Last week, Dan Gelber became the mayor of Miami Beach. This week, he is using his new political platform to back former Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn‘s bid for state rep in District 113.
This is Gelber’s first endorsement since his victory Nov. 7, but with 82% of the vote, it probably won’t be his last. Ladra is certain that he’s already gotten calls from congressional candidates in District 27, which include Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and State Rep. David Richardson, whose seat Weithorn is running for.
Gelber will also co-host a campaign kick-off event for Weithorn Wednesday at Meat Market on Lincoln Road.
Read related story: Miami Beach elections end as expected with Gelber, Gongora, Samuelian
“I have known Deede for years and she is uniquely qualified to represent our community in the State House,” said Gelber, who served in the legislature for a decade including as Democratic Leader of the House before he became a state senator.
“She has proven herself a wonderful steward of public dollars, which is something we need desperately in Tallahassee,” Gelber said. “And most importantly she is unafraid to stand up against the wrongheaded ideas that are often born in Tallahassee.”
The election is next November.
Read related story: Will La Gwen’s retreat cause more musical chairs?
Weithorn — who has been running for 113 since 2015 when Richardson was supposed to run for Gwen Margolis‘ senate seat but then didn’t because she didn’t retire — was equally effusive.
“Dan has a distinguished record of public service and I’m proud to call him my mayor,” she said. “It means a lot to me that he was willing to come out in support of my candidacy so soon after winning his own race.”
It certainly gives her kick-off some ooomph.
And Ladra is certain that Comeback Commissioner Michael Gongora will also endorse her — but he only won with 65% of the vote.

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There were no surprises in the Miami Beach elections, which ended Tuesday with Mayor Dan Gelber getting 82% of the vote against three nobodies who each got single digits and former Commissioner Michael Gongora coming back to the dais, as largely expected, with 65% over restauranteur Adrian Gonzalez, who got 35%.
In the other race, Mark Samuelian, who lost his first bid two years ago, came in with 68% over Rafael “Wild Willy” Velasquez, who still got 32% despite having whipped out his penis last month in an ill-fated effort to woo Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
It’s still gonna be awkward for Rosen Gonzalez because she had openly helped Velasquez, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about his willy on the dais.
She also doesn’t have to worry about Mayor Philip Levine messing her up anymore. Levine decided not to run for re-election because, as he announced last week, he is running for governor instead. God help us all.
Read related story: Michael Gongora, Mark Samuelian lead Miami Beach Commission money race
Ladra hopes that this means there is a change in the climate at City Hall, where Levine led with fear and intimidation. Gelber may be his own man or he might be, as some suggest, Levine’s hand-picked successor (after Ricky Arriola tanked in the polls). But he was a senator once and is the son of the great former mayor Seymore Gelber so Ladra expects a lot from him.
Samuelian, too, has a lot to live up to after being endorsed by nearly every former elected in the city. But he lucked out when former Commissioner Michael Grieco — who eventually resigned as part of a deal with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for his PAC’s illegal campaign contribution — dropped out of the race (more on that later).
Can Miami Beach leave all this nastiness in the past and start new with three new electeds on the dais? We still have Arriola and a couple of other Levine puppets doing his bidding up there, but will Gelber make them moot?
The election ended Tuesday as expected but the real political machinations have just begun.

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We’ve been robbed. Cheated!

The four biggest cities in Miami-Dade have elections next month without a single mayoral race. Not really anyway. The four frontrunners have zero or marginal opposition. That means there will be no debates, no conversation about the direction of these cities, no real choice for the voters of Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Homestead.

Also the commission or council races and the charter questions on the ballots in those cities will suffer from the lack of any real mayoral contest, which is always the main attraction.

In Miami, Commissioner Francis Suarez is the presumed winner after Commissioner Frank Carollo, who is termed out this year, failed to throw his hat in the ring. Everyone held their breath til the last minute on the qualifying deadine because Carollo was supposed to challenge Baby X. But many political observers speculate that his brother, former mayor Crazy Joe Carollo, le tiro la jarrita de agua fria by jumping into the commission race in Group 3 (more on that later), because it would be harder to get two Carollos on the dais and even if he did, then what? Yeah, sure, there are three others who qualified for the Miami mayoral race but none of them have raised any money or are considered real candidates, so they will go unnamed. Expect Suarez to get 93% of the vote.

In Miami Beach, former State Sen. Dan Gelber gets a free ride thanks to Commissioner Michael Grieco‘s self destruction with the secret PAC that he denied having anything to do with but that is now under investigation by a really selective State Attorney who has seemed to look the other way at far more egregious PAC problems (more on that later). Again, three others qualified, but, again, they will go unnamed because none has raised more than $6,000 (to Gelber’s $500K-plus account) and their names won’t matter after Nov. 7 anyway.

Read related story: Mystery Miami Beach PAC goes down, but new PAC is up

In Hialeah, Mayor Carlos Hernandez is apparently not termed out, as an attorney for former Mayor Julio Martinez had argued in court, trying to boot the admitted loanshark and absentee ballot bully out of the race. Alas, a judge ruled with the city’s warped thinking, which is that a half a term is not to be counted. Getting Hernandez off the ballot was the only way to get him out of City Hall. It was the only chance anyone had. There’s a lady challenging him, but while she’s very brave (her husband is a city employee), she stands zero chance of making a dent in the Hernandez election armor. That means that he can use more money earmarked for needy kids to give his needy staff vacations in Vegas.

And in Homestead, Mayor Jeff Porter — who has brought some stability to the county’s fourth largest city after the last mayor was arrested for corruption — is automatically re-elected de-facto after nobody dared oppose him.

Yawn.

If it hadn’t been for Annette Taddeo‘s win last month over former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz in the Senate 40 race, this would be the most boring local election year ever.

Not that I don’t like Porter or Baby X or even Sen. Gelber (notice I didn’t include Carlitos because Ladra does, indeed, dislike the Hialeah hoodlum). Those three are all fine gentlemen with good track records, it seems, so far anyway. But I miss the process by which ellos se destacan. I want them to lay out their ideas and defend their positions and plans. You should too.

This just handing them over the seat seems like a bad idea.

It’s also a terrible reflection of our community that we didn’t have more qualified people vying for these important posts.


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After having denied any connection to a mysterious political action committee that raised $200,000  Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, who is running for mayor, admitted last week that he knew the chairman of People for Better Leaders.

Then, just a few days after two Miami Herald reporters forced the admission and made several connections between Grieco and the PAC, the chairman said he was closing the Better Leaders PAC and returning the funds to the donors. 

But there is already another PAC operating that can do some of Grieco’s dirty work in his race for mayor of Miami Beach against former Sen. Dan Gelber. A new PAC created in April also has connections to Grieco.

For months, the commissioner denied having anything to do with the Better Leaders PAC. In January, after an anonymous email blast — which illegally had no disclaimer — made the connections, Grieco told Ladra that he didn’t know anything about Better Leaders or the people behind it. But in an email last week to the Herald reporters, Nicholas Nehamas and Joey Flechas, he said that he did know Chairman Brian Abraham, after all.

Read related story: Miami Beach: Anonymous email attacks Michael Grieco

“I know the chairmen of many political committees, such as John Morgan, Ben Pollara, Brian Abraham, Stephen Bittel, Adonis Garcia and others through my political, personal and professional relationships over the years, so the premise of your question and this article itself merely makes this publication an accomplice to a dishonest attack on me by my political opponent, his consultant, and developer backers,” Grieco wrote to a reporter he accused of being on the other campaign’s payroll.

“As I have demonstrated, this is a textbook case of character assassination, and in any other arena this would constitute an act of slander/libel.”

But he really hasn’t demonstrated anything — except maybe that he’s too defensive about it — and the Herald did a good job of connecting the dots. Such a good job, in fact, that Abraham said he was closing the PAC and returning the money to the donors.

Wonder how many of those donors will turn around and re-contribute that money to a second PAC, Our Time Is Now, which has raised only $10,000 so far — and quickly spent them on consulting and communications by Grieco’s newest political consultant, Pedro Diaz.

This PAC business may be par for the course in some elections, but it’s a big deal in Miami Beach, where they have become political piranhas. They were never looked upon fondly, but became extra sketchy in 2015 after Mayor Philip Levine and then Commissioner Jonah Wolfson collected more than $1 million for their shady Relentless for Progress PAC –and quickly came under fire. They were accused, understandably, of using their office and position to shake down contributions from vendors and contractors who either had business or wanted business with the city. It prompted the city commission to pass an ordinance in January of last year that prohibit electeds or candidates for soliciting PAC funds directly or indirectly. The county also passed an ordinance last year that requires candidates of any municipality to register if they raise PAC cash.

Grieco has not registered, but the Miami Herald reporters got at least one contributor to say that the commissioner himself solicited the contribution, which would be a violation of the Miami Beach ordinance. The commissioner did not return several calls and text messages from Ladra. But in January he said he would not open a PAC and he has since raised more than half a million in his candidate account.

Read related story: Michael Grieco hits $500K, with help from real estate investor

Our Time Is Now is actually an “Elections Communications Organization,” which is a PAC with a different name that operates under a few different rules (for example, you can’t say “vote for” in the propaganda). It opened in April and the only real contribution as of the end of May was $10,000 from TTD, LLC, which is owned by Roger Thomson and James Tyrrell, both of 4271 Alton Road.

Thomson, an attorney active in LGBTQ advocacy who appears to work in the restaurant industry, also gave $10,000 to People for Better Leaders in January. And that’s another connection to Grieco. It also brings Thomson’s investment total to $20K, around the same time that commissioners are considering limits on formula restaurants like Chili’s or Olive Garden in certain areas.

Our Time Is Now spent all $10,000 — $7,500 on May 5 and $2,500 on May 30 — on consulting and communications by Pedro Diaz, a political consultant that just joined Grieco’s team. The PAC is chaired by Mark Rivero, who works with Diaz Consulting Group.

Diaz did not return a call from Ladra, but earlier had told me that he uses a number of PACs for different campaigns. He also represents Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who announced she would run for Congress, and Miami city commission candidate Alex Dominguez.

Our Time Is Now says it will be used for Miami-Dade candidates — which I guess is anybody in Miami Beach as well.

There are three other active PACs in Miami Beach — Beach Residents for Quality of Life, Guardians of Miami Beach and Save Miami Beach 2016 — but none of them have done any recent fundraising or spending. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more other mysterious PACs operating.

And let’s remember the original email blast that exposed the connections between Grieco and the Better Leaders PAC had no legal disclaimer. Could be yet another mysterious PAC, so mysterious we don’t even know its name.

Ladra thinks the Beach voters don’t like any of this and that it might be an opportunity for a third candidate.


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Even before the next campaign report is due next week, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco passed the half million dollar mark in his quest to become the city’s next mayor. Last month’s campaign finance report shows $41,575 brought in April for a total warchest of $500,942.

But almost 10 percent of that comes from a real estate investor who supported higher zoning in North Beach and may want to gentrify several blocks of South Beach around Flamingo Park.

Adam Walker, who has given Grieco at least $40,400 bundled through his company, Boardwalk Properties, and 40 other related firms, bought 15 aging, low- and moderate-rent Art Deco apartment buildings in South Beach for $59 million last year and immediately raised rents 50 percent to force working people out and cater to a more affluent clientele.

Read related story: Dan Gelber raises mayoral money fast, and spends it fast

“It’s true that instead of having taxi drivers and sous chefs, you’ll end up with younger attorneys, people who work in the Design District, people who work downtown,” Walker told the Miami Herald . “These are people who drive Porsches and are drawn to Miami Beach but don’t want to live in high rises.”

In a February, 2016, letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Grieco — who is running for mayor against former Sen. Den Gelber, who has raised $361,519 and much of it from outside the city — defended workforce housing, saying that he and Commissioner Joy Malakoff had made efforts to preserve and increase it. But he told Ladra recently that what Walker did was invest in improvements to restore, even save Art Deco buildings that have long been neglected.

Meanwhile, Walker has been known to neglect his own properties. State records show that buildings his mulitple companies owns have, collectively, received dozens of violations since 2012 for such things as holes in the ceiling, holes in the wall, discarded appliances outside, cockroaches, and a failure to display balcony inpsections more than once, just for starters.

Miami-Dade Court records also show he’s filed paperwork to evict tenants 112 times since 2014. Grieco better hope they’re not still city voters.

“He supports me for the same reason anybody else supports me, because he likes what I am doing for Miami Beach,” Grieco told Ladra, questioning why I would even bring this up (because it’s the biggest case of bundling by far).

“He’s doing a good thing saving those buildings. He’s making a big investment,” Grieco said about Walker.

Yes, and the $40,000 given to the mayoral campaign can also be seen as an investment. In what?

“Good government,” Grieco said.

 


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The Cortadito calendar is back in time for May.

Yes, we missed the last couple of weeks in April but, other than the Gables runoff, nothing important was happening. Ladra needed some time off.

This week, we resume with a few meetings and candidate events. But there must be more going on.

Please make it easier for me and send me information about your government meetings, candidate forums and political protests to edevalle@gmail.com and they’ll keep — or start — appearing in the Cortadito Calendar.

TUESDAY — May 2

8:30 a.m. –The Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club seems to be going through the candidates for this year’s elections as speakers. After having gotten every candidate declared so far for the Group 2 commission seat, the attention has turned to the mayoral race. This Tuesday morning the cafe con leche bunch can hear from former State Sen. Dan Gelber, who filed to run for this seat earlier this year. Commissioner Michael Grieco, who filed last year, is going to speak next week. Former Mayor Matti Bower serves as moderator at the morning meetings, which are at Pueto Sagua Restaurant, 700 Collins Ave.

9:30 a.m. — Our Miami-Dade County Commission meets to consider several things, including $12.2 million in more water and sewer consent decree improvements,  a $37.5 million contract to Munilla Construction, pals of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, for upgrades to Councorse F at Miami International Airport. That’s $37.5 million in upgrades. They will also talk about funding two new park and ride lots for busways, as they continue to stall the inevitable light rail, and the creation of new committees to advise the commission on new municipal incorporation efforts. It also looks like there’s an amendment to the land use code to allow for a new “employment center planned area development” and a “retail entertainment district planned area development” which seem custom made for the American Dream megamall in Northwest Miami-Dade.

6:30 p.m. — There’s a new mayor in Coral Gables, but who is going to be the mayor in North Miami? Voters can meet the candidates Tuesday evening as each of them present their vision for the future of the city. Mayor Smith Joseph has three challengers. Danielle Beauvais, an alternative medical consultant who ran for mayor before, middle school teacher Tyrone Hill, who ran for a council seat in 2001 and lost in the runoff, and retired doctor Hector Medina, who is well known in the community. District 2 Councilwoman Carol Keys is challenged by Ilyana Albarrán, founder of a research and consulting company. District 3 Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime has two challengers: former Councilman Jean Marcellus and security company owner Wancito Francius. The meeting at the Griffing Community Center, 12220 Griffing Blvd., should be over by 8 p.m. The election is May 9.

THURSDAY — May 4

6:30 p.m. — If you want to meet the man behind so many presidents, including Donald Trump, and maybe buy one of his books, then this is the event for you. A Roger Stone book signing at The Club At Renaissance Gables, (the old Victor’s Cafe), at 2340 Sw 32 Ave. The event is supposedly hosted by Trump volunteers but you know Stone is a master at promoting himself, not just candidates. Hurry up. Before he is detained for his part in Russiagate.

7 p.m. — Help plan the future of Palmetto Bay’s park system. A public meeting on the city’s master plan for parks and open spaces begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Village Hall, 9705 E Hibiscus St.


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