Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

"Jeb Bush’s man for mayor" does the perp walk

Fred Grimm: "Credit the wisdom of Miami-Dade voters. They saw through Julio Robaina."

Two years ago, county mayoral candidate Robaina had twice as much money in his campaign account as rival Carlos Gimenez. Robaina had endorsements from Jeb Bush and from Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart and other powerbrokers in South Florida’s political establishment.

And Robaina had a ready retort for his critics. When questions were raised about his peculiar sideline in the private loan business, about his relationship with a convicted Ponzi fraudster and about a rumored federal investigation, Hialeah’s ghost banker simply blamed The Miami Herald. He claimed The Herald “disregards the truth to cast stories with misinformation and erroneous contexts.”

The press, he said, had victimized a victim. “As a victim of a Ponzi scheme, I feel that I’m also being victimized by false media stories.”

Yet the voters rejected Robaina. They spared the county a humiliating scenario two years later that would surely have reverberated across the nation — another perp walk featuring a disgraced South Florida pol.

Thanks to the collective wisdom of the electorate — all 102,445 citizens who voted against Robaina in the run-off election — that was not the county mayor and his wife, shackled at the ankles and wrists, shuffling along in federal custody on Friday.

The self-described victim faces charges that he and wife Raiza evaded income taxes by concealing major transactions in their high-interest money-lending business and that they lied to federal investigators. The feds charged that despite his claims to the contrary, Robaina and his ghost-loan business were entangled with infamous Ponzi artist Luis Felipe Perez, who duped investors out of $45 million. Perez told investigators that Robaina had loaned him $750,000 at 36 percent interest.

"Last week’s six-count indictment was not a media invention."
Yet the smart money had been on Robaina for county mayor. In the May 24, 2011, election, he led an 11-candidate field, then lost, barely, to Carlos Gimenez in the June 28 runoff with 49.9 percent of the vote. This despite getting support in the runoff from Luther Campbell, the iconoclast rapper who finished fourth in the May 24 election with 11 percent of the vote.

It had seemed a mysterious, even suspicious political alliance, with Uncle Luke embracing Jeb Bush’s man for mayor. A year later, Campbell was still seething at what he considered unfair media coverage of his new best buddy. “Robaina’s character was assassinated unfairly,” Campbell wrote in the New Times last July, suggesting all this talk of a federal investigation had been contrived by the likes of The Miami Herald to skew the election. “Here we are more than a year later and he is still a free man. The media — and the political hacks who deal in misinformation — lied to the public to make sure he would not win the election.”

Hey Luke, turns out the lying media and savvy voters spared Miami-Dade County from considerable ignominy. You can call criminal defendant Julio Robaina a lot of things. But not county mayor.

"On Robaina, Miami-Dade voters got it right".

"Tallahassee lacks leaders with long-term vision"

The Tampa Bay Times editors write that "the budget shows once again that Tallahassee lacks leaders with long-term vision. On Monday, Scott boasted about a $300 million increase in funding for the state university system — just a year after leading the charge to cut the same amount even as he backed the outrageous creation of the state's 12th university, Florida Polytechnic, from the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus."

Scott was similarly shortsighted on vetoing the 3 percent tuition increase for college and university students, who currently pay among the lowest in-state tuition in the nation. Scott on Monday argued Florida should be proud it offers cheap tuition but failed to acknowledge that the lost revenue means Florida will continue to spend dramatically less per student than most other states. At many universities, that will mean fewer and bigger classes and more faculty fleeing to higher-paying states. It will also mean many students won't get the courses they need to finish on time. Just one extra semester cancels out any tuition savings from Scott's veto.
"Most unusual was how the governor tried to extract written promises or concessions from various potential recipients of state money, implying that without them he would veto line-items. He even tried to get state university presidents to sign a form letter that they wouldn't push for tuition increases before the Board of Governors. It was an odd tactic unbecoming the governor and interfered with the responsibilities of the Legislature and the Board of Governors."
Florida heads into 2013-14 with more money but not any better long-term vision for the future.
"Budget lacks long-term vision". See also "Scott signs budget but vetoes $368 million in spending first", "Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs budget, vetoes $368 million in spending", "Rick Scott Vetoes Go Far and Wide", "Gov. Scott’s $368 million in budget vetoes hits PBSC campus, sheriff's program" and "Governor vetoes $50 million for proposed bike trail along with $27.3 million in water projects".

The Miami Herald editors: "South Florida regaining lost ground".

Outa here

"Rick Scott Leads Florida Entourage on Trade Mission to Chile".

"Let's try someone from South Florida"

"For 10 years, political pros have taken it almost as gospel that the strongest statewide Democratic candidates are centrists from Florida's top battleground region of Tampa Bay. But 2014 gubernatorial hopeful Nan Rich says that's bunk."

"We tried that three times, and we had three good candidates — we had Jim Davis, Alex Sink and Bill McBride," Rich said Monday, referring to the last three Democratic nominees for governor. "And you know what? We didn't win. So let's try something new. Let's try someone from South Florida."
"Democrat Rich says she's ready to take on Scott".

Medicaid managed-care rolled out

"Though critics, including the AARP, say the pilot program for the managed-care plan has had problems, Washington approved the transition and Florida is implementing it to save money in a $21-billion Medicaid program." "Long-term care Medicaid patients start enrolling".

The best they can do?

"Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo has not officially entered the race to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia -- but the Miami Republican is enlisting some of the state's most prominent members of the GOP for his exploratory committee." "Carlos Curbelo Doing the Pre-Season I'm-Running Dance to Challenge Democrat Congressman Garcia".

Manufacturing tax break

"Gov. Scott signs manufacturing tax break into law".

Trib likes their Ricky

The wingers at the Tampa Trib begin the long trudge that will end up with their predictible endorsement of Rick Scott's reelection, no matter who runs against him: think Ricky Scott is doing just fine: "Scott’s evolution as governor".

Scott has picked up "less than 20 percent of the jobs" he promised

"To hear Gov. Rick Scott tell it, his memorable campaign pledge to create 700,000 jobs in seven years is going right along schedule."

The novice politician, almost two and a half years into his first term, says things are looking bright for the Sunshine State as a result of investments in economic development and public education.

"We are already almost halfway to our 2010 goal of creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years," Scott wrote in a letter explaining line-item vetoes in the 2013-14 state budget.

Politifact points out that "it's premature to sing Scott's praises for fulfilling half of the jobs he promised in the centerpiece of his 2010 campaign."

This is so

Because Scott told us in a debate and in press accounts that his 700,000 jobs would come on top of Florida's normal growth as it re-added jobs lost during the recession. State economists expected the state to add about 1 million jobs by 2017.

"It's on top of that," he told a reporter in 2010. "If you do these things, we're going to grow 700,000 more jobs."

So Scott needs about 1.4 million more jobs by 2017 to fulfill his original promise of 1.7 million jobs. Through 28 months in office, the state has added less than 20 percent of the jobs he needs to meet that mark.

"PolitiFact: Fact-checking Rick Scott's jobs math".


"Never Underestimate the Indefatigable Bill Young".

Raschein, R-Key Largo, draws major Democratic opponent

"Rep. Holly Merrill Raschein, R-Key Largo, has drawn a major Democratic opponent as she seeks to defend one of the more competitive seats in the Florida House of Representatives."

Businesswoman and community leader Pamela Gray filed her paperwork Monday to challenge for the House seat, which represents all of Monroe County and parts of Miami-Dade. Filing as a Democrat, Gray had run for the Miami-Dade Commission in 2010, before withdrawing and throwing her support behind another candidate. Gray served as president of the Redlands Citizens Association and served as chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board.
"Rep. Holly Raschein Looks Over Her Shoulder at Dem Challenger Pamela Gray".