Monthly Archives: October 2016

Fun Fact

More than 50 million new people have registered to vote in the past eight years, for a total of 200 million registered voters.

That means that 25% of the eligible voting public is a relatively new voter.

And it also means that more than 88% of the 227 million adult citizens are registered. If we take out the circa 5 million felons ineligible to vote, that raises the registration percentage to 90% of eligible adult citizens, surely a modern record for the United States.

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Too Much?

An anti-Trump super PAC started by former Sen. Bill Bradley is running this spot that echos the famous anti-Goldwater ‘Daisy’ ad in both Tallahassee and Ohio, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

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2016 Ballot Recommendations – County Charter Amendments

NO on #1
YES on #2

Don’t be fooled by the fact these two issues seem about as obscure as stuff gets (but wait! I’ll be doing the Coral Gables Charter question anon – I’m sure you are waiting with great anticipation for that!).

On Amendment No 1 as the League of Women Voters aptly summarized it:

A YES vote would:

  • Allow for municipalities, the city council, to establish the annual rates to be assessed with the special taxing district for that municipality.
  • Allow decision making process to be more localized so that tax paying citizens within that municipality for the taxing district would have a more direct say.  
  • Create a new responsibility and cost for the city council to manage and operate the special taxing district
  • Municipalities would not be required to follow County contracting rules, including that contractors must pay workers a living wage.

A NO vote would:

  • The process for operating special taxing districts would remain the same, changes to the annual rates to be assessed for the specific municipality and special taxing district would be made by the Board of County Commissioners .  
  • Miami-Dade County would continue to be responsible for the management and operation of the special taxing district for the respective municipalities, and all related costs would be the responsibility of Miami-Dade County
  • All contractors and vendors hired by the County must comply with County contracting rules, including that they pay their workers a living wage.

There is no question that the county has done a lousy job monitoring special taxing districts. As an abstract matter, it does make sense to push control down closer to the areas affected by a district. But in practice, given the very poor quality of the administration of several of the municipalities in the county (Homestead, Opa Locka, and others) I suspect that giving control to municipalities would too often open the door to (even greater than current) shenanigans.

FWIW, the Miami Herald editorial board agrees that No. 1 is a bad idea:

The Editorial Board gets that this is a way for neighborhoods to have a direct say in their district instead of waiting for Big Government to respond to their needs. This would allow the decision-making process to be more localized.

But we’re also wary about the creation of new pots of money for municipalities as a hotbed for possible mishandling at best, and malfeasance at worst.

It creates a new responsibility and cost for a city council or commission to manage and operate the special taxing district. Are these municipalities ready for the task? How will this new money be administered by some small municipalities? Not every city is, say, Opa-locka, but you get the point. The County Commission would establish the rules for cities creating new districts. But how will these funds be monitored once the county steps out of the picture?

Here’s another down side: Municipalities would not be required to follow county contracting rules, including that contractors pay workers a living wage.

Vote NO on County Charter Amendments No. 1 (Vote No on Florida Constitutional Amendment 1 too – remember “NO on 1” in all cases!)

Amendment No 2 mildly strengthens public access to public records by giving a right to copy as well as read them. This won’t change current practices, but it will entrench the right to copy which is currently merely statutory. Vote YES on No. 2

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2016 Ballot Recommendations – State Constitutional Amendments

Amendment 1: NO

The most important thing is to vote NO on Amendment 1. It has a maliciously worded summary that makes it sound pro-solar, while its actual effects on solar power in the Sunshine State would be somewhere between a Trojan Horse and a neutron bomb. For more details, I encourage you to read what energy law expert and UM Law Professor Felix Mormonn has to say about it. The takeaway is clear:

Amendment 1, if adopted, would mark yet another stumble along Florida’s painfully slow journey toward a sustainable energy future. Already, Florida lags behind most states in the union in terms of installed solar capacity, largely as the result of a policy landscape that does little to promote solar and other renewable sources of energy.

…To fight the deployment of climate-friendly, renewable solar power seems downright self-destructive for a state that is uniquely threatened by sea level rise and other manifestations of anthropogenic climate change, yet generates most of its energy from carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

Full text of Amendment One. Please vote NO – it’s very important.

Amendment 2: YES

It would allow medical marijuana, and at that only in limited cases for people with serious diseases. I’m not sure why this is even an issue when full legalization is taking off around the country.  Full text of Amendment 2.

Amendment 3 & Amendment 5:  Bah Humbug

These create bigger homestead exemptions for two deserving groups: poor senior citizens and disabled first responders.  Who could be against that, right?  Not so fast — read what UM Law Professor Stephen Schnably has to say about what he calls “the latest tweaks to a broken system”: “fundamentally pernicious” amendments that discriminate against those too poor to own a home, and  are just “Potemkin relief for the elderly poor and for disabled first responders.”

They’ll both pass anyway.

Full text of Amendment 3 & Full text of Amendment 5

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2016 Ballot Recommendations – County Races

We have two county-wide races: The Mayor and the County Clerk.  There are also School Board elections in Districts 1 and 6 (I’m in 6).

Miami-Dade Mayor: Raquel Regalado

Another pair of uninspiring choices in incumbent Carlos Gimenez and challenger Raquel Regalado. Here’s what I said about the primary before Regalado forced a runoff:

The Mayor’s race presents a stark choice between an incumbent who does not deserve re-election and a challenger who hasn’t made the case that she would be a good steward (if anything, rather more the opposite).

I really don’t want to vote for Mayor Gimenez to be re-elected. I’m not against measured development, but he’s for anything glitzy-sounding, be it an oversized mega-mall in the north end of the county, or selling a county golf course to Donald Trump.

I wasn’t a fan of the Pets Trust, but the voters voted for it, and Gimenez undermined their decision.

Also, I haven’t forgotten Gimenez’s war on the library system, which I think of as one of the few jewels in Miami-Dade’s civic crown. He lost that one, so no lasting harm was done, but it shows a very poor disposition.

Gimenez shafted county workers, and it took a costly court battle to set him straight.

And his son is a county lobbyist, with the wrong sort of clients.

The problem is, I’m not at all sure about the challenger, Raquel Regalado. Here’s what I said about her in 2010 when she ran for school board:

Raquel Regalado, 36, is a trademark and patents attorney with a law degree from St. Thomas in 2001. While I do think legal training is a good background for the school board, and it would be nice to have a younger member of the Board, it’s hard to think of many legal specialties less relevant to the job. (Now, a real estate attorney or CPA….) Indeed, the candidate’s resume generally seems rather light on relevant experience. The Herald endorsed Regalado as did the United Teachers of Dade, the teachers’ union. (I would expect better from the Herald. Sadly, I don’t expect better from the UTD.) The elephant in the room, however, is the identity of Regalado’s father, a subject explored in the Miami New Times’s With No Experience and Lots of Cash, Miami Mayor’s Daughter Raquel Regalado Runs For School Board.

Opinions differ about her tenure on the School Board. Her now-former colleagues (Regalado resigned to run for Mayor) say nice things. Her opponents cite her alleged absenteeism or lateness to meetings, which looks high on paper, but her defenders say looks less bad when one considers that (1) she had a live radio show to do (people have to eat); (2) the portions of the meetings she missed were overwhelmingly ceremonial; and (3) in all or most cases the important substantive votes she missed were not close votes where he presence would have made a difference.

No, the real rap on Regalado has two parts: lack of competence (not numerate, not detail-oriented) and likely to sweep in her father’s cronies. Dad is the Mayor of the City of Miami and he, and especially the cronies, are said to meet or exceed Miami’s ordinary quota of corruption.

To quoute the Shark Tank:

Raquel Regalado, who is the daughter of current City of Miami Mayor, Tomas Regalado, has a history of being involved in questionable financial dealings, some of which occurred during the time she was campaign treasurer for her father’s Mayoral race in 2009.

In 2011, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) launched an investigation into Tomas Regalado’s mayoral campaign, where Raquel Regalado served as treasurer, for potentially illegal contributions made in 2009. Raquel Regalado told El Nuevo Herald, that the apparently illegal campaign contributions coming from the Dominican Republic were a simple “oversight” and minimized the illegality of these transactions by claiming the campaign received hundreds of checks for smaller amounts

There was another investigation on the same campaign for campaign-reporting irregularities on a $40,000 increase in total contributions reported on an amended treasurer’s report filed after the campaign. In response to the investigation, Raquel Regalado told The Miami Herald that she believed “the discrepancy could be due to bookkeeping or accounting errors.”

Both Tomas Regalado (recently appeared on the HBO Show “Ballers”) and Raquel Regalado, agreed to pay fines and penalties of $5,000 each for their part in the bookkeeping.

To make things worse, in September 2011, law enforcement officials investigated campaign finance violations by both City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and campaign treasurer Raquel Regalado, revealing that criminal campaign violations that included forging campaign financial reports, were made. A forensic auditor ultimately outlined six violations of Chapter 106 of the Florida Statutes dealing with Campaign Financing, involving the Regalados.

But if things couldn’t get any worse for Regalado.

The Miami Herald reported that back in August 2011, Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado was nine months late in filing her final campaign finance report, leading to a $3,526 fine being accessed against her.

That’s the incompetence angle. Add in the kerfuffle over Regalado’s improper claim for a homested exemption. Her campaign spokesperson calls it just an excusable screwup:

Yes, she moved out of her house and into a rented home. She was in the midst of a contentious divorce and her ex-husband had a claim on the house they had once shared. Meanwhile, the bank was foreclosing because she could not afford, as a newly-single mother, both the mortgage payments and her daughter’s autism therapy. It was not a difficult decision for her to make and any parent can understand. She abandoned the house so that her ex-husband would take up residence and possession of the home he had some rights to, as per the divorce settlement. He had every intention of moving into the home. When he didn’t, the foreclosure moved forward.

She never rented the house to anybody, as is the case with real Homestead exemption fraud cases. Nor did she claim another Homestead exemption on the new home, as other people committing fraud do. She didn’t stay and live in the house for free during the foreclosure. And, in fact, since she wasn’t paying the mortgage, she didn’t continue to pay the taxes on it. Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia said the property taxes for both years that Regalado didn’t live in the house were paid for by the mortgage company that took possession of the home. Foreclosure proceedings take time. Her name was still listed on the property but the home was no longer Raquel’s. The bills were paid by the bank.

So the oversight isn’t even hers! The mortgage company got the tax bill and paid it, failing to make the changes to indicate there was nobody living in the home anymore and that it was in the process of foreclosure.

So, more incompetence, not malice.

Even if that’s right, and who knows, what a great choice to have to make.

It looks as if the developer-financed Mayor is going to win this one, so maybe I’ll just vote Regalado as a protest. But if it looked as it was going to be close it would be a tough one.

I did vote for Regaldo, and I don’t regret it. Being forced into the runoff is a great comeuppance for the incumbent.

But now we really have to pick one. And the choice today still looks lousy.

On the one hand we have Gimenez, a fairly competent guy by Miami standards, who broke promises and is wrong on many issues notably supporting the American Dream (cough) mega-mall (but right on supporting funding Tri-Rail), who is in bed with developers and other less savory folk, and has some ethical issues.

On the other hand we have the challenger, who is likely less competent, can’t keep her own financial house in order, and is likely to staff her administration with her dad’s cronies who are not better–and arguably worse–than the incumbent’s crew. On the gripping hand, she’s right on several issues notably opposing the mega-mall, opposing public money for SkyRise Miami, that white elephant erection planned for downtown Miami. She’s for closing the establishment slush fund known as the Beacon Council (but she’s wrong on Tri-Rail). And in part she looks good because she hasn’t had a chance to break promises yet.

Regalado has run a bad campaign, throwing stuff around in the hope it would stick. Not much of it did. That made her look shallow and desperate. (One’s tempted to add, ‘which would be because…’)

I’m going to vote for her anyway, as much for her opposition to the giveaways to influential developers as anything. Plus Gimenez’s war on the libraries really sticks in the craw. 1 I fear I may regret this vote. But then I’d probably regret the other vote too.

County Clerk.

Harvey Rubin is running unopposed again. It’s starting to feel a little Soviet. Then again, at least he seems to be doing a good job. And he’s a UM J.D.!

School Board: Modesto “Mo” Abety

Modesto “Mo” Abety  The former CEO of the Children’s Trust is endorsed by all the good government groups seems like a great choice. His main opponent, Maria Rojas is very well-financed for a political neophyte.  Coincidentally, she is the sister-in-law of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  I have yet to read anything else about her that explains why so many people want to vote for her.

  1. It’s a sign of how bad the Herald is on local politics that their editorial gives the reopening of libraries as a reason to vote for Gimenez; yet he created the crisis, and only backed down in the face of vociferous public opposition.  Does the Herald think we’re so stupid we forgot this?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps, worse, they have forgotten it?[]
Posted in 2016 Election, Miami | Comments Off on 2016 Ballot Recommendations – County Races

2016 Ballot Recommendations – State Races

Yes, yes, you want the judicial recommendations. But you’ll have to wait until at least tomorrow for those. Meanwhile, here are some suggestions on the state races.

FL Senate SD-37: Jose Javier Rodriguez

Jose Javier Rodriguez has not been real visible around here, but there’s plenty of reasons to vote for him anyway as that is a vote against Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

One defining issue for the state of Florida is whether we’ll extend Medicaid to people who are currently not poor enough for it, but still too poor for Obamacare subsidies. The federal government would pick up almost all the costs – making the change is like taking free money; not making the change just means that our federal taxes will flow disproportionately to the 31 states that are signed up for the expanded Medicaid program. States that expand Medicaid see dramatic improvements in access to health healthcare; Florida like much of Old Confederacy is punishing its poor people – many of whom are not white – out of petulant dislike of Obamacare. Despite misleading mailers from the de la Portilla campaign, Rodriguez is on the right side of this one, and that’s reason enough to vote for him right there.

Fl State Rep. Dist 114: Daisy Baez.

Daisy Baez will be a great state rep. I was for her two years ago, and she almost won then against an incumbent. Now it’s an open seat. She has business experience, understand healthcare issues from the inside, and seems from the times I’ve met her to be a genuinely nice person. This one is easy! Among her issues are expanding Medicaid, and support for restoring cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program. Vote for Daisy!

Next: Some County races.

Posted in 2016 Election, Miami | 3 Comments