Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 311

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez to appear in Miami April 19

A date and time have been officially announced for the Florida appearance of Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The two will speak Wednesday, April 19, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the James L. Knight Center in Miami.

To RSVP for the event, go here.

The two officials are scheduled to hold events in “red” and “purple” states, including Maine, Nebraska and Montana, in addition to Florida. The tour starts April 17 and lasts about one week.

“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and a shrinking middle class, we need a government which represents all Americans, not just Wall Street, multinational corporations and the top 1 percent,” Sanders and Perez said in a joint statement. “Regardless of where they live or their political affiliations, most people understand that it is absurd for Republicans in Congress to support huge tax breaks for billionaires while pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

Sanders and Perez plan to advocate for raising the minimum wage to $15, investing in roads and bridges, making public colleges tuition-free and overhauling the immigration system.

Sanders had been an early backer of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s main rival for the DNC job, and was initially critical of Democrats who called for Perez to enter the race.

“Running for chair, Tom said that his views were not substantially different than Keith Ellison’s, who I strongly supported,” Sanders told The Washington Post. “I’m sorry he did not win. But during that campaign, Tom said that the Democratic Party had to be refocused, had to be rebuilt, and I trust that he will keep those promises. The fact that he’s prepared to travel with me around the country and pick up half the cost of this is a positive sign.”

The weeklong tour is similar to other trips Perez and Ellison have taken together — including one to New Jersey, where Perez blasted Republicans for not giving a “s**t” about people.

Meanwhile, news of the tour is provoking the GOP to talk a little trash.

“Democrats are still in deep denial about the lack of enthusiasm voters have for their party and remain in disarray following harrowing losses across the country last November,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement sent to FloridaPolitics. “The people of Florida have had enough of their political games. Democrats should join Republicans in working together to find real solutions to the important issues facing millions of Americans across the country. Unfortunately, this tour appears to be more about increasing the name recognition of a few Democrats than about making the American people a priority.”

Legislature considers proposal to address Florida food deserts

After just three years in operation, retail giant Wal-Mart closed its doors February in the Midtown neighborhood of South St. Petersburg.

It was a blow to the community on a number of levels, not least of which was making it much more difficult for Midtown residents to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Studies have found that lacking access to a vehicle for access to full-service grocery stores creates a situation where people are likely to contract diabetes, diet-related cancers, and liver disease.

A 2014 study commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services identified 100 rural and 100 urban areas of Florida that are so-called “food deserts.”

Food deserts are generally described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within a convenient traveling distance.

A bill now making way through the Florida House and Senate would attempt to remedy that problem.

HB 1083, sponsored by Fort Pierce Democrat Larry Lee (and its Senate companion, SB 1592 sponsored by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean), creates the “Healthy Food Assistance Program,” to provide funding to the Department of Agriculture for retrofitting small food retailers with refrigeration, display shelving or other equipment — up to a maximum of $7,500 per store.

In addition, funding would be made available for materials for nutrition education and healthy food promotion, as well as funds of up to $2,000 per retailer for an initial purchase of healthy foods, including dairy products and fresh produce.

“Just putting it out there without giving the retailers the training on stock rotation or not giving the customers a reason to buy it, then it’s not going to be effective as it could be in the long run,” says Rivers Buford III, director of government relations at the American Heart Association, which advocates for the legislation.”

“We’re requesting for these little micro-grants, administered by the Department of Agriculture, or somebody they chose to contract with,” Buford says, “so it’s got some government oversight on it to make sure it’s a program that is judicious in nature, and not put funds out there where it doesn’t have some sort of accountability factor associated with it.”

Mari Gallagher Research, which conducted the 2014 study for the Agriculture Department, found that reducing the fraction of the population with insufficient healthy food access in the 200 sites named by the agency by just one single percentage point could prevent nearly 650 premature deaths over a seven-year period. It would also improve the health of over a million Floridians in urban areas and 780,000 in rural areas.

So what qualifies as a small retailer?

According to the House bill, it needs to be in a low or moderate-income area and smaller than 3,000 square feet, such as a corner store, convenience store, small grocery store or bodega which sells a limited number of products.

Mark Landreth, senior director of government relations at the American Heart Association, refers to a statewide version of the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative as a program that he’d like Florida to emulate.

Launched in March 2011, the Initiative originally began by awarding low-cost, flexible financing for vendors to open, renovate or expand retail outlets in areas of the city lacking fresh food access. Last month Mayor

Last month, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the Healthy Corner Store Collaborative, which would provide one-on-one business mentoring with a food retail expert, as well as branding, marketing, and food display materials to expand fresh food offerings into five individual stores in the city.

Another project receiving national attention is the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a program that funded 88 grocery stores and improved access for nearly 500,000 Pennsylvania residents.

Although there’s more public discussion of food deserts than ever before, they are still increasing throughout the U.S.

In 2010, there were 8,959 food deserts nationwide. By 2015, there were 9,245 low-income, low-access census tracts, a 3 percent increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A year ago, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation for a similar request by the AHA, but the funding request was cut from $5 million to $500,000. In 2017, the request is for $1 million.

“I think we should heed the failure of two grocery stores to thrive in the Midtown market,” says South St. Pete activist and magazine publisher Gypsy Gallardo. “This new legislative is one way we can creatively bring healthy food access in neighborhoods. Community leaders in St. Pete are looking at a range of creative and lower-cost options.”

Sparks fly with Tampa Bay GOP senators over Tom Lee’s call for Tampa International Airport audit

Sparks flew on the floor of the Florida Senate Wednesday between Tampa Bay-area Republicans after Tom Lee stated that “potential public corruption” is taking place at Tampa International Airport.

The Brandon Republican then proposed inserting an amendment to the Senate budget calling for the Auditor General to review spending at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which is currently in the midst of a billion-dollar-plus master plan renovation.

“There have been allegations of gross representation,” Lee told Dana Young of Tampa (as well as the rest of the Senate), saying reports surfaced on local television and in “newspapers.”

Young objected, as did Jack Latvala of Clearwater; both stated that they had no idea what Lee was talking about.

“That’s a very inflammatory thing to say,“ Latvala said. “Can you tell me which channel it was on and maybe a little more about it, because obviously none of us condone corruption, but since you’re the only one in the delegation that has seen it, maybe help us a little bit?”

Senate President Joe Negron then interrupted, saying all legislators should be cautious when talking about the reputation of others, or, in this case, Tampa International Airport.

Lee then backed away slightly, saying that what he has seen was the definition of public corruption, but “perhaps I shouldn’t use that term.”

After seeing a report on WFLA News Channel 8, Lee said he reviewed the financial statements on the airport’s website, as well as pulling the Fitch bond report from last summer.

“I concluded that … rental fees going up from $2.50 a couple of years ago to $5.00 and now $6 a day … maybe our airport is having a problem sinking those bonds,” Lee said. “Based upon that personal analysis … I concluded that we needed a second set of eyes.”

Latvala noted that several lawmakers had just tried to Google “Tampa airport corruption.” They came up empty.

“So maybe you can tell what they said?” he asked.

Lee said he was convinced financials from the airport “weren’t just matching up.”

Young added that she believed in complete transparency; her only concern was the method Lee presented his amendment.

By bringing the issue up without making very much concrete information available, Latvala said: “We’re potentially putting a black mark on the name of that airport.”

Jeff Brandes then piped up. The St. Petersburg Republican took Lee’s side, saying: “We should give great deference to any senator who asks for an audit.”

But after a 20-minute debate, the Senate rejected Lee’s amendment. Nevertheless, Lee’s proposal had one effect — a dramatic spike in interest on the spending habits of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Ted Deutch: Russia ‘despicable’ for vetoing UN resolution on Syria gas attack probe

Russia has vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria, angering Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch.

The resolution, which was being pushed by the U.S, Britain and France, aimed to bolster support for international inquiries into last week’s deadly toxic gas attack in Syria. It was the eighth time that Russia has vetoed a proposed Security Council resolution on Syria.

“Once again, Russia strong-armed the UN Security Council and abused its veto power in order to protect the criminal and ruthless dictator Assad,” Deutch said in a statement shortly after the vote at the UN in New York. “It is utterly despicable that Russia would block a resolution condemning the use of chemical weapons – an actual war crime – and backing an investigation into the attack. Russia’s blind defense of the Assad regime and this horrific attack on innocent men, women, and children is truly an affront to the most basic of humanity.”

The final vote was 10 votes for the resolution, two against, and three abstentions. Because Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, the resolution failed.

Last week, Deutch and Miami-area Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urging for a strong response by the Security Council to the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad against innocent civilians.

ACLU demanding records on Donald Trump Muslim ban in Miami, Orlando

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Wednesday demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Donald Trump’s Muslim bans.

The civil liberties organization’s lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami and Tampa field offices. Specifically, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of Trump’s Muslim bans at Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport in late January.

“The public deserves to know how the cruel and poorly-executed Muslim ban was being implemented in Florida and across the country,” stated ACLU of Florida Legal Director, Nancy Abudu. “Customs and Border Protection cannot pretend that these requests for public information don’t exist.”

The ACLU says they first sought the information through FOIA requests sent February 2 to Customs and Border Protection but says the government has not “substantively” responded. Hence the lawsuit.

The action in Florida is one of 13 such lawsuits that the ACLU filed Wednesday. Others were given in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Tucson.

Sarasota attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen and Miami attorney Brian Tannebaum is filing the ACLU of Florida’s lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks unique and local information regarding how Customs and Border Protection implemented the executive orders at specific airports and ports of entry.

Two central Florida families, one Syrian and one Iranian, were detained for approximately six hours at Orlando International Airport during the weekend that the travel ban took place, January 27-29.

The Tampa office handles CBP duties in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville. In addition to Miami International Airport, the Miami CBP office covers Port Everglades, and airports in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

In Miami and Tampa, no direct flights were scheduled from any of the countries listed in the original 90-day ban: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.


Only 7 members of Florida’s congressional delegation hosting town halls during Easter break

(Updated) Gainesville Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho held a raucous town hall meeting Monday night, as he was jeered by members of the audience before he finished his opening statement.

“I really, really expected them to be a little more civil,” Yoho to the Gainesville Sun after the event.“This was the rowdiest crowd.”

Similar statements have been made by congressional Republicans around the country in 2017, as angry Democrats have crowded town halls in some of the most conservative parts of the country, expressing their unhappiness about GOP plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, issues with the Trump administration, or other events since the election.

Yoho is scheduled to go back out on the road Tuesday night, where he’ll host another town hall meeting in Palatka.

However, most members of Florida’s congressional delegation don’t have any town halls scheduled over their two week break which began on Monday. According to the website, only seven of Florida’s 27 Representatives have such events planned in April.

However, that doesn’t mean their staying idle during their Easter recess.

“The Congressman is in the district throughout the break,” said Gus Bilirakis spokesperson Elena Hernandez. “He’s spending a majority of the next couple of weeks meeting with constituents, holding open office hours, visiting local businesses, hosting a student government roundtable. Also he’s meeting with Pasco County officials, local doctors, touring a substance abuse center, and hosting a Veterans Resource Fair next week.”

Polk County Republican Dennis Ross was scheduled to return on Tuesday from an official congressional delegation trip to Kuwait and Iraq, where he met with members of the Florida National Guard stationed in Kuwait, as well as with the U.S. Ambassadors to Kuwait and Iraq and other government officials.

Ross spokesperson Joni Schockley adds that Ross has “multiple meetings scheduled throughout the district during the next two weeks.

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor  appeared at the USF College of Medicine on Monday, where she met with scientists to denounce President Trump’s proposed 18 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health. She also held a town hall at the University Area Community Center last Friday, according to her district director, Marcia Mejia.

Charlie Crist will be holding a veterans roundtable, walking in the march for science, and speaking at the rededication of the Jordan Park complex in St. Petersburg, according to spokesperson Erin Moffet.

 Florida District 11 Republican Dan Webster is one of the seven Florida congressional members who is holding a town hall this week.  He held two on Monday.

The other members holding town halls this week include Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, Darren Soto, Brian Mast, Al Lawson and Yoho.

Representatives for Vern Buchanan did not respond to our requests for comment.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz to Sean Spicer: Take some time off and visit the Holocaust Museum

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was under fire from Democrats on Tuesday after claiming that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons, seemingly minimizing the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Spicer’s comments lit up Twitter and there have been harsh reactions from Democrats and Jewish groups, expressing amazement that the spokesman would downplay Hitler’s actions by comparing them to the chemical gas attacks allegedly called for by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer told reporters at the afternoon’s press briefing, adding, “someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. You have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you, and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”

Later asked to clarify his remarks, Spicer acknowledged that Hitler used chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Mr. Spicer said, and mentioned “Holocaust centers,” apparently referring to Nazi death camps.

South Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said it was time for Spicer to take some time off and perhaps visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

“Contrary to White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s ignorant and offensive remarks, Hitler did use chemical weapons to systematically murder millions of Jews,” she said in a statement. “It’s stunning and unbelievable that this basic fact eludes the White House, and worse, that these latest comments fall within a troubling pattern of Holocaust apathy and denial by the Trump Administration. The fact that we are having to provide this history lesson during the Jewish holiday of Passover is especially disgraceful. At the very least, Mr. Spicer should take some time off and visit the Holocaust Museum, or he’s more than welcome to visit my district and hear first-hand accounts of this atrocity from any of the thousands of survivors who live in my community.”

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch also weighed in, calling Spicer’s comments offensive.

“Sean Spicer’s ignorant, offensive, and outrageously false statements claiming Hitler never used gas to kill his own people show either a stunning ignorance of history or a callous disregard of the horrors of the Holocaust,” said Deutch. “I frankly can’t understand why, when pressed about his offensive comments about the Holocaust, he simply cannot apologize without trying to justify what he said.”

The South Florida Democrats reactions didn’t go as far as some other Democrats, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said Spicer should resign after his performance on Tuesday.

“Sean Spicer must be fire, and the President must immediate disavow his spokesman’s statements,” Pelosi said. “Either he is speaking for the President, or the President should have known better than to hire him.”

“Today’s statements on Holocaust unforgivable, tweeted Jeremy Ben-Ami with J-Street, the progressive “pro-Israel, pro-peace” political action committee. “WH  must address its issues recognizing Jewish suffering at Hitler’s hands in WWII.”




Carlos Frontela chastened by 2016 mistakes, is fired up for House District 62 bid

In declaring his candidacy early for the Tampa-based House District 62 seat, Carlos Frontela already demonstrates he’s learned from rookie mistakes made last year in his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board.

“I jumped in really late, two months before the primary,” he says, reminiscing about his ill-fated run for the District 7 seat ultimately captured by Lynn Gray last November.

“No time to really organize, no time to really gain any campaign contributions,” he says which is why he’s working on qualifying by petition to get on the ballot next year in the seat that will be vacated by a term-limited Janet Cruz.

The 42-year-old Frontela was born in Cuba and grew up in New Jersey before moving to Tampa in 2004. He owns his own small business, a document preparation service based in an office located near Raymond James Stadium in West Tampa.

“I think the Legislature could use somebody like me with business experience,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not necessarily a career politician. I can bring some sense of normalcy where I can reach across the aisle and do things a bipartisan process.”

Frontela looks forward to campaigning next year in earnest, acknowledging that with a full-time business and five children, it won’t be easy.

Frontela often speaks about working to find common ground with Republicans in Tallahassee to pass bills helping his constituents.

“That’s very important,” he says. “If you’re going to just go up there and play partisan politics, it’s not going to work.”

The subject prompts a riff on what Frontela calls a mistake by Senate Democrats in Washington opposing Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump‘s first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch was sworn onto the court Monday.

“Neil Gorsuch was confirmed unanimously via voice vote to the 10th Judicial Circuit (of Appeals),” he recounts about that 2006 vote in which Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein and other Senate Democrats — those who opposed him last week — supported him 11 years beforehand.

“People can see clearly that was a show. It was partisan politics,” he says, criticizing his own party. The Democratic wall of opposition in the Senate led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to break out the “nuclear option,” allowing just a bare minimum approval of 51 senators to confirm Gorsuch, versus the filibuster-proof 60 votes previously required to confirm Supreme Court no.

“Next time when a real, right-leaning conservative judge gets appointed, you’d have faith with the general public,” he says. “Now you don’t. You got the nuclear option. God knows a way right-wing justice will get through (next time) with just 51 votes.”

Regarding the battle between Republican Richard Corcoran and Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida, Frontela takes Scott’s side in believing tax incentives help businesses and communities.

He not only supports medical marijuana (though not the way the GOP-led Legislature is debating how to implement the matter) but the legalization of recreational marijuana as well. “We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

“We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

He considers raising the state’s minimum wage to at least $10 an hour his top issue, as well as restoring the civil and voting rights of ex-felons.

About last year’s presidential contest, Frontela is of the opinion that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s favor.

“That turned off a lot of people,” he says of fellow Democrats, “and a lot of people didn’t turn out.”

Frontera had a lifelong interest in politics, going back to when he was 13 and volunteered for the campaign of New Jersey Democratic Albio Sires, who in 1986 was running for Congress for the first time.

As a Cuban-American, Frontela supports the diplomatic breakthrough with the communist island led by Barack Obama in 2014.

Learn more about Frontela’s platform by going to his website:

National Democrats using Google ads to highlight Rick Scott’s support for unpopular GOP health care plan

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) announced Tuesday they are launching a six-figure digital buy of Google search advertisements highlighting Florida Governor Rick Scott’s support for the American Health Care Act, the GOP health care plan that proved so unpopular with the public that House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the measure.

The DSCC says the ads will reach Florida voters across the state who are searching for information about Scott’s record on healthcare. The ads direct individuals to a Florida specific page on the DSCC’s newly expanded healthcare website — which now features video of Scott praising the Republican plan  as well as resources for voters to learn and share how the GOP’s Plan would hurt middle class families in their state. The ads are part of a six-figure digital buy.

“There is nowhere Gov. Scott can travel across the state to escape his support for a toxic Plan that makes older Floridians pay five times more for care, strips coverage from millions and raises costs for middle class families — all to give another tax break to big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “The GOP’s Plan jeopardizes coverage for pre-existing conditions and makes working people pay more for less — and there will be nowhere Scott can hide from his support for this reckless agenda. If Scott decides he actually wants to run for anything besides dog-catcher after his Party’s humiliating healthcare defeat he’ll see these clips again.”

Scott is considered a likely candidate to run against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

The DSCC digital ads are running at the same time that the National Republican Congressional Committee launched a series of digital billboard targeting five House Democrats over their support for the Affordable Care Act, including Orlando’s Stephanie Murphy.


Kathy Castor agrees with Hillary Clinton; misogyny played a role in her loss

In her first interview since she lost the race for president in November, Hillary Clinton said last week that “Certainly, misogyny played a role.”

“I mean, that just has to be admitted,” she told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff last Thursday night. “And why and what the underlying reasons were is what I’m trying to parse out myself.”

Congresswoman Kathy Castor agrees.

“What struck me is some interviews on TV during the campaign folks out in Pennsylvania where young people would say, ‘I don’t believe in having a female president.’ I was taken aback,” the Tampa Democrat said Monday “I don’t hear a lot of young women saying that ever.”

Castor believes “there is something that permeates this opposition to female as executives. You see it especially in corporate boardrooms.”

Castor has served in Congress for 10 years. Before that, she served on the Hillsborough County of Commission for one four-year term. When asked if she herself has had to deal with sexism in Washington or Tampa, she says, “a little bit.”

Castor serves on the Energy and Power Subcommittee in Congress, the only female on the thirty-three member large board. When she was recently called upon to ask a question, she says was addressed as “Mr. Castor.”

Meanwhile, as with most congressional Democrats, Castor came out last Friday in support of the President’s cruise missile attacks on Syria, two days after President Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his own people. In a statement, Castor added that she wants the president to confer with Congress on any other possible military action.

When asked what she would like to happen on dealing with Assad, Castor said a plan of action with our allies would be a good start.

“The Obama administration did a pretty good job of building that coalition to squeeze ISIS and now the pressure has to be brought to bear against Russia and Iran, who are supporting this brutal dictator in Assad,” she said. “It’s not our place to promote regime change on our own, but working with our allies in the Middle East and all across the world, really bringing pressure to bear on Assad and Iran and Russia.”

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