Monday, October 20, 2014

Brevard County Early Voting Locations for the 2014 General Election

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida -- Early voting begins in Brevard County on Saturday, October 25, 2014 and ends on Saturday, November 1, 2014.

Below are the precinct locations to vote early in the Brevard County 2014 General Election. 

You must be a registered voter on or before October 6, 2014 to participate in this election. 

Kiwanis Island Park
951 Kiwanis Island Park Road
Merritt Island, FL 32952
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Max K. Rodes Park
3410 Flanagan Avenue
West Melbourne, FL 32904
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Melbourne Beach Community Center
509 Ocean Avenue
Melbourne Beach, FL 32951
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Melbourne Public Library
540 E Fee Avenue
Melbourne, FL 32901
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Palm Bay Elections Office
450 Cogan Drive SE
Palm Bay, FL 32909
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Space Coast Association of Realtors
1450 Sarno Road
Melbourne, FL 32935
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Titusville Elections Office
400 South Street
Titusville, FL 32780
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Viera Regional Community Center
2300 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Viera, FL 32940
Polls Open: M-F 8am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sen. Nelson: U.S. Needs Take-Charge Person To Handle Ebola Crisis

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) says that the latest developments involving health care workers in Dallas show the need for a more coordinated and better-managed response here at home.  

The U.S. needs one take-charge person in place to oversee the containment of and response to the threat of this serious infectious disease, Nelson's office stated in a release.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Nelson said today during a press conference in Orlando.  “This person should be at least temporarily based in a White House war room with direct authority from the president - someone like former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who has the requisite medical background and who served in that position under former president George W. Bush.”  

Finding that someone should be a priority, Nelson said.

In calling for such, Nelson is joining with a few of his colleagues in the Senate including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who wants what he refers to as an Ebola czar.

Nelson was among the first elected officials to call for a travel ban on people coming into the U.S. from Ebola-affected regions.   Nelson represents Florida which is highly dependent on travel and tourism - two industries that are being hard hit by the Ebola crisis.


Ebola Virus Taking A Toll On Tourism And Travel

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Delays Debate After Crist Cheats

DAVIE, Florida -- Florida Governor Rick Scott waited nearly ten minutes before appearing on stage with former Florida Governor Charlie Crist in the second debate in Florida's 2014 gubernatorial race because the Crist campaign had placed a fan underneath Crist's podium.

The Scott campaign cited a debate rule that no electronics  would be allowed at either candidates' podium as the reason for Scott not appearing on stage.

After some dramatic pause, and Crist's refusal to remove the fan despite the moderator Elliot Rodriguez citing the debate rules on live television, Scott ultimately joined the stage eight minutes after the debate was scheduled to start.

“Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates - none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott," said Scott's campaign manager, Mellissa Sellers after the debate.  "Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor.”

Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, who had been polling in double digits, lost his federal court battle to legally force his way into tonight's debate.  He is held his own debate on YouTube.

Watch the Florida Governor Debate Tonight

Watch the Florida Governor Debate Tonight on TV or Online

UPDATE:  Florida Gov. Rick Scott Delays Debate After Crist Cheats

DAVIE, Florida -- The second debate in Florida's 2014 gubernatorial race between Florida Governor Rick Scott and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist will take place tonight from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Times at Broward Community College in Davie, Florida.   Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie, who is polling in double digits, lost his federal court battle to legally force his way into tonight's debate.   Wyllie is holding his own debate on YouTube tonight.

Tonight's debate will air on ABC affiliate WFTV Channel 9 in the Central Florida area and the Sun-Sentinel newspaper will stream the debate live online. 

WFIT 89.5 FM in Melbourne and WMFE 90.7 in Orlando will air the debate on the radio along with other public radio stations across the Sunshine State.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brevard County School Closure List Released

Activists hold "Save Our Roosevelt Elementary School" signs in 2012.  Brevard Times / file photo.

VIERA, Florida -- During a meeting on Tuesday night, the Brevard County School Board announced a grouping of elementary schools that could close if the half-cent sales tax increase does not pass in November.

All of the schools listed for potential closure are on Brevard County's barrier islands where the populations have grown older and the location of two choice schools on Merritt Island and Cocoa Beach have put pressure on declining student enrollment in surrounding neighborhood schools.

Similar school closure proposals were made in 2012 just before the November election when a half-penny sales tax was on the ballot.  Brevard County voters rejected that tax increase and three schools were closed in 2013.  One of the closed schools, Gardendale Elementary, was on Merritt Island and those students were transferred to nearby schools.  Sea Park Elementary in Satellite Beach was also on the short list for closure in 2012.   See what the proposed school boundary changes were in 2012 if Sea Park had closed (.pdf file).

The president of the Brevard Federation of Teachers Union, Richard Smith, spoke during the meeting and said that the solution to not closing schools is to pass the half-penny sales tax.  "Stop with this nonsense that we are somehow over taxed," said Smith.

The schools listed for potential closure and/or affected by a closure before the 2014-2015 school year are:

Cape Canaveral

Cape View Elementary 

Cocoa Beach

Roosevelt Elementary

Merritt Island

Audubon Elementary
Lews Carroll Elementary
Tropical Elementary

Melbourne Beach

Gemini Elementary


Indialantic Elementary

Indian Harbour Beach

Ocean Breeze Elementary

Satellite Beach

Sea Park Elementary
Surfside Elementary
Holland Elementary

Watch the Brevard County School Board Meeting

VIERA, Florida -- The Brevard County School Board is expected to announce at tonight's meeting the list of schools that could potentially close and how other schools may be effected by the closure.  
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott: Restrict International Travel To Stop Ebola Virus

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Florida Governor Rick Scott said last week that the U.S. should consider international travel restrictions to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus.  

He also requested more equipment from the federal government to help the Sunshine State prepare for an Ebola outbreak.

“We are still urging the President to fulfill our request for 30 testing kits the state has requested from the CDC and an additional 100 units of high-level protective gear. Florida still does not have any confirmed cases of Ebola, and we hope we never do, but we must continue to do everything possible to keep our citizens and our visitors safe," Scott said after a briefing with Florida health and emergency officials and a conference call with President Obama.

“As to the discussion on international travel restrictions, I agree with Senator Bill Nelson and Governor Bobby Jindal that the White House needs to look at certain restrictions on travel from countries battling Ebola to keep Americans safe," said Scott.  "This is not a partisan decision. It is a common sense decision. I assume the administration is doing everything they can to secure our country and combat the spread of this disease. That is what we are doing in Florida and I assume they are taking the same steps at the federal level.”

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection (CBP) began new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

New York's JFK International Airport began the new screening on Saturday.  In the 12 months ending July 2014, JFK received nearly half of travelers from the three West African nations. The enhanced entry screening at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O'Hare, and Atlanta international airports will be implemented this week. 

"We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa."

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Brevard County Clerk of Court to withhold EDC payments

BREVARD COUNTY, Florida -- Brevard County Clerk of Court, Scott Ellis, says that his office will withhold payments to the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space (EDC) since October 1st because the County Commission failed to follow the County's procurement policy during the recent award of the County's revised $1.4 million contract with the EDC.

"In your procurement policy, all requests for goods and services, all purchases shall be for public purpose, and it goes on with various things how you do this, unless otherwise exempt under this policy," Ellis told the Commission at its September 16 meeting.  "I find no exemption under this policy for anything remotely resembling economic development.  And it says $100,000 and above, you will go through and solicit three responsive, qualified sources for purchasing thresholds."

"Well, it’s my position that this grant is a request for goods or services, and as such, we need to go out to bid for it," Commissioner Trudie Infantini later said the the meeting.  "We need to receive three responsive bidders for this contract and I do not think legally, that we can award this.  I'm trying to discourage this Board from moving forward on this. I know how the vote will go, but I would like to say for the record, I do not think legally we are allowed to do this"

"I would also point out that that is a Board Policy, which can be waived even if it were services, which it is not," County Attorney Scott Knox said in response.

County Manager Stockton Whitten concurred with Knox by saying, "Actually, the Board Policy provides for that exception and so, the Board can make that exception, it’s already in your Policy"

Commissioner Robin Fisher then turned towards his fellow Commissioners and asked, "Just for clarity though, is it, are we going to waive the procedure Policy in this motion?"

"That's the next one," Commissioners Chuck Nelson and Mary Bolin-Lewis, replied.

However, within five minutes after Fisher's inquiry about waiving the policy, not one Commissioner remembered to waive the policy when the actual motion was before them.

It appears in the meeting video that the Commissioners became distracted when Infantini and Fisher debated the definition of what constitutes a "Financial Report" that the EDC is required to annually submit to the County.

Infantini had asked Whitten what was the difference between an audit and a financial report.  Fisher interjected and asked Infantini, "You've never heard of a financial report?"

"No. I've called an income statement, a balance sheet, statement of owners’ equity, statement of cash flows, a management letter, but I've not heard just financial report," Infantini replied.  

Infantini then asked Fisher, "Could you tell me what it is?"

"Yeah. It gives you their annual, the finances in the current year that was spent when it's that simple maybe you need a CPA," Fisher quipped  (Infantini has a master's degree in accounting). 

A few minutes later after the Commission had moved onto other Agenda items, Fisher said, "I just googled Financial Report..."

Infantini interrupted Fisher, "So I guess you actually didn't know what it was, you had to google it?"  She then turned to the audience and said, "He was up here googling on his cell phone."

"I just want to educate you here a little bit," Fisher said.  He then proceeded to read aloud a definition of a financial report from his smart phone.

"So you didn't know what it was, yet you were asking for it," asked Infantini.

Fisher then started to say, "I knew what it was, I just, I just..." when Infantini interrupted again and said, "Oh, O.K., so you knew what it was but you just didn't know how to word it so you looked it up on Google."

"I was hoping that, you being a CPA, that you could do that for me," said Fisher. "Gets back to that real CPA deal." 

Bolin-Lewis then joined in the fray, "Mr. Whitten, we've been using that term continuously for the last 8 years that I've been here.  And so, we've used that term for the last six years that Commissioner Infantini has been here, so I guess now that she understands it."

"Your pettiness can never stop," Infantini said to Bolin-Lewis.  "You guys have no grasp of what financial records you are even looking at."

October 1st is an important date because the County's new fiscal year starts and the EDC contract would have taken effect.   The Commission had an opportunity to correct the absence of the waiver because it met one more time (September 23) before October 1st.  However, the Commission did not take any new action to correct the contract even though Fisher briefly revived the dispute at the September 23 meeting about the definition of a "Financial Report" from the last meeting. 

The new contract with the EDC is controversial because it substantially modifies the previous service contract between the County and the EDC in a deliberate attempt to evade the responsibilities of the new requirements of Florida's Sunshine Law.  The move comes in the wake of the Florida Sunshine Law case brought by Brevard County Clerk of Court, Scott Ellis, against the EDC for documents related to the Blue Ware scandal.

Currently, the EDC is appealing a judgment handed down last April by Brevard County Circuit Court Judge, John Dean Moxley, Jr., who ruled that the EDC is indeed a public agency subject to Florida public records law and must produce its documents related to BlueWare to Ellis.

"Economic development and nurturing economic advances promulgated by the Chambers of Commerce are appropriate governmental functions...," Moxley reasoned in his Final Judgment.  "...the scope of the contract delegated economic development of Brevard County to the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Inc.  Accordingly, any records generated in carrying out those duties are public records subject to inspection."   


Former Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman entered into a $6.1 million loan with Hewlett Packard after losing the primary election to Ellis in 2012.  Needelman then used the loan proceeds as an upfront payment to BlueWare before the company ever fulfilled its scanning contract with the Clerk's office.   

BlueWare is the company caught up in a public corruption criminal case brought by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney Phil Archer against former Clerk of Court, Mitch Needelman, his former business partner Matt Dupree, and BlueWare CEO Rose Harr.  

Ellis continues to assert that the loan done by Needelman, BlueGEM, Harr, and Hewlett-Packard was illegal and unconstitutional in repeated legal actions brought by HP against the Clerk's Office for repayment of the loan. 

The EDC helped BlueWare and some of its affiliated companies to qualify for various government programs and other "workforce incentives" that could have totaled nearly $2 million in taxpayer money.   In 2013, Ellis repeatedly requested that the EDC turn over its BlueWare documents so that he could defend the lawsuits brought by HP.  However, the EDC refused to hand over all of its BlueWare documents to Ellis.

After the Clerk's office learned from a Brevard Times investigative article published on August 26, 2013 that State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity officials said that BlueWare's confidentiality had lapsed and Governor Rick Scott's Office stated to Brevard Times that the BlueWare incentive contract was canceled on April 5, 2013, the Clerk sent his auditors to the EDC in Rockledge the next day to request a copy of the EDC file on BlueWare.  When the EDC refused to comply with that last public records request, Ellis then filed the lawsuit which is now on appeal. 


EDC Drops Brevard County's Group Health Insurance

Brevard County Awards EDC $1.4 Million Grant Contract

News Associations To File Legal Briefs In Florida Sunshine Law Case

County Commission Votes To File Legal Brief Against Clerk of Court

EDC Job Creation In Doubt As Brevard County Budget Nears

Miami Herald: 6,100 jobs promised for Brevard, 0 confirmed

Tampa Bay Times: New frontier for Space Coast jobs

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An independent Florida? No way, people say

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — After Florida Today newspaper opinion writer Matt Reed playfully posited the possibility that Florida should be an independent nation, we took to the streets to ask Floridians what they thought of the idea.

“No way, good Lord!” said Silvia Núñez, a Cuban immigrant who has lived in the United States for more than 50 years. “You’ve got to be joking.”

That pretty much sums up the opinion of several people we approached, though Gabriel Prado did admit Florida has its own brand of weirdness.

“Although it seems like we are in our own world down here in South Florida, I don’t think it would be a good idea.”

“What are we going to do? Make Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Cubans bosses here while leaving the Americans up there?” Manuel Martinez asked. “We are the foreigners here.”


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Florida Coastal City Prepares For Climate Change

SATELLITE BEACH, Florida -- While Port Canaveral is investing millions of dollars in infrastructure for new projects in the coming decades, just a few miles down Florida's Space Coast, City of Satellite Beach officials are planning for a day when nearly all of their city is under water due to the controversial scientific theory that global warming will cause sea-levels to rise.

According to a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and submitted to the City Council in 2010,  three percent of Satellite Beach will by under water by 2040 and the city will reach a “tipping point” towards catastrophic inundation by 2050.

"We're at a point where we recognize that we may have a problem in the future, and we need to sit down with the public and hash out a way to address it," City Manager Courtney Barker told NPR.

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the City will hold a “Creating a Resilient Community” public workshop at the David R. Schechter Community Center located at 1089 South Patrick Drive in Satellite Beach.  The workshop will discuss options on how to save the City from a watery doom in the future.

Tuesday's workshop is part of a climate literacy project made possible after the East Coast Florida Regional Planning Council received a $15,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection "to focus on increasing climate literacy within the City through dissemination of educational materials related to climate resilient communities, flood-plain management, and sea level rise."  

Last October, the Satellite Beach City Council voted 4-1 for a matching grant of $10,000 cash plus $5,000 in-kind services for the climate literacy project, with Councilwoman Sheryl Denan voting no. 


Study: Forest Fires Cause Melting of Greenland Ice Sheet

NASA: Antarctic Glacial Melting Past Point of No Return