I didn’t want this election.
Unlike most people around here, I voted to retain Mayor Alvarez, in significant part because I figured we were unlikely to do any better with any alternative.
I feel somewhat vindicated.
Not that Mayor Alvarez was my dream county Mayor. Far from it. But he seemed honest and energetic. Better than most, maybe any, of the County Mayors I’ve seen in the last 18 years.
But that’s water under the bridge. Election day is upon us. No more procrastination.
There are several hundred candidates for Mayor. No, it only seems that way. Start over.
There are a dozen candidates running for Mayor of Miami-Dade in the non-partisan contest. What’s that? Only 11? Details.
Only three of these candidates have much chance of making it into the runoff that will be required if no one gets 50%, which seems certain. And while I am fully capable of voting for a hopeless candidate if someone is wonderful enough, there’s no one like that in this race, believe me.
So lets look at the big three:
- Luther Campbell, former 2 Live Crew rapper turned businessman and newspaper columnist
- Carlos Gimenez, county commissioner until recently represented District 7 (in which I live). Importantly, he’s a former Miami city — not but not county — manager too.
- Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina.
Do I have to look at this list? Yes. Got to vote for someone.
(Was it unfair to leave out Marcelo Llorente? Maybe. But I’m leaving him out.)
OK. I know people who are voting for Luther Campbell. I can only assume that they have never read his newspaper columns. Or looked at his platform. I mean, really? Really? It’s a sort of fun column, but it doesn’t scream Mayor material.
I am prepared to stipulate that Mr. Campbell is a smart guy, and that his business experience is as relevant to governing in a snake pit as the next politically inexperienced businessman. But I’m rarely impressed by that type, and I’m not going to change even when he’s the most liberal candidate in the race with any hope of making it to the next round.
Not persuaded? He wanted to Fire Erik Spoelstra! Ok, that’s a cheap shot. But not as cheap as some of the shots in his columns.
Then there’s the front-runner, Julio Robaina. He’s raised by far the biggest campaign war chest, well over $1 million, and much of it must be from developers who are salivating at the chance to put one of their own in charge of the County. I don’t like him, and I don’t like a number of his friends. In a court of law Robaina is presumed innocent. In the court of public opinion, he looks awful guilty, not least as someone who seems to do very well loaning money to his ‘friends’ while in office. Please no. Not this one.
Carlos Giminez is an earnest Republican with relevant experience. I have never been one of his fans as a Commissioner as he’s no liberal, not even close. But he is not without attributes: He appears to be honest. He was against the corporate socialism that is the overpriced stadium. He was against moving the UDB before the state legislature declared open season on the environment. He appears to be honest and experienced. In a race like this one, that’s not so bad.
I’ve never voted for him before, but I think it is Giminez this time.
There are two candidates — the third one got blocked by the Clerk’s office, in a move that seems somewhat dubious to me, but I haven’t researched it.
Assuming the election goes forward, we have a choice between former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez and a second, different, Julio Robaina who is a former mayor of South Miami.
Suarez wasn’t our worst Mayor ever, and experience has value. I remember him from when I moved here as a sharp guy when he was in office, although he hasn’t seemed as sharp in this race. There is a strong whiff of scandal attached to his name — absentee ballot fraud — although he has a plausible claim of deniability on that one, that it wasn’t done with his knowledge. Even so.
On the issues, though, Suarez has not been impressive in the campaign. On issues like stadium socialism or untrammeled development he’s been squishy or plain wrong.
That drives me to the better Julio Robaina, who has run a better campaign. But reasonable people could differ.
The Ballot Initiatives
Flying under the radar are six ballot initiatives, all bastard children of the Commission’s panic over the Alvarez recall. Torn between their urgent desire to appease angry voters and the equally urgent desire not to reform the things that matter since reform would make things far less cozy for them, we got these six proposals. Polls suggest voters are not impressed. Even so, at least four of these initiatives are clearly worth voting for. Two are tougher calls, although I plan to vote for at least one them also. Question 5 has me torn.
Question 1 would forbid commissioners from holding another job while in office, raise commission salaries from $6,000 (plus about $50,000 in benefits) to $92,097 annually, and establish a 12-year term limit. The Herald says vote no. I say vote YES. Full-time Commissioners paid a living wage would be a good thing. People complain that the term limits should be shorter, but I don’t think our rather dire experience of short term limits in the state legislature suggests that this is a model we want to copy.
Question 2 would prohibit lobbying by elected county officers for two years after returning to private life. Tea Party lover Norman Braman wanted 10 years. I’d be happy with four. Two is better than nothing. Vote Yes.
Question 3 would set up a Charter Review Task Force that, with a super-majority vote, could bypass the County Commission and place proposed charter changes directly to voters during presidential election years. Commissioners would appoint the Task Force members. I don’t think this will do much, and I am not sure I like its anti-democratic tinge. So I’m not sure this one matters, but I will vote for it, I guess.
Question 4 would make the office of the inspector general more independent from elected officials. Again we’re being a bit undemocratic here, but this time with better cause. Auditors and prosecutors need to be independent of the people they may be investigating. Vote Yes.
Question 5 would overturn the “strong mayor” form of government approved by voters in 2007 and return that office’s powers to the commission. I vacillated about the strong mayor ballot change in 2007, on the grounds that yes, the Commission was awful and Alvarez was OK, but who knew what the next Mayor would be like, and what havoc he might cause. The prospect of Julio Robaina as Mayor makes the case for a weak Mayor. Then again, the prospect of the current Commission having more power undermines that case pretty badly. I’m still vacillating on this one.
Question 6: This one is my favorite. It eliminates some of the barriers to citizen petitions and initiatives. Vote Yes. Please vote yes.
I’d lean no on Question 5. The Commission is still a big mess and if I’m weighing one mess against another, I’d rather have just one person to blame.
I get that. But I’d like to prevent the position of City Manager from being eliminated.