<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - Miami Political News and South Florida Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:22:27 -0400 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:22:27 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Curbelo Wins District 26 GOP Primary]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:35:12 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/curbelo082614.jpg

Carlos Curbelo easily won the District 26 Republican nomination to face incumbent U.S. Representative Joe Garcia in November.

Curbelo, who received an endorsement last week from former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, won 52.11 percent of the vote with 167 of 192 precincts reporting. He was followed by Joe Martinez at 19.7 percent and Ed MacDougall at 17.2 percent.

Met by cheering friends and family, curbelo walked into his victory celebration promising to clean up politics in congressional district 26, describing a circus-like environment plagued with scandals.

"For too long, our district has been the victim of scandal, absentee ballot fraud, straw candidates," said Curbelo. "In short, a political circus that has damaged our image."

The district has seen a former congressman and the current representative embroiled in controversy.

Former Representative David Rivera is accused of being involved in federal finance scheme that has led to guilty pleas for two people, one a close associate of Rivera's. An absentee ballot controversy has also clouded the term of current representative, Democrat Joe Garcia.

Curbelo and Garcia wasted no time before taking swipes at each other Tuesday night.

"We don’t need someone like Carlos Curbelo — a lobbyist who refuses to disclose his big money clients and is only looking out for his own political interests," Garcia said in a statement after Tuesday's election.

Curbelo fired back, "Joe Garcia is one of the most corrupt members of Congress. I'm not surprised by any of his attacks."

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Voter's Guide to the Primaries]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 09:43:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050911+miami-dade+voting+generic.jpg

Florida's primary election is Tuesday, with Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich facing off to see who will go up against Gov. Rick Scott in November.

Many are worried voters won't show up to the polls. While about 1.2 millions residents are registered to vote, only an 18 percent turnout is expected.

Elections officials said about 117,000 Miami-Dade residents have already voted either absentee or early, and another 100,000 are expected to vote Tuesday. In Broward, only 20,000 have cast early or absentee votes so far.

On this year's ballot, in addition to the the Democratic gubernatioral primary: The 1,000-foot SkyRise Miami tower, Miami Beach term limits and other municipal issues.

The SkyRise Miami tower, which would include obvservation decks, a restaurant and a thrill ride, would extend the City of Miami's lease with Bayside Marketplace for another 99 years and bring in millions in revenue to the city. But, many worry about the size of the structure and it's placement on public property.

Meanwhile, the democratic gubernatorial primary is getting its own attention as lifelong democrat Nan Rich runs against party novice Charlie Crist, who is the favorite to win. Crist, a former Republican turned Independent turned Democrat, is trying to win back the seat he gave up in 2010.

"Everyone is assuming he has got it," said Charles Zelden, a political science professor at Nova Southeastern University. "If that is the case, a lot of people who are going to vote for him just may not show up to vote, and Nan Rich's supporters are rabidly, strongly in support of her."

Former congressman David Rivera is also running once again for his old seat in west Miami-Dade county, even though he is currently involved in a federal campaign finance fraud investigation. School Board member Carlos Curbelo is expected to win that election.

Among other municipal items on the ballot: Miami Beach residents will decide if term limits should be adjusted; North Miami will choose a new mayor and Doral voters will decide if a committee should be established to investigate crimes by elected city officials.

"I think the big story for tomorrow is going to be: 'Where are the voters, why didn't they show up?'" Zelden said. "I think the apathy has to do with the nature of the election and also the negative nature of the elections."

More than 500 polling locations will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For a complete list, visit MiamiDade.gov/Elections.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Perry in NH: Charges All Politics]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 23:03:05 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/edtAP259994489655.jpg

New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

"ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pizzi Goes to Court Against Governor Scott]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 18:46:17 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081814+michael+pizzi.jpg

Former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi brought legal action against Governor Rick Scott Thursday seeking to force him to revoke the former mayor’s suspension from office.

Pizzi was suspended when public corruption charges were filed against him in federal court. Pizzi was acquitted of all of the public corruption charges last week and since then has been saying his suspension should be lifted and he should once again be mayor of Miami Lakes.

“What the Governor has done – suspend Michael Pizzi upon his arrest – the Governor must now undo – revoke the suspension upon Michael Pizzi’s acquittal,” the petition for the writ to the Florida Supreme Court states.

The petition for a writ of mandamus filed by Pizzi’s attorney Thursday asked for expedited treatment of the complaint “in light of the continued, unjustified deprivation of Michael Pizzi’s right to have his suspension revoked ‘forthwith.’”

In the filing, Pizzi’s attorney said under the Florida Constitution, specifically Article IV, Section 7 (c), Governor Scott has no choice but to lift the suspension of the former mayor since he was acquitted on all of the charges.

“When a municipal official is acquitted of all charges that form the basis of a gubernatorial suspension pursuant to the Florida Constitution and Florida law, the Governor shall forthwith revoke the suspension,” the petition for the writ stated. “This directive is mandatory and ministerial, allowing no discretion to the Governor to refuse or delay the revocation of the suspension.”

The petition also referred to Pizzi as “the duly elected Mayor of the Town of Miami Lakes.” That point is disputed by the current Mayor of Miami Lakes, Wayne Slayton.

Slayton was elected in a 2013 special election while Pizzi was suspended and under the federal indictment. When Scott was asked about the dispute last week, he said, “Miami Lakes already had an election and so they have a mayor now. So there is no place to reinstate him to.”

Slayton’s term doesn’t end until 2016 and he said he has “no intentions of resigning.”

The filing of the petition doesn't address whether Pizzi should be re-instated to the job of mayor.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida

Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Staffer in Chicken Suit Faces Charges After Clucking at NH Governor, Senator]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:25:01 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/zona+chicken+suit.jpg

A GOP state committee staff member has been charged with disorderly conduct after heckling New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan at this past Saturday's Old Home Day parade.

Michael Zona, of Manchester, was dressed in a chicken suit when he began to interfere with the parade, reports The Eagle-Tribune.

The 23-year-old allegedly ran out into the parade route toward Shaheen and Hassan, clucking at them.
"I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view. I wasn't bothering anyone. I wasn't disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route," said Zona in response to the incident.
Zona was escorted from the parade after failing to comply with numerous requests to stop. 
“At one point, the governor had to take a few steps back toward her security staff,” Detective Christopher Olson told The Eagle-Tribune.
Julia McClain of the New Hampshire Democratic Party used the incident to blast the state Republicans, saying the party "wastes taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter--like raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and protecting social security and Medicare for our state's seniors."

Photo Credit: Twitter: John DiStaso]]>
<![CDATA[Romney Campaigns for Carlos Curbelo]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:26:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/romneycurbelo.jpg

Former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney came to South Florida Monday to help the Congressional campaign of Republican Carlos Curbelo.

“I am here to do one thing; and that is to officially endorse Carlos,” Romney told a crowd of supporters. “This is the kind of person, not just a career politician, but the kind of person who has lived a real life, in a real community, is a real dad; this is the kind of person I think that Washington needs.”

Romney spent part of the day on a tour of Vicky Bakery, one of the hundreds of small businesses in the heart of District 26. The district spans from Kendall south down to Key West and includes parts of southwest Florida too.

The district is currently represented by Democrat Joe Garcia. Democratic supporters staged a protest outside of the bakery telling Curbelo to avoid what the protesters called Romney-like Republican policies.

“We are here to let him know that we do not agree, that Romney lost in 2012 in Miami-Dade County big and if he goes with those same policies; he will lose too,” said Juan Carlos Cuba of the Miami-Dade Democrats.

Florida’s 26th Congressional District has seen a fair share of controversy and scandal over the past few years. Former Representative David Rivera is currently under a federal investigation. Current Representative Joe Garcia has been plagued by an absentee ballot controversy.

Curbelo said he promises to be scandal free, without controversy, and a change for the better.

“I decided to get up off my couch and run for Congress because I think we deserve better,” Curbelo said. “Governor Romney know we deserve better.

<![CDATA[NYC Council Speaker Tweets About HPV Diagnosis, Urges Annual Check-Ups]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:34:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/MarkViverito.jpg

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced via Twitter Sunday that she had "high-risk HPV" in an effort to boost awareness about the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country and encourage women to have regular gynecological exams.

In a series of tweets, Mark-Viverito divulged that she learned Friday she had the infection, and that she hadn't been to a gynecologist in two years prior to her most recent visit.

"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV". #Biopsy needed #ASAP," she tweeted.

"Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer."

Mark-Viverito, 45, tweeted that she is "an extremely private person," but that her position has given her a platform -- and a responsibility to use it.

"Our health should never be compromised," she tweeted. "Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many."

Mayor de Blasio called Mark-Viverito's decision to share her experience "brave" and "exemplary."

About 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and another 14 million contract it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can get it once they become sexually active, and nearly half of the new infections each year occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the New York City Health Department.

Most people who get HPV have no symptoms of infection. Each year, about 12,000 women diagnosed with HPV nationwide develop cervical cancer, the most common cancer associated with the infection, and about 4,000 of them die from it.

To learn more about HPV treatment and prevention, including a vaccine, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida

Photo Credit: McMullan/Sipa USA]]>
<![CDATA[Former Vt. U.S. Sen. Jeffords Dead at 80]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:57:40 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/James+Jeffords.jpg

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., died Monday at Knollwood, a military retirement home in Washington, D.C., a former aide said. He was 80.

A navy veteran, Jeffords made a name in politics as a state senator and attorney general before he was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House, once splitting with his fellow Republicans in opposing a President Reagan tax cut plan. Vermonters voted him into the Senate in 1988, where he was a champion for environmental causes.

The moderate, even liberal, Republican shocked Washington in 2001 when he said the GOP had drifted too far to the right for him. He quit the party, became an independent, and caucused with democrats.

“I am confident it is the right decision,” Jeffords said upon making his famous “jump.” “I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it.”

Jeffords announced in 2005 he would not seek re-election the next year, citing declining health.

"I think we have to bring back people like Jim Jeffords, who say running for office is really a form of public service," former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin said Monday.

Kunin remembered Jeffords as a good-hearted guy who just wanted to do what he thought was right; not tow some party line. "The comparison is rather painful, where we now have a Congress that prides itself on doing nothing, where in those days, people really went there to get things done and to improve the lives of the public," Kunin said.

"He's going to be very sorely missed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was in the U.S. House when Jeffords was in the Senate. "He was a guy who, I think, much preferred to be around Vermonters here in Vermont than among the big shots in Washington. It wasn't who he was."

Tom Vogelmann, the University of Vermont's agriculture and life sciences dean, told New England Cable News he thinks of Jeffords as "one of the giants." The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is housed in the building that bears Jeffords' name.

"He was a very strong supporter of education, a very strong supporter of environmental legislation, and that's the curriculum that's basically taught in this building," Vogelmann told NECN. "So we have thousands of young people who are training here and that's all adding to his legacy."

Reflections on the life and legacy of Jim Jeffords poured in Monday. Here are several of those:

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing. Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont. During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.

Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura. And we're grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jim Jeffords was a personal friend, a great senator, and a good man. He was not only beloved by the people of Vermont, but by anyone who ever worked with him. For the nearly four decades I served in the United States Senate, nearly half were spent with Jim as a colleague. Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about—and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue. Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems. Jill and I are saddened by his passing and join his family, friends, and his former staff in remembering all that he stood for: basic fairness and principled independence.

Former President Bill Clinton:

Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Senator Jim Jeffords, who served the people of Vermont and the United States for more than 30 years. Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment, and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends across the country.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:

He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.:

I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.

And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives. I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.:

I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country. Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country. We need more like Senator Jeffords. My heart goes out to his children and extended family.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.:

The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Mayor Goes Back to Miami Lakes City Hall to Get Job Back]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:29:27 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081814+michael+pizzi.jpg

Former Miami Lakes mayor Michael Pizzi showed up at City Hall Monday to get his job back as current mayor Wayne Slayton said he plans on finishing his term.

"I'm going to go in there and very politely and respectfully ask that they follow the Constitution and allow me to return to office," Pizzi said.

Pizzi was allowed to enter city hall and met with the city manager behind closed doors but didn't get the result he'd like. He said his next step will likely be legal action.

Shortly before Pizzi arrived, Slayton held a news conference to announce that there were no open positions to fill.

"I was elected in a special election to fill out my term until 2016," Slayton said.

The drama began last week when Pizzi was acquitted of public corruption charges in federal court. He had been suspended by Gov. Rick Scott after he had been charged.

Scott's office released a statement saying Pizzi would not be reinstated.

Pizzi said he had squarely beaten Slayton when they ran against each other in a previous election.

"In every precinct he never got more than 30 percent of the vote, so he has no basis to be serving in that office," Pizzi said.

Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Two Men Claim the Job of Miami Lakes Mayor]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 23:16:11 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/michael+pizzi.jpg

Who is the mayor of the town of Miami Lakes? It’s a simple question without an easy answer.

Miami Lakes currently has a mayor in office, Wayne Slayton. He was elected in a special election when Mayor Michael Pizzi was suspended and under federal indictment.

After he was acquitted of all public corruption charges brought against him in federal court Thursday, suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi proclaimed that he had been reinstated to his old job by Gov. Rick Scott.

“The minute that acquittal came back, I became the mayor,” Pizzi said. “I consider myself the mayor right now.”

Pizzi cited Florida law in making his case to get his old job back: “If the municipal official is acquitted or found not guilty… then the Governor shall forthwith revoke the suspension and restore such municipal official to office.”

NBC 6 hasn't verified Pizzi's citation of the law as being correct.

“The governor really has no choice in this matter and there is really, as far as I am concerned, I’m the mayor right now under Florida law; it’s a non-issue,” Pizzi said.

While Pizzi believes Gov. Scott has only one choice to make, Scott doesn’t agree with Pizzi’s analysis.

“The Miami Lakes already had an election and so they have a mayor now,” Gov. Scott said Friday. “So there is no place to reinstate him too.”

Gov. Scott was referring to the town’s current mayor, Wayne Slayton. He indicated Friday that he is not stepping down, because he was elected while Pizzi was under a federal indictment. Slayton gave NBC 6 a statement that read:

“Pursuant to the special election in October 2013, the residents of Miami Lakes elected me to represent them as the mayor of our great town to serve until 2016. I have no intentions of resigning. I am not going anywhere. I am completely committed to the residents of Miami Lakes.”

Pizzi counters that he ran against Slayton two years ago and beat him with 70 percent of the vote. Pizzi told NBC 6 that he hopes to get the issue of his job straightened out and doesn’t want to go to court. However, he is adamant that he should be the mayor again when all is said and done.

<![CDATA[Jeb Bush Opposes Medical Marijuana Amendment]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 22:02:32 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/marijuana+generic.jpg

Medical marijuana supporters in Florida saw a powerful opponent step into the dispute Thursday when former Governor Jeb Bush came out against Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana.

Bush issued a statement detailing his opposition that said, "Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism, and a desirable place to raise a family or retire," according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The statement continued, “Allowing the large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

Bush’s opposition comes as he is contemplating a run for the presidency in 2016. His opposition to Amendment 2 is in line with Senator Marco Rubio, who has previously said he opposed the medical marijuana amendment.

The amendment will go to the voters in November’s election.

<![CDATA[Miami Lakes Mayor Acquitted by Federal Jury]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:53:22 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/michael+pizzi.jpg

Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has been acquitted of all public corruption charges brought against him in federal court.

Prosecutors said Pizzi allegedly received $5,000 in kickbacks for a Miami Lakes grant deal, but a federal jury disagreed when they delivered the not guilty verdict just before 4 p.m. Thursday.

Pizzi, 51, and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono were arrested in August of 2013 following an undercover FBI operation that also produced the arrests of lobbyists Richard Candia and Jorge Forte. Candia introduced Pizzi to undercover FBI agents to help implement the plan that paid the mayors thousands of dollars in bribes under a federal grant scheme, authorities said.

Pizzi was accused of backdating documents, misleading undercover agents and receiving cash payoffs in carrying out the scheme.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended Pizzi from office immediately after the arrest. Pizzi said later Thursday evening that Governor Scott has reinstated him to his office.

Governor Scott's office released a statement after Pizzi made his claim that read: "This is a local issue. A new mayor has been elected by the voters of Miami Lakes."

<![CDATA[Mayor Gimenez Holds Virtual Town Hall]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 19:47:11 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/gimenezvirtualtownhall.jpg

For one hour Wednesday, Facebook and Twitter became a direct link to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez as he hosted a virtual budget town hall meeting on social media.

Mayor Gimenez was expecting a litany of questions and a wide-range of opinions from voters who wanted to either learn more about the budget or vent their frustrations.

“Oh I am aware,” Mayor Gimenez said while laughing. “Yeah, I know that.”

Among the comments directed at the mayor:
“I’ve never heard so much ‘filler’ in my life.”
“Laying off 400 police and corrections? I will make sure you never get re-elected!!”
“There is a new recall effort being launched against you. How would the county pay for that?”

Mayor Gimenez did address the current contract stalemate between the county and the police union and insisted that employee salaries are not down.

“They “police” are no longer contributing four percent of their salary to healthcare one year and then the next year the other five percent that they contributed, so that’s nine percent right there that went back into their pockets,” Mayor Gimenez said. “County employees still get merit raises. They get longevity bonuses.”

Police union chief John Rivera said he remains completely committed to officers not conceding any salary and healthcare benefits back to the county.

“Every week I say morale can’t get any lower and man, I’m proven on,” Rivera said. “Morale is so bad in our department there’s officers that don’t even want to show up to work.”

The virtual town hall was manned by communications director Mike Hernandez who tried to consolidate the questions to give the mayor more time to expound on his answers.

“A lot of the issues here are very complex,” Mayor Gimenez said. “People have misconceptions about what we can and we can’t do. And you just can’t explain it in 20 seconds why you do a certain thing; why you can do a certain thing. So that particular format (social media) is great.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Ad Tries to Connect Pot With Date Rape]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 08:56:27 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/potdaterapead.jpg

The campaign against medical marijuana in Florida is in high gear as it tries to link easier access to pot to date rape in a new online ad campaign.

The website, "Vote no on 2," claims that if the medical marijuana bill is passed, teenagers will have easier access to pot. A Twitter picture then asks if the new face of date rape will look like a marijuana cookie.

“These are products that are very dangerous,” said Javi Correoso of Vote No on 2. “They are a lot more powerful than smoking a joint and they can lead to various serious situations and circumstances.”

Correoso said that “potentially” includes date rape. But Dr. Jorge Bordenave of Larkin Community Hospital insisted that Correoso is wrong.

"Right now, as we know, you can get pot anywhere, on the corners, kids get pot,” said Dr. Bordenave, who supports legalizing medical marijuana. "There has been no incidents of date rape with the pot they are smoking currently. So what they are saying is trying to scare the people; trying to lie to the people."

Other organizations like United for Care said there are plenty of benefits for patients with cancers, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments. Dr. Bordenave also pointed out that other legal vices are doing major damage.

“We have more people dying of alcohol, tobacco smoke than marijuana,” Bordenave said. “I did research recently; out of the 25 FDA approved drugs most commonly sold in the United States, in one year there were 10,000 deaths. There were no deaths from marijuana.”

Still, opponents say that the medical marijuana oil recently approved by the legislature is enough and there should be no smoking of marijuana allowed, despite any medical benefits.

“What Amendment 2 is is an amendment that has so many loopholes that it allows for marijuana to be used for non-medical reasons such as pot cookies and pot smoking,” Correoso said.

Voters will have the final say in November when the state constitutional amendment is on the ballot.

Photo Credit: Vote No on 2]]>
<![CDATA[Senator Nelson Heading to Ukraine]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 22:16:03 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Florida-Senator-Bill-Nelson.jpg

United States Senator Bill Nelson is set to travel to Ukraine as the war-torn country tries to fight off pro-Russian separatists fighting in the eastern part of the country. Senator Nelson will be visiting in his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Nelson is scheduled to leave for Ukraine later in the week, though specifics about the trip haven’t been released due to security concerns. His visit comes just a few weeks after a Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over the Ukrainian countryside.

Senator Nelson said the U.S. and NATO are supplying non-lethal military equipment to Ukrainian forces fighting the pro-Russian separatists. The U.S. and the European Union are also applying extra pressure to Russia through growing economic sanctions.

According to the Miami Herald, Nelson will meet with U.S. diplomats and NATO military officials along with visiting the Ukrainian government to express the support of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The trip is Nelson’s first trip to Ukraine.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Crist Campaign Gets Public Money Boost]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 19:48:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Money_Hand_Money_Generic.jpg

Former Gov. Charlie Crist is getting some help for his campaign from taxpayers.

Crist on Friday received nearly $616,000 in public matching funds. Former state senator Nan Rich has also received matching money. Both Crist and Rich are Democrats.

Candidates running for statewide office can qualify for matching money from taxpayers. The Republican-controlled Legislature tried to repeal public financing of campaigns, but voters defeated the amendment in 2010.

The amount of matching money each candidate receives is based on how much money is raised from Florida residents.

Some Republicans have labeled public financing "welfare for politicians."

Former Gov. Jeb Bush refused public money, as did Gov. Rick Scott in 2010. But other Republicans including Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are accepting the money.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Recall Effort for Mayor Carlos Gimenez]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:08:15 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/070611+carlos+gimenez.jpg

A new effort to recall Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez officially started Monday. The recall effort is being led by retired Miami-Dade firefighter Jack Garcia, who lost his son in a boating accident July 4th.

“Look at all the basic services a government is supposed to provide for its customers,” Garcia said Monday. “That’s where he cuts.”

Garcia rose to prominence in the community after his son Andrew was killed in a boating accident. Neither of Miami-Dade County’s fire rescue boats responded because they had been out of service for two years due to budget cuts and Garcia laid that at the feet of Mayor Gimenez.

“If they had proper coverage and proper response, there’s a chance that more people could’ve been saved,” Garcia said.

If Garcia can gather the signatures needed, Gimenez would be the second straight mayor of Miami-Dade County to be recalled. Gimenez’s predecessor, Carlos Alvarez, was recalled after he supported a property tax hike and the taxpayer-funded Miami Marlins Park.

This recall is different because it’s not protesting spending money, it’s protesting not raising taxes which forced large budget cuts to critical services. For his part, Mayor Gimenez did not appear to be worried about the recall effort.

“Honestly, the mayor has a lot of important business to deal with,” said Gimenez spokesperson Mike Hernandez. “This does not seem to be very much of an organized effort, or a well-thought out effort in our opinion.”

Garcia has formed a political action committee called “A Better Dade” and put together a website as well called recallgimenez.com. If Garcia is to recall the mayor, he’ll need at least 60,000 signatures from people supporting in his effort. Garcia has 120 days to gather the signatures, according to the Miami Herald.

“We have got the Dolphin deal. We have got the Heat deal, and it rolls on and I'm not opposed to any of those things because they are important for communities,” Garcia said. “But when you have limited money, take care of business first then go out to dinner.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Puerto Ricans Flocking to U.S. Mainland]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 18:16:03 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/201*120/81493762.jpg

Puerto Rico's economic crisis has forced residents to leave the troubled island for greener pastures in the U.S. mainland in numbers unseen since the Great Migration after World War II. And the top destination for many of those moving is the Sunshine State.

Census data shows that from 2010 to 2013, about 144,000 more people left Puerto Rico for the mainland than those headed for the island. As the island's population shrinks, the stateside Puerto Rican population has grown to a record 4.9 million in 2013, surpassing the island's population of 3.5 million since 2006, according to a Pew Research report released Monday.

"The Census Bureau has projected that through 2050, unless something changes, the population decline is going to continue and that would make Puerto Rico one of the few places in the United States that actually has a decline in its population," said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center.

The reason behind the island's mass exodus stems from the lack of job opportunities, according to the report. The island's economic dire straits was fueled both by the U.S. recession and issues unique to the island, like the end of corporate tax breaks that led to business shutdowns and government layoffs. The unemployment rate in June was 13.1 percent, compared to the mainland's 6.1 percent.

"The recession has led to the first sustained population decline for the island in its history as a U.S. territory," Lopez said. Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth and its residents are U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans living on the mainland are the second largest Hispanic group after Mexicans.

About 23 percent of mainland-born Puerto Ricans live in New York, while Florida is home to 25 percent of those born on the island. The Northeast retains the largest share of Puerto Ricans--both mainland and island born--but other regions, especially the South, have become popular destinations, the report said. From 1980 to 2012, the South's Puerto Rican population rose by nearly 700 percent.

Recent arrivals from the commonwealth are also less well-off and more likely to live in poverty than their predecessors, the report said.

"This current wave of migration, which is the largest migration wave that we've seen since the 1950s from the island, is one that is not necessarily one made up of the top end of the educational distribution," Lopez said. "It's not college grads that are coming. It's people that have some college education.

Mainland-born Puerto Ricans are younger and make more money, with poverty less likely to affect their children and the elderly. They are more likely to attend college than their island counterparts, the report said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Yana Paskova]]>
<![CDATA[Early Voting Begins in Miami-Dade]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:54:05 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050911+miami-dade+voting+generic.jpg

Early voting for the August 26th primary has begun.

From Monday to Saturday, August 24th, voters can cast their ballot at the following locations:

  • Aventura Government Center - 19200 West Country Club Drive
  • City of Miami City Hall - 3500 Pan American Drive
  • Coral Gables Library - 3443 Segovia Street
  • Coral Reef Library - 9211 SW 152nd Street
  • Elections Department - 2700 NW 87th Avenue
  • Homestead Community Center (William F. "Bill" Dickinson Community Center) - 1601 N. Krome Avenue
  • John F. Kennedy Library - 190 West 49th Street, Hialeah
  • Kendall Branch Library - 9100 SW 97th Avenue
  • Lemon City Library Reading Room - 430 NE 61st Street
  • Miami Beach City Hall - City Center Training Room, 3rd Floor - 1755 Meridian Avenue
  • Miami Lakes Community Center (Mary Collins) - 15151 NW 82nd Avenue
  • Model City Library at the Caleb Center - 2211 NW 54th Street
  • North Dade Regional Library - 2455 NW 183rd Street
  • North Miami Public Library - 835 NE 132nd Street
  • North Shore Branch Library - Program Room - 7501 Collins Avenue
  • South Dade Regional Library - 10750 SW 211th Street
  • Stephen P. Clark Government Center - Lobby - 111 NW 1st Street
  • West Dade Regional Library - 9445 SW 24th Street
  • West Flagler Branch Library - 5050 West Flagler Street
  • West Kendall Regional Library - 10201 Hammocks Boulevard

Voting location hours are available on the Elections Department website. Wait times will be posted on the website throughout the day.

For more information, call 3-1-1 or visit www.iamelectionready.org or call 305-499-VOTE (8683).

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>