We’re having an unusually contested election in Coral Gables this April 12th, and the glossy fliers for the Mayor’s race have been streaming into the house. I’ve been meaning to post something about how frustratingly vacuous these mailers are, making the candidates almost indistinguishable on policy. At least they don’t have identical biographies.
But that’s for another day perhaps. Just now I got a call from a supposed survey that devolved into a push poll. After some standard questions about who I was supporting in the Mayor’s race (even though I’m somewhat OK with the incumbent Mayor, I’m undecided because I could be more OK and I don’t know enough about the candidates), and who I supported in the District 4 City Council race, the fun began.
The candidates are Rene Alvarez, Jackson Rip Holmes, Richard Martin, Frank Quesada, Brad Rosenblatt and Gonzalo Sanabria. I have no idea who I will vote for, although I know two candidates I will vote against: Gonzalo Sanabria, who seems to represent almost everything rotten about local politics (and thus must be presumed to be the favorite to win?) and Jackson Rip Holmes, whom the Miami Herald described as follows:
On Jan. 15, 1988, Holmes was convicted of threatening Jeb Bush, who was under the protection of the U.S. Secret Service when his father, George H.W. Bush, was vice president. He served three years in federal prison and was released on Sept. 16, 1991, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Holmes said his civil rights were restored in Connecticut in 1994.
But back to the slimy “poll”. After the basic question about whether I support any of the candidates, I got another standard-seeming question about what I think the top issue facing the city is (I’m paraphrasing the choices below because I don’t type as fast as the guy talked):
My choices were:
- City infrastructure
- Controlling growth
- Cutting city services to save money
- Ethics in government
- Improving the economy and jobs
- Reviving parks and green spaces
- Solving traffic congestion
- Reducing taxes
- Cutting wasteful spending
- Cutting excessive payments to unionized workers
- Improving education
By now I’m not happy with the list. But I picked the last one.
There were then a few questions about the Biltmore Hotel (which owes the city massive back payments). (Again, a paraphrase follows.)
- How strongly do I feel that the Biltmore should pay back the money it owes?
- Do I agree that because the Biltmore is so important to the local economy, and because the ‘managers’ of the Biltmore have done such a great job restoring and improving it, and because they’ve only fallen behind on payments because the economy is so bad, that the City should do everything it can to cut them a break.
[Although I agree that forcing the Biltmore to close would be bad for Coral Gables, I don’t agree that the City should enter into negotiations with them in a supine position. So I tell the guy that I don’t agree with the second question.]
Then it gets better: If I learned any of the following things about a candidate, would it make me more or less likely to vote for the candidate:
- Candidate is openly gay and living with gay partner [I said this was a plus]
- [I think I missed one – maybe something about not voting in local elections?]
- Candidate was endorsed by former Vice Mayor Dorothy Thompson
But wait! Now it gets even pushier:
If I learned that any of the following statements about Gonzalo Sanabria were true, would it make me more or less likely to vote for him (again, these are paraphrased):
- As member of the Coral Gables Historical Preservation Board, he missed more than 25% of the meetings
- He spent over 100K of his own money running unsuccessfully in what observers called “the nastiest local election ever”
- In 12 years as a resident he only voted once in a city election
- As member of the Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board he voted at least five times to move the UDB farther west into the Everglades
[I actually suspect these are all true, by the way. Certainly the last one alone is not only likely true, but plenty of reason to vote against Gonzalo Sanabria.]
Then, on to the grand finale — If I learned that any of these statements about Brad Rosenblatt were true, would it make me more or less likely to vote for him:
- He has a history of financial problems including an IRS lien for payroll taxes and filed for bankruptcy
- He was arrested for embezzlement and grand larceny and pleaded no contest
After that I got asked again who I would vote for, but I was still undecided.
Here’s what I’d like to know
- Who paid for this survey (the worker drone reading the questions professed to have no idea)?
- Am I right in suspecting that the questions about Brad Rosenblatt are just fictions designed to smear him? If so, should he get my vote out of sympathy for this smear job?
- Is this going to be the dirtiest campaign in Coral Gables history?
Meanwhile, I have to decide how to vote in the County recall election, which is in less than two weeks, and in which I have to vote early because I’ll be out of town on election day. I was all set to vote not to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez (alas, I don’t get to recall the very recallable Natacha Seijas). But then I saw the story about the Mayor using county bus drivers to campaign for him — while on the county payroll. (The Herald followup story has the Mayor running from the issue as fast as possible.) So now I’m on the fence about that too.
UPDATE (3/8/11): See my coffee/interview with Gonzalo Sanabria.