Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hialeah mayor hides behind lies

The plot thickens like un tamal en cazuela on As Hialeah Churns.

When last we left our City of Retrogress, city officials and acting alcaldito Carlos Hernandez -- appointed by the lying, thieving former mayor, a political powerhouse that basically imploded in a battle of good versus evil when he tried to seek a higher office -- had conspired to tarnish the city's brave firefighters in an orchestrated smear campaign worthy of Machiavellian comparisons.

Well, maybe not that last part. Because, really, it's very mediocre, not Machiavellian. It is quite obvious to anyone who can string together the recent spate of strange and peculiar events and official statements that this cannot be a series of coincidences but rather a concerted effort to discredit the firefighters that have repeatedly asked for -- and have repeatedly been denied -- transparency and full financial disclosure from the city before they can relinquish $5 million in arbitrary cuts to benefits they have earned. They must be on to something. And Ladra bets that the mayor did not think we'd be on to him and his step-by-step, color-by-numbers, defamation-for-dummies effort. Oh, but we are, Carlos, we are.

The latest on his discount campaign "to do" list was a letter to the editor in Miami Herald that, at first, really riled me up and made me what I now call "Slick pissed", after one of my favorite handlers whose irate flare-ups are legendary. Because what Hernandez did -- or someone else, since, c'mon, everybody knows he is incapable of writing that letter himself -- was string a bunch of lies and half-truths taken out of context for political gain during an election year and target a 23-year veteran city firefighter whose honesty is unquestionable, whose demeanor is sort of like Winnie the Pooh and who is doing his best -- diplomatically, patiently, fairly -- to represent Hialeah's firefighters/paramedics under the most difficult circumstances.

But then I realized: Fire local union president Mario Pico must be making an impact.

And then I smiled: The interim mayor -- who won't return my calls or see me in his office and who shut down the press conference about the city's finances after I asked (still no answer) how much of the $6 million in the bank was in unencumbered funds not earmarked for specific expenditures and available to the general fund -- has given me yet another opportunity to publicly call his bluff.

Hernandez -- who complains about firefighter salaries while he makes $190,000 a year to waltz in late, take 90-minute lunches, go on the radio two or three times a week and campaign for re-election -- has to make the fire union a target and his short term scapegoat because he cannot engage with the other two candidates in the race, which are both political giants that will crush him. This gives him some busy work to avoid them while he pays "opposition researchers" -- including a former city cop -- to dig dirt on former mayor Raul Martinez and former State Sen. Rudy Garcia and plan his smear campaign against them. At the same time, he can try to deflect responsibility for the financial fiasco. And I say short term because his story -- if he even sticks to it because he flip flops more than his mentor, former mayor and county mayoral loser Julio Robaina -- won't wash for long when the administration is either forced to show its financial cards or replaced, whichever comes first.

Still, make no mistake that this letter -- which has media consultant spin written all over it, such as the use of certain repeated terms to subliminally embed the message -- is an orchestrated campaign to, well, boost the campaign since every poll has Hernandez in a far third position. And he needs all the free advertising he can get since his treasure chest may not be as big as before Robaina's big bust. That's also why he is using the bully pulpit and issuing press releases and media alerts about a redeveloped home for a senior citizen and an evaluation of take-home cars and cutting his salary and having a town hall meeting about cutting his salary (really? is anybody buying this?).

Since the Herald gave him this free advertising space for his campaign (that letter really should have had the paid for by disclaimer), the Hialeah reporters should follow up with Hernandez and take advantage of this chance to show what a hypocritical opportunist he is by askin him to back up the statements in this letter -- which, by the way was sent to the Herald the same day the administration entered into negotiations with the union fully intending to call an impasse, which the union president denounced. (The spin doctor working for him likely had it ready already, to try to pre-empt any complaint Mario would maketo the media). That is not negotiating in good faith, which is no big suprise since the city has lost three or four labor disputes in the past year or two at a cost of millions and millions. In fact, Ladra is quite sure they had already prepared the impasse document before going into the meeting (I think the city attorney brought it into the room with him) and had set the firefighters up a week earlier with a media alert -- a media alert!! -- from the mayor complaining that he had tried five times to get a date for negotiations with the union and had not gotten a response. Not only was this simply not true -- which Mario Pico was able to document, no wonder he's drawn such attention -- but it was also an obvious set up. It is not a common thing -- in fact, I would say it is quite rare, counterproductive and highly suspicious (hellooo?) -- for the mayor to issue an official "media alert" to whine that he could not get the union to talk to him. The union has been trying to talk to him since before he was named interim mayor and, in fact, has had several conversations with him. One of these was in front of TV reporter Jim DeFede and was recorded on video. The firefighters have been wanting to talk for months and were willing to keep talking last week when the city called impasse. Indeed, they are willing to make concessions if they need to preserve the quality of life for the residents they work for and save every day, which is something that the mayor fails to mention. They just don't want to make them in the dark. They have no confidence in the city's numbers. And with good reason. Last year, they were given two different versions of the budget. The official bounded budget. After Robaina illegally fired 17 firefighters, an arbitrator ruled the city had to rehire them and give them backpay because their figures did not support the savings they claimed to make and in fact the action seemed to cause economic hardship. Even a Robaina-for-mayor supporter and forensic auditor said that the books had many discrepancies and errors. And last month, Hernandez flip-flopped on the figures, saying at a press conference that there was a $7.8 million shorfall (blaming the lion's share on firefighters with yet another lie) and then he told reporters days later that there was no deficit (read: the spin doc read him the riot act after the first press conference because every time he says deficit, Martinez climbs).

As for the "such firefighter pay raises" line -- yeah, that's the one -- most of the firefighters have not had a raise since the 3% in 2008 that was the last of a three year increase agreed to in 2006 -- the same year the council members gave themselves a 10 percent increase all at one time. The mayor forgets to mention that, too. The merit increases are given only to the newest employees because it allows the department to offer a lower starting pay and it is in the contract. It could be discussed and negotiated -- negotiated, not just deleted -- at the table if the city had any intention of having any real give and take and not really be looking to just take, take, take. Because the impasse now allows the administration to impose cuts. They did it last year with the employees union. That's what Hernandez means by "absorbed" decreases in his letter. It was also one of the cases in which PERC ruled against the city, which had cut the general employees pay by 27 percent and then made that decrease 17 percent after the PERC ruling. The case is still pending and the city is about to be it with another grievance from the firefighters, if he imposes cuts like I am sure he will. And the city will lose that dispute eventually, as well. But, hey, maybe it's long enough to make payroll and keep the city operating until November.

It's pathetic that Hernandez is allowed this futile attempt to discredit a true public servant who has not once stooped so low during the protracted negotiations the city had no intention of honoring. Let's hope that it backfires on him and costs him votes. Ladra is working on it. Unfortunately, it will also cost the city more in legal feels for lost labor disputes, which is already adding up to millions and millions the mayor simply does not have in the bank.

His letter, however, won't cost Mario Pico one ounce of credibility. If anything, it raises his profile and makes him more relevant in the community.

I'll have to remind Mario to thank the acting mayor next time he sees him.

18 comments:

  1. Ladra,
    You are quite accurate with all these points you made. Thank you for pulling the BULLSHIT CARD. We have tried everything we know how to do in order to maintain transparancy to no avail. We have been lied to and set up over and over again. This is not what we are about. We are a tired and true band that hass survived many a storm to get where wee are. We are demanding the truth and NOTHING LESS.... To come out and bash us and make up malicious lies for only asking for the facts is downright Immature and shows the true intentions of ALL HIALEAH POLITICIANS who hold office today. It is not about the people they serve as WE CAN SAY. It is all about thier future political interests and nothing more..

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  2. Ladra, I have come to the conclusion that Hialeah gets what it so rightly deserves. Politics in the City of Progress is just that, Politics; not many that should care, care. Most of the fight is being carried by employees who are only trying to protect their jobs and salaries, who don't even live in the City. They are the ones that have warned the residents (or tried to) about the financial debacle at City Hall and the creative fiscal policies created by Robaina and Alex Vega, now continued by the seriously intellectually challenged Acting Mayor Hernandez.
    On the other side you have the connected who buy those elected by the ill informed and gullible electorate.
    All you have to do is look at the representative government...REALLY, in a city of over 250,000 residents that the best they can do? SAD...
    Enough already, Hialeah really serves no purpose as a City, more so now without any money. Let Miami - Dade take over, after all it would not be the first
    time the City Charter would be revoked. Check the history, Labra; you know what they say about history..."those that do not learn from it are bound to repeat it."

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  3. OH Ladra, maybe if you happen to get a word in to the elitist carlito(not worth capitalizing), you can ask him if the fired-17 firefighters have received their backpay. I'm sure the answer would be NO. Not bad considering the ruling is binding and was issued over 3 months ago.

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  4. they need a Carmen Caldwell to run for office..she was the only honest thing in that city..i saw her the other day and she is still taking care of the community..but she said that she was to happy doing crime prevention and didn't need the headaches of Hialeah although she still lives in the same place. There is no fixing Hialeah unless they get rid of everyone that has been there for the last 5 years..the corruption is too imbedded...its going to take an army or public corruption squads to clean the place up she told me...that was a very interesting profound statement...but at the end she said she loves her Hialeah and continues to help where she can the residents. Now that is a true elected official...helping for nothing in return. Hope she changes her mind.

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  5. Ladra,

    You have only hit the tip of the iceberg. No where is the police department mentioned. The PBA agreed to a contract in January 2011 not because a deal was made with Robaina. They agreed to contract because they saw that the city was in financial dire straits.
    They have pending lawsuits and greivances against the city as well. They sued the city about an illegal ordinance change. When that went before council president Carlito was warned by the PBA that this was illegal his statement to quote "nothing keeps you from fighting this in court, does it?"
    The PBA is also greiveing the illegal promotions of Robaina's buddies. In fact El Nuevo Herald wrote an article on July 29th about the struggles of a demoted sergeant who brought that fight against the city.
    Carlito is part of the problem, always has been.

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  6. Ladra, what's going on with the audit? Is it happening? Or was it all hot air from the City's part? Tell the fire guys to HOLD the LINE! We tried but our union does not have the teeth FIRE does, and the cops rolled over, notice you don't hear from them at all! HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE!!! Get THE AUDIT, CHECK the BOOKs!

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  7. Hialeah needs an enema. But not just the (Interim for sure) Mayor & his council but ALL of the management staff that was put in place by the former administration. Lets get all of those ass kissing, self serving puppets OUT. They are NOT protected as management and should ALL be fired. Fire chief, Police Chief & all their hand picked buddies. Maybe Hialeah can then begin to return to the great city & community it once was.

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  8. Does everyone know that Carlos Hernandez is already collecting a DISABILITY PENSION from the City of Hialeah? Is that on top of his $190,000 salary? BTW, what is his disability? Besides the obvious (Duh)

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  9. The City of Miami fire union members are the best paid fire men in the world. And they don't fight fires. (At least not often).

    Miami faced a $120 mil deficit last year and a $62 mil deficit now. The overpaid firemen are a huge reason Miami faces bankruptcy.

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  10. Dude you made a wrong turn somewhere, we're talking about HIALEAH! Trust me they nor any city employee is highly paid. Go home you're on the wrong blog....

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  11. If the firefighters and police would stay back from the issues that they are complaining about which is there own pockets and nothing else they dont live in Hialeah most of them anywaysthe people that live in Hialeah are he ones that need to be complaining so i have no respect for these guys that live better then the population of the City and this is going as far as the people i talk to are so upset with both department that they even tell me that when they call from there org asking for donation for fallen officer they dont want to give anymore and the excuse is work is slow but the real excuse is that there tired of listening to them cry about there pockets so who is suffering the consequences the families of the fallen ones so shut the f--- up already

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  12. Punctuation anyone? Let me quess, you skipped English... Although you may have some point to make your lack of grammer and proper sentence structure render any thought mute. By the way, it's a good thing residents don't donate to those organizations that call you at home as most are scams.
    Listen, do something so you can communicate your frustrations and or ideas. I hear Hialeah High has an excellent ESOL program; get your G.E.D., learn a trade, learn some English.

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  13. I don't understand everyone seems to blame civil service employees for the collapse of the economy.. when politicians like the ones in Hialeah have drained the reserves the safety nets of the cities finances. The citizens of Hialeah have no idea whats going on in the city & its sad that police & fire have to be involved in politics... I think of it this way police & fire protect life & property & now the citizens from corrupt politicians. All there doing is getting the truth out its all public records Hialeah Fire & Police are the lowest paid in south Florida, while the Mayor of Hialeah is the highest paid in the state more than the governor.... Come on people open your FKN eyes!

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  14. Dear Ms. Savant,

    It's spelled G-R-A-M-M-A-R

    I'll save you a seat at HHS.

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  15. I think you're under the misconception that Carlito wants to be Mayor next year. I don't think he does. There's zero campaign money in his war-chest. His job is simple: screw Martinez.

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  16. There is no doubt his plan is screw Martinez, But that is not his worry. His primary mission is to knock Rudy out of the race. He hired this cat glenn rice, a former police officer, to dig up dirt on rudy. Raul will not win in my mind even though he might be the only one who can fix the money mess. Carlos's numbers were very close to rudys and if he does not start attacking rudy now he has no chance. Lets see what this rice guy comes up with

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  17. Carlos-is-screwedAugust 5, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    Mr. Anonymous, You are right. Martinez is the only one who can fix the mess the current council has created. Unfortunately he is in an uphill battle. Glenn Rice will basically look for things he has voted on and not voted on while in tallahassee. Thats it. Oh and that he is gay also. Not that he does not have the right: to eaches own. Johnathan Martinez and Arnie Alonso will be right at home if he is elected. There will plenty of fresh young ass upstairs in his office. Carlos does have one problem though. It seems that he is still connected to julio robaina. That will be detrimental as julio will be indicted for a slew of charges by election day. Was Carlos involved in any of that funny business also?

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  18. I continually hear firefighters and policemen lamenting over their pay and I hear many complain how over-paid these people are and how politicians are continually chasing the endorsement of these unions because of the votes they muster. Just how much with benefits, pensions, etc are these men and women making? Just how much do their unions contribute to local politics? We seemed to have gotten rid of one Mayor who seemed to be in the Union's pocket and now I hear the Unions are planning to recall the new Mayor....

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I have decided to moderate comments for a while as there are some that are simply off-subject and have become personal and offensive in nature, attacking not just me but others through this venue.

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