Orlando Archives - Page 3 of 37 - Florida Politics

Judge dismisses suit challenging All Aboard Florida; both sides see victory

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a federal decision supporting All Aboard Florida for its high-speed passenger train project, and both the train company and its opponents hailed the ruling as a victory.

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper dismissed as moot Wednesday the law suit that Indian River and Martin counties brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging that the federal agency should not have allocated up to $1.75 billion in non-taxable private activity bonds to help finance a railroad project from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

The company, now known as Brightline, intends to start private passenger trains from West Palm Beach to Miami this year, and plans to extend the line northward, then westward to Orlando some day.

But after the lawsuit was filed, the company withdrew its request for the $1.75 billion in bonds and filed for and received a new allocation for $600 million, largely to finance the West Palm Beach to Miami route. Because the U.S. Department of Transportation’s award of $1.75 billion is gone, the challenge is moot, Brightline argued, and Cooper agreed.

This is the third suit against All Aboard Florida that has been dismissed on such grounds. In a statement released Thursday, the company said:

“All Aboard Florida believes Judge Cooper properly dismissed the case, and we appreciate his thoughtful review and articulation of the facts and the law. This is another loss in a series of lawsuits that has cost Treasure Coast residents almost $6 million. We look forward to working with the Treasure Coast in a cooperative and more productive fashion as we advance this important infrastructure project.”

But opponents said the wording of Cooper’s decision should send a warning to All Aboard Florida/Brightline about any future attempts to raise money for the northern route.

The two counties had argued that federal officials failed to fully assess environmental impact of the proposed train route through their counties on the northern route, which they contended was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Cooper appeared to agree with that concern, according to an interpretation issued by the All Aboard Florida opposition group, Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida.

“For these reasons, the Court’s earlier ruling casts considerable doubt on whether DOT would adhere to any previous suggestions that PAB allocations are categorically excluded from NEPA’s coverage,” Cooper wrote. “And even if DOT were to do so, Plaintiffs could readily call it to the carpet by renewing their lawsuits in this Court.”

And citing the different policies under former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, Cooper predicted that it would be unlikely the U.S. Department of Transportation would take the same action.

“Any decision on a future application by AAF will be made by entirely different officials in the new administration. While the new administration has not publicly opined on the AAF project (as far as the Court is aware) its early actions with respect to publicly-funded rail transp01iation in general suggest that it might take a different track,” he wrote.

Declared CARE Florida:

“CARE FL congratulates Martin and Indian River Counties for their legal efforts and considers this lawsuit a resounding win for the residents of the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach regions. AAF’s insatiable need for public subsidies continues and the decision in this matter doesn’t advance their quest.”

Barbara Poma, foundation, to develop national memorial, museum at Pulse site

The owner of the Pulse nightclub announced Thursday her newly formed foundation will seek to develop a national-caliber memorial and museum campus on the site of America’s worst recorded mass shooting.

Barbara Poma pushed through the pain of last year’s tragedy to declare her new foundation’s motto, “We will not let hate win,” and announced the creation of the OnePulse Foundation, which will raise money and work with the community to plan, develop, build, operate, and maintain the memorial in Orlando.

“We have come so far in these 11 months. I can say finally that I am finding hope and inspiration by being back here at Pulse,” Poma said. “Pulse has become part of you, and you a part of Pulse. What was once our little corner at Kaley [Street] and Orange [Avenue] is now shared with the world. Together, we are all part of Pulse’s future, right here on this property.

“I know that my goal is to ensure that Pulse becomes a place of healing, It’s time for Pulse to contribute to the community in a permanent way, a healing way,” she added.

She and other key members of the effort, including foundation board chair Earl Crittenden and early organizer Jason Felts offered no details on what might be built, when it might be opened, how much it might cost or how much money they expect to raise. All of that went into the to-be-determined category, for the site the city of Orlando nearly purchased last year before Poma decided she wanted to take the memorial effort in another direction.

That will be “an iconic, meaningful, national memorial to the victims, the survivors, first responders and medical professionals,” Crittenden said.

Poma founded and owns the popular gay nightclub where Omar Mateen, the gay-hating, ISIS-pledging madman, murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others during the horrific morning hours of June 12.

The effort will be overseen by a board of trustees including entertainer Lance Bass, retired NBA player Jason Collins, Virgin Produced CEO Felts, Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis, DeVos Sport Business Management Program Chair Richard Lapchick, former U.S. Ambassador Robert Mandell, and a number of business, law, arts, and community leaders throughout the Central Florida area.

Their mission, Poma and Crittenden said, is to have the community develop the vision for the memorial and museum, which would house artifacts and tell the stories of Pulse’s patrons, including those who died.

That will begin with collecting the thoughts and wishes of the families and survivors, and of the first responders and medical teams who were involved in saving lives after the shooting, Crittenden said. “We will also capture the community’s thoughts which of course are of critical importance,” he added.

Rick Scott wants budget this week, no commitment on veto

In Lake Mary to preach support for three budget priorities he’s not getting yet, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he wants to see the Florida Legislature adopt a budget yet this week and would not commit to vetoes if he he doesn’t get what he wants in it.

Scott made the first of 10 stops on his three-day “Fighting for Florida’s Future whirlwind tour of Florida at PowerGrid Engineering in Lake Mary and delivered much the same presentation he’s been making for a couple of months, pushing for support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, and urging people to call lawmakers who oppose full funding for them.

In this tour he’s adding a push for money for refurbishment of the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee, but otherwise sticking to a script he used in numerous appearances around the state since March: crediting his economic development corporations with driving Florida’s growing economy, and warning of economic and tourism stagnation without them.

Yet as the Florida Legislature struggles to complete its annual budget bill in time for the scheduled end of the session on Friday, making an extension or special session more likely, Scott said he still wants and expects a budget this week.

And if he doesn’t get what he wants, $200 million for the dike, $100 million for Visit Florida and $85 million for Enterprise Florida?

“As governor you have a lot of options. As you know, I have the option to veto the entire budget, and I can go through every line and try to veto that. So I have a lot of options. I’m going to go through and make sure we do the right thing for our families,” Scott said.

Right now the budget appears to call for no money for the dike or Enterprise Florida and $25 million for Visit Florida, the latter two projects strongly criticized by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others as bloated and out of control with their heretofore not-very transparent spending.

Yet Scott argued that both programs drive economic development in Florida, crediting Enterprise Florida with 900 companies moving or expanding here, and crediting Visit Florida with pushing Florida’s annual visitors totals from 80 million to 113 million, saying he wants 120, 125 or 130 million, which is why he proposed increasing Visit Florida’s budget from $80 million to $100 million.

“We have three days left. This is our chance,” he said.

“We can get jobs. Call your legislators. Call them and say, ‘We’ve got to fund economic development,'” Scott added. “We’ve got to market the state…. and we’ve got to finish the dike so we don’t have that green guacamole.”

The dike may actually require another $600-700 million on top of the $200 million Scott sought this year. The governor said he has a commitment from President Donald Trump to provide money to complete the dike by 2020 if Florida gets it started.

Scott also slammed the Florida Legislature budget talks as secretive, saying he does not know what is or is not in the budget.

 

Marco Rubio speaks out against terror against gays in Chechnya, ties in Vladimir Putin

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continued his campaign against worldwide human rights abuses by foreign dictators last night by speaking out against the Chechen terror campaign against gays, and tying it to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday night, Rubio relayed reports of mass arrests, at least three killings of LGBT people and a campaign of sexual identity cleansing in Chechnya, the Russian-controlled satellite nation near the Caspian sea. He called Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov ruthless and a brutal tyrant and accused Russian President Putin of allowing and encouraging it.

He also said Kadyrov’s regime is encouraging families of gays to commit “honor killings” of LGBT people so that the state does not have to deal with gays.

“We should never, ever tolerate human rights violations against any person for their political views, their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation,” Rubio declared.

It’s a dicy topic for Rubio, whose attempts to show support, solidarity and protection of American gays last year blew up politically due in part to his past record on LGBT issues, and in part to mixed signals he gave following last June’s horrific slaughter by madman Omar Mateen at Orlando’s popular gay Pulse nightclub.

Last summer many in Florida’s LGBT community, and most Democrats, accused Rubio of being coldly exploitive when he announced his bid for re-election came in part because of his horror over that massacre, which killed 49 and wounded at least 53.

Rubio did not help his image in the LGBT community when, like many Republicans, he chose to largely frame the mass shooting as an Islamic-extremist terrorist act – Mateen pledged his support of ISIS – rather than as a hate crime against gays – Mateen was openly hateful of gays and targeted that club.

Rubio’s insistence that he was being wrongly portrayed by the gay community continued to backfire when he spoke in August at the American Renewal Project’s conservative Christians conference in Orlando, a few miles from Pulse. That conference drew other speakers who angrily vilify gays, and Rubio’s presence drew protests from Florida’s LGBT community, accusing him of validating the gay-haters by speaking side-by-side with them.

Yet Rubio gave a speech that day urging the Christian conservatives’ acceptance of gays, declaring, “Abandoning judgment and loving our LGBT neighbors is not a betrayal of what the Bible teaches; it is a fulfillment of it.” Still, the speech drew Rubio little support from the LGBT community.

His Chechnya address denouncing human rights abuses against gays in Chechnya Monday night was more in line with his ongoing campaign against dictators abusing all types of human rights worldwide, particularly Putin.

“Unfortunately, this is not a new reality for those living under the brutal tyranny of the Chechen leader, who by the way happens to be a loyal ally of Vladimir Putin,” Rubio told the Senate. “There have been reports in the past of similar abuses, although these reports seem to be the most brutal and should provoke anger in all of us.”

He said the Russian response to the reported atrocities in Chechnya has been denial.

“Well the actual complaints are all around us. They’ve been well-documented in publications throughout the world. But instead, Vladimir Putin is choosing to prop up Kadyrov, the Chechen brutal dictator, and prop up his brutal regime instead of holding them accountable,” Rubio said.

“The United States and other responsible nations should do more to ensure that all people are protected and those who harm them are held responsible,” he concluded. “We should use our voice on the global stage to call attention to these horrifying acts and to ensure they are condemned in the appropriate way, and ultimately in the hopes that they will be stopped.”

House forms first-ever Legislative Progressive Caucus

More than a dozen Democratic Florida House members have formed the Progressive Legislative Caucus, with firebrand state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando elected as its first chair.

The caucus held its organization meeting last week with Smith becoming chair, state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando vice chair, and state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo of Boca Raton as clerk.

“As we enter the final weeks of the 2017 legislative session, the Legislative Progressive Caucus will adopt caucus positions on key legislation to underscore our values and priorities,” Smith stated in a news release.

Other charter members included state Reps. Robert Asencio of Miami, Lori Berman of Lantana, Daisy Baez of Coral Gables, John Cortes of Kissimmee, Nicholas Duran of Miami, Joseph Gellar of Aventura, Evan Jenne of Dania Beach, Barrington Russell of Lauderdale Lakes, Sean Shaw of Tampa, Emily Slosberg of Boca Raton, Richard Stark of Weston, and Clovis Watson of Alachua.

The caucus put out a release stating that its members were inspired by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and aim to unite the progressive wing of the Democratic Caucus as a collective block to influence key legislation and advocate for progressive policy solutions that benefit all Floridians.

The caucus is committed to advocating for social and economic justice and security for all Floridians, protecting civil rights, civil liberties and advancing environmental protection and sustainability in the Sunshine State, according to the release.

 

Val Demings hails triumphs of resistance in Republican D.C.

With Democrats such as herself facing innumerable challenges in a President Donald Trump administration and Republican dominated Congress, U.S. Rep. Val Demings found triumphs – and joy – in moments of resistance.

The freshman congresswoman from Orlando outlined her first 100 days on Capitol Hill Wednesday and looked ahead expressing her optimism and faith, particularly in the American people, while acknowledging a wide-ranging set of values ranging from national security to health care, environmental protection to child care, gun regulations to opposing travel bans, which she said are at risk.

Demings 42-minute “100 Days Update” speech in Orlando Wednesday broke little news other than her announcement that she will be sponsoring a bill to increase child and dependent care tax credits.

Yet it laid out what she and other Democrats see as their agenda, one largely of resistance and continuing  to push efforts that have stymied Democrats for years.

And none was bigger than the collapse last month of the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act. Demings, representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District, covering Orlando’s and Orange County’s west side, got a bit giddy about that one.

“You all watched. The repeal? Am I smiling?” Demings asked, when in fact she was giggling.

“The overwhelming majority of the American people have spoken and they want to keep the Affordable Care Act. They want Republicans and Democrats to work together – imagine that – to lower premiums, to lower costs of prescriptions and make the law better,” Demings said.

Yet not everything she discussed was a triumph, and not everything made her smile. The former Orlando street cop who rose to police chief before entering politics brought angry passion to her discussions of further efforts to restrict access to guns for terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill.

She touched on gun violence and guns several times, noting that as a former street cop and police chief she considers herself “uniquely qualified” to bring such issues to Congress, in a stirring discussion of the the June 12 Pulse nightclub massacre, and as a challenge to members of the audience.

“This administration has made it clear their commitment to keeping us safe. But if we truly want to keep our U.S. cities and neighborhoods safe, then we must, we have to, address gun violence,” Demings said. “How long? … How long will allow the money and the gun lobby to control this conversation and try to bully and intimidate anyone who speaks out about gun safety legislation? How long?

“Working to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, felons and the mentally ill has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment!” she declared. “I know the 2nd Amendment and I respect it. My father was an avid hunter. I grew up around guns. But the mere suggestion that the forefathers of this country meant that any person could have any gun at any time, and anywhere, is an insult to every person who has lost their lives or will lose their lives to gun violence.”

She also called for a fairer economy, declaring that “the growing gap between the wealthy and those who are struggling is one of the biggest threats facing our economy. Without educational opportunity, economic opportunity does not exist.”

She called for attention for access to universal pre-kindergarten, high-quality public schools and “the understanding that the challenges they face at home aren’t left at the school house door.”

She committed to fighting for education resources, for lower-cost college tuition, strengthening oversight of professional and career programs, encouraging training and apprenticeship programs, and pushing for consumer-oriented protections in the student loan programs.

Among other triumphs of resistance and pledges of effort, Demings said she:

– Would continue to fight for the rights of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants who feel they are in increasing jeopardy.

– Would fight to maintain the “Dreamers” program allowing young, undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States.

– Asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to take action to address the Puerto Rico health care crisis, particularly to expand the Puerto Rico Medicare account.

– Push for the I-4 ultimate makeover construction, the SunRail expansion, and the new terminal at Orlando International Airport to be included in Trump’s pledged infrastructure package.

– Supports the air strike on the Syrian airfield but believes any further military involvement must have congressional approval.

– Would push for more anti-terrorism money to be allocated for local efforts, so that cities such as Orlando would not be shut out of federal grants.

– Is pushing to preserve EPA funding, particularly relating to climate change studies.

“We most certainly have some challenges ahead. You know we have some challenges ahead,” Demings declared. “I want you to know I am encouraged about the future. Some would say I do not have a lot to be optimistic about for times such as this… My faith is rooting in God and my optimism is grounded in the American people. This morning I am betting on the United States of America.”

 

Val Demings pushes for more federal counter-terrorism money

After watching Orlando just miss the cut for federal counter-terrorism grants the past two years, Orlando’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings is putting together a bipartisan push to get such money increased to help mid-sized cities.

Demings and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican whose hometown of San Antonio also got passed over for the most recent grants, claim 19 other members of Congress, in a bipartisan group, calling for an increase in counter-terrorism funding for the nation’s at-risk cities.

It’s an issue that Demings husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina testified about in a congressional hearing last year, arguing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s scoring system for the Urban Area Security Initiative, was unfair to cities like Orlando.

Currently, only the 29 “highest-risk” cities nationwide are eligible. Demings and Hurd argue that leaves out as many as nine mid-sized cities, including Orlando and San Antonio, which have received grants in the past, but not the past two years.

“As the first line of defense, it is critical that local law enforcement agencies are equipped to detect, prevent and effectively respond to any enemy that threatens the safety of their citizens,” Rep. Demings stated in a news release issued by her office. “At the time of the 9/11 attacks I was commander of the Orlando Police Department Airport Division at the Orlando International Airport, and saw firsthand how these funds could be used to make sure local law enforcement is prepared to prevent, and respond to threats.”

Since 2010, law enforcement agencies in the Orlando metropolitan area have received more than $11 million in total funding through the UASI program. However, reduced nationwide funding for the program in recent years has resulted in fewer cities being included in the program.

Orlando, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu, Kansas City, New Orleans, Sacramento, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk have each received more than $8 million in UASI funding since FY2010, but have also each endured two consecutive years without receiving any funds through the program.

“As the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history, and as the number one tourist destination in our nation, there is no question Orlando should be on the list of cities that receive federal support to fight terrorism,” Demings stated.

Rick Scott brings Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida pitch to Lake Nona

Surrounded by what’s billed as the world’s new center for tennis but yet also almost in the shadow of a failed medical research center, Gov. Rick Scott brought his plea for salvation for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida to Orlando’s Lake Nona community Wednesday – urging pressure on the mostly-Republican group of lawmakers set to bring them down.

“When we think about what the state’s doing now with regard to Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida, we’re missing opportunities, if we’re not in the right place at the right time to make things happen,” Scott said.

Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Scott’s prize economic development and marketing organizations, are the targets of fellow-Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Florida Legislature who are convinced the organizations have grown fat and sloppy for years dolling out tax and other financial incentives and marketing efforts without sufficient accountability. Corcoran and other House Republicans are on a path to defund Enterprise Florida and severely restrict VISIT Florida.

So Scott and his economic team including Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor and VISIT Florida President Ken Lawson are on and extended tour of Florida preaching for the organizations’ salvations. They’re meeting with largely bipartisan gatherings of local political and business supporters who also want to keep the state business incentive, recruitment and marketing efforts available, extolling the successes, warning of dire drop-offs in business opportunities without them, and seeking to rally broader support.

This pitch came at the new $70 million USTA National Campus at Lake Nona, home to the United States Tennis Association headquarters and more than 100 pristine courts. The freshly-opened complex has become an Orlando poster child for the kinds of state and local efforts, including financial incentives and marketing and promotion that Enterprise Florida and Visit Orlando use.

The complex, said USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith, was “courted all over the country. The team that came together here including [Orange County] Mayor [Teresa] Jacobs, [Orlando] Mayor [Buddy] Dyer, the city, Visit Orlando, Visit Florida, the governor, worked together in a way that was unique.

“So, we’re bringing tens of thousands of visitors here every year,” Smith added.

For Scott, the facility is a perfect location to warn of the risks of not having an Enterprise Florida or VISIT Florida.

“USTA, they’re a class act. And it’s a significant deal to get USTA here. Let’s all think about this for a second. They’re not going to make a decision like this five times. They’re going to make a decision once,” Scott said. “So we had one opportunity to put our best foot forward… This is not the only place they could go.”

Scott’s latest pitch, however, also came less than two miles directly up Lake Nona Boulevard from the former Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has become a poster child for the occasional failure and overblown promises of public and private financial incentives. Sanford Burnham pulled out last year despite receiving about $350 million in incentives, and never achieved the levels of job generation, economic development, and technology prestige promised when Florida won a bidding war for it in 2006.

Scott’s voting rallies also include targeting a bipartisan collection of area House members who are voting with Corcoran.

“Here’s who I would like you to reach out to: Bruce Antone, Bob Cortes, Jennifer Sullivan, voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida, eliminate the Florida Defense Alliance, and on top of that to severely restrict the ability for Visit Florida to market our state,” he said. “Jason Brodeur did the same thing. Now, who voted the right way? Kamia Brown, Eric Eisnaugle, Amy Mercado, and Rene Plasencia. Now Mike Miller voted to keep Enterprise Florida but he didn’t vote to support Visit Florida. Carlos Guillermo Smith voted against Enterprise Florida and for Visit Florida.”

Antone, Brown, Mercado and Smith are Democrats; Cortes, Sullivan, Eisnaugle, Plasencia and Miller, Republicans.

FBI reviews handling of terrorism-related tips

The FBI has been reviewing the handling of thousands of terrorism-related tips and leads from the past three years to make sure they were properly investigated and no obvious red flags were missed, The Associated Press has learned.

The review follows attacks by people who were once on the FBI’s radar but who have been accused in the past 12 months of massacring innocents in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, injuring people on the streets of New York City, and gunning down travelers in a Florida airport. In each case, the suspects had been determined not to warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny months and sometimes years before the attacks.

The internal audit, which has not been previously reported, began this year and is being conducted in FBI field offices across the country. A senior federal law enforcement official described the review as an effort to “err on the side of caution.”

The audit is essentially a review of records to ensure proper FBI procedures were followed. It’s an acknowledgment of the challenge the FBI has faced, particularly in recent years, in predicting which of the tens of thousands of tips the bureau receives annually might materialize one day into a viable threat.

Investigations that go dormant because of a lack of evidence can resurface instantly when a subject once under scrutiny commits violence or displays fresh signs of radicalization. FBI Director James Comey has likened the difficulty to finding not only a needle in a haystack but determining which piece of hay may become a needle.

Though there’s no indication of significant flaws in how terrorism inquiries are opened and closed, the review is a way for the FBI to “refine and adapt to the threat, and part of that is always making sure you cover your bases,” said the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

The pace of the FBI’s counterterrorism work accelerated with the rise of the Islamic State group, which in 2014 declared the creation of its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq and has used sophisticated propaganda to lure disaffected Westerners to its cause. By the summer of 2015, Comey has said, the FBI was “strapped” in keeping tabs on the group’s American sympathizers and identifying those most inclined to commit violence.

Social media outreach by IS has appealed to people not previously known to the FBI but also enticed some who once had been under scrutiny to get “back in the game,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

“The fact that there was a physical location and a caliphate announced, it helped kind of drive folks back in when they might have drifted away,” Hughes said.

The review covers inquiries the FBI internally classifies as “assessments” — the lowest level, least intrusive and most elementary stage of a terror-related inquiry — and is examining ones from the past three years to make sure all appropriate investigative avenues were followed, according to a former federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the process.

Assessments are routinely opened upon a tip — whether from someone concerned about things such as activity in a neighbor’s garage, a co-worker’s comments or expressions of support for IS propaganda — and are catalogued by the FBI. The bureau receives tens of thousands of tips a year, and averages more than 10,000 assessments annually.

FBI guidelines meant to balance national security with civil liberties protections impose restrictions on the steps agents may take during the assessment phase.

Agents, for instance, may analyze information from government databases and open-source internet searches, and can conduct interviews. But they cannot turn to more intrusive techniques, such as requesting a wiretap or internet communications, without higher levels of approval and a more solid basis to suspect a crime or national security threat. The guidelines explicitly discourage open-ended inquiries and say assessments are designed to be “relatively short,” with a supervisor signing off on extension requests.

Many assessments are closed within days or weeks when the FBI concludes there’s no criminal or national security threat, or basis for continued scrutiny.

The system is meant to ensure that a person who has not broken the law does not remain under perpetual scrutiny on a mere hunch that a crime could eventually be committed. But on occasion, and within the past year, it’s also meant that people the FBI once looked at but did not find reason to arrest later went on to commit violence.

In the case of Omar Mateen, that scrutiny was extensive, detailed and lengthy.

Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in June, was investigated for 10 months in 2013 and interviewed twice after a co-worker reported that Mateen had claimed connections to al-Qaida.

As part of a preliminary investigation, agents recorded Mateen’s conversations and introduced him to confidential sources before closing the matter. That kind of investigation is more intensive than an assessment and permits a broader menu of tactics, but it also requires a stronger basis for suspicion. Mateen was questioned again in 2014 in a separate investigation into a suicide bomber acquaintance. Comey has said he has personally reviewed that inquiry’s handling and has concluded it was done well.

The FBI in 2014 also opened an assessment on Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who last September was charged in bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey, based on concerns expressed by his father. The FBI said it closed the review after checking databases and travel and finding nothing that tied him to terrorism.

Esteban Santiago, the man accused in the January shooting at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport that killed five people, had also been looked at by the FBI. He had walked into the bureau’s office in Anchorage, Alaska, two months earlier and claimed his mind was being controlled by U.S. intelligence officials. In that case, too, the FBI closed its assessment after interviewing family members and checking databases.

Each act of violence has raised questions about whether the FBI missed signs or should have been more aggressive in its investigation. With thousands of assessments pouring in, those decisions aren’t easy.

“If you’re looking at all the cases, if everything’s blinking red, you have to make a judgment call every time,” Hughes said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Chris King vows to bring ‘progressive entrepreneur’ spirit to Governor’s office

Orlando Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King introduced himself to Florida Tuesday evening as the “progressive entrepreneur” promising to bring bring a head for hard work, return on investment and financial stewardship but also a heart to Tallahassee.

King, a 38-year-old Winter Park businessman with no experience in politics, kicked off his campaign for the state’s highest office at an Orlando rally with 400 to 500 people, a musical warmup, several advance speakers and an ice cream truck, in the parking lot of the 14-story Hillcrest Hampton House, an affordable-housing senior tower his Elevation Global Initiative company developed.

“Whether you are an old friend or a new friend, we come together tonight at a momentous time in my life, and in the life of this state,” King said standing beneath the “In front of the family that loved me, the community that raised me, and the senior tower that gave me my mission, I announce my candidacy for governor of Florida.”

King’s 27-minute speech placed him squarely in the center of most Democratic issues and values, from environmental protection [“I would put scientists back in charge of environmental agencies;”] to affordable housing [his business speciality;] from minimum wage increases, to investing far more in public education [“I will be a champion and advocate for public education;”] social and legal equality for all, to expanding health care access and investment in mental health.

“If you’ve come here tonight and you are an advocate for public education or environmental protection or housing, or health care, I’m with you,” King said. “I want to be too.”

Yet King also dismissed all of that as secondary to his primary concern, fixing the economy to better provide for working families. King criticized Florida’s economy as low-wage, dead last among the 10 most-populous states in incomes, wages and productivity, with 45 percent of jobs paying $15 an hour or less.

“The biggest issue, the motivating issue for me and this campaign as we move forward, is to me the issue Florida faces today. And that is the fact that we have an economy that no longer works for so many our families,” he said.

For that he promised to lay out his economic plan which he is calling “Home Grown Florida,” focusing on fostering entrepreneurs and small businesses, education, and investment in infrastructure.

He also spoke in detail about the need to address water issues, and promised his campaign would “not take any money from big sugar. Not because it’s always wrong… but because the issues around water, sugar and the health of this peninsula are so critical, so compelling, that the citizens of Florida must know that their next governor is an honest broker, able to sit down with all parties, and not beholden to the financial interests of any.”

King comes into the race largely unknown politically outside limited circles in Orlando, but not unconnected. His father David King is a powerful lawyer who argued and won the redistricting cases on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Florida that forced Tallahassee to redraw congressional and state senate districts. His mother Marilyn King is a longtime patients advocate who served as chair of the board of directors of Orlando Health.

After graduating from Harvard and getting a law degree from the University of Florida and a brief law career, King and his brother Michael King started Elevation Global Initiative, which arranges creative financing to re-invest in old housing and senior housing properties, to redevelop them as affordable-housing.

Both his father and brother say that Chris King has probably been preparing to run for governor since he was in high school. David King said his youngest son has “a calling,” and has been seriously contemplating the run for about a year and a half. In recent weeks he’s been raising early campaign money and assembling a campaign team that includes veterans of the Barack Obama and Charlie Crist statewide campaigns,

So far King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination, while several others are openly exploring runs, including Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando lawyer John Morgan. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appears to be clearing the field for his run for the Republican nomination.

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