Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez has announced, very dramatically, that he wants to cut the mayor's pay by 30 percent, from $272,000 to $190,000.
But what he forgot to say was that he will never feel it in his pocket. No, siree. Hernandez will still enjoy six or seven more paychecks with an almost 400 percent raise from his council president salary of two months ago through November, when a new mayor (which won't be him) is elected.
That's because if the council approves his proposal at its next meeting Tuesday, he wants to put it on the November ballot as a charter change -- during the the mayoral and council election. So, basically, Hernandez wants to cut Raul Martinez's pay. The former mayor and current mayoral front-running candidate, who is wading in dough from Dominican Republic deals, might shrug it off -- what's $80,000 or so to a guy like him -- but it still is quite a brave move for Hernandez.
Or a lame [duck] move. He does not have to put it to voters but is couching it with an amendment so voters would have to approve all future raises, which is a good idea. Hey, here's a concept: Put future raises on the ballot and cut your salary now. Ladra is sure voters won't mind.
The interim mayor said in a statement Wednesday that he wants to cut the mayor's pay to $150,000 and expenses -- which currently do not have to be documented with receipts, so it's really like a second salary or bonus -- to $40,000. (The council should add a requirement that expense reports be submitted so taxpayers know what they are paying for). Hernandez said that brings the mayor's compensation back to its 2001 level (which is what Martinez made, so maybe this is an omen).
Now, yes, Ladra is a cynical conspiracy theorist at heart, but this should smell like a distraction ploy to anybody because there are already questions about the city's finances. Hialeah might not be able to meet payroll through the end of the year. These questions might be asked publicly at Tuesday's meeting. And this announcement -- with the mayor blocking out three hours Thursday morning for media interviews -- looks like a pre-emptive strike against public comments.
It also looks like Hernandez is in full campaign mode. Running as the underdog for mayor in November, Hernandez likely realizes that the salaries of recalled Mayor Carlos Alvarez and his former (and some say still current) boss, loser county mayoral candidate Julio Robaina, cost them politically. So did the Alvarez taxpayer-paid luxury car. Now Hialeah will re-evaluate it's take-home vehicle policy. So was the bloated budget at the county, with more departments than the state of Florida. And now Hialeah might do away with two departments and reassign those tasks to parks and recreation.
Not that these proposed cuts are not good things that need to happen. Just that they needed to happen yesterday. Hernandez -- whose pension is now based on this year's salary, a 400 percent increase -- should have proposed to cut the mayor's outrageous salary sooner, when his puppeteer, Robaina, was raking it in. Or at least the day after he was appointed to the position by Robaina, before he started demanding more cuts and concessions from the workers, cops and firefighters who do not make a third of $272,000-a-year. Take home vehicles should have been evaluated before Hialeah Housing Authority Director Julio Ponce got a $900 monthly car allowance. And some of those departments should never have been created for cronies.
"Leadership begins at the top," Hernandez said in a statement, loosely stealing the new county mayor's "lead by example" move, only Carlos Gimenez cut his own salary by 50 percent.
"I strongly believe that to hold public office is an honor and privilege, and those individuals who I serve should have a say in the salary of the mayor," Hernandez added. Apparently, the voters just obtained this say after the county mayoral election.
"The public has made their dissatisfaction with the high salaries and benefits of elected officials clear, and I agree. My job is to listen to the public and act in benefit of our citizens."
See? I told you it was a campaign ploy. And he still gets paid $272,000 a year to listen and act.