Thursday, October 6, 2011

El alcaldito's AB play with fire

At the 11th hour -- and on the eve of the all-important absentee ballot mailing in Hialeah -- el alcaldito Carlos Hernandez stood for a photo op on the back of a fire rescue truck with the president of the firefighters' union, a man he has maligned for weeks, and basically thumped his chest.

He's going to make it look like he saved the day, like he got the firefighter paramedics in the city -- who have only asked for transparency before they give up everything they have earned -- to let go of some of their "juicy" pay and benefits. But he didn't. The union leadership bent over, er, I mean gave up two days of holiday pay in order to keep paying the 23 fired firefighters (14 working and nine in the academy) until Nov. 30 -- and then they might get fired anyway with the other 35 Dec. 1.That's right, the firefighters are paying their salaries.  For this sacrifice out of their own pockets, the city will withdraw it's illegally-imposed impasse -- declared less than two  hours into the last bargaining session -- and withdraw the third appeal of a PERC ruling against Hialeah for unfair labor practices (which they would have lost anyway). Oh, and they will "open" their books (which they had to do anyway).

Really? REALLY? The city is going to open books that are public records by Florida law and have to be opened to anybody who asks? I'll believe it when I see it. Or ,maybe they're cooked to look like they're good books, but they won't be. I don't believe that they will show the firefighters everything because there is money hidden there. People have found some already, just in the proposed budget. And the agreement hammered out Thursday after hours of hand-wringing negotiations -- the first time su alcaldito is involved himself -- says the city "agrees to expeditiously provide all financial data requested by the union not otherwise shielded by law from public disclosure." Which sounds like a loophole to Ladra. What's expeditiously? They won't say tomorrow that they are in election time and too busy to look for the records, will they? What financial data is shielded from public disclosure or exempted from public disclosure as per the Florida Government in the Sunshine statute?

What even a dog like Ladra knows is that this was a political strategy thought out weeks ago. If the city had made the offer to the firefighters of giving up the holidays on July 20, when they declared impasse less than two hours into the meeting, there wouldn't have been hundreds of firefighters from the county, Miami, Miami Beach, Broward, Pembroke Pines and other departments there Thursday to show solidarity and basically force su alcaldito into action. But, then again, if the offer had been made then, there likely wouldn't be so many TV cameras to capture the moment a day or two before the absentee ballots -- which have more importance in Hialeah, where AB fraud is rampant and regular. That's why this press release was sent out at 5:40 p.m. (obviously in the works before the agreement was announced at Station One, a block from City Hall):

Under the title, "Hialeah Fire Union Has  Made Concessions,"  the mayor made a self-serving statement that is total spin: "Today, the Hialeah Fire Union has made the necessary concessions, as they have agreed to give up holiday pay for two days in the calendar year. These concessions will allow the City to reinstate the 14 fire fighters who were separated from their jobs on October 1st, 2011, as well as the 9 presently in the Fire Academy."

What he doesn't say is that the savings the city makes of $230,000 on the holiday pay is what they will use to pay those firefighters. In other words, these concessions allow the firefighters to reinstate the 14 firefighters who were fired illegally to pass a bogus budget and the nine who the city has already invested around $100,000 in training and educating (which would have been money down the drain). But let's let him go on.

"Today's actions demonstrate that when two parties negotiate in good faith, a compromise can be achieved for the betterment of our community. I trust this is the beginning of fair and honest negotiations on behalf of the Hialeah Fire Union.  As Elected Officials, we recognize that residents and business owners of this community are enduring tough economic times. As leaders, we should tighten our belts during such tough times and not further burden the community by granting concessions on salaries and benefits to unions. If the residents who we work for are making difficult financial choices in their personal lives, then we as public servants must do the same in government.  I understand that taking this position is not a popular one amongst unions and employees, but I firmly believe it to be the right one for our community and its residents."

What  he means is that today's actions demonstrate the lengths to which the Hialeah firefighters and the fire union leadership -- whose president Mario Pico has worked for 23 years in this community -- will go to protect Hialeahns. That they are better at being public servants than he is. "This allows us to keep serving the residents," Pico said on the fire truck next to his new best friend. "'Cause at the end of the day, it's all about them."

That is why the firefighters have been holding out for so long. It was not to protect their salaries and benefits. The city even offered them a raise three years ago that they declined because it made no sense. They were saving the citizens of Hialeah in a different way. They were treating a different disease -- the tumor and bloodletting at City Hall. And many were not happy about the deal they struck with the devil Thursday.

Hernandez said he, too, did it for the residents "and the future of this city." But if that were true, he would have faced the firefighters himself before. He would have made this offer on July 20. No, this was all about him and the spin and getting a nice photo and statement out before the absentee ballots "drop" (are mailed out) -- which is tomorrow. Friday. They could be in mailboxes as early as Saturday or by Tuesday for sure. Watch for a robocall on the issue to come in the next few days.

On the truck, next to Pico, a man he has lied about and made the focus of his wrath for no good reason, Hernandez stumbled and fumbled -- which usually means they are lying or have something to hide -- when he said the accord showed "we're a family in Hialeah. And sometimes things have to get a certain point. But you know what, I've always said that we might not always be on the same page, but we are a famly in Hialeah... from the top to the bottom, from the residents to the employees. And again, a new day for everybody, the residents, for all the employees, this union -- which again, we have been in sometimes stuck in argument. But you guys know, we know, that at the end of the day we are a family."  See the whole video at

Well, if that's true, su alcaldito is the abusive deadbeat dad that pretends to stroke your face while he slaps you with tough love.

And Fire Chief Marcos de la Rosa is some kind of uncle (you know, the one who's always tapping the scotch). "It's a proud day for the city of Hialeah," said de la Rosa, who told Ladra he didn't know the details of the deal . "Our family is back together... and at the end of the day that's what's important. My focus, Elaine, is that I can maintain and keep providing the services and keep my fire department whole. And that's my important part to me." See the video interview, courtesy of Raul Torres, on our youtube channel:

But, wait a minute, Chief. Didn't you and el alcaldito say over and over again, at the budget hearing and all over the place, that there would be no impact to the services from the loss of 40 percent of the fire rescue personnel? Or was that another lie? Political justification?

"Like I said, today is a good day," de la Rosa said.

Not for him, Ladra hopes. The union membership is expected give the chief a vote of no confidence when they meet tonight. He had an opportunity at the budget hearing to couch his words and be a little more compromising instead of handing his guys up. But after the last 24 hours' events, Ladra is not sure of anything. Well, anything except that come Columbus Day and Veteran's Day, the 23 firefighters who were fired will be paid with money taken out of the pockets of the other 248.

And that if Hernandez takes this "victory" -- as he and his lackies have already claimed this deal is -- to the polls, the firefighters who would be fired will likely be paid from giving up Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well. And who knows what else.

Maybe a little respect, too.


  1. I have to agree with you on this whole thing, now the mayor seems he's the good guy when he's been stabbing them and will continent stab them in the back. The union bent once, now the mayor and council know that they will bend and will hammer them again for more pay later. Sigh, I'm glad that the firefighter got back in (I know a bunch of them) but I wish it wasn't this way

  2. Wow Sasha Tirador is a master at her trade!

  3. Elaine,

    I applaud Pico and Johnson for putting their egos and politics aside to help save precious jobs. No one has ever wanted to lose any firefighters in the City of Hialeah. The union did the RIGHT thing and so did the administration. I know your upset (like every other Martinez supporter) that this deal can be perceived as another political victory for Carlos but really it's a victory for Hialeah. All that's left is to cut a long term deal before November 15. It would ensure stability for the union members and will not appear as political gamesmanship. 

    Elaine, people fight and argue, especially in budget negotiations, but they can move past it (or atleast do their best to try). Why would you criticize Pico and Hernandez for trying to be cordial and establish a relationship? That's a good thing for the union members and for the city as a whole. Does it forebode trouble for Martinez and his slate? Yes, but if you are as connected as I think you may be, then you already know what the latest polls are showing and Elaine, you know those are not push polls. The AB's started going out today and things are not looking good for Raul. 

    Lastly, I enjoy giving you scoops before the media and the general public receives them. Hence the reason why I remain anonymous. The Martinez ads were only a teaser of what is to come. Do not be fooled by the fundraising numbers for Carlos or Rudy. The big money is only directed at one thing: Reminding the voters of Hialeah who Raul Martinez is....

  4. One thing is certain, the mayor, his council, and the fire chief need to go. They are making very poor decisions that can adversely affect the public. We need new leadership in Hialeah. We need someone who knows what they are doing. The mayor finally caving in at the last minute shows just how weak and ill thought his plan was. I'm glad the firefighters are standing up to these political thugs. Good job Mario and Eric. Stay strong and keep fighting for what's right!

  5. Responder, old friend. Welcome back. But that's no scoop. It's propaganda and maybe should be followed with a paid political disclaimer. And you still don't read too well. Or maybe you and su alcaldito have the same spin doctor. Or maybe you are the spin doctor.

    Ladra might have been a little too hard on her puppies, but maybe that is because I was, indeed, a bit upset. I had hoped that they would be more clear about how your alcaldito was ready to risk lives for his political roll of the dice but how THEY were not. And I was still reeling a little, I will admit, from watching as Hipocrit Hernandez stood next to Mario (who he has been demonizing unnecessarily and unfairly for weeks) and pulled a rabbit out of his hat. On a fire truck. For votes. But I also believe that more voters than he might expect will see it for the cheap trick it is. Because if su alcaldito had really wanted to do what was best for the residents, truly, he would have made this offer in July instead of impassing illegally and in bad faith because then he can create a fight that becomes a campaign slogan or robocall material after he, lo and behold, saves the day right before the absentee ballots go out, dramatically in front of all the TV cameras and hundreds of cheering firefighters. What upsets me is the deliberate spin that (but don't worry, fellow ABC readers, it will be put in context). What upsets me is the consistent disrespect Hernandez has not only for the city's employees -- and, yes, the firefighters who as you have just seen are willing to sacrifice themselves for the residents -- but also for the voters' intelligence.

    Again, I have not yet decided which ABC (Anyone But Carlos) candidate to support -- and I may not. It may seem that I do. But not quite. And I will explain that in the next post. But everyone knows, and I think what gets to you is, that I am now solidly ABC (Anyone But Carlos). And I think that club is growing, not shrinking. Su alcaldito's latest betrayal of the people -- he was willing to risk lives while the firefighters were not -- will be seen as just that in the coming days. Because I did not say the firefighters handed him a political victory. I said he tried snatch a "victory," which I wrote in quotation marks because it's the word Arnie Alonso used on radio. "A victory for Hialeah. A victory for Carlos Hernandez." Or something like that. And that's what it was supposed to be all along. But it's going to backfire. The news coverage so far has been pretty straight forward about how these firefighters are getting paid through Nov. 30 (right after the runoff, coincidentally) out of the other firefighters pockets.

    And the firefighters did this to protect the residents. Because what people will start to know tomorrow is that there was already a plan to fundraise to keep these men in their homes, with the lights on and beer in the fridge, until at least right after the election. It amounts to $230,000 (hard to believe the city can't find that somewhere else) and while that is a lot for a community fundraiser, the political damage to Hernandez just for the effort, would have been worth a lot more. But no, the firefighters did not do it for the paychecks or for any political reasons and they did do the right thing and not put people at risk. Because they knew that there would be risks to the community. They did it so that there would not be an impact to services, an increase in response times. So people don't die as a result. While the mayor was willing to risk lives for politics, the firefighters were not. That word will get out, too. Maybe this was an actual win for the union, for anyone who is ABC.

    Maybe Mario is the political genius mastermind el alcaldito always paints him as. Well, next to him, it's not a very hard sell.

  6. And I think el alcaldito is the only one who is going to lose respect from this one. The firefighters' will use their increased credibility and clout to stomp him out.

  7. Hardly a victory: I forgot to mention... el alcaldito wanted 11 holidays with no holiday pay. He got two. Which shows how needless all this was. Because with two, $230,000, the city keeps all the firefighters for two more months.


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