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Watchdog Report Vol.15 No.47 Feb.22,2015 – EST.05.05.00- I go when you cannot -Celebrating 15 Years

CONTENTS

Argus Report: People saying Jeb Bush is an ‘extrovert’ never saw him when he was governor, spoke smoothly in both English and Spanish while being combative back then

Florida: Will prominent Dem Rep. Wasserman Schultz try to run for the Senate in 2016 if Rubio drops out?

Miami-Dade County: Suarez says oops, when it comes to Charter question limiting County employee salaries at $163,000., aborts effort

Miami–Dade County Public Schools: Bd Member Navarro gets sworn in by Lt. Gov. Lopez Cantera

Public Health Trust: Correction

City of Miami: The Grace Solaris campaign is knocking on doors, no other Dist. 2 candidate in sight as of yet, in the Grove

City of Miami Beach: MPO’s March 26 TRIP TO Denver conflicts with Beach’s 100 year Birthday Bash

Village of Coconut Grove: When it comes to name calling by Grove Playhouse advocates, M-DC Cultural Affairs Dir. Spring says he “has been called worse”

City of Coral Gables: The Coral Gables upcoming elections April 14 got a surprise when Jeanette Slesnick filed candidate papers recently to run for a commission seat

Community Events: Beacon Council Breakfast featuring Author Mike Fernandez and Children Advocate Lawrence — S.Fln Economic Summit in 2 weeks — The Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board invites you to a community forum on enhancing Trust between Residents and Police — Margulies Warehouse opens in Oct. Lotus House benefits, public students enter free

Editorials: New Commission Chairs shaking up the House at County Hall

Letters: Grove attorney gives update on HEP board hearing on St. Gaudens home – Reader wishes me a speedy recovery from stroke

Sponsors - Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue

>>> 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.

>>> 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 www.knightfoundation.org to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.

>>>> The Watchdog Report publisher needs help and I hope you will consider supporting me allowing me to stay out in the field so that I can keep at this and report back how your billions of public dollars in government are being spent on a weekly basis. And how to do that is at the end of the WDR. Thank You.

>>> The Watchdog Report publisher Jan.16. was on WLRN 91.3 FM Topical Currents at 1:00 p.m. hosted by Joseph Cooper and Bonnie Berman www.WLRN.org and to listen to the show go to http://wlrn.org/post/south-florida-watchdog-report-publisher-dan-ricker-february-2015-edition

CORRECTION: In last week’s Watchdog Report I incorrectly reported that the Public Health Trust voted to put a clinic in the City of Opa Locka. And while the Opa locka Commission passed a resolution for consideration and representatives of the city did give a presentation to the Public Health Trust Board. The matter was not taken up by the board and when the final master community plan is being crafted the City’s request will be considered. I apologize for this error in reporting the matter.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>>> People saying Jeb Bush is an ‘extrovert’ never saw him when he was governor, spoke smoothly in both English and Spanish while being combative back then

Former Gov. Jeb Bush at speaking engagements is a little rusty apparently and he is describing himself as an ‘introvert,’ in the media and that certainly was not the way he was when he was the governor and the Watchdog Report saw him speak at a host of events through 2000 to 2008 when he left office, and he would go Back and forth in both English and Spanish sometimes in a very smooth manner. And I never thought of him in that way but he mentioned to the press that it was trait he had to overcome since his days at Prep School when he went to Phillips Academy in the late 1960s. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/jeb-bush-introvert-115327_full.html#.VOi9BfnF8dc

FLORIDA

>>>> Will prominent Dem Rep. Wasserman Schultz try to run for the Senate in 2016 if Rubio drops out?

U.S. Rep.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston is apparently mulling over running for the U.S. Senate if Sen. Marco Rubio shoots for the White House in 2016 and the woman is a senior Democratic Party official but she could find it is a heavy lift in Central and the state’s Panhandle with voters who trend on the GOP side and are more conservative than the dominant Broward County Democratic Party voters, she is used g to. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article10743806.html And Republicans are hopping Rubio will not leave the senate since the Majority is so tight and one less GOP vote could change the dynamics of the GOP controlled body.

>>>> FDLE Dir. Bailey firing still dogging Scott and FL Cabinet, will Ag. Commissioner Putney suffer from FDLE Bailey scandal?

Gov. Rick Scott is now admitting the termination of FDLE Dir. Jerry Bailey could have been handled better after a firestorm erupted when he was fired or resigned (depending on who you believe Bailey or Scott) suddenly and the incident put the Florida Cabinet in the hot seat and the governor has been dealing with the controversy for weeks now with little abatement and a “independent investigation” of the matter is being considered by the Cabinet and Cabinet members are demanding minutes be kept in the future, but calls for an investigation continue.

>>> Will FDLE’s continued controversy over FDLE Dir. Bailey’s resigning or firing dog Gov. Scott in the months ahead? Tries to dispel it with a press release but will Ag. Commissioner Putnam buy into it?

With The Shake-Up at FDLE, the new Gov. Rick Scott administration is getting off to a shaky start when it comes to transparency and good governance and conflicting charges are flying about what exactly went down with the termination of the long serving Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Director Gerald Bailey and whether he was fired or resigned as the governor said. But the controversy continues in the media and is becoming a major distraction for Scott, “who is quoted saying Bailey did a great job [and is being petty,” and a further news story in the Herald shows the debate will not be going away. Since the law enforcement agency has a rich history of being apolitical and not getting involved in political matters.

And while Gov. Rick Scott is still being hammered over the firing, of Florida department of Law Enforcement Director Gerald Bailey. Some of the Cabinet members are calling for an independent investigator be used to investigate the matter. That caught Florida Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater taken unaware when asked by the press about the firing. Further, Adam Putnam a former congressman for a decade prior to taking state wide office in 2010 is considered to have a bright political future and potentially a gubernatorial candidate in the next cycle in 2020 and he is starting to take the lead in the matter and Putnam knows how serious the ramifications could be of the possible political intrusion with the FDLE that has a long storied history of being a nonpartisan state law enforcement arm but the controversy whether Bailey was fired by Scott and his contradictory statement by the governor that Bailey quite, which the special agent denies since Bailey was set to retire in just a few months which also puzzles critics. And for Putnam the political stakes are the highest and he needs to be the point of the spear in getting this matter cleared up for the longer it festers and lingers it will be corrosive not only to Scott but how the Florid Cabinet is viewed as a whole  and that dark cloud may well infect Putman’s future political career if not resolved for he is in a position to do something about getting to the root of the story and while below is a press release from the governor’s office on the controversy trying to end the debate and it remains to be seen if this explanation will tamp down the controversy, especially since Putnam is a longtime Floridian and he has the reputation of being a straight shooter.

Putnam

What do we know about Putnam’s finances?

Putnam through Dec. 2013 had a $7.8 million net worth and to read his full disclosure form go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2013/234671-Form6.pdf

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, Jr., Chair the Children’s Movement. >>> Update: Two encouraging meetings... The first, a visit from the Governor to the Rainbow Intergenerational Child Care center in Little Havana where he discussed his early learning priorities. That includes his support for "Help Me Grow," a statewide parent resource system where parents would be able -- via phone and online -- to get and she thought answers to questions about their child's development and connected with the proper resources. The second, a meeting with future House Speaker, Rep. Jose Oliva from Hialeah. He's a father of three, a real reader of history and student of policy, and committed to better understanding early learning. Dave Lawrence, Chair The Children's Movement.

Three of the basics of building a real movement for all children:

Nothing is more important than a caring and knowledgeable parent. (Know that 71 percent of American mothers with children between birth and age 5 work outside the home, meaning high-quality, brain-stimulating child care is a major necessity.)
85 percent of brain growth occurs by age 3.
Early learning is a continuum between before birth and age 8. (“Families are the ultimate pre-pre-school,” wrote Clare Huntington in The New York Times last September, adding, “I don’t want to rain on the pre-K parade, but we can’t pretend that school preparation begins at age 4. Four is better than 5, but zero is better than 4.”)

All that brings to me to a Miami-Dade Public Schools initiative focused on the transition from child care to kindergarten. This week I spent time at the superb YMCA in Allapattah, a bit north of downtown Miami. I spoke with Drs. Maggie Abrahante and Marisel Elias-Miranda, two key people responsible for early childhood programs that the superintendent has made a priority in this nationally honored school system. They’ve put together an excellent handbook for parents of children headed for kindergarten, and also:

Five retired school administrators with a special interest in early childhood already have met with 400 child care center directors to give them a sense of what school is all about and the expectations for children.
Principals are meeting with center directors.
Parents are offered superb neighborhood workshops, one of which I attended.

Wouldn’t that be smart to do in every school system?

Dave Lawrence
Chair
The Children’s Movement of Florida

>>>>And if you would like to see you’re County or state elected leaders financial

Disclosures forms on file go to website (www.et hics.state.fl.us):

MIIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Suarez says oops, when it comes to Charter question limiting County employee salaries at $163,000., aborts effort

The Suarez family is dealing with a twofer loss now that former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez has withdrawn his petition initiative to ask voters to add to the County Charter that no employees make more than around $163, 0000. The Harvard trained attorney cited the difficulties and logistics of getting the “150,000 of county voters signatures,” and to some it appeared he was going to use this as a wedge issue in any race he might have and the man found out such an initiative would involve “640,000 sheets of paper,” in any attempt to be elected the new county mayor in 2016 when Mayor Carlos Gimenez is up and could also face Raquel Regalado now on the Schoolboard and the daughter of the Miami Mayor. Suarez, told his fellow commissioners when he withdrew the legislation that it was a difficult process since the commission changed the Charter Amendment process for “simple citizens,” to get a charter question on a ballot and that process was changed back in 2005 and the Watchdog Report back then said after the legislation changes that no resident in the future would ever be able to do such a herculean task as Suarez found out but he had not apparently thought through the logistics before he began the effort that the media covered. He said the savings to Miami-Dade of such a move would be “$5.0 million for the county,” and the “substance of his initiative” was “to streamline,” county government that has some “4,400 managers” and he noted it “was difficult to streamline,” county government and Suarez noted that when it came to the County’s Attorney’s office,” that prominent Attorney Parker Thomson even contacted him saying attorney’s salaries should not be capped and Suarez said “the main problem is there are way too many managers,”  where the number has increased “by six percent,” said Suarez. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article10600988.html

What happened at the County Commission meeting?

A Water and Sewer contract with Ric-Man Construction got a review by the County’s Inspector General’s office after Commississioner Barbara Jordan sked the IG Mary Cagle office to review the process that had Commissioner Xavier Suarez voting no on it “because [I just don’t like] how the process was done,” he said. And the issue was if the number of relatives involved created a problem for the company that also did a $54 million past County contract for the replacement of a large sewer pipe under government cut and going from Miami Beach to Fischer Island and was a ticking ecological bomb at the time when it came to the environmental damage. http://www.miamitodaynews.com/news/120726/story2.shtml

And W&S Director Lester Soles said there was “a project manager” coordinating and reviewing the procurement process on all the County’s “600 annual contracts,” said staff, and Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata noted “this is a very big program,” and will have billions of dollars being spent on the massive County Water and Sewer replumbing and “if not done in the right fashion.” Zapata said, it could “become a very big failure.” And that would be after billions of dollars had been spent. And Zapata said to County staff that “these project managers need to be doing their jobs.” And Suarez after listening to the discussion thought the way the staff was handling the contract process that it gave “lobbyist’s power,” and resulted “in administrative justice,” he thought. And commissioners asked staff in the future to review issues before they get to the commission. And Sola said the “message was crystal clear,” from the County Commissioners.

What about the issue of background checks and the FBI, FDLE and Homeland Security?

County Commissioners Javier Souto during the discussion of fingerprinting and background checks for people volunteering at the county caused an extensive discussion of “the Special Times” we live. He said at the commission meeting. Souto noted that the Port of Odessa is a sister port to Miami and is in the Crimea and the Ukraine “that is going to war with Odessa,” and we have not done anything.” “You help your sister?” And he said in Miami-Dade there are two Russians in the Russian Parliament [Duma],” who own condos here,” he said the Miami Herald is reporting “and Souto said Miami is at the Center of all that,” and if you are not aware of that “you live in La La land, “said Souto who is also the Commission’s “historian,” the long serving state senator said last week.

What about the MPO leadership vote at Miami-Dade County Hall?

What historically has been a staid affair but got some drama Thursday this year, when the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted on its new leadership and a number of candidates were nominated for the Vice Chair position including Francis Suarez and Marc Sarnoff, both Miami Commissioners, and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson nominated Sarnoff who sat with Sarnoff’s wife Teresa at the Miami state of the City speech on Wednesday. And Miami Mayor Philipp Levine (Who also the thought the large board should be reduced) was also nominated by Maurice Ferre, but he declined for lack of time. since he was up for reelection in November and the leadership position is a two year gig that he could not fill the term out out and that is also the case for Suarez the younger who is up for reelection in November and is now the MPO vice chair and Commission Chair Jean Monestime was voted the regional transportation body’s chair. Below is the press release:

What about the County mayor’s race?

What does Parcel B at the American Airlines Arena cost to rent?

Staff of Miami-Dade County told County Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata at a committee meeting that rates to use  Parcel B are $11,000 for the Miami Heat to rent out since it is behind the AAA arena and the grassy area was originally slated to be a Park for the downtown but that never materialized and the average cost to use the parcel is $4,000 a day said a county staffer  and they noted the Parcel B is a “unique relationship” and the use of such properties becomes narrow on the open market “and what they would pay,” and you ask other facilities how they come up “with their fee schedule and some staging is a necessary “give away” such as “carnivals [for example where it is done] in Broward,” the man said. Further, $6 million has been spent on the sea wall, and Zapata’s concern was this public money is getting a good return. The former state legislator also noted, the Parcel, “Never became the green space we promised,” to the public, said Zapata. The consultant said,   “It Comes down to the highest and best use for that property.” “And the Heat can’t go somewhere else.” And Zapata just wants the County “to get more bang for my buck,” said Zapata and he also wants the County Commission Auditor to have a “budget Director,” as well.

>>> GMCVB press release: DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES HIT RECORD LEVELS FOR JANUARY 201 5 RANKING # 1 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS.
Record January 2015
Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR)
Market Rate % Change vs. 2013
1. Miami $197.49 +11.5
2. Oahu Island $181.08 -3.5%
3. San Francisco $160.37 +20.3%
4. New York $129.25 -12.9%
5. Phoenix $112.07 +42.1%
Average Daily Room Rate (ADR)
Market Rate % Change vs. 2013
1. Miami $238.17 +9.6%
2. Oahu Island $223.10 +0.3%
3. San Francisco $218.96 +16.9%
4. New York $190.16 -8.6%
5. Phoenix $159.17 +28.2%
Average Daily Occupancy
Market % Occupancy % Change vs. 2013
1. Miami 82.9% +1.7%
2. Oahu Island 81.2% -3.8%
3. Orlando 76.1% +5.4%
4. San Francisco 73.2% +2.9%
5. Los Angeles 71.6%

The Carlos Gimenez administration is getting some blow back for his discussions of the County’s Crandon Park being leased to Donald Trump and it is not sitting well with voters who saw Gimenez falling over himself when it came to soccer star David Beckham and a new stadium and while Gimenez says it can’t be sold but could include a management agreement it still seems to stick in voters craw nd people are still talking about it. And for more go to: http://www.local10.com/news/donald-trump-promises-worldclass-crandon-park-golf-course/31389120 And while the Mayor is reporting $500,0000 for the campaign he still is dealing with Raquel Regalado who may run for the top position.http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article9694805.html challengers. And Gimenez needs to be careful that voters don’t get the impression he is beholden to many of these people. Many of who do business with the county and why they are contributing so much to his reelection campaign and the upcoming race and other issues was discussed on Helen Ferre’s show Issues on www.wpbt on Sunday at noon.

Further, So far no one has officially announced they will be challenging Gimenez for the office but former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez is considering a run along with School Board Member Raquel Regalado and the mayor’s dynamics with voters has changed since he first ran for the office back in 2011 and he is seen as being overly sensitive if anyone criticizes him and there is some media footage that does make him seem angry when he is criticized and not a warm and cuddly mayor and that imperious attitude is getting old for some voters. And the discontent started with voters when he paid numerous vice mayors significant salaries and benefits that he says is necessary to get top people into government, but critics argue maybe these people should not be in public service. Since it might be for the wrong reasons, since government positions traditionally pay less than the private sector but also comes with a number of perks not found in the private sector.

What about charging to use the now free Metro mover?

Two Thirds of the County Commission has to approve a plan sponsored by Commissioners Sally Heyman and Barbara Jordan to begin charging the “30,000” riders of Metro Mover in downtown Miami that have been riding for free and is not being supported by the Miami Downtown Authority (DDA) and the CITT Trust is also against it. Because it would not bring in the necessary revenue if a toll was charged and was one of the promises voters were told when they voted to tax themselves a half cent for county transit services and brings in some $220 million of which much of that money goes to servicing debt on the transit system that includes Metro Rail but the sales taxes benefits was oversold to the public and there was not enough money to full fill the commissioners promises made to the public back in 2002.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>>> Bd Member Navarro gets sworn in by Lt. Gov. Lopez Cantera

Appointed new School Board Member Lubby Navarro was sworn into office on Friday and a host of political leaders showed up for the ceremonies for the filling of a vacant board seat after U.S. Rep Carlos Curbello, R-Miami was elected to Congress last November and Navarro was appointed to the nine member board by GOP Gov. Rick Scott and she will hit the ground running given her many years representing the District internally and she was sworn in by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, the former Miami-Dade Property Appraiser who was tapped to be Scott’s number two after a scandal ensued with his predecessor.

Anyone unusual there?

Former Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess showed up for some reason and the long term county employee is now head of P3 lobbying at the law firm of Becker Pollikoff. The man is almost radioactive after the financing deal with the Miami Marlins stadium which is still bringing political distress for County elected leaders that voted on it.

Burgess

LUBBY NAVARRO SWORN IN AS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER

Press release:  Lubby Navarro, a longtime advocate of public education and public service, and a former School Board employee, was sworn in as School Board member for District 7 in a special ceremony today in the auditorium of the School Board Administration Building.

Surrounded by family, friends, past and present elected officials and many District colleagues, Ms. Navarro was sworn in by Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

“I come from a family of educators. My first teacher was my mother, Zoila, who taught kindergarten in our native Cuba. My aunt and uncle are public school teachers in Miami-Dade, and my daughter, Stephanie, attends high school in Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” said Ms. Navarro.  “I am truly honored that Governor Rick Scott saw in me the passion I have for education, and that my longtime friend Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera was here to swear me in on this special day.”

School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, Vice Chair Dr. Lawrence Feldman and School Board Members Susie Castillo, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway and Dr. Marta Pérez attended the ceremony.  Among those in attendance were retired School Board Members Dr. Solomon Stinson and Demetrio Perez, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, State Rep. Brian Avila, and County Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Bruno Barreiro.  The ceremony was followed by a reception at WLRN studios.

LUBBY NAVARRO SWORN IN AS SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER

Lubby Navarro, a longtime advocate of public education and public service, and a former School Board employee, was sworn in as School Board member for District 7 in a special ceremony today in the auditorium of the School Board Administration Building.

Surrounded by family, friends, past and present elected officials and many District colleagues, Ms. Navarro was sworn in by Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

“I come from a family of educators. My first teacher was my mother, Zoila, who taught kindergarten in our native Cuba. My aunt and uncle are public school teachers in Miami-Dade, and my daughter, Stephanie, attends high school in Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” said Ms. Navarro.  “I am truly honored that Governor Rick Scott saw in me the passion I have for education, and that my longtime friend Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera was here to swear me in on this special day.”

School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, Vice Chair Dr. Lawrence Feldman and School Board Members Susie Castillo, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Dr. Wilbert “Tee” Holloway and Dr. Marta Pérez attended the ceremony.  Among those in attendance were retired School Board Members Dr. Solomon Stinson and Demetrio Perez, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, State Rep. Brian Avila, and County Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Bruno Barreiro.  The ceremony was followed by a reception at WLRN studios.

>>> Gov. Scott taps veteran school board employee Navarro to fill vacant slot on nine member school board, safe choice

Gov. Rick Scott in a safe choice named long time public schools employee Lubby Navarro to the vacant school board Dist.7 seat after U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbello, R-Miami was elected to Congress and the District 7 seat is one of the largest in Miami-Decade and Navarro who has been active in GOP politics for years is close with Schools Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman and Navarro is also a former Community Council person and she is likely to have to run for the seat in 2016.

Navarro

CITY OF MIAMI

>>>>The Grace Solaris campaign is knocking on doors, no other Dist. 2 candidate in sight as of yet, in the Grove

The  Watchdog Report spotted Teresa Sarnoff at an event in the Grove last week and she was not campaigning or working the crowd in the usual way and it occurred to me that campaigning may not suit her in the competitive Miami Commission District 2 race that already has a number of challengers who have filed to replace her husband on the five member dais and the Grove used to be a key component in getting elected to the seat held for 29 years by Miami Commissioners J.L. Plummer, Johnny Winton and Linda Haskins were all Grove residents and now Marc Sarnoff after two terms is termed out and his wife’s campaign is expected to be well financed with her husband’s help but she has to start talking to everyday voters and the press something she seems reluctant to do. Further Sarnoff, the husband, can be vindictive and yet he tells residents in a television profile that his goal is to listen to “What is important to you [so it] can become important to me,” He also notes that all the development along the water in Coconut Grove is a good thing and he believes what makes the Grove is “the consistency of it,” and says “Bay shore Drive looks alive,” and the road has a “lot of Montyisms,” he says on the city referring to Monty Trainer. (Trainer went to federal prison for tax evasion).

What about the other candidates for the Dist.2 seat becoming open?

Further on Saturday morning I had a campaign volunteer seeking signatures for candidate Grace Solaris who is also running for the Miami District 2 seat. And she is being well received and the longtime community activist will not be a push over for Team Sarnoff in the coming months up to the November election that could turn into a airwave campaign given the wife’s and husband’s ability to raise money for her campaign (and $2,000 came from Jay/Ellen Solowsky an attorney Sarnoff shares an office with) and her warchest through Jan., 2015 has $82,875. To Solaris who is reporting $57,680 during the same time period. And to review the campaign filings go to http://www.ci.miami.fl.us/City_Clerk/Pages/Elections/CampaignReports15.asp and for Solaris to qualify by petition she needs 1percent of the district’s voters or she can pay a $582.00 qualifying fee.

>>>> M-DC Ethics Commission press release: Former Mayoral Candidate Admits to Campaign Finance Violations

Former Miami mayoral candidate Jeffrey A. Benjamin pled guilty today to three counts of violating state campaign finance laws. He agreed to serve one year probation and 50 hours of community service as well as pay restitution to campaign vendors.  The newcomer to Miami politics finished second to incumbent Mayor Tomas Regalado in the November 2013 election with nearly 10 percent of the vote.

The charges, all first-degree misdemeanors, followed a year-long investigation initiated by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, working in conjunction with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office Public Corruption Task Force.  Benjamin agreed to pay the agencies $1,000 each for investigative costs. Adjudication of the charges will be withheld if Benjamin complies with the terms of a plea agreement with state prosecutors.

“Election laws exist for the purpose of protecting the public from this type of activity,” said Ethics Commission Executive Director Joseph Centorino.  “Any candidate who intentionally ignores the requirements for managing a political campaign has no business being a candidate – never mind an elected official,” Centorino added.

“No candidate can ever be cavalier about skirting Florida’s campaign finance laws,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “Let there be no mistake about it, to violate those laws is a crime.  A serious candidate will always take all of our laws seriously.”

The charges stemmed in part from Benjamin’s failure to open a proper bank account for his mayoral campaign. In a document he filed with the Miami City Clerk’s Office in September 2013, Benjamin listed Bank of America as his “primary campaign depository” when no such account existed, a violation of Florida Statutes.   In a voluntary statement he gave to investigators in October 2013, Benjamin stated that he used PayPal to receive contributions and to make expenditures on behalf of his campaign.  Lying on the form filed with the Clerk’s Office regarding the designation of a campaign account and campaign treasurer is also a violation of Florida election law. Benjamin told investigators he received instructions from the clerk’s office about how to open a campaign account and report related transactions. But he acknowledged he did not carefully read the materials because he found doing so to be “a pain in the butt.” Benjamin further violated Florida Statutes by authorizing campaign expenditures without having sufficient funds in a campaign. In both instances, Benjamin failed to pay the vendors – The Box Advertising, for a mobile electronic billboard, and PK Graphics.com, that produced 10,000 palm cards to distribute at polling places.>>>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers. It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each. Through a program of education, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

Village of Coconut Grove

>>>> When it comes to name calling by Playhouse advocates, M-DC Cultural Affairs Dir. Spring says he “has been called worse”

With Architectonica winng the contract to create the conceptual plan for the Coconut Grove Playhouse contract that has yet to be approved by the County Commission to draw up possible plans for the iconic Grove Theater. The choice of the firm brings together some strange bedfellows since the architect will likely be Jorge Hernandez who was caught up in controversy regarding the Miami Marine Stadium deal with Miami and The man has close ties to controversial Grove businessman Manny Alonso Poch and his past controversy and conflicts had Marine Stadium proponents withdrawing and removing Poch from the stadium’s not for profit board. And any role Poch might have with Playhouse is unknown but local advocates on https://www.facebook.com/saveourplayhouse

have called and vilified County Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring who is being referred to as “God” and when I asked Spring about the controversy he noted “I Have been called worse names,” he said Tuesday at a Commission meeting.

When it comes to preservation the Miami Commission took an unusual step to change the procedure and have a department director screen the requests that could go forward and preservationists are concerned it will open the door to widespread destruction of some historic homes and architectural designs in the coming years and the battle occurring on St Gaudens is just one such example

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> MPO’s March 26 TRIP TO Denver conflicts with Beach’s 100 year Birthday Bash

A trip to Denver to study their transportation system March 26, 27 by Miami-Dade County Commissioners will conflict with Miami Beach’s 100th Anniversary and Mayor Philip Levine suggested to the Miami-Dade Planning Organization (MPO) members that they consider another date since it conflicts with the City’s Centennial festivities planned and includes a host of entertainers the mayor said. http://www.local10.com/news/free-concert-to-feature-andrea-bocelli-kymani-marley-barry-gibb/31298890 And officials will be missing a major party the Beach is throwing and will feature the Bee Gees and a host of other performer’s, in a free signature concert.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>>> The Coral Gables upcoming elections got a surprise when Jeanette Slesnick filed candidate papers recently to run for a commission seat run for the open commission seat when Commissioner Bill Kerdyk Jr. steps down in the spring. Slesnick is the wife of former two term Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, II and other candidates Candidate forum voters get to hear candidates in their own words

In a surprise move Gables realtor Jeanette Slesnick has filed running for the slot on the dais is Tony Newell, Sandra Murado and P.J. Mitchell rounds out the field of candidates and to review the candidate list go to http://www.coralgables.com/index.aspx?page=292 and the low key election is April 14 and the elections are a winner take all race. Since his time as mayor Slesnick’s wife has continued to be active in Gables issues and her entry could make the race a little more exciting.

The Coral Gables Forum will hold its bi-annual Candidates Forum for the upcoming city elections.  Our first forum will be for Group IV and V on March 2nd.  Our second forum will be for the Mayor’s race (Group I) on March 9th.  Both events will be held at the Coral Gables Congregational Church (3010 DeSoto Boulevard) from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.The doors will be open at 6:45pm so audience members can submit questions to ask the candidates.  Our moderator will be Eliott Rodriguez of CBS WFOR-TV.  If you have any questions please contact us at coralgablesforum@gmail.com.For more information on the Candidates Forum and future events please visit our website at www.coralgablesforum.com

Thank you,

The Coral Gables Forum

OMMUNITY EVENTS

For more information go to www.beaconcouncil.com

>>>> South Florida Economic Summit Returns in two weeks

Special $99 Full Program Rate for Leadership Miami® Participants & Students

The Greater Miami Chamber’s 2015 Economic Summit will explore top matters such as Closing the Skills Gap, Breaking Out of the New Normal, and dive into Miami’s current economic status in order to search for solutions to various concerns. The half-day program on January 29 at Jungle Island is geared toward learning about South Florida’s business strengths and opportunities for growth from CEOs and key industry leaders with a Luncheon address from R. Donahue Peebles, Chairman and CEO of the Peebles Corporation and Governor Rick Scott*. Confirmed speakers to date include: Norman Braman, Chairman, Braman Management; James Glassman, Managing Director and Head Economist for Commercial Banking, Chase; Julie Grimes, Managing Partner, Hilton Bentley; Michelle Henry, VP Sr. Philanthropy Manager, Chase; Avra Jain, Developer; Manny Medina, Founder and Chairman of the Board, emerge Americas, Allen Morris, Chairman and CEO, The Allen Morris Company; Beth Neuman, President and CEO, Starboard Cruise Services; Dr. Eduardo Padron, President, Miami Dade College; Doug Yoder, Deputy Director, Miami-Dade Water and Sewer with Moderator: Helen Aguirre Ferré, Bilingual Radio, Print and TV host; political analyst and Master of Ceremonies: Tom Hudson, Vice President of News and Special Correspondent, WLRN. *denotes invited. Contact: Liana Ventura, 305-577-5445 |lventura@miamichamber.com

Register Online

>>> The Margulies Warehouse will be reopen at the end of October and all adult admission charges $10.00 will go to Lotus House Women’s and Children’s Shelter in Overtown and students are free. For more go to http://www.margulieswarehouse.com/ and the Lotus House Gala will be Oct. 25th for more information go to http://lotushouse.org/

EDITORIAL

>>>> New Commission Chairs shaking up the House at County Hall

A revolution is  occurring at County Hall and Miami-Dade County Commissioners are leading it as they continue to challenge the strong Mayor (Form of government) and the Carlos Gimenez administration and commissioners are pushing county staff to explain more fully how the County’s 25 Departments are running and what they are trying to do versus other things they have not been done but were requested  in the past by commissioners and one of the challenges is to actually create a new mass transit corridor that has been discussed and studied to death but has yielded no real results and Gimenez up for reelection in 2016 is going to have to deal with the new found independent voice of the commission that seems to relish challenging the administrative assumptions and the way things have been done in the past and given the new budget cycle in September, Readers should expect commissioners to have framed the overall budget to their liking much more than in the past for the 13 member legislative body is feeling more empowered in their deliberations and this past week’s County Commission Committee meetings. Could be just a taste of this new found freedom With the Gimenez administration and the Commission now being Chaired by Jean Monestime who is pushing a “prosperity initiative” and the role of the body under this new legislative relationship the strong mayor form of government created and resulted in ex-Mayor Carlos Alvarez getting recalled by voters overwhelmingly in 2011 and he was succeeded by Gimenez in the office.

LETTERS

>>> Grove attorney gives update on HEP board hearing on St. Gaudens home

Good afternoon. Please note that the City of Miami’s Preservation Officer, Megan Schmitt, has advised us that the hearing before the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board on the 3529 St. Gaudens Road Historic Resource Nomination application will not take place on March 3, 2015. Instead, it will take place on April 7, 2015. We will keep you informed and hope that all of you can attend.

Regards,

Richard M. Zelman, Esq.

Sacher, Zelman, Hartman,

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