If cronyism were the buzzword in a drinking game, and the beverage was the café con leche served at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, those core members in attendance for this week’s speaker would be buzzing right past Hurricane Irene and into next week. Cronyism is at the core of all evils that befall the Magic City, that is, according to Miami District 2 Commission Candidate Donna Milo.
Highlighting the prestige of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club to local politicians, and the importance of Miami Beach in affairs of the mainland, Ms Milo was this week’s guest at David’s Café II on Lincoln Road. She is seeking the seat of Commissioner Mark Sarnoff, and is one of a field of five that includes the incumbent in an election slated for November 1.
During her short introduction, Ms. Milo hung out Miami’s dirty laundry as the justification for throwing her hat in the race. Her list including noting that the City of Miami currently has no internal auditor, are on their fourth city manager in two years, own a $61 million dollar budget gap, are being investigated by the FBI, the FDLE and the SEC, and, also, that the administration is declaring a second year of “fiscal urgency” to deal with the political burdens of soaring employee costs. With what everyone hopes is a Miami poised on the brink of real return, with the resurgence of the real estate market and red-hot entertainment venues, Milo is a candidate questioning the stewardship of the City. “The ship is not being steered with good leadership. We need to root out some of the corruption and cronyism. As a small business owner, I can bring some of my common sense to District 2 and to the City of Miami”, she offered before opening the floor up for questions.
Elders activist, Stanley Shapiro, led off with his standard voir dire for all candidates, inquiring as to money and backers. “I have raised, hmm… about 70 thousand to date,” she offered, although the most current reporting as of June 30th shows $56,025 in contributions, which includes a self-made loan of $1,000.00. “And I’m very proud to say that the first person to give me money was Stanley G. Tate.” Tate has been called ‘the father of the prepaid college program’.
While Ms. Milo did boast a few Miami Beach donors on her list, including Jack Coder and Augusto Crespo, it is Commissioner Sarnoff who appears to be the Beach’s horse in this race. With over 650 contributions and most at the maximum level, it’s not surprising that many Miami Beach residents and businesses appear on his list.
When pressed, Ms. Milo admitted concern over the large sum of money headed to the Sarnoff reelection camp. “Where does his money come from?” she asked rhetorically. “Not from District 2! Those people see through that.”
Developer David Lombardi, construction magnate Tom Murphy, attorney Alex Heckler, former Mayor Neisen Kasdin and wife Ana (and his law firm), Miami-Dade DEC Chair Richard Lydecker, Terranova, Berkowitz, attorney Andrew Frey, and the Cypens have all contributed at least one, or usually several, $500.00 checks toward Sarnoff’s bulging war-chest still containing over $272,000.00 as of June 30th, the most current report available.
When asked about the budget gap and the role salaries and benefits play, Ms. Milo cast the spotlight on ‘spin’ as a way of avoiding tackling the issue by “depersonalizing the issue away from employees to put the focus on big unions.”
David Kelsey, seeing there was more laundry to sort, brought up the continuing “little skirmish”, as Ms. Milo characterized it, between mayor Tomas Regalado and police chief Miguel Exposito. “We may need people from outside to decide,” she suggested. “These are the very top of two distinct departments”. There are “cronies on one side and cronies on the other” side of this battle, which includes the unions’ involvement in a recall drive against the mayor. “It’s another black eye to the City.”
The topic of transpiration brought about the liveliest exchange between the candidate and the audience, even the members themselves. “We need better movement in the City,” Milo stated.
Miami activist Peter Ulrich gave chase with questions over the use of the FEC corridor for transit, and asked for comments on the proposed trolley that uses People Transportation Trust monies. “We do need to expand routes”, Milo suggested. “More people would like to use public transit but the routes need to be closer where people want to be.”
As part of her campaign platform, she promised be around after the election, saying that constituents should “demand more” from elected officials. “You see them three or four months before, but after the election you hear nothing.” She noted the current commission did lower taxes, thru a “miniscule” reduction in the milage rate, to a level “less than what it costs for a tank of gas.” But then, incumbents can promote the fact that they voted to lower taxes while out on the campaign trail.
“Public engagement” is the answer to cronyism, said Ms. Milo, and promised to start forwarding emails to her growing database of constituents, showing the bi-monthly commission agenda with highlighted items of particular interest to residents.
She answered she was against the strong-mayor form of government, based on what happened with the County. “We saw the strong mayor role abused and stood up to oppose cronyism and corruption” with that seismic recall of former Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Alvarez in March
Miami Beach mayoral candidate Dave Crystal offered a personal endorsement: “I have known Donna for over four years, and you’ll find no one with more integrity than she. This is a phenomenal person.”
And certainly not a crony.