Thursday, May 26, 2016

Want Alzheimer's? Read this ... by gimleteye

Ignoring science that conflicts with profit is putting taxpayers at severe risk, not just to property values but also to health. Along this line, the explosion of toxic blue green algae in Lake Okeechobee and Florida's rivers and estuaries is a warning.

When people are polled about the environment, the percentage who believe that the environment is a serious concern are low -- often in the single digits. The pollsters aren't asking the right questions or in the right sequence.

Try asking: "Do you want Alzheimers?" 100 percent of respondents would say, no.

Then: "If you knew toxic fresh water could cause Alzheimers, would you support regulations to protect against that outcome?" Again, 100 percent would say, yes.

Then, ask this: "Do you support protection of the environment or industries that poison the environment?"

These are not academic questions in Florida, they are just questions that don't get asked because polls are expensive and who is going to pay to ask hard hitting questions.

Today there is an outbreak of toxic blue green algae in the Caloosahatchee River. Here is one story from the local Fox affiliate: "Algae blooms close Franklin Park on the Caloosahatchee River".

The Caloosahatchee, one of Florida's most diseased arteries and now filled with blue green toxic algae, runs straight through the district of Big Sugar's latest mouthpiece in the state legislature: Lee County Representative Matt Caldwell. Hundreds of scientists have pleaded with legislators like Caldwell: take more land out of sugarcane production south of Lake Okeechobee to store stormwater adequate to the volume and purpose of stopping the harmful discharges to Florida's rivers, bays, and coasts. Feeling the weight of Big Sugar money in his pockets, Caldwell said, no.

Top elected officials like Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and Caldwell promote legislation, pass laws that weaken public health while denying funding and disclosure of data that could illuminate these issues for taxpayers.

Exactly one year ago Eye On Miami wrote about the failure of the State of Florida to adequately disclose data to match with independent statistical evaluations in peer-reviewed journals that rare pediatric cancer clusters do exist in Florida. Right here, in Miami-Dade. Nothing has happened, since. Zero. Zilch ("Cancer Clusters In Florida: The Silence Of The State").

Voters ought to stop and ask: do you want Alzheimer's? Do you support tax dollars to regulate pollution that may cause Alzheimer's? Would you vote for a candidate who values environmental protection or a candidate who favor polluters by blocking science related to Alzheimer's and pediatric cancer?

If enough voters were asked these questions in this way, there would be a revolution in American politics.

New York Times
May 26, 2016
Could Alzheimer's Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say

Could it be that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection?

Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to this startling hypothesis, which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Scientists: Toxin in blue-green algae could trigger neurological diseases
By Tyler Treadway of TCPalm

Just as the potential for blue-green algae blooms in local waters ramps up, scientists are warning there's a newly discovered and potentially deadly toxin in the slimy stuff.

Blue-green algae produces a toxin called BMAA that is suspected of triggering neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

The link between BMAA (Beta-N-Methylamino-L-alanine) in blue-green algae blooms and neurological diseases is "still a hypothesis," said Larry Brand, marine and atmospheric science professor at the University of Miami, "but the evidence is growing."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Selection of a New County Commission Chair Coming Soon, Don't let it be Steve Bovo!! Guest Blog By Chairwatcher

Mayor Carlos Gimenez and County Commissioner Steve Bovo
Only five months away from selecting a new Miami Dade Commission Chairperson and already several commissioners are jockeying for the position. The selection of the Chairperson will be voted on by the current commission members in November of this year and the new Chairperson will be sworn in on January of 2017. The position of Chairperson is extremely powerful since the person selected for the position sets the county agenda, does Committee assignments and moderates all of the commission meetings.

So far, the three leading candidates to become the next Commission Chairperson are current Vice Chair Esteban Bovo, and Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Audrey Edmonson.
Marco Rubio Swears in Steve Bovo as Vice Chair of the County Commission

An issue of concern in the selection of the new Chairperson process is the association of Commissioner Esteban Bovo to the American Dream Miami megamall project planned by a Canadian company for the Northwest Dade quadrant of 1-75 and the Florida Turnpike.

The megamall is intended to be built on a 200 acre rural tract and is opposed by the majority of citizens in Palm Springs North and Miami Lakes due to the fact that it will bring additional congestion to an area already besieged with major traffic problems. According to Commissioner Bovo the $4 billion project will bring 25,000 jobs to the community and will aid the local economy. The project is also supported by Mayor Carlos Gimenez who throughout the last four years has relied on Commission Bovo as his closest ally in the Board of County Commissioners.

The selection of Commissioner Esteban Bovo as Commission Chairman, in my opinion, would in essence solidify Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s total control of county government since Commissioner Bovo would play a key role in rubber stamping all of Mayor Gimenez’s proposals on the commission. At a time when other commissioners are actively considering removing some or all of the powers of the strong mayor format, selecting Commissioner Bovo as Commission Chairman would not be beneficial to the citizens of our county.

Another glaring issue that should be addressed during the course of the selection process of the new Commission Chairperson is Commissioner Bovo’s role in the 2012 election absentee ballot fraud investigation.

As previously reported in 2012, Commissioner Bovo had to explain himself to the State Attorney’s Office for the actions of his former employee Anamary Pedrosa. Pedrosa was given immunity by the State Attorney’s Office and she cooperated with police in providing evidence that convicted known Hialeah boletero Sergio “Tio” Robaina. Robaina transported a total of 164 illegally collected absentee ballots to Commissioner Bovo’s office. The ballots were collected and stored by Pedrosa at Commissioner Bovo’s Hialeah regional office. Though the State Attorney’s Office failed to file criminal charges against Commissioner Bovo or to use Pedrosa’s testimony against the commissioner it is highly unlikely that Pedrosa operated on her own but rather would have collected absentee ballots from Robaina with the knowledge of Commisioner Bovo.

Commissioner Bovo’s selection of employees has also come into question on more than one occasion in the past. His current Executive Director Alina Garcia was a longtime aide to U.S. Representative David Rivera. Garcia is the mother of Senator Marco Rubio’s regional director, Alyn Fernandez (formerly Alyn Cruz Higgins). Ms. Fernandez owned a consulting company, ACH Fundraising Strategies, which received $75,000 from Rep. Rivera’s state Senate campaign for conducting a supposed “thank you” campaign. ACH was incorporated one day after a $50,000 payment was made from Rep. Rivera’s campaign and dissolved less than six months later. Notably, investigators found Ms. Fernandez never actually did any work for Rep. Rivera, in part because she was never given any direction as to the services she was to provide. ACH did have one other customer: Sen. Rubio’s campaign, which paid $22,000 to the firm for financial and political consulting, including a $10,000 payment made the day before the company dissolved. Ms. Fernandez is currently Sen. Rubio’s regional director, with a salary of $69,999.84.

Commissioner Bovo’s current Legislative Director Alex Annunziato, in my opinion, also has a shady past (see document below from the Department of Highway Safety). Annunziato, a former lieutenant with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) was forced to resign from his position on July 10, 2011, following an internal Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation which uncovered that during the course of his duties Annunziato tampered with canine training scent packs and replaced several types of narcotics with inert substances. On December 19, 2012, Annunziato was informed via letter from FHP Troop E Major Sammie Thomas, Jr., “after carefully reviewing all available statements and information regarding this matter, it was determined that the allegation that you diluted narcotics from CIU Trooper Francisco Sangineto’s cocaine HCI, Heroin HCI and MDMA canine training scent packs, then diluted them with starch, sucrose and lactose, respectively, while in your care from july 5, 2011 to July 6, 2011 is “Sustained”. FHP opined that Annunziato tampered with the scent packs for the purpose of extracting various types of narcotics.

So, in my opinion, Commission Bovo would absolutely be the worst possible choice for County Commission Chair in November.

David Guest, Earthjustice: dont stay away for long ... by Alan Farago

David Guest has been one of the most important environmentalists of a Florida generation that is now approaching retirement. David is a few years older than I am but only a few -- and I understand perfectly his inclination to reserve time for reflection, family, friends and travel.

There is more than admiration in my assessment.  David has been lead attorney for Earthjustice on important litigation in which the organization I represent as volunteer board director, Friends of the Everglades, is a plaintiff.  David has been our attorney, and we -- his client.

One of our cases has been to the US Supreme Court twice and still alive in a federal appeals court. We call it "the backpumping case", and it concerns the question whether transfers of polluted from one water body to another requires an EPA pollution discharge permit. Our interpretation of the Clean Water Act is that it does. If it did, all these horrible discharge events plaguing Florida's rivers and estuaries -- to protect Big Sugar mainly -- would require a level of scrutiny that is sliding by the canal locks without more than a passing nod by state and federal regulators.

David and his team's work on behalf of groups like Friends has generated major opposition: by Big Sugar and its partner, the State of Florida, but also by dozens of other states and municipalities and industries that oppose accountability for the costs of pollution.

Toxic algae bloom in Caloosahatchee today
The point is that David Guest 's work has national importance. Florida is that kind of place. When shit goes wrong on the environment here, it goes very wrong. As David pointed out to Bruce Ritchie in his Florida Politico profile, when shit goes wrong in Florida, it is often in a place like the Everglades that is astoundingly beautiful.

David is a leader of his generation of Florida environmentalists. Although he is not an activist per se, his years of experience lead him to a very clear-eyed -- a gimlet eye if you will -- understanding of the weaknesses and foibles of Florida's Everglades movement.  I will miss his company for views unpopular within the ranks.

David Guest's intelligence about these matters had marinated long enough in the morass of the Everglades to distill his wit to a very fine point. This, from Bruce Ritchie's profile:

"I think the permitting strategy of the Scott administration is the same as the strategy for throwing Mardi Gras beads at a parade," Guest retorted. "Somebody yells, and you throw them a permit."

Exactly. Travel safely and well, David Guest.

Environmentalists‘ ’Elvis' reflects on a generation leading Earthjustice
By BRUCE RITCHIE 5:25 a.m. | May. 24, 2016

TALLAHASSEE — It was just after a heavy rainstorm in 1991, and rapids in North Florida’s Jumping Gully Creek had churned runoff from a pulp mill plant just upstream into thick, yellow foam. David Guest, an environmental lawyer who had just become the head of Earthjustice’s Florida office, climbed a tree to photograph it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

You are paying for Rich Seniors to Attend the Jewish Community Center- Michael Ann Russell JCC

There is a Federal program set up for low income seniors to enroll in and attend gyms, called Quality of Life. The only problem is the JCC in North Miami Beach has a host of well-heeled seniors enrolled in the program. What gives? They say the people enrolled before the income was a requirement. Why don't they reevaluate these members? This is not Silver Sneakers that the insurance companies pay for. YOU PAY FOR THIS PROGRAM for all the Lexus owners. I think they are taking advantage of the system at a cost to over-burdened taxpayers and should reevaluate the enrolled.

Gov. Rick Scott, Ag. Secretary Adam Putnam, and Representative Matt Caldwell: Voters, the choice this November is in your hands ... by gimleteye

Voters have the chance this November, to remove Big Sugar's Number One Mouthpiece, State Representative Matt Caldwell. Gov. Rick Scott is readying his next move, to the US Senate, despite being the most unpopular governor in the United States. Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam is aiming to replace Scott as governor. As the web phenomenon, Anonymous, noted this morning: it is time for Rick Scott to go.

This November will be a referendum on the corrupt policies and politics of Gov. Scott and special interests like Big Sugar. At the polls, Florida voters have the chance to point to the political exit for Rick Scott and his cronies.

Naples Daily News
Posted: May 21, 2016
By Arek Sarkissian

TALLAHASSEE — Outgoing Enterprise Florida President Bill Johnson gave no-bid contracts to a confidant for part-time consulting and speechwriting work to the tune of $158,000, according to documents obtained by the Naples Daily News.

Johnson offered his former PortMiami spokeswoman, Paula Musto, with two contracts and one extension — one in March 2015 for $68,750 and a second in August 2015 for $75,000, extended in March of this year for $99,999. That falls just shy of Enterprise Florida policy that requires contracts more than $100,000 to be scrutinized by the Enterprise Florida board of directors, according to documents obtained by the Daily News through a series of public records requests. Musto works 25 hours a week; her contract expires June 30.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Patricia Derian, Walking Point ... by gimleteye

Patt Derian passed away last week. The New York Times gave her a worthy send-off, reprinted below.

As with most strong, powerful women, Patt never lead with her accomplishments. As with most great partnerships, she could be serene and quiet while her husband, Hodding Carter, commanded the stage, but turn that table in a heartbeat with a rapier wit. I met Patt Derian shortly after meeting Hodding, former president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami.

Patt was deeply experienced and fiercely intelligent about the ways of the world. As the Carter administration's chief human rights advocate, she tangled with the worst of the worst in diplomatic settings. There, Patt stared down men who had inflicted horrific human suffering out of view. Exposure to corrosive behavior only fortified her sense of humanity and kindness.

Patt and Hodding had a wonderful partnership until Alzheimer's gradually took her away. He cared for her loyally and lovingly in North Carolina, their home after leaving Florida. She loved spending winters in Miami, but I could tell she felt Miami was not a serious place compared to others where she had put down roots. Still, Patt delighted to learn about battles to protect the environment against an entrenched status quo; Big Sugar, developers gone wild with halos of virtue around their heads, and corrupt politicians. Her beat was inequity, and she could sense it from a mile away.

Patricia Derian was formed within that generation of whites who fought great battles to defeat segregation in the American South. She was not only part of the Freedom Riders, she owned the car with Mississippi registration when others arrived from the cold north to make constitutional rights a reality; the great battle of our times and the one from which our politics is still reeling.

Miami today is a diverse city bubbling with people from somewhere else. It is hard to imagine the commitment and determination of those in the civil rights movement at its inception where that "somewhere else" always lead back to slavery. Patt and Hodding, and their closest friends -- Joanne and Ron Goldfarb, who live on Key Biscayne -- have that in their bones.

The social inequities that Patt Derian fought to illuminate haven't disappeared. They are still here and continue to ripple as an undercurrent through American society, if not rage as they do in nations where prejudice and oppression bring out the worst of human traits.

When I think of the energy it takes to fight our battles in Florida -- whether against deniers of climate change, Big Sugar billionaires wrecking Florida's water supply and quality, or Florida Power and Light -- Patt Derian is never far from my mind. She joins other great soldiers who have passed, and in my mind at least she would head that platoon, walking point.

Patricia Derian, Diplomat Who Made Human Rights a Priority, Dies at 86
New York Times

Patricia Derian, a civil rights veteran who tangled with repressive dictators as President Jimmy Carter’s chief advocate on behalf of human rights abroad, died on Friday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 86.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friends of the Everglades Annual Meeting @ Doc Thomas House: Pollution and FPL Turkey Point ...

FPL Turkey Point and Failed Cooling Canal System
The public is invited to Friends of the Everglades' 47th annual meeting Sunday, May 22nd, 1:00-3:00 in the historic Doc Thomas House at Tropical Audubon Society, 5530 Sunset Drive (parking available behind the house, on SW 55th Ave.).

Laura Reynolds, representing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, will give a presentation on issues surrounding the contamination of Biscayne Bay by the FPL Turkey Point nuclear power reactors.

This is an issue of significant public concern. Hope you can make it.

BIG SUGAR MONEY IS TOXIC: Just ask Ken Pruitt. By Geniusofdespair

Adam Locke: the Lone Candidate for St. Lucie County Property Appraiser with Ken Pruitt Dropping Out
Admitting he has no chance to win, Ken Pruitt, who has been a lobbyist for Big Sugar (Florida Crystals), has dropped out of the Property Appraiser race against Adam Locke. Pruitt has been the Property Appraiser for 6 years and he was the former President of the Florida Senate. Certainly he was a force to be reckoned with, but Big Sugar has done him in.

One of the reasons Adam Locke decided to run is because he is worried about the potential decrease in property values of the houses that line the waterfront of St. Lucie County. The dumping of polluted sugar water from Lake Okeechobee to the coast is destroying the pristine St. Lucie water bodies and, thus, hurting tourism,  jobs and property values. Locke has been campaigning on fairness for all homeowners while Ken Pruitt was taking money from polluters. Pruitt saw he was in a losing battle with Adam Locke.
Ken Pruitt

Pruitt angered the Treasure Coast Newspapers when he refused to discuss whether he would keep his "lucrative lobbying business" or give it up and be a full-time county property appraiser. Pruitt's sugar client was a big beef of the newspapers' editorials.

Anyway, at the moment Locke has the Property Appraiser post locked up. This is an example of how toxic sugar money is to a politician. The environment will win on this one. Let's hope other candidates with sugar ties go down the drain.

For whom the bells toll: a message from India in the midst of record-breaking heat ... by gimleteye

After surviving a grave illness in 1624, the British poet John Donne wrote: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

One can imagine what it was like to survive a contagion in 1624. It must have seemed like the end of the world.

In 1624, the forebears of my friend Kamal Assat were making a living the same way he does today in India. Kamal lives in Jaipur, the capital of Rajisthan, where he is maker of fine enamel jewelry.

I met Kamal on my first visit to India. He and his family live in the same house built his forebearers when Jaipur was founded two hundred and fifty years ago. He counts nine generations of jewelers as direct descendants. I can't tell you who John Donne's descendants are or if there are any, but by Kamal's metrics his were making jewelry in Jaipur before John Donne was born.

This contrast between continuity and fragility helps to understand why we should care that Jaipur is in the midst of a record breaking heat wave.

Jaipur enamel jewelers, 1883
For the past two days, temperature exceeded 50, or, 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Kamal writes that the city is shut down. His children are confined to the house. With more than three million people to keep cool, the electric grid is severely stressed. Those without air conditioning survive by staying inert and hydrated.

Hundreds of people are dying in Jaipur, and many more around Rajasthan. The news, Kamal says, under-reports the heat and the deaths.

My connection to Kamal was made through the internet. In Miami, I read a story in a New York newspaper about a jeweler in London who referred me to her inlay supplier in Jaipur: no man is an island.

Jaipur, today
I'm worried about my friend and his family and the rising heat as a consequence of man-made climate change.

Places where daily temperatures are above 120 degrees predict a ghastly future. A quick glance on the web shows average temperatures in Jaipur's summer to be from 30-40 degrees Celsius. Today is more than twenty percent above average. That should not surprise us.

We are witnessing weather extremes in our news, too. In Australia. In Russian Siberia. In Europe. This winter, parts of the arctic in North America hit absurdly high temperatures. On some winter days, the temperature in Alaska was warmer than in Washington, DC. Take note.

For a inlay jeweler, ovens are for annealing not for walking in the noonday sun.

In the United States, Republicans in Congress have triggered an ugly fight with state attorney generals investigating oil companies like Exxon for lying to the public on global warming caused by combustion of fossil fuels. Meanwhile climate change deniers in states like Florida have joined with powerful electric utilities to turn public attention away from corporate accountability. In their view, this global warming -- this contagion -- is just a bad case of flu.

John Donne never visited India, sub-Saharan Africa or parts of the Mideast where populations are on the move because of climate change. Listen closely, and you will hear those bells tolling, too.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Will The Strong Mayor Form of Government Die on the Ballot? By Geniusofdespair

On May 18th, Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, District 6, had a sunshine meeting with Esteban L. Bovo, Jr., Vice Chairman and Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, of District 11, to discuss legislation going on the election ballot.  I believe they specifically discussed the Strong Mayor form of Government. Before the last charter change supported by Mayor Carlos Alvarez, we had an executive Mayor form of Government. Alex Penelas was an Executive Mayor.

I believe the charter change proposal on the Strong Mayor form of government is going to be heard by the Strategic Planning and Government Operations Committee June 14th. If they move fast enough, and it is approved by the full Commission in a future vote,  it would then go on the ballot in November,  to be voted up or down by the voters.  I would hope it would be retroactive so if the Mayor is elected in August he/she would have to abide by it, but the Commission is not big on retroactive stuff. They would probably make it effective with the new Mayor. That would be crappy.

This didn't have to happen, but Carlos Gimenez's tyrannical reign over Miami Dade County forced us into this move. Everyone now realizes Mayor Gimenez just has too much power. I originally supported the strong mayor proposal when the Commission was more evil (Natacha Seijas), now the Mayor is the tyrant.  As the HOME RULE CHARTER says now:
The Mayor shall serve as head of the county government. 

The Mayor would also serve as the County Manager. The strong-mayor form of mayor–commission government usually consists of an executive branch, a mayor elected by voters, and a Commission as the legislative branch.

If it were an Executive Mayor:
An Executive Mayor and the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners (BCC) govern the County. The County Departments would be run by a County Manager. The County Manager could be fired by the Mayor or a majority of the County Commission.

In other words, the Executive Mayor would have veto authority over the Commission and propose the County Budget. A professional County Manager or "County Administrator" would handle personnel decisions and implement the policy directives of the Board.