Category Archives: Miami

Presidential Commission on Election Administration Meeting a UMiami Tomorrow (6/28)

There’s going to be a big meeting on Election rules at U.Miami tomorrow. Here’s the announcement from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

PCEA Announces Public Meeting on Friday, June 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013 — The Presidential Commission on Election Administration will convene a public meeting on June 28, 2013, in the Hurricane Room at the BankUnited Center, University of Miami, 1245 Dauer Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146, beginning at 9:00 a.m. eastern time, ending no later than 5:00 p.m.

The Meeting notice has been published in the Federal Register and is available to view here: *The Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA); Upcoming Public Advisory Meeting. *Note the location has changed from what is posted in the Federal Register. The meeting will be held in the Hurricane Room at the BankUnited Center on the campus of the University of Miami.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Mark Nejbauer
Designated Federal Officer
Presidential Commission on Election Administration

I wonder why they moved it?

Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but if anyone reading this is going, would you consider live Tweeting it? (Let us know your Twitter handle or hashtag in the comments.) Or if you prefer, send in periodic reports as comments below.

Posted in Coral Gables, Law: Elections, Miami, U.Miami | Leave a comment

Oh Dear, Miami

Eye on Miami has the scoop on Goodbye, Miami, Rolling Stone’s big Miami story due out tomorrow. It’s a recounting of Miami’s difficult future if/when sea levels rise, and the ostrich-like head-in-the-sand approach to planning by local, mostly Republican, elected officials. There’s also a major cameo by our local power executives, who not only have aging nuclear reactors in a future flood zone but want to build more.

Even though, as EoM notes, none of this is news if you’ve been paying attention, that doesn’t make it any less of a likely/possible mess. But as most of the most likely scenarios put the really serious stuff more than 20 years out, that puts it outside the time horizon of Miami’s endlessly short-term planners.

May I suggest a soundtrack for reading the Rolling Stone article? Try Róisín Murphy’s ‘Dear Miami’, my favorite Miami-themed song. And very appropriate, as it includes the lyric “Dear Miami, you’re the first to go, disappearing under melting snow”.

Posted in Global Warming, Miami | Leave a comment

The Garcia ‘Phantom Ballot’ Scandal — What We Know and Don’t Know (Updated)

The Herald splashed it as a five-column lead across the front page this morning: Top Garcia aide quits over ballot plot.

Here’s what we know so far:

  1. Cops raided the homes of two Joe Garcia campaign operatives: Giancarlo Sopo, 30, now Joe Garcia’s communications director and John Estes, 26, formerly his campaign manager for the 2012 election. The raids were in search of electronic evidence of fake absentee ballot requests.
  2. The ‘plot’ consisted of someone sending hundreds of electronic requests for absentee ballots for the 2012 Democratic primary, so-called phantom ballot requests. The bulk of the requests were masked by foreign IP addresses. The Miami Herald found that 2,552 fraudulent requests for the Aug. 14 primaries originated from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami, and got the prosecutors to re-open the case, leading to yesterday’s raids. Incidentally, although today’s Herald article calls the automated e-requests a “sophisticated scheme to manipulate the election” an earlier article by the same reporter stated that “no special skills” were needed. Unfortunately, the first article was right — since the ballots would have gone to the voters’ registered postal addresses, it didn’t take much to fill in the online ballot request forms: “any moderately or even marginally skilled programmer could have done this,” as Patricia Mazzei’s first article reported.
  3. Regardless, requesting ballots for others in this manner is illegal: only the voter or a family member can request an absentee ballot.
  4. The Elections Department flagged the requests as suspicious, and didn’t send the ballots, so none of this affected the primary (between Joe Garcia and fraudulent candidate Justin Lamar Sternad), much less the general election.
  5. According to the Miami Herald, Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia (no relation to the Congressman), “took responsibility” (despite not having been the campaign manager for the 2012 campaign) and Joe Garcia asked for his resignation. Thus the headline. Sopo is on administrative leave for now.
  6. There’s no sign that Congressman Joe Garcia himself knew anything about any of this (although the Herald doesn’t report this fact):

    Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press that Congressman Garcia is cooperating with her office, and prosecutors don’t believe he knew anything about the fraud.

  7. Meanwhile, there’s a separate “ongoing investigation targeting multiple individuals involving alleged absentee ballot fraud” (per NBC Miami) — but that investigation does not involve Joe Garcia, either. That, I take it, is about the really serious stuff, where people collected actual ballots from the old and infirm, and filled them out and/or mailed them in batches (both illegal). Indeed, the ‘boletera’ operation has been a staple of the local Republican machine, which worked it hard to defeat Joe Garcia in 2008 and 2010.
  8. None of this has to do with the even zanier investigation into ex-Congressman David Rivera, complete with a key witness hiding out in Nicaragua.

There are some key details we don’t know:

  • Why did the computer-generated ‘phantom ballot requests’ target both registered Democrats and Republicans? Was someone trying to cover tracks? Incompetent? Running a false-flag op? Were the domestic and foreign-origin phantom requests part of the same operation, or different one?
  • Was there actually a ‘plot’? Or is this a one-man show?
  • What is it that Jeff Garcia (Joe Garcia’s chief of staff) actually did, if anything? Is he just resigning because he should have known, or because he did know (before or after the fact), or because he participated in some way? Based on what we know now, the direct participation seems unlikely as the cops apparently didn’t raid him looking for computer evidence.
  • Did the domestic IP numbers lead to either staff member’s home? Both? What, if anything, did the raids find after all this time? Who, if anyone, will be charged?

OBDisclosure: I know all three of the staffers mentioned above. My son volunteered full-time for the Garcia campaign in 2010, although not in 2012 (when this stuff allegedly occurred). He began interning in Garcia’s DC office this week. He knows all three men better than I do and says he was was shocked at the allegation that any of them would be involved.

UPDATE 1: Reports of this morning’s press conference are now online. Biggest new thing I learned from the Herald’s write-up is that Giancarlo Sopo “denied taking part” in the “plot”. As to Jeff Garcia’s role, the Herald, without any quotes, says he was dismissed “for apparently orchestrating a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.” Apparently? Did he or didn’t he?

UPDATE 2: Here it comes: Local GOP asking, ‘What did Garcia know and when did he know it’?

UPDATE 3: Political Cortadito weighs in with several theories including this one: “The other possibility is that it was a third party vendor who did it. Sure, [Jeff] Garcia has to take responsibility. He was Joe Garcia’s campaign manager. But this is not like him. This doesn’t sound like his baby. This sounds like something that was offered to him by someone else.”

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami, Politics: FL-25/FL-27 | Leave a comment


The TEDxMIA website doesn’t seem to have been updated since early 2012.

Posted in Miami | 1 Comment

Coral Gables Election Results

From Miami-Dade Elections — The Herald slate won: Cason (70.8%), Lago (52.7%) and Keon (49%):

Election Results – Coral Gables General Biennial Election

Precincts Counted 35 (100%)
Absentee Precincts Counted 1
Registered Voters – Total 30,672
Ballots Cast – Total 7,101
Voter Turnout – Total 23.15%

Mayor – Group I

Ralph Cabrera 2,057 29.20
Jim Cason 4,988 70.80

Commissioner – Group II

Marlin Ebbert 2,116 31.29
Ross Hancock 1,081 15.98
Vince Lago 3,566 52.73

Commissioner – Group III

Jackson Rip Holmes 89 1.32
Patricia “Pat” Keon 3,290 48.98
P.J. Mitchell 496 7.38
Tony Newell 403 6.00
Mary Martin Young 2,439 36.31
All results are unofficial until certified by the municipality
Posted in Coral Gables | 11 Comments

Vote Today in Coral Gables

It’s election day, although like many of you I voted absentee (in my case because I’m at a conference in California today). Here are my recommendations on how to vote, if for some reason you are still in doubt. You can review all my posts of the election from my Coral Gables page.

At least you should not have a long wait at the polls — turnout in these off-year elections tends to be low. But that just means your vote will count all the more. Polls close at 7pm.

Posted in Coral Gables | 3 Comments

Voting in the April 9, 2013 Coral Gables Election

Getting information about local elections is hard, and that’s why I’ve blogged the Coral Gables election so much.

People, especially colleagues at UM, ask me who I think they should vote for. Here is my advice, barring last-second surprises, for whatever it is worth:

Coral Gables Commission Group II: Ross Hancock
Coral Gables Commission Group III: Pat Keon

The Mayor’s race is a tougher call. I think Ralph Cabrera gets the edge, despite some reason to doubt how effective he will be as Mayor.

Commission Group II

At the first debate I attended, Ross Hancock said he that this upcoming election is about picking a team. Voters should think like a coach and pick people “with different skills” … “who do not hog the ball.”

I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I heard in the events I went to. And it was a smart thing for Hancock to say, because it’s the heart of the case for his candidacy.

I’m not sure that we would necessarily want five Ross Hancocks on the Commission. His strongest suits are regional planning, environmental issues, and long-term thinking. He has pretty conventional views on things like pensions (got to fund them). He’s strongly for trying to get the Gables more input into the management and quality of our local schools, but that isn’t unique either. What resonated with me is that Hancock, more than any of the other candidates — even Jim Cason who arguably runs second in this department — was taking the long view. What will the Gables look like in 20 years if sea levels rise? How will we get insurance? Will we be able to sell our homes? Will any business want to locate here? Even if these are only contingent risks, they are real enough — and, if they manifest, huge enough — that it makes sense to spend some energy planning for them now.

The other candidates seem fine, but they don’t bring Hancock’s unique set of skills and concerns to the table. Marlin Ebbert has deep local roots, a lot of local friends (and family!) and a history of civic works, but she feels like the a cozier and nicer version of the Gables Old Guard. It’s not so much that I think she’d do wrong, as I haven’t seen any evidence that she’s the sort who will come armed with the uncomfortable questions.

Vince Lago has been seen as the front-runner for much of this campaign due to all the money he raised (although rumors are that polls now say otherwise?). Leaving aside the likely red herring of his homestead exemption, I think the real issue about Lago is that compared to Hancock he’s not going to bring anything really new to the Commission. The viewpoints he espouses are already well represented, and indeed are in charge and likely to stay that way.

The Commission’s biggest danger coming out of this election may be groupthink and unanimity. My bet is that Mayor Cason will be re-elected. If so, the Cason-Kerdyk-Quesada majority will remain in control of the Commission’s business. I think Lago would join that group on most issues, and nothing in his generally cautious campaign suggests he has any special issues of his own that he wants to push for. That’s not harmful, but it’s not very useful either.

I think Ross Hancock would be a unique voice on the Coral Gables Commission, and that’s why my vote for him is the vote I’m most confident about.

Commission Group III

This is a crowded race, and it hasn’t seen the big money that the other races have seen. The conventional wisdom is that Pat Keon and Mary Martin Young are the leading candidates, with perhaps Norman Anthony Newell in the conversation because of a sparkling debate performance and a nice write-up in the Herald. When I wrote my summary of the Summary of Group 3 Portion of Chamber of Commerce Candidate Event I concluded it with this comment:

having reviewed my notes, I still think Mr. Newall was the most impressive performer…but having had more time to think, I’m troubled by the substance of quite a bit of what he said, especially the naive optimism about re-writing the code. So I’m guess I’m leaning lightly Keon at present, mostly on the strength of what other people say about her and her relevant experience

Since then, I’ve heard in person or by email from people who know both Ms. Keon and Ms. Young personally and the contrast between the two sets of contacts has been really striking. Ms. Keon’s supporters tell me stories about her thoughtfulness, and her start in local politics as a mom fighting for a safer park for local kids. Ms. Keon’s c.v. also reveals serious political chops since that start, working on local issues for many years.

Ms. Young works at UM, and as someone with a vested interest in town/gown relations, I ought to be favorable to that, as should some of the fellow workers I’ve spoken with. But strangely not. I’ve heard more negative (or, to be fair, kinda lukewarm) stories than positive ones. This is far from a random sample — it may be, for example, that in polite Coral Gables people are more likely to tell me when they agree with something I wrote than when they disagree — but it is remarkable.

So I feel pretty confident in suggesting a vote for Pat Keon. With luck she’ll be a great ‘glue’ player on the Commission team — think Shane Battier?

PS. Crowded races like this are why it’s awful to have a one-round electoral system. We should have a runoff if no candidate gets a majority or, better yet, instant runoff voting.

Mayor’s Race

I don’t have much to say about the contest between James Cason and Ralph Cabrera that I didn’t say in my earlier Thoughts on the Race for Mayor of Coral Gables.

The great George Volsky is a big Jim Cason supporter, and a big critic of Ralph Cabrera’s, a pair of facts which might mean something to some people.

There are unhappy people working for the City. Some are junior folk who saw their take-home pay cut by 20% for pension contributions. I think they have a legitimate complaint: imagine if your take-home pay got cut 20% all of a sudden. Cason didn’t do that alone, but it also doesn’t seem to bother him much.

[Update 4/8: It's been suggested to me that the actual number is 10%. I wrote down 20 at one of the debates, but have not researched it so it could be a transcription error on my part. I'm not sure that it makes a difference: the basic point is that there are employees, including some apparently near the food stamp line, who got their take-home cut unexpectedly. Meanwhile the top-paid employees suffered no reduction. If you're on a budget with rent and car payments, 10% is still a lot. I'm at a conference today and tomorrow so I can't research the number.]

Some other unhappy people are more senior who complain either of being terrorized by the City Manager (a claim I’m not that sympathetic to, if they have more specific gripes about substance can’t they leak them to the Commission?), or who make more substantive-sounding allegations about various choices by the City Manager, stuff relating to police and fire that could have boots-on-the-ground consequences. Cason is an unswerving supporter of the City Manager, who is undoubtedly doing a good job of improving the City’s finances. The issue is the human cost, and that is an issue that isn’t easy to get one’s arms around.

Cabrera talks a good game about dealing with those human issues, although his track record is erratic enough to make one worry about whether he can or will deliver. With Cason, what you see is what you will continue to get.

I think who you vote for depends on which issues you think are most important. Is Cason’s efficiency and full-time ebullience what matters most? Or does how we treat our worst-paid workers reflect us most clearly? The latter is an argument I joined other faculty in making to Donna Shalala during the last strike, and which I renewed recently in connection with the pay and conditions of contract workers doing UM’s food service. Myself I think we can ask no less of the City of Coral Gables.

For other, undoubtedly more important, endorsements, see the post, updates, and comments at Endorsements in Coral Gables Commission Races?.

Posted in Coral Gables | 10 Comments