Monday, October 20, 2014

Mitch Perry 10.20.14: Rick Scott's millions coming to his own rescue?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 8:31 AM

It's starting to get real in this year's midterm in Florida. In addition to early voting beginning in Pinellas and many other counties today (but not Hillsborough, which doesn't start until Thursday), there are just two full weeks left for all of the candidates vying to win election on November 4 to lay it all on the line. 

The biggest news on the gubernatorial front is the report posted Friday by Palm Beach County political blogger Brian Crowley that said Rick Scott will drop between $20-$22 million of his own cash into the race. The report is not being denied by the Republican Party of Florida. Neither has it been confirmed. But it's been given credence because unlike 2014, Scott so far has not dropped a dime into his own race, nor has he had to, as he's still dominated Charlie Crist in fundraising so far. 

Scott spent over $70 million — all his own cash — in his narrow victory over Alex Sink in 2010. He vowed going into this year's election cycle that he would not do that in 2014, and he hasn't had to, thanks to the contributions that have come into his own campaign, as well as the Republican Party of Florida and his political action committee, Let's Get Back to Work.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

A call to action, Kathryn Todman Browne’s fight for better education

Posted By on Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Kathy Browne, a crusader for better education in Hillsborough County
  • Kathy Browne, a crusader for better education in Hillsborough County

Kathy Browne died last month at the age of 58. She was a woman of charity, her friends and family say. From experiences in her own childhood she learned not to take no for answer. Because she was the daughter of an ambassador, she got to travel and live in many different countries which resulted in a perspective of the world that was much more expansive than most. In addition to her own strength of character, she was a woman of faith who did her best to reflect the love of the God she served. After living in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico where her children’s private schooling cost up to $250 per child, she decided to move to the States in 1990, because the public education system was free.

Beyond her involvement as a parent, she was prompted to volunteer in a larger capacity, because of the experiences she had in her children’s classrooms. For example, according to Reverend Dr. Russell Meyer, “One day she told a school administrator that too many fourth graders had little conception of reading itself.” She was told, “All the children who need to read can read.” He says that Kathy was an education crusader from then on, and she did it all as a volunteer.

Also, in an interview with her son Joshua, he said that his older brother Jeremiah was placed in ESOL in second grade, against Kathy’s wishes, because he was bilingual. He was fluent in both Spanish and English. As this was his first year as a student in Tampa, the experience made him feel like he shouldn’t speak Spanish anymore.

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RNC Chair calls Obama's Czar on Ebola a "political hack"

Posted By on Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:55 AM

With just a couple of weeks before the midterm elections, Fox News Sunday hosted the first cable news confab of the political season with the respective heads of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to talk about (and over each other) the issues of the day, which first and foremost today is Ebola. 

On Friday, President Obama chose Ron Klain to be his Ebola "czar," responding to criticism that there was no central coordinator inside the White House to deal with these global health crisis which has now hit America's shores. Klain is a D.C. insider with good relationships in the administration and Capitol Hill, but he's definitely a partisan Democrat who served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden - so you knew there'd be some GOP criticism. 

"There is a malaise in this country of how people are feeling that this president is handling big problems," Priebus told Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday morning. "And when you appoint this next individual , Klain, who’s a lobbyist and political hack,  to head up the Ebola crisis in this country, it doesn’t give Americans any confidence about this president."

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Advocates for the closure of the health care coverage gap meet in St. Petersburg

Posted By on Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

(From left to right) Florida CHAIN Executive Director Leah Barber-Heinz, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Founder and President of Families USA Philippe Villers, Board of Directors Chair, Doctors for America's Dr. Mona Mangat, and City Council member Darden Rice
  • (From left to right) Florida CHAIN Executive Director Leah Barber-Heinz, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Founder and President of Families USA Philippe Villers, Board of Directors Chair, Doctors for America's Dr. Mona Mangat, and City Council member Darden Rice

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Darden Rice joined representatives of some of the leading health care advocates: Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), Families USA- the national organization for health care consumers, Doctors for America, and local residents affected by Florida’s coverage gap for a news conference on Friday. On one of the first crisp Florida fall days this year, members of this group explained the stark difference between states that have provided their workers with Medicaid expansion and those that have not.

According to the speakers, in order for the Affordable Care Act to work in Florida, Medicaid expansion must be expanded. The focus today was on low-income families. Families USA points out the fact that these workers are the backbone of Florida’s economy. They say that Florida’s current Medicaid program only covers parents with extremely low incomes and no coverage for the same low income adults that don’t have children. For those in a family of three, and with an income of merely $6,930, the expansion of health care could cover incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Philippe Villers, founder and president of Families USA, a national healthcare advocacy group, says that if 1 million people in Florida gain coverage, 70,000 jobs will be created, resulting in billions of dollars for its economy. “How many people realize that today in Florida and some other states, you can be too poor to get help?” he asks. “In Florida, in order to get help based on money, a family of three must make under $7,000, so if you make even 30 percent of minimum wage, you don’t qualify for help on Medicaid, but you are too poor to qualify for a Federal help. That leaves you right in the middle. Hundreds of thousands of Floridians are too poor to get help,” says Villers. “I consider that just plain immoral,” he says. Statistically, the worst city in the nation for coverage is Miami, at 25 percent, and Tampa and St. Pete are not far behind.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Public art installation kicks off St. Pete Science Festival

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Current Collections challenges viewer/participants to look up through a swirling ocean gyre of plastic debris

  • Ellen Kirkland
  • Current Collections challenges viewer/participants to look up through a swirling ocean gyre of plastic debris

St. Pete has once again achieved international recognition for its commitment to public art for its latest installation: Current Collections.

The event was carried internationally on BBC and also mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. At yesterday’s St. Petersburg City Council meeting, City Councilwoman Darden Rice declared, “This is a banner day for public arts in St. Petersburg.”

The temporary installation, which opened Wednesday, draws attention to Saturday’s area-wide coastal clean-up event and today’s opening of the St. Petersburg Science Festival.

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A tale of 2 counties? Pat Kemp & Al Higginbotham's different views on the health of Hillsborough

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 4:17 PM

Al Higginbotham & Pat Kemp at Maestro's restaurant in Tampa on Friday. - KIMBERLY DEFALCO
  • Kimberly DeFalco
  • Al Higginbotham & Pat Kemp at Maestro's restaurant in Tampa on Friday.

Although Al Higginbotham has served on the Hillsborough County Commission for eight years, he's only represented one quarter of the county during that time, in the more conservative District 2 regions of Riverview, Brandon and other far eastern parts. That's why it's no shoo-in that he'll take the countywide district 7 seat, where he faces a formidable Democrat in attorney and activist Pat Kemp.

Whether Kemp can get the Democratic vote out is a big question, of course, as the two candidates engaged in an oh-so-civilized debate on Friday afternoon at Maestro's Restaurant inside the Straz Center, where the conversation mostly centered on transportation and economic development — or the frustrating lack of both, according to Kemp. 

Her message is clear and simple: Changes need to be made in Hillsborough County, and to buttress her argument she referred to a damning report issued last month that showed the Tampa Bay area's median income among the top 25 metro areas of the nation to be dead last.

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Florida climate scientists request a followup with Governor Scott

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Last week CL reported on the Climate Science & Solutions Summit, an event organized by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Speakers included scientists, elected officials, environmentalists and businesspeople making a living in solar power.

The first panel featured three of the five climate scientists who met with Governor Scott in August, though only for a half-hour. But they, along with a host of business leaders, local elected officials and the public, are asking to meet in person again with Scott to review a comprehensive overview of climate change solutions, which they have laid out in a letter sent to him today.

"Although you couldn't make it to the summit," the letter states, "it is our our aim to bring forward the optimal ways to deal with the challenges to Florida stemming from climate change. Along those lines, we respectfully request the opportunity to brief you on the carefully crafted solutions we discussed at the Climate Science and Solutions Summit."

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New HART member Mickey Jacob says he can't wait to get started working on transit issues

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 10:05 AM


Architect Mickey Jacob set out for Tampa upon graduating from college more than 30 years ago, and has been been a working architect here ever since. A founding principal with Urban Studio Architects, he's served as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at BDG Architects since 2013, where he is responsible for the development of the firm's strategic direction and client relations.

He's been able to tour the country and the world over the past four years, ever since he was elected vice president of the American Institute of Architects, and says his travels confirm to him that everyone, everywhere wants the same thing for their communities.

"They want good transportation. They want a healthy lifestyle, great education, prosperity. Everyone wants the same stuff," he says. It's also allowed him how to see other regions handle transportation, something that nobody would dispute needs improvement in Hillsborough County.

"I don’t think anyone will disagree that we have a car-centric transportation system here, and it's a cultural issue, we have to look at the culture of our community to start to change the behavior of everyone to embrace different modes of transportation, and that’s not an easy process," he says.

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Mitch Perry Report 10.17.14: Medical marijuana amendment burning out?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 at 9:11 AM


While the U.S. political media establishment was guffawing over #FanGate, some pretty important things happened in the past 24 hours.

Like the San Francisco Giants making it into the World Series for the third time in the past five seasons.

Please forgive me, Tampa Bay area, but like so many non-native Floridian sports fans, old habits die hard when it comes to rooting for the team you grew up with. The fact that there were very few good years over the past four decades for Giants fans makes this recent renaissance all the more rewarding. Now San Francisco faces Rays alums James "Big-Game" Shields and Wade Davis and the rest of the Kansas City Royals in the World Series starting next Tuesday night. And no doubt most of America that doesn't have much of a rooting interest will be for the Royals, the team that hasn't won anything in 29 years, vs. a Giants squad that's making it a bi-annual habit to appear in the  Fall Classic. 

Okay, back to politics. While the obsession around Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate in Broward County continued to play out, two recent polls came out that are worth scrutiny.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Raices en Tampa asks City Council to support licenses for all undocumented immigrants

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 8:20 PM

Members of Raices en Tampa in front of Tampa City Hall.
  • Members of Raices en Tampa in front of Tampa City Hall.

Members of Raices en Tampa and supporters stood before Tampa City Council Thursday morning. They asked the council to vote on a resolution in support of issuing drivers licenses to all undocumented immigrants. While similar laws have already passed in eleven states, Governor Rick Scott vetoed efforts in Florida that would have provided temporary licenses for young adults that qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) passed by President Obama in 2012. DACA provides a temporary two year delay in the deportation of young adults who were illegally brought to this country, but only if they qualify

Scott’s veto was in opposition of a favoring majority from both the House 115-2 and the Senate 36-0. In a statement in the Miami Herald in June of 2013, Scott explains why he vetoed the law. He said, “Deferred action status is simply a policy of the Obama administration, absent congressional direction,” Scott wrote. “Although the Legislature may have been well-intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis.”

Raices wants to model their efforts by the recent success in Illinois, where Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (TVDLs) allow foreign individuals to drive. The ID is only valid for driving. Those that qualify include those with lawful immigration status such as, students, long term visitors and spouses and children of temporary workers. Furthermore, Raices en Tampa intends to acquire the support of a law that would provide licenses to all undocumented workers, regardless of age, DACA or TVDLs requirements.

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