Friday, April 20, 2018

The November Amendment-Palooza. Guest Blog by Ross Hancock

Maybe it’s just me, but for all the talk of a Blue Tsunami in November, I’m more fired up to vote on 13 state constitutional amendments than most of the races for office. I’m just not feeling the Bern for Donna Shalala and Bill Nelson. And the leading Dem gubernatorial candidates have put everyone in the State to sleep.  Adam Putnam, a lightening rod attracting enormous ire on the Republican side, is the stuff of nightmares, not sleep. Even the race that I’m personally in, for State House 114, probably won’t set the world on fire, since there is an election for that seat every couple of months or so, and everyone knows they can always just catch the next one.

That’s why a ballot laden with a record 13 constitutional amendments has me so excited that I just can’t hide it.

Anything good that has happened in Tallahassee in the past decade has been the result of voter-approved amendments. Our electeds are mostly lobbyists and semiprofessional officeholders, and at the end of the day, we don’t have much to show for casting our votes for them. But amendment referenda have brought us smaller class sizes in schools, fairer voting districts, solar energy progress, and preservation of environmentally sensitive lands. At least in theory.

And there are a few really good, life-changing amendments this time. Tops is the voter-initiated Florida Amendment 4—the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. It will bring Florida in line with most other states by extending voting rights to citizens who have served their felony sentences, except for the most serious crimes.

Also, be sure to support Amendment 12 on legislative ethics. It will prevent lobbyists from being public officials, and prevent public officials from becoming lobbyists for six years. It actually used to be illegal for lobbyists to serve in the legislature. Things have only gotten worse since we let the foxes into the chicken house. Nowadays, there are many races that don’t even have non-lobbyists running. That kinda cuts out the middleman between special interests and the government.

There are so many amendments on the November ballot that some unrelated (and potentially contradictory) issues were combined into about half of them, weirdly. For example, to vote against coastal drilling (Amendment 9), a ban on workplace vaping is included in the same measure, so you have to want both. Amendment 11 combines high-speed trains, a civil rights issue, and a rule on prosecution of repealed crimes. Amendment 6 mashes up a victims’ bill of rights with increasing the retirement age for judges.

There are other examples of bundled issues. This is just nuts. Who is running this state?

So while there are 13 amendments on the ballot, there are really more than 20 issues, but it’s like a menu of combo meals that doesn’t allow substitutions.

On the ugly side, there is Amendment 5, a poison pill crafted by Republicans to ensure that any future Democratic majority will be fiscally powerless. It mandates a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the state legislature to raise any taxes or fees forever. Oddly, our local Democratic leader Rep. Kionne McGhee broke party ranks and voted to put this monstrosity on the ballot.

Still, if I have to hold my nose for a few candidates who will be the lesser of two evils, at least I am fired up about voting rights for felons, and especially for ridding the legislature of lobbyist officeholders. Be amendment-smart and study up—and plan on spending some time in the voting booth on November 6.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Transit: Citizens Getting SCREWED by Their Own Trust. By Geniusofdespair

The Citizens Transportation Trust, over-seeing our Transit Bond Money, screws the Citizens of Miami Dade County spending money on trinkets. First of all some members are former County employees. It is supposed to be composed of citizens perhaps USING transit. It is not. I doubt that Linda Zilber or Joe Curbelo has ever been on a bus (the members are below). The Selection Committee puts the same old people they know on the Trust. I hate this waste of money group. Is anyone on there from Cutler Bay or Palmetto Bay or Homestead? All the handwritten applications of people who actually use transit are mentally discarded by the Selection Committee.

But that is another story. One to follow. It is not my beef today.

I am complaining about the waste of money for the two sided heavy metal medallions being minted for the CITT, I was told it was their budget paying for them which translates to: Our Transportation Bond Money. They have done it 3 times so far. They are 3 inches round good for utterly nothing. I am trying to find out how many they made and how much they cost. On line, in bulk, a medallion of this size is at least $2 or $3. And what are they commentating, a few long over-due projects?

What do you do with the medallion once home? Well, you can't flush it down the toilet so you have to send it to the landfill. It has no use at all. Probably with the velvet bags, they paid thousands of dollars for the three sets of coins. I have no idea how many they got. But: WHY ARE THEY THROWING OUR TRANSIT MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN? Shame on you CITT. By the way, don't blame Javier Betancourt, the new Executive Director. He has NOT done anything stupid yet.

Message to Javier: Stay away from the promotional gear. If you want to do something constructive at an unveiling, raffle off a bike. Get some money in - don't spend it on garbage.

I like Javier, and have known him since he worked for the South Florida Regional Planning Council, and I hope we have a new beginning with him at the helm.

Note to Javier: Really look through the applicants and get some regular people on it. Maybe call them, you have enough staff. I will be watching. I want it to get better. See list of Mostly elitist members:

Florida's Environmental Failure: could voters put a state agency into "receivership"? ... by gimleteye

Today, claims of "FAKE NEWS" envelop us, but here is one undeniable truth in Florida: our waters -- which belong to the people -- are dissolving in a toxic soup of pollution. This, despite decades of environmental rules and regulations and billions invested.

Florida's Everglades, held in the public trust for future generations, is on life support after huge taxpayer investments and billions more promised to come. And people are suffering. Highly toxic algae blooms coated both Florida coasts in 2016 and persist in ecological treasures like Florida Bay; more billions lost in a state economy that depends on tourism. Some of that algae can trigger incurable brain disease.

Everything we have tried, in terms of protecting Florida's water quality, is on the order of half-measures or worse. Take North Florida's springs: once as clear as plain air and now clogged and coated with algae. Or Apalachicola Bay, where the historic shellfish industry has disappeared.

Elected officials and decision-makers tell us: there are no silver bullets. It is always someone else's fault. Georgia. Municipal waste. The shrugging platitudes are excuses. The solutions are always the same: bury the pollution in deep wells. Shift it somewhere else.

The regulatory structure within which the public frames its hopes for clean water and a safe environment for people, for the economy, and for habitats is bankrupt, overwhelmed by external costs and internal conflicts.

This set of interlocking phenomena did not happen all at once, although there are manifest examples of contributing factors like Gov. Rick Scott's decision to eliminate the powers of the Florida Department of Community Affairs -- the single state agency with a mission to balance the needs of economic development with the environment. To conservationists, DCA was never a panacea. The agency and its mission grew out of a bi-partisan consensus in the early 1980's that the state needed to take a strong role in balancing economic development with environmental protection.

DCA was hacked to death, piece by piece, by politics steered by unregulated campaign contributions and dark money pools from industry associations, Big Agriculture, and the development supply chain that minted billions from construction at the shoreline and through the conversion of low-cost farmland and wetlands into suburban sprawl.

With DCA, though, at least civic activists had a platform; a legal framework to challenge political decisions. They could petition in state court when they believed local government permitting violated the intent and spirit of state growth management laws.

Now, there is no platform and growth management is a hollow shell.

The hollowing out of government agency and missions is a successful tactic of the anti-government AltR. Its apotheosis at the federal level is President Trump, blithely ignorant of facts and dismissive of science. Trump and his agents like EPA chief Scott Pruitt are torching federal authority to protect the nation's air and water. For instance, Trump has said that he can't wait to dismantle the Clean Water Act.

The states can do a better job, he says, without apparently understanding that Florida can't. Hasn't. Won't. In Florida, the life rafts are designed to sink.

A lawsuit filed yesterday against the State of Florida by a group of children, alleging that the state has failed its responsibilities under the public trust doctrine and constitution to proactively address climate change and its impacts points in the same direction. In that case, Delaney et al. v. Florida, we know that the solution is based in sound science; we must stop and reverse the combustion of global-warming emissions as soon as possible.

Isn't that the same case in Everglades restoration, and isn't the injury by state government in the case of climate change denial the same as the denial of science embedded in the state legislation that emerged, after two years of controversy, to place a huge man-made reservoir south of sugar plantations and Lake Okeechobee? Carl Hiaasen described it this way in a recent OPED:
At 10,500 acres, the reservoir will be relatively small and so deep (23 feet) that some scientists don’t think it can do the job. The design was chosen over better options by the board of the South Florida Water Management District, which under Gov. Rick Scott functions as a policy arm of Big Sugar.
As one example, TCPalm reporters exposed how the water district in 2015 allowed a U.S. Sugar lobbyist named Irene Quincey to “edit” and weaken planned regulations on harmful phosphorous pouring out of Lake O.

Among her contributions to the final draft was deleting the word “enforceable” from three key passages.

So it’s no shock that the water district bowed to the corporate cane growers this year, too. The original reservoir proposal by Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican whose tourism-dependent district gets slimed hard by the green algae blooms, called for a 60,000-acre project.

That would have been big and shallow enough to deal with much of the fouled lake discharges. However, sugar producers didn’t want a larger reservoir because they opposed taking any cane acreage out of production, even if the state paid them for it.
Just like a corporation, a state agency should be held to be bankrupt when it fails to uphold its mission to protect individual liberties and rights. In the case of the Everglades reservoir, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection claims it is following law and the balance of taxpayer interest and property rights, but it has manifestly ignored the parts of the law that inconveniently conflict with the aims of the state's powerful campaign contributors: Big Sugar. FDEP does the bare minimum. But the bare minimum has the further effect of allowing mission creep and the goal posts to shift further and further away from protecting people and the environment. Surely, the Florida constitution is being violated.

When a corporation goes bankrupt, its business is put into receivership. Why shouldn't receivership apply to state agencies like FDEP, as well? Who would "receive" a failed state agency? It could be a special master of the court, supervising the work and recommendations of a science panel comprised of experts who are independent of Florida's regulated communities. They wouldn't be able to legislate of course, but if the state legislature refused its recommendations at least the destruction would be more highly visible. A special master, moreover, could be a brake on further agency backsliding.

The status quo cannot hold, because if it does, the verge we are on will reveal even more nasty surprises.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez wants to be a Strong Mayor. By Geniusofdespair


Francis Suarez has filed for a change to City of Miami Government to a Strong Mayor. It is an Executive Mayor form of Government right now.  What the change would mean, he would be the City Manager and the Mayor.

Not a good idea. No more strong mayors. After watching Carlos Gimenez destroy the County as a strong mayor, bulling around everyone in County Government, putting in horrendous Department heads, handcuffing transit fixes, hiring people like Alive Bravo and giving favors to long time friends, I would never vote for a strong mayor again.

He is doing a petition drive, no recall provision in paperwork. He has hired a bevy of lawyers to help him. Huge power move.  Also a salary raise for the Mayor is involved.

What is with the armed guards at City Hall during Commission? What is the deal. Maybe the Commissioners should all carry guns and shoot each other.

Florida Kids Sue Gov. Rick Scott On Climate Change ... by gimleteye

NOTE: For 7 years, Gov. Scott used his executive authority to trash state environmental rules and regulations, using agencies like the South Florida Water Management District as political cudgels against conservationists. Now that he's running for Senate, Scott claims no one has done more than him, for the environment. Voters: be informed.

Florida Kids Sue Gov. Scott Over Climate Change: You Have 'Moral Obligation' to Protect Us

The case, connected to the federal Our Children’s Trust climate lawsuit, is one of nine pressuring states to take action on global warming and fossil fuels.
Apr 16, 2018

Eight young Floridians, ages 10 to 19, sued their state and its climate-policy-averse governor on Monday for failing to protect residents from the impacts of a warming climate.

They say they already see signs of climate change around them—from powerful hurricanes to extreme heat waves to tidal flooding that now regularly washes into coastal roads and parks as sea level rises—and they want the state to do something about it.

The lawsuit filed Monday is the latest in a wave of legal cases filed by children against states and the federal government that accuse government of depriving them of the fundamental right to a stable climate.

The Florida plaintiffs accuse the state of violating their constitutional rights by "perpetuating an energy system that is based on fossil fuels."

"The plaintiffs are asking the state of Florida to adhere to its legal and moral obligation to protect current and future generations from the intensifying impacts of climate change," the group said in a statement.

Their lawsuit asks that state officials "prepare and implement an enforceable comprehensive" plan to phase out fossil fuel use and "draw down excess atmospheric CO2 through forest and soil protection so as to stabilize the climate system."

Gov. Rick Scott and Climate Change

The lawsuit names the state, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, state agencies and the heads of those agencies as defendants.

In 2015, journalists in Florida reported that Scott had placed a gag order on the terms "climate change" and "global warming" within state's Department of Environmental Protection—an especially notable move, given the state is among the most vulnerable to climate change, with 1,000 miles of coastline and millions of people living in low-lying areas.

Scott has also ducked questions about climate change, using the response: "I'm not a scientist."

The governor's office responded to questions about the lawsuit in an emailed statement: "The Governor signed one of the largest environmental protection budgets in Florida's history last month—investing $4 billion into Florida's environment," said McKinley Lewis, a spokesperson for Scott. "The Governor is focused on real solutions to protect our environment—not political theater or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon."

Florida Teens Fight for Their Future

Delaney Reynolds, 18, a fourth-generation Floridian who has become a prominent advocate and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, wrote to the state's environmental regulators in 2014, asking what the department was doing to address climate change.

She said the agency response was: not much.

In a blog post Monday, Reynolds wrote that the response was "unacceptable" and a reason she decided to sue the state.

"Our climate change crisis is the biggest issue that my generation will ever face, and it's up to us, today's children, to fix this problem," Reynolds wrote. "It is my hope that the court will rule to require that Florida enact and enforce laws to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions so that our state and citizens can have a future here."

Kids' Federal Climate Case Gets a Court Date

Our Children's Trust, a group that advocates for science-based climate policy, is supporting the federal case and other youth-led legal efforts across the country.

In 2015, Our Children's Trust and 21 young people from across the country sued the federal government on the same legal grounds, saying the government was violating the public trust by failing to protect a common resource. The fossil fuel industry has repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to keep the case from advancing. (Levi Draheim, a 10-year-old Floridian, is a co-plaintiff in that case, as well as in the lawsuit filed Monday.)

Last week, a federal magistrate judge set a trial date for the federal case: Oct. 29, 2018, in federal district court in Oregon.

Delaney Reynolds and major Florida lawsuit: here comes Juliana~! ... by Alan Farago

Delaney Reynolds and Alan Farago at first March for Science 2017, Miami
(UPDATE April 17) Juliana v. US is a federal lawsuit brought by children represented by Our Children's Trust: the most important legal challenge against the U.S. government for its affirmative acts causing the crisis through perpetuating the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, despite acute knowledge of the dangers in doing so.

Lawsuits have been filed in state courts too, and the latest is Florida; the state with the most to lose from sea level rise. Delaney Reynolds offers the following:
My name is Delaney Reynolds and I am a college student at the University of Miami's Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, Florida and founder of The Sink or Swim Project ( I split my time between this vibrant, cosmopolitan area of nearly three million people and my second home on No Name Key, a 1,000 acre island filled with nature and 43 solar powered homes in the Florida Keys. 
First thing tomorrow, Monday April 16th, 2018, I will be filing a lawsuit against the State of Florida, Governor Rick Scott, and members of his cabinet to demand that they and our State take action to protect us, future generations, and our natural environment from carbon dioxide emissions that have created our climate change crisis.

I am proudly joined in this effort by a diverse group of youth from all over the State of Florida who share my concerns related to our climate change crisis including whether South Florida will even exist in a future confronted by sea level rise.

On Tuesday April 17th at 3:00 PM in Downtown Miami at the Miami-Dade County courthouse steps, I will be conducting a press conference along with my attorneys from Our Children's Trust and the other Florida children who are joining me as Plaintiffs in this case.

I am writing today to not only advise you of what is about to happen but to ask you to consider promoting it to your networks and to help me get as many people as possible to attend the event on Tuesday afternoon here in Miami. The press conference will include comments from some of the children, myself included, as well as some of our attorneys.

... As you might know, Our Children's Trust is active in suing a few other states, as well as our federal government and in that case, the federal case, it is set to go to trial in late October of this year. As you likely also know, the Colombian Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a group of children who had sued that country seeking that it protect the Amazon and climate in what is a historic case similar to the one that we are undertaking. As you have heard me say before, it is my belief that our planet's climate change crisis is the biggest challenge that my generation will ever face and thus, I feel that today's youth must take action to demand solutions despite the fact that the adults before us have overlooked or caused this problem.

Once again, thank you!

Delaney Reynolds
Founder & Activist
The Sink or Swim Project


The body language in this Herald photo is ... indescribable. 

As indescribable as this photo of Pepe Fanjul embracing Marco Rubio as he left the stage in Miami, after announcing his presidential primary campaign in 2015.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Donald Trump's Approval Rating is Soaring and You are IGNORING a very important election RIGHT HERE, IN 36 DAYS. By Geniusofdespair

Yes we have about 1000 days until we can vote in a presidential election. But there is a very critical election coming in a little more than 30 days. You have to pull the rug from under him in every single race. Show your collective muscle.

Miami Beach and Brickell:

This is an election you cannot ignore. Alex De La Portilla and Zorida Barreiro, both established Republicans in a non-partisan race, think they can win because Miami Beach and Brickell will ignore the election. 

It is the County Commission seat District 5. WE NEED THIS SEAT TO CHANGE. Bruno Barreiro has held it for almost 80 years (feels like it). All of you  in the district must vote on May 22nd for Eileen Higgins. She is a Democrat. A really great activist. If I could hit you all over the head and drag you to the polls I would. We have fought too many County Commission battles over the years. PLEASE vote and put some sanity on the County Commission so we don't have to fight so hard.

We need everyone here to vote.

It isn't all about Trump. We have to vote in every election we can - local elections too - AND WIN, AND WIN, AND WIN. This is a total long shot, but if you know someone who lives in Brickell or Miami Beach get them to vote for Eileen Higgins. Word of mouth, Facebook, just get this information around.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

BIG DEAL: Here Comes Juliana v. US and states ... by gimleteye

You are going to be hearing a lot more about the federal and state lawsuits radiating around the plaintiffs' lawsuit.

"... the​ 21 young plaintiffs assert that the U.S. government, through its ​affirmative actions​ in creating a national energy system that cause climate change, has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources.​ The case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, and all seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system."

While Gov. Rick Scott and President Trump fritter away our futures, the evidence is piling up -- week by week -- that the science is right and the AltR demagogues are dead wrong. Read: "Earth’s Powerful, Climate-Shaping Water Currents Are Weak and Broken and It’s Time to Freak Out: The Gulf Stream current is at its weakest in 1,600 years, studies show."

Meanwhile, the kids are doing something about it. In Florida, you'll be hearing a lot more about Juliana, very soon.

For Immediate Release: April 12, 2018
Julia Olson, 415-786-4825, ​
Philip Gregory, 650-278-2957, ​


Eugene, Oregon -- During a public case management conference today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin set October 29, 2018 as the trial date for ​Juliana v. United States​, the constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 young people and supported by Our Children’s Trust. The trial will be heard before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon.

Julia Olson​, ​executive director and chief legal counsel of ​Our Children’s Trust​ and co-lead counsel for youth plaintiffs said:
“We have our trial date. In the coming months there will be depositions of the parties, defendants’ disclosure of their experts, and expert depositions in late summer. We will build a full factual record for trial so that the Court can make the best informed decision in this crucial constitutional case.”
DOJ attorneys representing the Trump administration told Judge Coffin that the trial date he set “won’t work” for defendants. They claimed they needed additional time to address expert witness reports and find rebuttal experts for every one of plaintiffs’ experts, to which Judge Coffin asked: “Where am I missing something? Given your admissions in this case, what is it about the science that you intend to contest with your rebuttal witnesses?”

The Court also made it clear that it is not going to make decisions on summary judgment motions before the full record at trial, despite defendants’ intentions to move to summary judgment prior to October 29.

Picture of the Day: Damn Immigrants. By Geniusofdespair