IT WAS THE worst of times, and it was, well, not quite the best of times. It was the season of economic recession, it was the season of sluggish recovery, if even that. It was the age of office-holders’ arrogance and the age of voters’ discontent. It was the epoch of squeeze-the-property-owners-for-more and it was the epoch of reward-the-public-servants-gallore. South Florida was going direct to Heaven, or we were all going direct the other way on a joyride theme of party-now-and-pay-the-piper-later, damn the warnings of deficits, unemployment rates, foreclosures, Social Security collapse, climate change, and all else!
There was a county manager on the throne in Miami-Dade, who tied his fortunes to a now-resoundingly-repudiated county mayor. There was a city manager on the throne, across the bay, in Miami Beach who may have had his sights on the county manager’s job, but, due to a pedigreed petty greed for some complimentary concert tickets, can now kiss that goodbye.
The most powerful man in the county gave up the reins of power last week.
Not Carlos Alvarez, the second most powerful, but George Burgess. Indeed, it was perhaps a bigger bummer of a week for the county manager than for the displaced mayor for Burgess found himself out of not one job but two. And on the same day.
Within hours of his resignation announcement came news that he had lost out on the Jackson Health System CEO post for which he failed to make the Final Five cut. (I never even wanted the Jackson job in the first place, George told a reporter after the news, just three hours after telling Jackson that, yes, he wanted it.)
“I’ve had one employer, with the exception of the School Board for nine months, and that’s been Miami-Dade County,” Burgess said, leaving office on the heels of sidekick Alvarez’s humiliating shellacking the night before. He’d been a county employee for nearly 30 years.
And that was the problem, George. You’d been too long in county government, so much so that, like the mayor, you’d lost touch with the pulse of the people.
“Miami-Dade County has been very good to me and I think we’ve had a very good reciprocal relationship.”
Obviously, George. From that incredibly lucrative severance package, looks like the county was very good to you. And will continue being very good to you for many, many years to come, long after your eight years as manager have started collecting dust in our memories.
No matter her merit or aptitude for the job, successor (and 27-year county employee) Alina Hudak is not part of the solution. The solution is to find someone from outside the county to fill the role before the job is eliminated altogether next year.
Someone with no insular association with County Hall. Someone with an outsider’s viewpoint, who can spot what are the problems (and problem people) and what needs to be done to address them (and who needs to go).
Meanwhile, across the bay, the other George – Jorge Gonzalez – doubtless discovered, much to his chagrin, that a new term has been coined by local papers and cartoonists to describe the just-hatched scandalito revolving around the prized booty at its epicenter, the quest for which he must wish would have forever remained a secret cloistered within the ivory tower offices of the Powers That Be on Convention Center Drive.
A booty of which, by now, all the local citizenry are aware: Complimentary New World Symphony tickets, as in –
Local leaders feel “entitled to anything and everything,” Miami Today’s Michael Lewis editorialized last week. “Government, and the community, is theirs.”
“Take Ticketgate in Miami Beach, one of a stream of micro-scandals as those in office get payoffs they don’t call payoffs. They’re just perks – their entitlements.” What Jorge had allegedly done – by holding up the $15 million Symphony grant in return for the free tickets “or else” – was nothing, Lewis declared, but “blackmail and bribery.”
But “at Miami Beach City Hall,” he wrote, “Mr. Gonzalez makes clear, that’s an entitlement.”
“If anyone in public service thinks tickets are just another deserved perk,” declared the Herald’s editors last week, “then they weren’t paying attention to [the county's] recall election….Voters are done with ‘Where’s Mine?’’’
In the wake of the recall landslide, I asked the city manager if rumors of his coveting the county manager’s job were true. No reply. Just as well, for the next day, Ticketgate slithered out of Pandora’s box and out into the sunlight, and bit him in the ass, accompanied by the revelation that he was now under investigation by the state’s attorney for his role in it.
Whatever trial balloon Jorge was about to float for his aspirations for the 29th floor of the Stephen Clark Center deflated faster than radiation leaking from a Japanese nuke plant. Suddenly, Miami Beach’s Boy Wonder was – for the first time in his otherwise stellar, Clearasil-clean 11-year tenure at City Hall – politically toxic. No one was coming forward to offer him the job or to publicly acknowledge he was even being considered for it.
With luck like this, could his resignation announcement be forthcoming sooner than later?
Try dialing up the mayor’s page at the county’s website and… it’s not there. Just the home page for the county government.
Carlos Alvarez is now truly gone. His presence has been scrubbed away. Even his picture at the bottom of the page, where the commissioners have their photos, has been deleted. It’s as if a VACANCY sign now hangs outside the office, to remain for the foreseeable future.
The county commission was slated to meet today to pick a date for a special election to fill it.
HIT THE ROAD, HARPAL
One of the lackeys who’s surely gotta follow his bosses, Alvarez and Burgess, out the door – like, right this minute – is Transit Director Harpal Kapoor. I’m not holding my breath waiting for Hudak to do the right thing and throw him under the bus – so to speak. But she should.
Kapoor’s the (mis)administrator at the helm of a county agency whose sloppy auditors so bungled bus and rail pass receipts that an estimated $120,000 went missing when one idiot stashed them, undeposited, in his desk drawers.
Kapoor’s the (mis)administrator whose agency last year got scammed out of a cool $250,000 in Easy Card fares, thanks to a lack of anti-fraud features.
Kapoor’s the (mis)administrator of an agency whose accounting and procurement practices got slammed by the Federal Transit Administration (“very serious financial management oversight and internal control issues”) and incurred the unusual punishment of the FTA suspending $182 million in federal funds.
And Kapoor is the same nitwit who had full knowledge of, gave his blessing to, and was in attendance at an organizational meeting with the 12 bus drivers who were released to the transit workers union to work on the pro-Alvarez, no-recall campaign. While on county time. And on county pay.
Enough’s enough. Thrust a one-way Easy Pass into his hand to Anywhere Else But Here and transit this guy outta here. Now.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Nice to see our foreign policy-inexperienced leader finally awaken to the challenge and put U.S. fighter jets into the skies above Libya.
But it took a UN Security Council act to prompt it (it’s about time that usually milquetoast body coalesced to take appropriate action on something).
Note that Obama and the rest of the world balked, dithered, and ultimately did nothing in ’09 to prevent Ahmadinejad and his thugs from stealing the Iranian election and slaughtering the opposition. Things might be different there today, if only….
Let’s now hope it won’t be much longer before Daffy Gaddafi’s madness is finally cured with a syringe in the shape of a Cruise missile. Or, cheaper and more convenient yet, a knock upside the skull from one of his own people.
Whichever, just finish him off already, wouldja?
That, of course, would be the chronically-disturbed excuse of a country on our southern border, many of whose narco-traffic-terrorized, murder-ravaged citizens (the ones still alive) have found a popular new way to evade their own responsibility for this human chaos: Just blame the gringos across the border.
Specifically, blame us for the influx of guns involved in many of these killings (which, if advertised like a McDonald’s sign, might now read: OVER 34,000 KILLED).
(Somebody please remind these obviously oblivious Mess-icanos that a gun, while part of the crisis, can’t hack somebody’s head or limbs off their torso, or burn their bodies to an ember in the street.)
Any college kid considering Spring Breaking in a Mess-ican resort this season needs his or her head examined. But ignore the travel advisories against going there, dudes and dudettes, and you could just skip the exam and go straight to the head lopping-off. Any of a number of Mess-ican drug cartels will happily oblige.
Why die in Mess-ico when you can Spring Break here in all-American SoBe, where the only scalping you need fear is from our notoriously-duplicitous eateries and bars price-gouging you for that quesidilla entree or topping off that bottle of vino you ordered with some cheap shit and charging you a Dom Perignon ransom.
Spring Breakin’ in the USA, God bless it!
Time magazine, taking note of Slick Rick’s “my way or the highway” approach to governing, last week described our guv as a “political novice accustomed to the executive fiat of the corporate world.”
But he got a rude “introduction” to those other two pesky but constitutionally-necessary branches, legislative and judicial, when earlier this month two state senators, a Democrat and a Republican, linked arms to sue him for his rejection of the federal bullet-train billions.
Said Time: “Florida Republicans and Democrats alike worry that Scott’s high-handed style may instead augur a Tallahassee train wreck.” My sentiment precisely.
PEEVE OF THE WEEK
Ya know how annoying it is when the TV volume spikes whenever a commercial interrupts? Now notice how those fine Madison Avenue types have taken this gimmick and expropriated it elsewhere: to internet ads. Ughh!
It’s especially annoying when you’re about to listen to a news video through headphones and the 15-second ad preceding it blasts out at an ear-jarring 20 decibels louder than the video itself.
GUESS WHO I SAW…
…while out and about in the Gables last week? Think pink.
Our ol’ friends, the Art Basel snails, that’s who. Two of them were grazing on the grass outside the Village at Merrick Park. A few blocks away, another mammoth mollusk. All apparently convalescing just nicely after their brief, less-than-pleasant Beach exposure to graffiti-tagging and bay-dunking a few months back.
What’s the worst that could happen to them in the Gables? They wind up on the menu at Le Provencal, on Miracle Mile, qu’en pensez-vous?