Politics: The Man for All Reasons?

By Jeffrey Bradley

 Jerry Libbin

Not long on the job — not long at all — and the commissioner has already recused himself. Not a very auspicious beginning. As the new president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, Commissioner Jerry Libbin already had to weather a “potential” conflict with a member of MBCC’s board of governors.

Libbin, as president, will report to the board of governors. Moreover, the president is tasked with carrying out the board’s policies and vision. Avoiding even the appearance of legal mischief, this sent the commish scurrying for advice to City Attorney Jose Smith — just to be safe. Libbin wasn’t sure if he should legally recuse himself but did so anyway. For this, he’s to be commended; but there’s more to come.

While granting the commissioner’s experience in working with the community (his business ties, too), this kind of thing can make you go hmmm…
Now, the commissioner has a fairly good track record despite that unfortunate It’s all about the parking quote — which surely
puts him no deeper into the transportation dark ages than any other sitting commissioner (just more articulate is all). And he rightly claims that the Chamber wants someone at the helm who can build “leadership experience.”

Mr. Aaron Perry, chairman of the board of MBCC governors, agrees. He extols Libbin’s creativity, business smarts and community roots before remarking that that is why they chose him. “And he happens to be a commissioner.”
Libbin is unforthcoming about how helpful his being a sitting commissioner is. But why be coy?
That’s the very reason he was chosen!

In our view, after the Commission itself, the Chamber of Commerce should be the most politically powerful entity in city politics as that’s where the economic clout is. But even under strong leadership, the MBCC’s influence wasn’t much more than marginal. And, for the last three years, for x-reasons, membership dropped, the board fractured and the group’s political influence fell to nil minus the square root of zero.

This harks back to ex-mayor David Dermer’s “Save Miami Beach” legacy, wherein hizzoner successfully peddled the notion that it was us “good” residents vs. those “bad” developers, with the Orwellian twist that he then himself presided over the biggest building craze ever experienced by Miami Beach. (And some say that electioneering slogans don’t resonate with the people. Huh!) We know more than a few members from the tie-dyed and ponytail set that still believe this nonsense.

Well, some people think OJ’s innocent, too. Go figure.
This rift continues. And it must be got over if we’re to become a common community instead of a pastiche of balkanized enclaves. Competing interests, piled one atop another, eventually make
the machine seize up. And too many of our elected and administrative officials fall prey to championing
the NIMBY de jour rather than address the bigger picture.

So, Commissioner and now-President Libbin, here is your challenge…
• Mind the Sunshine Laws. This means no discussing government-related business secretly with other elected officials.

• Steer clear of impropriety. Apparently you’ve already determined by way of the city’s legal office that no prohibition exists to your serving as president. And bringing the matter before the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust was a good move.

• Avoid loopholes. The ethics commission supports an MBCC Select Committee to oversee your employment issues and circumvent your need for recusal. So listen up.

Underscoring the need for conflict-of-interest avoidance, the Chamber removed both the city manager and police chief from its board to maintain an “uncomplicated governing position” between the organization and Libbin.

So apparently, the commissioner does get it. Other commissioners have fallen far short over a lot less when it came to exploiting their influence.  Luckily, they were rebuked. We’re not of the opinion that this commissioner suffers such hubris or is so ignorant of what is and what isn’t appropriate.
… And here is your charge:
Sail prevailing steering currents to amass, consolidate and adroitly use the power that ducats flowing into state coffers emboldens; but beware the jealousy of others, the slings of hypocrisy and arrows of infamy that will surely follow your efforts. It takes resilience and sagacity — and someone unafraid of wielding power — to use this powerful base for serving the good of the people.
Knitting together the resident/business fabric will be serious work now that the social moths have done their worst. Stay steady; be consistent. And the last thing we want is the Chamber becoming a creature or tool of the Commission. Even a whiff of influence peddling will be jumped on all over these pages and shouted from the barricades.

“And now” (quoting a famous 19th century politician), “beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.”
Be the man. The man for all reasons.

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