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The 2018 primary election is still over eight months away, but that hasn’t stopped two local politicians from trying to use public school property to win votes for one of their campaigns.
State Representative Roy Hardemon, a Miami Democrat, personally put up two large yard signs for State Senator Daphne Campbell’s re-election campaign on the gate of WJ Bryan Elementary School in North Miami.
A RISE NEWS reporter spotted the two signs on opposite ends of the school’s property off busy 125th St.
He then called Campbell’s Senate office to get an explantation for why they were placed there.
Moments later the reporter received a phone call from an unidentified man who said that he put the signs up on Campbell’s behalf.
“It ain’t nothing wrong with [a sign] saying Happy Holidays,” the man said. “I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with that.”
When asked the made identified himself as “Roy… Representative Roy Hardemon.”
The phone number from which he called the reporter from matched the phone number that Hardemon listed with the Florida Candidate Tracking System.
“You called my boss and she chewed me out,” Hardemon said of Campbell. “I put the signs up for her. She blasted me out.”
Hardemon, who represents House District 108, hasn’t publicly disclosed payments from Campbell if he is indeed employed by her.
In fact, he hasn’t publicly disclosed any form of income on his Financial Interest Disclosure filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Hardemon also doesn’t have a profession listed on his State Legislature Bio on the Florida House of Representatives website.
He is one of only three member of the 120 member House to not have a listed occupation (The others being Jennifer Mae Sullivan and Barbara Watson).
When pressed on his relationship with Campbell, a Democrat who represents District 38, Hardemon backtracked.
“She’s not my boss, she’s my friend,” Hardemon said.
Campbell was not able to be reached by the time of publication.
Hardemon said that parents of the school should be happy to support Campbell because of what he said was her leadership on their behalf.
“Somebody’s doing there best and people are complaining about signs,” Hardemon said. “I’ve had it up to here with these petty complaints.”
He also said that he thought the signs were allowed to be on the school’s fence.
“The fence is a public right of way,” Hardemon said of the fence, which is clearly on school property. “You know how it’s called, it’s an unwritten rule.”
Except that is not an unwritten rule, the rule is actually written down.
According to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools policy on advertisements on school grounds, political campaign materials are not allowed.
“Advertisements containing a campaign or other political message supporting or opposing a political candidate for public office, a political platform, or a political issue, are prohibited,” the school board passed law reads.
Since Miami-Dade public schools were out for the winter break, spokespeople for the School Board were unable to be reached.
Calls to Bryan Elementary were also not answered due to the break.
Both Campbell and Hardemon represent Bryan Elementary in Tallahassee and both are up for re-election to their offices in August.
Campbell tried to use her connection to an FPL lobbyist to turn on electricity at her house after Hurricane Irma and Hardemon has been arrested 19 times over his life, including for punching a woman in the face in 2014.
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Residents in Miami Shores were unable to directly reach their police department for at least an hour and a half on Jan. 3, and it’s not entirely clear why.
The Miami Shores Police Department (MSPD) said that AT&T’s phone line went down, causing them to lose connection to inbound phone calls.
But AT&T said that isn’t what happened.
The company blames MSPD’s server for the outage and say there was nothing wrong with their phone line connection.
MSPD sent out a text alert to residents signed up with the Nixle service at 10:53 AM on Jan. 3.
That alert said that inbound phone lines were down at the station and that residents would have to call 911 or the Miami-Dade County Police Department in order for “requests for assistance” to be forward to MSPD.
The next text alert indicating that the phone lines were working again didn’t come until 4:50 PM.
MSPD spokesperson Elizabeth Keeley told RISE NEWS that inbound phone service was only down for around an hour and a half, after the station was notified of the outage by a Miami Shores resident.
Keeley said that MSPD was investigating how long the lines were down in total.
Kelley said that the station implemented a “workaround” that is used as a backup plan in case the analog line goes down.
AT&T didn’t respond to the station’s outage call until earlier today, nearly 48 hours after it was first announced to the Miami Shores community.
But according to a AT&T spokesperson, when one of their technicians responded to the station, he was unable to find anything wrong with their phone line.
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“We sent a tech to the Miami Shores police department this morning,” AT&T spokesperson Kelly Starling said in an email to RISE NEWS today. “The issue the city experienced was with its server, not our network.”
Starling also said that when MSPD’s server went down, their IT department requested AT&T forward its lines until its IT team could fix the problem.
But MSPD spokesperson Elizabeth Keeley said that AT&T is wrong.
“Their information is not correct,” Keeley said. “They can not say who they spoke to. They didn’t speak to the chief. I don’t know how they came to that conclusion.”
Keeley said that AT&T’s analog system was the problem and that the station’s server indicated that it never went down.
When pressed, Keeley could not say whether the station’s phone system was back up and running in the way it was before the outage.
“It is running currently to accept incoming calls in a way that the chief is satisfied with,” Keeley said, while refusing to answer whether inbound calls on the AT&T analog line were now being received.
Keeley said that it wasn’t the first time that the station has lost inbound call service.
When asked why the station has to rely on an AT&T analog phone line for service, she said that it had to do with lack of resources.
“There’s plenty of options, but it all costs money,” Keeley said. “We don’t really have that budget [that Miami-Dade County PD has, for example].”
Keeley said there will not a report on the matter released to the public and that Chief of Police Kevin Lystad was en route to a conference and unable to answer questions about the situation.
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Update: January 5 at 7:24 PM
Miami Shores PD have announced that inbound phone lines to their station have been repaired after a nearly hour and a half outage.
The announcement was made on social media.
In a thread on the Nextdoor App, Shores resident Michael Morejon asked village spokesperson Elizabeth Keeley how it was possible for a police station to lose phone service.
“This was an AT&T issue and the cause is still being addressed,” Keeley said.
Original Story from earlier in the day:
A Miami Shores spokesperson said that the inbound phone lines are down for the Miami Shores Police Department.
The reason for the problem was not announced nor was the expected time for the lines to be repaired.
It is not clear whether the lines being out were related to overnight power outages reported around Miami Shores.
The announcement was made via the Nextdoor app by Miami Shores Communications Specialist Elizabeth Keeley.
“Police Department phone lines are currently down,” the advisory read. “Please be advised that the inbound phone lines to the Miami Shores Police Department are currently down. Please contact Miami-Dade Police at 305-476-5423 or 911 who will forward the requests for assistance until our phone lines are restored.”
This is a developing story. We will update it as we gather more information.
Cover Photo Credit: marysalome
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For the first time in 28 years, Tallahassee has seen significant snow fall.
But in Florida our idea of significant snow fall is a bit different than most.
The National Weather Service in Tallahassee was reporting 0.1 inches of “snow/sleet accumulation” on the roof of their building according to FOX 13.
People around the region snapped videos of what they saw- a winter wonderland to be sure!
Giving is a trait that Brandon Okpalobi exercises every day.
This young CEO of a youth training program works with children frequently to unlock their potential through sports.
A former University of Miami basketball player, Okpalobi became an entrepreneur and nonprofit founder after his playing days ended.
And in many ways, Okpalobi has never been part of a more important team than he is now.
Okpalobi, 35, founded Dibia Athletic Development in 2011.
The company, which trains young people in various athletic skills operates in Miami, New Orleans and overseas in Bermuda and the Bahamas.
He also expects to expand the program to Latin American and Nigeria soon.
In 2014 he was able to expand the brand to Dibia Dream, a non-profit that helps underserved youth develop life skills.
Okpalobi said that he gives back to his community because of the example he saw from his father.
“In 2007 my father took me to Nigeria and built a community center for his village,” Okpalobi said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “I saw the impact from it and I realize I need to give back more because that is going to bring the change we want to see.”
Okpalobi grew up in New Orleans to a Nigerian immigrant family.
He was a standout high school basketball player and attended the University of Miami in the early 2000s.
He was a guard on UM’s basketball team from 2001 to 2005 when he went undrafted in the NBA Draft.
When playing in the NBA was no longer his goal, Okpalobi used basketball as a vehicle to pursue other ventures.
“Basketball is my everything,” Okpalobi said. “It brought me to Miami, it kept me in Miami, it allowed me to start my for profit and opened up doors I never had.”
Dibia Dream is Okpalobi’s nonprofit that he launched in 2014.
This venture exposes under-served children to activities like art enrichment, science education and athletic training so they can develop new skills.
It has quickly become established in Miami’s growing non-profit space.
Through this program, Okpalobi has helped expose over 4,000 children to experiences they would have never otherwise experienced and has given out 600 scholarships for summer enrichment experiences.
One of the major features of Dibia Dream is STEM Saturdays.
On Saturdays during the school year, Dibia Dream allows students to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) projects.
Okpalobi designed the program to be a “safe haven” for at risk kids during the weekend.
In 2016 Okpalobi was a recipient of the BMe Community Award.
This is a $10,000 grant given to black men leaders in South Florida who are trying to better the community.
Okpalobi used his grant to expand the STEM and arts program at Dibia Dream.
“We want to give the kids as many options as possible,” Okpalobi said. “When kids have more exposure to these things they tend to look at different career opportunities.”
According to Okpalobi, Dibia means “master of knowledge/wisdom” in Igbo.
According to the Dibia website:
“The term refers to traditional healers, experts and doctors. The process of becoming a DIBIA involves years of training and many levels of initiation. DIBIA means TRAIN TO BE GREAT.”
In July 2017, Dibba Dream partnered with the Nyah Project to bring 10 students to South Africa.
The group worked with three schools on various projects and made an impact in the area according to Okpalobi.
Okpalobi has done a lot to serve the children and he plans to do even more in 2018.
Coming up in January, Diba Athletic Program is organizing the sports clinic for Zo’s Winter Groove, the event hosted by former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.
He also plans to open two more facilities for Dibia Dream in North Miami and Liberty City.
Okpalobi’s latest act of giving was a toy drive he organized with Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School on December 20th.
The goal was to give toys to the less fortunate and homeless children at the school, but there was a problem.
How do you give toys to poor kids without embarrassing them in front of their classmates?
To keep the privacy of the children who were less fortunate, Okpalobi worked with 14 year old Ransom Everglades High School student Jack Fitzpatrick to provide a lunch from Jimmy Johns and a toy.
Fitzpatrick and his family raised $10,000 on GoFundMe for the kids at Eneida M. Hartner.
Last year, he raised $5,000 for the same cause.
Okpalobi is highly regarded at the school.
“It’s a blessing to have someone within the community to reach out and wants to be apart of the school,” Dr. Derick R. McKoy, the Principal of Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School told RISE NEWS. “He wants the best for children and he helps Eneida Hartner bring the world to the children.”
McKoy drove the point home further.
“You know the African Proverb, ‘it takes a village’?,” McKoy asked during an interview. “Well, I’m happy Brandon is in my village.”