Saturday, August 10, 2013

Watson, I presume? More on Related Group's Jorge Perez ... by gimleteye

In the Herald, it looked like one of those sober, face-saving events when big land deals involving elected officials and zoning changes go awry. The same Jorge Perez who dragged neighbors of Mercy Hospital through years of protracted conflict and litigation, is now "a very responsible citizen of Miami" who gave up a project because it would over-burden infrastructure.

In the case of Mercy Hospital, where Perez had the politics lined up, a majority of city commissioners loved the plan -- now scuttled -- to put multi-million dollar condos on the Coconut Grove waterfront. The highly unpopular Perez condo fizzled in the solvent of the housing crash, during a period when Perez' empire and status was teetering on an edge.

Perez survived because bankers from far away who funded over a billion in loans to Perez, icon of overdevelopment, decided he was too big to fail. But Perez never cared about "overburdening" public infrastructure. His entire fortune is based on shifting costs of traffic, water, wastewater, etc. to taxpayers. Why give up the formula for millions, now?

My sense is that there is more to the cancellation of the Watson Island overdevelopment. The reported antagonism the project engendered between Miami and Miami Beach was the ostensible rationale.

It had to be about business and profits, and my guess is that the costs to Perez had to outweigh the benefits. No Miami developer has ever flinched from putting more traffic onto overcrowded roadways. That's the rationale offered by the neat as a pin press conference featured in The Miami Herald. So what would those costs have included, that perhaps the attendees of the public/private press conference would not want to talk about?

I wonder if Perez had trouble insuring the project. Is the back story that sea level rise is finally braking the overdevelopment of coastal South Florida? That would be a good question for Herald reporters and Miami Today, to start asking.

Perhaps Perez' prospective insurers, or re-insurers, are paying attention and read UM chair of the Department of Geologic Science Dr. Harold Wanless' testimony on wastewater infrastructure issues and seal level rise, in the lawsuit by Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers in federal court: "By 2063, there is projected to be further sea level rise of 1.8 - 3.1 feet according to the most recent NOAA projects. With a further 1.5 - 2 feet of sea level rise there will be no natural Virginia Key left. This will happen within the net 32-53 years."

Watson, I presume?


Lynda Bell's Campaign Manager, Jose Luis Castillo gets Slap on the Wrist from Ethics.

 From Ethics Press Release:

The Commission on Ethics also approved a settlement agreement with two lobbyists accused of violating an ordinance in Cutler Bay requiring them to disclose all officials they contacted prior to a public hearing over a proposed shopping center in the town.  Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall filed the complaint (C 13-02) against the pair, Jose Luis Castillo (Lynda Bell's campaign Manager) and Juan Mayol, who registered as lobbyists, but failed to disclose in writing all contacts, which were reported by one council member.  Since the complaint was first filed and subsequent hearings were held on the development, Castillo and Mayol have submitted written disclosures of their lobbying activities and have complied with the ordinance.  As part of a settlement approved today, the two will not contest the charges, agreed to accept a Letter of Instruction and each pay a fine of $250.

Friday, August 09, 2013

DEEP THROAT! By Geniusofdespair

According to the Miami Herald DEEP THROAT is Palmetto Bay Lobbyist Michael Kesti. Palmetto Bay is bad boy town, it seems to be overshadowing dysfunctional Homestead since Lynda Bell got there.

On May 26, 2011, a South Florida lobbyist approached the FBI with a tip: He suspected that another lobbyist he knew was in bed with corrupt local politicians, and that they would be open to lining their pockets.

"The informant was brought on board to make introductions. He hooked up undercover FBI agents with the suspect lobbyist, Richard Candia, and set up meetings between them and Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi."

"Kesti has no criminal record. The FBI calls him a “reliable” informant who has been paid for his expenses and services to the agency, according to the criminal complaints charging Pizzi and Maroño with conspiring to commit extortion."

Is West Miami Commissioner Batshit Crazy? By Geniuofdespair

City of West Miami Commissioner/Vice Mayor, Juan Blanes, charged with battery of an 11 year old.

Incident occurred at the Rebecca Sosa Multi Purpose Facility (where Blanes serves as chairperson) at approximately 8pm.

This is not his first offense.

The following are some of the details as per 2 eye witnesses:

Version 1
Juan Blanes grabbed victim by the left shoulder of his sleeveless t-shirt. Blanes dragged victim by the wrist and pinned him against the wall yelling obscenities and scolding victim and ordering him to sit down. Victim began to cry yelling out for his friends to call the police and his father. Blanes released victim and the victim was able to call his father. The father arrived and asked Blanes who he thought he was grabbing his son. Blanes told him he was the commissioner. The father said he did not care who he was, he did not have the right to grab his son. The father left with victim to the City of West Miami police station to file a report. In the meantime many overheard Blanes calling the city manager and the mayor. The police arrived to question Blanes and children witnesses. It was said that Officer Delgado called the mayor to consult on how he should handle the situation.
         Version 2
Tempers flared Wednesday evening at the Recreation Center of the Rebeca Sosa Multi-Purpose Facility Building, 1700 SW 62 Avenue, West Miami, FL. As children were asked to leave at closing time, one 11-year-old using his hand to push open the metal bar handle on a glass exit door, made too much noise to suit entering Commissioner Juan M. Blanes, a full-time City of Miami Fire Department paramedic. According to eye witnesses, Blanes grabbed the child by the left shoulder of his sleeveless t-shirt accusing him of having kicked the door. Dragging the child by the wrists, he pinned the child against the wall yelling obscenities, scolding the child, and ordering him to sit down. The child began to cry and yelled out for his friends to call the police. Blanes released the child who immediately called his father.

The father, already on his way to pick up his son at the Rec Center, asked Blanes who he was and why he thought he had the authority to allegedly discipline his son. Blanes yelled out that he was a West Miami Commissioner. As the father and son left to file a report at the local City of West Miami Police Department, several eyewitnesses heard Blanes yell out that he was “calling my people,” the City Manager and the Mayor. City of West Miami Detective Pete Delgado was the first to arrive on the scene and he is also reported to have called the mayor to consult on “how to handle the situation.”

The father filed a report at the West Miami Police Department against Commissioner Blanes for battery on his son, but was persuaded not to press charges.
 One version said he was arrested the other version says no. If it is true that a grown man was physically abusing and yelling obscenities at an 11 year old is inexcusable. I don't care how rude the kid was. Charges should have been filed.

The Facebook Murder: Miami sets a new watermark ... by gimleteye

Just when you thought that the news couldn't get worse -- two Miami mayors nabbed in FBI corruption sting -- a Miami guy kills his wife and posts her battered photo on Facebook. Miami represents, with distinction, the outer edge of believe-ability. Get ready, "The drinking water made me do it."

Jose Fuentes: You must do a better job on picking your partners. By Geniusofdespair

Jose Fuentes
Don't think Jose Fuentes is a good judge of character. Recently arrested Lobbyist Richard Candia (in the Pizzi probe) was in the Fuentes Lobbyist firm, acquired by Becker & Poliakoff.

One of Jose Fuentes previous partners was Frank Bernadino.  In 2005 the twosome opened the WREN Group, whose clients often had a stake in issues involving water or development.

Gimleteye had this to say about Frank Bernadino:
Frank Bernadino, the Fanjuls’ chief environmental lobbyist, is an unsavory character. In 1993, Bernadino was convicted of one count of sexual assault on a minor under 12 years of age, one count of sexual assault on a minor under 18 years of age, and one count of a lewd act on a victim under 16 years of age. He was held on $30,000 bond and was on parole from 1993-2000. In 2001, the court ordered his name removed from the sex offender list.

But in 2010, the federal government indicted Bernadino on 36 counts stemming from allegations of mail fraud, bribery and money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 715 years in prison and $11.5 million in fines. The federal government intends to seek forfeiture of $143,500, an amount alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses.  (In 2011, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan found that the government had not shown criminal intent on Bernardino's behalf and threw out the charges.)

As for Becker & Poliakoff, just to compound a string of shitty decisions 1.) their entire Government Relations Team is said to have quit in February 2.) Replaced GR team with Fuentes & Candia. Now, word is, Becker & Poliakoff just hired Matt Pinzur.

From the Becker & Poliakoff website, Jose Fuentes left. You know that middle guy I would hope.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Billionaire Stephen Ross Certainly Doesn't Have the Pulse of THIS Community. By Geniusofdespair

Public Funding:“We’ll continue to pursue it.” - Stephen Ross, Dolphins

Stephen Ross, multi-billionaire owner of the Dolphins, poised to invest in U.S. Century bank STILL wants public dollars for his stadium. Hasn't he read the newspaper? Doesn't he know what is going on with Gimenez and the budget? How about we take some of that tourist tax money and spend it on libraries? Making tourists smarter is a great goal. Ross take your U.S. Century money and invest in your own damn team.

On another note, read Miami Today on Genting Casino gambling. It is an eye-opener:
Visitors are back from a disastrous Las Vegas recessionary slide. But those returning spend far less on gambling. Before the recession, the Times says, the average Vegas visitor put aside $650 for gambling; it's now down to $480. Ask yourself if even $650 a head would be the windfall that Miami would want in selling out to gambling. Really, is that all there is?
Will that 26% loss of gambling spending per person slide to even bigger losses as habits shift? An economic researcher in Las Vegas said he sees a permanent slide.
As the Times paints the picture, gambling is far less important to Las Vegas today than entertainment, clubs, shopping and dining — all of which are already strengths in Miami. Just because Las Vegas is edging into our model doesn't mean we should pick up their role, burdening ourselves with casinos. We're doing just fine with our own brand — and bringing in visitors who spend far more than Vegas averages.

Corruption charges against two South Florida mayors, one -- president of the state-wide League of Cities ... by gimleteye

Reader's Comment: What it says to residents and especially activists and volunteers trying to make this a better place for all - whether you are fighting for restoring the Everglades, preserving libraries or the arts or better medical care- is YOU DON'T HAVE A CHANCE. All these guys care about is power and the money. They have ruined democracy for everyone.

It is no revelation that the GOP in Congress has blocked campaign finance reform or that the permanent incumbency benefits both political parties or that the Bush Supreme Court's Citizens United decision officially sanctioned massive PAC activity masking as independent expenditures when really supporting candidates.

The appearance of propriety, of upstanding, moral superiority by these thieves of democracy created a more toxic atmosphere in today's politics than at any time in history. It is fed by special interest baiting by highly paid commentators on advertising-driven television "news". If there is any daylight or hope, I don't know where it is.

A mayor of Miami Lakes -- Michael Pizzi had been the number one ranked student at the University of Miami Law School -- is nabbed in a corruption sting; allegedly making recorded statements to the FBI expressing concern for the public interest while taking cash under the table. Pizzi wasn't hooked in the major corruption involving ports and airports or land use zoning. The FBI was trolling at the margins -- a fake AmeriCorps governmental grant process. It is subtle but important point.

Pizzi was an outsider in the "club" of well known politicians -- many long-time incumbents -- who do business the old fashioned way. Pizzi wasn't like the Sweetwater mayor Morono, who is charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. He only, allegedly, took down $6000.

Sweetwater is one of those areas in Miami-Dade where former Everglades wetlands are prime targets for developers. Where Miami Lakes has largely been picked over, through moving the Urban Development Boundary in the late 2000's by the Graham Companies, Sweetwater is a profit center for the Growth Machine and its enablers, the Great Destroyers. Its lower middle class demographics are fit to connect-the-dots, cookie-cutter production housing.

The lobbyists for the Miami Lakes urban development boundary move (Sergio Pino, Raul Martinez, and Armando Codina sat in the front row of the county commission zoning hearing) never had much use for Michael Pizzi. At the time, Pizzi represented neighbors of rock mines against the disruption of lives and property values by routine blasting of lime rock near their homes.

Pizzi was a populist and, in office, a pragmatist "outsider".

An unintended consequence of the FBI sting is the lesson to the "insiders": it doesn't pay to be in politics at the edges. Swim in the middle of the stream: it is safer there.

The backdrop of this political corruption tale is what is simultaneously happening Lake Okeechobee, the diseased, liquid heart of Florida. After a season of extreme rainfall (itself a consequence of the awful politics of global warming), Florida's largest lake is gushing geysers of polluted water into fresh water estuaries on both coasts. This has been going on since the 1930's, when the dike around Okeechobee was built to protect cities and agriculture. But it is the campaign contributions of one of the most highly subsidized commodities in the U.S., Big Sugar, that is chiefly responsible for the water management system including using the Lake as its cesspool that has put billions in economic value at risk.

Thousands of Floridians are protesting in Martin and Palm Beach counties. We need more help. Much more help. Where is that help going to come from?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Pizzi Criminal Complaint has a lot of conflicting statements. By Geniusofdespair

From the Criminal Complaint Against Mayor Michael Pizzi

Read the ENTIRE FBI complaint in the post below.

Two South Florida Mayors nailed by FBI in corruption sting ... by gimleteye

About the public corruption sting that netted Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and the Sweetwater Mayor yesterday ...

For years, I have been among the strong, public advocates for FBI involvement in targeting stings at South Florida politicians who trade pay-to-play with lobbyists and private businesses that dominate the political landscape, transforming democracy into a pale shadow.

Most political corruption in Miami-Dade involves zoning deals, and those are the hardest cases for the FBI to make because of the insular nature of transactions.

Pizzi isn't accused of a land deal/ zoning change fix. According to allegations in the federal criminal complaint, Pizzi fell for a sting operation around the administration of government grants. Compared to charges in the simultaneous bust of the mayor of Sweetwater, the mayor of Miami Lakes apparently went cheap.

The law doesn't differentiate: six thousand or a million, when you are caught, and if allegations stand the test of court, you pay the price.

I've known Michael Pizzi for many years. He has been a stalwart ally on issues like protecting the urban development boundary and neighbors of rock mines -- incurring the wrath of developers, rock miners and their elected proxies -- and he was a visible leader in the recall of the single county commissioner who dominated the political landscape governing environmental regulations and zoning related issues for years, Hialeah's discredited Natacha Seijas.

Make no mistake: I hope the FBI doubles-down in South Florida. Setting up stings is difficult work. Note the absence of the Miami Dade state attorney's office, over the years. The main corruption in Miami-Dade involves characters whose loyalty to the code of silence assures no daylight enters unless investigators are extraordinarily resourceful. The big dollars -- not the $6000 Pizzi is charged with taking from the sting -- involve land use decisions and wealthy investors who are protected by layers of allegiances and history.

It's a club, the kind that involves public transactions that create vast wealth from exploiting open space, farmland and wetlands. Who knows the cash that traded under the table between lobbyists and politicians in order to secure favorable zoning votes from corrupt politicians? Millions and millions over the years. It is relevant. Michael Pizzi was never part of that gang. According to the criminal complaint, he apparently was hooked at the marginal edge of government business.

Whether it is just a matter of character or of a perverse survival-of-the-fittest in public life, where fittest is defined as what is worst for the public interest, these arrests ought to draw attention to a deeply flawed campaign finance system where monied interests know, rules are easily broken. I am sure that today a hushed silence prevails in County Hall until a game plan is devised to declare appropriate outrage. Mostly I am saddened.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Criminal Complaint: Michael Pizzi Caught in a Sting. By Geniusofdespair

Richard Candia Becker & Poliakoff Lobbyist - First Bernadino now Candia, You know how to pick them Jose Fuentes
 Sounds like Richard Candia is a slime and it sure sounds like he set up Pizzi.

 Criminal+Complaint+Michael+Pizzi+and+Richard+Candia 2


Mayors Michael Pizzi and Manuel Marono arrested for Bribery by the FBI. By Geniusofdespair

Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi
Both were arrested related to bribes on Government contracts in their towns.  Two Lobbyists were also arrested according to the Miami Herald.  I would give my right arm to know the names of the two lobbyists also arrested. Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño is the President of the League of Cities...I guess that is over. Rick Scott is suspending the two Mayors.

Magic City, gone? ... by gimleteye

The Coconut Grove Grapevine alerts that "Magic City", the Starz channel drama set in Miami, is closing after the conclusion of its second season. Too bad.

I'm a picky TV viewer, spoiled by long form dramas. The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad, and Homeland.

In its first episodes, "Magic City" characters seemed cartoonish, like other B list cable TV dramas. I'll give cartoonish characters a break (ie. Spartacus, Rome) from time to time. The problem with "Magic City" was, in part, familiarity. We have enough cartoonish characters roaming on Miami news or on this blog.

A friend recommended the second season. The bottom line: like AMC's "The Killing", "Magic City" was finding its footing as it went along.

That's dangerous for a TV series especially one with high production values and time-period costs. In season two of "Magic City", the cartoonish aspects of character/s began evolved in promising ways.

Danny Huston who played Ben Diamond turned a boring and bored mobster in season one into a riveting psychopath in season two. That's what you come back, for. The lead actors also began to find their stride, albeit in fits and starts. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike Evans was, in season one, cardboard. In season two, he found breadth. (And I didn't cringe every time he lit a cigarette.)

With some long form dramas, channel executives take a leap of faith as writing talent finds the beats in character and story. We don't mind melodramas so long as they are interesting ones.

I hoped for more creativity with the office of the Miami-Dade district attorney. Don't we know it, at EOM. Matt Ross, who played the DA (and, brilliantly as the twisted son of a splinter Morman sect in "Big Love"), was cemented in a poorly written role. Too bad, because what he does -- suppressed and repressed rage -- he does as well as anyone.

The series began to do work with other plot lines, weaving in strands of early Castro history with Miami. In other words, there was daylight for "Magic City".

AMC's "The Killing" faltered in its second season but wisely was revived for its third. With "Magic City", a series that had found its way in its second season ought to find a third wind, too.

What is Rodney Barreto Up To? By Geniusofdespair

The South Florida Business Journal reported in May: "Several lawsuits on behalf of minority shareholders allege that current and former directors of U.S. Century Bank mismanaged the bank and allowed excessive insider transactions that depleted its capital. They argue that the insider transactions contributed to the losses at the bank. The former directors and the bank are disputing the lawsuit, which is in mediation." Looks like it is not in mediation anymore - back to a lawsuit as of July 19th. There is a notice of hearing on motions 8/13/2013. On the docket, 7/3/2013 they called this a class action complaint.

According to the Business Journal:
The Doral-based bank paid $3.44 million in insider transactions in 2012, according to its annual financial statement distributed to shareholders. Most of that was for leases at branches and offices owned by former directors Sergio Pino, Armando Guerra and Agustin Herran. Of the $5.78 million the bank spent on leases in 2012, about 54 percent went to companies controlled by former directors.
Guerra and Rodney Barreto, who led the failed effort to bring the Super Bowl to South Florida, had a combined $42.6 million in loans with the bank. Of that $21.5 million was impaired and had an associated loan loss reserve of $1.2 million set aside.

Miami New Times: on front page of New York Times ... by gimleteye

When was the last time journalism from a free weekly newspaper was cited on the front page of the New York Times? I'm not sure it ever happened before. Credit the nation's most important daily newspaper for singling out Miami New Times, for disclosing the A-Rod juicing story. EOM sent a high five to New Times when the story first popped, and here's another. Plus, a wish that New Times would spend more time tilling the dirt in Miami-Dade and less space on the odd, curiosities and fake gold leaf of Miami. The results won't get the front page of the New York Times, but the tradition of setting journalists to investigative reporting does have a respected place at Miami New Times. A-Rod is taking it on the chin and will live with the consequences for the rest of his life, but the context IS the Magic City.

With The Flap About Library Funding I Decided to Reprint This Blast From The Past Photo of Lynda Bell. By Geniusofdespair

Blast from the past photo of Lynda Bell - Note her choice of her favorite book.
To Our Residents of Miami-Dade County: (written by library Employee 251)

Two recent memos from the Miami-Dade County Mayor's office describe the Miami-Dade library of the future without librarians. The buildings are to evolve into technology centers, homework centers, or anything without the name "library."

What is needed is the reinstatement of the library special taxing district’s 2010-2011 tax millage, which adequately funded the entire network spanning Homestead to Aventura, Key Biscayne to West Kendall.

In 2011, the Mayor and BCC directed the library to operate on 1/2 millage and 1/2 saved reserves for two years. The reserves were to be used for renovations of buildings such as Coral Reef, Miami Lakes, Homestead and Kendall Branches. The implied promise was that the millage would be restored in 2013 so that the library would not be essentially bankrupted. That almost happened until the Mayor reversed course.

Prior to this millage cut of 2011, the library was financially healthy. The rest of the “county family,” however, totaled $250 million in the red. To ease the debt, the Mayor and BCC approved the movement of $11.7 million from the library’s special taxing district (which doesn’t collect from Hialeah, N. Miami, NMB, Miami Shores, Bal Harbour Village, Bay Harbor and Surfside) to a general fund’s Dept. of Cultural Affairs. The money was not to be used for grants outside of the library’s taxing district.

According to the two memos, half of the trained staff and half of the network of libraries are removed or retooled for MDPLS to be "sustainable" for next three years with an annual budget of $28 million.

With seven Commissioners and the Mayor dead-ending conversations with "No tax increase" there have been no answers except for the radical disassembling of 40 years of work and neighborhood cooperative sharing.

Something is missing and it's one group of stakeholders. The professional librarians were not asked how to fill in a $24 million gap left by this situation. So, we wish to offer this to everyone for an honest discussion. We wish to change the dialog from the destruction of resources to the downsizing and streamlining of county services within the allotted budget.

To raise immediate funds for the library, (which even considers the drop of carryover revenue over year two and three,) here are several suggestions:

1- Savings $2 million: Delay the opening of the Northeast Library located in Aventura from the 2nd quarter until October 1, 2014, to save $540,000 in salaries though it should be close to $2 million for operating expenses.

2- Savings $10.761 million: Take over 311 operations and the administrative support to the library to operate. The library is an information portal for the county. The trained library staff are positioned to answer any reference question. Promoting 311 along with library services encourages greater use. We will use the same computer software to help people who physically walk in. You can get 311 face to face. The public is able to meet the person doing the follow up and getting the answer. MDPLS already helps connect citizens with local, state, and federal government online thousands of times a day. Taxpayers save money because we do not need an expensive call center. Political campaigns and telemarketers have moved away from call centers for years. If campaigns and telemarketers use simple software so workers can field calls from home then library staff can do the same from any branch in the county. Why are we operating a huge call center when the same type of political campaigns county officials use to get elected are steadily discarding the call center model?

3- Savings approximately $5 million. Per affirmation from the two unions, furlough a majority of staff for the month of December, statistically the slowest in usage. Currently all staff take eight furlough days. Add 12 during the holidays to allow staff to be hired by retail establishments looking for temp workers. All staff get to spend the holidays with family and friends. Schedule major maintenance projects during this period. The message to the community is that staff are willing to pay this high price to work in an intact library system. Compiling furlough days to create a dark period has been implemented in other library systems.

4- Savings $5.1 million. Exit the county's lease to MDPLS for the Main Library building and move administration and collections amongst Regional branches. The two other Cultural Center’s tenants, History Miami and MAM, were charged rent that was either returned via a grant from the Dept. of Cultural Affairs or not charged rent at all. Since this appears to be a shifting of dollars from a special taxing district to the general county fund, MDPLS benefits from vacating the premises located next to County Hall. This amount has been 20% of the current millage allotment to MDPLS.

5- Savings $500,000. Reduce GSA/ Internal Services Dept. fees accordingly to match the decreased amount of millage. Currently it is scaled to a larger millage amount from previous fiscal years.

6- Earnings $2.00 / transaction. Place ATM machines at branch locations.

7- In the name of fairness, return the $11.7 million taken from Library reserves for the Department of Cultural Affairs in 2010-11. We won’t even mention the lost interest on that amount.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Sugar and Farm Runoff Leave a Stench in the Rest of Florida. By Geniusofdespair

Indian River Lagoon: This is not OK!!!

From TCPalm:

Researchers like Dr. Brian LaPointe at the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute said the algae could be floating around for awhile.

"Once the problem is here it's very difficult to deal with it in this environment," said La Pointe.

Researchers said other chemicals can be dumped in the water to deal with the algae, but it could be just as harmful to the environment.

"These blooms are harmful and that's why we call them harmful algae blooms," said LaPointe.

The longer the "green goo" remains in the water, LaPointe estimates the public could start seeing more and more dead fish or plant life and more cases of people reporting injuries from being too close to the algae.

Sport fishermen like Klarmann worry the situation could impact the local economy.

"A lot of people around here depend on fishing because they're captains and run charters. They don't want to take clients out in green sludge. I wouldn't want to take a client out in green sludge," said Klarmann.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said while it is aware of the toxic algae bloom, it has no plans to stop the discharge. Engineers said water levels at Lake Okeechobee remain critically high.

The algae sometimes produces toxins that can cause a variety of health problems:

Flulike symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if it’s swallowed.
Skin irritations, hives, blisters and rashes from skin contact through swimming or wading.
Hay fever-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, sore throat and congestion if inhaled.

Until people start raising the roof, this will just keep happening.

Commissioner Sally Heyman: No Competition? By Geniusofdespair

While Lynda Bell has raised $120,075 for her campaign and Jean Monestime $102,715 for his, Sally Heyman has raised $6,000.  She is popular in her district and gives us some pretty good votes on the Commission. She is one of our more liberal Commissioners, representing one of the more liberal districts in Miami Dade County: District 4.

Heyman only has 4 $500 donations, most come from lawyers.  Sally is in a unique position. Most of her district is comprised of cities so the developers have to go to the cities not to her for favorable changes -- unless it is a DRI development. Anyway, even thought it is incredibly early in the race (over a year away) barring some sort of extraordinary circumstances, I think she will run unopposed.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Absurd Even By Miami Standards: Natacha Seijas Co-Wrote an Anti-Bullying Book. By Geniusofdespair

The biggest bully of them all, Former County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, writes a book with Lawyer Stephen Cody on anti-bullying. She didn't just bully the public, she even bullied the Chair of the County Commission that led to a criminal investigation.
Excerpt of a Criminal Investigation dated 1/12/2004.
Why not a book about not taking steroids co-written by Alex Rodriguez next Stephen?

This gets our "Believe it or Not" label.

Big Sugar Billionaires slammed again ... by gimleteye

Irony fails to describe the effect and coincidence of the latest Big Sugar charm offensive claiming environmentalists' support. Still, one wonders if God means to joke gullible taxpayers and voters by the timing of Big Rainfall this year with Big Sugar's mass mailers and green-washing. Joke or vengeful: Florida's water management system designed to protect Big Sugar's prerogatives and wealth, blessed by politicians of every stripe, is wreaking havoc on downstream coastal communities. And it's not for the first time. Far from it.

Dining off gold plates, the Big Sugar Billionaires grace us with, "we are all in this together." And under their breaths, swearing at the impudence of protesters, "Let them eat cake".

Just to the north of Miami-Dade County, the disgusting water pouring out of the St. Lucie estuary has every politician who has taken money from Big Sugar scurrying for a rock to hide under. (Do Miami-Dade voters pay attention to what's happening outside the county? The argument can be made, voters don't even care what happens inside the county, unless it is a national election.) No one and no agency -- not the US Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District -- wants to take responsibility for what is happening with pollution flooding out of the Lake. In other words, it has as it always been: people pay, Big Sugar profits.

Big Sugar destroys the Everglades, destroys democracy and destroys public health. That's a simple message for the thousands of people who are rallying in protest over the filthy water rushing out of Lake Okeechobee.

Understand that Big Sugar's strategy is not to fix what's wrong. They are free to do with their property what they want, even when it means driving down the value of everyone else's that is exposed to their run-off, and in particular what they want is to make acquisition of their property more expensive -- as expensive as they possibly can -- until their time on earth runs out and the plan defaults to the next line of shareholders.

A recent Stuart News editorial doesn't go that far, but given the heavy-handed influence of Big Sugar in the Florida media, it is always refreshing to read the plain case:

"Wanted: New generation of politicians untethered, financially, from Big Sugar

The seeming hypocrisy is infuriating.

Big Sugar has been one of the biggest impediments to the creation of the best viable, long-term solution to the discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. That solution? A flow-way south of the lake to carry water into and through the Everglades to Florida Bay.

That solution would be as close to the way Mother Nature had it plumbed before people messed it up.

Not only does Big Sugar own and control huge tracts of land in the Everglades Agriculture Area south of Lake O — land necessary to create a flow-way — it also receives federal price supports, quota and tariffs that artificially prop up sugar prices.

Big Sugar greases the skids of this process by actively contributing to the election campaigns of political candidates and incumbents in Congress. Then, when price supports, quotas and tariffs come up for a vote, our elected officials are more than willing to do the bidding for Big Sugar.

Recently, when an effort was made in the U.S. House to limit the sugar program, only three of
Florida’s 27 House members voted to enact the limitations. The amendment died, 206-221. Both U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat, helped kill a comparable amendment in the Senate.

Not surprisingly, all but two members of the state’s U.S. House delegation have taken sugar campaign money since 2007. (Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, is a member of this small minority, yet he has not ruled out taking donations in the future.) Both Nelson and Rubio have accepted political donations from Big Sugar.

Coincidence? Hardly.

The relationship between Big Sugar and politicians gives the appearance of a quid pro quo — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

At the state legislative level, many political candidates and incumbents are more than willing to accept donations from the sugar industry.

At least $57,750 of the millions of dollars donated last year by U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals Corp. and their subsidiaries went directly to the campaigns of legislative candidates from Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, according to a report by Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. Additionally, the sugar industry gave $728,500 to political committees associated with Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who represent parts of the Treasure Coast.

WANTED: a new generation of state and federal lawmakers willing to reject political contributions from the sugar industry.

We ask again: Who will be the first politician in our region to hold a press conference and announce he/she is rejecting any and all contributions from Big Sugar? We’ll be watching. We hope readers will, too.

It’s worth noting Martin County’s Democratic Executive Committee announced recently it will no longer support or endorse state legislative, county commission or other local candidates who have accepted campaign donations from the sugar industry. The committee’s view is welcome, yet it rarely .elds a full slate of candidates.

Ultimately, we — the voters — bear the responsibility for charting a new course. As long as we continue returning elected officials to office who accept political contributions from Big Sugar, we will continue getting what we always have gotten: Huge volumes on polluted water in our river, estuary and lagoon."