Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jose Javier Rodriguez: Future State Senator and Current Dad. By Geniusofdespair

I can't imagine running a campaign and having a baby too. Jose Javier Rodriguez and my friend Sonia (his wife) are the parents of a 3 week old baby boy. I normally hate baby picture but when the parents are in the picture they are okay, because I mainly look at the parents. When I look at the baby I wonder about that appendage sticking out of his shoulder. I hope it is a parental finger.

I, Genius of Despair -- or as Brian May likes to remind me, Nancy Lee -- endorse Jose Javier Rodriguez for State Senate and will happily vote for him as I am in his district.

Please vote for this deserving candidate. Jose Javier Rodriguez got the State Teachers Union endorsement this week.

The lame local Miami Teachers Union endorsed the other guy, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. Why would County Commissioner Sally Heyman endorse Miguel? She is a a Democrat, or maybe she the local union.  Why would we put all this money and effort into redistricting -- to get more Democratic districts -- and the one district we can actually win, give it up to a Republican? Sally are you listening? It is not as if we have a lame candidate. This guy Jose is smart as a whip and a real gentleman, not like the other guy.

Even though Miguel describes himself as a "Family Man" one might be tempted to ask: "Which Family"? Diaz de la Portilla has become quite a whore, combining lobbying and lawmaking with a devil may care attitude. Lawmaking and lobbying at the same time is a
wicked mix. Ick to Miguel.

In Florida, The Sham of Campaign Finance Limits ... by gimleteye

Here is an exercise that will have you weeping for our democracy. Spend time on the database on the Florida Division of Elections website, to decode how candidates and campaigns mesh through a) direct political contributions and b) the impenetrable morass of political action committees.

This bifurcated realm of political money proposes contribution limits on one and no limits on the other. The bottom line: in Florida today there are no campaign limits except what large corporations and big political donors decide to spend. The net result isn't fair. It is a nightmare.

The state election website tracks candidates and their individual campaign accounts. State election law requires a firewall to separate candidates from political action committees that serve their interests.

Each is required to meet baseline reporting requirements. The data discloses a system that functions according to rule of law, but that isn't the real take-away. Ours is a campaign finance system that fundamentally harms taxpayers and businesses that create jobs and pay taxes.

A cursory review of the Florida elections database shows alarming potential for abuse. Here is just one of many examples.

The Voice Of Florida Business PAC is chaired by Tom Feeney, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, former Congressman and Jeb Bush ally. The company website lists 20 consultants in its lobbying team.

Voices of Florida Business PAC has raised $5.2 million since 2013. There are no limits on the size of contribution. Its donors are a who's who of Florida's most highly regulated industries.

Electric utilities, healthcare, real estate, and Big Sugar feature prominently as donors. But the PAC also receives six figure contributions from other PACs and it receives contributions from the same entities it gives money to. For example, The Voice Of Florida Business PAC receives contributions from Floridians United For Our Children's Future but also contributes to Floridians United For Our Children's Future. Why is one PAC acting as a clearinghouse for another PAC? It is a legal form of money laundering.

Who benefits from its advertisements on television or mailers in super-sized postcard form? That information is not required by law. Had enough? There's more.

Tom Feeney's Associated Industries of Florida has a PAC under its own name. Since 2013, it has raised $2.3 million. Its major contributors? The same corporations -- prominently featuring Big Sugar and Florida Power and Light -- who contribute to The Voice of Florida Business. And oh, The Voice of Florida Business contributes to the Associated Industries of Florida PAC.

This legal money laundering, in plain view on the state of Florida elections database, offers a glimpse of a political cartel that controls the state legislature. But what about contributors? What is in it, for them?

First, corporations and individuals protect their interests by giving candidates maximum contributions allowable by law. Fair enough. When like-minded corporations put their stamp of approval on a candidate, contributing to the maximum limit, it sends a very clear message.

At the same time, when corporations legally spend unlimited amounts of money to advance their causes, benefiting their chosen candidates for public office, they engage in a pretense of separating their direct contributions from their candidates' campaigns.

The legal line separating contributions to campaigns, to PACs, to industry trade associations, and corporations is meaningless. It is a rigged game. The individual campaign contributor is not just at a disadvantage, he or she has disappeared altogether unless they rematerialize as a wealthy, politically involved corporation or a PAC. Corporations are more powerful than people, and certainly more powerful than the unions who they vilify.

Lobbyists, industry insiders, and corporations are likely to shrug: "What's the big deal?" That is how insiders in Wisconsin reacted when  
the UK Guardian recently exposed ties tangling Gov. Scott Walker and independent expenditure committees.
: "Known as the “John Doe investigation”, several Wisconsin prosecutors launched a probe into what they suspected were criminal campaign finance violations by the campaign committee of Walker, a former Republican presidential candidate who dropped out early in the primary race. The prosecutors claimed Walker’s committee operated a coordinated network that involved outside lobby groups, thereby allowing unlimited amounts of corporate money to funnel into a third-party group closely aligned with his campaign. In July 2015, the Wisconsin supreme court halted the investigation."

The same conveyor belt occurs in Florida. The big deal: what comes out of this rigged game is not a democracy. It is much, much closer to an oligarchy.

The way money now filters into politics through unlimited contributions to PACs results in a carefully orchestrated "order"; a pyramid that guarantees at the top, the most highly regulated industries, top shareholders and their captains. In this system, the judiciary also follows the money; the reason the judiciary dismissed the complaints against Gov. Walker in Wisconsin.

If you are a dues-paying member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida or, otherwise, a small business person, your chance of influencing the political process through memberships in trade councils or associations is zilch. Zero. Nada.

If you are an incumbent legislator, you fit on the squad until you are term-limited out. Play your position well, and there's a place outside of government waiting. If you can't be a Tom Feeney, the place to be is a political consultant or strategically placed lobbyist, populating the hallways in the state legislature in Tallahassee, helping to keep the system intact.

How cool would it be, though, if Democrats and Republican leaders broadly agreed 1) that the money spent on political campaigns has grown out of control, damaging all involved, and 2) that we really ought to return democracy to its appropriate place by fixing a badly broken campaign finance system.

On the one hand, hell would freeze over first. On the other, you can't dig out of a hole by digging the hole deeper, unless the point of politics is to dig the hole so deep so that no one can escapes except by private or chartered corporate jet.

Friday, September 23, 2016

County Commission Chair Contenders, What the Gossips IN THE KNOW are Saying. By Geniusofdespair

 Audrey Edmonson feels dissed by Chair Monestime and they had words on the dais. Perhaps other Commissioners feel her pain and will make her the Chair.

Nah, It is the Hispanic turn. Yes, the County Commissioners run a strict, albeit fair, racist enterprise, except to White non-Hispanics. The Blacks and Hispanics take turns being chair every two years. The two White Commissioners don't get a turn. They do get to be vice chair sometimes. There hasn't been a White Chair since Gwen Margolis. Funny when you consider the make-up of the county population in 2015 Census data, 4% separate Whites and Blacks but there are twice as many Black Commissioners.

 Steve Bovo is the most likely choice. He has been being very nice to everyone, not the kind of nice he is to the pretty aides, just more polite. He is lobbying hard, minimizing the ethical lapses surrounding him.

 This one, Joe Martinez wants to be Chair so bad. What a nightmare this guy is. Thank the lord he doesn't have a prayer this cycle and then he will have to wait for the Black Chair reign. I hope to never see this bully as chair ever again.

Why not the X man? County Commissioner Xavier Suarez is in the running with Bovo according to my gossip pals, although they feel Bovo is the favorite, they like Xavier Suarez's chances. The money is on him as well. I think he would be fair. He would be my choice.

Rebeca Sosa is a long shot, she was a very efficient chair last time except for the fatal flaw: Becky appointed Lynda Bell as her vice chair and Lynda Bell tried to out-chair Becky. That was a Big Mistake!

Oh Lord, this would never happen. Even the Commission is not that dumb, to make Pepe Diaz the chair. He is a chair....just there, taking up space, parroting the lobbyists, reading their scripts.

So, Sunshine out the window, they are all jockeying for the position,  buttering up the never will be -- offering them Committees and most probably candy. I would guess Godiva, not shitty, cheap candy.  Maybe they are offering expensive cologne like "The Commissioner." I am sure there is a warehouse somewhere full of the stuff. Check with Joe Martinez, its creator.

Never to be: Souto. That is one thing you can count on. I don't think Souto would even vote for himself. He will die senile in office...if he isn't already...senile. I know he is not dead because he still talks and we all know after 6 seasons of the Walking Dead, they do not speak once dead.

Well, who do you think it will be. Give us a guess. The winner will get a bottle of the Commish.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Marco Rubio and Donald Trump One Big: NO! By Geniusofdespair

I hear Walt Disney at my door. Enjoy. If the EAR fits call it quits!

One Candidate is a do nothing (or doing no good). The other is a do and say everything and see what sticks. Neither one is a plus for our country.

Florida Voters: Amendment 1 Blocks The Sun ... NO, is the right vote ... by gimleteye

Florida's utilities supported the constitutional amendment, unique in the U.S., that requires a supermajority of 60% to change the Florida constitution by ballot referendum. Utilities were afraid that citizens could not be trusted with a simple majority the way lawmakers can. They were petrified that ballot initiatives like Florida Hometown Democracy or Fair Districts could pass, and indeed Fair Districts did pass.

One way that citizens can pay back the favor is to reject Amendment 1. It is an amendment that is designed to consolidate the authority and power of Florida's electric utilities over consumer choice. "Consumers deserve a choice," says former Republican legislator Paula Dockery. She is right.

Amendment 1 blocks the sun.

Don't be fooled by utility-backed solar Amendment 1, says Paula Dockery
Solar initiative limits choice, competition
Orlando Sentinel

Polls consistently show the overwhelming majority of Floridians have a positive view of solar energy; yet the Sunshine State lags many states in solar power.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Florida: The Sinkhole State ... by gimleteye

Most Floridians are in the dark about one of the state's most secretive, regulated and wealthy industries: mining. In other states, mining is defined by mineral extraction. In Florida, mining involves scraping the surface layer of the earth; excavating ancient fossil bedrock for limestone, to make cement, asphalt and concrete, and phosphate derivatives, for agricultural fertilizer.

Mosaic is the nation's largest producer of the latter. Its multi-billion dollar revenues in Florida are focused on an area to the east of Tampa/ St. Petersberg where one mine recently drained over 200 million gallons of "slightly radioactive" water through a sinkhole that opened beneath a retention lake. Here is how large the operations are in the region: the mining area is 3/4 the spatial area of Rhode Island.

Recently, Jaclyn Lopez wrote an OPED for the Tampa Bay Times: "It's time to rein in Florida's phosphate strip mining". "Florida is starting to wake up to its massive phosphate mining problem," she begins.

Mosaic's public relations, like Big Sugar in its battle to retain the industry's privileges to pollute both Florida coasts, is trying to calm the public, claiming no threat to drinking water supplies from the disappearance of 200 million gallons (plus whatever volume is vanished through rainfall now pouring slightly radioactive and acidic tailings into the earth). It is a problem like FPL's at Turkey Point, where massive failure of its cooling canal system is radiating pollution beneath populated areas of south Miami-Dade and a national park.

The Mosaic problem is also like Japan's Fukushima. There, public confidence in government and corporate authority has been shaken to its bones by the fact that the nuclear reactor's fissile materials have "disappeared" into the earth.

All these problems point to hubris. All these problems -- byproducts of ingenious ways to accumulate wealth and power -- could have been prevented by effective government regulation.

It is precisely the environmental regulatory function of the federal government that has been under continuous attack since the nation's foundational laws were passed in the early 1970s.

Since at least the early 1990's, Florida environmentalists pleaded with the US Army Corps of Engineers -- the nation's permitting authority for wetlands destruction, and chief agency responsible for regulating mining activities in Florida -- to conduct a regional aquifer study in exactly the area where the massive sinkhole has now exposed Florida's drinking water to pollution.

In other words, we knew what was bound to happen in North Florida as water supplies were drained from sandy aquifers. The science of sinkholes is not complicated.
Dr. Sydney Bacchus, who offered expert witness testimony for many civic and conservation groups during these decades, is the unsung hero and sentinel of mining's threats to North Florida's aquifers.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, under pressure from state and federal lawmakers who are quick to bend to the will of lobbyists and campaign funders from the mining industry, has denied and obfuscated the scale of the problem much like the Japanese government with Fukushima.

Groups like Ms. Lopez' Florida Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, NRDC and Friends of the Everglades have tried to use federal courts to bring polluters to justice.

These issues -- of regulatory failure -- are critical to the question; who will Florida choose to be the next president of the United States? Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Voters also have a choice with state leaders, so we don't have the earth pulled out from under our feet.

The Two Best Investigative Reporters on Issues Important to Me. By Geniusofdespair

Of course, Carol Marbin Miller is a genius at stories too painful for me to read. She writes about neglected adults and children in State care that are abused. There are very good Miami Herald and Nuevo Herald reporters I am glossing over. But Enrique Flor of El Nuevo Herald and Monique O. Madan of the Miami Herald top the list as investigative reporters on late breaking news that I like to read.

Enrique Flor

Enrique Flor was one of the last reporters recruited by the great Editor Manny Garcia (who since went to Naples and now is Executive Editor for USA Today network).  Manny taught his reporters well and did not stifle them like some of the Editors at the Herald now.

Brenda Medina also deserves credit for great reporting at El Nuevo Herald. She is to be commended for her follow-up. What a team El Nuevo Herald has!

Monique O. Madan
Monique O. Madan has been uncovering the dirt in South Miami Dade County. She is good with using her community sources. Monique can spot a story when she sees one. Young, but Monique seems to be on a straight road to success in a very difficult profession.

News today is determined not on its worthiness but by how many clicks of the mouse a story can get. Shameful. Well, that is how we bloggers do our posts sometimes, but the newspapers -- you would think that they operate at a higher standard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Florida Clean Water Activist Thrown Out Of Trump Rally For Doing ... Nothing ... by gimleteye

Yesterday, John G. Heim -- a well-known Southwest Florida clean water activist -- was singled out by security at a Trump rally and ejected. He wasn't carrying a sign. He wasn't doing anything. The event was caught on camera.

This is the same as racial profiling. This targeting profiled an environmentalist.

John Heim, on Facebook, states that local elected officials at the rally identified him, and that they alerted Trump security. Heim's county commissioners have refused to sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration calling for land acquisition from Big Sugar to solve the massive pollution caused by the industry's domination of water supply in south Florida, supported by best available science.

Voters should understand: when Donald Trump says there should be "mass ethnic profiling" to address the threat of domestic terrorism, he is really unleashing the wolves to attack dissent at every level. That's what happened to John Heim.

If you believe Trump is about making America great again, think again before what you think can get you arrested.

Peter Beach, guest blog: "Absolutely heartbreaking"

The following is reprinted from @pbeach on Instagram. Peter Beach is a Miami Beach-based photographer. Also, read our earlier post on NALED, the aerial poison being broadcast sprayed in Miami-Dade.

@pbeach> This is a Quaker parrot — thousands were imported into the U.S. from South America in the 80s. Flocks of these beautiful birds are routine all over Miami Beach.

Reports of widespread wildlife deaths have been recorded all over Miami Beach because of the continued low-altitude aerial carpet-bombing of densely-populated Miami Beach, using the deadly-to-every-living-thing, bio-hazardous neurotoxic poison Dibrom-Naled [similar in type and level of ecotoxicity to Agent Orange]

Absolutely heartbreaking.

Miami Beach is an eco-sensitive barrier island. Beyond the immediate wildlife losses, to be considered is the long-term damage to marine life [the beach is lined with Federally-protected sea turtle nests], children's developmental health and much more.

We are experiencing an environmental disaster in the making.

A third aerial spray occurred this morning, September 18th at 6:16am. The entire city was blanketed, east-to-west, in 3 passes over the urban population with a deadly poison - also confirmed beyond the designated spray zone.

There are local Facebook groups. Join them. Be part of the change you wish to see in the world.

Clean Up Miami Beach — 3629 members
Miami Awareness /SFPRC — 1279 members
No To Naled on Miami Beach — 346 members

The ONLY thing that allows me to lay my head on the pillow at night are the reassurances that there is legal action pending. #GovernorRickScott has a sordid, documented history of corruption, from racketeering to unconscionable environmental rape. Pure and simple, a criminal.

There exists a petition, to the United States Justice Department and the United States Attorney General, calling for his indictment. The man wants to run for the Senate when his term ends. Google it. Secure it. Sign it.

Donald Trump: Mangrove Hater. By Geniusofdespair

"Gimenez described the Trump proposal as a reasonable idea for the county to entertain"

Read more here:

Can you imagine cutting down a shoreline of mangroves from 20 feet high to 4 feet? Well, Donald Trump can. He was going to take our public golf course on Key Biscayne and weed-wack our mangroves lining the shore so golfers could get a nicer view. It was a deal-breaker according to an article today by Douglas Hanks in the Miami Herald. It was a deal that Carlos Gimenez cooked up much to the dismay of the County Commissioners. They killed it.  Hanks wrote of the deal:
The plan called for Trump to spend $10 million redoing the public course, in exchange for a 99-year management deal that would maintain the waterfront property as a county park but give the mogul’s golf empire control of tee times.

County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said of the deal:
“I wasn’t persuaded that there was an overall advantage,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “It would have put an investment into the park, but it would have made the park most likely inaccessible to more of our residents.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

County Commissioner Xavier Suarez is Thinking Straight on Transit. By Geniusofdespair

We voted for it, and then the county wasted the 2002 transit tax on traffic circles and  other dumb stuff by giving a big chunk of it to municipalities. In order to get cities on board, the county gave the cities a pot of gold from the money:

Part of the original rules for the transit tax call for a large chunk of the money to get transferred to cities and towns for their own transit needs. This year (2015), municipalities are set to receive just under 20 percent of the money, according to budget projections. That amounts to a $51 million transfer from the county to cities. (There was $272 Million).
This is stupid because the money has been going for road projects, curbs and other NON-TRANSIT costs. Finally, with traffic so bad, you can't even move on 95 at 2pm, someone is proposing doing something mass transit with the money: Xavier Suarez.

I think we are all confused on what we actually voted for, but none of what we thought we voted for ever happened. They did put together a watchdog group over the money: The Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust. They need a new Executive Director badly. It has been run poorly for so long in a log-jam, but the Chairman, Paul Schwiep has been very good and proactive. He is aware of the County's sleigh of hands, trying not to restore $40 million from the CITT budget.

Paul Schwiep said:
“Thanks to property value increases and substantial new development, funds are available in the current year’s budget cycle to restore as much as $40 million to the Transportation Trust.”
Why is the County Mayor Gimenez trying to steal that money from Transit Projects in his budget? "Don't steal our County Transit Dough Bro!"

Commissioner Suarez said today in the Miami Herald:
In the past 12 months, the Miami-Dade County Commission has achieved consensus on the SMART plan — six new rail corridors that are absolutely vital to our economic survival.

The Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit plan includes: an east-west connector along Kendall Drive; an east-west connector from downtown to 137th Ave.; a “Baylink” linking downtown to the Miami Beach Convention Center; a north corridor completing the existing MetroRail along Northwest 27th Avenue all the way to Hard Rock Stadium; a commuter train along the FEC tracks; and the “South Dade TransitWay” connecting Dadeland to Florida City.

Initially, the discussion was whether one of these should get priority over the others. Ultimately — after several, sometimes contentious, hearings — we have concluded that no one corridor can be left behind.

In the meantime, the issue of funding has been lurking in the background, causing residents to wonder whether we are overexaggerating the viability of a plan that some doubt will really happen in one generation.

It is important to note that three of the corridors already have components in progress (the Miami Beach segment of Baylink, the Brightline track that would be used by the northeast commuter train, and a trolley loop that connects Brickell to Southwest 37th Avenue, serving as the eastern-most component of the east-west connector). Therefore, what needs to be identified is immediate funding of the South Dade TransitWay and the North corridor.

At the first budget hearing, I proposed that the South Dade TransitWay and the North corridor be funded during the current fiscal year’s (2016-17) budget-approval process. These transit lines will serve two of the most deserving communities in the county. That funding can be put in place immediately. For both of these lines, there are no land acquisition issues; the county would build the tracks and provide the equipment; and the cities or the major businesses along each route would fund the construction of the stations.
Come on, I am so sick of these projects being put aside even when there are matching State funds promised in the amount of $40 Million. Why are we not pursuing Federal transit dollars? I guess Miami Dade County will be underwater by the time it gets any more rail.