Rivera: Referendum A 'Waste Of Time… Senate Offers Own Budget… Perez: No Key Agency Budget Cuts… Latin Radio Gets Street Smart… Police Blast Funding Cut… Fortuño Announces $48M Prasa Grant… Interns For FL Hispanic Patients Sought… $500 Christmas Bonus Decried… AAV Readies Vetoes… House OKs $9.21B Budget, 'Political Favors' Inquiry… A Hands-On Commissioner

Mayor: Referendum Is A 'Waste Of Time'

June 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (EFE) — New Progressive Party (NPP) Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera, Jr. on Monday said the referendum on whether Puerto Rico should change its bicameral legislature to a single-chamber legislative assembly is a waste of time and money.

According to the mayor, in order to create a new legislative system, more than 20 areas of the Commonwealth Constitution would have to be amended.

He said the event is a publicity stunt to distract the public’s attention and divert it away from the true problems of the island.

"I won’t participate in the referendum," the mayor said.

Rivera’s statements followed those of Senate Vice President Orlando Parga, who on Monday urged the NPP to participate in the event.

Parga’s call comes one day after Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President and Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila urged electoral college members to look after the votes in favor of a unicameral legislature, which he personally supports.

Parga said the NPP directorate had made a mistake in letting its members decide whether to participate or abstain from the vote.

"I urge my party fellow members not to leave the colleges in the hands of the alliance between populares and independentistas, who will use the results in favor of a unicameral system to send a negative message to Washington, by trying to make us look like we are different to the rest of the nation," Parga said in a press conference.

Senate Presents Its Own Budget For 2005-06

June 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Senate President Kenneth McClintock on Sunday announced that the Senate’s budget for fiscal year 2005-06 would remain the same at $38 million.

According to a prepared statement, McClintock said that due to inflation costs and additional expenses, the Senate’s operations cost would increase by almost $1 million.

However, McClintock said the legislative body was able to make some adjustments, like reducing its car fleet, eliminating the police service to the Senate president, and consolidating several Senate committees.

McClintock said the legislative body would be able to save approximately $110,500 in car expenses and $170,000 in the elimination of a car fleet, based on the fact that 17 senators have an annual stipend of $296,000.

He also said the Senate would be able to save up to $600 per month from the suspension of his body guard service and daily allowances.

McClintock also said that bringing the number of committees down to 16 from 33 would represent an additional annual saving of $200,000.

Perez: No Budget Cuts To Key Agencies

June 27, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (EFE) — House Budget & Allocations Committee Chairman Angel Perez assured everyone on Sunday that no budget cuts were made to key government agencies of the island.

Perez presented a table in which he compared the agencies’ current budget with the one that was approved by the House for the upcoming fiscal year.

"We have analyzed the budget of those agencies which provide citizens with priority services and, in conclusion, most agencies received a budget increase when compared to the current budget and the budget that had been proposed by the governor," the legislator said.

The New Progressive Party representative said the House had to make some adjustments in certain agencies in order to avoid the imposition of additional taxes.

According to Perez, the departments of Health, Education, and Family received a budget increase of 17% to 38%.

The Department of Health received an increase of 38.2%. Its current budget is $171 million compared to the $237 million that the House approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Medical Emergencies Corps will receive an additional $5 million that had not been included in Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s proposed budget, he said.

Also, the Department of Education, which has a $1.82 billion budget will now have a budget of $2.12 billion, which is an increase of 17.1% that exceeds the $1.84 billion proposed by La Fortaleza, he said.

The Justice Department will receive a budget increase of $18 million.

The Puerto Rico Police also received an increase from $714 million to $774 million.

The New Progressive Party representative said the House had to make some adjustments in certain agencies in order to avoid the imposition of additional taxes.

Latin Radio Decides To Get Street Smart


June 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
NEWSDAY. All rights reserved.

A funny thing happened as I made my way across my radio dial the other day. Suddenly there was a station that kept playing the chorus from Frankie Cutlass' underground hip-hop classic, "Puerto Rico/Black People," as a background teaser and offered up a steady dose of reggaetón hits by Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Nicky Jam, along with an occasional 50 Cent remix. Debuting May 27 with an unprecedented mix of reggaetón and U.S. hip-hop, Univision's "La Kalle" (105.9 FM in New York/Newark and 92.7 FM in Garden City) format is proof that a powerful urban-tropical music scene is rapidly gaining momentum.

What's staggering about the reggaetón phenomenon is that it didn't need heavy radio play to fuel massive sales. According to the press release that announced the launch of La Kalle (a slangy Spanish spelling of "The Street"), Soundscan's figures show that eight out of 10 Latin music CDs sold in New York right now are reggaetón albums. And although Shakira's pop-rock album "Fijación Oral" (which coincidentally features a reggaetón remix) has displaced Daddy Yankee's "Barrio Fino" at the top spot, four of the top 10 albums on the Billboard Latin chart are reggaetón.

Although the genre was pioneered in Puerto Rico, the reggaetón phenomenon isn't just limited to the Caribbean-Latin-dominated Northeast. Spanish Broadcasting System's KXOL in Los Angeles has recently switched to the reggaetón and hip-hop formats, and Clear Channel's KLOL in Houston went to the bilingual urban Latin format in November. With these additions, there are now nine stations in the United States that play primarily reggaetón.

It's a little early to speculate how long this buzz will last. In some sense, reggaetón's development closely parallels hip-hop's. Poor production values relegated it to the underground at first, but its strong rhythmic groove and dynamic inclusiveness of other genres (in this case, merengue, bachata and, to a lesser extent, salsa) seem to indicate that it will be around for a long time. But perhaps the most significant thing about the new La Kalle format is its easy fit with the bilingual, young urban Latin youth that make up the majority of a rapidly growing Hispanic population. Reggaetón may fade away or evolve into something else, but this is a defining moment for a new youth pop culture.

Police Group Blasts Cut In Funding


June 26, 2005
Copyright © 2005
. All rights reserved.

PONCE -- Puerto Rico's largest police association criticized the lower legislative house Saturday for cutting $40 million in law enforcement funding from a budget that the governor submitted three months ago.

The House of Representatives approved a $9.2 billion budget Friday, shaving $473 million from Gov. Anibal Acevedo's budget.

''They have to explain why they did this,'' said Lt. Nelson Echevarria Hernandez, president of the Puerto Rican Federation of Police.

Fortuño Announces $48 Million Allocation For Prasa

June 25, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño on Friday announced that the Government Development Bank has completed a bond issue of more than $39 million that will benefit the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa).

Fortuño said the bond issue will help finance permanent water and sewer projects.

He said the funds would come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Agency.

The resident commissioner said the agency would also allocate an additional $9.34 million.

The funds will be used to cover construction costs of infrastructure projects in nine municipalities of the island. The projects are expected to benefit more than 13,000 families and more than 250 businesses.

The municipalities to benefit from these funds are Aguas Buenas, Camuy, Ceiba, Comerio, Isabela, Las Piedras, Naguabo, Salinas, and Vieques.

Fortuño added that Naguabo would benefit the most, as the projects would help provide potable water to 75 businesses and to more than 3,900 families who live in rural areas.

Florida Hospital Seeks Puerto Rico Interns For Hispanic Patients

June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico (AP) - Medical students at the University of Puerto Rico will serve internships at an Orlando hospital as part of an agreement to attract personnel who speak Spanish and understand the culture of a growing Hispanic population in central Florida.

"We need people who understand our population," said Dr. Kris Gray, director of Florida Hospital's family medicine residency program.

An agreement signed Friday by officials of the School of Medical Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico and the hospital requires third year medical students serve a one-month internship in Florida as a condition for graduation.

The agreement will take effect the next academic year.

"We perceive that these interns are very well qualified," Gray said during the signing ceremony. "There are some differences in language, but the quality of medical assistance is very similar."

Gray said the students may serve their internship in family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and internal medicine.

The program will begin with family medicine, he added.

Gray said students will have the option to come to Florida Hospital for four weeks during their junior years for a required family medicine rotation.

"This additional training will give the University of Puerto Rico medical school students diverse experience, while increasing their options," Gray said.

Riefkohl Reacts To Approval Of $500 Christmas Bonus

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW News. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) Executive Vice President William Riefkohl believes that the Senate’s approval of a bill to increase the Christmas Bonus for private sector employees isn’t a real solution to the problems that affect local workers.

On Thursday, the Senate approved a Christmas Bonus increase. Should the House vote in favor of the bill and the governor signs it into law, the private sector would have to pay employees a Christmas bonus of $500 instead of $200.

Riefkohl told PRWOW News that the increase would only promote more spending on the part of the employees, as they would have more money to spend in Christmas. He also doubted that the additional amount would promote savings or attend to the real needs of the people.

The executive vice president said the bill doesn’t solve the unemployment problem in Puerto Rico. He said it will only make it harder for the island to compete, as it would increase costs for the private sector.

"Unemployment is the main problem in this country and no legislation, program, or Legislative Assembly has done anything to lower our two-digit unemployment rate," Riefkohl said.

He noted the Association’s opposition from the beginning and said PRMA is also against measures that are aimed at increasing production costs of the private sector.

Instead, he urged the government to find ways to reduce these costs.

Governor Ready To Veto Legislative Measures

June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

FAJARDO (EFE) — Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila on Friday said he would use his constitutional powers to veto legislative bills and issue executive orders to comply with his campaign promises on education and police overtime, among other areas.

Acevedo Vila criticized the $9.21 billion budget that the House of Representatives approved on Friday. He said it was now the Senate’s turn to prove whether it would also turn its back on the people of Puerto Rico.

The budget that the House approved for fiscal year 2005-06 is slightly higher than the current budget, but $473 million short of what Acevedo Vila had proposed.

The governor urged the Legislature to forget the past electoral campaign or the general elections of 2008, and focus on making the right decisions for the people.

"This isn’t against Anibal Acevedo Vila, it is against the people of Puerto Rico," the governor said.

House Approves $9.21 Billion Budget

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

After a marathon session that lasted more than 20 hours, the House of Representatives finally approved a budget of $9.21 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget was approved on a 30-13 vote.

According to radio reports, the budget includes cuts to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s (PRFAA) office.

Following criticism from members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) delegation, House Speaker Jose Aponte denied the allegations that the intention of the budget cut was to shut down PRFAA.

"[The budget cut] is intended to allow PRFAA to do its job in Washington, but without lobbying or participating in public relations activities, as these are constitutional duties of the resident commissioner in Washington," Aponte stated.

The House speaker also said he has proposed an amendment that would require the executive branch to request permission to the Legislative Assembly to transfer budget funds from one agency to another. Aponte said the idea is to avoid practices that would lead to an even greater government deficit.

PDP Rep. Hector Ferrer told reporters that the approved budget was not Gov. Acevedo Vila’s budget.

When asked about the possibility of a governor’s veto to the budget resolution, Aponte said that "if the governor assumes an irresponsible attitude, then he will veto it, but we will be upfront with the people about our work."

House OKs Measure To Investigate 'Political Favors'

June 24, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (EFE) — By a unanimous vote, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved a measure to investigate the allegations that former Education Secretary-designate Gloria Baquero made upon her resignation to the post on Monday before the Senate could vote on her nomination.

Baquero claimed that she had been pressured into hiring and favoring certain people at the Education Department in exchange for her confirmation to the post.

New Progressive Party (NPP) Reps. Hector Torres and Francisco Gonzalez, as well as Rep. Jorge Colberg Toro, of the Popular Democratic Party said in a prepared statement that the allegations must be investigated so that those who may be responsible for those actions could be held accountable. filed the legislative measure because they said it

Baquero has declined to reveal the names of the legislators who allegedly asked her for what she said she believed were "political favors."

A Hands-On Commissioner

Scott Maxwell

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

As harried commuters slowed to halt, expecting to quickly pay their toll along the East-West Expressway one recent morning, the surprise greeting came. "Hellooooooo!" shouted the orange-haired woman in an even oranger safety vest and rhinestone-studded sunglasses. "I'm Commissioner Fernandez, inviting you to be part of the E-Pass program."

Mildred Fernandez was taking on the role of toll-booth worker -- one day before trying her hand as a Lynx-bus driver. It was all part of the freshman Orange County commissioner's self-imposed crash course in learning more about the people and agencies that make Central Florida run.

And in doing so, the Puerto Rico native is earning a reputation as someone who shatters the mold of the typically mild-mannered Central Florida politician. Staffers and bureaucrats, for instance, have been visibly shocked, if also awkwardly touched, when she approaches them -- not with a traditional handshake, but with arms open wide and a loud "Lovey!"

"Everybody knows by now: If they see me, they have to hug me," said the woman who has been seen wearing rhinestones from hat to shoe and says public affection is part of her heritage.

Rich Crotty, on the other hand, rarely wears rhinestones. And his hugs are reserved for family members . . . and, OK, maybe the largest of campaign donors. Still, the county mayor said this week that he likes what he sees in his fellow Republican, calling her "hard-working and agreeable."

That's not to say that the former marketing exec is baggage-free. The state elections commission is questioning whether she properly reported a few campaign donations last year. Still, the donations in question are small ($113 total). And Fernandez has called them mistakes that she will either correct or pay fines for.

So for now, the divorced mother of five continues to get out, take meetings (500 of them in her office so far, she proudly boasts) and focus on her core mission of helping the county's Hispanic residents, many of whom live in her central/eastern district.

And along the way, she gets to hear what the regular Joes are thinking -- such as the one who pulled up to the toll booth last week, listened to her introduce herself, and responded: "It's about time commissioners started working."

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