South Dade Matters

Looking at the World South of Miami: Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami-Dade County.

Tag: Miami Herald

Jeb Gets It Wrong

Big story today: Jeb Bush, former super successful Florida Governor and potential candidate for President n 2016, came out swinging against medical marijuana:

Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire… Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.

SDM is a big Jeb! fan, but this position smacks of elitism, not to mention a lack of situational awareness.

Mr. Bush, are you saying that your prefer all of the illegal, small-scale pot growing and importing over a reasonably regulated legal market? Or, do you believe that nobody is growing, importing or smoking pot in Florida?

SDM can’t help but wonder where all these elitists on the left and the right get their information. It’s as if they either don’t accept the data or prefer to stick their heads in the sand and ignore Florida’s and America’s reality: People – lots of them – smoke marijuana and our social efforts for more than five decades to stop the practice have failed miserably.

Unfortunately for Jeb! supporters, he seems to insert his moccasins into his maw regularly on big issues. Remember this:

Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family…I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.

We understand your point, Mr. Bush, but you just sound like you’ve been living in an alternate universe when you utter these kinds of statements.

SDM Says: Dear Mr. Bush, please look at the world as it is and not as you may want it to be. Adults in this country should be permitted broad latitude when it comes to their preferences – sexual, social, physical – so long as they are responsible and not endangering others. We libertarians would like you to back off the marijuana debate and focus your immense talents on solving the world’s important problems. If you cannot bring yourself to do so on policy grounds, do it to save your political future. You are on the wrong side of history on this one.

 

MDC: Bell v Levine Cava – Battle of Deceptive Mailers

SDM received a mailer from an organization called “Changing Florida’s Future PC” with a Tallahassee post office box listed as its address. Changing Florida’s Future PC is a political action committee run by Mark Herron, a Tallahassee lobbyist.

The PAC lists many contributors. Some of the larger ones:

  • Several local unions ponied up $46,000
  • West Flagler Associates, LTD (the corporation behind the Magic City Casino) donated $30,000
  • A company called Suniland Associates, Ltd with an address of 801 Arthur Godfrey Road, #600 donated $15,000 (in what may be an odd coincidence, the well-known company Terranova Corporation shares the same address)
  • One Julie Levine donated $10,000 despite listing her occupation as “disabled”
  • A Lois J. Levine donated $30,000

Most of the remainder of the contributors is made up of addresses located in New York and Palm Beach, though one address in Palmetto Bay was listed accounting for $50 of the $188,000+ raised by the PAC.

So you’re saying, so what SDM? Everyone knows these political candidates wash money through PACs and Committees and such. We don’t really expect Ms. Levine Cava to act any differently, do we? Ms. Levine Cava wouldn’t ask relatives to donate funds to a PAC to avoid the $1,000 campaign contribution limit, would she?

Let’s hold off on the motivations for a minute.

Instead, let’s take a look at one of the claims made in the mailer. According to Changing Florida’s Future PC, Ms. Bell stated on the record somewhere that with respect to “Arsenic… Class “A” Human Carcinogen…Lynda Bell…is not worried. [SDM deleted the punctuation to make this flow a little.]

The mailer goes on to say: “When arsenic was found at a local public school site, Lynda Bell didn’t want to spend the money to do a proper cleanup. She even fought with the local school board, which knew it would take more than scraping away a little dirt.”

Then the mailer adds a footnote referencing the National Resources Defense Council (presumably for the proposition that arsenic is a human carcinogen); three Miami Herald articles (SDM won’t pay the archive fees, but let’s presume they report on the Homestead school issue); a Miami-Dade ordinance without a reference number (instead the mailer includes an item number and a date – you try to figure out what that is referencing); and finally, the important one: a June 5, 2012 BCC meeting and a YouTube video.

SDM decided first to check out the video, so we carefully inserted the web address, and…nothing. The link produces a dead page saying video not available, or something like it.

So, SDM went back – grumpily, because we really are starting to hate watching these public hearings – and watched the hearing for the famous anti-children message.

On the day in question, Commissioner Bell and her colleagues were listening to Congressional Candidate and former Commissioner Joe Martinez’s fantasy of having Donald Trump build a movie studio at Homestead Air Base. At 2:59:30, Ms. Bell is recognized to blather on about how she loves the idea but has some reservations.

In that context, Ms. Bell notes that Mr. Trump’s team may find arsenic on the site but based on her experience as Mayor one can clean up arsenic. She acknowledges that it’s a long process, but it can be done. The clean up involves removing (scraping up) soil and capping the ground. She notes she was familiar with the process because she had to clean up a school site in Homestead that had arsenic. The exchange ends at 3:02:57.

Now, SDM ain’t no rocket surgeon, but for our lives we cannot figure out how Ms. Levine Cava, er, the PAC, can logically twist this discussion into “Lynda Bell is not worried about arsenic.”

You may find this awfully hard to believe but arsenic is a byproduct of modern agriculture and it is found all over deep South Dade. When land is redeveloped, the topsoil is often removed and replaced to mitigate the arsenic. It is SDM’s understanding that the Homestead site where this particular arsenic was located is now occupied by a district school! (Gasp.)

Is the PAC suggesting the school be shut down? Would Ms. Levine Cava support such a dumb idea? Inquiring minds want to know.

SDM Wonders: Does Ms. Levine Cava agree with the allegations in this mailer? Or would she, as SDM does, find this to be a sleight-of-hand or a misdirection?

Ms. Levine Cava also sent out a mailer in the past couple weeks, which contains her Three-point Plan to Fight Corruption. (SDM has goosebumps!) Here is number 2:

Increase transparency: If a County Commissioner is campaigning or fundraising, the Supervisor of Elections should always be aware of it. My plan would require Commissioners to disclose all solicitation activities so the public is kept informed.

SDM’s Question for Ms. Levine Cava: You cleverly say that “Commissioners” instead of “candidates” should disclose solicitation activities, thereby exempting yourself, for now. Would you voluntarily tell the public that you solicited some wealthy family members and unions to fund a PAC working on your behalf by attacking your opponent? Or, are you going to be just more of the same?

Reprise: Daniella Levine Cava

SDM received a comment over the weekend asking us to look carefully into Daniella Levine Cava’s history presumably because doing so will help us to jump on her bandwagon. Well, SDM already looked into the commission candidate’s background and what we saw unnerved us.

In addition to the Miami Herald report stating that she was put into the race by the local Democratic party, a fact alone that should make every South Dade taxpayer tremble, we also looked into her work history. Today, we will reprise our previous blog for those who are new to this site.

The fact is that Ms. Levine Cava will be a liberal vote on a county commission that is over loaded with like minded tax and spenders. Our distaste for Mrs. Bell notwithstanding, the last thing this community needs is another braying yes vote for every county spending plan.

Levine Cava Campaign Kicks Off (Originally published January 8, 2014)

Yesterday, Daniella Levine Cava kicked off her campaign to unseat the very beatable Commissioner Lynda Bell. SDM is glad she joined the battle but we’re also extremely worried about Ms. Levine Cava’s beliefs and views.

Ms. Levine Cava founded an organization called the Human Services Coalition, which eventually turned into Catalyst Miami. In a recent Miami New Times story about Ms. Levine Cava (who is identified only as Daniella Levine, interestingly), she says that “Catalyst is an emanation of my soul…and I believe in pulling people in the right direction instead of pushing them.”

So what emanates from Ms. Levine Cava’s soul? Here are some examples from Catalyst Miami’s website:

  • The Penny Wise Campaign: “The Penny Wise Campaign was launched when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposed a budget for FY 2009-10 that would eliminate all funding for community-based organizations in social services, environment and the arts. Thousands of Miami-Dade residents organized in response to these plans, attending planning meetings, signing petitions, demonstrating at rallies and collaborating across organization and sector. Thanks in large part to a strong shared message from community organizations, nonprofits were not eliminated from the budget. Instead, 70% of the previous year’s budget amount was preserved. In 2010, Mayor Alvarez proposed cutting 25% of CBO funding. Again, because we organized, our funding was preserved.” (Emphasis added by SDM.)

SDM Wonders: Will Ms. Levine Cava be a permanent vote for the bloated county social services budget of which she was so recently a beneficiary? If so, this view of the county’s responsibilities will be quite different from that of Ms. Bell and many fed up taxpayers, too.

  • The Harvest Democracy Program, according the Catalyst website “helps nonprofits accomplish their missions by incorporating advocacy and policy analysis into their organizational strategic planning, and by being effective advocates at all levels of government.”

SDM Wonders: Surely Ms. Levine Cava recognizes that 501c3 nonprofits are not supposed to be lobbying, so why would Catalyst be encouraging nonprofits to “contact members of their congressional delegation as needed on issues related to a public policy agenda”?

SDM Says: One would be hard pressed to find an issue that divides the right from the left more than Obamacare and Ms. Levine Cava’s Catalyst is the go-to organization implementing this disaster of a program.

There is more, but you get the picture. Ms. Levine Cava represents a sea change in county commission candidates: a true believer in the liberal/progressive world view of government being the ultimate catalyst for social change. Even the left-leaning, former Commissioner Katy Sorenson couldn’t boast such a frightening record before she entered politics.

SDM won’t be climbing on board this particular train.

UM Geologist: The End Is Near

The Miami Herald ran a story over the weekend highlighting a local climate change scientist Dr. Harold Wanless. SDM has heard Dr. Wanless make his doomsday presentation on South Florida a couple times and we always walk away with the same question: If he’s right, then what are we South Floridians supposed to do about it?

EndDr. Wanless played an important role in guiding Miami-Dade County’s task force regarding projections of sea level rise. According to that committee, sea level rise – the level our government should be planning for – will be between three and five feet.

During presentations where SDM was present, however, Wanless has argued that sea level rise may reach 10 feet in a century. Wow. In fact, Wanless believes Miami will not survive into the future:

“The truth is out now. Our tenure on low-lying parts of South Florida is coming to an end. You buy down here at your own peril,” he said. “If communities and governments aren’t fairly warning people, they are at massive risks for lawsuits because the reality is here.”

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about your home value now doesn’t it?

SDM follows climate change science and reads lots of material on the subject of sea level rise. Frankly, we think Dr. Wanless is an outlier in a sea of outliers (pardon the pun).

The Herald story regurgitates what is now a roundly dismissed media overreaction to the news last week that one of the major glaciers in Western Antarctica has passed the point of no return. Several “news” outlets breathlessly reported that the loss of the glacier could cause sea levels to rise as much as 12 feet. One scientist was quoted as calling it a “holy shit” moment.

Unfortunately for the manics, the paper itself dismissed any notion that its models were designed to tell us anything about sea level rise. A second paper was published that same week that sought to analyze the impact of the Antarctic changes. Their results estimated an increase from 0.45 mm per year versus a prior estimates of 0.19 mm per year.

For South Florida, a doubling of the impact from Antarctic glaciers on sea level rise is not inconsequential, but it is also not catastrophic. Currently, sea level rises here 2 mm per year based on historical records dating back to 1896. That works out to less than one foot per century of rise, so even if you go to 2.5 mm per year, you are talking about relatively small numbers.

The real problem with Dr. Wanless’s reckless projections – and of the politicians here locally who are latching onto them – is that insurance companies are now looking harder at re-rating flood risks here. Dr. Wanless and his models are giving insurers just the blessing they need to make our lives more expensive.

Sure, we know there are folks out there who will call SDM deniers and all other kinds of nasty names. Lots of people are emotionally invested into the idea that mankind is destroying the Earth. We get it, but we disagree with the focus on carbon. We think trash is a bigger problem, especially in the developing world.

Where will our ever changing climate take this planet in “several hundred years?” Think about it this way: Miami is only about 120 years old. Go look at historic photos and note the differences in technology that occurred in just the last century alone.

Does any serious person really believe that mankind – if it still exists several centuries into the future – will not have evolved dramatically so as to adapt to whatever the new reality is?

There have always been those who believe the end of the world is right around the corner. More often than not, their dire warnings fail to materialize largely due to the limits of our imaginations.

Obamacare Preview; Question for Levine Cava

SDM heard an exciting story the other day about a young couple that decided to avoid getting married because as a couple their Obamacare premium and deductible would essentially bankrupt them. You see the young lady will be having a baby soon and her solo income allows her to apply for Medicaid, so the young couple is putting off marriage for a while.

Isn’t that just a wonderful American story? A baby born out of wedlock to avoid losing one’s shirt. Thankfully, she has access to Medicaid – a state run operation – so at least she has  some “insurance.” And, Medicaid is such a success, right?

Well, take a look at our future in a story from today’s Miami Herald. If this story looks like a repeat, you are a careful reader of the fish wrapper. This is probably the 10th Miami Medicaid ripoff story SDM has read in the past five years.

Three Miami men charged with Medicare fraud in alleged $190 million scam

 Three Miami men charged with Medicare fraud are the latest of about 40 defendants who have been prosecuted for the alleged $190 million mental-health clinic scam carried out by the now-defunct American Therapeutic Corp.

A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted Roger Bergman, 64, Rodolfo Santaya, 54, and Nelson Rojas, 43, on charges of conspiring to commit Medicare fraud by filing false claims and related offenses during the previous decade.

Bergman, a licensed physician’s assistant, and Santaya, a patient recruiter, were each charged with conspiring to defraud the taxpayer-funded program for seniors. Rojas, the co-owner of a check-cashing store, was charged with conspiring to pay kickbacks to recruiters.

Since Miami-based American Therapeutic was shut down in October 2010, the Justice Department has convicted dozens of former employees and others who participated in the alleged scheme, including one-time CEO Lawrence Duran. He is serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Now doesn’t that just give you lots of warm fuzzies about the future of government-run health care?

For those of you out there who are jumping up and down and screaming “SDM, you are wrong. Obamacare is not government-run health care. The exchanges allow people to shop around for policies from private insurers.”

Well, if that is what you said, you  would be partially correct. The health care exchanges have indeed enrolled people into private health insurance plans, though it is not clear just yet how many of those enrollees have actually paid their premiums.

But, the other function of the exchanges is to determine if enrollees qualify for the expanded benefits Obamacare requires of certain participating states. Obamacare has enrolled millions into expanded Medicaid programs, which according to Obamacarefacts.com, ” increase eligibility levels to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line ($23,550 for a family of four).” (The Florida legislature wisely opted out of expanding Medicaid.)

So guess what we are going to get with more Medicaid enrollees? Maybe some more insured people, though one has to wonder if we are just going to see cost shifting. But, certainly, we can expect more fraud and, sadly for us old fuddy duddies, more kids in single parent households.

SDM Says: You may want to ask commission candidate Daniella Levine Cava her views on this situation since her organization Catalyst Miami is an Obamacare navigator organization.

Daniella Levine Cava – Playing fast and loose?

4:01 PM Update: Apparently, the Levine Cava folks read SDM because they updated their web page and removed her as President. Fortunately, SDM printed a copy of the page this morning so that our readers wouldn’t think SDM had lost it. We’re glad you fixed the web page…hopefully the rest of our questions are moot as well.

Our Board - Catalyst Miami_01212014_Page_1

SDM continues to follow the campaign of Daniella Levine Cava as she attempts to unseat Commissioner Lynda Bell.

Those of you who have been paying attention to Ms. Levine Cava’s campaign may recall that earlier this month she launched her effort amid much fanfare. The Miami Herald reported on her run along with this tidbit: “Levine Cava, an attorney and social worker by training, said she resigned from her Catalyst Miami position at the end of 2013 to concentrate on her political campaign.”

When SDM read this item, we assumed Ms. Levine Cava was quitting the far-left leaning Catalyst, but we were very wrong. As Ms. Levine Cava notes in her website, she founded Catalyst Miami and acted as its “founder and CEO.”

According to the Catalyst Miami website as of today (January 21, 2014) Ms. Levine Cava is still the organization’s President; Gretchen Beesing is the organization’s CEO. Sunbiz.org, the state’s registry for corporations, shows that Catalyst Miami is the fictitious name for the Human Services Coalition, Inc., a Florida nonprofit corporation Ms. Levine Cava also founded.

Last year, the Human Services Coalition reported Ms. Levine Cava as its President, but reported nobody as CEO. This year, the organization reports Gretchen Beeson as CEO, but nobody as President.

SDM Wonders: Has Ms. Levine Cava told the public she was leaving Catalyst, when in fact she was only leaving her post as CEO? Was she ever CEO or was she always President? Is she still President, as the website indicates? If so, is she compensated and/or involved in the management of the organization? Does Catalyst/Human Services Coalition still receive county funds?

SDM Says: Nothing is as it seems in Miami-Dade County.

Bus Driver Sick-out Update – The Obamacare Angle

The School Board added an emergency item to its January 15, 2014 agenda, which authorizes the Superintendent to “investigate the unusual absenteeism in limited, but specific, transportation center(s) on January 10, 2014, and take action as deemed appropriate; and [to c]onduct a comprehensive review of all contingency plans related to the transportation system.”

You may recall that SDM blogged about the decision by large number of unionized bus drivers to purposefully call-in sick as a form of protest. Because they are public employees, union bus drivers are prohibited by Florida law from staging strikes and a sick-out apparently doesn’t qualify though the inconvenienced families would be hard pressed to know the difference.

Initial reports in the Miami Herald carried the ludicrous claim that the drivers took their action because of “frustration over paychecks direct deposited Thursday and received as hard copies Friday and a sudden rise in the costs of benefits.” Can you imagine having to wait a full 24 hours because you don’t want to enroll in direct deposit? Oh the shame.

Later reports dropped the more absurd claim and focused on “anger over a hike in healthcare costs that came amid stalled contract negotiations.”

SDM found the restated reason for the strike, er…sick-out, interesting given our reporting back in November of last year. Recall that “Superintendent Alberto Carvalho notified the school board [that the] increase over 2013 premium equivalent rates inclusive of medical trend, as well as fees and required plan design changes under the Federal Affordable Care Act is 17%.”

Translation: Obamacare jacked up the health care rates of district employees, including school bus drivers.

Now, SDM is going to take a WAG and say that most of the bus drivers at the district – and probably most MDCPS employees – voted for Mr. Obama. Why, then, would they take out on innocent children the expected result of their vote?

A Palmetto Bay resident wrote to the Miami Herald last week asking for leniency for the bus drivers who involved themselves in this extra-legal action (extra-legal because it’s outside their contract). She wrote:

Shame on Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo for seeking penalties against the 242 bus drivers who called in sick in order to protest management’s refusal to negotiate decent wages and to mitigate a 17-percent increase in their healthcare premiums.

Curbelo, who is most likely still miffed that bus drivers and others are not outsourced employees, should be taken to task for causing the bus drivers to be sick. It is School Board members who set negotiation policies. The remaining bus drivers who didn’t call in sick should be grateful to those who have helped to push their agenda forward. No School Board employee desires to inconvenience students and their parents, but being denied a decent living wage is a far greater “inconvenience.”

SDM takes note that the writer didn’t connect the dots to Obamacare, which seems a little unfair since she is quite happy taking a shot at the School Board Member who had nothing to do with raising the insurance premiums. But what really galls is the discounting of the district’s customers in this “ends justifies the means” rationalization – those lowly students and parents who are trapped by the behavior of a bunch of union thugs. And, accusing a school board member for causing the sick-out is…well, just sick in and of itself; sort of like saying an abused spouse caused the beating.

SDM Wonders: What if one of those kids had been injured as she made her way to school? Would that kind of inconvenience be enough for someone to treat this illegal union action seriously? If the Superintendent fails to respond strongly to the sick-out, will he merely be encouraging a repeat of the dangerous behavior in the future?

SDM Says: We as parents place our children in the hands of these bus drivers on a daily basis so that we can go to work and earn enough money to pay the taxes that pays their salaries. If some of these drivers don’t want to treat this responsibility with the seriousness that it deserves, then the district should find employees who will honor their commitment to the children.

First Quarter-Million to Downtown or Down the Drain?

And so it begins…

The Palmetto Bay village council will hold a special call meeting on Thursday, January 23rd at 7 p.m. to take up four proposed expenditures totaling more than a quarter-million dollars:

  • A “market absorption study” for $34,100 and $120,000 to prepare “land development code provisions and an amended zoning map reflective of the downtown redevelopment task force recommendations.” Both jobs will be done by Bermello Ajamil & Partners, a politically connected “multidisciplinary design firm” located in Coral Gables. [SDM Wonders: We are not aware that the council has changed the zoning downtown, yet. Wouldn't it make more sense to hire the firm after the council reviews and adopts the changes? Or, have we outsourced zoning code amendments to the DRTF? If the council fails to adopt the DRTF proposals, will the village be wasting $120,000?]
  • $60,000 for “a concurrency review and capacity study, and to prepare any amendments necessary to the village’s comprehensive plan elements and future land use map consistent with that study and any other studies.” This work will be done by another politically connected firm, Kimley Horn. [SDM Wonders: Why do we need two firms working on connected projects? The village is going to have BAP look at market absorption and zoning changes and then have Kimley Horn work on the CDMP and concurrency. Why not have one vendor do the entire project since they are linked? And, for that matter, why not have the village staff do the work? This is starting to look like a consultants' relief act.]
  • $39,725 to Marlin Engineering for the notorious traffic study. [SDM Wonders: The Vice Mayor asked a very good question when he wondered about how useful a traffic study would be given that so much change is expected down the road. The Manager says this study will establish the baseline. Is a baseline worth almost forty grand?]

In the blink of an eye, three local consulting firms snatch up $253,825 of the village’s ebbing reserves. All of this work is probably necessary if one buys into the DRTF’s vague master plan. One has to ask whether putting this project on such a fast track makes sense since the council has really been left in the dark.

SDM Says: The village council – and especially Vice Mayor Dubois – should tell us at this meeting that they feel comfortable with the DRTF’s work so far and that they have bought-in to the DRTF’s plan. We point especially to the Vice Mayor because he has been the most vocal in his questioning of the DRTF. SDM has heard a rumor that this meeting was scheduled without the Vice Mayor’s approval and that he may not be in attendance. If so, this will look more like a railroading than a deliberative discussion.

Public Works Building Highlighted in the Miami Herald – and Not in a Good Way

Did you catch the story on page 20A of the Miami Herald on Sunday? SDM has been frantically searching the interwebs for a copy to no avail…you might want to rummage through your trash, assuming you still get a hard copy of the Herald delivered.

The story lays out the village’s decision to accept some federal money that it will use to pave over most of the green space in its Public Works building. You say you didn’t even know Palmetto Bay had a public works building? Neither did SDM, who think of ourselves as paying very close attention.

Apparently, early on in the village’s life, the council purchased a private residence that it converted to office space for the Public Works Department. [SDM Wonders: Did the village hold a zoning meeting for that little change?]

It also appears that over the years the department has been parking all kinds of trucks and equipment at its HQ, which SDM is also sure is totally legal from a zoning standpoint. [Sarcasm. Imagine if a particular private school had done the same thing on its property!]

Then, some federal grant money became available and the village decided to invest the money in the Public Works HQ. At least a portion of the funds will be used to pave the HQ parking lot. [SDM says "parking lot," but our imagination tells us what we are really talking about is paving the front or rear yards, or both. Will the site still have sufficient on-site drainage and pervious area? Or is the village exempting itself from these life-safety-health requirements?]

The upshot of the story – and please forgive us if our summary so far is either incomplete or incorrect in the minor details, we are working from memory – the upshot is that the village was required by federal law to reach out to their neighbors before proceeding with this project. A Herald reporter contacted the neighbors and found – surprise, surprise – they knew nothing of their good neighbor’s plans!

SDM would like to chastise the Village Manager Ron Williams on his failure to follow the law, but his ignorance of the outreach and other requirements of the grant seems part of a larger problem with this federal stream of money. Other local municipalities have been running around spending this money without following federal law either. It’s a conspiracy of dunces, one might say while mangling the title of a wonderfully funny  novel. [If you've never read Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, you owe it to yourself to do so.]

Where SDM feels entitled to chastise Mr. Williams is that he didn’t reach out to his neighbors of his own volition. Wouldn’t you want to know what the village had planned for a facility near your home, out of common courtesy if not political behind-covering?

SDM doesn’t know precisely what is going to be done to the Public Works building, but we know this for sure: Mr. Williams and his staff owe the village an explanation and toot sweet. In the meantime, he ought to visit with his neighbors…and bring some flowers as peace offering on behalf of the rest of us.

South Dade Politics Edition

Palmetto Bay Campaign Update

The Miami Herald ran a story today noting that two candidates had filed to run (again) for Palmetto Bay village council. The always colorful David Zisman is attributed as admitting that he ran for mayor in 2010 as a “‘protest’ after the then council voted against granting him a setback variance.”

How odd is it that Zisman would run around the village merely to be a pain in the backside of the other mayoral candidates? SDM doesn’t recall him telling the voters his candidacy was merely a protest.

But what really knocked SDM for a loop was this comment:

Palmetto Bay’s budget is “bloated,” Zisman told the Miami Herald, as more staff has been hired unnecessarily and money has been pumped into projects that are not needed.

“There’s probably $1 to $2 million that has been wasted on hiring people who we don’t need and who don’t do anything for us,” he said.

Huh? Palmetto Bay’s council voted to spend $14.2 million during this budget year, divided one-third to salaries and two-thirds to operational costs. Reducing that budget by 15% would be significant, especially given Mr. Zisman’s commitment to maintain the $2.5 million reserve depletion to be spent on downtown redevelopment.

SDM Wonders: Where would Mr. Zisman cut to achieve a 15% reduction? Or, is he throwing around numbers as a political ploy?

Now just to head off any criticism of this blog, SDM believes Palmetto Bay has grown like a weed under the current management and needs to be trimmed back. However, a 15% cut would be both extremely painful and would fall disproportionately on services that village residents enjoy. To be fair, Mr. Zisman did not say that he would attempt to cut the entire amount in one year, but such a comment certainly deserves further clarification from the candidate.

As to Karyn Cunningham, SDM would like to see something more than nebulous calls for “inclusiveness…leadership and direction.” SDM was very impressed by Ms. Cunningham’s campaign two years ago and we encourage her to clearly and specifically tell us how she is going to make Palmetto Bay’s government better and leaner.

Levine Cava Campaign Kicks Off

Yesterday, Daniella Levine Cava kicked off her campaign to unseat the very beatable Commissioner Lynda Bell. SDM is glad she joined the battle but we’re also extremely worried about Ms. Levine Cava’s beliefs and views.

Ms. Levine Cava founded an organization called the Human Services Coalition, which eventually turned into Catalyst Miami. In a recent Miami New Times story about Ms. Levine Cava (who is identified only as Daniella Levine, interestingly), she says that “Catalyst is an emanation of my soul…and I believe in pulling people in the right direction instead of pushing them.”

So what emanates from Ms. Levine Cava’s soul? Here are some examples from Catalyst Miami’s website:

  • The Penny Wise Campaign: “The Penny Wise Campaign was launched when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposed a budget for FY 2009-10 that would eliminate all funding for community-based organizations in social services, environment and the arts. Thousands of Miami-Dade residents organized in response to these plans, attending planning meetings, signing petitions, demonstrating at rallies and collaborating across organization and sector. Thanks in large part to a strong shared message from community organizations, nonprofits were not eliminated from the budget. Instead, 70% of the previous year’s budget amount was preserved. In 2010, Mayor Alvarez proposed cutting 25% of CBO funding. Again, because we organized, our funding was preserved.” (Emphasis added by SDM.)

SDM Wonders: Will Ms. Levine Cava be a permanent vote for the bloated county social services budget of which she was so recently a beneficiary? If so, this view of the county’s responsibilities will be quite different from that of Ms. Bell and many fed up taxpayers, too.

  • The Harvest Democracy Program, according the Catalyst website “helps nonprofits accomplish their missions by incorporating advocacy and policy analysis into their organizational strategic planning, and by being effective advocates at all levels of government.”

SDM Wonders: Surely Ms. Levine Cava recognizes that 501c3 nonprofits are not supposed to be lobbying, so why would Catalyst be encouraging nonprofits to “contact members of their congressional delegation as needed on issues related to a public policy agenda”?

SDM Says: One would be hard pressed to find an issue that divides the right from the left more than Obamacare and Ms. Levine Cava’s Catalyst is the go-to organization implementing this disaster of a program.

There is more, but you get the picture. Ms. Levine Cava represents a sea change in county commission candidates: a true believer in the liberal/progressive world view of government being the ultimate catalyst for social change. Even the left-leaning, former Commissioner Katy Sorenson couldn’t boast such a frightening record before she entered politics.

SDM won’t be climbing on board this particular train.

Daniella Levine Cava – P.P.P.P.P.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance is an ancient maxim often cited after one fails to plan properly and faces the fallout from a poorly planned decision.

SDM read in the Miami Herald that Commissioner Lynda Bell will soon find herself head-t0-head with a Democratic party candidate:

Daniella Levine Cava opened a fundraising account Friday and plans to kick off her campaign Tuesday. Levine Cava is the founder and former head of the social services agency Catalyst Miami, formerly known as the Human Services Coalition.

Behind Levine Cava’s campaign is a concerted effort by liberal progressives in Miami-Dade to challenge the conservative Bell, a one-term commissioner whom they view as vulnerable. While the commission race in nonpartisan, Bell is a registered Republican and Levine Cava is a Democrat.

Levine Cava’s run against Bell has the backing of the Democratic Party’s organization, with Christian Ulvert, the state party’s political director, serving as her chief strategist. The Miami-Dade Democratic Party, which didn’t even run a candidate in the past two mayoral elections, has been stepping up its involvement in county politics.

Funny thing about Levine Cava’s ties to the Democratic Party is that the county commission is a non-partisan office and the parties are not supposed to be involved in these races. Ms. Bell certainly used her ties to the Republicans in her last campaign so maybe Levine Cava figures what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

What’s abundantly clear about Ms. Levine Cava’s entry into the commission race is that she has been carefully planning her campaign. One example, Ms. Levine Cava purchased her Palmetto Bay home ($1 million+) in November, 2012. A commission candidate must be a resident of the district for six months before the qualifying date. In this case, a candidate would need to move into the district no later than December 3, 2012.

A second little factoid in the Miami Herald article that indicates prior planning is that Ms. Levine Cava quit her day job at the end of 2012, which will allow her to run for office full time. The article doesn’t say if she will resume her previous career after the election. Neither does it say whether her previous employer receives county funding, but perhaps we will learn more from the campaign trail.

The final indicator of prior planning is that newly elected Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter, who received lots of help from the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, appears to have signed on to the Levine Cava campaign bandwagon.

SDM Wonders: Did Levine Cava play a role in defeating Commissioner Bell’s husband in the recent Homestead election? Is Porter’s support payback to Levine Cava, to the Democtats, or both?

SDM Says: On the one hand, we should all be relieved that Commissioner Bell is facing a tough re-election campaign. She’s not a favorite of this blog and is in way over her head. But will the price for getting rid of Bell be too high? Does the county need – or can it stand, really – a tax and spend liberal Democrat back on the commission? Seems to us that the door may be open for a visible third option to rise up. Are you listening Mayor MacDougall?

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