Category Archives: Politics

Links to My Miami-Dade Voter’s Guide

(Sticky until election day).

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2014 November Voting Guide (Part Two: Constitutional Amendments, Charter Amendments, and a Bond Issue)

This is part two of a two-part guide to the ballot in South Florida. Part One covered candidates on the 2014 ballot in Miami-Dade; this part looks at the three state-wide proposals to amend the Florida Constitution, at four proposals to amend the Miami-Dade County Charter, and a proposal for a bond issue.

Florida Constitutional Amendments

1- YES, 2-YES & 3-NO

No 1: Water and Land Conservation. (Full text.) Earmarking certain existing tax revenues for the environment. Vote for water conservation. We need it badly. This won’t directly raise taxes in that it just earmarks existing revenues. Money being fungible, it is of course possible that taxes might be raised to pay for something that these existing revenues might otherwise have been used for. Vote YES.

No. 2: Medical Marijuana. (Full text.) Very limited – too limited. Vote YES anyway.

No. 3: “Prospective Appointment of Certain judicial Vacancies,” AKA court-packing in some scenarios. (Full text.) The court appointment process ain’t broke: Vote NO

Seriously, why would we want a lame-duck governor doing the Florida Supreme Court appointments … here’s why and it isn’t pretty. As former Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead explained, it’s a “partisan political power grab”:

In the past, Florida was hailed nationally as a model system for appointment of fair and impartial judges based solely on merit. It was perhaps the greatest legacy of the late Gov. Reubin Askew, who voluntarily gave up his sole authority to appoint judges in favor of a nonpartisan merit selection system based on his belief that “the judiciary is too important to be left to partisan patronage.”…

Now, instead of working to restore Askew’s nonpartisan merit system, the current legislative majority is seeking to accelerate a partisan political power grab of Florida’s judiciary at the highest level. They want to vest a lame-duck outgoing governor with the authority to fill three seats on the Supreme Court that become vacant after the governor’s term expires.

The sponsors of Amendment 3 say they are trying to eliminate confusion and an imaginary future constitutional crisis in the delay of a new governor making the appointments. Those claims are thin cover for continued improper political interference in our courts…

What Floridians are really being asked to eliminate is a critical protection Askew built into the system of merit selection and retention. When the system was adopted, it was built on two pillars of public input and accountability. In addition to requiring appointed judges to go before the public for merit retention at regular intervals, a governor seeking re-election could be held accountable at the ballot box for his appointments. That accountability vanishes if an outgoing governor makes the appointments.

The scheme proposed in Amendment 3 gives a departing governor the power to tip the scales of justice for partisan reasons on the way out the door — with impunity. And, therein lies the easily identified real intent of this amendment. Partisan advocates, frustrated by the public’s rejection of their attempt to remove these same three Florida justices in their retention elections in 2012, have audaciously found another scheme to achieve their goals of stacking the court politically.

It is a one-time gamble and a shortsighted strategy on multiple levels. First, it presumes Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected so that he can make the appointments at the end of his second term. More importantly, it cynically ignores the possibility that an informed Florida public will reject this blatant attempt to politicize the judiciary.

Of course if Crist wins in November and this passes, it will kind of blow up in their faces. I’d still be against it though, even if I knew that was going to happen.

County Questions

Vote NO on all four attempts to undermine Art. 7.

Amend Article 7 to allow Libraries in Parks? Sounds innocuous. But it could be the thin edge of the wedge on undermining green spaces in a town where every proposal is about less green space, or ignoring promises about old green spaces. Let’s fund the libraries we’ve got first. NO. Note also that Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo proposed this – that can’t be good. And indeed it isn’t. No, indeed.

Exempt Miami Dade Regional Soccer Park from Article 7? Another attack on greenery. Well, actually this is about a former landfill that they want to open to a privately run soccer camp. So there’s less at stake here environmentally, but it seems a bit special-interest to me. NO, weakly.

Allow Campgrounds and Lodgers/Cabins in Camp Matecumbe? I couldn’t find much information on this other than this article which makes the development proposed in this County Question sound unattractive compared to the plan the locals want. Leaning NO, but I’m open to hearing the other side.

Exempt FIU from Art 7 to encourage their takeover of the Miami-Dade Youth Fair site? NO. Really, NO.

The whole local establishment is for this which tells you something not so wonderful about the establishment here. I’ve gotten robocalls and live calls too. But it’s a pig in a poke. To make this plan work work FIU would have to comply with a contractual requirement to find a new site for the Youth Fair – and there’s no obvious place for it. It would be folly to approve a project like this until we know where they are planing to send it And if anyone knows, they are not talking. Don’t encourage this sort of back-door governance. We have a right to know at least the basic facts about a deal before we are asked to OK it.

Funding new courthouse. This would authorize a $393 million bond issue, most of it for a new downtown courthouse. The old one is in terrible repair; it has leaks and mold. We need a new one. The price seems somewhat high; one could quibble as to how unrepairable the old building really is. But something needs doing, and this is something. I’m voting YES.

Posted in 2014 Election, Florida, Miami | 13 Comments

2014 November Voting Guide (Part One: People)

Absentee ballots are out, early voting begins this week, must be time for a South Florida election guide. (See your personalized sample ballot.) If your mind is made up on the headline races, skip down to the judges. My suggestions regarding the Florida Constitutional Amendments, and the County Questions will be in Part Two which will be up presently.

Governor

Hold your nose and vote for Charlie Crist. And enjoy that at least this means you also get to vote for Annette Taddeo.

The Governor’s race is painful this year, pitting a far-right-likely-criminal Republican Rick Scott against former Chain-Gang-Charlie Crist, a man whose journey from then-hard-right Republican Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate to soft-right Republican Governor to centrist Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014 has had at times a certain air of opportunism.

I for one will never forget, and find hard to forgive, Crist’s behavior as Attorney General, not least his behavior in one of the early sexting cases, where he personally argued an appeal arguing for further victimizing the female victim whose boyfriend shared her picture around by making her a sex offender. And I didn’t like his judicial appointments.

But give the man his due: he governed far more reasonably that he campaigned. (Yes, soft bigotry of low expectations.) He kept the polls open late in 2008, I think more on grounds of basic decency than calculation. If elected he’ll support expansion of medical care to the poor (if the legislature lets him), and ought generally to check the excesses of our very right-wing legislature. Plus we get Annette Taddeo as Lt. Governor, who’ll be a great voice for South Florida, and progressives generally.

The issue for conservatives is whether to stay home or vote for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. The choice for progressives is whether to vote in this one at all, given the choice between two Republicans. The thing is, one is crazy, secretive, and possibly corrupt; the other is a bit of a weather-vane, but shows signs of humanity, and at least the wind is blowing more or less in the right direction.

Attorney General

They say Pam Blondi, the incumbent, will win because George Sheldon didn’t raise enough money. That means more years of bigotry and embarrassment for the state of Florida. She’s virulently, flailingly anti-gay-marriage (and, one suspects, anti-gay full stop). She’s unserious: Bondi really did get Gov. Scott to delay an execution to allow her to go to a fundraiser. George Sheldon on the other hand, is serious, and would do a fine job. What a pity it looks like he won’t get the chance this time. Vote for Sheldon.

CFO

Jeff Atwater (R), a big insider, is expected to romp against Will Rankin (D), who hasn’t made much of an impression.

Commissioner of Agriculture

This is actually also the consumer affairs portfolio, and it’s a pity for consumers that it remains in Adam Putnam’s Republican hands, but the state Dems haven’t done much for their ticket this year; I’ll vote for Thaddeus Hamilton because he’s not Putnam.

State Rep District 114

I’ve written about this before–Eric Fresen must go. Daisy Baez is a strong candidate. Ross Handcock is a good guy who unfortunately has persuaded himself he’s the people’s choice as an independent candidate, which looks to me like the best thing that could ever happen to Fresen. Certainly, if you’re a Republican and are disgusted by Fresen, but don’t want to vote for a Democrat, Hancock is your man. Otherwise, vote Baez. (Let me know if you need a yard sign.)

Three DCA Retention Elections

All three have sterling records – vote YES for all three.

Vote yes to retain Judge Barbara Lago (86% of bar respondents recommended Lagoa for retention), Judge Thomas Logue (91% of bar respondents recommended Logue for retention), and Judge Vance E. Salter (92% of bar respondents recommended Salter for retention).

Miami-Dade County Court Judge

Tough call. Go with the experience but dubious temperament of incumbent Jacqueline Schwartz (UM JD ’91) or go with the kinder, gentler but far less experienced attorney Frank Bocanegra? Bocanegra is on his second career after being a police officer for 30 years and then City Manager for the Town of Miami Lakes, which is why he has only seven years attorney experience without being a young ‘un. His campaign bio (more on this later) says he is currently an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College and St. Thomas University teaching Criminal Justice and Business Law. I know someone who says he’s a real nice guy.

First problem is, one of my basic principles for judicial elections is to prefer people with at least 15 years legal experience–and to demand at least 10 years–before voting for someone as a trial judge, a job that requires a lot of immediate evidentiary and procedural rulings from the bench and for which the State of Florida provides little support in the way of law clerks and the like. Bocanegra fails that experience test, and I gather that even in the few years since he left law school his court room experience has been limited. The Herald’s editorial says Bocanegra “currently” works for the Public Defender’s office, but if he’s ever worked there at all it seems that Bocanegra is embarrassed about it because this fact doesn’t appear anywhere on his otherwise-extensive campaign biography (he’s a Kentucky Colonel!), which I do not see as at all a good sign and is another reason I feel uncomfortable about suggesting you should be voting for him.

On the other hand, it seems Judge Schwartz has a temper, and being forced into a runoff by just a few votes doesn’t seem to have improved it.

The Herald endorsed Schwartz in the first round, then reversed field and endorsed Bocanegra:

Since the primary, the Miami Herald reported an incident at a Coconut Grove convenience store in which the owner said that Ms. Schwartz demanded that he remove an opponent’s oversized campaign sign from the parking lot outside or display hers, too, then cursed at him when he said he could not because he was not the property owner. The story continues that the judge called Miami code enforcement, which made the store owner remove the too-large sign.

This raises sufficient questions about the judge’s demeanor. The individuals interviewed at the convenience store — a cashier corroborated the story in a sworn statement — said they did not know she was a judge when she came in.

Ms. Schwartz has not responded adequately to the allegations. She told the Editorial Board that it would not be “wise” to talk about them in light of a complaint filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission. She also referred a Herald reporter’s questions to her political consultant, Bob Levy. Mr. Levy told the Editorial Board this week that she denied, to him, that she directed unseemly profanity toward the store owner.

I too endorsed Schwartz the first time around, if halfheartedly, writing,

There are three candidates. Jacqueline Schwartz is the incumbent. She’s endorsed by the Herald – and by the Christian Family coalition. The challengers are Rachel Glorioso Dooley (17 years experience) and Frank Bocanegra (six (!) years experience). Again, I’m voting incumbent. Then again, Dooley has support in the bar and outpolled Swartz on competence: 39% saying Schwarz was not qualified but only 21% saying that of Dooley. Dooley was endorsed by the league of prosecutors. There’s some case for a change here, but not quite enough for me.

So here we are again, and meanwhile allegedly Schwartz has had a public blowup off the bench – a pretty serious one.

So I had a look at the Cuban American Bar Association poll of lawyers (I usually look only at the more inclusive and larger-sample Dade County Bar poll), and although it’s based on a small sample (n=229) it is pretty dire: Only 9.5% rated Judge Jacqueline Schwartz as “Exceptionally Qualified”, and only 31.4% rated her as “Qualified”; a whopping 59.0% rated her as “Unqualified”. Trouble is, Frank Bocanegra’s numbers were not much better: he got 11.1% Exceptionally Qualified, 33.3% Qualified, and 55.6% Unqualified. I don’t think there’s much difference to be found there although I suppose one might hope that Bocanegra might learn on the job.

I also reached out to some local lawyers I know. What I got was mostly hearsay: they hadn’t appeared in front of Judge Schwartz themselves, but they knew people who had, and what they heard ranged from not good to awful. It’s only hearsay, but it’s what I’ve got.

So, like I said, a tough choice. At this minute I’m leaning towards Bocanegra, mostly based on that hearsay, but this could easily change.

Property Appraiser

This one is a no-brainer: Pedro Garcia, who used to be the Property Appraiser until being turfed out in the previous election, may not be the change-maker we need in the job, but the alternative is a term-limited state Representative and, well, hack, named Eddy Gonzalez who is utterly unqualified for the post. Let’s not politicize the office. Back to the past, rather than forward into the deep end. (In a sign of strange bedfellows, or that all politics is local, or that principles don’t matter when your party is on the verge of forgetting you, Senator Marco Rubio endorsed Gonzalez. Ick.)

Next: Voting Guide Part Two: Florida Constitutional Amendments & Miami-Dade Charter Amendments.

Posted in 2014 Election, Florida, Miami | 4 Comments

Eric Fresen Must Go

If there’s one thing about local politics that ought to be beyond debate it is that Eric Fresen (FL House District 114) is a an example of most of what is wrong with the state of the polity.

He’s in the pocket of Big Gambling, and has tirelessly worked to legalize big casinos despite the fact that other communities that have invited them in don’t get good jobs and do get much more organized and even petty crime. Even if you manage to make a destination location, the hard-core gamblers don’t as a rule leave the facility to spread their money around.

He’s basically a walking ethical swamp:

The $1,500 penalty was assessed in 2003 because Fresen did not file a financial disclosure while serving as legislative aide the year before.

Commissioners said it was “horrific” that Fresen had not paid the fine, and called the case among the worst they had ever seen. One commissioner likened the circumstances to a bank robbery.

“Can we do a public censure?” asked Commissioner Linda Robison. “I find this appalling and I think his constituents need to know he never paid a fine that was assessed.”

Experts agree that this is not an isolated issue, either.

But today the Miami Herald (truckling to the establishment since long before I moved here), endorsed every incumbent legislator. Including Fresen. Maybe because Herald ex-publisher David Lawrence, Jr. has some sort of crush on him?

And this in the year when Fresen has what may be his best challenger ever, Daisy Baez. I’ve met her and I was impressed. Unfortunately, Ross Hancock is running as an independent after dropping out of the Democratic primary when Baez demonstrated financial muscle and support. I supported Hancock when he ran against Fresen last time (and he did well because a lot of folks really hate Fresen) but this is just splitting the vote.

Vote Baez if you live in the 114th District.

This really one isn’t about party (I don’t think Baez is a liberal, she’s ex-military and a corporate executive) — it’s about basic ethics and decency.

Posted in 2014 Election, Miami | 3 Comments

Downballot Guide – Miami-Dade 2014

Lots of ink gets spilled on the Governor’s race. But the ballot we face in the election on Aug. 26 is complex, and has a lot of important races on it. This post covers the downballot – the judicial elections. I also have a separate post on the primaries and non-political races for the executive branch but if you’re reading this you probably made up your own mind on most of those races. These are more obscure to most voters.

There are eight judicial elections on the August 24, 2010 ballot in Miami-Dade (see your sample ballot here). Unlike most law professors I know, I support the idea of judicial elections at the state level as a reasonable democratic check on what I believe should be the expansive power of judges to interpret the state and federal constitutions. Although as you’ll see below, that opinion is being very sorely tested by one the contests in this election.

As I’ve said before, if it were up to me, I’d have the executive branch pick judges with legislative confirmation, followed by a California-style retention election every few years in which there would be an up or down vote on the incumbent. If the vote was down, the executive would pick a new judge. It seems to me that the right question is “has this judge done a good (enough) job” — something voters might be able to figure out — rather than asking voters to try to guess from electoral statements which of two or more candidates might be the best judge.

Florida’s system, however, pits one or more challengers against the incumbent or else, lacking opposition, the incumbent wins reelection automatically (as happened with many of the judges whose terms expired this year). There are also open seats when the incumbent retires. My personal view is that I will vote for an incumbent judge unless there’s reason to believe they’re doing a bad job. Fortunately, that only happens occasionally – and isn’t an issue this year.

After supporting incumbents, my other rule of thumb in sizing up candidates before even getting to the details of biography and practice experience is that in all but the rarest cases of other important life experience we ought to require at least ten years of legal experience from our lawyers before even considering them as judges. Fifteen years is better. I will very rarely support a judicial candidate fewer than ten years out of law school. It just isn’t enough to get the experience and practical wisdom it takes to be a judge.

Circuit Judge, Group 16

Thomas Cobitz v. Stephen Millan. Open seat. Two candidates with a lot of legal experience. They both sound pretty good. The Herald endorsed Millan (more than 20 years experience) but so too did the Christian Family Coalition. To be honest I don’t know that much about either of them and thus don’t feel confident about this one. Cobitz (UM JD ’89) served years as an administrative traffic hearing officer, was also vice chair of the Dade County Bar Association Criminal Courts Committee, and is a member of the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel, which gives him more community chops than Millan. AFAIK, SAVE Dade didn’t endorse in this race. An attorney poll found that slightly more lawyers rated Cobitz Exceptionally Qualified or Qualified than Millan (23/57 to 18/59).

Circuit Judge, Group 26

Judge Rodney Smith is not only the incumbent but by almost all accounts a very good judge. Accept no substitutes. Almost everyone, the Herald, SAVE Dade, Christian Family Coalition included endorses Smith. Even Rumpole likes him. The one negative is the murmuring that he’s too friendly to insurance companies, being a former employee of Untied Auto (a big supporter – expending $227,000 – in independent expenditures in support of his campaign). Indeed, that insurance tie – to a not-very-claims-friendly company – seems to be the main reason some people support challenger Christian Carranana’s campaign (14 years out of law school). Even so, I’m sticking with the incumbent.

Circuit Judge, Group 27

Mary Gomez vs. “Al” Milian. Open seat. Gomez has 19 years courtroom, mostly in Family Law, experience. She has, according to the Herald, a track record of good works in the community. Milian – son of a prominent Cuban exile leader – is not IMHO very impressive. I didn’t care for him at all when he ran against Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle a decade ago – and regular readers will know that I’d be all in for a serious challenger to KFR. He wasn’t it. AFAIK he still isn’t it. The Herald endorsed Gomez and I agree. SAVE Dade endorsed Milian…despite his being famous for a 1993 incident in which he referred to jurors as “lobotomized zombies”(leading to criticism from the 4thDCA) and “buffoons”. OK, 1993 was a long time ago. But still. A judge? Really? The attorney poll put Gomez a bit ahead of Milian (Exceptionally Qualified/Qualified was 13/51 Gomez to 13/41 Milian).

Circuit Judge, Group 58

Open seat. Martin Zilber v. Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts. Both are in their early 50s. Zilber is in private practice. Rodriguez-Fonts is a former assistant city of Miami attorney and Miami-Dade public defender. Both the Herald and SAVE Dade endorsed Zilber. I’ll go along with the crowd here.

Circuit Judge, Group 67

Judge Fleur Jeannine Lobre is the incumbent, but was appointed to fill out a term so she’s yet to win an election in her own right. The cognoscenti think she’ll lose becasue voters think she has a funny name, and the challenger, Mavel Ruiz, 53, a criminal defense attorney and former assistant public defender, doesn’t. While word among lawyers on Judge Lobre is not as wildly positive as the word about Judge Smith in group 26, it’s fairly positive on balance, and certainly doesn’t rise anywhere near to the level that gets me to vote against an incumbent judge. (I promise this isn’t because Lobre is a UM Law Grad!) Both the Herald and SAVE Dade endorsed Lobre.

Circuit Judge, Group 70

This race is the main reason why I’ve delayed writing this guide so long. I really don’t like either candidate. On one side we have Renier Diaz de la Portiilla, charmingly slimed by his detractors as the Fredo of his very political family. On the other side we have Veronica Diaz, from the Miami City Attorney’s office, who is also the subject of a slime campaign. Both sides have been working the bloggers and working the mailers to voters. I got a handful.

Trouble is, both candidates have biographies that provide material. Diaz has more experience as a lawyer but the ethics mud sorta sticks. Renier Diaz de la Portiilla is a former member of the Miami-Dade School Board, where his tenure is remembered for his proposal that the public schools offer Bible study. He followed that with a plan to drug test students – that one passed. In a sign of the electorate’s good sense, he’s been an unsuccessful candidate for other political offices since then. He’s been late to file various electoral-related papers such as a campaign finance report. A somewhat debatable ethics complaint just got filed against him – almost certainly by people associated with the Diaz campaign. And his current employment as a lawyer – with well less than a decade’s experience – has been notable for its very low earnings of under $40k/ year, suggesting a certain lack of free-market demand for his services. Diaz on the other hand has some sleazy items in her biography. She was one of many public employees to accept free VIP tickets ($900 face value) from the Ultra festival – a firm that did business with her employer. She also escaped censure on allegations that she got a third party to send city work to her fiancé’s law firm – in substantial part because the county code does not consider a fiancé to be an immediate family member subject to its anti-nepotism rules.

This really is a sorry choice. It makes the case for appointing Judges about as strongly as any Judicial race in recent memory. The bar poll is a sorry sight: Exceptionally Qualified/Qualified is 14/34 for Diaz with 54% saying unqualified. But RDLP’s scores were 8/29 with 62% (!!!!) saying ‘unqualified’. Yes, even worse than Diaz.

The Herald endorsed RDLP, althought it admitted that he “doesn’t necessarily inspire the confidence of having deep and broad experience that voters should have in those they send to the bench.” SAVE Dade endorsed Diaz. I’ve gone back and forth, back and forth on this one, and finally ended up, I think, resolved to vote for Diaz, mostly on the basis that she’s at least more likely to know how to run a courtroom while RDLP himself only claims to have litigated a few cases. But what a choice to have to make.

County Judge, Group 19

There are three candidates. Jacqueline Schwartz is the incumbent. She’s endorsed by the Herald – and by the Christian Family coalition. The challengers are Rachel Glorioso Dooley (17 years experience) and Frank Bocanegra (six (!) years experience). Again, I’m voting incumbent. Then again, Dooley has support in the bar and outpolled Swartz on competence: 39% saying Schwarz was not qualified but only 21% saying that of Dooley. Dooley was endorsed by the league of prosecutors. There’s some case for a change here, but not quite enough for me.

County Judge, Group 36

Nuria Saenz is the incumbent. Victoria Ferrer (only 9 years experience) is the challenger. I don’t know much about Saenz, but most of what I know is positive and her bar poll scores were better than Ferrer’s, of whom 42% of the lawyers polled said she was unqualified. The Herald endorsed Saenz. The Christian Family Coalition endorsed Ferrer. From my point of view this is no contest: a competent incumbent vs. a lawyer without enough experience. (Saenz does get criticized for having strong support from United Auto while having many cases involving it on her docket. But that’s how our system works when we have elected judges.)

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Election Day is Today

There’s an election in Miami-Dade today.

In case you care about my views on the top of the ballot here they are. I find, though, that people are usually more interested in my comments on the judicial elections. My Miami-Dade 2014 downballot recommendations are in a separate post.

Governor – Democratic Primary

This unusual primary pits a Democrat against a DINO. I plan to vote for Nan Rich – a candidate so qualified that at least one of my Republican friends who has worked with her says he’d vote her against any Republican. I was very disappointed to see SAVE Dade endorse Charlie Crist when Rich’s record on rights is loads better. Can’t trust anybody these days.

Attorney General – Democratic Primary

George Sheldon v. Perry Thurston has been a somewhat under-the-radar race. Both candidates seem to have virtues. I’m voting Thurston, the outgoing Democratic minority leader in the Florida House of Representatives, primarily because I agree with his critique of Pam Bondi’s conduct in office. This has nothing to do with it. Really. The Herald endorsed Sheldon, and he’d be good too, as he has lots of relevant experience from his years as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth as well as national experience from his two years at HHS. (I can’t say, though, that I see his tenure at the DFC under Gov. Crist as much of a recommendation.)

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser

A real head-scratcher. There are five candidates, and a run-off is likely on Nov. 4 if no one gets a majority. The candidates are:

  • Albert Armada, a professional appraiser;
  • Alex Dominguez, a pharmaceutical sales representative and former appraiser;
  • former Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia, who lost the job to Lopez-Cantera in 2012 and wants it back now that Lopez-Canera has been appointed Lt. Governor;
  • Carlos Gobel, a real-estate consultant, MBA who claims to be the only candidate in the race with an “active office”.
  • State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, a Hialeah Republican who is term-limited in Tallahassee. He’s got the most money, but seems unattractive as a candidate for this job to which he brings little relevant in the way of knowledge or experience.

I went to a debate a couple of weeks ago sponsored by Salad – the Spanish-American League Against Discrimination. Gonzales didn’t show. The others presented a confusing picture, partly because this isn’t an office well-suited to being elected. The challenge to candidates is that voters presumably want lower property taxes, i.e. lower appraised house values. But to promise this directly would be to pander in such a disgusting way as to disqualify oneself for office. What to do? The better candidates talked about management — and persuaded me that there’s lots of scope for improvement.

I would say that Dominguez and Gobel were the more impressive of the four. Dominguez was a surprise as my expectations were low – he has the least directly relevant experience as an appraiser, and is a two-time loser for public office. But he spun that to his advantage, suggesting he had relevant experience as a manger and wouldn’t be out there valuing property anyway – the Appraiser runs a big office. And he was pretty good at selling his desire to serve in public office as a desire to serve, rather than as pure ambition. Both he and Gobel seemed well-informed. Dominguez had great charts and data designed to emphasize key points about what needed fixing. Gobel separated himself from Dominguez by saying that he, Gobel, had no ambitions for any other office. My notes of the event suggest, however, that I found Dominguez the most persuasive, something that still surprises me after the fact. On paper he didn’t seem like close to the best choice but in person he seemed very well informed at least about the big picture issues.

The Herald endorsed Armada which is also a surprise: in the debate I attended he was the one pandering, saying that if he was in charge the office would go “to the lower end of the value range” to establish market value. “We should always assess towards the lower end of range.” That sort of pandering is enough to disqualify him for my vote. He recovered a bit, saying the real money was in commercial property, but I was not soothed.

I would advise against voting for Gonzalez or for Garcia (who despite his passion and pure heart, didn’t do such a great job in his first term). As I said above, I think Armada crossed the line into pandering too much for my taste. That leaves a choice: a highly credentialed professional appraiser in Gobel or a guy who may be on the make, or may just be what it takes to shake up the office (or may be both), in Dominguez. My notes say that I didn’t much like Gobel’s tone, but when I review what I wrote about what he actually said, it all sounds very reasonable (including his dig at Armada, ‘don’t promise to under-assess – that hurts tax collection’). I just might vote for Dominguez.

County Commission District 8

This ostensibly non-partisan race pits exemplary candidate Daniella Levine Cava against incumbent Lynda Bell. It’s hard to bring oneself to describe all the awfulness that is Bell. She is shifty. She lies. She votes to benefit her relatives rather than recuse herself. I donated to the Cava campaign even though I don’t live in the 8th District. Boy do I hope she wins.

Next: The Judges

Posted in 2014 Election, Florida, Miami | 1 Comment

Smarmy Duck and Weave Deposition by Rick Scott (Updated)

Fl. Governor Rick Scott doges questions in a 1995 deposition. It sort of encapsulizes a good bit of what is so awful about the guy.

And he hasn’t changed: Scott is still dodging basic questions in 2014. Throw in the content of his policies, and it makes the case for Nan Rich. Pity that the establishment Dems are lining up for the less-odious-by-comparison quondam Republican Charlie Crist. At least Crist picked a great running mate for Lt. Governor: Annette Taddeo. The primary is in about a month.

(The video is from a Democratic Party web commercial. Like Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times said, they should put it on TV.)

Update: Here he is again, avoiding questions on gay marriage.

Posted in 2014 Election, Florida | 2 Comments