Ladra will always love the Miami Herald and be grateful for the incredible talent and drive there that has made her who she is today. But times have changed. And it's a good thing that the Miami Herald's editorial recommendations in elections are not worth their weight in the paper that prints it anymore.
Perhaps it's no wonder, either, after reading the batch of endorsements the editorial board -- or, rather, two people from the editorial board -- have made. Because these recommends make it very clear that the Herald is completely disconnected from the community and the contest where it pretends to promote candidates. While I may agree with the idea of breaking up the slates in theory, I won't advocate for that if it means backing the wrong wannabes. I mean Lourdes Lozano? Daisy Castellanos? Tony Vega? Tony "Phony" Vega? Really? Ladra has always respected Miriam Marquez and Juan Vazquez, the two editorial board members who screened most of the candidates (not all showed up) and likely made or drove the decision. But they must not be reading Political Cortadito or even their own newspaper and I bet they were throwing a dart at a wall of photos when they made these choices. Let's review the reasons.
Lozano, who has been nothing but negative in her campaign, is a two-faced opportunist who jumped into the race at the behest of su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez despite having bad-mouthed him and the Seguro Que Yes crew earlier this year. Lozano, a reliable rubber-stamper on the Hialeah Housing Authority commission and former DCF employee who is has herself spread rumors about her possible investigation for food stamp fraud, was apparently miffed that the council chose the relatively unknown but politically connected Pablito "Huh?" Hernandez to replace su alcaldito on the dais after the latter's promotion to the fourth floor through the resignation of his master/mentor former Mayor Julio Robaina. The Herald editoral board, who must have interviewed her by phone since she did not attend the screening, writes that she is not tied to any particular mayoral slate, but that only proves they are blinder than Stevie Wonder and maybe as disinterested as disconnected because it's not difficult to determine that she is squarely with Hernandez. They share campaign staff and campaign office. She is on his slate. And as if that weren't reason enough to stay away with a 20-foot pole, the Herald actually admits that Alex "The Professor" Morales, a former councilman and HHA Director (fired by Robaina and Lozano), is the best candidate in that group (and in any, Ladra would add). The dynamic duo over there simply chose to skip over him because of baseless allegations that he doesn't live in the city. The Professor's motives and zeal may be questionable, but the fact that he sleeps at an apartment on West 29th Street is not. Ladra has been there at least a dozen times. At different times of the day and night. He lives there. Neighbors confirm it, too. He may spend a night or two a month at his Miami Lakes home with his wife and kids while they look for a house in the west part of Hialeah where most of the electeds, past and present, live. But to deny him the rightful recommendation based on a possible residency issue that doesn't exist and is contrived by his political nemesis is really kind of dumb. And irresponsible.
Daring Daisy Castellanos pick is much less insulting. Because she is a nice lady with good intentions and a nice family and great friends who believe in her so much that they have spent the past few weeks volunteering in most of their spare time. Her husband is a little intense and I might not feel as comfortable with a recommendation for him, but despite his own delusions at times, Eddy Castellanos is not running for office. Ladra likes Daisy because she has guts and she is her own gal. She showed up at the campaign office openings for both ABC mayoral candidates, former State Sen. Rudy Garcia and former Mayor Raul Martinez. Yeah, she was looking for a slate -- and she may have found one, unofficially, with Garcia's camp, even if only through the process of elimination. She never approached su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez because she is also mad that she was skipped over when they named Councilman Pablito Hernandez. She was waiting at the IHOP when su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez and Council President Isis Garcia-Martinez and her opponent Hernandez showed up on a bus with public housing seniors because she knew it was a campaign event and she was going to take advantage of it. That's smart. And when the manager or waitress asked if her tab should be put on the city's bill, she said no and paid for it herself. That's ethical. She is the more elegant part of Hialeah, having lived in the city forever and worked in customer service at the city's water department for 20 years. Ladra loves the idea of a customer service person in politics. But (and I hope Daisy forgives me), she is ill prepared for the role of councilwoman next to Frank "Sinatra" Lago, the former chief of staff for Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, who lost a run for the Florida house earlier this year to State Rep. Jose Oliva (R, District 110). While Ladra has issues with Lago (the company he has kept, mainly, which include such snakes as campaign operatives Sasha Tirador and Vanessa Brito and Florida Gov. Rick Scott), he has the skills set needed when the new council inherits the problems and financial fiascos that the current administration will leave behind. And Lago is learning. While he has already tackled issues like budget management and annexation in Sweetwater, he is a political baby. And, despite wanting to come off like a seasoned veteran, he is really a starry-eyed do-gooder waiting to come out after he absorbs everything he can. Sure, Ladra fully expects him to make this a short-term assignment before he aspires to some higher office, again. But so what? Let him cut his teeth in Hialeah.
The most obvious blunder in these recommendations is Tony "Phony" Vega. While the editorial board applauds his call for a forensic audit so the firefighters can get a new contract, they must have skipped the parts where he agreed with su alcaldito's decision to fire 105 of them while rubberstamping millions of dollars in no-bid contracts. Ladra just has to believe that her friends at the Herald did not know Vega had jumped into the Group 3 race (maybe the election) at the behest of Hernandez and in exchange for a fast-tracking of the permits for his gun range. They did not know that his emails to a firefighter are the key to an investigation by the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit into possible bribery or official misconduct by su alcaldito. Vega, who owns a gun shop cited for building an illegal gun range lst year, told a firefighter in July that Hernandez had offered to help him. "Yo Bud. I met with the Hernandez camp. They are gasping for support and offering sweet deals," Vega wrote to Eric Johnson, an 10-year veteran of the department and vice president of the firefighters union. "My range is getting fast tracked as a result." Lo and behold, after being held up for more than a year and having to demolish the illegal gun range he was cited for, Vega now has his permits (more on that later). Of course, Vega denies having written the emails. Just like he denies writing a post by Tony at MiamiGunRange on the Florida Shooter's Network forum about Hialeah closing down his shop where he urges readers to attend the hearing where they would do that. In fact, Ladra almost nicknamed him "Wasn't Me" because he continues to deny, deny, deny. In that comment, Tony of MiamiGunRange writes, "Folks it's a really bad empty feeling when your elected officials turn their noses at you. I have spent the last 2 days at city hall and the reception has been very mild. Luckily I made a few donations during election season and those guys were more receptive." Did the Herald editorial board google him at all? Because in the same forum thread, he later said "I plan on moving a mile or two up and be free of the political septic pool we call Hialeah." Maybe his residency should be questioned. Ladra supports former cop and HHA employee Danny Bolaños, but a vote for Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz (both pictured above) is still better than a vote for Vega, despite her defense of Robaina.
The nod for former Mayor Julio Martinez also rubs me wrong, but it's not ridiculous. Martinez may very well be the best candidate because of his experience. There's not much time for anyone with a learning curve. Ladra likes Julio Martinez just fine. He's genuinely smart, funny and capable. But I am not so sure he is genuine. Ladra doesn't trust him. He's been known to stab backs and the campaign finance reports to closely reflect those of su alcaldito and Robaina before him. Ladra likes Ramiro Sicre, the longtime city activist and planning board member who brings utility experience and some good ideas. But I'm still on the fence with that one. The only council recommendation I totally agree with, really, is the recommendation of former Councilwoman Cindy Miel over Gavelgirl. Honey over vinegar, as my favorite lickerpoet might say. If only because I believe Miel was robbed of an election once before by Garcia-Martinez, who has become an echo of the Robaina regime and acts like she owns Hialeah.
Contrary to popular belief, Ladra is still on the fence on the mayoral race. Yeah, I know everybody thinks I am with Martinez. But that's only because they have not seen us interact. I have more rapport with Martinez, that's obvious. Almost anybody does because he's a ham. An incredible wealth of historicaly knowledge comes with that ham. But he is a funny, bright, challenging ham nonetheless. And I can be critical and my opinion is sought. Still, I can't seem to write Garcia off once and for all, despite his denial of his PAC, because I like some of his ideas and his overall image and presence and because so many people I respect are behind him. But, Martinez is more fun, more open and might be more capable of finding all the buried bones or holes Robaina left and that Hernandez is trying desperately to keep covered. Still, like I said, I'm waiting on this one. It's not an easy choice.
But if the Herald's endorsements are ever going to be important again, if they are ever going to be taken seriously again, they are going to have to pick more winners.