Category Archives: Miami

2016 Ballot Recommendations — Coral Gables Charter Amendments

Only one of these amendments, number five, is really significant; otherwise I don’t think a lot rides on these–although I am going to vote against a couple of them in an excess of caution. The Charter Amendment process is really more a lost opportunity to do interesting things than anything else.

Amendment One YES It abolishes a Trial Board of Appeal that hasn’t done anything for a very long time.

Amendment Two NO Creates a method for removing Commissioners in case of incapacity. I am not aware that this has been an actual problem in the recent past, and it does create a theoretical avenue for abuse, so why look for trouble.

Amendment Three YES  The Mayor currently appoints the Vice Mayor, this puts that in the Charter. OK, whatever.

Amendment Four NO (?) Same issue as with Amendment Two; but this is actually a closer call than #2 because it aligns Coral Gables with state law procedures. So I can see why some people might think this was wise, or even necessary. Currently under the Charter it takes a 4/5 vote to censure or remove a Commissioner. This might make it easier to remove a Commissioner, but arguably the state rules control anyway.

Amendment Five YES! This will create a runoff procedure. That’s a good thing. I proposed to the Charter Revision Committee that they go for STV, also known as ‘instant runoff voting’ because they are fairer and cheaper, but they demurred on the grounds that it was ‘too complicated’ and ‘too hard to explain’ to voters. I think that was a great pity, but some runoff is better than none, given that currently Commissioners are getting elected with much less than 50% of the vote.

Posted in 2016 Election, Coral Gables | Leave a comment

2016 Ballot Recommendations – County Charter Amendments

NO on #1
YES on #2

Don’t be fooled by the fact these two issues seem about as obscure as stuff gets (but wait! I’ll be doing the Coral Gables Charter question anon – I’m sure you are waiting with great anticipation for that!).

On Amendment No 1 as the League of Women Voters aptly summarized it:

A YES vote would:

  • Allow for municipalities, the city council, to establish the annual rates to be assessed with the special taxing district for that municipality.
  • Allow decision making process to be more localized so that tax paying citizens within that municipality for the taxing district would have a more direct say.  
  • Create a new responsibility and cost for the city council to manage and operate the special taxing district
  • Municipalities would not be required to follow County contracting rules, including that contractors must pay workers a living wage.

A NO vote would:

  • The process for operating special taxing districts would remain the same, changes to the annual rates to be assessed for the specific municipality and special taxing district would be made by the Board of County Commissioners .  
  • Miami-Dade County would continue to be responsible for the management and operation of the special taxing district for the respective municipalities, and all related costs would be the responsibility of Miami-Dade County
  • All contractors and vendors hired by the County must comply with County contracting rules, including that they pay their workers a living wage.

There is no question that the county has done a lousy job monitoring special taxing districts. As an abstract matter, it does make sense to push control down closer to the areas affected by a district. But in practice, given the very poor quality of the administration of several of the municipalities in the county (Homestead, Opa Locka, and others) I suspect that giving control to municipalities would too often open the door to (even greater than current) shenanigans.

FWIW, the Miami Herald editorial board agrees that No. 1 is a bad idea:

The Editorial Board gets that this is a way for neighborhoods to have a direct say in their district instead of waiting for Big Government to respond to their needs. This would allow the decision-making process to be more localized.

But we’re also wary about the creation of new pots of money for municipalities as a hotbed for possible mishandling at best, and malfeasance at worst.

It creates a new responsibility and cost for a city council or commission to manage and operate the special taxing district. Are these municipalities ready for the task? How will this new money be administered by some small municipalities? Not every city is, say, Opa-locka, but you get the point. The County Commission would establish the rules for cities creating new districts. But how will these funds be monitored once the county steps out of the picture?

Here’s another down side: Municipalities would not be required to follow county contracting rules, including that contractors pay workers a living wage.

Vote NO on County Charter Amendments No. 1 (Vote No on Florida Constitutional Amendment 1 too – remember “NO on 1” in all cases!)

Amendment No 2 mildly strengthens public access to public records by giving a right to copy as well as read them. This won’t change current practices, but it will entrench the right to copy which is currently merely statutory. Vote YES on No. 2

Posted in 2016 Election, Miami | Leave a comment

2016 Ballot Recommendations – County Races

We have two county-wide races: The Mayor and the County Clerk.  There are also School Board elections in Districts 1 and 6 (I’m in 6).

Miami-Dade Mayor: Raquel Regalado

Another pair of uninspiring choices in incumbent Carlos Gimenez and challenger Raquel Regalado. Here’s what I said about the primary before Regalado forced a runoff:

The Mayor’s race presents a stark choice between an incumbent who does not deserve re-election and a challenger who hasn’t made the case that she would be a good steward (if anything, rather more the opposite).

I really don’t want to vote for Mayor Gimenez to be re-elected. I’m not against measured development, but he’s for anything glitzy-sounding, be it an oversized mega-mall in the north end of the county, or selling a county golf course to Donald Trump.

I wasn’t a fan of the Pets Trust, but the voters voted for it, and Gimenez undermined their decision.

Also, I haven’t forgotten Gimenez’s war on the library system, which I think of as one of the few jewels in Miami-Dade’s civic crown. He lost that one, so no lasting harm was done, but it shows a very poor disposition.

Gimenez shafted county workers, and it took a costly court battle to set him straight.

And his son is a county lobbyist, with the wrong sort of clients.

The problem is, I’m not at all sure about the challenger, Raquel Regalado. Here’s what I said about her in 2010 when she ran for school board:

Raquel Regalado, 36, is a trademark and patents attorney with a law degree from St. Thomas in 2001. While I do think legal training is a good background for the school board, and it would be nice to have a younger member of the Board, it’s hard to think of many legal specialties less relevant to the job. (Now, a real estate attorney or CPA….) Indeed, the candidate’s resume generally seems rather light on relevant experience. The Herald endorsed Regalado as did the United Teachers of Dade, the teachers’ union. (I would expect better from the Herald. Sadly, I don’t expect better from the UTD.) The elephant in the room, however, is the identity of Regalado’s father, a subject explored in the Miami New Times’s With No Experience and Lots of Cash, Miami Mayor’s Daughter Raquel Regalado Runs For School Board.

Opinions differ about her tenure on the School Board. Her now-former colleagues (Regalado resigned to run for Mayor) say nice things. Her opponents cite her alleged absenteeism or lateness to meetings, which looks high on paper, but her defenders say looks less bad when one considers that (1) she had a live radio show to do (people have to eat); (2) the portions of the meetings she missed were overwhelmingly ceremonial; and (3) in all or most cases the important substantive votes she missed were not close votes where he presence would have made a difference.

No, the real rap on Regalado has two parts: lack of competence (not numerate, not detail-oriented) and likely to sweep in her father’s cronies. Dad is the Mayor of the City of Miami and he, and especially the cronies, are said to meet or exceed Miami’s ordinary quota of corruption.

To quoute the Shark Tank:

Raquel Regalado, who is the daughter of current City of Miami Mayor, Tomas Regalado, has a history of being involved in questionable financial dealings, some of which occurred during the time she was campaign treasurer for her father’s Mayoral race in 2009.

In 2011, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) launched an investigation into Tomas Regalado’s mayoral campaign, where Raquel Regalado served as treasurer, for potentially illegal contributions made in 2009. Raquel Regalado told El Nuevo Herald, that the apparently illegal campaign contributions coming from the Dominican Republic were a simple “oversight” and minimized the illegality of these transactions by claiming the campaign received hundreds of checks for smaller amounts

There was another investigation on the same campaign for campaign-reporting irregularities on a $40,000 increase in total contributions reported on an amended treasurer’s report filed after the campaign. In response to the investigation, Raquel Regalado told The Miami Herald that she believed “the discrepancy could be due to bookkeeping or accounting errors.”

Both Tomas Regalado (recently appeared on the HBO Show “Ballers”) and Raquel Regalado, agreed to pay fines and penalties of $5,000 each for their part in the bookkeeping.

To make things worse, in September 2011, law enforcement officials investigated campaign finance violations by both City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and campaign treasurer Raquel Regalado, revealing that criminal campaign violations that included forging campaign financial reports, were made. A forensic auditor ultimately outlined six violations of Chapter 106 of the Florida Statutes dealing with Campaign Financing, involving the Regalados.

But if things couldn’t get any worse for Regalado.

The Miami Herald reported that back in August 2011, Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado was nine months late in filing her final campaign finance report, leading to a $3,526 fine being accessed against her.

That’s the incompetence angle. Add in the kerfuffle over Regalado’s improper claim for a homested exemption. Her campaign spokesperson calls it just an excusable screwup:

Yes, she moved out of her house and into a rented home. She was in the midst of a contentious divorce and her ex-husband had a claim on the house they had once shared. Meanwhile, the bank was foreclosing because she could not afford, as a newly-single mother, both the mortgage payments and her daughter’s autism therapy. It was not a difficult decision for her to make and any parent can understand. She abandoned the house so that her ex-husband would take up residence and possession of the home he had some rights to, as per the divorce settlement. He had every intention of moving into the home. When he didn’t, the foreclosure moved forward.

She never rented the house to anybody, as is the case with real Homestead exemption fraud cases. Nor did she claim another Homestead exemption on the new home, as other people committing fraud do. She didn’t stay and live in the house for free during the foreclosure. And, in fact, since she wasn’t paying the mortgage, she didn’t continue to pay the taxes on it. Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia said the property taxes for both years that Regalado didn’t live in the house were paid for by the mortgage company that took possession of the home. Foreclosure proceedings take time. Her name was still listed on the property but the home was no longer Raquel’s. The bills were paid by the bank.

So the oversight isn’t even hers! The mortgage company got the tax bill and paid it, failing to make the changes to indicate there was nobody living in the home anymore and that it was in the process of foreclosure.

So, more incompetence, not malice.

Even if that’s right, and who knows, what a great choice to have to make.

It looks as if the developer-financed Mayor is going to win this one, so maybe I’ll just vote Regalado as a protest. But if it looked as it was going to be close it would be a tough one.

I did vote for Regaldo, and I don’t regret it. Being forced into the runoff is a great comeuppance for the incumbent.

But now we really have to pick one. And the choice today still looks lousy.

On the one hand we have Gimenez, a fairly competent guy by Miami standards, who broke promises and is wrong on many issues notably supporting the American Dream (cough) mega-mall (but right on supporting funding Tri-Rail), who is in bed with developers and other less savory folk, and has some ethical issues.

On the other hand we have the challenger, who is likely less competent, can’t keep her own financial house in order, and is likely to staff her administration with her dad’s cronies who are not better–and arguably worse–than the incumbent’s crew. On the gripping hand, she’s right on several issues notably opposing the mega-mall, opposing public money for SkyRise Miami, that white elephant erection planned for downtown Miami. She’s for closing the establishment slush fund known as the Beacon Council (but she’s wrong on Tri-Rail). And in part she looks good because she hasn’t had a chance to break promises yet.

Regalado has run a bad campaign, throwing stuff around in the hope it would stick. Not much of it did. That made her look shallow and desperate. (One’s tempted to add, ‘which would be because…’)

I’m going to vote for her anyway, as much for her opposition to the giveaways to influential developers as anything. Plus Gimenez’s war on the libraries really sticks in the craw.1 I fear I may regret this vote. But then I’d probably regret the other vote too.

County Clerk.

Harvey Rubin is running unopposed again. It’s starting to feel a little Soviet. Then again, at least he seems to be doing a good job. And he’s a UM J.D.!

School Board: Modesto “Mo” Abety

Modesto “Mo” Abety  The former CEO of the Children’s Trust is endorsed by all the good government groups seems like a great choice. His main opponent, Maria Rojas is very well-financed for a political neophyte.  Coincidentally, she is the sister-in-law of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  I have yet to read anything else about her that explains why so many people want to vote for her.


  1. It’s a sign of how bad the Herald is on local politics that their editorial gives the reopening of libraries as a reason to vote for Gimenez; yet he created the crisis, and only backed down in the face of vociferous public opposition.  Does the Herald think we’re so stupid we forgot this?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps, worse, they have forgotten it? 

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2016 Ballot Recommendations – State Races

Yes, yes, you want the judicial recommendations. But you’ll have to wait until at least tomorrow for those. Meanwhile, here are some suggestions on the state races.

FL Senate SD-37: Jose Javier Rodriguez

Jose Javier Rodriguez has not been real visible around here, but there’s plenty of reasons to vote for him anyway as that is a vote against Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

One defining issue for the state of Florida is whether we’ll extend Medicaid to people who are currently not poor enough for it, but still too poor for Obamacare subsidies. The federal government would pick up almost all the costs – making the change is like taking free money; not making the change just means that our federal taxes will flow disproportionately to the 31 states that are signed up for the expanded Medicaid program. States that expand Medicaid see dramatic improvements in access to health healthcare; Florida like much of Old Confederacy is punishing its poor people – many of whom are not white – out of petulant dislike of Obamacare. Despite misleading mailers from the de la Portilla campaign, Rodriguez is on the right side of this one, and that’s reason enough to vote for him right there.

Fl State Rep. Dist 114: Daisy Baez.

Daisy Baez will be a great state rep. I was for her two years ago, and she almost won then against an incumbent. Now it’s an open seat. She has business experience, understand healthcare issues from the inside, and seems from the times I’ve met her to be a genuinely nice person. This one is easy! Among her issues are expanding Medicaid, and support for restoring cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program. Vote for Daisy!

Next: Some County races.

Posted in 2016 Election, Miami | 3 Comments

2016 Ballot Recommendations – Federal Races

People seem to want my recommendations in the judicial elections. I’m working on them, and have already talked myself into one perhaps surprising recommendation. But this year I’m doing the whole ballot because so much is at stake. So today it’s the big stuff – the federal races.

Important note if you’re voting early before I get the next two installments up: as well as voting in the top ticket races, be sure to vote NO on Florida’s deceptively worded Constitutional Amendment 1 – that’s important too.

Federal Office

US President: Hillary Clinton.

I am not a big fan of the neo-conservative and militaristic foreign policy, but on almost any other policy metric, Clinton scores from fairly well to great, depending on the topic. And on the one, most critical, issue she is transcendentally wonderful, that being the issue of Not Being Donald Trump. This may be the most important vote you cast in this lifetime; and we need to not just win but run up the score both to make a point, and to avoid any chance of subsequent civil unrest on claims of a stolen election.

US Senate: Patrick Murphy.

Marco Rubio is an empty suit. So, alas, is his opponent. On policy there is much less difference between them than one has a right to expect, as Murphy is a former Republican. Even after switching parties Murphy continued to vote more like a Republican than most Democrats – at least until he decided to run for Senate, at which point Murphy toed the party line a bit more.

I had planned to vote for neither.  I’ve reconsidered because so many members of the GOP have vowed to obstruct Clinton on judges and everything else.  In normal times we might be able to risk divided government, and in normal times I’d suggest not voting in this one as both candidates are depressing. But we don’t have that luxury: Florida’s Senate seat may be the swing between the parties that determines if we will have a fully functioning Supreme Court, or a gradually shrinking one. Hold your nose and vote Murphy.

House of Representatives (FL-27)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has earned admiration both for constituent services and for her principled and very early separation from Donald Trump. Her opponent, Scott Fuhrman, has good positions on the issues but also has a checkered past. There are probably few if any Republicans in the House who more clearly have earned re-election in a normal year than Ros-Lehtinen; that result is also pretty much a forgone conclusion unless we have a wave election the size of which remains hard to imagine. The case for Furhman is like the case for Murphy – it’s about who runs the House. That said, in Murphy/Rubio you have two dispiriting candidates so it makes sense to vote the national consequences as a tie-breaker.  In Ros-Lehtinen you have an admirable politician who happens to caucus with the wrong guys, and votes wrong on financial issues of importance to her constituents – but votes her district on gay rights and immigration.

Posted in 2016 Election, Miami | 1 Comment

Nothing Here

South Florida escaped Hurricane Matthew essentially unscathed when the storm zigged instead of zagging.  I read that 50,000 people, mostly in the county north of us, Broward, lost power.  Here the lights flickered a couple of times and surged once despite our house-sized surged protector.

Now to take the patio stuff back outside.  Meanwhile, the radio suggests that the northern part of the state is still at risk of landfall, and that a ten-foot (!) storm surge may hit some places.  Plus waves.

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