Thursday, March 10, 2011

Braman's words empty, mean nada

Norman Braman, who is leading the effort to recall Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, just got 30 minutes of free advertising on WLRN public radio (91.3 FM) in the Tropical Currents show.

Braman (pictured here at a Latin American Business Association meeting in January) went on and on about the bonds (voted in by a majority of the voters), JMH, the Marlins stadium, the exorbitant salaries and outrageous raises, ballooning pensions, the overruns on the airport expansion and the hike in real estate taxes -- "the straw that broke my back" -- as the reasons for the recall.

He called the effort a "referendum on the type of government they want instead of empowerment."

Except it's not. It is exactly the opposite, in fact, because it doesn't change the government at all. It just changes who is empowered within the same government. None of those things are likely to change or go back to pre-Alvarez conditions. The only thing this recall would change would be the face, the personality, the power.

If I had been allowed to call in (I did, but the nice producer who answered the phone this afternoon said it was not a call-in show), I would have asked Braman why he didn't take a petition to the streets that would give voters more control over public spending through charter amendments that would have made a real difference no matter who is elected. Voters could have been asked, instead:

  • Should the county charter be changed so that any raise of a public employee of more than 5 percent (or 8 percent or 10 percent or whatever the voters decide is a good number) be approved by the voters through a referendum vote?
  • Should public or public/private projects costing more than $XX million in taxpayer funds be approved by voters through a referendum vote?
  • Should the use of public land larger than XX acres be approved by voters through a referendum?
  • Do these questions seem like they make more sense and are really what we need?
Okay, that last one was a gimme. But I am sure the readers get the idea, which is that we could have made some real changes. However, come March 16, if Mayor Alvarez is recalled, there is no guarantee that the guy Braman wants in his place will not do the same kind of things, or worse. That person's salary will still be what Alvarez makes today. Other salaries will not go back to what they were. Yeah, surely some people (many who deserve it and some who don't) will be fired. Others will be hired. But they can get paid whatever someone else decides. We still have no say in pay and perks.

Nothing changes except the face.

It's not like Braman could not have gotten those things on the ballot instead. He bragged on the show hosted by Joseph Cooper that someone without his resources wouldn't be able to pull off a petition drive because of the considerable resources they would need.

The car dealer millionaire said he didn't "even know yet" how much money he had poured into the campaign. "It's very substantial."

Very, indeed. How about around $1 million. And that's through two political action committees in many separate donations -- $300,000 here, $100,000 there, another $150,000 there. And he isn't even keeping count? I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. He just didn't want to say he spent a cool mil on his grudge with Alvarez to woo voters who are upset because of economic hardship and increased taxes. Though I am sure Braman is upset about taxes, too. After all, he owns several properties on Biscayne Boulevard where his dealership sits -- all together assessed at more than $10 million -- and a $5.8 million waterfront home in Miami Beach. Pretty big tax bill. No wonder he is upset.

I guess it must not bother him to spend that money on the recall effort instead of footing his fair share of the bill for services and programs that the tax increase -- a result of decreasing property values -- saved.

"But it's my money," Braman said on the air. "At least I am paying for it with my own money."

Really? I mean, I know he is a millionaire, but he didn't become one being stupid. There are plenty of people who would be happy to give him money for this. And nobody will know because he can say it's his money and everyone will believe him. Ladra ain't saying it ain't his money. She's just sniffing and pacing like she does when she doesn't think something is up to snuff.

And it's easy to hide money in these type of recall elections, so wannabes who cannot win as candidates in traditional elections get an advantage. Because PACs have different rules on contributions and there is no limit -- like there are maximum contributions for candidates -- on how much money one single person or group (read: special interest) can use to buy change that makes no real change.

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