Mitch Perry Report for 8.26.16- Mason/Dixon says the presidential race in Florida is super close

Attention, Florida Democrats: Time to get off you a** if you want to Hillary Clinton to win the state in November.

A Mason-Dixon poll published this morning in POLITICO shows the Trump-Clinton battle in a virtual tie, with the former secretary of state up by two points, 44 percent to 42 percent -within the margin of error.

As has been said a thousand times, Trump cannot win the presidency without winning Florida, but according to this poll ten days before Labor Day, he could win the Sunshine State in November.

By any stretch, this has been the most extraordinary week of the presidential campaign to date. Trump’s flip-flop on immigration has been absolutely fascinating to watch (as is seeing his surrogates trying to explain where he’s now at). And Clinton’s speech on the alt-right in Reno yesterday was something I don’t know if we’ve ever heard in a national campaign like this.

“When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants,” Clinton said. “Their applications would be marked with a ‘C’ – ‘C’ for ‘colored’ – and then rejected.  Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed.And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor.  No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.”

That’s tough stuff.

Meanwhile, the NY Times has a major story today on Saudi Arabia and rigid and fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Concurrently, some members of Congress this week have penned a letter to President Obama, calling on his him to withdraw his Congressional approval for a $1.15 billion sale of weapons to the Saudis, “until Congress can have a broader debate about American military support for the Saudis,” according to the Times. 

Will Obama listen to them?

In other news..

Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn confronted each other in the waning moments of the radio debate between the two HD 68 Democratic candidates on Thursday.

Tim Canova made history yesterday by announcing he has received more than 200,000 individual contributions in his campaign to defeat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District next Tuesday. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of them are inside the district, which is why DWS remains the favorite in the race.

More than 86,000 voters have participated in the primary election in Hillsborough County as of Thursday morning.

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward says his department continues to cite bicyclists less.

A Southern Heritage group is tagging state Representative Ed Narain with an “F-” grade, but the SD 19 candidate isn’t losing any sleep over it.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas schools need greater flexibility to meet needs of students, Charlie Crist says

Former Gov. Charlie Crist heard many messages from Pinellas educators during a roundtable discussion Thursday.

But one message stood out: There’s a “disconnect” between schools, upper-level administrators and policymakers. Policymakers and administrators have created a rigid, one-size-fits-all system that prevents teachers and schools from being flexible enough to meet the needs of individual students and the needs of the schools themselves.

“There needs to be greater flexibility because, just like all kids are not the same, all schools are not the same,” Crist said.

The discussion was one of several Crist has scheduled during his campaign for the Congressional District 13 seat held by David Jolly. Jolly is facing a challenge from retired Gen. Mark Bircher in Tuesday’s primary. The winner will face Crist, a Democrat, in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Crist has scheduled the roundtable discussions to hear from the people most affected by issues that have ranged from veterans’ benefits to Social Security to education. Crist has said he plans to use the information in crafting position papers and proposed legislation should he be elected.

At Thursday’s discussion about education, he heard from educators who talked about a system that was composed of “round holes” that doesn’t serve children who, like “square pegs,” don’t fit the mold. Instead of trying to figure out how to help those children, they are penalized with suspensions.

He also heard from teachers who say there is an atmosphere of fear in Pinellas schools. That fear comes from a lack of job security and anxiety that, if guidelines aren’t followed to the letter, job loss could follow.

Charlie Crist Education RoundtableCrist also learned about parents who feel they are not welcome at schools and who do not understand educational jargon. Those parents, he was told, need mentors to help them navigate the system and to understand what options their children have.

The problem is systemic, said Ricardo Davis, president of Concerned Organizations for Quality Education of Black Students. Making sure all students are successful will require a comprehensive approach to changing the system.

Crist said that, if elected, he could do many things to help the Pinellas educational system. In particular, he said he could follow the lead of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who called for a federal review of the school system. She convinced U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to tour some Pinellas schools, earning the district a rebuke for allowing five predominantly black schools to decline.

Putting a light on the problems, Crist said, raises concerns and focuses on the problem.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Bike citations in Tampa down 81 percent from a year ago

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward told the City Council Thursday that citations of bicyclists in the city are down 81 percent this July, compared to a year ago.

The department made only four citations in July, compared to 21 in July 2015, an 81 percent decrease. There was an even greater reduction in May, when the TPD made only six citations, compared to 32 in May 2015. Those citations did spike up in June, with 11 cyclists cited this year, versus eight in 2015.

Ward has been making regular visits to the council every quarter regarding such statistics since the revelations made in April 2015 by the Tampa Bay Times that the Tampa Police Department was disproportionately citing black cyclists for infractions. The report led to a Department of Justice investigation of the policy, which the DOJ concluded earlier this year was not discriminatory, but also wasn’t very effective in stopping crime.

When asked what has led to the reduction of such citations, Chief Ward said the department was simply taking a more “strategic approach.”

“We try to focus more on our education piece versus citation,” he told the board.

City Council Chair Mike Suarez said the statistics show that while bike citations are down, police are still collecting roughly the same amount of illegal weapons as before. “Even though you’ve reduced the number of warnings and citations, you still are getting the same number of firearms, which goes to show that you’re probably doing a better job of police work on the ground from the ground up, as opposed to just having a number of citations issued and hoping that you captured those firearms,” he said.

Ward said a lot of the improvement has to do with asking for the community getting more involved. “We receive those calls and put those officers out into those communities looking for those individuals specifically that are carrying firearms.”

Tampa Major Mike Baumaister also came before the council to review a recently completed study by the University of South Florida on the effect of 60 body cameras Tampa police officers have used over the past two years.

The officers who wore the cameras had an 8.4 percent reduction in response to resistance to physical force encounters in the year after the cameras were introduced. Conversely, officers who did not wear the cameras showed a 3.4 percent increase in use-of-force incidents.

“One thing we learned from the study is that cameras are not the end-all,” Baumaister said, adding that one factor in why the use-of-force incidents are higher with those officers not wearing body cameras was because of the increased tensions in recent months between the police and the community nationally.

The TPD applied for a $600,000 grant earlier this year to purchase more body cameras. The city would have to provide a $300,000 matching grant.

Councilwoman Lisa Montelione pushed Ward on when the TPD would learn if they qualified for the grant, but he said he did not know when that would be. That compelled Montelione to suggest the council put that money into the FY 2017 budget now.

“If we are saving lives, if we’re keeping people out of jail, if we’re keeping our police officers safe, I don’t want to wait on a grant that we don’t know when it may come to us or not,” she said. “I would implement something this important as soon as possible.”

“It’s up to the council,” Ward said.

“No, it’s actually up to the mayor,” Montelione corrected him.

 

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn confront each during WMNF radio debate

During a radio debate Thursday, House District 68 Democrat Ben Diamond challenged what exactly his opponent, Eric Lynn has done in the community, while Lynn turned around to question Diamond’s independence when it comes to the insurance industry.

Those two exchanges came toward the conclusion of a 38-minute debate on Tampa radio station WMNF 88.5 this afternoon, when the two candidates were allowed to question each other in a debate moderated by this reporter (listen here).

The two St. Petersburg-based Democrats are challenging each other in the seat that has been occupied by Dwight Dudley since 2012, and are ideologically very similar on most of the important issues going into next Tuesday’s primary election.

“I’ve been working on a number of local issues for awhile,” Diamond said in leading up to his question to Lynn, referring to his work on the PSTA board and his support for 2014’s Amendment One ballot measure. What have you done?, he essentially asked his primary opponent.

Lynn attempted to turn the tables as he considered his response, indirectly calling out Diamond for lacking sufficient roots in Pinellas. “I know that you’re new to St. Pete, Ben, that you just moved here two years ago.” He went on to say he was most proud of being an advocate for veterans in the county. “Unfortunately, we have too many men and women that served our military in Afghanistan and Iraq who are coming home who don’t have health care, who don’t have jobs, and they need to be assisted by a number of groups here in Pinellas County.”

When it was his turn to ask a question, Lynn reminded listeners about a controversial issue that took place back in 2013, when Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a Pinellas County firm that had given $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election campaign, was rewarded when the Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp. board of governors (the insurer of last resort in Florida) approved a deal that could have ended up paying Heritage up to $52 million to take over 60,000 insurance policies. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Scott’s office said the governor played no role in the $52-million deal at Citizens, and insisted campaign contributions were not a factor.

Lynn then got to the point, saying that same Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company has contributed $20,000 to Diamond’s political action committee, “Protecting Pinellas Families.”

“What did you promise the insurance companies?” Lynn asked, adding that a fourth of all of Diamond’s campaign contributions have come from the insurance industry. “Why is the insurance company that helped Rick Scott, helping you in this race?”

Diamond responded by calling it a loaded question.

“I have a track record of working on progressive issues,” he said. “I’m just as committing to lowering insurance rates as is our current representative, Dwight Dudley, is.”

Diamond went on to say that the No. 1 issue driving up insurance rates in Florida is insurance fraud. “The thing that is driving up the cost of insurance in Florida is these water claims that are being fraudulently turned into very expensive claims. So I’m going to stand on the side of policy owners, and stand for lower rates.”

The candidates agreed on virtually every question posed to them by the moderator, with similar stances on opposing the legalization of marijuana in general (they do support medical marijuana), supporting the Legislature’s passage of a bill to stop doing businesses with companies that boycott Israel, and supporting undocumented immigrants getting driver’s licenses.

The only time they disagreed was on whether or not the region’s two transit systems, HART and PSTA, should merge. Diamond was for such a merger, while Lynn isn’t.

The two Democrats face off against each other Aug. 30 in the district that encompasses parts of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound. The winner faces Republican JB Benshimen in November.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Southern Heritage group slams Ed Narain

A Southern heritage group is giving Ed Narain an F-minus grade as he campaigns to advance to Florida’s Senate District 19 race, but he’s not complaining about it.

Among the pieces of legislation the Tampa House Democratic District 61 representative has boasted about on the campaign trail is his bill to remove and replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

Smith was a St. Augustine native who served as a Confederate army general during the Civil War. The law called on the Florida Arts Council and the Department of State to estimate the costs of replacing the statue, including the costs associated with designing and creating a new statue, removing the current statue, and any unveiling ceremony.

While some Republicans in the Legislature didn’t support it, the bill still passed in the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

One group not pleased with that bill was the group Save Southern Heritage, who is giving Narain that F-minus rating. They also claim a candidate survey he filled out recently shows he also would like to dig up the graves of American veterans who served for the South if they are buried in public parks or cemeteries.

When contacted, Narain says he began filling out the survey, but never completed it, because he felt it was irrelevant to his candidacy or what he believes in. Save Southern Heritage forwarded a copy of the survey to FloridaPolitics.com, but the time stamp shows he worked on it for just three minutes, and did not fill out the last few questions on it.

“The reality of it is, I was the prime sponsor of the bill to remove General Kirby Smith,” he said Thursday. “I’ve been an outspoken critic of having the Confederate flag flown on government buildings, so I’m not surprised that this group would come out against my candidacy.”

“His voting record is not so great,” responded David McCallister, a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage. “He definitely voted for removing General Kirby Smith’s statue from Washington, D.C. That’s kind of a black mark right there.”

MCallister went on to say Narain appears to following the NAACP’s “party line of bigotry and hatred,” which he says goes back to a 1991 resolution in which the venerable civil rights organization declared the Confederate battle flag to be “an abhorrence to all Americans and decent people of this country, and indeed, the world and is an odious blight upon the universe.”

“They’ve had 25 years of propaganda against Southern symbols, and they’re now just ratcheting things up right now, taking the opportunity to pile on after Charleston, while not letting a crisis go to waste, and being hysterical about it,” said McCallister, referring to the June 2015 shooting massacre of nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The perpetrator, Dylann Roof, embraced the flag as a symbol of his racist ideology.

McAllister is the commander of the Judah P. Benjamin Camp, the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and has been a champion of hanging the Confederate battle flag at the interchange of Interstate 75 and Interstate 4 in Tampa, a highly controversial display since it was initially erected in 2008. He said he was disappointed to hear Narain had decided not to complete the survey.

“Whenever African-Americans see that flag, it creates a visceral reaction within many people,” said Narain. “They can spin this to say this is about Southern heritage all they want, but the Confederate battle flag has nothing to do with true Southern heritage, and everything to do with hate,” adding that he has received hate mail on his Facebook page for his sponsorship of the bill removing General Kirby’s statue.

Narain is running for the Senate District 19 race on Tuesday against fellow Democrats Augie Ribeiro, Darryl Rouson, and Betty Reed. The winner will be the heavy favorite to take the seat in the majority-Democratic district in November.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

‘Love Sponge’ lawyers permanently stripped of law licenses

Two Florida lawyers accused of orchestrating the arrest of a rival attorney have been permanently disbarred by the state’s Supreme Court.

The court on Thursday, in its first release of opinions after the 2016 summer recess, unanimously agreed with a referee’s earlier recommendation on Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut of Tampa.

A third attorney involved, Stephen Diaco, already had been permanently disbarred.

“We can only hope that our unanimous decision to … permanently disbar these attorneys… will serve to warn other attorneys of the high standards of professional conduct we demand of all attorneys,” the court’s opinion said.

“And we hope in some small way, it will send a message to the public that this Court will not tolerate such outrageous misconduct on the part of attorneys admitted to practice law in Florida.”

The three lawyers were partners in a firm that represented radio personality Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem in a slander suit brought by another radio personality, Todd “MJ” Schnitt.

During the trial in 2013, Schnitt lawyer C. Phillip Campbell was arrested on a DUI charge. Reports later surfaced that Adams, Filthaut and Diaco conspired to set up Campbell to get arrested.

They allegedly encouraged their female paralegal to go undercover and drink with Campbell at a downtown Tampa bar.

Afterward, Campbell was caught in a police DUI stakeout set up through a Tampa police sergeant who was friends with one of the attorneys, according to reports.

Schnitt eventually lost the case. All three lawyers denied the accusations.

The court also ordered Adams and Filthaut to pay $14,000 each to reimburse The Florida Bar for the costs of the disciplinary actions.


Capital correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this report, with background from The Associated Press, republished with permission.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

More than 86,000 people have voted in Hillsborough County so far in Aug. 30 primary

As of Thursday morning, a total of 86,605 people have voted already in the Aug. 30 primary election. The majority, 69,579 have voted by mail, while an additional 17,026 have voted early at one of the polling locations located throughout the county.

With nearly three full days of early voting to go, those numbers look favorably compared to the final totals in 2012. That year a total of 40,637 voted by mail, and 20,213 voted early.

Nevertheless, it still means that the majority of registered voters haven’t participated in the primary, and probably won’t. The percentage of people who voted in the August 24, 2012 primary in Hillsborough County was just 16 percent.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

David Jolly offers tribute to Florida Dream Center

U.S. Rep. David Jolly entered a tribute to the Florida Dream Center into the Congressional Record.

Jolly made the tribute in June, but the Dream Center didn’t know about it until this week when the organization received a copy.

“What a humbling honor to be recognized by Congressman Jolly,” Steven Cleveland, executive director of the Dream Center, said on his Facebook page. “Thank you, Congressman Jolly, for all you do in our community.”

Jolly Dream CenterThe Florida Dream Center is a faith-based non-profit based in Clearwater. Among the group’s concerns are human trafficking, homelessness and poverty, jails and prisons, and community outreach.

The Dream Center started the Adopt-a-Block program in Lealman. Teams of volunteers go into the unincorporated Lealman community every Saturday to help residents with whatever they need. That can be something as simple as mowing yard or something more complex as replacing worn or non-existent appliances.

Jolly’s tribute singled out one project – Dream Center volunteers, in cooperation with Wells Fargo and Pinellas County Human Services, rehabbed a foreclosed home in St. Petersburg. The home was then turned over to a homeless mother and her three children.

Jolly added, “Along with revitalizing our communities and neighborhoods, the Florida Dream Center works hard to combat hunger. At the beginning of April, the organization and other members of our community helped hand out food to those in need and they also provided repairs and maintenance to the community where they saw it was needed most. Additionally, the Florida Dream Center aids human trafficking victims and survivors to ensure they feel safe in Pinellas County.

“Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Florida Dream Center and Pinellas County Human Services and Fair Housing Assistance Program for continuing to provide aid and exemplary help to those in need in our county. Their acts of kindness are an inspiration, and I ask that this body join me in recognizing them for the hard work they have done and continue to do for all of us in Pinellas County.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

We polled the Democratic primary in Senate District 19; you’ll never believe what happened next

The Senate District 19 race will come down to the wire.

A new poll by St. Pete Polls found the race is essentially tied, proving the outcome will depend heavily on ground game and get-out-the-vote efforts in the final days of primary.

The survey, conducted for FloridaPolitics.com, found 26 percent of Democratic voters said they were backing Ed Narain. Darryl Rouson is in second with 24 percent, followed by Betty Reed with 19 percent. Augie Ribeiro is polling at 17 percent, while 14 percent of voters said they were undecided.

The automated phone poll was conducted Aug. 24. The poll surveyed 786 likely Democratic primary voters, and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they had already voted in the primary.

Narain is pulling ahead in Hillsborough County, with 35 percent of Hillsborough respondents saying they were backing Narain. Six percent of Hillsborough respondents picked Rouson.

Rouson, meanwhile, is leading in Pinellas County. The poll found 52 percent of Pinellas respondents said they would vote for Rouson, while 12 percent said they’re backing Narain.

Those numbers are unsurprising. Rouson, a longtime St. Petersburg resident, has represented parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in the Florida House since 2008. A Tampa Democrat, Narain has represented parts of Hillsborough County since 2014.

The tight race means campaigns will need to ramp up operations in the final days of the primary, to get voters out to the polls. In both counties, early voting runs through Sunday.

The primary is Tuesday.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Mitch Perry Report for 8.25.16 -Is Trump reversing himself on his signature issue of immigration?

Donald Trump was in Tampa yesterday, in case you didn’t hear about it — and he continued to “reach out” to minority communities in his speech. Of course, saying, “I say to the African-American parent, you have a right to walk down the street in the inner city, without having your child or yourself shot” may not be the elixir that persuades anyone to switch sides.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow describes the way Trump is going about it as “urinating on you and telling you to dance in the rain.” Blow says the only people even taking Trump’s outreach seriously are white people.

So does he really think he can get more black voters to his side? The Washington Post reported yesterday Trump has been motivated by a private poll of black voters conducted by campaign adviser Tony Fabrizio.

“The survey found that blacks have a lesser affinity for Hillary Clinton than they did for her husband and that their support dips once they learn about her advocacy for a 1994 crime bill signed by Bill Clinton, according to two people briefed on the poll’s findings,” the paper wrote.

Meanwhile, is Trump “softening” on immigration? Who knows? He did mention he was going to build a wall in his speech in Tampa yesterday, which hardly sounds like he’s backing off. Then again, in the second part of an interview he taped with Sean Hannity on Tuesday that aired last night, Trump’s position seemed to echo that of Jeb Bush‘s — you know, the guy’s whose position on immigration was deemed out of sorts with the majority of the Republican primary electorate last year.

“When I look at the rooms, and I have this all over, now everybody agrees we get the bad ones out,” Trump said. “But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject … they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person that has been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and the family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump.'”

Trump received a large round of applause from the studio audience when he said he would make sure those immigrants who could stick around would have to pay “back taxes.” However, that requirement was something that everybody who talks about comprehensive immigration reform says — pay a fine, back taxes, learn English, etc.

Does it matter? It could affect some of his supporters, despite the contention nothing will deter them from supporting him in the fall. Immigration was perhaps the major issue that allowed Trump to break out of the pack of 17 Republicans last summer. The idea that he would attempt to deport 11 million people has always been considered impractical and unfeasible. But to admit it before the election?

In other news …

Among those on the opening bill before The Donald spoke was his good friend and ally, Attorney General Pam Bondi. To commemorate the occasion, the activist group Progress Florida sent out a petition for people to write to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to investigate Bondi’s refusal to go after Trump University in 2013 after her campaign received a financial contribution from a Trump charity.

A group of immigration activists held court in front of the Fairgrounds before Trump’s speech in Tampa.

Jim Norman became a bit hot when asked about the situation that led to his political exile some six years ago at a candidate forum Tuesday night.

At a forum Tuesday night, the Senate District 19 candidates talked about how they’d be able to get Republicans in Tallahassee to go along with proposals to increase early childhood education.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons