The sands of the hourglass finally run out in ten days on Jorge Gonzalez‘s impressive, dozen-years-long city managership, one that started with promise, saw unprecedented growth and bloom for the city, yet ended in a sudden, most-unpredictable, regrettable – and wholly preventable – way.
It didn’t have to end this way.
For a man of relative youth (Gonzalez is in his mid-40s), he has already racked up more impressive accomplishments than many administrators, many years his senior, can or will ever lay claim to.
Just glimpse a partial list: Art Basel. The new New World Symphony campus. A new home for the Miami City Ballet. A new regional library. The South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The Super Bowls of 2007 and 2010. New parking garages. A revived and thriving South Pointe Park neighborhood. The renovated North Beach Bandshell. Refurbished Venetian Isles infrastructure. Ever-increasing tourism numbers – and revenue. Higher civic satisfaction with city services.
Three years into his role, he secured for the Beach an “All America City” honor. A year earlier, he had been gifted with the Miami-Dade City/County Management Association’s first-ever Leadership Award. And community satisfaction surveys conducted intermittently throughout his years consistently resulted in good grades from the public in many areas for which his City Hall stewardship was responsible.
“During my tenure,” Gonzalez boasts on his official webpage, “I have made it a priority to ensure that the city achieves its strategic vision by implementing programs and initiatives that have: made us cleaner and safer; made our community more beautiful and vibrant, while embracing our unique history; established us as a cultural, entertainment and tourism capital; promoted our community as an innovative place for business; improved our infrastructure – a challenge in such a dense and active environment; and created the framework to sustain this vision long-term.”
The “vision thing,” as George Bush 41 called it.
Problem was, Gonzalez’s own vision was occluded by a blindness for the seedy, netherworld connivances and criminality that the skunks and scalawags under him had been – likely still are – getting away with. Whose crimes and misconduct were, like termites to wood, gradually eroding the legs out from under his seat of power these last 12 years.
Gonzalez himself was likely as honest as they come, but one-too-many employees under him were not. Over time, sensing they could get away with all sorts of shenanigans without him noticing, or him believing he had mid-level managers to better supervise and root out that stuff, they took advantage of their city manager’s inattention and obliviousness. They proceeded to run afoul of the “organization,” as he called city government, and, in some instances, the law.
The city code and fire inspectors nabbed in the FBI sting in April are but the latest in a string of CMB employees who over time have taken advantage of the Big Guy’s vision being distracted by important matters elsewhere.
This paper’s May exposé of the Code officer – identified in last week’s issue – caught at least 14 times in 2011 napping in his city car while on the clock was another, albeit lesser, example of the mice playing all sorts of games while the cat’s attention was diverted.
But both examples, as well as too many before them during Gonzalez’s tenure (see: Building Department scandal of ’06), cast a spotlight upon this conclusion which one may deduce:
The guy at the top of the totem pole didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the corruption that those at the bottom of the pole were wallowing around in. And that, in the end, was one of the propellant factors that ultimately, abruptly cut short his city managership and brought him down.
For all the splendor of his mighty, numerous past glories, that he should lose his job chiefly due to, among other things, his failure to tackle the corrupt practices of underlings – some, I’ll bet, he never even met or personally knew – is quite an unseemly fall from power for one so graced with competence and the Midas touch of success.
Let all who come after him in the city manager’s job learn this from Jorge Gonzalez’s mistake: Never take your eye off the people under you, even as you’re focused on the big picture. Termites abound. And unless and until you tent the place and exterminate them, they’ll continue to eat away with abandon.
THE SUPREMES HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING…
Each year around this time, as the U.S. Supreme Court issues a slew of decisions and opinions so they can wrap up another session, get out of D.C., and head for their summer vacations (and Stephen Breyer, perhaps, to his Caribbean vacation cottage to lay in wait to be robbed again as he was in February?), we are often again compelled to ponder if our otherwise exemplary Founding Fathers didn’t screw up when they got to that clause of their Constitution draft in which they created the high court to begin with.
For every case they decide which seems to win them the public’s favor, there seem to be a bushel-ful of cases in which they exasperatingly manage to piss people off.
They’ve yet to live down their head-shaking decision in the Citizens United case from 2010. A lot of people remain disinclined to let them forget that doozy anytime soon. And some will never forgive the justices for their Bush-v.-Gore call of 2000.
So it was that this week the Court appeared to do something right for a change and pull this nation away from its drift toward becoming one big, giant penal colony. The Supreme Nine decided that states cannot condemn juvenile offenders to the – lock ‘em up and throw it away – draconian punishment of life imprisonment.
But we’re a nation that went construction-mad in recent decades throwing up prisons and “Supermaxes” galore all across the land, so what to do with all those empty cells? We just can’t let them sit there unoccupied for all the billions in tax dollars our legislators poured into building them.
Here’s my suggestion: Let’s tinker with the statutes and expand the list of crimes we can lock people away for. You want somebody to go away for life, America? For starters, I say we give it to –
– The bankers and financial cheats who crashed Wall Street in 2008.
– The cretins on our roadways who text while driving. Or apply their makeup while driving. Or shave while driving. Or do anything else during driving that distracts from driving.
– Anybody from a reality TV show that seeks to parlay their annoying 15 minutes of fame into anything longer than 15 minutes. (And the death penalty for anybody who was a member of the Jersey Shore cast, Teen Mom, or whose last name is Kardashian.)
THE ASS-WIPE TROPHY
What took you so long, Charles? you’re likely wondering, as I bestow this week’s dishonor to one who has deserved it for so long, Bashar al-Assad, who on Tuesday acknowledged that Syria was in a “state of war.” Never mind that he is the genocidal maniac who made it so.
There is in his future, I trust, a place in the dock at The Hague, this one-time post-med, ophthalmology student until his thug dad Hafez died in 2000, whereupon thug son took over. One only wishes that after being convicted for crimes against his people, he could still be sentenced, in this day and age, to swing from the gallows, like Nazis at Nuremburg were.
For someone who once undertook the study of vision, how incredible that his own political and ethical myopia prevent him from seeing what a study in evil he is, how much blood he has wrung out of thousands, and to what depths he is plunging Syria by his thug family’s continuing, vile grip on power.
PEEVE OF THE WEEK
Bickering couples who, out shopping in public, tote their cats-and-dogs act inside with them, rather than leaving it in the car, or, better yet, at home.
Like the couple the other night who, wheeling their cart down an aisle in the fresh produce section, let loose on one another over what one another liked and disliked and what they should get (good thing they weren’t standing anywhere near the cantaloupes – or any other food item that could easily be turned into a projectile).
It’s one thing entirely to be rudely jarred in a public place by kids behaving badly. Now we have to endure their misbehaving parents, too?
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”
– From the screenplay of You’ve Got Mail, words by the ingenious Nora Ephron.
CORRECTION: In last week’s column, a typesetting error mangled the following:
Remember this from my Oct. 6, 2011, column? “According to Hooters magazine’s annual NBA preview, the Miami Heat will go all the way this year – provided there’s ever going to be an NBA season. The mag picks the Heat to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2 in the finals.” Uncanny, isn’t it?