Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who is Representative David Rivera? Oh my.

Florida politics is a messy business, with all the greasy special interests, hypocritical posturing, and plain old corruption.

Which brings us to the redistricting maps of Florida.  The Florida Keys are about to get a new Representative in Congress if the new redistricting maps are approved by the courts.  Out will go Representative Ros-Lehtinen, and in will come Representative David Rivera.

So who is David Rivera and does how well will he represent the people of Key West and the Florida Keys?

A quick glance at his public voting record and the "Christian Coalition voter guide", for which Rivera completed a survey, shows an extremely conservative, right-wing politician who doesn't care much for gay rights...or public radio:
Supports Amendment to prevent same sex marriage. (Aug 2010, "Federal Marriage Amendment to prevent same sex marriage"
Supports banning homosexuals in the military. (Aug 2010)
 Voted YES on terminating funding for National Public Radio. (Mar 2011)
Rivera's short time in Congress has been plagued by controversy. He is under two federal investigations, by the FBI and the IRS, for his dealings with a $1 million dollar "consulting contract" with the Flagler Dog Track, which is today the Magic City Casino.  You can read more about that here.

Here is Wikipedia's list of the controversies, which despite the efforts of his staff to whitewash the page, has done a good job of summarizing the major problems that have dogged Rivera's political life:
Domestic violence allegations 
On October 13, 1994 a domestic abuse charge was filed in Miami-Dade County against one David M. Rivera. Rivera denies that he was the defendant in the 1994 domestic violence case, and the victim of the attack has maintained that David Rivera, the politician, was not the defendant in her case. The case file has been destroyed by the court (case files are retained for only 5 years,).
The Miami Herald reported that according to a woman who is friendly with the victim's brother, Rivera and the victim came to her home as a couple to attend a dinner party about 10 years ago. The victim's mother also once worked on one of Rivera's political campaigns, records show. 
Mail truck collision 
On September 6, 2002, Rivera was involved in a traffic collision with a truck carrying thousands of fliers, produced by Rivera's campaign opponent at the time, that included a last-minute attack on Rivera's character and detailed past domestic violence accusations against him. According to reports filed by the Florida Highway Patrol, a car driven by Rivera hit the truck and forced it to the shoulder of the Palmetto Expressway, ten minutes before the truck's 6 p.m. deadline to deliver the fliers to the post office, preventing the fliers from being delivered in time to be mailed.
Rivera has said that he had planned to meet up with the truck on an exit ramp off the Expressway so he could retrieve a batch of his own campaign fliers. The owner of the company that produced the anti-Rivera fliers maintains that the truck driver did not voluntarily pull off the highway. According to the FHP incident report, the collision occurred in the middle of the road.
Additional source of income 
Rivera on more than one occasion stated in sworn documents that his primary source of personal income, besides his salary from the Florida State Legislature, was from freelancing consulting work he did for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). However, when the Miami Herald asked USAID, the agency said that Rivera never worked for them. On October 21 of 2010, a suit was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court stating that Rivera should be disqualified from running for office for violating state laws requiring public officials and candidates to file full and complete financial disclosure forms. After the initial investigation was reported, Rivera amended his disclosure forms, removing any reference to USAID as a source of income for the seven years in question. 
Dog track payments 
The Miami Herald has reported that "[t]he Miami-Dade state attorney's office is investigating more than $500,000 in secret payments from the owners of the Flagler Dog Track to a company tied to" Rivera. According to the Herald: "Most of the money was paid in early 2008, weeks after Rivera -- then a member of the Florida House of Representatives -- helped run a political campaign backed by the dog track to win voter approval for Las Vegas-style slot machines at parimutuel venues in Miami-Dade County." Rivera did not report any income from either company in financial disclosure forms filed with the Florida Ethics Commission, but instead "reported that he worked during those years as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development," which had no record of him ever having worked there. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement subsequently took the lead in the investigation. In July 2011, the Miami Herald reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service were also investigating the dog track payments.
Wikipedia editing 
In April 2011 Politico reported Rivera's press secretary, Leslie Veiga, had been active in editing Rivera's Wikipedia article and making it more favorable to Rivera. Veiga denied any impropriety.
If that weren't enough to make a voter gag, the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has named Rivera as one of the most corrupt members of Congress in its 2011 Most Corrupt Report.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Schooner Western Union Closer to Becoming Florida's Official Flagship

The Florida legislature took another step towards making the Schooner Western Union the official flagship of the state.

The Senate, in a unanimous vote passed SB326 known as State Symbols/State Flagship and sponsored by Senator Bullard, which states:
Official state flagship.—The schooner Western Union, a 130-foot historic sailing vessel of the tall ship class, built in Key West and first launched in 1939, is designated the official state flagship.
Now it is up to the Florida House to vote on their identical bill, H395 sponsored by Representive Broxson.

It is would be quite the honor to have the Schooner Western Union as the state's flagship.  Already it is designated the official flagship of Key West.

Here is an early photo of the schooner, built to lay and maintain communication cables between Key West and the Caribbean.  Notice the large pulleys, along the port side of the vessel, used to handle the large and heavy cables.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Key West Dog Crowned King of New Orleans Parade

A Key West dog has been crowned the King of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus, the New Orleans'  pet parade held during Mardi Gras.

The 3-year old "golden doodle", meaning half Golden Retriever and half Poodle, is named Wally and, after serving in the crewe last year, was anointed King for this year's parade, the largest parade of its kind.

Here is a video of the fun.  Wally is visible riding the royal float one minute into the video:

What a party!
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

North Roosevelt Closure, Traffic Pattern, and Planned Upgrades

It is coming.

Once this winter tourist season is over, North Roosevelt Blvd, the main route that Old Town residents and visitors use to leave the island, will be closed for outbound traffic during its reconstruction by the Florida DOT.

Between the entrance to Key West and Eisenhower drive, traffic will only be allowed inbound (meaning heading West).  Outbound (meaning heading East) traffic will be rerouted to Flagler Avenue and South Roosevelt Boulevard.

The new traffic pattern will begin in April or May of this year and last two years.

Planned upgrades for the project include:

  • Reconstruction of 4 lanes with a middle turn lane from Eisenhower Drive to US1
  • New Seawall
  • New Drainage System
  • New sidewalk along business side
  • New signalization (mast arms) at eight locations
  • New lighting
  • New signing and pavement markings
  • New landscaping within the promenade

Here is a map of the upcoming traffic pattern.

And here is what a typical section will look like when complete.
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