Archive for December, 2008

Turnaround Town
December 28, 2008

  The Dolphins are in the playoffs, completing an astounding turnaround.  Their ghastly 1-15 record of last year has somehow morphed into an 11-5 season, and their first post-season berth since 2001.

   The Heat are poised to make a similar turnaround, having already surpassed last season’s win total.  16-13 isn’t setting the world on fire, of course, but it sure looks good after the 2007-08 disaster of 15-67.

   South Florida’s non-athletic numbers are far less encouraging.  Unemployment in Miami-Dade and Broward hovers at 6-7%, better than the statewide average, but two points above last year.

  And the real estate prices that had so many of us feeling wealthy on paper a couple of years back are still hurting.  Median home prices, in the mid-to-high $300K’s a year ago, are now in the low $200K’s, off about 35% in South Florida counties.

   Never has a community needed athletic triumph more, as a morale-booster.  So– GO DOLPHINS and GO HEAT, and may 2009 bring better numbers for the rest of us, as well.

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Big Dough Donor from Doral
December 18, 2008

The list of big South FL contributors to the Obama Inaugural doesn’t contain many of the “usual suspects”– those who raise mega-sums for campaigns every election cycle.  Indeed, the only max contributor ($50,000) from our area is a guy who– as far as I can tell– had never given to a campaign before this year.

His name is Raul Pedraza, and he owns a global shipping/transportation company, Magno International, located in Doral photo from the web site’s below).  Magno is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise by the government, and appears to have lots of government contracts.  Pedraza’s bio says he’s Harvard-educated, a veteran– but, before this year, not much of political donor.

pedraza

I found no records of any donations until February of this year.  Since then, Pedraza’s given about $25,000 to the Obama campaigns and various allied committees, and now, 50-grand to the Inaugural committee.

Say What?!
December 11, 2008

     Strangest quote from a political press release in recent memory arrives this evening from the City of Miami, crowing about the approval of land leases for the new art and science museums slated to go in Bicentennial Park.

      City flacks quote the reaction of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff:

      “A vacuous park will be charged with energy and inquisition for those Miamians and visitors who yearn for science and art in the new  park.”

      Funny– Commissioner Sarnoff was speaking pretty good Enlgish when I interviewed him about an unrelated subject this afternoon.  He apparently turned into Prof. Irwin Corey some time around 3 PM.

On Board for Obama
December 5, 2008

  I spent the day talking to people searching– without much success– for a place to stay in Washington during Inauguration week.  Attendees could number in the millions.  Hotel room run in the thousand.  You do the math.

  Just got a room myself.  NBC didn’t have hotel rooms set aside.  I’ll lodge in a studio apartment, sleeping on a fold-out couch, for $750 a night.  Still, I feel lucky– Obama volunteer Dan Jonas is talking about campaign out, in a tent. Vicki Hall says, if all else fails, she and her husband will bunk in their Chevy Armada.

   But late in the day, I got wind of an interesting alternative for the lodging-less Obamaphile– the “Yes We Can Cruise”.  It’s being put together by Karen Phillips, an event planner in Broward, among others.

   Phillips and other backers have put a deposit on a cruise ship– the Caribe 1, pictured below.

caribe-1  

   525 cabins available.  The price, $1100 a head, with all cabins double occupancy.  Pretty good, compared to $750 a night for fold-out accommodations, but you have to be willing to invest some time.

   The “Yes We Can” cruise, set to depart on Friday, January 16th from Port Everglades.   Scheduled arrival in the Port of Baltimore, Monday at 3PM.  The next morning, buses would take the cruisers from Baltimore to a Metro stop in Maryland, for the commute into DC.

   Organizers I talked with– Phillips and Lauderhill Commissioner Dale Holness, who met each other working as volunteers on the Obama campaign– promise plenty of entertainment on board, though they concede the swimming pool might not get much use after a couple of days of cruising north.

   On the return trip, the Caribe 1 would stop in Freeport on the evening of Friday, January 23rd, before cruising back to Port Everglades on the morning of the 24th.

   Though deposit money’s down, it’s not a totally sure thing yet.  Still, Phillips and Holness expect to tour the ship Monday, and hope to unveil their web site– www.yeswecancruise.com— then, as well.

   We’ll keep you posted.

Miami Mayor not on Caucus List
December 3, 2008

  The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, pressing Barack Obama to name more hispanics to top jobs in his administration, sent a letter with some suggestions to the Pres-Elect. The letter listed 15 names for 10 as-yet unfilled positions.  

   One name not on the CHC list– Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who has said he’s “in the mix” for a Federal job.  Diaz has gotten mention as a possible Secretary of Transportation or HUD.

   The Hispanic Caucus has two suggestions for HUD– Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, and Saul Ramirez, a former Deputy HUD Secretary during the Clinton years.

   For Transportation Secretary, the CHC suggests Carrion or banker Maria Contreras Sweet, who once served as California’s Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing.

Senatorial Dominoes
December 2, 2008

   Decision ’10 is on, with a bang.  Mel Martinez’ decision to vacate his Senate seat after just one term has the Florida political world buzzing about potential replacements, and speculating as to how the electoral dominoes will fall.

  On the Republican side, it all starts with the Gov and the ex-Gov. 

  Few expect Charlie Crist to go after the Senate seat.  His campaign “maestro”, George Lemieux, is quoted as saying he expects Crist to run for a second term as Governor.

  But Jeb Bush might be interested.  His spokeswoman put out a statement saying Bush “has not given serious consideration to running for Senate…at this point.”   That sort of squishy prose certainly won’t discourage speculation Bush is interested, and at least one Bush intimate is spreading the word (to the Herald and NBC 6’s Tom Llamas, among others) that Bush is seriously considering a Senate run, and may decide by early next year.

  The Senate would be an odd fit for Bush.  He’s used to running things, and might chafe in a legislative role.  He can be harsh in disagreement, whereas the Senate’s tradition is clubby and collegial (less so now, but still…)

  The Senate would be a great platform for a guy who says his focus is “advocating ideas and policies to get the conservative  cause back on track”— that’s the back half of the statement put out on Bush’s behalf. 

   If Jeb doesn’t want to run, it could open the floodgates.  Attorney General Bill McCollum says he’d been planning a re-election bid, but will weigh the possibility of a Senate run.  Former Speaker Marco Rubio calls the Martinez seat a “unique opportunity” for someone like himself– “obviously interested in statewide office”, as he put it.  Rubio’s a Bush acolyte, but if Jeb’s not in, he almost certainly will be.

   Another ex-Speaker, Allen Bense, will think about a run.  One current lawmaker thinks Senate President Jeff Atwater might make a run, as might the ex-Senate Pres, Ken Pruitt.  Those in state office don’t have to resign to run for a Federal office, thanks to a state law passed a couple of years ago.

   Congress-folk wanting to move up to Senate would, however, have to relinquish their safe seats in order to make a run.  Republican Reps mentioned as potential Senate candidates include Adam Putnam and Connie Mack (son, of course, of a former Senator).

   State GOP chair Jim Greer says his phone’s ringing off the hook.  He expects lots of Republicans to investigate a Senate run, but figures that the price tag ($25-million?!) and the time investment required will scare away many.

   Democrats had seen the Martinez seat as a potential pick-up all along (a Quinnipiac poll showed Sen. Mel running 4 points behind a generic Democratic opponent).  Just this morning, Politico.com had reported that the leading Democratic challenger– CFO had decided over Thanksgiving weekend, noat to run.  Sink isn’t talking now, in the wake of Martinez’ announcement, but some think she’ll reconsider.

  Just-elected State Senator Dan Gelber’s looking a US Senate run, even pointing out his web site’s already entitled “Gelber for Senate”.  Gelber, who worked on the staff of the Senate Investigations Committee, says he’ll be talking over making a run with his wife and kids, but he sounds enthusiastic about the prospect to me.

  Again, a guy like Gelber could run for Federal office without giving up his State Senate seat.  US Reps like Kendrick Meek, Ron Klein, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kathy Castor, and Allen Boyd would have to resign to run… and several of them have a lot to lose.

  Wasserman-Schultz, for instance, has had a high profile as an Obama talk-show surrogate, and is on Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team.  One Capitol Hill aide familiar with her thinking says Wasserman-Schultz is almost certainly out “unless there are no good Democrats running and the Republican opponent is Katherine Harris.”

  Boyd– a blue-dog Dem from the Panhandle– says he’s thinking about mounting a Senate bid.  If a number of more liberal South Florida Democrats get in the Senate race, Boyd could get the nomination–  remember, there are no runoffs.

    Any Democrat other than Sink would have to get going soon, to build statewide name recognition and a lot of campaign cash.