Issues and Opinion section. The chief barometer used in the various high school rankings (USNews&World Report, The Washington Post, etc.) is the number of Advanced Placement (AP) exams administered in any given year compared to the size of the school’s previous graduating class. In 2012, MAST graduated 132 seniors and administered 742 AP exams. On June 4th, 2013 we will graduate 133 students—after administering 967 AP exams, a substantial increase from one year to the next.
Relative to the rankings I must point out as well that MAST’s AP course offerings and student performance are stronger as I write this than at any time in the school’s history. We have added courses in Human Geography and European History to an AP menu that already included two English courses, US History, Government, Economics, French Language, Spanish Language, Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics, Environmental Science, and Physics. Entering ninth graders are now required to take a minimum of four AP courses to earn the distinction of a MAST major by the time they graduate. In October 2012, we learned that the College Board named 95 of our students AP Scholars of Merit or Distinction—the highest number to be so recognized in the history of the school. MAST’s aggregate AP pass percentage of 65.4% places the school among the highest performing schools in Florida. It is important to note that there are schools ranked higher than MAST on the USNews list with pass percentages 50 points below ours. Perhaps the question comes down to this: Do we want to privilege the ranking over student success? As an educator, I think not.
Mr. Bax is concerned about a “lowering” of MAST’s admissions standards. Like the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs across Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), we require a 2.5 GPA in academics and conduct, strong attendance in the current and previous years, honors course work in Algebra and Physical Science and a teacher recommendation. The fact is that MAST never had a required GPA until two years ago when the school’s admissions program was brought into alignment with IB magnets throughout the District.
Mr. Bax also addresses a decline in resources and investment. It is the case that in a bad economy, public education takes a hit. In this principal’s view, the leadership of M-DCPS is to be congratulated for the level of services to students and families it has been able to maintain. The recent voter-approved bond proposal will have a very positive impact on the entire system. I encourage Mr. Bax and other parents to remain involved in school life and decision-making. Their questions provide principals and teachers alike the opportunity to foreground the many good things schools undertake and accomplish on a daily basis,” wrote Jane Garraux, Principal, MAST Academy.
>>> Press release: Twelve Miami-Dade public schools were chosen by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to receive $1,597,471.34 in federal funds for infrastructure improvements under the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman sponsored the SRTS applications as part of her comprehensive pedestrian safety initiatives. “My objective is to establish a SRTS Program for all schools in the District, to make it as safe as possible for students to walk or bicycle to school each day,” said Ms. Hantman. “Due to limited funding constraints I am grateful to the many municipalities that have partnered with the District to help us achieve this goal.”
The schools selected to receive the funds are as follows: Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary, Linda Lentin K-8 Center, North Hialeah Elementary, Natural Bridge Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Jesse J. McCrary Elementary, Toussaint L’ Ouverture Elementary, Kensington Park Elementary, Santa Clara Elementary, Philis Wheatley Elementary, Palmetto Elementary and Pinecrest Elementary schools. The SRTS program encourages children, including those with disabilities, to walk or bicycle to school. Since 2007, under the direction of Ms. Hantman, the School Board has endorsed 75 schools for inclusion in the SRTS program, which have awarded funds totaling over $10.6 million.
All 75 schools were chosen in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Community Traffic Safety Team, based on their having a large population of students that walk to school. Other criteria included having the schools located in areas where there have been high instances of pedestrian traffic accidents involving children between the ages of 5 and 13, as well as schools that were sponsored by municipalities. The Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Department and various municipalities will take the lead in constructing the infrastructure improvements, in coordination with the District. The District is now working on submitting additional schools during the next SRTS application cycle in July 2013.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Apr. 29, 2013 Legislative mandated report finds JHS has “zero” net worth, but public health system gives hundreds of millions in community benefit
A legislative mandate to catalog and determine the value of public hospitals assets and liabilities around the state and whether they should be spun off, or modified to increase there value to the community found the Jackson Health System had a zero net worth, but a immense amount of community benefit. The health trust has been struggling over the years and is slowly righting itself fiscally, but when around $750 million in charity, uncompensated care and a host of other costs is factored in. The Jackson Health System Report on House Bill 711, dated Apr. 29, and done by Public Financial Management Inc., and despite these fiscal adversities. The report details what a medical jewel the hospital system is to Miami-Dade County residents.
In the executive summary words describe JHS as “on the cutting edge of medical practice” and is a “unique model of taxpayer ownership” that seeks a high standard of care “for every resident of Miami-Dade County.” The report notes the “depth and breadth pf Jackson’s expertise is breathtaking,” and cites the numerous specialty units in the facilities including the Ryder Trauma Center and its award winning Jackson’s Miami Transplant program which has “performed more than half of all the world’s multi-organ transplants.” And is also pioneering the world’s most sophisticated techniques “for treating life-threatening conditions while babies are still in their mothers’ wombs,” wrote the report authors.
Further JHS scope and size makes it an “integral part of Florida’s overall healthcare landscape,” and is by far the state’s largest hospital that provides “indigent care” and is “the single largest operator of Medicaid programs statewide.” And when it comes to community benefit, the report state’s JHS spent $489.9 million in 2010, jumps to $519.2 million in 2011 and last year gave $565 million that includes not just charity care but a host of costs for other services for county residents, including “$24.9 million for corrections health services.”
And in a public notice and hearing concerning this report and with a summary run Saturday of the conclusions in the www.miamiherald.com . The Financial Recovery Board concluded Monday. “It is in the best interest of the affected community for the Public Health Trust to continue to own and operate the Jackson Health System hospital, individually and collectively, as a public not-for-profit entity, rather than consider the sale or lease to a third party,” states the Apr. 29 notice summary of the public hearing.
>>> Correction: FRB Trustee Irene Lipof, Ed.D. has been confirmed by the Miami-Dade County Commission and has been sworn in. And if her first FRB meeting this last Monday is any indication of her attitude. She is taking the appointment very seriously, and she will be asking a lot of questions in the future the Watchdog Report predicts.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Commission Chair Sarnoff, wants more cops, 300 due to retire in next 30 months, starts petition drive to force Mgr. Martinez and Mayor Regalado administration to do something – Here is Sarnoff’s pitch to his constituents from his weekly on line report slightly edited.
“We should increase starting pay for police with higher education qualifications, while at the same time offering more education opportunities, and subsequent pay raises, to existing personnel. Put in place a 3% pay increase and provide Police Commanders with a 5% increase to reduce salary compression and boost morale. We now have 1,087 cops but have the budget for 1,144 – we have effectively been at that number for three years! We are at the tipping point, facing the wrong direction. What’s worse, 300 cops are due to retire in the next 30 months. Do the math and you’ll see why we should all be very concerned. This Chief inherited the problem when he took the job two years ago but he now owns the problem and he must solve it.
We all can be part of the solution. Our office has started a petition to send a clear message to City Manager Johnny Martinez, Mayor Regalado and the City Commission that the citizens of Miami are fed up and we want them to act now to hire more police. Go online today and sign our petition. Ask your friends, family and neighbors to do the same. We need to impress upon the Mayor and the Commission that we must act now and hire now. We must budget and plan for hiring 100 police during the next three years so that we have 1,444 sworn officers and so our patrol division can increase from 450 officers to 700. Act today and send a clear message to the leaders of the City of Miami that we want a safer city; one with police staff that’s comparable to other great cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta. >>> As always, if you have questions or concerns you’d like to share, you can always call our office at (305) 250-5333 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” wrote Sarnoff who is termed out in 2015.
>>> ULTRA Festival helps drive strong tourist tax receipts, only “two emails complaining” about loud music event that helps pay to maintain Bayfront Park
When it comes to the ULTRA Music Festival, the Bayfront Park Trust management only got “two emails complaining” about the loud music and the event that for the first time lasted two weeks and drew hundreds of thousands of festival goers to the downtown area, its restaurants and its hotels. The event also was partially credited for the strong tourist revenue numbers posted for the month of March. Tim Schmand, the Trust CEO said overall there “is a $1.1 million increase in assets, and year to date that is about $1 million, he said. And the CEO said ULTRA contributed $1.2 million to the Trust. And the organization’s total assets are around $12.8 million and there is about a $7.4 million in cash flow, he told his board at the monthly Meeting April 23. Schmand also noted when he talked to people in the surrounding condominiums that use the park on a daily basis. These “local residents don’t understand that these events pay” to keep the park looking good,” he told board members. In addition, Commissioner Frank Carollo, the Park Trust board chair said, “all the hotels did very well during the ULTRA Festival,” and he said, “People talk about running [government entities] like a business and we do it,” the CPA considered.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Mayor Bower confirms she will run for commissioner, now that she is termed out on dais
Termed out Mayor Matti Herrera Bower on Friday when asked directly by the Watchdog Report on the record whether she would run for a Miami Beach commission seat? She said “Yes.” Though she wanted to “announce it from the dais,” in the future she later said when I said I would be running her response on Sunday. She also said she was not endorsing any of the field of candidates to replace her as mayor and the field may be getting larger. Since Commissioner Jonah Wolfson may be mulling whether to jump into the race. The Watchdog Report emailed Wolfson asking if he was running for mayor, and any comment on his petition drive to get voters to approve any new legislation concerning the Miami Beach Convention Center development that would require a super majority of voter approval. However, by my deadline, I have not heard anything back from the commissioner.
Bower, prior to her being elected in 2007 as the tony Beach’s leader had been on the commission before that and her running for the office again had some other commissioners wondering if she was skirting the municipality’s term limit law. However, the races for the open commission seats being vacated by Commissioners Jerry Libbin and Michael Gongora in their bid for the mayoral slot in November have resulted in a crowded field of commission candidates and these people deserve to know if Bower would be running or not in the future. Since she has major name recognition on Miami Beach and is expected to win the commission seat, she chooses to run for knowledgeable insiders say. >>> Editor’s note: she is likely to run for the Group III seat.
>>> List of the candidates: CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, GENERAL ELECTION, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2013
CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR MAYOR: Michael Góngora, David P. Hundley, Philip Levine, Jerry Libbin
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group I” : David R. Cardenas (Withdrew), Dave Crystal, Christine Florez (Withdrew), Elsa Urquiza
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group II” Jorge R. Exposito (Incumbent), Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group III”: Joshua Charles Dunkelman, Michael C. Grieco, Sherry Kaplan Roberts. >>> NOTE: All races are citywide. The city is not divided into geographic districts. All commission seats are at large.
>>> Press release: Every ten years, the City of Miami Beach is required to review the City Charter. This requirement is part of the City Charter as contained in Code Section 8.01. To that end, the City Commission has created the Ad Hoc Charter Review & Revision Board, pursuant to Resolution 2012-28072. The mayor and each commissioner have one direct appointment to the Charter Review Board. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the process, by attending meetings or submitting questions or topics for discussion to: CharterReview@miamibeachfl.gov. The next meeting of the Charter Review Committee will be held on Monday, May 6th, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room located on the fourth floor of City Hall. I hope you all will take advantage of this once-a-decade opportunity to ensure that our Charter protects the rights and privileges you feel are most important as residents of our dynamic City.
>>> Miami Beach city commissioner Jonah Wolfson will be the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Speaker May 7, 8:30AM – 10:00AM, David’s Cafe I, 11th St. & Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Wolfson is championing a Charter amendment that would require 60% voter approval to redevelop the Convention Center district. See link: http://www.letmiamibeachdecide.com/
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Mayor Cason savors substantial reelection win, believes calm has come to dais, and is vindicated after first term with 70 percent plus win at the polls, but burglaries on the rise
Mayor Jim Cason attending the 62nd Annual National Day of Prayer Thursday for elected officials held at Merrick Park across from city hall. He told the Watchdog Report that he was more than satisfied with his April 9th reelection results. He said by winning over 70 percent of the vote it was a clear validation of his leadership style and the current administration’s policies over his challenger Commissioner Ralph Cabrera Jr., and he noted in the tony Coco Plum development. Voters endorsed him by an overwhelming majority. He also laughed when I noted many voters thought he was Hispanic, though in fact he is an Anglo American who happens to speak Spanish very well and was a United States Ambassador to a South American country and was also assigned to a diplomatic post in Cuba.
Cason, when discussing the city’s financial situation and its plus $21 million in reserves said the goal was to get that to “$25 million,” and that would give the municipality the cushion it might need. If a hurricane struck the city, or some other unknown event occurred. He also noted his reelection was a clear validation of the job Coral Gables Manager Pat Salerno was doing and the mayor expected future commission meetings would be less contentious in nature. Now that Commissioners Maria Anderson and Cabrera, who were termed out on the commission but were frequent critics of Salerno, are no longer on the five-member dais.
What about the rumor of a “crime wave?”
During the mayoral race in April, Cabrera made an issue of crime in Coral Gables and Cason said that was not the case. The mayor responded the numbers were down, and any city with some 48,000 residents is going to have some of it. However, a longer more updated story on the problem is being reported Sunday and the issue has some residents on edge. For more go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/03/3378896/crime-continues-to-concern-coral.html
>>> 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.
CITY OF MIRAMAR
>>> Two Defendants Charged in Theft From Seminole Tribe
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced the return of a ten count indictment charging defendants Frank Excel Marley III, 39, of Miramar and Maria Hassun, 66, of Miami, with unjustly enriching themselves by stealing from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Specifically, both defendants are charged with one count of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud; in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 1349, as well as nine counts of theft from an Indian Tribe, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., §§ 1163 and 2.
According to the indictment, the defendants sought to enrich themselves unlawfully by defrauding the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The indictment states that from approximately October, 2006, through on or about March 3, 2011, the defendants did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree to knowingly and with intent to defraud, devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, that is, approximately $1,033,605, by means of the United States mails and wire communications.
It is alleged that defendant Frank Excel Marley III, an attorney who was retained by the Seminole Tribe, proposed to the Tribe that they undertake a project to open radio stations at the Brighton and Big Cypress Reservations. It is further alleged that Marley retained outside law firms and vendors to assist in accomplishing the radio project and instructed co-defendant Maria Hassun, his administrative assistant, to increase the charges invoiced to the Tribe by inflating the amount of his billable hours and billing the Tribe for travel, conferences, phone calls and meetings that did not occur. The defendants submitted the monthly invoices by email, United States mail and fax to the Tribe for work purportedly done by the Marley Firm each month, which included inflated and falsified charges for the costs that had purportedly been incurred by third party consultants and law firms retained by Marley to assist him with the radio project and other matters on behalf of the Tribe. If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison for the conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud count and five years in prison for each count of theft from an Indian Tribe. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and thanked the Seminole Tribe of Florida for their cooperation and assistance with the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil. 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.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Phillip D. Pierce, Dr. Lesley J. Salinero and Dr. Mary L. Chambers, and the reappointment of John R. Padget to the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District, Monroe County.
Pierce, 41, of Key West, is the director of food safety integrity for NSF International. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 1, 2013, and ending September 12, 2015.
Salinero, 51, of Summerland Key, is the principal of Stanley Switlik Elementary and director of student services and curriculum. She succeeds Henry B. Hamilton and is appointed for a term beginning May 1, 2013, and ending September 12, 2015.
Chambers, 55, of Key West, is a self employed consultant. Previously, she served as superintendent for Alachua County Public Schools from 1999 to 2004. Chambers fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 1, 2013, and ending September 12, 2016.
Padget, 76, of Key West, is retired and currently serves as chair of the board. He is reappointed for a term beginning May 1, 2013, and ending September 12, 2016.
>>> Fla. League of Women Voters – Cocktails & Conversation with the League: Human Trafficking: What you need to know & what you can do! Greater Miami ranks 9th & Florida 3rd, as highest trafficking destinations in the country, and half of all trafficking victims are children. Join the conversation with representatives from: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade Police Department, Kristi House Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 5:30 p.m. City Hall The Restaurant, 2004 Biscayne Blvd. RSVP to email@example.com or
>>> The Health Council of South Florida is holding its 44th Annual Luncheon and the organization is honoring Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Lillian Rivera, Ph.D., R.N., M.S.N. for their good community works. For information on the event: EVENT INFORMATION Date: Friday, May 10th, 2013 Time: Reception: 11:00am ǀ Luncheon: 12:00pm Location: Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134 TICKET PRICING Pre-Sale: $85.00 On Site: $100.00 ***Online Registration will close on Monday, May 6th, 2013at 5:00pm*** ***You may purchase event tickets at the door*** If you have any questions regarding this registration form, please contact Cristina Tuero, Senior Health Planning Services Coordinator at the Health Council of South Florida at 305-592-1452 ext.100 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
>>> MAY 22, 2013 www.downtownbayforum.org 11:30-1:30pm The 2013 Florida Legislative Session Roundup – SPONSORED BY ROBERT M. LEVY & ASSOCIATES Join our distinguished panel of legislators as they discuss the
2013 legislative session and its impact on South Florida WOLFSON AUDITORIUM @TEMPLE ISRAEL , 137 NE 19th Street MIAMI Free Self Parking Available. Call ANNETTE EISENBERG WILLIAM PEÑA WELLS (305)898-0243
DOWNTOWNBAY FORUM P.O. Box 530916 Miami Shores, FL 33153-0916
>>> PAST WDR: JULY 2012: Is mass murder becoming as American as apple pie and milk? All of us must help end this scourge of violence and finally learn it will eventually touch us all
“Now we are killing Amish school children,” said a friend of mine that had lived in New Jersey where he grew up. And he knew of the Amish in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, how they lived, and their gentle ways, yet 10 young girls were shot and five of the hostages died in Oct. 2006. And today we have 12 people dead and dozens wounded at an Aurora movie theater, and the eruption of these now almost periodic mass murders is striking at the soul of the nation. For it is becoming clear for many people, that in many ways it could be any of us that suddenly snaps or acts out in this violent fashion, given the randomness and background of the shooter leading up to these events. And another American tradition is changed and going to a movie theater in the future will sadly not be what it used to be for many people, be they young or old. Further, in this case a six year old was girl was killed and as one young woman in college said Friday. What was a young girl doing there at midnight, “when she should have been home asleep,” except for the mother not being able to get a baby sitter? Now the young child is dead.
Further, this tragic incident brings home the fact that while this event was horrific, it happens everyday in America’s cities and Chicago has had more people murdered than have been soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same months. And we as a people must deal with this murderous jag the nation seems to be on for the idea of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness flies out the window when our residents are hunkered down in their homes, holding their children tight. Praying a stray bullet might not turn their family life upside down with a member killed. And all of us should try in are small way to end this national scourge that is corroding the heart of our being, and making the nation not a country of promise and freedom, but of terror. Because this violence will touch all of us in some way in the future, if it is not addressed and it would be nice for once after such a tragedy. That we all demand it actually change and work together to make that happen even if in a small local way. For only darkness lies in the nation’s future, if we don’t get a handle on these acts of violence, that is slowly stripping our people of any innocence. Something we have had in many ways over the centuries and has helped make us the bright lamp of freedom and opportunity for peoples from around the world, that this ongoing violence is only helping to make dim.
>>> Press release: Florida League of Women Voters: There were some heart-stopping moments, but today the Legislature did what at times seemed impossible: it approved a substantive election reform bill (HB 7013), helping ensure that Florida elections will no longer become fodder for late night television. “This reform was essential for the people of Florida, and the Legislature is to be congratulated for its bipartisan collaboration to bring such a superior effort to the Governor for his signature,” said League president Deirdre Macnab. “We believe the changes in this bill will help prevent the long lines, observed all across the world, that Florida voters endured last November.”
The bill expands access to early voting by allowing more early voting days, gives supervisors more flexibility in choosing early voting locations, keeps legislatively-generated amendment summaries to 75 words or less, and restores the ability of Floridians to move within the state and still cast a regular ballot. It also, for the first time, allows voters who vote by mail to have a window of time to ensure their ballot counts if they forget to sign the outside of the envelope.
In particular, the League notes the hard work of Senator Jack Latvala and Representative Jim Boyd, who worked tirelessly this session to ensure lawmakers made good on their vow to reform Florida’s election laws in a bipartisan fashion. LWVF also salutes both parties for reaching across the aisle to work together and bring their best ideas forward. The League will remain vigilant in its promise to protect our constitutional right to vote from any future efforts to disenfranchise Florida voters. For questions or further comments, please contact Deirdre Macnab at (407) 415-4559.
>>> Happy Anniversary (and Happy Cinco Di Mayo!)
Broward County Commissioner
>>> 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)
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
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
WILLIAMSOM AUTOMOTIVE GROUP http://williamsonautomotivegroup.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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.