Ladra had no idea when she started howling Tuesday about the residency violation by State Rep. Frank Artiles (R, Disrict 119, except he isn't living there) that the post would resonate so loudly and so widely. But we are glad. Maybe all the outrage will lead to some action and common sense.
Several people who first read the blog and/or the Miami Herald story that followed it (and thank you Herald and Marc Caputo for citing Political Cortadito) have already reported back that they have filed complaints or are in the process of filing complaints with the House of Representatives. Rich Bard, a 34-year resident of West Kendall (where Artiles should be livin' and representin'), passed by his district office, which is in West Kendall, and asked for the legislator's resignation.
"After I learned from The Herald's Page One story this morning indicating you had discovered that state Republican Rep. Frank Artiles does not live in Florida House District 119, I went to his district office in West Kendall and told his staff I think he should resign," Bard, a respected editor who worked at the Miami Herald for many years and was among those that made me a better writer, wrote to me when I told him I was doing a follow up post.
"Let me be clear: This is not a partisan issue with me," Bard wrote. "I would have done the same thing if he were a Democrat or an independent. West Kendall deserves a representative in Tallahassee, of whatever party, with integrity. He demonstrated considerable chutzpah by filing to represent a district located far from his home in Palmetto Bay. Obviously, I care about West Kendall, home for more than 34 years and where I raised my kids."
Charles Croston, who was a mortgage broker and now is at FIU with an intent to go to law school, plans on passing by tomorrow for the same reason, he told me over the telephone today. The Homestead resident is also in the process of filing a complaint with the House, but it's not an easy thing to do.
"I've been on the phone for the last few hours, figuring out the right way to file a complaint," Croston said. He cited House rule 18.2, which requires that the person filing the complaint have personal, first-hand knowledge that he still lives in the house outside the district. You almost have to knock on his door. And I bet he isn't going to be home a lot now.
Perhaps a recording of his admission on WQBA this morning will do. Artiles was reached on his cellphone by a producer at the station, where I was on the Bernadette Pardo show in the morning, and came on the air with us. He admitted he did not live in the district, but said it was not his fault. The post and the stories afterward are unfair, he whined. He was misled and told he had six months to move. Yeah, riiiiight.
Ladra barked at him on the air. "Excuse me Representative, but if that is the truth, you have to tell us who exactly told you, what entity is responsible for this because then that is who has to be held accountable."
"I am ultimately responsible," he said.
It is unfathomable to Ladra, and she is just a fairly intelligent dog, that Artiles would not know the rules of the game. He ran for the same seat and lost against Juan Zapata two years earlier. Then ran again last year and won. Maybe I am being too harsh, but I believe that if you are going to run for office, you should not let one person on your team -- which is how he characterized it -- make that kind of mistake for you. And if you do, maybe you shouldn't be in that office.
Rhonda Victor Sibilia, another former Herald colleague who now is a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (key words: ethics, public trust), asked Speaker of the House Dean Cannon (R, District 35) to remove Artiles from office.
"As a resident and registered voter of Florida House District 119, I wish to file a formal complaint against Representative Frank Artiles for his blatant refusal to abide by state law by running for and holding office while illegally living out of the district," she wrote him. "This arrogance and disrespect must be punished by all measures, including removal from the office he obtained through deceit. To do any less would show acceptance of this selfish manipulation of the electoral process and disregard for representational government by the leadership of the Florida House and the Republican Party."
I quote her because what she says is very important. Speaker Cannon should do something, and from what I understand he is being called upon acting to lead by example and show that the Republican Party is not going to be partisan when there is evidence, and admittance, of fraud.
Furthermore, I think it's time we amended the constitution and require our "representatives" to reside for xx period of time before they qualify to "represent" the voters there, who should be their neighbors. As regional or statewide as the issues at the House is, you are a representative of your district. Otherwise, why have them? You need to see the traffic patterns, the development and its impact, the businesses that open or close down, the needs of the neighborhoods, concerns of the local schools PTAs, the issues that matter to the people who voted for you. You need to be able to know what your constituents, whose doors you knocked on, who you campaigned to and whose vote you sought, want from you now.
Or you are really representing someone or something else.