Friday, April 17, 2015

Florida: where anything protecting the public interest and inhibiting private profit is for sale … by gimleteye

As a Sierra Club leader in the 1990's and early 2000's, I was involved in the federal lawsuit -- ultimately won by environmentalists -- against the US Army Corps of Engineers for recklessly allowing the expansion of rock mining in West Miami Dade, adjacent to the historic Everglades and drinking water well fields serving more than 2.2 million residents.

Herald columnist Fred Grimm offers a compelling narrative, why the actions of two Republican Miami Dade state legislators from Hialeah -- Manny Diaz Jr. and Rene Garcia -- deserve even harsher condemnation.

Since Gov. Rick Scott appears to have shut off any dialogue with citizens and is only listening to special interests, it seems likely that the rock mining industry will get a free pass just like every other special interest in Tallahassee.

It used to be that everything in Florida was for sale that wasn't locked down. These days everything is for sale even if it is locked down. "Rock mining mitigates risks with political influence" is just a more polite way of saying so.

Fred Grimm: Rock mining mitigates risks with political influence
04/15/2015 6:55 PM 04/16/2015 9:23 AM

The risks to our water and environment seem self evident. At least to those of us without a sweet and snuggly relationship with Miami-Dade’s rock-mining industry.

Situated in uncomfortably close proximity to both valuable wetlands and the wellfield that provides 40 percent of the county’s potable water, rock miners are blasting and hacking and hauling out prodigious quantities of limestone. Half the limestone aggregate used to build Florida’s roads, bridges, buildings and other construction is trucked out of that 77.5-square-mile area in the northwest corner of the county known as the lake belt region.

Digging that much rock out of a sensitive area comes with such calamitous potential that, over the years, the industry agreed to a series of mitigation fees to stave off government intervention.

Postal worker lands small aircraft on Capitol Grounds, and the question, "What if?" … by gimleteye

Of the "what if" scenarios relating to the gyro helicopter pilot landed on the grounds of the US Capitol, the only contingency sober minded TV pundits and reporters failed to ask is; "what if this man was right about the need for Congress to change a corrupt campaign finance system?"

Hah. On TV news, here parades an array of government officials ("yes we take our mandate to protect Washington DC air space very seriously") and senators and congressmen offering heart-felt concern and deep-set worry that the next postal worker might take aim at the Capitol or, Heaven forbid, the White House not with a satchel filled with 535 letters but with malice in his heart.

None had the guts to stand up, "By George, what if this guy is right! We have to do something to change Citizens United!"

The People's House is under attack by wealthy corporate interests who can spend unlimited and untraceable amounts of money on elections. A postal worker lands a gyro copter on the grounds of the Capitol to make the same point, and the TV cameras and talking heads run to the fence of the White House, "Build a better fence!" "Tighten up the airspace around us!"

So, Eye On Miami offers our elected officials -- any elected official -- the opportunity to use our air space to ask the only question that hasn't been asked by the mainstream media: "What if that guy is right, and why is it that campaign finance abuses are so rampant we have people resorting to outrageous acts because no one in Washington DC has the guts to step forward and demand and end to the flood of anonymous money polluting our political system?"

Where is the Congressman or Senator to come to the microphone and cameras and say, "This tactic has caused me to reevaluate my silence on Citizens United and the tidal wave of campaign money flooding our democracy. I will vote for a change to federal campaign finance law as soon as Republicans bring one to a vote!"

Click 'read more' for the full text of Douglas M. Hughes, the postal worker, and his letter to Congress:

Get Your Eyes Opened on April 21st to CRA's. By Geniusofdespair

I always thought CRA's were a crock of shit, a complete scam. Peter Bockweg heads one, come on. I wrote about one in Homestead that was audited.  Here is a second article.

Find out if I am right and let me know. I don't know if I can attend but it is really worthwhile to know what is going on with these as they absorb a lot of money.  CRA stands for Community Redevelopment Agency or Money Sucker.


Sponsored by the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions (CUES)
FAU School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP)
Co-Sponsored by the Urban Environment League of Greater Miami (UEL)
“Miami After Dark” Radio Program, WZAB 880AM, and GrandCentral



6:00PM- Registration and Reception (Light Snacks)

6:30PM- Welcoming Remarks -- 
Professor Steven Bourassa, Director, FAU SURP
 Professor Gregory W. Bush 
University of Miami History Department, Vice President UEL

6:40PM- Keynote Address
In the Beginning...Establishing and Implementing the CRA
-- Xavier L. Suarez, County Commissioner, District 7 Former Mayor of the City of Miami, 1985-1991

7:00PM- CUES Redevelopment Research: Miami-Dade County CRAs

Overview of the CRAs in Miami-Dade County
--Abigail Weiss, Graduate Research Assistant, CUES

--Max Wemyss, Graduate Research Assistant, CUES

Case Study: Southeast Overtown/Parkwest CRA

--Anielle M. Darucaud, Graduate Research Assistant, CUES

Case Study: North Miami CRA
--Christopher P. Riley, Graduate Research Assistant, CUES

8:00PM- The Future

Understanding the Broward County Approach to CRAs
-- Frank Schnidman, Professor, FAU SURP, Executive Director, CUES

Issues and Options for Miami-Dade County
--Daniella Levine Cava, County Commissioner, District 8

8:50PM- Closing Comments: “Redevelopment and Economic Development”
-- Frank Nero, President, Beacon Global Advisors

9:00PM- Adjourn

This seminar is open to the public. There is no charge to attend.
For additional information, please contact Professor Frank Schnidman at:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why is this man smiling? Big Sugar's anti-people, anti-regulation proxies run for president … by gimleteye

The first person to hug Marco Rubio as he stepped away from the cameras at the Miami Freedom Tower, having announced his intention to run for president of the United States, was Big Sugar billionaire Julio Fanjul. Here is a photo taken from TV coverage of the event:
"Florida used to be the state where everything that was not nailed down was for sale. Today it is a state where everything that is nailed down is also for sale."
CNN once called The Fanjul family of Palm Beach and Coral Gables, "The First Family of Corporate Welfare". That serves the GOP and Democratic Parties just fine, because both parties are addicted to political contributions by Big Sugar.

Julio Fanjul covers the Republican side of the family politics. Alfie, his brother, covers the Democratic side. (Alfie has been a golfing partner and confidante of Bill Clinton for decades.) 

To understand how cynical the Rubio/Fanjul marriage of convenience is, consider: Rubio has planted his flag against the Obama White House thawing of relations with Cuba. Who was one of the first billionaires to travel to Cuba? Julio's brother, Alfie. ("Cuba: Here comes Miami, ready or not!")

Rubio owes his political career to Big Sugar. He was an ambitious local Miami politician, with no credentials other than serving as Jeb Bush's chief lieutenant in the state legislature until then Gov. Charlie Crist made a deal with US Sugar to acquire its lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The Fanjuls -- the other half of the Big Sugar cartel -- poured money into Rubio's 2010 senate campaign, propelling him to the stage this week at the Freedom Tower.

Jeb Bush has already blessed Marco Rubio's participation in the GOP presidential primary. And why wouldn't he? As governor, Jeb was the driver of the 2003 change to state water quality law in Tallahassee. At the time, Big Sugar flooded the hallways of the state capitol with lobbyists. There were more lobbyists than state senators plying their program to undermine federal law, changing the Everglades Forever Act that intended to regulate Big Sugar's pollution of the dying River of Grass, to the "Everglades Whenever Act". 

Everglades water quality protections -- and costly provisions to enforce them -- were delayed at least a decade while environmental plaintiffs and the Bush EPA sorted things out in federal court. (Big Sugar is still appealing in the 3rd District Court in Atlanta.) The point: the same Big Sugar money flowing to Marco Rubio will also find its way into Jeb Bush's primary campaign.

With Citizens United -- the horrid decision by the Bush Supreme Court -- there is no way to track exactly how much money flows to political candidates. Florida used to be the state where everything that was not nailed down was for sale. Today it is a state where everything that is nailed down is also for sale.

When it comes to Big Sugar and politics, there is no favorite son. It's just business, and if you are Big Sugar billionaire, presidential primaries are your personal ATM.

The "American 'Wet' Dream Mall Miami" Project. What do CEO's in Miami Think? By Geniusofdespair

What do Miami Dade County CEO's think of the new American Wet Dream Mall proposed for the Miami Dade County/Broward line? A portion of our public land was just approved in the State Legislature to be given to that zany Persian-Canadian family -- the Ghermezian -- who are going to put submarines in rockpits.   The  Ghermezian Patriarch Eskandar, promised in the contract, 12,500 (NOT 25,000) "part-time" and permanent jobs by 2030. The press just throws around 25,000 full-time jobs as a lark with no basis of fact. According to the Miami Herald, Most CEO's love the plan.  Here are CEO's that actually made some sense to the Herald's question: If you were given a vote on the American Dream Miami retail theme park, would you approve it or reject it?  (most of the CEO's don't realize this family is giving no concessions...I have it on video -- watch the damn video. By the way, at the end of MY VIDEO all these Triple 5 propaganda video's start playing. I tried to fix it.)
My first thought is yes because I believe every idea deserves a chance to thrive. However, I would have a few stipulations that would be deal-breakers if not answered favorably: How many local jobs could we guarantee above $14 an hour? How many local businesses would be housed in the facility? How much importance would be placed on not just selling carbon-neutral products but on carbon neutral/green development and construction, and environmental mitigation? If the answer to these questions is over 50% I would vote yes. Unfortunately, I doubt that a retail theme park could make such promises; thus I would implore the developers/investor to consider diversifying Miami’s future planning to include local, sustainable, growth sectors like manufacturing and product-based development which would create a less bifurcated Miami.
Pandwe Gibson, executive director, EcoTech Visions (sorry Pandwe no stipulations accepted by the developer, especially not your $14 an hour wage)
I'm still in the middle on this project, I'm very optimistic and hopeful that the promises are true construction jobs, permanent jobs, a boost in property value for the surrounding residents etc., but those are often times promises we hear that don't often come true. My biggest concern is that we do not contribute to the cycle of low wage jobs for our residents that add no real value to increasing their quality of life.
Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Feverish Gourmet Pops
Only if it comes with an investment in higher education and a higher education component, and only if truly independent traffic and environmental impact studies show it is sustainable.
Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College
South Florida definitely needs to create more opportunities for employment; however, I’m not sure that we want to continue creating low-wage jobs that will continue to widen the wealth gap. In order to cultivate a community of higher wage-earning residents, we must continue to invest in basic services that help promote success: health, safety & protection, affordable housing, food and education.
Paco Velez, CEO, Feeding South Florida
All good comments but what they have on their wish list, it ain't going to happen!

Here are two of the dumber statements by CEO's:

The American Dream Miami retail theme park represents a major investment which will not only attract visitors and residents, but will create thousands of jobs, generate significant tax revenues, and create more buzz about Miami as a fabulous destination. I would vote to approve it.
Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel
Approve the project. We need a shopping/entertainment experience that reflects our stature in the world.
Darryl K. Sharpton, president and CEO, The Sharpton Group

We have very little control on what happens here. We have a lame agreement for them to get the public property but once they do get the property which is very control. They would not agree to the water restrictions that Chair Jean Monestime wanted or the higher than minimum wage that other commissioners wanted. And don't be fooled, they only guaranteed 12,500 jobs (part-time and full time by 2030 -- I predict they will be under water by then, that is literally) in the agreement for the property not the 25,000 touted in the media. This group holds all the cards. Here is background on how Triple 5 got our water when they weren't supposed to.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marco Rubio's Speech April 13th on African Americans. By Geniusofdespair

African Slaves came here and were kept here against their will. I doubt to "build the freest and most prosperous nation ever."

Text of Marco Rubio's Presidential Candidacy Speech April 13th at the Freedom Tower:
In this very room five decades ago, tens of thousands of Cuban exiles began their new lives in America. Their story is part of the larger story of the American miracle. How, united by a common faith in their God given right to go as far as their talent and work would take them, a collection of immigrants and exiles, former slaves and refugees, became one people, and together built the freest and most prosperous nation ever.
I guess if you are Black you are forever defined as a slave. He didn't say anything else about African Americans, but a lot about Cubans and his values. Fabiola Santiago, columnist for the Miami Herald said about Marco Rubio and his speech:
He’s a throwback to a time when women and African Americans had to fight for their rights, their dignity, and the “opportunity” that, according to Rubio, everyone has experienced in exceptional America for the last two centuries. He forgot that blacks had to wage quite a fight in the 1960s to win the right to be treated as human beings. How regretful and embarrassing that his only mention of African Americans was about their nation-building contributions as “former slaves.”

Like Fabiola, this passage of the speech bothered me. Especially when every ethnic and racial group in Florida is so far apart. Cubans came here of their own freewill  and were welcomed. Maybe it was dangerous for them in their homeland but they were not dragged here in chains and sold to the highest bidder.

Jeb Bush, former governor, and Florida's political money ATM: the state pension fund and unlimited campaign money from those who play ball the Bush way … by gimleteye

The International Business Times published a blockbuster yesterday, pulling the curtain apart so the public can begin to understand how former Florida governor Jeb Bush became chief beneficiary of legal campaign cash corruption: using the multi billion dollar state administrative fund to dole out business to political allies and fees to big campaign contributors.

State Democratic officials, like former treasurer Alex Sink, were utterly silent on the well-known abuses that accrue to top Wall Street bankers and shareholders. In a 2010 analysis of Sink's failed campaign, I wrote, "Sink, the state's CFO, should have hammered Jeb Bush to the billions in losses in the state administration funds; investments in exactly the risky derivatives that connect up to the housing crash."

There is more to the story, if journalists will only dig deeper. State-sponsored terrorism acquires a new meaning through reports like yesterday's in the IBT:

Jeb Bush's Administration Steered Florida Pension Money to George W. Bush’s Fundraisers
By Andrew Perez @AndrewPerezDC
David Sirota @davidsirota
Matthew Cunningham-Cook @mattcunninghamc on April 14 2015 10:40 AM EDT

Four years before the financial collapse, Goldman Sachs executive George Herbert Walker IV had much to be thankful for. "I've been fortunate to be a small part of teams leading U.S. restructurings, European privatizations, global pension management and now hedge fund and private equity investing,” he said in the annual report of a banking colossus that would soon be known as the “great vampire squid” of Wall Street.

“The world,” said Walker, “just keeps getting more interesting."

As the head of Goldman Sachs’ alternative investment unit, Walker’s ebullience was understandable. At the same time he was raising $100,000 for his cousin George W. Bush’s successful presidential re-election effort, the administration of another cousin, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, returned the family favor, delivering $150 million of Florida pension money to an alternative investment fund run by Walker’s firm. Like other executives whose companies received Florida pension money, Walker is now renewing the cycle, reportedly attending in February a high-dollar fundraiser for Jeb Bush’s political committee.

Walker is not alone: He is one of 19 top fundraisers for George W. Bush -- known as “Pioneers” and “Rangers” -- whose financial firms received state business from Jeb Bush’s administration in Tallahassee. In all, an International Business Times’ review of government documents shows Jeb Bush oversaw Florida directing at least $1.7 billion of state workers’ retirement money to the financial firms of his elder brother’s major donors.

April 19th, Sunday at 1:30PM: Friends of the Everglades at Pinecrest Gardens features Matthew Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association

On Earth Day, April 19th Sunday at 1:30PM, you are invited to the annual meeting of Friends of the Everglades. Matthew Schwartz, of South Florida Wildlands Association, will discuss our South Florida environment. Mr. Schwartz is one of the most compelling speakers on these issues in Florida. Free parking available.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio: the GOP roller derby begins … by gimleteye

It is fascinating to listen to the mainstream media on Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. For the most part, the descriptions of what, exactly, these two conservatives represent is sketched in sound bites cribbed from the candidates' press releases.

Why aren't journalists scouring the Rubio record for signs of either political accomplishment or capability?

Marco Rubio's only accomplishment as a state legislative leader from Miami-Dade was to help Jeb Bush's agenda during the governor's terms in Tallahassee. He wasn't an innovator. He was a facilitator who took orders well.

In the mainstream media he is being portrayed as at the same stage of his career as Barack Obama was in 2008: a state senator and one-term US senator. Come on.

Forget about rungs of a political ladder: how can their credential be compared?

Barack Obama attended Harvard Law School, where he was elected president of the law review, supervising a staff of 80 editors. Marco Rubio attended the University of Miami law school without distinction. The issue of capacity for leadership isn't a trivial pursuit.

Marco Rubio responds to the questions about global warming by saying he is "not a scientist", but that's not all: he won't even meet with scientists in his own state, the most vulnerable to sea level rise in the nation.

In the money ball game of presidential politics, Rubio's calculation is that his candidacy gets him onto the national stage. The money is going to Jeb Bush. All the mainstream media talk of tension between the Rubio and Bush camps, particularly among Florida big money GOP contributors, is fluffing for the microphones.

In the jockeying for position among GOP candidates, there is no Herman Cain or Rick Santorum or Donald Trump yet, but there will be. Marco Rubio will help manage the GOP roller derby train so, at the right moment in the train, Jeb Bush will be pulled through the primary. For that he will be rewarded.

One can imagine how Jeb would reward Marco Rubio for soldiering on his behalf: Marco Rubio represents a new generation of Republicans who want to turn the clock back to a simpler time, when American Exceptionalism was as easy to promote with voters as pasting political ads on bus stop benches in West Miami.

A Blast From the Past: Marco Rubio too Short to be the US President. By Geniusofdespair

From EYE ON MIAMI November 18,  2012  
(Javier Manjarres of Shark Tank wrote his version March 25, 2013 where he said Ann Coulter told Hannity that Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were as tall as her IPhone.)

Now that he is officially running I am re-running my November 18th 2012 post:

Jeb Bush is 6' 3"
Mitt Romney is 6' 2"

Since Marco Rubio has already kicked off his presidential bid with a trip to Iowa (he ran the same agonizingly loonngggg campaign to become Senator) it is important to answer a question that is sure to come up: Is he too short to be president?

Barack Obama is 6' 1".  Marco says he is 5' 10" but I would put him at below 5' 8" - I stood next to him. There were only 6 presidents under 5' 8": James Madison, Benjamin Harrison, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, John Adams and William McKinley. All of those guys were presidents before 1900. We haven't elected a president under 6 feet since Jimmy Carter (5' 9 1/2").

Top End Heights of the Presidents

Looks like more than 4 inches to me. Expect Rubio to grow taller as his campaign progresses.

Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio

Good Read: Earth, to Rubio in the Economist.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Learn About Ludlam Trail Tonite at Sierra Club Meeting… by gimleteye

Sierra Club is hosting a public meeting featuring Peter Rabbino, a leader of Friends of the Ludlam Trail, at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, 2990 South Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove.

FREE PARKING is available at the sailing club.

Date: Monday, April 13, 2015
Time: 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Location: 2990 South Bayshore Drive, Miami, FL 33133

Doors open around 7:15 pm, appetizers and drinks are served. We start our meetings off with with Hot Topics at 7:30 pm, our update on local environmental issues, and the main program will begin at 8 PM

Please attend the Sierra Club-Miami Group general meetings April 13 beginning at 7:30pm. The speaker will be Peter Rabbino, a founder of the Ludlam Trail project.
The Friends of the Ludlam Trail is a non-profit coalition dedicated to the implementation of the Ludlam Trail, a 6.2-mile iconic linear park through the heart of Miami-Dade County within the partially abandoned Florida East Coast railway right-of-way. The park will contain community gardens, arboretums, natural spaces and a trail that will provide a safe dedicated and direct route for cyclists and pedestrians to schools, parks, work and shopping. The trail will connect more than 34,000 people within a half-mile, walkable service area to five greenways, five schools, four parks and two transit hubs.