Politics: Event Horizon

By Jeffrey Bradley

“Passage of the commission-proposed charter amendments only serves to provide the commission with greater power, larger salaries, expansion of their ability to lobby, and reelection until 2024.”
—Norman Braman

Never a big fan of Stormin’ Norman—but, we finally got aboard his recall juggernaut. As Carlos Alvarez, late mayor of Miami-Dade County (whom we thought a positive force after the Alex Penelas/strong commission fiasco up till the time he pulled that bonehead reward-the-staff-by-raising-property-taxes move) and ex-commissioner horrorshow Natacha Seijas learned, vox populi can be a terrible thing.

The commissionariat, aka The Gang of 13 (oddly the same number of turns taken in a hangman’s noose), that now alone rules the County (the commissioners, we mean) are sedulously undermining the precepts of power while manipulating the levers of power. Unable to help fortifying their fiefs even when under public scrutiny, they’ve cobbled a wish-list to tack on the county charter that would make Genghis Khan blush.
They shun reform the same way a vampire shuns light.

Braman was spot on in observing the proposals the commissioners want—-term “limits” allowing their remaining in office until 2024 plus a pay raise of $90,000.00—“fail miserably to reflect the public’s demand for reform of county government.’’

They also want a proposal to eliminate the strong-mayor form of government that curbs their reach by placing county bureaucracy under the control of the mayor which, if adopted, would let the commission exert greater control over their treasure troves, Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami. They brazenly seek overturning a 2007 referendum that had shorn them of their ability to batten on these public tills.
Fail miserably? Their brand of pork-barrel, logrolling politics makes of them bargain-hagglers without a shred of decency or concern for the public.

So Braman has them on notice to shape up or face the wrath and ire of him and of us. As he puts it, “All options are on the table, and recall is certainly one of them.” In the wake of that historic recall the three leading county mayoral candidates have already agreed to abide by it.

Funny how the power-elite suddenly awakens when faced with actually serving voters, isn’t it?

Truly, the commission seems bent on missing the message that couldn’t be clearer even as it sent Alvarez and Seijas tumbling. As it’s shaping up, these two were but the first to reach that political event horizon marking the boundary of a massive black hole that threatens to whelm them all. Sick of the unending skullduggery stretching the breadth of the county, the electorate teamed with Braman in an all-out effort to turn the rascals out.

In a nutshell, it comes down to whether the voters will be given the chance to vote Yea or Nay on this commission’s preposterous proposals. And guess who doesn’t want you to vote? We suspect these politico-mandarins will be shocked when the torchlit mob descends on the castle wielding pitchforks.

Apparently there is a proposal worth keeping that would allow a majority of a Charter Review Task Force, meeting every four years, to place questions directly onto the ballot. Voters would then affirm or deny them. As it stands now—the commissioners, again—amendments can only be placed the ballot by commissioners who don’t want them or by a petition drive that requires each signature be notarized. You see? They roadblock whatever they can impeding their perks and their power.

Plans call for a May 24 election to vote-in a new county mayor and county commissioner, and six amendments to the county charter, the county’s constitution. (Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, announcing for county mayor, will probably be our pick.)

Braman’s “Covenant” proposes eight-year term limits—in exchange for “a reasonable salary—and for the commission to be reduced from 13 to nine commissioners, with two at-large districts. This is an admirable plan, with merit. The commission has proven that, unchecked, it’s capable of moving, however ponderously, at right angles to the will of the people. When such a body is left unbuttressed, mischief results.

Hopefully, the commission is too obtuse to realize the perils of recall. Especially as the five that would fall—Joe Martinez, Dennis Moss, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Bruno Barreiro—are a rollcall of the misbegotten if there ever was one. Unfortunately, it can’t be a clean sweep because county commissioners are protected from recall for a year following election… which no doubt accounts for Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Sally Heyman popping off arrogantly recently in the media.

Go ahead; scoff. But a year from now, with all that other driftwood swept from office, you’ll be singing a different tune. For Robin Hood lurks in Sherwood Forest.

The author is an independent columnist. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and not those of the publication or it’s Editors and owners.

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