Watchdog Report: Nightmare of Hurricane Andrew Still an Indelible Mark on South Florida 20 Years Later
By Daniel Ricker
With the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew fast approaching Friday anyone that was here in South Florida on that Aug. 24 evening will never forget the terror of the night and the sound of a freight train next to your pillow, if you had one. As trees snapped as if tooth picks through the night, roofs and homes were destroyed, and many lives were lost and the Category 5 Hurricane pummeled South Dade to bits. Andrew came to South Florida like an arrow to its mark and there was a stillness in the air the day before the landfall that gave the air a certain lightness in the August muggy heat. And I for one still notice this subtle change before a big storm approaches us here in South Florida and for just a second. I remember back to that event, and shudder.
Since then, we have rebuilt the South Florida community but it changed forever with many families leaving and moving to Broward or to other states but the community collectively looked deep into ourselves. And some of the best of Miami emerged in the aftermath as people came together to help neighbors or families now refugees. And the one thing I remember at the end of about 18 months after Andrew was the forever-endless sound of chainsaws in the distance, and then one day. It suddenly stopped and life began to return to normal and for us still here, the event is now decades removed. But if you experienced Andrew you will never forget it and reminds us all that we are just a hurricane away from having such a experience again, that I pray we don’t have again with all my heart. Here is The Miami Herald’s review of the disaster: and Here.
CITY OF MIAMI
Mgr. Martinez must keep required qualifications in place, skill set waivers must be kept to a minimum & Power lunch takes Commissioners Suarez and Sarnoff to Versailles, only discussing the “elections,” says commission chair
When the Miami Financial Oversight Board was created in 1996 by then Gov. Lawton Chiles, one of the first things these people who did not live in Miami implemented, was to get people to run the city that actually had the upper level degrees needed to run the city and even mandated a college degree for the top post of manager, but that tradition is changing as more and more qualification waivers are being approved. And the most glaring example is Jessica Angel-Capo now the interim director of the code enforcement department, a fairly important position, but some of her actions has people questioning her temperament and credentials. And the Watchdog Report has first hand knowledge after observing the woman in a restaurant over a year ago and to say she was out of control in the public setting is an understatement. As she loudly used the F bomb constantly for over an hour, as she downed her drinks with coworkers and a father with his daughter next to me had to move farther away so the girl did not have to listen to this crude verbal behavior.
I wrote an editorial on public officials conduct in the public domain after the incident but did not name Capo at the time though I talked to two city staffers with her at the bar and they are both trained attorneys. I pointed out to them this kind of behavior was totally unacceptable and they both agreed, with one of them later moving on to another high profile job and the other man is still with the city. But Miami Manager Johnny Martinez needs to lift the competency bar a little higher within the administration. Since not only is the city in a fiscal budget bind, but residents need to get people with the skill sets they deserve to do the job of running the city and that competency is eroding, and just puts a greater burden on the competent workers and that is a unfair state of affairs, and will lead to needless lawsuits. See Here.
What about past inspections by the Watchdog Report of Miami personnel files?
Back in the 1990s when I first started watching government, one of the first things I did was review about 250 Miami employees’ personnel files every week for about six months and what I found in some ways was shocking. With some city employees listing bogus degrees or major embellishments on their resumes and I actually contacted some of the major universities to verify the credentials and they were all too happy to say who had graduated, and who was a phony. But the exercise opened my eyes and would later result in the Human Resources department confirming these applicants’ credentials before the commission and oversight board approved the hires. For during that time in the old days before the oversight board, political patronage jobs in the old administration was wide spread and led to the $68 million budget meltdown in 1996 that made the city’s fiscal paper become junk bonds and while elected leaders squirmed under the scrutiny of the oversight board at the time. These outside people over the five years were successful in getting Miami solvent again. And the board was dissolved in Dec. 2001 after then Gov. Jeb Bush recognized the city had in fact turned around and had hefty reserves in the bank, and it had become a fiscally sound city again.
What else happened last week?
The Watchdog Report on Election Day decided to go to Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana on Tuesday since Mayor Carlos Gimenez was scheduled to eat lunch there and he did. However, he was not the only one at the iconic restaurant and Miami Commissioners Francis Suarez and Marc Sarnoff were also there with a posse of “friends,” said Commission Chair Suarez. Suarez and Sarnoff the commission vice chair were with a number of heavy weight lobbyists, an affordable housing maven, along with Sarnoff’s wife Teresa and both commissioners were driven to the event by a commission sergeant of arms. Suarez when the Watchdog Report asked what brought this group together said there “was nothing illegal” in them getting together, it was just “friends,” and since both commissioners were attorneys.
They both knew the limitations of discussing policy among themselves out of the sunshine of a public meeting, and they were just talking about “the elections,” he said. Some of the other people at the lunch were Steven Marin, a political operative and elections maven who also is a lobbyist, as well as veteran county lobbyist and attorney Richard Perez who also reiterated it was just “friends getting together.” And another luncheon member was Mathew S. Greer, the CEO of the Carlisle Development Group and while none of this is a violation of state law if no city commission business was discussed. The fact that Perez registered as a Miami lobbyist Jul. 3, for Grove Waterfront, LLC, as did Marin on Jul. 6 and the past controversial Request for Proposal was thrown out and is being rebid. It does make the gathering look odd though Greer is not a registered lobbyist with the city records show. To see who is a registered Miami lobbyist go here.
CITY OF NORTH MIAMI BEACH
Ethics complaint against Mayor Rosner not legally sufficient and dismissed
COE Press release: A complaint (C 12-30) filed against former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner in connection with his membership on the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals was found Not Legally Sufficient and dismissed. A citizen alleged that while he was running for re-election in 2011, Mayor Rosner accepted campaign contributions totaling more than $10,000 from developer Russell Galbut, his family members and various corporations in which he has financial interests. While he lost the re-election bid, Rosner continued serving on the Board of Rules and Appeals and voted in favor of Galbut at two meetings of that board. The County ethics code permits elected officials who are also members of quasi-judicial boards to vote on matters related to campaign contributors as long as the member will not personally profit or be enhanced by the vote.