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President Obama's Florida Vacation

By Carol Porter

President Barack Obama arrived in the Treasure Coast on Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29, with Air Force One landing at St. Lucie International Airport, in Ft. Pierce, to take part in a golf weekend at the Floridian National Golf Club in Palm City. Playing with the President o2were  Miami Heat great Alonzo Mourning; broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, a former NFL Wide receiver; and Cy Walker, an attorney and a close friend of the president. Joining Obama on the courseSunday were Floridian owner Jim Crane, an energy executive who also owns the Houston Astros; private equity mogul Glenn Hutchins, a co-owner of the Boston Celtics; and energy titan Milton Carroll, who sits on the Halliburton board of directors. On hand to greet the President on Saturday at the St. Lucie Airport were Congressman Patrick Murphy and Ft. Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson. Murphy handed the President a bottle of water derived from the St. Lucie River, highlighting problems in the community and the river. Murphy believes the river needs federal funding for a cleanup. The President left St. Lucie County on Sunday, March 29 to return to Washington, D.C. He will be in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday, March 30 for the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. First Lady
 Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and friends and family of the late Massachusetts Senator will also be in attendance.


Miami 100 Concert

Covering  Live blogging Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach Andrea Bocelli Barry Gibb Gloria Estefan and many more



Gloria Estefan, Andrea Bocelli, Barry Gibb, Flo Rida, Wyclef Jean, Jon Secada and Diego Torres to Take the Stage at First North American Hard Rock Rising Global Music Festival

Hard Rock International celebrates the first-ever, North American Hard Rock Rising global music festival, Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach, by gifting 1,600 reserved premium-seat tickets to deserving members of the Miami Beach community. Music fans from The Miami Beach Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), North Beach Seniors Center, Stella Maris House, Council Towers North, Council Towers South, Blackstone, Villa Matti/Villa Maria, Four Freedoms House, Federation Towers and Rebecca Towers will be special guests of Hard Rock at the oceanfront music festival taking place on Thursday, March 26, 2015 on the sand at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive.

“We continue to be honored by the generosity Hard Rock International has shown to Miami Beach, first as sponsors of Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach and now with this gift of tickets to our residents,” said Philip Levine, Mayor of Miami Beach.

“For the first ever Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach, we want to share Hard Rock’s music and philanthropic heritage with the residents of this iconic city – especially as we celebrate its 100th anniversary. In the spirit of Hard Rock’s ‘Love All, Serve All’ philosophy, we’re pleased to make the concert available to a cross-section of Miami Beach residents,” said James Allen, Chairman of Hard Rock International.

Hard Rock’s music activation began in London with Hard Rock Calling in 2006. Over the festival’s eight-year-history, Hard Rock Calling grew to be one of London’s most celebrated music events, welcoming iconic performers and becoming a stage for moments of music history.

Hard Rock Rising Miami Beach will be the brand’s first large-scale festival activation in the United States and is part of the city’s centennial celebration. Andrea BocelliBarry GibbGloria EstefanFlo RidaWyclef JeanJon Secada and Diego Torres are just a few of the artists who will performing at the oceanfront music festival sponsored by Hard Rock International in partnership with South Florida’s ultimate entertainment destination, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.

Supporting talent includes the official DJ of the Miami Heat, DJ Irie; English guitarist and singer songwriter GRAMMY® award-winning musician, Jon Secada; Jamaican reggae and hip-hop artist, Ky-Mani Marley; Miami Beach jazz vocalist, Nicole Henry; and Jamaican reggae band, Third WorldAndy Garcia will serve as an emcee for a portion of the evening.

Committed to supporting music and emerging artists around the globe, Hard Rock International hosted more than 28,000 live music events worldwide in 2014. The brand continues its dedication to supporting up-and-coming artists in 2015 with Hard Rock Rising concert events in the United States and Europe, providing a forum for music icons and today’s hottest new talent to connect with music fans around the world. 

Event partners include ACT Productions (Miami Beach) and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Event sponsors include Coca-Cola, Atlantic Broadband and the Miami Beach Visitor & Convention Authority.

For additional info please visit For event ticketing please visit

About Hard Rock International
With a total of 198 venues in 63 countries, including 152 cafes, 21 hotels and 10 casinos, Hard Rock International (HRI) is one of the most globally recognized companies. Beginning with an Eric Clapton guitar, Hard Rock owns the world's greatest collection of music memorabilia, which is displayed at its locations around the globe. Hard Rock is also known for its collectible fashion and music-related merchandise, Hard Rock Live performance venues and an award-winning website. HRI owns the global trademark for all Hard Rock brands. The company owns, operates and franchises Cafes in iconic cities including London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Dubai. HRI also owns, licenses and/or manages hotel/casino properties worldwide. Destinations include the company’s two most successful Hotel and Casino properties in Tampa and Hollywood, Fl., both owned and operated by HRI parent company The Seminole Tribe of Florida, as well as other exciting locations including Bali, Chicago, Cancun, Ibiza, Las Vegas, Macau and San Diego. Upcoming new Hard Rock Cafe locations include San Juan, Rio de Janeiro and Marrakech. New Hard Rock Hotel projects include Daytona Beach, Dubai, Los Cabos, Tenerife, Abu Dhabi, and Shenzhen and Haikou in China. For more information on Hard Rock International,

Republican Budget Resolutions: Same Failed Top-Down Economics for Florida

With more than 12 million private-sector jobs created over the last 60 months, it is clear that the President’s middle class economic agenda is working.  But instead of taking the steps we need to strengthen the standing of working families, the Republican budgets for fiscal year (FY) 2016 would return our economy to the same top-down economics that has failed us before: cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing investments in the middle class that we need to grow the economy, like education, job training, and manufacturing.  The Republican proposals stand in stark contrast to the President’s FY 2016 Budget, which would bring middle class economics into the 21st Century.  A state-by-state breakdown of this contrast, including how the Republican budgets affect Florida, can be found in a report released today here:

The President’s Budget builds on the progress we’ve made and shows what we can do if we invest in America's future and commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America.  It lays out a strategy to strengthen our middle class and help America's hard-working families get ahead in a time of relentless economic and technological change.  And it makes the critical investments needed to accelerate and sustain economic growth in the long run, including in research, education, training, and infrastructure.

Republicans have chosen different priorities.  Yet again, they are seeking to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, while cutting taxes for the wealthy and well-connected.  They still won’t say where many of their spending cuts come from.  But they are clear that their budgets would continue the harmful cuts known as sequestration in 2016, threatening economic growth, cutting programs middle-class families count on, and attempting to fund national security through irresponsible budget gimmicks.  Their budgets slash domestic investments that support the middle-class even more significantly after 2016, along with programs that serve the most vulnerable Americans.  House Republicans would end Medicare as we know it, transforming it from a guarantee seniors can count on into a voucher program.  After five years of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million people have gained coverage.  Yet once again, the Republican budgets propose to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions.

The choice could not be more clear or the consequences more stark.  Thanks to President Obama and the resilience of the American people, the economy is growing again.  The Republican budgets would put that growth at risk and limit opportunity for the middle-class and those seeking to join it.

In Florida, the Republican budgets wouldi:

Cut Taxes for Millionaires and Raise Taxes for Working Families and Students: While claiming to prioritize fiscal responsibility, the Republican budgets would not ask the wealthy to contribute a single dollar to deficit reduction, and the proposals specified in the House budget would cut taxes for millionaires by an average of at least $50,000.  Meanwhile, the Republican budgets do nothing to prevent tax increases averaging $1,100 for 12 million families and students paying for college and $900 for 16 million working families with children.  In 2015, nearly 1.1 million Florida families will receive a total of $965 million in tax cuts from improvements to pro-work tax credits that would expire after 2017 under the Republican budgets.

Eliminate Affordable Health Care: The Affordable Care Act is working.  After five years of the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million people have gained coverage.  Yet once again, the Republican budgets propose to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions, taking away health insurance from millions of people.  In particular, the Republican budgets would eliminate coverage for nearly 1.6 million Florida residents who have newly signed up for coverage or re-enrolled through the Marketplaces.  Some of these individuals would become uninsured while others would end up with worse or less affordable coverage.

Raise Health Care Costs for Seniors: 346,100 Florida seniors and people with disabilities benefited by an average of $880 from the closure of the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole in 2014 alone.  Under the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, at least that many would likely have to pay more for needed medications in future years.  The House budget would also end Medicare as we know it, replacing guaranteed access to the traditional Medicare program with a voucher program, risking a death spiral in traditional Medicare.

Slash Investments in the Middle Class:  Under the Republican budgets, both non-defense and base defense discretionary funding in 2016 would be at the lowest real levels in a decade.  Compared to the President’s Budget, if the Republican budgets were to take effect, these are just some of the impacts on Florida: 

·            Head Start: 1,460 fewer children in Florida would have access to Head Start services, representing a permanently missed opportunity to help these children enter elementary school ready to succeed.
·            Teachers and Schools: Florida would receive $74.5 million less funding for disadvantaged students, an amount that is enough to fund about 160 schools, 1,020 teacher and aide jobs, and 113,000 students.
·            Education for Children with Disabilities: Florida would receive $18.3 million less funding to provide educational opportunities for students with disabilities, representing an approximately 2.8 percent cut andshifting the burden for meeting these children’s needs to Florida and its local communities.
·            Job Training and Employment Services: 130,500 fewer Florida residents would receive job training and employment services, including help finding jobs and skills training.
·            Affordable HousingFlorida would receive approximately $80.2 million less in Federal funding, resulting in 5,990 fewer families receiving Housing Choice Vouchers, which enable very low-income families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
·            National Parks: Construction and renovation projects would be prevented or delayed at two national parks in Florida: Biscayne National Park and Castillo De San Marcos National Monument.

Balances Only with Gimmicks and Deep Cuts to Programs that Serve the Most Vulnerable and Help Expand Opportunity.  On top of their cuts to middle-class investments and the ACA, the Republican budgets would cut:

  • Pell Grants: Republican reductions to Pell would reduce financial aid for the 572,000 Florida students who rely on Pell grants to afford college.
  • Medicaid: The House Republican proposal to block grant Medicaid would cut Federal funding to Florida by approximately $38.7 billion over ten years, impacting children, seniors, and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): House Republican proposals to block grant and slash SNAP would cut nutrition aid in Florida by an estimated $8.7 billion over a five year period (2021-2025), jeopardizing nutrition assistance for the 3,526,000 Florida residents who receive SNAP to help them put food on the table.

Fails to Address Our Crumbling Infrastructure: Republican budgets lack a real plan to address the looming expiration and insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.  Through the Highway Trust Fund, in FY 2014 the Federal Government obligated $1.8 billion to Florida through the Federal Aid Highways program for highway planning and construction and over $321.7 million through Transit Formula Grants that support our Nation’s mass transit systems. 

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

A Student Aid Bill of Rights: Taking Action to Ensure Strong Consumer Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

Higher education continues to be the single most important investment students can make in their own futures.  Five years ago this month, President Obama signed student loan reform into law, redirecting tens of billions of dollars in bank subsidies into student aid. His historic investments in college affordability include increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $1,000, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, and letting borrowers cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of income. He has also promoted innovation and competition to help colleges reduce costs and improve quality and completion, including a First in the World fund. While these investments have helped millions of students afford college, student loans continue to grow. 

That is why, today, President Obama will underscore his vision for an affordable, quality education for all Americans in a Student Aid Bill of Rights.  As part of this vision, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Education and other federal agencies to work across the federal government to do more to help borrowers afford their monthly loan payments including: (1) a state-of-the-art complaint system to ensure quality service and accountability for the Department of Education, its contractors, and colleges, (2) a series of steps to help students responsibly repay their loans including help setting affordable monthly payments, and (3) new steps to analyze student debt trends and recommend legislative and regulatory changes. In addition, the Administration is releasing state by state data that shows the outstanding federal student loan balance and total number of federal student loan borrowers who stand to benefit from these actions.

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

                                                                                                       I.            Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.   

                                                                                                    II.            Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college. 

                                                                                                 III.            Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan. 

                                                                                                  IV.            And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans. 

Today’s Actions to Promote Affordable Loan Payments

Americans are increasingly reliant on student loans to help pay for college. Today, more than 70 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree graduate with debt, which averages $28,400 at public and non-profit colleges. Today’s actions will help borrowers responsibly manage their debt, improve federal student loan servicing, and protect taxpayers’ investments in the student aid program:

·         Create a Responsive Student Feedback System: The Secretary of Education will create a new web site by July 1, 2016, to give students and borrowers a simple and straightforward way to file complaints and provide feedback about federal student loan lenders, servicers, collections agencies, and institutions of higher education.  Students and borrowers will be able to ensure that their complaints will be directed to the right party for timely resolution, and the Department of Education will be able to more quickly respond to issues and strengthen its efforts to protect the integrity of the student financial aid programs. In addition, the President will direct the Department of Education to study how other complaints about colleges and universities, such as poor educational quality or misleading claims, should be collected and resolved and to strengthen the process for referring possible violations of laws and regulations to other enforcement agencies.  These actions will help ensure more borrowers get fair treatment throughout the federal student loan process.

·         Help Borrowers Afford Their Monthly Payments: The President will announce a series of steps to improve customer services and help borrowers repay their direct student loans, which are made with federal capital and administered by the Department of Education through performance-based contracts. High-quality, borrower-focused servicing helps more borrowers successfully repay their federal student loans.  Building on the stronger performance incentives put in place last year, the Department will now raise the bar by:

o   Requiring enhanced disclosures and stronger consumer protections throughout the repayment process, including when federal student loans are transferred from one servicer to another, when borrowers fall behind in their payments, and when borrowers begin but do not complete applications to change repayment plans. These steps will better protect borrowers from falling behind in their payments and ensure consistency across loan servicers. 

o   Ensuring that its contractors apply prepayments first to loans with the highest interest rates unless the borrower requests a different allocation.

o   Establishing a centralized point of access for all federal student loan borrowers in repayment to access account and payment processing information for all Federal student loan servicing contractors.

o   Ensuring fair treatment for struggling and distressed borrowers by raising standards for student loan debt collectors to ensure that they charge borrowers reasonable fees and help them return to good standing;  clarifying the rights of Federal student loan borrowers in bankruptcy; working with the Department of Treasury to simplify the process to verify income and keep borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans; and working with the Social Security Administration to ensure that disability insurance recipients who can discharge their student loans are not instead seeing their disability payments garnished to  repay defaulted loans.

·         Prioritize Further Steps to Meet the Needs of Student Borrowers: The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that students who borrow federal loans have every opportunity to repay those loans through fair, affordable monthly payments. To continue to improve the information and customer service offered those borrowers, the President will direct the Department of Education to:

o   Work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to find the most innovative and effective ways to communicate with borrowers, leverage the latest research identifying key factors that influence borrower repayment and keep actual borrower behavior in mind, so they stay in repayment and avoid default. 

o   Work with the Office of Management and Budget to regularly monitor key trends in the student loan portfolio, improving loan servicing and budgeting and considering possible policy changes.

o   Invite expertise from across the government to review best practices for performance-based contracting that could further improve outcomes for borrowers. 
In addition, new requirements may be appropriate for private and federally guaranteed student loans so that all of the more than 40 million Americans with student loans have additional basic rights and protections. The President is directing his Cabinet and White House advisers, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to study whether consumer protections recently applied to mortgages and credit cards, such as notice and grace periods after loans are transferred among lenders and a requirement that lenders confirm balances to allow borrowers to pay off the loan, should also be afforded to student loan borrowers and improve the quality of servicing for all types of student loans.  The agencies will develop recommendations for regulatory and legislative changes for all student loan borrowers, including possible changes to the treatment of loans in bankruptcy proceedings and when they were borrowed under fraudulent circumstances.

Making Progress on A Student Aid Bill of Rights

Together, we can continue our work toward ensuring that all Americans have meaningful opportunities for a high-quality, affordable postsecondary education without the threat of unmanageable debt. The President’s vision laid out in the Student Aid Bill of Rights incorporates the progress we’ve made, his existing proposals, and the new actions announced today.

I.                   Every student should have access to a quality, affordable education at a college seeking new ways to lower costs and increase learning. 

·         America’s College Promise: In January of 2015, the President released a bold new proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost, benefiting nearly 9 million students, and ensuring states and community colleges do their part to help students succeed. 

·         First in the World Grants: In September, the Department of Education awarded $75 million to colleges and universities across the country under the new First in the World (FITW) grant program to encourage colleges to adopt cutting-edge innovations and proven strategies that expand college opportunity, improve student learning, and reduce costs.  This year, the President has proposed increasing FITW to $200 million.

·         Call to Action on College Opportunity: Last December, the President, Vice President, and First Lady joined college presidents, K-12 superintendents, non-profit, foundations, and businesses to announce over 600 new commitments to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

·         College Ratings: The Department of Education continues its work to develop a college ratings system by the 2015-2016 school year that will help students and families compare the value offered by colleges and encourage colleges to improve by highlighting institutions that successfully educate students from all backgrounds; maintain affordability; and help students gain a degree or certificate of value.

II.                Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college. 

·         Dramatically Increasing Investment in Pell Grants: The President raised the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,730 for the 2014-15 award year — a nearly $1,000 increase since 2008, helping more than 8 million Americans a year afford college. This year, the President has proposed new investments to ensure the maximum Pell grant keeps up with the cost of inflation.

·         Simplifying the Process to Apply for Federal Student Aid: The Department of Education has helped students and their families fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in a fraction of the time it used to take—20 minutes from over an hour—through a redesigned tool that asks less questions and helps filers get their income data directly from the Internal Revenue Service.  This year, the President has proposed eliminating more questions from the FAFSA.

·         Simplifying and Improving Education Tax Benefits: The President created the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) to provide families with up to $10,000 over four years of college. This year, the President has proposed simplifying and improving education tax benefits for more than 25 million families, including making AOTC available for up to five years and eliminating taxes on student loan debt forgiveness under income-driven repayment plans.

III.             Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan. 

·         Pay-As-You-Earn Loans: Under the President’s Pay As You Earn plan, recent student borrowers can cap federal loan payments at 10 percent of their income. Last June, the President directed the Department of Education to amend its regulations to make the plan available to all direct loan borrowers, helping nearly 5 million additional borrowers by December 2015.  This year, the President has proposed reforms to the program that will streamline and better target all income-driven repayment plans to safeguard the program for the future.

IV.              And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans. 

·         Transitioning to a Student-Centered Direct Loan Program: In 2010, the Administration took action to make federal student loans more reliable and efficient by eliminating subsidies to banks and successfully transitioning all new originations to the Direct Loan program. New performance-based contracts that were created by the Department incented servicers to find new and innovative ways to best serve students and taxpayers and this June, the contracts were strengthened to improve the way servicers are compensated to help borrowers repay their loans on time and ensure high-quality servicing.

·         Simplifying Income-Driven Repayment Plans and Improving Borrower Outreach: In 2012, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the Department of Education made it easier for borrowers to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan by creating an online application that lets borrowers get their required income information directly from IRS. Along with outreach efforts spanning targeted email campaigns, social media, and partnerships with outside organizations, more than 2.4 million borrowers are able to manage their debt through and income-driven repayment plan.  

·         Building Tools and Resources to Support Federal Student Loan Borrowers: Since 2012, the Department of Education has developed a suite of tools and resources to help federal student loan borrowers, including a financial aid counseling tool that helps borrowers make good education financing decisions, understand their options for paying back their loans, and accurately compare and select repayment options customized to their individual circumstances.

Obama Selma Speech

 the story of the day is told even better in photos.  Here are a few.

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