Both candidates in the big Miami-Dade mayor's race are making last minute pleas and appeals for votes, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places. Like Julio Robaina with cabbies who can't vote and Carlos Gimenez with 20-somethings who can but won't.
Supporters for both candidates have sent mass emails out asking their friends to vote and to urge their friends and relatives to vote for their respective man.
Consultant and former Miami Public Health Trust member Jorge Arizurrieta (or a campaign staffer ghostwriting it on his behalf) sent a 610-word email on Friday urging people to vote for Robina or Robaina, the former Hialeah mayor's name was misspelled at least twice. (Someone will likely get chewed out for that one). He used words like "transparency" and "accountability" and "economic development" -- okay, I'll give him that last one. Robina knows a bunch about developing his and his pals' economies. But in unaccountable, murky ways.
While Arizurrita echoes the campaign mantras about lowering taxes (though Robina increased them the first three years) and "cutting bureaucracy," it says nothing about slashing employees' salaries by 17 percent while administrators took a 3 percent cut. "His business background ensures that we are not getting another lifetime bureaucrat, who now claims to be a 'reformer' but has nothing to show for it. But someone with real world experience and proven results." And lots of conflicts of interest, he forgot to mention.
He also echoes the blah blah blah about how Gimenez is the same as Carlos Alvarez. You guys gotta give that a break. Nobody buys it. Gimenez was Alvarez's biggest critic on the dais and it is ironic -- and not transparent -- that the PBA is financing the attack ads that compare the two men when the PBA supported Alvarez against the recall. What hypocrisy. Not accountability.
Arizurrieta -- who we have to nominate to the "elect us mayor" committee with an eye toward his medical-related business interests -- also took quite a bit of those words to complain about the Miami Herald's coverage of the race, again hitting the same arguments that Robina and his campaign staff, principally Ana Carbonell, have made (maybe she wrote the email). "They made a decision months ago to blast Mayor Robina and support their choice, Carlos Gimenez. What they forgot to do is register as a 527 organization as they have acted no differently," he said, sounding like a crybaby because he has to know that the media can make endorsements and that they have covered the race, actually, in a reactive way, rather than proactive. But I guess he would suggest the media ignore the federal investigation, the public housing given to the cop with the $80,000 salary, the developed commercial property Robina was paying, I mean dodging taxes on as vacant land for four years, the intense special interests investing hundreds of thousands in this multi-million effort, the absentee ballot concerns, the campaigning while he was serving as mayor, the flip-flopping on the stadium deal, the business ties to contributors who were indicted in 2004 on racketeering charges, the Uncle Luke quid pro quo, the illegal campaign stop to MIA.
"The Gimenez campaign owes the Herald big and should declare their 'priceless' reporting as an in kind contribution to their campaign," Arizurrieta said. No, actually, the community owes the Herald big for getting voters' the real story. Robina's people need to realize that all the media cannot be bought. Trust me, the Herald and all the rest of the media would love to get Carlos Gimenez doing something stupid. And if he had, your candidate's people sure would have let us know. But we might miss it ourselves because Julito has us too busy watching him.
The consulant with dollar signs in his eyes also suggests that Robaina "will dominate the absentee ballot votes as he did in the first election a month ago." Well, duh. He does have that awesome AB machinery that is costing him a pretty penny. He predicts Robina will also do better in early voting (let's bet on that one, rich man). Because he has "personally known Julio" for more than 10 years, he can vouch for the real estate mogul's "commitment to this community and ... attest to his integrity and his commitment to governing in an efficient, effective and transparent fashion." More campaign speak. This letter was clearly written for him not by him. How embarassing that a grown man needs a handler to write his letter.
"I too have worked with Carlos Gimenez in his capacity as commissioner. A well intended person he is. A leader he's not," he said, basically confirming what everyone fears: that Robaina is a mal-intended leader.
"Early voting is occurring right now for twelve hours each day. We have no excuse for not voting. Here's a link to the locations and times," he ends, almost begging.
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner sent out not one but two emails on behalf of Gimenez. But hers were clearly written by her. They both hit on the Gimenez camp's biggest fear: low turnout. The first one came as early voting started. "This is an incredibly important election. And it will be all about turnout! So please go do your civic duty and vote for good government with Gimenez - we need it now more than ever," she wrote and then ended with her plea: "I am asking you as a personal favor to go vote!" She sent another email plea out Wednesday. "He is an outstanding candidate who will bring much-needed, serious reform to County Hall. The polls have all indicated that he will win BUT, it is only going to happen if we get out and vote."
But do those emails get any new votes for their candidates? I got Mayor Lerner's emails but not Arizurrieta's (that was posted and forwarded to me) because I am likely on one email list and not on the other. But I also already voted for Gimenez, as I suspect did most of the people on Lerner's contact list. Maybe the forwarding effect has turned some undecideds into Gimenez backers or Robaina supporters. But what about the time both candidates spend at early voting libraries? Don't early voters who are at the polls already know whose bubble they will fill out? How many impulse shopper voters are there, really?
Of course, while it seems like a collossal waste of time to me, I cannot imagine what else they could do instead with the few days left.
Gimenez also spent time Thursday, again, in Palmetto Bay with Mayor Shelley Stancyk and other people who are already voting for him, and then Friday at La Carretta in Hialeah, with people like former city councilmembers Alex Morales and Cindy Miel and their friends, who are already voting for him, before he went to the Miami Critical Mass Bike Ride take-off at Government Center to talk to former mayoral candidate Gabrielle Redfern and a bunch of bikers, who are already voting for him, and then to Villa 221 for a food truck event with a live band and DJ and young voters who are not voting for anybody.
Gimenez did not speak at the last event, though he did shake a lot of hands. But Ladra wonders if it was another waste of time. And I think he wondered it too.
"Many young people don't even know there's an election," he said. "No way," I countered. "Yes way," he said (well, okay, he did not say "Yes way" exactly, but the gist of it). And he was right, I found, after a tiny, little survey.
"We're interested in other stuff right now. Like how to open and run a small business," said Doral resident Roberto Fajardo, 30, who was there for a friend's birthday celebration and could not name the two candidates, not even the one he shook hands with moments earlier.
About a year ago, Fajardo opened an impact window installing firm. He works from Palm Beach to the Keys and says he sees things less regionally. "Our generation, we globalize things. Before, people were more interested local news. Now, we want news from around the world."
Paul Wessling, a 25-year-old firefighter from Miami Springs, is still bitterly disillusioned with the presidential robbery committed against Al Gore. "I don't feel like my vote counts," he said. "How can you win the general vote and not the election?" Wessling was surprised to learn that the man he had met moments earlier was a firefighter for two decades, but was still not moved by the fact that the general vote would decide this election. "It's corrupted me permanently." Well, he's only 25 and wants to make a point. Someone please make him vote.
The presidential election is the only one that students Stephanie Suarez and Jennifer Rangel, both 20, have cast ballots in. "It's never interested me," said Suarez, a psychology major at Miami Dade College. "It's not publicized," said Rangel, a public relations and marketing major at FIU. "At least they don't target us." (Note to candidates: Buy time during reality TV shows).
"I see the signs. But I never pay attention to them," Rangel said, confirming that statement when she could not name either of the mayoral candidates and just stared back blankly. "It means nothing to me." Ladra told her that might change in a few years if she buys property and/or begins a new family. I explained to these children that the mayor could and likely would have more impact on their lives than the president. They looked at each other and seemed to synchronize their shrugs.
At least Gimenez got what looked like a yumy hamburger (hopefully no heartburn from those onion rings) and some down time with the family -- even though they were rained on a little.
Because Ladra doubts he got any votes.