Miami, FL

Wheelchair access settlement dies

August 21, 2001
A proposed settlement guaranteeing wheelchair access to 385 May Department Stores Co. stores disintegrated Tuesday amid objections over applying one set of solutions nationally.
     "How in the world can I approve this?" U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno asked when confronted with opposition from the Justice Department, attorneys general and advocates for disabled people in more than 20 states. "They don't look happy."
     The judge said he would take days to decide what to do next. He has no power to make changes in the agreement. Options include new negotiations and scaling back to a settlement covering only six South Florida stores.

Judge orders better access on cruise

August 21, 2001
A casino ship must make restrooms more accessible for passengers in wheelchairs, but will not have to make more extensive changes to accommodate the disabled, a judge ruled.
      Monday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Shelby Highsmith came in what is believed to be the first trial targeting disabled access to passenger ships.
      An advocacy group for the disabled had asked for widespread changes ranging from lower craps tables to installation of an elevator on the Casino Princess ship, which sails daily from Miami.

May stores improve access after settlement

July 17, 2001
The May Department Store Co.'s 430 stores will be renovated to make their aisles, fitting rooms and bathrooms more accessible to disabled shoppers under a class-action settlement.
     The agreement, announced Tuesday, is the first by a national department store chain on merchandise access under the Americans With Disabilities Act, said Matthew Dietz, a lawyer who sued the parent of Lord & Taylor, Hecht's, Robinsons-May, Filene's and others stores.

Judge: Miami-Dade schools desegregated

July 01, 2001
Miami-Dade County's public school system, the nation's fourth largest, has achieved desegregation and no longer requires the court supervision imposed 31 years ago, a federal judge has ruled.
      The remnants of discrimination in student, faculty and staff assignments have been eliminated under the 1970 order, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas said.
     "The district's good faith commitment to the constitutional rights of its students is demonstrated by its decades of compliance with this court's orders in this case," Dimitrouleas said in an opinion issued last week.
     The district has 360,000 students. Fifty-four percent are Hispanic, 32 percent are black and 12 percent are white.
     Civil-rights advocates who sued the system in 1969 called the judge's ruling regressive, and criticized the district's progress in desegregation. 

Civil Rights Commission in Miami for vote inquiry

February 16, 2001
An executive who compiled the faulty list of names that caused Floridians to be deleted from voting lists will be asked today to explain what went wrong in last November's election.
     The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the federal panel investigating alleged voting irregularities, is holding a one-day hearing in Miami, during which it will hear from voters who said they weren't allowed to vote in the presidential election. South Florida elections supervisors also are expected to testify.
     The South Florida hearing comes a month after a similar meeting in Tallahassee during which complaints were heard primarily from black voters. Among their complaints: Creole speakers were not allowed to assist first-time voters, some polling stations were closed before 7 p.m., and some precincts were relocated without notification.
     The votes of this primarily Democratic bloc could have been pivotal in the election, which was claimed by George W. Bush by 537 votes. 

Suit charges racism in Fla. voting

January 11, 2001
Civil rights groups are suing Florida election officials on behalf of thousands of blacks, saying they were denied the right to vote in the presidential election because of institutionalized racism.
      The lawsuit filed Wednesday asks a federal judge to overhaul how Florida's elections are run by getting rid of punch-card ballots used in 25 counties, fixing the system for purging voter lists and monitoring state elections for 10 years.
      On Thursday, a federal commission was to begin hearings in Tallahassee on voting problems in the presidential election. The panel was to hear accusations of harassment, voter registration irregularities, illegal voting-poll purges and accounts of a state patrol road block set up election morning near a precinct.

Puerto Rican group sues Miami for race bias

December 11, 2000
A neighborhood economic development group is suing the city,charging that city officials discriminated against them because they are Puerto Rican.
     Attorneys for the Wynwood Community Economic DevelopmentCorporation filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday, their second such action against thecity in six years. The group claims the city is blocking its effort to build a foreigntrade zone in Wynwood.
     ``The City of Miami has continued to impede this project,'' WilliamRios, executive director of the WCEDC, said in a telephone interview. ``It wants to stop thiscommunity from empowering itself by not allowing it to become financially independent from the city.''
     Telephone calls to Miami mayor Joe Carollo's office and the CityManager were not immediately returned Monday night. 
     Rios accused Miami officials of illegally trying to take control of thegroup by demanding more than a 50 percent stake of the corporation if they agreed toprovide $10 million in loans and property. He also said city officials ordered thepublic works department not to issue building permits to construct the foreign trade facilities. 

Black leaders seek lawsuit in Florida

December 10, 2000
Black leaders today will tour SouthFlorida churches to recruit plaintiffs for a federal civil rights lawsuit they hope will be the final push to force a ballot recountin Miami-Dade County.
     Though the U.S. Supreme Court halted a statewide partial manualrecount, black leaders say their court action -- which claims state election officials violated theVoting Rights Act of 1965 -- will prevail.
     ``We want Bush and others to know it is not over, and it is not aone-track stretch,'' the Rev. Al Sharpton, who filed the case last month on behalf of fourBroward voters, told a group of black leaders Saturday at Liberty City's Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church.``Regardless of the Supreme Court's decision, there is still a voting-rights issue that has not been addressed.''
     Sharpton, who will visit four of 10 targeted churches today, saidattorneys will ask a federal judge Monday for an expedited hearing. 

NAACP hears Fla. voting testimony

November 11, 2000
Donnise DeSouza waited until 6:30p.m. last Tuesday to go to the polls so she could pick up her son after work and take him with her.
     "I wanted him to witness the democratic process," the 36-year-oldMiami attorney told a hushed crowd at a church community center Saturday. "He was going to help me pick a president." 
     After waiting 20 minutes to park, she finally got to the registrationtable, only to be told her name was not on the list. She was told to stand asideand wait with about 15 other people, and they were all finally told that they would not be allowed to vote. 
     "Then I had to explain it to my 5-year-old son, and he couldn'tunderstand" she said, nearing tears. "He cried all the way home because we could not vote." 
     DeSouza was one of about a dozen witnesses who testified at thepublic hearing organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. More than 500 people packed themustard-colored Vision to Victory center to listen as a panel including lawyers and twocourt reporters took testimony from voters and election volunteers. 

Judge: "Millionaire" not covered by ADA

October 30, 2000
The final answer from a federal judge isthat the Americans With Disabilities Act does not cover the qualifying round of "Who Wantsto Be a Millionaire." 
     Miami's Center for Independent Living had sued ABC and theproducer of the hit show for a system that would let the deaf and others unable touse touch-tone telephones try to become contestants.
      Currently, callers must punch in correct answers to a series ofquestions to qualify for a random drawing and more questions.
     U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno ruled Monday that the ADA isnot broad enough to cover the show's screening process, but he said the show's goal "should be to encourage participants with disabilities." 

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