Coral Gables Police Union Paid for Attack Mailers

Tania Valdemoro from the Herald has the scoop: Gables police union is behind flier attacking commission candidate. But the story just raises more questions.

Someone has been sending mailers to Coral Gables homes (I got a couple) beating up on Commission Group 4 candidate Brad Rosenblatt with lines like he’s a “deadbeat candidate out for a paying job” and “deadbeat Brad Rosenblatt is just bad news”. The return address is the “The Accountability Project” which the Herald found out is a group created for this purpose and lavishly funded by the Coral Gables Fraternal Order of Police, i.e. the Coral Gables Police Union.

But the Herald doesn’t address the issue of who paid for the (remarkably similar) push poll. I’d still like to know who’s behind that. Was it the police? I think it’s one thing to have the police union get involved in the campaign and send mailers. We may not approve of their candidate choice, or their judgment in sending out rather over-wrought, borderline sleazy, mailers, or their attempt to avoid accountability behind the name “The Accountability Project,” but that’s their legal right and it’s only more or less routine dirty politics, if still something of a novelty for Coral Gables. It’s something else to run a push poll operation that suggests — in the 21st Century, in South Florida at that — that one might not vote for a candidate because he is gay.

I think someone should ask the FOP if they were behind the push poll. And whether or not they are behind the poll, someone should ask the other candidates in the Commission race, and the Mayor’s race, what they think of the union’s involvement, and of its tactics. And someone should ask whether the other candidates agree that a candidate’s sexuality is irrelevant to his/her fitness for office. (Mr. Sanabria, you may recall, has already stated he agrees that whether a candidate is gay is not relevant; unsurprisingly, Mr. Rosenblatt also takes that view; so too did Mayoral candidate Jim Cason when I spoke to him today. I will ask the other candidates if I get a chance to do so.)

Two other questions that come to mind: Why target Brad Rosenblatt in a six-candidate race? And, who benefits? The answers to these questions, however, seem clearer, at least at first. Mr. Rosenblatt raised the most money, and early, making him look like the front-runner, and thus made him look like the man to beat (or beat up on). Look at the next-best funded candidate as a likely beneficiary. And would that just happen to be the Commission candidate preferred by the Fraternal Order of Police…Gonzalo Sanabria? Seems so, judging from the Herald’s coverage of recent fund-raising.

Finally, why is the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) against Rosenblatt and for Sanabria? One argument making the rounds is that they are concerned about candidates who are saying their pensions are too high, but that has hardly been Rosenblatt’s signature issue, leaving open the grim possibility that it is his sexuality they don’t like.

There is reason for the police union to be concerned about their pensions in this campaign. The incumbent Mayor, Donald Selznick, the argument goes, is a labor lawyer so he won’t be tough on this issue. In contrast, when Mayoral candidate Jim Cason hit my doorstep this afternoon, he told me that cutting pensions and/or making city workers pay into their pensions is his top issue. Tom Korge’s mailers say that “Additional pension reform is needed to prevent insolvency” and to lower property taxes. (Hmm … lower taxes when we face insolvency? That sounds odd.) But if the pension issue is big in the Mayor’s race, why then did the FOP focus its first and second rounds of fire on the race for the Commission Group 4 seat? (And is that it? The Herald says the Accountability Project has raised $98,000 and spent $93,757, but that doesn’t tell us if there are other mailers pre-paid and in the works.)

[Update: There’s a good posting at Political Cortadito, Gables PAC funds smear campaign, describing where that money came from — it’s not all from the police.

The money came in gifts of $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000 (Ron Book gave $2,500) from unions and associations and corporations whose owners are more corporations, making it harder to trace. But we were able to link the first $10,000 gift made by the “Informing Our Community,” which is not listed in Florida corporate records,by its Miami Lakes address. That property is divided into 10 parcels owned by different corporations. But two of them came back to Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who is running for the county mayor’s seat, and his chief of staff, Alex Ruiz.

Others who contributed to the Non-Accountability Project were Arthur and Andrew Hertz, with two $5,000 donations from their media companies, and several unions …. The biggest gift came from the Teachers for Public School Excellence, a PAC of the United Teachers of Dade, which Donner has done work for in the past. He would not say if he continues to lobby or work on the union’s behalf (“I just don’t talk about my clients.”), but I know a bunch of teachers who would be downright outraged if they knew that a whole $30,000 of their lobby and PR money was being spent on a smear campaign in a city of Coral Gables election.

–end of update]

The Coral Gables Watch Blog thinks the FOP’s support means Sanabria will not be aggressive on the pension issue:

No doubt the the police are afraid to lose their excessive pensions, salaries and other benefits.

And be sure now that you cannot count on Mr. Sanabria to vote for any changes in these excessive salaries, pensions and other benefits.

That financial self-interest would explain the union’s stance. On the other hand, one of Sanabria’s mailers says he wants to “fix pension and retirement deficits and rising costs”. And his background as a developer doesn’t suggest a pro-labor bias. Then again, maybe the Coral Gables Blog is on to something: after I wrote up my coffee with Mr. Sanabria, he called to take exception to one line, where I claimed he was pushing “Republican-style politics of cutting payments to workers” and asked where I got it. (I pointed to the mailer.)

For those of us not in the know, it all seems very murky indeed.

Note also that I have not expressed a view above on the merits of the pensions issue. In general, I tend to be suspicious of claims that public employee pensions (e.g. teachers’ pensions) are excessive as I see the pension as part of the trade-off that usually has those workers accept lower salaries in exchange for a livable retirement. Everything depends on the formula. There are cases where the formula allows manipulation, e.g. by basing the pension on final year salary including overtime and comp time — something you see most often in police and fire departments where there can be a lot of overtime. Mayoral candidate Cason suggested to me that Coral Gables suffers from one of those, but I cannot claim to have mastered the issue. I understand that the Herald’s Ms. Valdemoro is working on a story on the pensions issue — showing yet again why newspapers are so important to democracy.

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19 Responses to Coral Gables Police Union Paid for Attack Mailers

  1. Robert Burr says:

    It is shocking to know the Gables Police are behind vicious, sensational attacks on a candidate. I too, am left wondering the motivation for such aggressive action. There seems to be some confusion as to a role played by “the PAC.” Certainly, there are many PACs, but let’s not assume the popular Coral Gables Citizens’ Political Action Committee is involved in any actions this election cycle. The group remains virtually dormant at this time.

    This blog is a welcome addition to the local media channels for those that are inclined to be aware and interested in local issues. Thanks for sharing your insightful comments and opinions. And thanks to others for adding to the informative discourse.

  2. Irene Secada says:

    So now we know that the Coral Gables police union has attacked the front runner Brad Rosenblatt for the Group 4 commission seat because their candidate cannot win this election without their negative campaign tactics.
    I cannot recall a Coral Gables campaign season where such attacks were orchestrated so relentlessly against any one candidate. This is my 7th election season helping candidates in the Gables. I join ex-mayor Dorothy Thomson, activists Bill and Marcia Silver, community leader Irela Bague, Frank Rossell, Comm. Maria Anderson, Children’s Advocate David Lawrence and countless others who think Brad is the best qualified to be the next commissioner from this group.
    Why? Because only Brad Rosenblatt is both a Coral Gables resident and a business owner of the six candidates in Group 4.
    Only Brad Rosenblatt employs fifteen staff and manufactures and ships products internationally from Coral Gables.
    Only Brad Rosenblatt owns a business and commercial property in downtown Coral Gables.
    Only Brad has served on the Business Improvement District since 2003 administering upwards of $5,000,000 since that time. He has helped rebuild the downtown image of Coral Gables by making it a go to place to do business, to dine and to have fun.
    Only Brad understands the complexities of Coral Gables from the vantage point of resident and business owner.
    As to the “PAC” flyer, here is something that may be of interest to your readers:
    *the PAC mailer, paid for by the Coral Gables FOP, was put together by a political consultant who specializes in this type of campaigning all over the county;
    *the consultant and his friends at United Teachers of Dade used tens of thousands of dollars to oust former school board member Evelyn Greer, because negative campaigning does work;
    *the consultant was another commissioner’s campaign consultant; and
    *the consultant is a resident of High Pines, an area which wants to become part of Coral Gables.
    There are so many issues at play in this race that even my head is spinning. I am helping my friend Brad Rosenblatt this year because I believe he has all the tools to be an excellent commissioner. Notwithstanding all the negativity, Brad is walking door to door every day and talking to interested voters around the community. The voters want to know about their taxes, the Biltmore contract and the union pension funds.
    My suggestion: Coral Gables VOTERS should beware.
    Ask yourself: who is mailing me these fliers? who is calling my home with “polls” or sound bites? and, who is knocking at my door to deliver information about the candidates and their campaign issues?
    Gables voters who stay at home and do not VOTE either on April 12th or via absentee mail will have to live with the results. Let’s pick the best candidate for Commission.
    Think about whether or not you want a candidate supported by such vile and nasty campaign flyers to be your next commissioner or someone who campaigns on merit and issues.
    There is much at stake in this election of a mayor and two commissioners. Look at all the candidates and see who represents your interests best. Examine their local Gables experience. And make an educated decision. You will be happy you did.

    • Whatsup says:

      Oh Goodness, here we go, lets try the smear angle again, so funny, same characters, same ploy. But, one thing is true, coral gables voters have the responsibility that goes with electing someone that will affect many fellow gableites. With all due respect to the well known political campaign lady, Irene Secada, leave it alone, frankly, I think this time around the public after being informed by the Miami Herald, after being able to research for themselves the antecedents and charges against a particular candidate will make the right decision. All the hoopla about B.R’s fantastic business history, etc., in the Gables is imaginary and non factual.

      If, in your honest opinion, this is nothing but a smear campaign and you truly can state who is behind it and that there are no facts against B.R., only good things, as you have posted, and you are a responsible citizen of Coral Gables with the political experience and know it all that you have, I would urge you to sue the Herald, the police department, B.R’s prior business partner for a conspiracy to lie about a candidate, please let us know how your lawsuit goes.

  3. TellingItLikeItIs says:

    smear – a malicious, unsubstantiated charge made in an attempt to destroy someone’s reputation; slander.
    The charges are all substantiated. If they are not, I would encourage the candidate to sue whoever he wants for slander. And let’s be serious, the person behind this purportedly successful business is Rene Ruiz and his talents.

  4. Pingback: Gerrita de e-mails en campaña en Coral Gables (viene con Cason) | Emilio Ichikawa

  5. LetHeWithoutSinCastTheFirstStone says:

    Hmmm. How about your last sentence? Does that fit your definition of smear?
    Nicely done!

  6. Walter Granados says:

    The FL FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) called for a donation today. Usually, I don’t answer these solicitation calls, but I felt a little venting was seriously in order. I got the whole spiel about how funds would benefit the police, blah, blah, yatta, yatta, and would I contribute like I had last year (What was I thinking?). And then I said, “No, and I tell you why.” Poor guy didn’t know what he was getting into when he dialed my number…”The funds I would send you would go to smear a local political candidate in Coral Gables; mailers filled with half-truths and vitriol. How dare the Gables FOP get involved in such disgusting behavior, so degrading their professional oath of service! This small band of thugs would not be getting my money and you can tell them I said so!” I’m not sure if the message will ever get back to them, but I sure felt better. I wish more people would pick up the phone like I did and generate some critical mass of disgust, but I know pigs don’t fly. Or maybe in Coral Gables they do.

  7. Irene Secada says:

    It should be an interesting candidate forum this week at the University of Miami when voters will have the ability to hear what the candidates stand for.
    As to the previous folks posting: we can agree to disagree.
    Gables insiders know that attack pieces like the ones against Mr. Brad Rosenblatt are disgusting. They are a new low in Gables electioneering.
    Gables voters will decide through their VOTE.
    In the meantime, it is good to see you folks are still hiding behind pen names: just like two years ago.

  8. Robert Burr says:

    I’m glad to hear of the feedback to the FOP caller. I just got another “bad” mailer about Brad from the same source. I just don’t understand the need to be so aggressive.

    I wish I had a clever pen name.

  9. Irene Secada says:

    @Tellingitlikeitis you aren’t telling it like it is at all because you don’t know what the facts really are. is hiding behind a lousy pen name the best you can do?
    @Robert Burr you could call yourself William Tell or GablesAroundTown. They both have a nice ring to them.
    @Walter Granados: I am with you–no more charitable donations to the Fraternal Order of Police from me.
    I’m not sure how the FOP feels that bullying tactics such as these helps their cause, however, it should be interesting to see how it all plays out this election season and next.

    • Whatsup says:

      Miss Secada, notoriety is not something most of the posters are seeking. And some of them may know the facts quite well, or completely.

      Since most posters do not have a career or business in political campaigning, to use their names is not an advantage as it may be to others.

  10. Irene Secada says:

    Okay, Whatsup, I understand that notoriety is not in. I find it curious both this campaign season and last how some individuals can hide behind pen names to level unfair attacks and personal insults against people and candidates who they do not like.
    I wish more people would run for office who have a great skill set. I do not see that happening as long as attacks on character rule the day. People run for office to serve their community. And most of the candidates in the fair city of Coral Gables do it for the RIGHT reasons. Just wish we would get to the point where issues matter MORE!
    I believe serving in office is an honor and a privilege. It usually means donating hundreds and hundreds of hours a month to the cause. In places like the Gables, Pinecrest and Key Biscayne, the talent pool is amazing. So imagine if the BEST of the BEST offered themselves for public service.
    Now imagine that at the County. I would guess that we would not have had a mayoral recall if we had more of those folks who have the best qualities and the best skill sets available serving in public office.

    • Whatsup says:

      Miss Secada, lets not forget that neither Chanel 10 nor the Miami Herald hid behind any pen names to bring forth substantiated, recorded facts about the candidate you are referring to. These are unbiased Media sources of information that brought to light the candidates past history.

      By the time the FOP sent out the circular letter, all of Coral Gables and beyond had been privy to the very public reports by the above entities, furthermore, as some of us did, all you had to do is go to the Public Records department online and check on the vericity of the reports.

      There is no doubt that Issues are of maximum importance, and that the skill sets of candidates are of maximum importance also, also agree completely that attacks on character definitely must keep talented candidates from running.

      The one thing that really confuses me about your statements is that as per your analysis, one Candidate for Coral Gables Commission is the all encompassing solution to the Gables, despite the real issues concerning this candidate, which you brush off as unfair character attacks by pen names and other candidates, and without any in depth analysis of how all of this could affect the Gables, and, on the other hand you attack another candidate and state that a campaign against the character of your candidate of choice, was launched only because the other candidate could not win without the FOP negative attack?

      Miss Secada, with all due respect, I think your wishes for Issues being the important matters, for really skilled candidates to run are in play already in the Gables voters mind and hopefully in their actions on April 12th. And again, if you really, really think that your chosen candidate is the best suited to solve Coral Gables problems and that he was targeted wrongly, take on the Herald and Chanel 10, ask them if they first denounced this in order to help other candidates that could not win without negative campaigns,

      • Irene Secada says:

        Clearly we disagree about who the best candidate in this race is. I’m sure it isn’t the first time we disagreed and nor will it be the last.

      • Walter Granados says:

        Whatsup, Channel 10 (that’s two ns for you) reporting was a Lizzie Borden-style hatchet job that left out some minor details…some folks actually lied about Rosenblatt’s involvement 10 years ago and later said, “Oops, my bad!” Wow, imagine skipping that part of the story! And the buzz around town says Olsen spilled the beans that he was contacted by either a candidate or a sitting commissioner, to fire up (maybe both?) this ugly smear job. Could Rosenblatt have handled this better? Sure, but it doesn’t take away that Hialeah-style politics are playing a part in this Gables cat fight.

        • TheIt says:

          To: Miss Irene Secada
          From: Your employer Brad Rosenblatt
          Ref: Your paycheck

          Message:
          SORRY ……IT BOUNCED…..I have a very bad habit….Brad….ps, pls dont disclose you work for me

  11. Whatsup says:

    Miss Secada, yes, clearly we disagree. Now, I am confused from the last posts, are you a paid staffer for Brad Rosenblatt’s campaign?, if so, its perfectly fine, but I wish you had disclosed it.

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