Friday, May 25, 2007

Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer, a stand-up guy by gimleteye

Most people are unaware how laws that barricade a powerful elite behind the walls of power turn our democracy brittle as burnt toast.

Recently, Miami-Dade county commissioners passed a new ordinance making it a criminal offense when signature gatherers for ballot referenda “lie” in the course of collecting signatures from citizens.

The elite don't like ballot referenda, especially when they take aim at the prerogatives of power. But petitioning our government is a constitutional right.

The law promulgated by Florida's most populous county was passed in a fit of vengance against citizens who had the temerity to launch a recall effort against a powerful incumbent county commissioner, Natacha Seijas.

In leaving interpretation of the new measure to police officers who may be called to investigate "lies" in the course of a political action to gather signatures for a referedum campaign, local officials dragged democracy into the murk like alligators pulling innocents off canal banks.

Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer, in a lawsuit asking the court to overturn the measure, is pulling citizens back from the brink. Good for him!

Eyeonmiami frequently commented on the tactics, including illegal ones, used against signature gatherers in Seijas' district, in Hialeah.

Although the recall effort failed, swamped by a tidal wave of contributions from powerful developers and builders who form Seijas' core base, the new law, vetoed by Mayor Carlos Alvarez and over-ridden, introduces the prospect of further intimidation on behalf of a political elite.

Mayor Dermer understands the importance of citizen petitions against their own government. Active involvement in a petition drive to stop the rampant over-development of Miami Beach catapaulted Dermer into public office, where he has served two terms as a popular mayor.

Dermer is right to challenge the outrageous manoever by the county commission to limit citizens’ constitutional right to change their own government.

The Miami Herald has never commented on the very significant way this issue has forced to the surface the ongoing conflict between the development lobby and citizens.

Miami New Times on the other hand reports this week, “Six months have elapsed since County Commissioner Natacha Seijas survied a recall vote. But that hasn’t stopped public corruption investigators from hounding the people involved in the political action committee that targeted her.”

The state attorney’s public corruption division has failed to launch a similar probe against Ken Forbes, whose PAC has already been investigated by the Florida Division of Elections and deemed to be in violation of Florida Elections Law.

Forbes’ PAC tried to launch a retaliatory recall campaign against Pat Wade, one of the leaders of the Seijas recall attempt. Wade serves as an elected representative of a local zoning council.

A related article in Miami New Times calls attention to the inconsistency, “John Wade claims Centorino is not investigating Forbes because Wade and his wife were members of the anti-Natacha Seijas political action committee currently under investigation (by the state attorney’s office). “There seems to be a double standard here,” Wade complains, “as if the state attorney’s office is picking and choosing who they want to prosecute.”

Most people don’t get involved in politics in Miami because they see it is a dirty business. Perception is correctable. What cannot be corrected is when laws are changed to protect a powerful and insulated elite. In this case, it is easy to see why voters would believe that the Miami Dade State Attorney's Office could be manipulated by bitter politicians, and that the law could be used as a cudgel against enemies of the state.

The explanation, on the other hand, by the Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office why it is investigating one political action committee and not the other, is quite simply: inadequate.

Thanks to Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer for standing up in a way that counts.


Anonymous said...

I wished and wished and wished and one day, voila, there was a picture of Miriam Alonso splashed across the cover of New Times, being hauled off to jail. I'm visualizing the same for Seijas. In the meantime, and to your point, what the commissioners passed is reprehensible. As with any and all documents asking for one's signature, read the bloody thing before you sign it. If you're not sure you understand, walk away. Hire a lawyer to interpret. This action is a mean and low down attempt to stifle democracy. Ahh, right, we are, after all, in the age of "Bush"...

Anonymous said...

David Dermer: What a interesting guy, Democrat turning Republican. Really one of a kind.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mayor Dermer. At least one person has the backbone to stand up to the repressive County Commission who seems to have forgotten we live in a democracy.
On the Seijas recall, I remember her on Spanish language media begging people to call her office if they signed the petition "in error". I think a commissioner cannot use their county resources for political purposes, but she did and the State Attorney looked the other way. Seijas and Commissioner Martinez were publically spouting about fraud before the petitions were even submitted. The investigators (and probably Seijas) used intimadation to scare people into saying they did not sign the petitions.Isn't that what the elections department does; verify signatures? According to Miami New Times, the Hialeah police harrassed the circulators. Seijas blasted the recall committee members each time she had the floor of the dais. She made no bones about "taking care of the Wades".This whole Seijas petition thing reminds me of the political culture in Cuba and it's damn scary.People are actually afraid to not vote for her because some think she will find out and punish them by withholding their lunch programs and public housing. Since she has a track record of retalliation, like the Wade recall, maybe the people are right to worry. But as long as Seijas fosters an environment of lies and fear and the State Attorney protects her, she will be re-elected until she decides to give it up.

Anonymous said...

She dont have that old russian name Natasha for nothing. She learned her politics at a good Soviet school before she came here to practice.

Anonymous said...

Today Surfside, Florida has elected officials who talk green but who are beholden and controlled by the overdevelopment crowd, the special interests. Just another place with skewed priorities and lies told to taxpayers and homeowners. It used to be different, when Surfside was an example of doing things RIGHT. Communities all across America can learn from what has been done to try to protect one small community that was targeted for profit maximizing overdevelopment. Now the attack continues but hides behind deceptive labels and tactics. Surfside today is no longer an example for protecting communities. A new mayor and commission have changed the rules to facilitate law changes in favor of developers. Now they are trying to get their terms extended from 2 years to 4 years so they can figurately sell the town out against the best interests of its own residents.

Surfside, Florida had emerged as a leading community in serving the public interest rather than special interests. Courageous, honest, and productive leadership was the hallmark of the Town of Surfside from 1992 - 2004. During that time, Mayor Paul Novack did actual, meaningful public service on the local level and even was a model looked at troughout the western hemisphere. Then, in Surfside, the Town Commission unanimously enact budget corrections and fiscally responsible policies and every year for 12 years the town operated under balanced, stable and efficient budgets, with production of increased levels of town services, and numerous capital projects undertaken and completed that upgraded the parks, playgrounds, streets, drainage system, business district, Veterans Park, Town Hall, and much more, all with no debt, no bonds, and with the building of significant town surplus funds to serve the town's present and future. The town attracted a new Publix and many new restaurants and shops for the business district and made improvements and expansions to town parking facilities. Plans were made for a new town library and hi-tech information center to go on newly acquired property on the west side of Collins Avenue. The town was internationally recognized as a model community, and in 2003 Novack was honored as the state-wide "Community Steward of the Year" in Tallahassee.

Paul Novack received the Community Steward Award for his steadfast advocacy for effective growth management in Surfside. In 1992, Surfside residents overwhelmingly supported a referendum to prevent a twenty-story beachfront condominium. For more than a decade after then, Novack has served as mayor of this small Dade County community for the grand fee of one dollar per year. Throughout his tenure, Novack and the town's commissioners have consistently denied any requests for height and density variances, maintaining heights at twelve stories east of Collins Avenue, and five stories to the west. Nominators wrote that, thanks to Mayor Novack, "the town's zoning code has been consistently, fairly and effectively enforced." Besides that, Novack has maintained a balanced budget without raising property taxes, there is a one-minute emergency police response time, and garbage is picked up six days a week for a nominal fee. During the selection process, 1000 Friends was impressed with Mayor Novack's steadfast determination to uphold the planning and development standards needed to maintain Surfside's distinctive character and scale, noted Pattison. "With his dynamic leadership abilities, commitment to sound planning, and concern for the residents of Surfside, Mayor Novack exemplifies the qualities of a true community steward."

Mayor Novack was elected by the voters six times to serve as mayor, not one variance for height or density or setbacks or uses were ever approved during his tenure, and he retired from office in 2004 with official tributes from the Florida House of Representatives, the Governor of Florida, Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and an official entry into the United States Congressional Record, and honors and thanks from many others from throughout the world.

Now its got leadership that is all about delay profit and self service.

Genius of Despair said...

How did surfside get into this post? The connection being???

Anonymous said...

Surfside belongs here, if you are concerned about good government vs. selfish special interests and how they dominate Surfside's present government which uses mud/smear tactics against anyone who stands in the way of their plodding along the path of greed and disgusting tactics. Surfside is a far different place today than it was a few years ago. It is a bad omen for the county and state.