While she submits late reports and funnels an illegal $5,000 from a third party to her own PAC, the main organizer of recall of Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas has yet again cast aspersions to confuse voters and push buttons. It's the best way for her to guarantee a win.
Miami Voice PAC chairwoman Vanessa Brito wrote an open letter on facebook to the other county commissioners to question Seijas use of her discretionary funds for constituents she has given funds to in other years. Yeah, Vanessa, Seijas is using Girl Scouts and priests to stump votes for her.
It's not so bad that she can't do the math, accusing Seijas of spending "almost half a million dollars" of her discretionary funds" when it's actually half at $245,000 that she has asked for approval to disburse. Maybe that's why Brito didn't file the PAC's financial records on time... she couldn't figure out the math.
"Whether this is a move by Commissioner Seijas to use County afforded resources to purchase votes at the last minute, or leave her successor with a deteriorated budget, I do not know," she wrote, calling it a "disgrace to local government," unethical and further justification for the recall, and quickly following it with advertising (this woman owns a marketing firm): "While Miami Voice did not pick and choose which commissioners to collect signatures for during this process, it has become clear as to why District 13 voters rose up in mass against their Commissioner."
Let's again add context: There was no grassroots effort. Miami Vice went to recall five commissioners, like a roll of the dice, and got lucky, or bent the rules to get it done, depending on who you ask. It is neither unethical nor justification for recall, and there was no "recall movement against her." Again, to remind voters, Brito came up with the PAC idea from her home in West Dade (either Pepe Diaz's or Joe Martinez's district) after her candidate lost a gimme race against 16-year commissioner Javier Souto. She seizes on the heat of the moment to ride the coat tails of the Braman-funded recall of an unpopular mayor and tries to oust five commissioners (hey, one's gotta stick, right?), making a name for herself meanwhile (watch her run for something in 2012), some money ($3,600 so far) and friends in low places.
The gifts make Ladra snarl, too, mostly because they are discretionary funds and we generally growl at discretionary funds. What Brito doesn't say is all commissioners get more than $800,000 to spend however they want with very little oversight. Those funds would have reverted back to the general fund (don't worry, Vane, your pal will get a brand new $800,000) and Seijas could have spent another $150,000 or so more. Also, she is "bewildered and disappointed" that Seijas would choose election day to request this approval. But it just so happens that two other commissioners -- including Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who pulled Seijas request for discussion before voting on it (but the Herald story doesn't tell you he is running for mayor. Tsk, tsk.) -- also have approvals for disbursements on the agenda.
The mayoral candidate is asking for less, but I don't know what his balance is (what he has doled out already): there's $2,500 each for a Christopher Colombus sports tournament (isn't the school out of his district?), a City Year gala (really? I would rather fund Girl Scouts) and the Coconut Grove Village Council. There's also a request for $7,000 for Voices For Children.
Chairman Joe Martinez (Ladra wagged her tail when he said he would not run until 2012, recall or no recall) is frugal with only $820 for a seniors program and for a movie night at the park.
Or only Seijas is buying votes? Girl Scouts ($40,000 for 2 troops and a literacy program), band kids and boosters at American High ($15,000 for band equipment), nuns at Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior ($20,000 for a senior companionship program), the counselors at the Children's Psychiatric Center or the kids and their parents at Miami-Dade schools who got an extra boost for after-school programs that likely suffered in the budget (each got $25,000) should be outraged at the insinuation.
Ladra suspects that Seijas has given funds to these groups in the past and I've asked for copies of her disbursements of funds last year to see if she has changed much. We should ask for the allocation of discretionary funds for all commissioners. Ladra is wagging her tail again.
But whether Seijas saw the writing on the wall and made these grants while she still had the chance or it is a last minute hail Mary pass to get a few more "no" votes, discretionary accounts for all commissioners should go. Nevermind that it's a terrible practice from the good ol' boy days that gives incumbents an advantage at election time. And it is certainly not because the administration can better spend the $10.5 million (yes, I can do the math) than elected officials who distribute the funds in their neighborhoods to constituents who could lose programs. (Okay, stop laughing now.)
It gives leaders an excuse and a cop-out for really balancing the budget and it provides the professional campaign industry with an easy hot button issue to point at and make unproven allegations about (read: smoke and mirrors) in order to get their way.