Friday, March 4, 2011

Say NO to unknown recallers

Voting has begun on the recall efforts against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas and thousands of votes have already been cast. It is scary to think that the electoral process has been hijacked by political backstage managers who have hurried this thing through to take advantage of the voters' outrage, as deserved as it is in most cases.

That is why I am voting no.

Let me first remind everyone that I never voted for Alvarez and if Jimmy Morales was our mayor NONE of this would have happened. And I agree that he has made some very bone-headed decisions that border on criminal and he should be held accountable. But he did not do it in a vacuum and, in fact, the community has let this happen because they made him a strong mayor and nobody has really challenged him until now. (No other recalls count).

But here is the main thing I don't like about either recall (aside from hidden agendas and questionable tactics in signature gathering): What the people behind the recall want is to change some of the pieces on the chess board -- and put their own pawns in place -- because they don't like the way the game is going and they want it to go their way. They don't like the decisions made by the electeds, so they want new ones that will do things that they do like.

Last I checked, that is not democracy.

Ladra knows she is not going to make many friends at the dog park with this position because it seems she is defending, protecting like a good watchdog, two very unpopular electeds who, again it needs repeating, she did not vote for and does not necessarily like very much.

But here is the important part: It does not matter if I like them.

Our intense desire to see Alvarez charged with official misconduct and Seijas forced to take etiquette classes ala American Idol (we vote if she passes or not on YouTube) does not mean that the people who want the recall can bend the rules to get it. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. In fact, we don't even know who the real enemy of the enemy is.

Let's look at Miami Voice, which other bloggers blindly praise as the saints' gift to Hialeah. A very popular Miami government blogger recently told her readers not to criticize the group or its chairwoman Vanessa Brito unless they had given money to the campaign because "they are doing the absolute best with limited funds and more limited manpower." I commend the blogger for at least disclosing that she is among those who lent manpower (or womanpower as it were). But I am disappointed that she doesn't ask any of these questions and I disagree: We need to look closely at the people who are behind the recall, even if we are on their side, to make sure they have no hidden agendas or interests of their own. It behooves us to question Miami Voice and Brito because they have not been transparent about who is really financing their effort.

Vanessa admitted to me that her company (which was inactive days before, and it costs hundreds of dollars to reactivate a Florida corporation) got the $5,000 she then funneled to Miami Voice (money laundering) from a client specifically for that reason. That is a blatant violation of campaign finance laws, according to Joseph Centorino, the lead corruption prosecutor at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. She refused to tell me where the $5,000 came from and has not disclosed it to this day.

Ladra wanted to see if there were more contributions from her or other third parties on behalf of special interests but, lo and behold, we can't. Miami Voice is at least a week late filing the next required finance report, which was due Feb. 25, and Brito and the treasurer -- which happens to be her life partner, Heidy Medina -- face hefty fines for it. I suspect she is not worried because someone else (read: special interests) will pay the fine, at $2,600 so far.

We also wanted to see the expenditures, because Brito has said that she is not being paid for her work. That is a lie. According to the one report she has filed, Brito herself was paid $1,500 for "compensation and reimbursement" on Nov. 30 and $1,100 for "volunteer compensation and expenses" (even though circulators payments are separately listed) and $500 for "compensation" Dec. 19. That's $3,100 so far .

She said she couldn't be paid because the PAC only had money for t-shirts. But the Dec. 31 report shows Mimi Planas -- the unsuccessful candidate for commission Brito represented last year before she invented this job for herself -- paid for those out of her pocket. The PAC also had funds to pay Ivette Lisa Taylor, a friend and Planas campaign volunteer who owns a permit expediting firm, $400 for her efforts (or "office supplies" and gas money).

Yet, you won't read this on the other blogs that do not want to challenge Miami Voice because they agree with the PAC's cause. If Seijas had not filed her report on time (and she did), these same people would jump all over her. Be sure of it. But they feel it is okay to look the other way this time because, hey, it's for the right reason!! The end justifies the means, right? Wrong.

The lack of transparency means that someone else is pulling the strings behind the scenes (read: special interest). It is someone that did not want to be publicly linked to the effort that has been mounted by professional campaign managers and political operatives who want to create a cottage industry for themselves. Watch if this succeeds for these people to declare themselves "recall experts" for hire by any candidates and their supporters (read: special interests) whenever a vulnerable elected makes an unpopular decision. Whether they win or not, they have found at least a temporary income stream for themselves and their cronies.

I don't live in Seijas district (neither does Vanessa, by the way, who I suspect is also going to try to use this as a launching pad for her own political run). But I would vote no if I did. Not because I think Seijas is a great representative of her district. If nothing else, her demeanor has hurt her constituency. But I have seen no real malfeasance here. Just an opportunist taking advantage of the climate and an unpopular official to get some cheddar and name recognition.

It's sad. I wish people would not just drink the Kool Aid because we are all hot and thirsty and deserve it. Ask what's in the cup first. Look for an alternative quencher.

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