Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ANN KIMBLE: Catalyst Miami Champion for People Living with Disabilities

By Bianca Mijares

Ann Kimble has been a volunteer at Catalyst Miami since 2000. She found out about Catalyst Miami, then known as the Human Services Coalition, through an event flyer forwarded to her by the Center for Independent Living. At the event, Ann discovered that Catalyst Miami was looking for volunteers, so she signed up, and from there a wonderful symbiotic relationship bloomed. She served as a “secret shopper” for them, making sure that people living with disabilities were not victims of housing discrimination. Ann also attended the Catalyst Miami Parent Leadership Training Institute. There she participated in sessions on how to speak to politicians about personal and community issues and writing grant proposals. The information she gathered at these trainings would later serve to help her start her own non-profit organization, Cross Disability Transportation Issues Committee (CDTIC). Through CDTIC Ann worked directly with citizens, the county, and company owners to edit the Para-transit contract and get pay raises and benefits for drivers. Ann is grateful for how Catalyst Miami has empowered her and taught her how to take initiative and make real changes in her community. She is back in Miami after living in Atlanta for five years and is excited to be able to work with Catalyst Miami again.

Ready Schools Miami Learning Showcase

During the 2010-2011 school year, five Public Allies Americorps volunteers worked with Ready Schools Miami by supporting the Community Involvement Specialists (CIS) in Title 1 Schools of Miami-Dade County. The Allies were charged with leading professional development for the CIS, planning and executing parent programming in the schools, and improving parent engagement in the school system. In each region, parent engagement increased from FCAT pep rallies to parent focus groups that encouraged parents to begin service projects in their communities geared towards developing healthy schools and strong communities. An example of a project that was executed is a parent newsletter that demystifies specific acronyms used in the school system, which parents recognized as something that prohibited them from being more engaged in their child’s school.

The year culminated with a day meant to celebrate the successes of CIS, teachers, administrators and educators alike at the Ready Schools Miami Learning Showcase on May 21st, 2011 at Miami Beach Senior High. Educators from across Miami-Dade County came together to share best practices, and the CIS that were supported by Allies in each region presented parent engagement techniques to the whole district.

Catalyst Miami looks forward to a second semester and future years to continue to serve as an agent for positive parent involvement in the schools, as an important strategy in larger efforts to improve student outcomes.

Listen in on a Podcast for highlights of the event. 

Prosperity Campaign Celebrates Successful Tax Season

From January to April of this year, just four short months, the Prosperity Campaign served 6,180 people and had a total refund amount of over 5 million dollars, which comes out to an average of over 1,600 dollars per person.  On May 10th 2011, Catalyst Miami hosted the End of the Tax Season Celebration Luncheon to honor all the volunteers, staff and organizations that made it happen.  Daniella Levine, the President and CEO of Catalyst Miami, also announced the exciting news that the Prosperity Campaign had just received a waiver from the Federal Government to officially administer food stamps.  Representative Jose Felix Diaz gave an inspiring and humorous speech about his journey to becoming a representative and the importance of the work of the Prosperity Centers.  

Prosperity Campaign Director Frances Penha, who also spoke, called the event “spectacular” and said, “It was nice to see all the organizations come together for one cause and bring attention to the community.” Other speakers included State Representative Jose Felix Diaz, Diana Arteaga (representing Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater), and IRS Territory Manager Ron Albert. The Prosperity Campaign collaborates with the IRS, Federal Reserve, Department of Children and Families, Miami Dade College, and local businesses to assist low-income individuals and families with financial services like taxes, food stamps, and children’s healthcare. 

Take a look at our 2011 Tax Season Report Card to see the number of people served by the Prosperity Campaign. 

Click here for a list of VITA sites that will remain open until October 2011 for free tax assistance.

Like us on Facebook and see pictures of the people who made it all possible here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Celebration of International Labor Day: Working Together to Transform the World

Sunday, May 1, 2011
By: Carl Levine, Guest Blogger and brother of Daniella Levine

My friends and collaborators, I can think of no better way to celebrate May Day than here with you.

May Day, is celebrated in almost every country around the world as a day of international working class solidarity.  It is an official holiday in nearly 100 nations.

As you probably know, it is not an officially recognized holiday in this country.
What you may not know is that May 1st has been recognized by the federal government as both Loyalty Day and Law Day.

This shows how seriously the American ruling class takes the symbolism of May Day.  How seriously it takes the threat that international labor solidarity might succeed in transcending national chauvinism.

For the ruling elite it was not enough to refuse to recognize May Day.  Not enough to pick a date in September to celebrate a national, rather than an international labor day.

It also felt compelled, in 1921, to designate May 1st as “Americanization Day,” renamed “loyalty day” in 1958 by an act of Congress.  Loyalty Day is designated as a day for “reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.” 

The United States, alone with Canada, celebrates labor day in September. 

The adoption of a distinct date for America’s labor day was a deliberate decision.  It was motivated by the fear of what might result if American workers discovered their unity of interest with their sisters and brothers in other countries.

Ironically, May Day has its roots in the United States.

So, I’ll begin with a bit of history:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rally Today to Protect Democracy and the Right to Vote


Contact Millie Herrera 305-972-4162

Show your support today, Thursday, May 19th, 2011, at 4:45 pm in front of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, 2700 NW 87th Avenue, Doral, FL 33172 for a Rally to protest the disenfranchising elections bill HB 1355 passed by the Florida State Legislature and to urge Governor Rick Scott to veto it. This law faced strong opposition by Supervisors of Elections statewide and restricts voter registration and the voting rights of citizens:

·         The early voting period will be reduced from 14 to 6 days.
·         Women and students, or anyone else, with name or address change will be forced to vote by provisional ballot instead of the normal way of voting. Provisional ballots are rarely counted. 
·         Volunteer groups and individual volunteers helping to register people to vote will be subject to a $1,000 fine for not returnng registration cards to the elections office within 48 hours of signing including weekends, or even for inadvertant mistakes in the process. 

The Miami-Dade County Elections Department has cancelled Early Voting on Sunday, May 22, 2011, and to accomodate the voters extended early voting hours until 5 pm on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Despite their best intentions, voters who planned to vote on Sunday, i.e.; those who can only vote this Sunday because of work or travel, will not be able to exercise their right to vote. We do not know why this action was taken since the bill has not yet been signed into law by the governor. At least one candidate for Miami-Dade County mayor has filed a lawsuit to keep the polls open this Sunday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Does Money in Politics Corrupt Absolutely

Join the Good Government Initiative for lunch and what is sure to be a fascinating Community Conversation on Wednesday, June 8th at Northern Trust Bank.

Registration will close once capacity is reached. Please feel free to forward this invitation. Click on the link below to register today!
Get more information
Register Now!
If you have any questions, please contact Lourdes Lurigados at 305.689.8210 or via email info@goodgov.net.

Northern Trust Bank
700 Brickell Avenue
9th Floor
Miami, FL 33131

Driving Directions

Wednesday June 8, 2011 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In State News...


Carl Hiaasen dissects the Florida Legislature's total capitulation to the influence of money.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Starting June 1st, Florida’s minimum wage will raise to $7.31 per hour after a circuit court judge ruled that the State of Florida violated Florida’s Constitution by failing to do so. This is a huge victory for Florida’s lowest-wage workers who will earn $28 million more in 2011! Jose Oliva, Policy Coordinator for the Restaurant Opportunities Center said of the victory: “tipped workers, like all minimum wage earners, often survive at the margins and count on every penny earned; this legal victory means that workers will be one step closer out of poverty.” This victory’s timing is significant given the rising gas and food prices that already puts a strain and low-wage workers.

A constitutional amendment that Florida voters passed in 2004 requires the state’s minimum wage to increase every January to reflect an increase in the cost of living, such as an increase in gas and food prices and cannot decrease if the cost of living falls. In 2004, this vote passed 72% to 28%, yet the state failed to increase the minimum wage on January 1st, 2011 to reflect last year’s cost of living. The minimum wage for tipped workers will also rise to $4.29 per hour.

The suit was filed by National Employment Law Project, Florida Legal Services, and Tallahassee lawyer William H. Davis on behalf of: Farmworkers Association of Florida, Restaurant Opportunities Center, WeCount, and individual minimum wage workers. The ruling was made by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis.

Vote Smart - Learn about the Miami-Dade County Mayoral Candidates

The Progressive Caucus, made up of various community and labor organizations in Miami-Dade County, including Catalyst Miami, will be hosting a mayoral candidate forum on Wednesday, May 18th. The forum will take place from 6:00 – 8:00 PM at IBEW 349 Union Hall, 1657 NW 17th Ave. Miami, Fl 33125. This forum will be a town-hall like dialogue between candidates and audience members with the purpose of answering impromptu questions, not just giving speeches. Haven't made up your mind yet? Have important questions? We urge ALL Miami-Dade County voters to attend and ask questions!

On Tuesday, May 3rd, Miami-Dade County Mayoral candidates debated in a policy forum hosted by the University of Miami and organized by The Miami Foundation. The forum, which focused on policy, not politics, asked the candidates to discuss pressing issues for Miami-Dade County voters such as unemployment, taxes, county budget, government transparency and transit issues. With less than three weeks until Election Day and with eleven candidates running, each attempted to say what set them apart from each other. Several of the candidates promised to lead by example and make government more transparent.

With government corruption a big issue for Miami-Dade County voters, candidates attempted to persuade the audience that they could regain trust through transparency. Former county commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cancio, who touted his winning headline would read “that old man did a great job”, pledged that he would immediately install a glass door in his office. Former County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said he would ensure public access to correct information. Former state Rep. Marcello Llorente pledged to have a transparent government and to lead by example by not accepting perks and cutting car allowances. Former transit director Roosevelt Bradley, fired under Carlos Alvarez, also promised to cut perks.

All candidates said they would not increase taxes. In order to reconcile the deficit, former 2 Live Crew front man Luther Campbell said he would evaluate each county department and promised an internal audit that would undoubtedly lead to jail sentences for corruption. Cancio said he would cut the Mayor’s compensation package and benefits by fifty percent. Gimenez, who promised the same reduction, also vowed to cut the number of county departments in half. Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina said he would restructure the county and make it smaller to cut spending.

All candidates agreed that bureaucracy and red tape hindered small businesses and large corporations from coming to Miami and creating jobs. Robaina said he would run the county like a business, work to attract new industries and invest in our convention center to attract business. Bradley, who stated he was the only candidate to create thousands of jobs, said he would work to attract large companies to bring large offices to the county. Cancio, who stated he created jobs in the private sector, said he would reduce red tape and regulations that dissuade companies to come to Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade transit was also a debated issue, given the $180 million Federal Transit Authority the county recently lost. Bradley stated the solution to transit issues was to take politics out of transportation. Campbell said his first move would be to re-hire Bradley as transit director. Campbell, who also said buses were ineffective, suggested making transit cool again. Llorente called the transit system “Metro Fail” and suggested more effective bus lanes and circular routes.

The election will take place on May 24th. If no candidate receives more than fifty percent of the votes, a run-off election between the top two candidates will take place on June 28th.