South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Miami Herald

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?

PB: Lawyers Galore – Danger Lurks

The Miami Herald delivered the news over the weekend that Palmetto Bay has gone from a desert of lawyer options to an oasis full of them. Here are the council’s new options with some commentary from SDM:

  • John Herin Jr. of Gray Robinson. Herin currently represents Palmetto Bay as interim village attorney. He is also the city attorney for Doral and Marathon. [Mr. Herin has located a municipality almost directly between his two big clients, but one has to wonder if he can maintain three cities separated by such a long drive. The poor man's car must groan every time he gets in.]
  • Quentin E. Morgan of Brinkley Morgan. [SDM's Google search says Mr. Morgan has been practicing for about 13 years and was an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Plantation.]
  • Jeff Cazeau of Lydecker Diaz. Cazeau currently serves as city attorney for Florida City. [Cazeau's bio indicates that he is ex-military (Navy) and worked on Luther "Luke" Campbell's mayoral campaign. Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and prominent Democrat is a name partner in Mr. Cazeau's firm.]
  • Hugo Alvarez of Alvarez & Barbara. [Mr. Alvarez's firm bio does not indicate any experience in municipal law, though he has lots of experience with litigation. PB's mayor should love him. Mr. Alvarez may be counting on a push from his law partner, Francis Suarez who sits on the Miami City Commission.]
  • Dexter W. Lehtinen. Lehtinen is married to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican congresswoman who represents the area. He is a former Florida senator and representative as well as a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. [Mr. Lehtinen needs little introduction. He would give Palmetto Bay instant credibility with Republicans around the country, though his practice with the Miccosukees ended on a very sour note. He certainly boasts experience with complex political environments.]
  • John C. Dellagloria, who in the past has served as an attorney for several municipalities, including South Miami and North Miami. He also is a former assistant city attorney for Miami Beach. [Of all the current candidates, Mr. Dellagloria's background seems deepest to SDM. He's worked for both sides of the table (cities and developers) so he ought to have some understanding of the challenges involved in converting the Franjo Triangle. His long history may come back to bite him, however. One of his major clients was the Swerdlow Group, which has been developing property near the FIU north campus. Not all the press for that project has been good.]

On the positive side, Palmetto Bay has some pretty good options to consider, but a final choice may cause damage to some important people. For example, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen may not take too kindly to a brush-off of her husband, especially since the village is asking her to pressure the postal service. Welcome to the big leagues.

SDM Says: Mayor Stanczyk and her colleagues will be facing a tough set of choices. We suggest you take some time and spend some money on a thorough background check of each candidate, including a careful search of relevant news items and personnel files (municipal human resource files are public records subject to review). You should also make sure the principal will be sitting in the chair and not a firm associate. Don’t leap before you look.

 

PB: Does “quality of life” include life itself?

SDM can be cynical with the best of them, but reading the Miami Herald Neighbors over the weekend caused even our jaded world view to sharpen.

The Herald story discussed the location of two new fire stations to serve Northeastern Palmetto Bay/Southeastern Pinecrest and another for Southeastern Palmetto Bay. Mayor Shelley Stanczyk seems to have adopted a more enlightened position on locating these facilities. According to the Herald, Mayor Stanczyk “supports the initiative to open more fire stations in the village” noting that “if all units are out from both stations, you have to wait[which is] where the long response time comes from.”

Probably the best location for a new station serving the northeastern portion would be the USDA property at SW 136th Street. Apparently, the feds are willing to part with a couple acres to help the community. The problem? A tiny group of loud Gables residents claim that locating a station on the USDA property would “impact the neighborhood’s quality of life as well as the environmental ecology of the land.”

Impact the quality of life? Surely, locating a fire station nearer your home would positively impact the quality of one’s life. Just ask Esther Copeland who attended a public hearing on the fire station issue. She told the Herald that her husband died of a heart attack back in March. Fire rescue did not arrive to her home until 14 minutes passed. SDM sends along our deepest sympathies. We can’t imagine how long that 14 minutes must have felt.

SDM Says: Mayor Stanczyk needs to lead the community to a constructive, near-term solution to resolve the fire station question. This is what a mayor does, so please get on with it.

 

Gimenez Vetoes Pay Increase for County Workers

The Miami Herald reported over the weekend that, as expected, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed elimination of a 5% pay surcharge each county employee is taxed to support the county’s health care pool.

Mr. Gimenez inherited the 5% surcharge from the Alvarez administration run by financial chaos-maker George Burgess – the very same individual most blame for the disastrous, multi-billion dollar Marlins stadium fiasco. At the time, Gimenez was a commissioner.

What always struck SDM as strange about this financing scheme is its social engineering component. Instead of paying for health care according to usage (i.e., a family of four pays more under the county plan than a single person), this surcharge simply taxes each pay check a flat fee.

The problem with paying this way is that some employees are essentially paying tens of thousands of dollars for health care plans they could purchase for much less in the private market. An employee making $60,000 pays a surcharge of $3,000 on top of her health care premiums, which have grown along with the market for years already.

Employees are rightly irritated that the promised abatement of this scheme, originally set to expire on Jan. 1, will be delayed yet again because the county administration refuses to make the difficult spending cuts necessary to balance the budget otherwise.

This weekend’s article brought out an even more ridiculous suggestion from Mr. Gimenez, a registered Republican no less: To subsidize lower income workers even more. So now, some lucky workers will receive a subsidy to offset perhaps half of the cost of their 5% surcharge. Sounds like the Obamacare financing program, doesn’t it?

Mr. Gimenez claims to be acting based on the expressed wishes of the commission, which he interprets as helping the lowest paid county workers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with such a charitable notion, but why create an even more complex financing mechanism when the better option would be to keep to the plan and eliminate the failed surcharge? And, isn’t it a bad idea to inject charity into a workplace? That is surely to become a slippery slope.

The truth is that too many elected officials claim the mantle of a political party – even in nonpartisan commission elections – and then govern as if these parties have no ideological principles whatsoever.

SDM Says: Mr. Gimenez was well within his rights to veto the commission’s improvident decision to eliminate the surcharge while at the same time straitjacketing the mayor. Instead of creating a mish-mash of arbitrary subsidies, the mayor would better serve the tax payers and employees by eliminating the surcharge and cutting some more fat from the county budget. This is how a Republican who claims to be concerned about small government would respond to the challenge.

 

Lynda Bell’s Country Tentacles

Here at SDM, we talk politics with enough insiders to know one thing about Commissioner Lynda Bell: she sees Palmetto Bay as a key to holding her seat.

If you doubt us, take a look at where her district office is located. Yep, it’s right there in the center of Palmetto Bay next to the Starbucks at approximately SW 148th Street. She moved her office from its customary (and cheap) location at the South Dade Government Center because she wanted to physically plant herself in the heart of District 8′s voters.

It’s also no secret that lots of Palmetto Bay’s backroom wheeler-dealers have cozied up to Mrs. Bell, viewing her as a conservative alternative to South Dade’s historically left-wing commission representatives.  SDM sympathizes with the last part, for sure.

But after reading about Commissioner Bell’s latest familial favoritism involving her daughter (for another example see Lynda Bell’s Misuse of the Public Trust, which describes Bell’s naming of a public housing project after her mother), SDM has to wonder Bell’s Village People ought to reconsider their support.

The Miami Herald and Eye on Miami have detailed recently Commissioner Bell’s weird relationship to the City of Sweetwater, which eventually caused the Police Benevolent Association to object to a promotion granted to Bell’s daughter. Take a gander at these interwoven connections:

El Nuevo Herald weeks ago requested access to the personnel file of Officer Méndez, the daughter of County Commissioner Lynda Bell, as well as the files of other officers.

However, police spokesperson Jorge Fernández de Lara said this week that “higher authorities had requested that police personnel files and other documents” be kept secured because they could become evidence in an investigation.

Fernández de Lara, who did not identify the “higher authorities,” said those documents are locked in the department’s evidence room despite the fact that they are public records.

Méndez’s family has also received other benefits from the city of Sweetwater.

In October of last year, the city gave a contract to Fence Assured LLC, a fence installation company owned by Méndez and her husband, Damian.

City officials could not specify on Friday how much money the city has paid to Fence Assured since the signing of the contract, but the company has installed several wire-mesh fences at several Sweetwater properties, including a piece of land on Northwest 17th Street that, according to images published on the company’s website, are used by two city helicopters.

In February, Bell promoted legislation at the county commission to lift a ban on wire-mesh fences at homes without revealing her daughter’s business in this field. The Eye on Miami blog first reported on the fencing company last week.

Méndez started working as a police officer for the city of Sweetwater in January 2011, less than a year after being fired from the Homestead Police Department. Méndez lost her job as a reserve officer in Homestead, where her mother had been mayor, after allegedly threatening her boyfriend with a gun in February 2010. Méndez’s lawyer argued then that it had been in self-defense.

SDM understands how a mother would want to protect her child, but this story sounds like a bad country song.

I was drunk the day I threatened my old boyfriend,

So Homestead kicked me off of the force.

But before my defense lawyers got to the police station,

My mama got me a Sweetwater job!

And I’ll hang around as long as they will let me.

And we’ll fence every city lot for the right price.

You don’t have to call me Lynda’s daughter,

You should never even use my maiden name!

SDM Wonders: How did South Dade end up with two jokes on the ballot at once? We really need a break from Lynda Bell and Joe Garcia.

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