Politics: A Piece of the Action

By Jeffrey Bradley

If this is spring, it must be pay raise time. Indeedy; there’s money in the air: our Miami-Dade commissioner friends are seeking a raise to the tune of $92K. But they’ll have to slip it onto the ballot unbeknownst-like, if precedent serves that is, because this is the fifth time in eight years they’ve sought to ratchet up their income. Yet each time they were shot down quicker’n a Japanese Zero at the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

Talk about your questionable timing!

As usual, their hamhanded attempt comes at a bad time for pushing personal agendas. These aren’t happy days, after all, or flush times what with countywide service cuts, endemic downsizing and belt-tightening across the board as the county faces a horrific budget crunch and confronts a shortfall in the millions of dollars this fiscal year.

Leave it to these politically tone-deaf commissioners to ignore all that and reach for the goodybag instead. They’ll actually ask (demand?), via referendum, a twentyfold increase in their $5,000 (that’s $55,100 in benefits, car and expense allowances) yearly salary. This will go before us voters August 24, and we can’t WAIT to have them serve up that hanging curve!

Even they recognize the move as lame. “This is a really bad time to do it”, said Commissioner “Pepe” Diaz, who voted for it anyway.

See, they haven’t received a pay raise since the 1950s, but not for lack of trying—11 times and counting—to coax the voters into enabling this fraud. Gee; wonder why?

This is the same bunch, after all, that came damn near criminalizing any attempt by Joe Citizen to put any referendum on any ballot. That’s because most referendums are aimed at them, and obstructing their piggery at the trough. Only when then-mayor Dermer, in one of his saner moments, sued the County over this blatantly illegal and self-serving claptrap, did they back off even a little (just a little; try getting a referendum on the ballot and see what a complete hash they’ve made of it). Oddly enough, their pet referendum—this pay raise, we mean—has more “keeps on going” to it than the Eveready Bunny. The thing just won’t quit. But who are they kidding? Do they take us for dolts, or worse?

Think we’re pulling your leg? Then listen: “If the community wants term limits, they can vote people out of office,” says Commissioner Katy Sorenson. How’s that for an exercise in arrogance? (Of course, she won’t be surprised when this referendum goes down in flames too, will she?)

See, no sitting commissioner has lost an election in some 16 years. They control millions to help them curry favor with their fiefs, er, districts. So, who, exactly sided on this 8-4 vote seeking a state-derived yearly salary increase of $92,097 based on population? Why, the usual suspects, of course!: Chairman Dennis Moss, Barbara Jordan, Bruno Barreiro, Sally Heyman, Audrey Edmonson, Dorrin Rolle, Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Joe Martinez.. (As our grandmother observed, that lot bears watching.) Oddly enough, the hike wasn’t enough for some. “We work a lot of hours”, claimed “Pepe” Diaz. “We are selling ourselves short.” No, Commissioner; it’s actually us you’re selling short. And we will hold it against you; make book on it. Those against? Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Natacha Seijas, Rebeca Sosa and Javier Souto. Note that Commissioner Gimenez seems almost always on the right side of a vote. But congratulations to all those responsible for slamming a torpedo into this garbage scow of an idea.

Worser and worser, they refuse to allow the public to consider imposing any term limits or curbing their busy-but-lucrative outside “interests.” Hey, no need of getting foolish!

Oh, this just keeps getting better and better.

They’re  even considering asking us help them end the current “strong mayor”’ form of government. A few years ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez won the ability to wield considerable authority in operating this Byzantine government. And while we sometimes look askance at the Mayor’s more bizarre moves, he gets high props just for going after those sleek, well-fed political felines like a pitbull on neutered cats. Hello, Kitty!

And here’s Commissioner Barbara Jordan, fresh from Twinkle City to propose scaling back some of those powers. She’s probably been frustrated in getting a handle on that commissioner Christmas sack called the Miami International Airport. We wrote about this problem a few columns back in Skeleton Coast. Mind those feebly struggling bodies caught in the spiderweb, Commish—‘less you’re angling to get your name up here, too. Anyway, this proposal would basically strip day-to-day management away from the mayor—with its coveted power of picking department heads—and give it to some handpicked milquetoast who’d report straightaway to the commission. Need any help getting that lead balloon off the ground, Commissioner? We sure can be helpful!

Even the commissioners know this for the hokum it is, as proved by their inability to muster consensus or even a vote.

Say, here’s an idea. Why not place al-Qaeda in charge of commission security? If you can get by the head schmatas, we hear they work pretty cheap. Even bring their own boxcutters. If nothing else, it’s one more contract to be profited from. All we gotta do is get that on the ballot!

Or, you could dismantle your personal demesnes, throw open your books, unbatten yourselves from the public weal, pull those rasping lamprey suckers off public agencies and agree to term limits and practicing good (read good for the public) government. While your hand-in-the-cookiejar blatancy can’t be undone, it sure won’t go unremarked. If nothing else, next time you send that clay pigeon spinning up in the air we’ll grab our 20-gauge shotgun and blow it clean out of existence.

You might say our mission is to derail your success. Think not? Well, you’ll know who to thank on the 24 of August after the polls close. WE’LL be voting and, unfortunately for you, the only way around us is through us.

UPDATE: 05/19/2010 12:15 pm ET
This Just In:
Miami-Dade county commissioners won’t be seeking that pay raise after all.

Shockingly, they decided not to ask voters for a pay hike, even with a financial crisis looming. (Most unlike them.) Someone must’ve woke up and smelled the coffee, and now the commission has concluded it isn’t the time to ask for a pay raise. We’re so glad logic prevailed; just when we were wheeling up the heavy artillery. That slaughter wouldn’t have been pretty.

Not only did the panel reverse itself on putting the question of a pay raise on the ballot, they won’t be trying to curb the strong mayor powers, either. Talk about running up the white flag!

All this comes just two weeks after an 8-4 vote pushing a ballot question asking voters to boost commissioner pay rates to $92,097 a year. Luckily they awoke to the fact that this request had even less chance of persuading voters than any of the previous 11. Good thinking; Miami-Dade is confronting a gaping deficit and shrinking tax revenues. In the event—big surprise here—only Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Bruno Barreiro and Chairman Dennis Moss continued to press ahead. Guess we know now who the out of touch commissioners really are.

The others also wisely agreed not to try to curtail the mayor’s powers a mere three years after voters approved strengthening them. “I think it’s a little too soon to revisit it with the voters,” Katy Sorenson said. Good girl. A commissioner exercising common sense and fiscal restraint will turn us on everytime. But it’s sooo difficult, we know.

They came to it late, but come to it they did. For that, a tip of the millionaire’s fedora. But we’ll be watching real close for that next underhanded, stick-it-to-the-voter power grab that they’re sure to indulge in.

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