In Senate Hearing, Rubio Challenges Obama Administration On Cuba, Colombia

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Yesterday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues held a budget authorization hearing to review the budget requests of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Office of Global Women’s Issues.

In his opening remarks, Rubio addressed the importance of these issues for the Department of State and for America’s role in the world, and reviewed some of the challenges facing the U.S. in the Western Hemisphere and around the world.

In his exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Rubio expressed his concerns regarding the security of our Interests Section in Cuba and the possibility of the Interests Section in Havana being infiltrated by Cuban intelligence agents , and asked about the impact of these concerns on the transition of the Interests Section into an embassy (20:40). Rubio also touched on the Cuban military’s smuggling of weapons from China and to North Korea (31:30).

Rubio also inquired whether the U.S. had received a request from the Colombian government to release narco-terrorist Simón Trinidad, who is currently in U. S. custody, as part of its peace negotiations with the FARC (15:50), to which the administration replied that at the present time there were no discussions about his release.

Rubio’s other questions focused on “The Girls Count Act” (7:15), The National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (9:26), religious freedom around the world (10:44), and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East (12:56).

A video of Rubio’s opening statement and the full exchanges is available here.

A transcript of Rubio’s full opening remarks is available below.

Senator Marco Rubio: “Today’s hearing is to review the resources, priorities, and programs in FY 2016 State Department budget request focused on our work here in the Western Hemisphere as well as transnational crime, civilian security, democracy, human rights, and global women’s issues.

“Our witnesses today from the administration are the Honorable Catherine Russell, the Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Dr. John Feeley, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Ms. Virginia Bennett, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

“The hearing is going to focus on a review of resources, priorities, and programs in the FY 2016 budget request in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and the Office of Global Women Issues.

“I want to thank all of you for being a part of this today.

“These are important issues for the Department of State and for America’s role in the world. Just as ensuring that our military is adequately funded to deter our enemies, the international affairs budget, of which the State Department budget is one component, is an essential element of our national security. The programs we will review today help advance U.S. national security interests in key regions, and help us ensure that our foreign policy reflects our values.

“I want to take this opportunity to briefly review some of the challenges facing us in the Western Hemisphere as well as across the globe:

“In Central America, the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which are collectively known as the Northern Triangle Countries (NTC), have been mired in economic stagnation, rocked by violent crime brought on by the proliferation of Narco traffickers and hobbled by entrenched corruption that inhibits economic growth and safety. I am cautiously optimistic about the desire of these countries to move themselves forward and the attention that the Administration is now giving to this particular region. While there cannot be a blank check and no accountability, Central American governments must look within and stamp out corruption to restore public confidence in public institutions.

“In Colombia, I remain supportive of the Government of Colombia and the Colombian people’s right to seek what is in their best interest with regards to the ongoing peace talks with the FARC. However, the FARC’s most recent deadly attack violated a ceasefire that had been in place since December and resulted in the death of 10 soldiers. This is not the first time that FARC has violated a ceasefire agreement, and the attack highlighted how deadly FARC continues to be. Our assistance to Colombia has been instrumental to the success in bringing the FARC to the negotiating table. The U.S. and Colombia must make sure that the FARC knows they’ve been defeated on the battlefield.

“In Haiti, the suspension of the October 26 elections last year were very startling, and the announcement by the president that he would rule by decree was even more disturbing. Haiti, unfortunately, has a history of turbulent elections and the recent suppression of political protestors cannot continue. We are hopeful that the upcoming August election will go forward as planned and that a new democratically elected government will be installed that will be responsive to the people of Haiti.

“In Cuba, despite all efforts by the Obama Administration to fast track and reestablish relations with that government, the Castro Dictatorship has used this opportunity to ridicule and attack American interests. The Cuban government has made no concessions, nor attempts to open a society that has been in darkness for 55 years. A darkness, make no mistake, that has been inflicted by the Castro brothers due to their ineffective and failed ideology.

“In fact, since December 17, the regime has increased its repression and beatings of dissidents, and has shown every intent of making US overtures a one-sided deal. In particular, the consistent attacks on the Ladies in White show this brutal regime’s true nature.

“In Venezuela, we continue to be concerned with the increasing authoritarian rule by Nicolás Maduro over Venezuela. The recently announced nationalization of privately owned commercial companies  through the use of his decree powers is an affront to a free society. He also continues to lash out at the United States as the cause of Venezuela’s problems, never acknowledging that he is the one who has imposed restrictions on currency, travel, and trade. The Venezuelan people deserve better.

“In Argentina we continue to mourn the death of Argentine Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a courageous man, who relentlessly pursued those who were responsible for the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, that killed 85 people and wounded more than 300. I am concerned with the slow pace of the investigation into his death and with that in mind I introduced a resolution today regarding his courageous work and life, and a call for a swift and transparent investigation into his tragic death.

“Nicaragua continues to reestablish its close ties with Russia, rekindling memories of Soviet presence in Central America during the 80s. New military cooperation agreements between Vladimir Putin and Daniel Ortega, serves as further expansion of Russian reach into the hemisphere.

“Mexico– which we join today in commemorating its army’s defeat of the French army in Puebla on Cinco de Mayo – continues to be a strong partner of the United States both economically through trade and security. I continue, of course, to be concerned about the violence that proliferates across the country, driven by drug cartels that seek to terrorize the communities they operate in. I am particularly concerned about the massacre of 43 students in the city of Iguala.

“On democracy and human rights, we are seeing a deterioration of democracy and human rights across the globe. In particular, freedom of press and freedom of religion is being challenged in every corner of the globe. In 2015 Freedom House Freedom of the World Report identified that global press freedom declined in 2014 to its lowest point in more than 10 years. A 2013 Pew Research Study, found that Christians were harassed, either by government or social groups, in 102 of the 198 countries included in the study. There are also serious questions about whether the U.S. government is structured adequately to make human rights and democracy a priority of foreign policy.

“Women and girls face numerous challenges across the globe. From China’s One-Child policy which places a preference on boys over girls, to Saudi Arabia where the state of women’s rights is so abysmal that they aren’t even allowed to drive. Gender-based violence cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders. An estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or experienced some other form of abuse in their lifetime.

“While this list of challenges seems daunting, the U.S. government is dedicated to improving the status of democracy, human rights, and women’s rights. Today we are exploring how we can best dedicate our resources to improve ongoing U.S. efforts. With that, I will recognize Ranking Member Senator Boxer.”

Rubio, Wyden, Warner Introduce “The Student Right To Know Before You Go Act”

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 U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced legislation that would provide college-bound students powerful new tools for comparing colleges and universities on measures such as total cost, time to completion, and potential earnings.

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act” would make publicly available key facts for each college and university, including earnings data for graduates, graduation rates for students, transfer rates, frequency with which graduates go on to pursue higher levels of education, and debt levels.

Under the bill, this information would be made available online in an easily accessible format. Individual privacy would be strictly maintained with safeguards to ensure that no personally identifiable information could ever be disclosed. The system would also be subject to audits to ensure data quality, validity and reliability.

“Students preparing to make one of the most important investment decisions in their lifetime deserve access to as much information as possible about what kind of return they can expect on their college degree choice,” Rubio said. “The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act will provide meaningful, easily accessible data to make higher education decisions easier and more cost-effective for students and their families in the 21st century.”

“There’s no question that a college degree is worth it, but students and their families today are forced to make their higher education decisions with unacceptably little information,” Wyden said. “College is one of the most important and expensive investments people make in their lifetime. It’s only fair and reasonable that students can compare schools and programs of study based on outcomes and cost. This bill is a big step forward in providing that critical information so students can make the best and most clear-eyed decision possible.”

“Many high school seniors who are heading to college this fall have just paid their tuition deposits, and they likely have real questions about what value they are getting for their money,” Warner said. “They deserve some answers. This bipartisan legislation will combine relevant information in a rational way so that students and their families can access comparative information on which colleges and which majors will help them find a good job after graduation. Our legislation will connect the information already collected by states and schools and post it online, where it will be accessible directly to students as they make one of the most important investments of their lifetimes.”

Dorothy Jacks, Chief Deputy Property Appraiser, Files Intent to Run for Palm Beach County Property Appraiser

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On Wednesday, May 6, Dorothy Jacks, Chief Deputy Property Appraiser, announced that she has begun a campaign for Property Appraiser of Palm Beach County.  Gary Nikolits, who holds the office now, released a statement on Tuesday indicating he will retire at the end of his current term. The election for Property Appraiser will take place in August of 2016.  

“After working in the Property Appraiser office since 1988, I am ready to put my executive level experience to work for Palm Beach County.  I have worked closely with every department in the Property Appraiser’s office and have a deep understanding of the role the office plays in our community. I know how important accurate assessments are to homeowners, businesses and property owners and will work to make sure we are providing correct assessments in the most cost effective manner. I am ready to hit the ground running on day one,” Dorothy Jacks said.

Dorothy Jacks has worked with the Property Appraiser’s Office since 1988. As the Chief Deputy Property Appraiser, she is responsible for the office’s public service functions. They include overseeing the five Service Centers; Ownership; Exemption Services; Information Technology; Mapping/GIS sections; Public Records and PAPA, the Property Appraiser’s award-winning website.

As Chief Deputy, Dorothy Jacks shares responsibilities with Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits, CFA, for the overall operation of the office and its staff of 260. Since her time as Deputy Property Appraiser, Dorothy Jacks has a series of major accomplishments including the creation of PAPA http://www.pbcgov.com/papa the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Public Access system.  PAPA was originally conceived, designed, and rewritten under Dorothy Jack’s direction.  PAPA is the most visited web site on the Palm Beach County home page, and one of the most visited websites in Palm Beach County. 

Dorothy Jacks is a current or former board member of several professional organizations including the IAAO, International Association of Assessing Officers, (past Board Member and current Chair of the International Committee), FCIAAO, Florida Chapter of the IAAO, (past President & past Board Member) and Ethics Partnership Council – Palm Beach State College (Member). Dorothy has received numerous accolades for her service to Palm Beach County such as the Women in E-Commerce – Golden Mouse Award 2013, Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches – 2012 Athena Finalist and the President’s Award – International Association of Assessing Officers, Florida Chapter, 2003.

Dorothy Jacks has made a commitment to Palm Beach County and has made public service a priority. Dorothy served as President of the Friends of the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach where she helped revive the organization into 400 plus membership group. Currently, Dorothy is a Board Member of the League of Women Voters, Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County, and Executive Women of the Palm Beaches where she has held numerous positions within the organization including serving as President (2002-2003). Over the years, Dorothy has volunteered her time with charitable groups across the county including, Adult Literacy Volunteer, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society and as a Judge at the Palm Beach County Ethics Bowl.  Dorothy is a former board member of the West Palm Beach Library Advisory Board and a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County (1996).

Dorothy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and is a Certified Florida Evaluator and an Assessment Administration Specialist with more than 25 years of experience in property appraisal and assessment administration.  Dorothy and her husband Britt live in West Palm Beach.

Gathering to honor communities throughout Florida

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The charter of the Florida Communities of Excellence Awards is to recognize the accomplishments of communities throughout the state and to document their success so that others might be inspired by what they’ve accomplished.

On May 15 we’ll gather to do just that.  The Seventh Annual Awards Gala brings together the board members and managers from communities throughout Florida.  So far we’ve had registrations from these communities:

  • Apogee Beach Condominium, Hollywood
  • Arlen House East, Sunny Isles Beach
  • Baldwin Park, Orlando
  • Bellaggio, Lake Worth
  • Bellalago, Kissimmee
  • Bermuda Springs, Weston
  • Beverly Arms Condo, Miami Beach
  • Beverly Hills Condominium, Hollywood
  • Blue Condo, Miami
  • Boca Glades Master Association, Boca Raton
  • Buckingham Estates, Sanford
  • Canyon Springs HOA, Boynton Beach
  • Carol Woods HOA, Apopka
  • Castillo at Westshore Yacht Club, Tampa
  • City 24, Miami
  • Coconuts of Bonaventure, Weston
  • Country Club of Mount Dora, Mt. Dora
  • Crandon Tower Condominium, Key Biscayne
  • Evergrene, Palm Beach Gardens
  • Fiddlesticks Country Club, Ft. Myers
  • Green Cay Village, Boynton Beach
  • Harwood D Condominium, Deerfield Beach
  • Heritage Park of St. Augustine, St. Augustine
  • Island Walk of Naples, Naples
  • Independence Community, Winter Garden
  • Island Pointe Condominiums, Bay Harbor Island
  • K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons of Delray Beach, Delray Beach
  • Key Colony No. 4 Condominium Association, Key Biscayne
  • Kings Point, Sun City Center
  • L’ Hermitage I Condominium, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Lakeview Townhomes, Miramar
  • Las Olas Beach Club Condominium, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Marilyn’s Condominium Association, Miami
  • MetroWest Master Association, Orlando
  • Milano at Deering Bay Condominium Association, Coral Gables
  • Mirror Lakes, a 55+ Adult Community, Boynton Beach
  • Misty Oaks Park HOA, Ocala
  • MyBrickell Condominium Association, Miami
  • On Top of the World Communities, Ocala
  • Overlook at Baymeadows, Jacksonville
  • Paramount on Lake Eola, Orlando
  • Pelican Lake POA, Naples
  • Pines of Delray West, Delray Beach
  • Preston HOA – PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens
  • Promenades East, Port Charlotte
  • River Dance Condominium, Bradenton
  • SouthWood Residential Community Association, Tallahassee
  • St. George Plantation, St. George Island
  • Star Lofts on the Bay, Miami
  • Stonecrest POA, Summerfield
  • Stratford at Kings Ridge HOA, Clermont
  • Sunrise Lakes Phase 1, Sunrise
  • TDR Tower I Condominium, Sunny Isles Beach
  • The Meadows, Weston
  • The Towers Condominium, Ft. Myers
  • Tierra Del Rey, Delray Beach
  • Timber Pines, Spring Hill
  • Town Homes of Harbor Oaks, Clearwater
  • Town Square Association, Lauderdale Lakes
  • Tradewinds at Metrowest, Orlando
  • Trump Hollywood, Hollywood
  • Turtle Cay HOA, Riviera Beach
  • Tuscany Bay HOA, Boynton Beach
  • Valencia Pointe Master Association, Boynton Beach
  • Vanderbilt Community Association, Naples
  • Venetian Condominium, Ft. Lauderdale
  • VeronaWalk of Naples, Naples
  • Wellington at Seven Hills, Spring Hill
  • Whitehall South, Boca Raton
  • Williams Island 2600 Condominium, Aventura
  • Willoughby Golf Club, Stuart
  • Windward Bay Condominium, Longboat Key
  • Wynmoor, Coconut Creek
  • Yacht Harbour Condominium, Miami
If you have already registered, we’ll see you there!

If you haven’t registered yet, regardless of whether your community is listed above, register now.  There is no cost to attend if you are a board member, resident, or active association manager.  In addition to the celebration, we’ll have the largest number of exhibitors in the history of the awards.  More details on the event, including the agenda and a link to register, are on the event page.

“Gretna 5.0” Gambling Creep Could Come To Debary, Florida

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Carrying with it the suspected possibility of continuing the recent gambling creep in Florida via unsanctioned horse-related events, a “land use change” that professional Florida horsemen fear could actually be “Gretna 5.0” is on the Debary City Council agenda today.

Representing Thoroughbred and accredited Quarter Horse racehorse owners, trainers and breeders statewide, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association President Bill White and Vice President Tom Cannell will be on hand to appear before the Debary City Council in Volusia County with the hope of conveying the devastating toll taken on Florida’s lucrative horse racing industry by spurious horse events posing as fronts for cardrooms and even slot machines.

“A real horse racing meet requires thousands of horses and nearly three times the employees to care for them,” White explained.  “We are highly concerned that the connections of Debary Real Estate Holdings are not planning to hold real horse racing.   Unfortunately, without ensuring legitimate racing operations from the outset of the proposed project, the Debary and Volusia County economy will not ever be able to realize the far-reaching commensurate benefits that real horse racing and breeding can bring.”

The Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, the only organization that can sanction legitimate Quarter Horse racing in Florida, confirmed that it has not been contacted by Debary Real Estate Holdings, which has direct connections to Gretna Racing, Inc., the same pari-mutuel permitholder that attempted to legalize “pari-mutuel barrel racing.”

“The proposal behind today’s ‘land use change’ request will not bring more jobs, more green space, more economic impact or more revenue without accredited horse racing,” White explained.  “For each spurious pari-mutuel permit that is allowed to operate, Florida forfeits a large piece of its horse racing industry at a critical time when the need to create jobs is at its most urgent.”

To access the May 6 Debary City Council agenda, click here.

The FHBPA represents over 6,000 Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers who do business in the state of Florida.   The organization works closely with the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association on regulatory and legislative issues.

Recent news coverage by Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal on the Debary Real Estate Holdings issue: