Statewide Archives - Page 2 of 633 - SaintPetersBlog

Palm Beach state committeeman, committeewoman endorse Stephen Bittel for FDP Chair

With just hours to go before the Florida Democratic Party Executive Committee votes for a new party chair, front-runner Stephen Bittel announced that he has the backing of John Ramos and Deidre Newton, the Palm Beach County State Committeeman and Committeewomen, respectively.

“The Palm Beach County Democratic Party Executive Committee Board of Directors, members, zone leaders and elected officials participated in the decision to endorse Stephen Bittel,” Ramos and Newton said in a statement released by the Bittel campaign Saturday morning.

Bittel is running for FDP chair against former state Senator Dwight Bullard, Duval County State Committeewoman Lisa King and Osceola County Party Chair Leah Carius. 

Tampa’s Alan Clendenin may still be eligible as well.

Before the vote for party chair, the executive committee will vote on whether to accept or reject the decision by the FDP’s judicial subcommittee to accept a complaint filed against him that challenged his election as a Bradford County State Committeeman (you can read all about that here).

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Bob Graham, Chris Hand pushing new edition of ‘America The Owner’s Manual’

Someone might be forgiven for thinking that maybe Bob Graham and Chris Hand might not want to tell people how to fight city hall and win.

Graham, of course, is Florida’s former U.S. Senator and former governor. Hand is a former aide of his who also served chief of staff – at city hall, in Jacksonville. Fighting city hall, or the governor’s office, or Congress, might have put them in awkward positions at times.

But the two are pushing a new edition of their book, “America The Owner’s Manual” with the new emphasis and subtitle, “You Can Fight City Hall – And Win.”

The 287-page, 10-chapter book is a how-to guide for citizens to define the problem that’s annoying them and take action to convince the government to take care of it, available on Amaazon.com and other online bookstores. The book is a fully-updated and revised version of the book the first owner’s manual published in 2009, mainly addressing such rapidly changing arenas in media and social media.

Graham said the idea goes back to 1974 when, as a member of the Florida Senate, he was challenged by a Carol City High School civics teacher in Miami Gardens about civics education, and together they worked up a how-to curriculum for the students and helped teach it.

With chapters such as “Just the Facts, Ma’am: Gathering Information to Sway Makers,” “The Buck Stops Where? Identifying who in Government Can Fix Your Problem,” and “All for One, and One for All: Coalitions for Citizen Success,” the book aims, Graham said, at creating and training what he called the “citizen lobbyist.” Hand and Graham said it applies to all levels of government, but probably most important and effective at the local level, where they said most decisions directly affecting people are made.

“Really, what we’re trying to do in this book is, we want the everyday citizen who says that I’m concerned with the Orange County School Board changing the boundaries of my school, or I’m worried that government hasn’t cleaned up a local lake, or I’m worried about that new highway construction they’re talking about through downtown Orlando, that they can pick up this book and work in a step-by-step process to address their concerns with government,” Hand said.

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Subcommittee accepts complaint against Alan Clendenin, but he remains eligible for Fla. Dem Chair

Blame it on the fog of internal byzantine party rules, but Alan Clendenin remains eligible for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Late Friday afternoon, this website reported that Clendenin was ineligible to compete in Saturday’s vote, after an FDP subcommittee voted to accept a complaint filed against him regarding his move last month from Hillsborough County to Bradford County to make himself eligible for the election.

However, the entire state committee will be asked to accept or reject the subcommittee’s vote on Saturday morning before they vote for party chair. The complaint that was approved on Friday approved nullifying Clendenin’s election as State Committeeman in Bradford County last month, where he had rented a mobile home. The vote was five members in favor, with two abstentions.

FDP officials initially did not relay that information to this reporter.

The party members can accept the vote of the subcommittee, and move on. Or they can disapprove the vote, and there are apparently a number of Democrats who aren’t even fans of Clendenin who believe that he still deserves an opportunity to run for party chair. After all, the man widely considered the top dog in the race, Miami area developer and fundraiser Stephen Bittel, was the subject of a second complaint that was also heard on Friday. The judicial subcommittee rejected the complaint filed against him, however, keeping him eligible.

That vote on Bittel is also up for a review by the state executive committee.

Nevertheless, the subcommittee vote was a huge blow to Clendenin’s candidacy. In 2013, he lost to Allison Tant in an intense, one-on-one battle to take over the reigns of the party, which at the time was relatively in high spirits, following Barack Obama’s narrow victory in Florida over Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. He was named vice chair at the time, but immediately set his eyes on the prize after Tant announced in November that she would be stepping down in January.

However, in order to be eligible to run for party chair according to the party’s bylaws, the candidate pool can only come from someone currently serving as a county party chair, or state committeeman or state committeewoman.

Clendenin needed to be elected to committeeman at the Hillsborough County’s December 6 re-organization meeting, but was defeated by Russ Patterson 52-40. The vote was considered extremely controversial, however, after Hillsborough DEC Chair Ione Townsend ruled that all locally elected officials in nonpartisan races (such as mayor, city council and school board) were ineligible to vote, setting off an ugly exchange at that meeting. Whether Clendenin would have won if those elected officials were allowed to vote remained questionable, it left a foul taste with many DEC members.

Clendenin laid low in the immediate aftermath, and then stunned the world when he appeared in Bradford County on December 20, where that local DEC had an opening for committeeman. At that December 20 meeting, Clendenin was elected to be Bradford County’s state committeeman, thus making him eligible once again for the party chairman election.

But then Bay County State Committeewoman Patricia Byrd filed a complaint with the FDP, challenging Clendenin’s residency in Bradford. In her complaint to party chair Tant, Byrd wrote that Clendenin had “disingenuously played a shell game with residences and homestead exemptions in total violation of state election laws and state homestead laws for the sole purpose of positioning himself to be eligible to run for the state party chairman.” To prove her point, she stated that Clendenin actually had two separate homestead exemptions on file for residences in Hillsborough and Manatee Counties, and thus truly wasn’t a resident in Bradford County.

Clendenin immediately labeled the complaint “baseless,“and said that the homestead exemption in Manatee County actually belonged to his partner, John Peccio, though tax records listed both men as co-owners of both houses. And he said that Byrd was a supporter of Stephen Bittel, one of his opponents in ther race.

“Like other candidates in this race, as well as the past four FDP Chairs, I qualified for this position within our current rules,” Clendenin said in response to the complaint at the time. “I know that these rules do not make sense to many people which is why I’m calling for them to be changed and will make this a top priority if elected. This complaint is nothing more than an unnecessary distraction from talking about how we move this party forward.”

Interestingly, a third candidate in the race, former state Senator Dwight Bullard, did the exact same thing as Clendenin did to remain viable in the election. After losing to Bittel for state committeeman in Miami-Dade in late December, Bullard relocated to Gadsden County, where he was elected as a committeeman there. But no one has filed a complaint against him.

The race remains between  Clendenin, Bittel, Bullard, Lisa King and Leah Carius. 

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Daniel Webster gets seat on Science, Space Committee

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont has been appointed to a seat on the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, essentially replacing former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson as Central Florida’s second member of that committee.

Webster, whose Florida’s 11th Congressional District includes parts of Lake County plus most of west-central Florida, joins fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Brevard County on the committee that reviews the NASA budget and initiatives, including programs at Kennedy Space Center. Grayson, a Democrat from Windermere, often pushed minority positions on that board, particularly pressing for NASA to be more involved in direct management of the human space programs.

“Congressman Webster is a great addition to the Science Committee. His degree in engineering and his many years of public service speak to his expertise that will be an asset to our team. I look forward to working with him, and I know he will make the 11th District of Florida proud,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, stated in a news release issued by Webster’s office.

Webster also joins the Committee on Natural Resources, and will continue to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Continuing to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provides me the opportunity to advance innovative solutions for increasing connectivity of our nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems, balance transportation budgets and eliminate government waste. I’m excited to join these additional committees and look forward to working with my colleagues on policies that will improve opportunities for Floridians, protect our vital natural resources and strengthen America’s position as a world leader in space, science and technology,” Webster stated in the news release.

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Ken Reecy named interim head of Florida Housing

Ken Reecy has been named Interim Executive Director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), according to a press release.

Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, announced the move on Friday. Reecy currently serves as the agency’s Multifamily Program Director.

“Ken has extensive experience and is committed to helping Florida families secure safe, affordable housing in communities all across our state,” Proctor said in a statement. “He has a strong understanding of the unique programs used to meet different needs for affordable housing in Florida and is a respected leader at the agency.”

The release added, “A national search for a permanent Executive Director is underway.”

Steve Auger, the previous executive director, resigned after a scathing audit of the organization, the steward of state and federal affordable housing money, disclosed lavish spending on events for lenders and board members.

Auger oversaw expenses for “a $52,000 dinner (for lenders) that featured filet mignon, broiled lobster tails and a bar stocked with deluxe brand liquors,” the audit revealed. 

The agency also put on a board reception, spending “$300 for a bartender, $425 for a pork carving station and $420 for a Spanish charcuterie station.” It also awarded nearly $443,000 in bonuses to its employees.

Last year, federal prosecutors OK’d a criminal plea deal to an alleged $36 million housing fraud that involved the FHFC.

Prosecutors had alleged 70-year-old developer Lloyd Boggio of Carlisle Development Group and others defrauded the government out of millions that went through the FHFC.

They did so by padding South Florida affordable-housing projects to get federal tax credits and grants, then keeping the excess, according to case documents.

The audit also noted the agency “did not require sufficient documentation from underwriting agencies to support their denial of mortgage assistance to some applicants” and “did not take adequate steps to ensure that electronic fund transfers were going to authorized recipients.”

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Claudia Rodriguez: Motorola Solutions salutes Florida first responders

This week, Floridians are taking pause to recognize and thank the men and women who protect us as we celebrate First Responder Appreciation Week. First responders make countless sacrifices and put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. Motorola Solutions Florida employees salute them for their endless support to those in need each day and during times of crisis.

At the same time, our hearts go out to the families and friends of Master Sgt. Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department, and Deputy First Class Norman Lewis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who were killed in the line of duty this week.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with the families that were impacted by the shooting last week at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones. We are thankful that through the cooperation of first responders across city, county and state agencies, many lives were protected during this time of tragedy and chaos.

Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel have gone above and beyond not only to educate the public about safety risks but also to protect us from harm during several major emergencies over the past year, including Hurricane Hermine. We thank first responders for their actions during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Scott for this hurricane. With their hard work, lives were protected and communities were able to recover quickly.

Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about the bravery of one of Florida’s 125,000 first responders across the Sunshine State. There are not enough thanks we can give our men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep us safe.

 ___

Claudia Rodriguez is a corporate vice president of Motorola Solutions in Plantation.

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Advocates call on Marco Rubio to protect immigrant families as Donald Trump era begins

House Speaker Paul Ryan told a national cable television audience Thursday night that federal troops won’t be coming after undocumented immigrants once Donald Trump takes power next week.

But that comment alone isn’t likely to reverse the high anxiety felt in that community.

On Saturday, Latino immigrant rights groups are planning for a national day of protest and activities around immigrant and refugee rights. On Friday, representatives from various organizations expressed their own concerns at a news conference inside the West Tampa offices of Mi Familia Vota.

“We’re here today to call on our elected officials to do their duty and make sure that millions of people in this state stay protected,” said Michelle Prieto, the Tampa Area Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota. “Men, women and children, Latinos, Muslims, families and friends will be gathering together to deliver this message that anyone who has ever wanted to come to the United States of America to start a better life, and have their families live without fear of persecution, are able to do so and have that opportunity.”

Notwithstanding Ryan’s comments Thursday, Trump has been emphatic that he intends to boot out millions of undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

In his first televised interview after his stunning victory in November, Trump told CBS’ 60 Minutes that he planned to immediately deport or jail as many as three million undocumented immigrants.

“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers … probably two million of them, it could be even three … out of our country, or we are going to incarcerate them,” Trump told correspondent Lesley Stahl.

The activists at Friday’s event specifically called on Florida Senator Marco Rubio to stand up to Trump if attempts to begin proceedings to deport millions of immigrants.

“Senator Rubio, like a lot of politicians, made a lot of promises in this election to be a check on the incoming administration,” said Prieto. “The Trump administration has made it clear that some of their first targets will be immigrant communities. Their aim is to deport millions of immigrants, rip millions of families apart, and drive tens of millions of immigrants and refugees into silence out of fear.”

“He promised he would be a check on the Trump administration,” added Jerry Green, Florida outreach director for VoteVets.org. “Hopefully, he lives up that promise.” But Green didn’t seem convinced that would happen, saying that the Florida GOP Senator has “remained remarkably silent during Election Day.”

That hasn’t exactly been the case. On Wednesday, Rubio was extremely aggressive in questioning Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice to become his Secretary of State. He has yet to announce whether he’ll vote to confirm him.

Green served in Iraq in the Gulf War. He said during Operation Desert Storm he personally served with “many noncitizens residents,” all of whom he said had served the U.S. with courage and honor. He also said that more than 100,000 men and women who have served overseas since 2002 had become citizens through their military service.

“As our military seeks to recruit the best and most able among us, forcing a whole group of people to stand in the shadows, and deny them the right to serve in uniform, hurts our military and security,” Green said.

Amina Spahic immigrated to America from Bosnia in 2001, where she said she and her family were escaping religious persecution. She asked for more Americans to be empathetic to the plight of refugees.

“It’s never anybody’s choice to be a displaced person,” she said solemnly. “I don’t think it’s anybody’s choice to be an immigrant. But we came here because we were told we would be safe and we would have better opportunities. And I still believe that’s the America that we have. And we’re all going to be working to make sure that it is.”

Ed Quinones, director of civil rights with The League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said he hadn’t heard Ryan’s comments that the House of Representatives would not approve sending a deportation force out to detain undocumented immigrants. He called the news a “terrific development.”

But he said he remained troubled, in particular by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general.

Quinones said Sessions was a “racist and an anti-immigration person.”

“If Trump is in the position to comply with his rhetoric and his base, what does that mean? If he’s now putting gin someone like Sessions for attorney general, look out. So I’m expecting the worst.

“I hope Mr. Ryan can talk some reason into him, and it might mitigate that of eleven million (undocumented), they might kick out two million. I don’t know. I hadn’t heard that from Mr. Ryan.

“I’m really encouraged by that.”

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Rick Scott savages Barack Obama’s Cuba policy one last time

The ongoing war of words between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama is continuing until Obama’s last day.

Friday’s installment: a gubernatorial excoriation of Obama’s overtures to the Communist island nation, including this week’s cessation of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Scott, predictably, sees this as yet another example of Obama’s failings.

“President Obama’s Cuba policy can be summed up this way: he has legitimized and coddled a bloodthirsty dictator and in the process, he has turned his back on those who have fought so hard for a free Cuba,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor notes that “people in Cuba are being persecuted and killed for their faith, for supporting democracy, for expressing their political views, and for simply desiring freedom.”

“With the President’s latest move,” Scott added, “it appears that he has consulted and negotiated with a foreign tyrant while completely ignoring the United States Congress. We have a number of great members of Congress in our Florida delegation of Cuban descent, but of course the President did not involve them in his decision-making.”

Scott went on to say that Obama’s reforms came at the expense of human rights.

“Obama’s polices have not improved human rights in Cuba. In fact, things may be getting worse. We believe that the murderous regime made about 10,000 political arrests last year. Just this week, pro-democracy leader Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested. Obama has betrayed America’s long-standing commitment to human rights and freedom in Cuba. We need a Cuba policy that respects the fundamental desire of the Cuban people to be free.”

Scott’s excoriation of the Obama era Cuba policy is well-timed, as the governor is rumored to be mulling a Senate run next year.

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New video from Richard Corcoran boasts ‘We are One House’

A new video produced by the Florida House seeks to remind citizens of the Sunshine State that lawmakers, who will soon convene for the 2017 Legislative Session in March, are united in service to all Floridians.

In the clip from Speaker Richard Corcoran’s First Principles Production, group of Florida House members show that — despite political differences — “We are One House.”

The 90-second video — which begins with the passing of the gavel between former Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Corcoran — features a stream of House members such as Republican Reps. Jose Diaz (HD 116), Alexandra Miller (HD 72), Michael Grant (HD 75), Dane Eagle (HD 77) and Democrats Sean Shaw (HD 61) and Matt Willhite (HD 86) among others.

Each lawmaker talks about how the are representing all Floridians, first responders, seniors, veterans and those in need.

“I am so thankful to our colleagues who participated in our ‘One House’ project,” Corcoran said in a statement.  “With this video, we aimed to show the public, the press, and each other, that we share many broad goals and in the end, we are no different, and no more important than any of the people we collectively represent.

“Because, as the video says, ‘all of them, are all of us,’” he added.

Corcoran encourages everyone to watch, share, and participate in the next video, as well as “always remain honored — even when we disagree — to serve together.”

 The video is available on YouTube.

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Legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018, 2020

More lawmakers are gearing up for a re-election bid.

State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018, and several more are looking ahead to 2020.

Sen. Greg Steube is one of those lawmakers who is starting to think about his next race. The Sarasota Republican filed to run for re-election in Senate District 23 on Jan. 10. Steube replaced Sen. Nancy Detert, winning the seat after a hard-fought Republican primary last year.

When it comes to 2018, House members are staking their claim on their seats for another two years.

Rep. Ramon Alexander filed to run for re-election on Jan. 6. The Tallahassee Democrat currently represents House District 8. And Alexander isn’t the only freshman thinking about the future.

Rep. Ralph Massulo filed to run for re-election in House District 34. The Lecanto Republican filed to run for re-election on Jan. 9. Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 73 on Jan. 5.

Gruters filing is notable because some Florida campaign watchers have questioned whether he leave office once President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office later this month. Gruters was an early supporter of the New York Republican, and there has been some speculation that he will take a job within the Trump administration.

Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 59 on Jan. 4; while Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican representing House District 111, filed to run again on Jan. 11.

It’s not just incumbents getting an early start on 2018. Democrat David Poulin, who challenged Rep. Ben Albritton in 2016, filed to run in House District 56. Albritton can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. Andy Warrener, a no party affiliation candidate, filed to run against Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant; while Libertarian Spenser Garber is planning to challenge Rep. Jayer Williamson, a first-term lawmaker, in House District 3.

And Sen. Tom Lee could have primary challenger. John Houman, a Thonotosassa Republican, filed to run in Senate District 20 on Jan. 9.

Houman ran in Senate District 19 in 2016. At the time, the self-described “Mr. Manners” described his ideology and background in a lengthy post on his website— Mr-Manners.com.

On his website, he admitted to having a felony DUI, even saying he petitioned to have his civil rights restored in 2008. He said at the time he would bring several ideas — including streamlining government regulation — with him to Tallahassee, outlining 33 points in his so-called “Manifesto de Leadership.”

Lee, a Brandon Republican, was re-elected in June 2016, after no one else qualified to run in his district. Houman, who faced Darryl Rouson in his 2016 Florida Senate bid, received 69,875 votes (about 33 percent) to Rouson’s 141,305 votes (about 67 percent).

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