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Written by Jack King   
July 2009

While you’re in cool North Carolina, local politicos will be making hot deals -- for themselves

It’s July and the silly season (political version) is fully upon us. This is the time of year when our local politicians believe that we are not only stupid, but we’re also out of town on vacation and they can do anything they want because no one is watching. For those of you not as old as I am, that’s what happened to Coconut Grove in August 1925, when the City of Miami held an election to annex the Grove. No one was here to vote against it.

City politicos found this ploy so successful that they’ve used it virtually year since then to cut sweetheart deals for themselves while sticking it to their constituents, those morons.

This year looks to be no exception. The operators of a Coconut Grove marina that sits on city land decided several years ago that they would like to have a four-story office building right on the water. The rationale was that they needed the space for boat sales and executive offices. Forget the fact that they already had about 10,000 square feet of empty office space.

The issue has been bouncing around city hall for about two years now, morphing with modifications to make it more palatable, but it always seems to come back looking like the thing it is: an office building on city parkland overlooking Biscayne Bay. The operators tried to sneak it through again at the last commission meeting in June. Thanks in no small part to the effort of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the issue now appears to be dead, at least for the moment.

I guess the campaign contributions the operators made to the three clowns -- Commissioners Joe Sanchez, Angel Gonzalez, and Michelle Spence-Jones -- didn’t quite get the job done. Hey guys, pony up more cash and try again!

* * *

Most everyone in Florida knows that Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is leading the Democratic field in the run for governor. She is from Tampa and is still trying to find her way around South Florida politics. It really showed last month when her team sent out invitations to a fundraiser hosted by two of Miami’s least reputable characters, Johnny Winton and Seth Gordon. Winton went a few rounds with airport police, lost his job as a Miami city commissioner, and pled out to lesser charges that didn’t include head-butting a cop.

The Sink campaign quickly removed Winton from the host committee, but kept Gordon. And then Gordon defended Winton by telling the Herald: “So he mouthed off to a cop. Tempers flared and people misbehaved, but it was no high crime and misdemeanors.” I always find it interesting when Gordon defends people, usually his public-relations clients, for their less-than-stellar behavior. He did it again in late June when Sink booted George Lindemann as co-chair of the very same fundraiser. Lindemann, as reported in the Herald, was convicted of insurance fraud in 1996 after ordering the death of a valuable horse. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison. “George doesn’t deserve to continue to be a punching bag,” Gordon told the Herald. In 2000 Gordon himself was yanked from the campaign staff of State Attorney Kathy Rundle after Miami-Dade homicide detectives informed her that Gordon remained a suspect in the 1975 murder of his first wife. (Gordon was never charged and has denied any involvement in the crime.)

Gordon heads up the PR firm of Gordon Diaz-Balart and represents heavy-hitter clients who want to pave over all of Miami, and politicians who can help them do it. Oh yeah, that Diaz-Balart is Tia Diaz-Balart, wife of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. Watch your step, Alex.

* * *

Florida’s U.S. Senate race is already generating a lot of interest, at least among Republicans. Marco Rubio, the Republican version of a Christian Atilla the Hun, has garnered some serious right-wing support from the likes of Mike Huckabee and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford. (Let me repeat the warning I gave to Alex Sink: Watch your step, Marco.)

They know that Rubio already has 20 percent of the Republican primary vote. Conventional election wisdom says that would be a great base upon which to start building. Unfortunately the other 80 percent of the party thinks he’s a right-wing nut job. And they’re right.

So on the other side of the Republican coin we have our wonderful governor, Charlie Crist. He got elected primarily because he’d never been indicted and has done nothing wrong. He’s done nothing right, either. As a matter of fact, he’s just done nothing, period. Crist may be a really nice guy, but the campaign, especially the primary, will expose him as lightweight and Rubio as a nut case. If the Democrats can get through the process without a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Florida will then have two Democratic senators, although I often wonder about Bill Nelson.

* * *

As a write this I’m in Chicago on a beautiful summer day. Yesterday I went to a White Sox game (the Cubs are out of town) because I believe that baseball should be played outside and during the day. On the way to the stadium, I got a tour of McCormick Place, Chicago’s convention facility. The operation is 2.6 million square feet and hosts more than 3 million visitors each year. And when I say 3 million, I mean 3 million who are actually registered to attend the conventions, not bogus estimates that come out of the Greater Miami Visitors and Convention Bureau. This place actually works.

My friend here says all of Chicago loves the convention business because it really does generate jobs and keeps the restaurant business (and others) busy all year. It’s such a simple concept: Build something that will actually bring visitors to your area and let them spend money. If we would build a convention facility like Chicago’s, we could really generate enough money to pay for the Marlin’s stadium. Somehow I think we are going about this backwards.


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