Friday, July 30, 2010

90 years later, women vote more than men

The first year that I am able to vote also happens to be the 90th anniversary of my right to vote. That's right, woman's suffrage turns the big 9-0 this August. There will be a Women's Equality Day celebration on Miami Beach August 26, with a march down Lincoln Road and a reception in the Lincoln Plaza from 6-8 pm (both events are free and open to the public). Another great way to celebrate this monumental occasion is, of course, to vote.

As it turns out, a higher percentage of women vote than men, according to the Census Bureau's 2008 report. Not to diminish what a triumph that is for women, but...that's not saying much. Overall, 63.6% of registered voters reported voting in 2008.

Early voting in Florida will take place August 9-22, and the official election day is the 24th. Check out the sample ballot and familiarize yourself with the candidates before showing up to the polls (please). You can also vote from the comfort of your home if you choose to use an absentee ballot.

I know it's difficult to get people to participate in local elections, particularly in primaries, but we're lucky (I guess) to have one of the more interesting Senate races here in Florida. Also on the ballot will be a few commissioners, school board members and state legislators who will be making important decisions about (cue buzzwords): taxes, health care, education, growth management, etc. Some of these little-known candidates will have a big impact on Miami-Dade County and Florida. I for one am very excited to wear that "I voted today" sticker.

Florida needs a health care reform implementation committee

Florida CHAIN has composed a letter to the Governor and the state legislature requesting that Florida establish an Affordable Care Act Implementation Committee in order to make full use of federal funding and ensure that new regulations are implemented in a coordinated manner. If your organization is interested in signing this letter, email Lisa Grossman by August 3 with the full name and location of your organization, your name and your title.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Restorative justice training gives voice to kids

Power U wants school discipline to be less arbitrary and more proactive. Judging by the comments made in a restorative justice workshop Power U led at HSC the other day, a lot of kids and teens agree that "zero tolerance" policies in schools are creating hostile learning environments.

Sitting in a circle, the youth shared stories about unfair punishments they had witnessed and kids missing school or important tests while suspended. Meanwhile, the underlying problems are frequently not addressed by counseling and intervention.

Workshops like this one, which give voice to the people directly affected by the issue at hand, are the first step to transforming our education system. Hopefully we will continue partnering with Power U in the future.

Read more about Power U's "Keeping Youth in School" initiative.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jazz show benefits Pediatric Mobile Clinic

This Friday, June 30, Rana Prieta Latin Jazz Project will debut at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., from 9-11 pm. Ten dollar donations will benefit the University of Miami Pediatric Mobile Clinic--whose Medical Director, A.J. Khaw, is a member of Rana Prieta.

The jazz quartet rocked HSC's open house in March and we are excited to see them promoting other great community organizations.

Pathway to Prosperity

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of HSC, we have been working on a series of videos about the history of the organization. This video, the second in the series, focuses on the Prosperity Campaign, which has helped thousands of people become more financially literate and self-sufficient.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Earlier today, the Board of County Commissioners met to vote on the property tax rate ceiling for the 2010-2011 county budget. When the commissioners vote in September to determine what the actual rate will be, the rate they just voted on cannot be exceeded. With the exception of three members, the Board voted to support the rollback rate. Though we won’t know the actual rate until September, this is one of three critical steps that will ensure that we prevent the worst of the cuts.

It is due to the efforts of several organizations and numerous concerned residents of Miami-Dade County that we were able to secure this vote. The rollback rate will earn the county the same amount of property tax revenue as last year, thus avoiding even greater budget cuts. While we would have liked to have the flexibility of the maximum rate, this is a huge victory for the Penny Wise Campaign given the recent developments and setbacks encountered.

It is important that we acknowledge that we have only won a battle –the outcome of the war remains to be seen. We will still be facing a deficit of around $60 million- a huge improvement over the $400 million loss without rollback. But because the cost of services increases each year, cuts will still happen. On the chopping block now are over 900 jobs and a 25% reduction in funding to social services agencies (on top of the 30% cut last year!).

We have until September to collect as many signatures as possible and let the Board of County Commissioners and the mayor know that social services and county jobs are not expendable parts of the county budget. Please help us by signing the petition and forwarding it to all of your friends- we’ll be collecting them until the next vote in September. We also need you to keep calling commissioners, keep coming to our actions and keep attending our meetings. If you’d like to become further involved, please contact the phone number or e-mail address listed below. We will need a tremendous amount of support if we are to protect social services and county jobs in Miami-Dade. As residents, we all deserve to live in a healthy and safe community and we cannot allow ourselves to be penny wise and pound foolish!

There will be several opportunities in July, August and September to engage in this process and add your voice to this important deliberation.

Here are key dates to keep in mind:

August 24: Property tax TRIM (truth in millage) notices will be sent out to homeowners to inform them of the property tax rate ceiling set on July 20 (a.k.a. the rollback rate).

Sept. 13: First budget public hearing, at which any member of the community may address the Commission regarding the tax rate, funding priorities and other budget issues.

Sept. 23: Final budget public hearing. The final tax rate and budget are approved at this meeting.

Oct. 1: New fiscal year begins.

For the full text of the Mayor Carlos Alvarez's Proposed Budget Message, visit

Contact Information: Jacob Coker-Dukowitz, Coordinator, Penny Wise Campaign, 305.576.5001 x25 or

Friday, July 16, 2010

Voters: empower yourselves with knowledge!

If you are planning on voting in local and state elections (and you should be!), be on the lookout for candidates forums, which are as ubiquitous as humidity this summer. Here are a few that are coming up:

Florida Senate District 36, Representative District 117
The Urban Environment League and Tropical Audubon Society are hosting a candidates forum for State Senate District 36 and State Representative District 117.

When: July 29, 7 - 9 pm

Where: South Miami City Hall, 6130 Sunset Dr.

Senate District 36, Representative District 107
The Urban Environment League and Miami Neighborhoods United are hosting a candidates forum for State Senate District 36 and State Representative District 107.

When: August 3, 7 - 9 pm

Where: Simpson Park, 55 SW 17 Rd.

School Board, District 2
The Urban League “Posse” will host a community forum at which the candidates for the Miami-School Board, District 2 will have the opportunity to make their case to the parents, students, and voters who will be directly affected by the policies of the next Board member.
When: August 5, 6:30-8:30 pm
Where: Freedom Hall, 8400 NW 25 Ave.

For more information about the forum, email Hassan Shabazz or call 302-696-4450.

Behavioral Health issues
The South Florida Behavioral Health Network will bring together several candidates for State Representative and State Senate to address substance abuse & mental health treatment, prevention & recovery issues.
When: August 5, 5:30 pm

Where: Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School, 4949 NE 2 Ave.

To RSVP, contact Stephen Zuckerman by July 30.