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Go-ahead given for deepening Port Everglades

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been given the green light to move forward with a plan to deepen and widen Port Everglades.

Port officials said Thursday that the corps can move ahead with the project now that President Obama signed into the law last week the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

The project will deepen the port’s navigational channel to 48 feet from 42 feet and widen the entrance so that cargo ships can get past docked cruise ships.

The plan also calls for planting 103,000 new nursery-raised coral in 18 acres of existing reef areas and creating five acres of artificial reef by relocating around 11,500 corals.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.7.16 – The Hillsborough County DEC melts down

“Image is everything” that great philosopher, Andre Agassi, once said in a series of television ads for Canon in the early 1990’s.

Though a bit of an exaggeration, there’s no question that the image of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee has taken a significant body blow following its reorganization meeting on Monday night.

To recap: Party Chair Ione Townsend concluded that the party’s by-laws precluded Democrats elected to nonpartisan positions from voting in the local DEC elections. The upshot was that the local party, in effect, “disenfranchised” some of the most prominent Democrats in the county – specifically five members of the Tampa City Council and two Hillsborough County School Board members, who did not take their banishment very calmly, let’s say.

Why would there even be by-laws that would do so? Allegedly it’s because nonpartisan officers, unlike Hillsborough County DEC members, don’t have to take a “loyalty oath,” which means not endorsing Republicans in partisan races. As was mentioned the other night, not every Democrat who wanted to vote in the election could say that (specifically Frank Reddick, who endorsed Republican Shawn Harrison over his former colleague, Lisa Montelione, in the recent House District 63 race).

I would argue that one of the reasons why people are turned off by political parties (and they are) is because one is forced to sign a “loyalty oath,” but that’s just my opinion.

A couple of other thoughts from the meeting.

Although I’d hardly call members of either the Hillsborough County School Board or Tampa City Council “elite,” (none make more than $41,000 annually), that’s apparently the perception of some of the members of the Hillsborough DEC, which had no qualms at all putting these elected officials in their place for having the temerity to question how their Democratic Party bonafides could be questioned.

And let’s not forget the anti-Alan Clendenin factor. In my reporting on his attempt to defeat the Debbie Wasserman Schultz/Bill Nelson establishment pick of Allison Tant to lead the Democrats to the promised land in the January of 2013 election, I learned that there were definitely some local folks who wanted to bring down Clendenin, a longtime Democrat who has been a committeeman at the Democratic National Committee, a local committeeman in Hillsborough County, and was given the (token) title of Florida Democratic Party Vice Chair after his loss to Tant.

There definitely seemed to be some of that same scent in the air for those who supported Hillsborough County DEC Chair’s decision to challenge the current by-laws regarding whether Democrats from nonpartisan races should be prohibited in voting in certain locations. The conventional wisdom is that all seven of those Democratic officials who attended Monday night’s meeting were pro-Clendenin votes. He ultimately lost by 12 votes to Russ Patterson, so technically the decision to ban them from not voting didn’t cost Clendenin the election to committeeman, which could have put him in position to run for state chair again last month.

Can you imagine if the margin had been by six votes or less?

Frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot of noble behavior on the part of Democrats regardless of where they stood on the issue on Monday night. The fact that the meeting was held at the Letter Carriers Union is proof that after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the electoral college last month, Democrats around here appear ready to want to participate more than ever in the process. But events like Monday night are why people don’t get involved – when it seems to be about personalities, or by-laws, instead of inclusion and changing policies.

In other news….

Luis Viera has defeated Jim Davison by just 65 votes in the special Tampa City Council District 7 run-off election last night.

Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan is warning President Obama not to pardon U.S. Army veteran Bowe Bergdahl before he leaves office next month.

Newly elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has made his two first personnel selections to join his administration next year, including nabbing former HD 59 candidate Rena Frazier to be his communications chief.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is checking in with his constituents about his ambitious plans to have a streetcar run from Miami to Miami Beach.

Vern Buchanan doesn’t want Obama to pardon Bowe Berghdahl

Vern Buchanan is urging President Obama in his last weeks in office not to pardon Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, saying the search for Bergdahl may have led to the deaths of several American soldiers.

White House and Justice Department officials say Bergdahl has submitted the clemency request. If granted, it would allow him to avert a court-martial trial scheduled for next April. Bergdahl faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

“It has been seven years since Sgt. Bergdahl chose to abandon his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan during a time of war,” the Sarasota Congressman said in a statement on Tuesday. “He should be court-martialed and held accountable.”

Bergdahl is facing charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy that endangered fellow soldiers.  He was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after walking off his post in Afghanistan, sparking a massive man-hunt conducted by the military over the five-year period. During this time it was reported that as many as six to eight American soldiers may have died as a direct result of the search for Bergdahl.

But a review of the casualty reports and contemporaneous military logs from the Afghanistan war shows that the facts surrounding the eight deaths are far murkier than definitive, the NY Times has reported.

On his Fox News program last week, commentator Bill O’Reilly predicted that Obama will pardon Bergdahl, saying that Obama feels Bergdahl is not responsible for his actions because he was “out there” and not “emotionally equipped” to serve, and the Army “made a mistake even putting the man in the field.”

Eugene R. Fidell, Bergdahl’s defense lawyer, said if his case is still pending on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, he will file a motion to have it dismissed, arguing that a “fair military trial will be impossible after Mr. Trump becomes the commander in chief,” according to the New York Times.

 

 

 

Kathy Castor says she’ll work with Donald Trump and GOP majority in Congress ‘If there’s an opportunity’

Kathy Castor says the voters in Florida’s 14th Congressional District re-elected her to get things done in Washington and, when she can, she’ll work with the Donald Trump administration and GOP Congress. But she’ll also resist them, depending on what policies they propose.

“People elected me to solve problems and if there’s any opportunity to do that with President Trump and a Republican Congress, that’s what I’m going to do,” she said Monday. “But I’m not going to compromise the values that this community holds dear. Whether that’s taking our Dream Act students and not deporting them, or fighting for higher wages, the Democratic Party is the party of working people and I’m going to continue to stand up for their interests against the system.”

Yet despite that perception, Hillary Clinton’s failure to win rust-belt states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan in the election has led to the accepted perception the Democrats have lost their way with working people.

In Boston on Sunday night, Bernie Sanders said the party has to return its focus to the working class.

“The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

“All I know is that every week when I’m in Washington D.C. we’re standing up to moneyed special interests and for some reason that’s not being communicated,” Castor says. “For example, they want to give massive tax breaks to big corporations and the top one percent. That’s not going to help working class people or working people, and what I’m afraid is that the Congress that has passed draconian budgets and tried to keep all the benefits for the wealthiest in the country, that they kind of play on Trump and take advantage of him and the people who elected him. We’re going to be pointing these things out.”

Next week Castor and her Democratic colleagues will vote on whether to retain Nancy Pelosi as their leader, or go in a different direction. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan has announced his candidacy to challenge Pelosi, the 76-year-old San Francisco congresswoman who leads the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Castor said she is undecided, but said there’s value in having a female leader.

“The party needs different leaders,” she acknowledges. “It’s time for a younger generation of leaders to run for local office, to get involved in local issues and state issues. But there is one consideration about who is going to be in leadership in Washington. President Trump, Chuck Schumer, Sen. McConnell, Paul Ryan. What do they have all have in common?”

She then answered her own question. “There is a lot of value in having a female leader,” before insisting that she hasn’t made a final decision on who should lead the caucus.

Speaking in Peru Sunday, President Obama said he was reticent to “meddle” in party votes while still in office, but went on to say that he “cannot speak highly enough” of the woman who a decade ago became the first female House speaker. “She combines strong progressive values with just extraordinary political skill, and she does stuff that’s tough, not just stuff that’s easy,” Obama said of Pelosi.

Medical marijuana advocates up in arms over Jeff Sessions

The head of a medical marijuana advocacy group is criticizing President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General.

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, said in an email Friday that the Republican Sessions “has criticized the morality of cannabis users and has stated that cannabis is more harmful than alcohol.”

Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, once “rebutted (President) Obama’s observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol by citing a renowned expert on substance abuse: ‘Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to it and it is not harmless,’” according to Forbes.

On the other hand, Sherer said, Trump “repeatedly said he supports medical cannabis and that he believes states should be able to set their own policies in this area.”

The president-elect “needs to reassure the more than 300 million Americans living under some sort of medical cannabis law that his attorney general will honor his campaign pledge to respect state medical cannabis programs,” Sherer said.

“Plain and simple, medical cannabis is a critical therapy used by millions of patients to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and more,” she added. 

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A ballot initiative giving Floridians a state constitutional right to medical pot passed earlier this month with 71 percent of the vote.

But marijuana is still outlawed by the federal government. The Obama administration has given states a pass, saying federal prosecutors should not charge those — particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers” — who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

Americans for Prosperity spends more than $2.5 million to effort to defeat Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy frequently bashed Marco Rubio on the campaign trail this fall as a “puppet of the Koch Brothers,” citing the 98 percent grade he received from Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit political advocacy group considered the political arm of Charles and David Koch.

In fact, AFP’s Florida chapter announced Monday they knocked on more than one million doors and spoke to over three million people on the phone in their effort to defeat Murphy’s bid for U.S. Senate. They also launched a website, PayMorePatrickMurphy.com along with TVdigital, and mail ads to try to ensure the Treasure Coast Democrat doesn’t win tonight’s U.S. Senate race against Rubio. It’s unusual in the respect that the group is best known for working on legislative issues at the state level, and has rarely become involved in Florida electoral politics.

“The majority of our work is not that world at all,” admits Andres Malave, a spokesperson for AFP-Florida. He hints that may be changing in the future, however.

“We usually focus on state issues, and as we in Florida continue to grow, we’re now, I think, at a point where we’re going to start doing a lot more work to try to impact the work of our federal delegation, and certainly the senators,” he said, but admits that when it comes to a direct advocacy campaign such as what they’ve employed against Murphy, “we have not partaken in it a lot.”

One exception was in 2012, when the group spent money in direct advocacy in Florida against the re-election of President Obama. 

Andres said the same issues AFP-Florida opposes in the state were obvious targets against Murphy, referring to opposition to a “pay-to-play attitude,” corporate welfare, and acceptance of the Affordable Care Act. “All of those boxes Patrick Murphy checked. And for us it was just an opportunity to rally our base and make them understand why it was so critical to keep him out.”

AFP-Florida was one of more than 50 outside groups to spend money in the U.S. Senate campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Americans for Prosperity had spent more than $2.5 million into the Florida Senate race.

Rick Scott decries ‘bureaucracy and politics’ in federal Zika aid

Gov. Rick Scott demanded Tuesday that the Obama administration speed delivery of $1.1 billion in federal money to fight the Zika virus, “to protect pregnant women and their developing babies” in Florida.

Congress approved the spending, which President Obama signed off on in September, but the money has yet to arrive, Scott said in a written statement.

“All year we watched as bureaucracy and politics got in the way of funding for this public health emergency, and the time for bureaucracy is over,” Scott said.

“While Florida continues to work through the bureaucratic and highly complex approval process for federal funding, there should be an expedited award to Florida given the fact that we are the only state currently battling local transmission of Zika through mosquitoes.”

Scott’s demand came about two weeks after state health officials declared a new Zika transmission zone in Miami-Dade County.

The governor also demanded a breakdown of how the money is to be spent.

“The appropriation bill for Zika funding required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report on the proposed uses of this funding within 30 days, and that report should be made available to Florida immediately,” the governor’s office said.

“While visiting Miami last week, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the Zika virus will ‘become endemic,’ ” Scott said.

“He also stressed the importance of investing in public health, saying, ‘it pays off.’ That is why Dr. Frieden should absolutely agree that we need the immediate allocation of all available federal funding to Florida.”

The state seeks money for epidemiological research and testing; public health emergency preparedness; pregnancy risk monitoring; and to monitor birth defects related to the virus.

“Our state has been actively engaged combatting Zika since our very first travel-related case in February,” Scott said.

Click here for a timeline of steps Scott has taken against Zika.

“We have committed every available resource, including more than $61 million in state funding, to beat this virus and protect our residents and visitors. We expect every federal dollar possible,” the governor said.

Bob Graham announces his support for fellow Democrat Bob Buesing’s state Senate bid

With just eight days to go before the voting ends in Florida, state Senate District 18 Democratic hopeful Bob Buesing received some welcome news Monday when former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham endorsed him.

“Bob Buesing is the right person to work across the aisle to address Florida’s challenges and get things done for the people of Senate District 18 in Tallahassee,” said Graham in a statement issued by the Buesing campaign early Monday. “I’m endorsing Bob because he’ll be a fresh voice in Tallahassee dedicated to protecting our environment and drinking water, strengthening our public schools, and providing innovative new ideas to grow good jobs here at home in Florida. The people of Hillsborough County can count on Bob Buesing to always put their interests first.”

“I am deeply honored to have earned the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham,” said Buesing. “Gov. Graham’s legacy of service to our state is a testament to all that can be accomplished when you prioritize the needs of the people you are elected to serve and work together across party lines. I am proud to share Sen. Graham’s dedication to putting people first and I will look to his example as a member of the Florida Senate.”

The endorsement from the 79-year-old Democratic icon (who turns 80 next week) could be a boost for Buesing, who is still relatively unknown in local politics as he attempts to defeat Republican Dana Young in the Senate race. Buesing is also being squeezed by progressive icon Joe Redner, a former Democrat turned independent who is polling in double figures in the contest.

Unlike President Obama, who endorsed a number of Florida Democrats running for state legislative seats earlier this month, Graham has been very selective in terms of his endorsements.

In addition to backing Hillary Clinton and Patrick Murphy in the high-profile races for president and U.S. Senate, the only other state legislative Democrat Graham has endorsed this cycle has been Ben Diamond, running in the Pinellas County House District 68 race against Republican JB Benshimen. 

‘Women For Trump’ in West Tampa cheer upon news of FBI review of new Hillary Clinton emails

The “Women for Trump” bus tour made a stop at the Trump-Pence headquarters in West Tampa late Friday afternoon.

“Did anyone hear that the FBI just reopened an investigation?” asked Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of Donald Trump and wife of Trump’s son, Eric.

The crowd erupted in cheers upon hearing that statement, which came about three hours after the news first broke that FBI Director James Comey had written to congressional leaders, saying it is again probing emails that might be related to Hillary Clinton’s private server, reopening a potentially damaging controversy for Clinton just 11 days before Election Day.

Joining Lara Trump was Omarosa Manigault, the breakout star of the first season of Trump’s NBC reality series “The Apprentice,” who was hired in July as the director of African-American outreach for the Trump campaign. She opted not to speak to the crowd, instead chatting briefly with people and taking a slew of selfies.

The other speakers were Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, better known by their stage name Diamond and Silk, the YouTube stars who championed Trump early on in the primary season.

“I’ll tell you, you all look beautiful, the basket of deplorables,” Hardaway began. “OK, so you all know that we are women, we are black, and we are voting for Donald J. Trump!”

Later, it was Richardson’s turn at the mic. “It’s not about ovaries in the Oval Office. It’s about who has the balls to build a wall!”

Needless to say, the crowd erupted in cheers to that statement as well.

Lara Trump said her father-in-law would bring respect back to the country and the White House. She then mentioned President Obama‘s recent trip to China, where authorities failed to initially provide a staircase when he landed.

“We might not agree with his politics, but he is still the president and that is Air Force One and that demands respect!” Trump said. “Do you know what Donald Trump would have done if that was him? He would have said ‘gas it up, we’re going back home.’”

One “Woman for Trump” who was slated to appear but did not was national spokesperson Katrina Pierson.

All told, the event lasted all of 15 minutes or so, after commencing an hour after the scheduled 3 p.m. start.

During the hour interregnum, the presence of liberal activist Kelly Benjamin appeared to unnerve officials, including a security guard who several times asked Benjamin to leave the premises, claiming it was a private event and that he was trespassing. Each time he successfully talked his way into staying, before two Tampa Police Department officers were called in. They ended up walking him out to the front of the sidewalk of the event.

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Then, as the women were just about to reboard the bus, Benjamin and two members of Black Lives Matter unfurled a Black Lives Matter flag, and for a minute or so it became tense, as the Trump supporters started shouting back “all lives matter” to the two activists chants of “black lives matter.” And then it ended.

Bloomberg poll has Donald Trump up by 2 points in Florida, 45%-43%

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by two percentage points in Florida, 45 percent to 43 percent, in a new Bloomberg poll released Wednesday morning.

Libertarian Gary Johnson gets 4 percent, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2 percent. The margin is cut to one percentage point lead for Trump, 46 percent to 45 percent, in a tw0-person race.

The survey of 985 Florida registered voters was conducted from Oct. 21-24. The margin of error is at 3.2 percent.

The survey is the first in a long time that shows Trump leading in Florida, but recent polls shows the race tightening. The RealClearPolitics average in Florida as of Wednesday morning shows Clinton with a 1.6 percentage point lead.

“This race may come down to the independent vote,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “Right now, they tilt for Trump. By a narrow margin, they opted for Obama over Romney in 2012.” The poll shows Trump leading Clinton amongst independents by a 43 percent to 41 percent margin.

Barack Obama won independents by three points in 2012, though he defeated Mitt Romney by less than one percentage point.

Clinton gets 51 percent of the Sunshine State’s Hispanic vote and 49 percent of those under age 35 in the two-way contest, while Trump has 51 percent of seniors and 50 percent of those without college degrees.

Trump must win Florida’s 29 electoral votes to win the presidency; Clinton does not, if you go by 2012 standards. Although Obama did take the state in 2012, Florida was only declared in his favor four days after he had already gone over the 270 electoral votes on Election Night and had officially won re-election.

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