Ladra has mixed feelings about the results of the Miami commission runoff.
On the one hand, there is dread for the people of Miami who now have Commissioner Crazy Joe Carollo to deal with. But on the other hand, Political Cortadito has four more years of fun ahead, as well as perhaps more national appeal even. The political blogger is thrilled. The government watchdog and justice seeker is somewhat disappointed, to say the least.
Why? Some people believe that Carollo is the uncorruptable whistleblower type that Miami needs. But Ladra has seen him evolve in the last few years, supporting people like Doral Mayor Luigi Boria and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and all the inside deals both of those politicos entail. You can bet that this gives the Gimenez friends and family — who helped Carollo in this campaign and were front and center at the victory party — a new express lane in their governmental welfare pursuits.
Read related story: Joe Carollo implies alliance with brother, Bruno Barreireo, in mailer
Don’t be surprised if you see one of the county mayor’s children get a job in the city. My money is on Barby Rodriguez-G, the daughter-in-law with the water and sewer job, the one who isn’t hooking up with a former senator in Boston hotel rooms (that we know of anyway).
Carollo won pretty easily. He had 56% of the vote with just the absentee ballots counted shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday. Because of low turnout, it was a 280-vote gap that Alfie Leon, the former policy advisor for Commissioner Frank Carollo, could make up…but didn’t. By the time early voting was counted, that gap grew to 336 votes. Election Day couldn’t save Alfie.
While he closed the gap with 117 more votes on Election Day than Crazy Joe, it wasn’t enough. With 16 of 17 precincts reporting at 8 p.m., Carollo still won with 52% to his 48%.  The last precinct would have to be the biggest and in Leon’s own neighborhood for him to come back from this. And it’s certainly not a mandate for Carollo. But still comfy enough that he’ll be insoportable from the get-go.
Who am I kidding? Ya esta insoportable.
On his way to become the protagonist and maybe run for mayor against Mayor Francis Suarez in 2021 — because you know that’s the end game, right? — we can rely on Carollo to make news on the regular. We probably don’t even have to wait for commission meetings. The Miami Herald should give David Smiley a raise and an intern.

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Former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, in a runoff Tuesday for his brother’s city commission seat, dropped a mailer Friday that indicates he is being endorsed by both his brother, Commissioner Frank Carollo, and Zoraida Barreiro, another commission candidate — and wife of Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro — who came in third in the Nov. 7 election.
But it doesn’t look like a real endorsement and actually stinks of fake news.
The mailer doesn’t explicitly say that that his brother and the Barreiros support Carollo. Instead, it uses photographs of the families and really vague language that certainly leave that impression.
“The Barreiro and Carollo families are united to keep working together in our community,” reads the front, with pictures of the Barreiro family and Frank Carollo’s family flanking a photo of Joe Carollo and his wife.
The other side of the mailer, paid for by the Miami Firefighters political action committee, says “Years of service to the community cannot be forgotten. While others just finished moving to our area promising villas and castles, the Barreiro and Carollo families have a long tradition of working for our community.”
Read related story: It’s Alfie Leon and ‘everybody and their mothers’ vs Joe Carollo in runoff
Carollo was forced into a runoff with Alfie Leon, his brother’s former policy aide, after he failed to get more than 30% of the vote. He already got the endorsement of the two last place finishers, Alex Dominguez and Jose Suarez. But they didn’t even get 10% combined. A nod from Zoraida Barreiro, who got 20%, (and, by extension, Commissioner Bruno) could certainly give him an edge over Leon. And he needs it because everybody else is working against Crazy Joe.
Calls and texts to Commissioner Bruno Barreiro were not immediately returned. But he had told Ladra earlier this week that he and his wife would not be endorsing or supporting Carollo.
Freddy Delgado, president of the Miami firefighters union, did not immediately return a call and text from Ladra. He might be dodging all journalists because of the four firefighters that got fired for harassing a black colleague.
It is entirely possible that the picture of the Barreiros and their two children, as well as the photo of Frank Carollo’s family, was used without their explicit permission. The mailer’s language is vague and general enough and it doesn’t say they are endorsing him, although it does say they are “united,” but, since it is in Spanish, that could mean that they are both involved in helping the community — not that they do it together.
Certainly one would think that if Carollo had the official Barreiro seal of approval, the campaign and/or the firefighters PAC would put that out front and center and use more specific words, like “endorse” and “support.”
So this looks like an intention to fool the voting public.
Unless both Carollo’s brother and the Barreiros are — wink, wink, nod, nod — helping him without explicitly saying they are helping him by just looking the other way. After all, if they were not supporting him, one would also think that Commissioner Barreiro — who is running for Congress and could have made a deal — would not wait to say so.

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Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz will launch his re-election campaign in Doral Thursday with the mayors of five cities in his district who are supporting his bid.
Doral Mayor Juan Carlos “JC” Bermudez, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz, Virginia Gardens Mayor Spencer Deno and Medley Mayor Roberto Martell will host the kick-off and fundraiser for Diaz, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at The Flats Apartments at CityPlace, 3555 NW 83rd Ave., on the 6th floor.
But wait. There are six cities in District 12.
Conspicuously missing from the list is Orlando Lopez, the mayor of Sweetwater, which is where Diaz cut his political teeth as a city commissioner and was then mayor in 1999 before his first run for county office in 2002. There’s some bad blood there. It’s why Diaz tried to get Lopez recalled earlier this year. No invite for him.
Read related story: Sweetwater race results are a loss for Miami-Dade’s Pepe Diaz
Sweetwater has always been a city divided by factions. Diaz, who is aligned with the anti Lopez faction, has said he only supported the recall, which was allegedly a citizen-led effort. But Lopez sued successfully to stop it — the recall was based on his multiple absences from meetings, which is not a requirement of the mayor’s job per city charter — and a consultant working for the political action committee, Providing Effective Government All Residents, admitted in testimony that the first person to contact him about it was the commissioner. It was reported in Diario Las Americas. But other sources have confirmed that Diaz was behind the petition drive.
Diaz also supported candidates against Lopez and the Lopez faction in May’s election, even though he learned that he doesn’t have as much influence as he’d like in his old stomping grounds, where even his brother-in-law, former Commission Chairman Jose Bergouignan, was kicked out of office.
So, there’s bad blood there. In fact, Ladra would be surprised if Lopez doesn’t find someone to run against Diaz, who is more vulnerable than ever because of his DUI arrest in Key West last year? Imagine that mugshot on campaign mail!
Read related story: Commissioner Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz arrested on DUI in Key West
“Pepe is the one who sponsored the recall effort against me. If there is any candidate that runs against him, I would glaly support and help them,” Lopez told Ladra Wednesday. “I’m hoping somebody comes out of the woodwork.”
But who? The only viable name that people have brought up in recent years is Bermudez — and obviously he is not running for the county seat at least until Diaz terms out. Not if he’s  hosting Thursday. And nobody else has raised their hand. It’s too bad that Doral Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez is running for state rep (more on that later) because she would be a titan against the incumbent.
Diaz has never really been challenged. He coasted into office in 2002 with 85% of the vote against M. Lina Pumariega, whoever that is. Then he was re-elected automatically when nobody filed to run against him in 2006. In 2010, Heather Pernas got 24% with $600 to his $325,550. She obviously did not campaign at all — and still got one out of every four votes.
And then the Pet’s Trust people put someone up against Diaz in 2014 because they felt betrayed. He said he would respect the vote of the people, who approved a massive spay and neuter program for strays by 65% of the vote, and then did nothing when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ignored the mandate. Marjorie Figueira got 27% of the vote without really any kind of absentee ballot operation or publicity and only $2,093 to his $363,595.
There’s a pattern here.
So we know already that just anybody will automatically get 25% of the vote as a protest against Diaz. Not a bad start. Imagine if the candidate has a little more money. Add to that the Pets Trust supporters and the DUI thing and the fact that the incumbent has been there 16 years and Sweetwater voters se estan cansando de el and you’ve got the best chance to make a change next year on the county commission right there in District 12.
Even with five city mayors behind him.

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Former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas — who lives pretty much secluded from politics, commenting now and then on Univision 23 but from afar — has come out of relative political obscurity to promote former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine‘s gubernatorial run.
It is his first endorsement since Penelas left office in 2004.
“Friends, On Monday, my friend Philip Levine ended his four-year tenure as Mayor of Miami Beach. I couldn’t be more proud of what he has accomplished in such a brief time,” starts the campaign email blast that arrived Wednesday morning.
But the list of “accomplishments” has more holes in it than a Dunkin Donuts. Let’s take it paragraph by paragraph, shall we?
Read related story: Philip Levine’s PAC started flooding after he got a liquor ban on the ballot
“In a city threatened by sea level rise, Philip campaigned back in 2013 to start solving the problem. And just four years later, under his leadership, state-of-the-art flood pumps have been installed that are keeping streets dry and protecting the homes and businesses of thousands of people.”

Well, Mr. Mayor, everybody started to address the sea level rise problem in 2013. It was like a virus. Climate change were the political buzzwords of the year.  Actually, the city started addressing the problem before he was elected. And those flood pumps? Guess where the first one went. In Sunset Harbor, where Levine owns property. His land was high and dry while the rest of South Beach was flooded, like in the photograph courtesy of Bill Cooke of the Random Pixels blog.
“While many of those people are blessed to live in a prosperous city, thousands of workers across the beach can’t even afford to live near the community they serve,” the former mayor writes. “So Philip took action and successfully passed the first living wage ordinance in Florida, setting an example for cities across our state.”
The minimum wage increase, which was from $8.10 to $10.31 and would take effect in January, is really window dressing for the gubernatorial race. It gives him talking points for the campaign trail. The legislatioin was struck down by a judge because a 2004 Florida constitutional amendmentment only allows the state to increase the minimum wage, not municipalities. Miami Beach attorneys are appealing that because they say that the voters’ intent was to let local leaders decide. Whatever. It was a feelgood measure that Levine pushed strategically as he was building his Democratic voice statewide. It’s like a box he checked under “preparations to run for Governor as a Democrat.”
“But that wasn’t the only example Miami Beach has set under Philip’s leadership,” Penelas continues. “During his tenure, the Human Rights Campaign -a leading LGBTQ advocacy group- has given the city a PERFECT SCORE on its annual Municipal Equality Index, a measurement of how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are for the LGBTQ people who live and work there.”
Read related story: Philip Levine fails to disclose properties, LLCs
The city got a perfect score in 2017. And in 2016. And every year since they started self submitting in 2013. But Ladra is pretty certain that Philip Levine has absolutely nothing to do with that. He always takes the credit, which belongs to the hardworking members of the city’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee, formed by former Mayor Matti Bower — 10 years ago. The Beach, which was the first city to pass domestic partnership benefits legislation, has been the best place for gays to live and work in Miami-Dade, like Wilton Manors is in Broward, for years. For Levine to take credit should offend a lot in the community who have actually done the work. He just happened to be mayor at the time. The mayor before him supported LGBTQ friendly legislation and the mayor after him will, too.
“These accomplishments are just a small piece of what Philip’s ‘just get it done’ attitude has brought to Miami Beach, and they’re the reason why I’m supporting him for Governor,” Peneas gooes on. “Now more than ever, we need less talk and more action. We need leadership that has a proven track record of getting things done and making positive change in our communities. We need Philip Levine, and I hope you’ll join me in making that happen. Together, we can bring a real change-maker to Tallahassee.”
Less talk and more action? Levine is nothing but talk, talk, talk. Even his proposed alcohol ban past 2 a.m. on Ocean Drive failed miserably.
Maybe Penelas doesn’t know how Levine blocks critics from his social media and actually had an independent blogger (yours truly) thrown out of public campaign events. Maybe he forgot about the train to nowhere or the shady Relentless for Progress PAC that Levine collected $1 million for from beach interests. Maybe he doesn’t care that Levine used his influence and money to smear or blackmail others and get puppets elected so he could set his agenda.
And Penelas is going to endorse someone who traveled to Cuba and wanted to bring the Cuban consulate here?
Read related story: Now challenged, Philip Levine also sheds shady PAC
Or is this because Penelas, 55, wants to be relevant again? Some sources say that Penelas — who served as Miami-Dade mayor from 1996 to 2004 and then ran unsuccessfully for senate and was People’s “sexiest politician alive” in 1999 — may want to return to his old seat at County Hall. He briefly toyed with the idea in 2011 after Carlos Alvarez was recalled. Democrats have been trying to make the non-partisan seat more partisan for a couple of elections now and have been looking at him and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (pictured here at an MTV event when they were both in office) as candidates. They like Commissioner Jean Monestime, too, but the common thought is that a non Hispanic can’t win a countywide seat, which is why Levine isn’t running, by the way.
Maybe Florida Dems have forgotten that Penelas cost Al Gore the presidency. Penelas was persona non grata among Dems first when he said that local authorities would not help the feds seize Elian Gonzalez and later after he took a vacation to Spain during the final months of the 2000 presidential election, when Gore — who lost Florida by some 537 votes — needed him most.
The former VP even called Penelas “the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with” in the 2000 election. It is probably one of the reasons he lost the 2004 Senate primary so badly, with only 10% of the vote.
Penelas told Ladra that he had no designs on public office. Not now, anyway. He wants to be there for his young daughter, who is 6, like he wasn’t for his two boys, who are 23 and 20. “I missed a lot of years with them and I’ve been blessed with another child,” he said.
But like everyone else always says, he won’t rule it out. “You can never say never, but I don’t think it’s likely. I don’t want to say no definitively,” Penelas told Ladra, adding that he still loves public policy stuff, like transit and housing, but hates how disgusting politics have gotten.
“Es un azco,” he said.
But not so much that he won’t go out on a limb for Levine, who he said has been a friend for 25 years, since Penelas was a county commissioner for District 13.
“I think he’s an honest and decent guy, a hard worker,” said Penelas, who consults part time and owns property on Miami Beach. “I like Philip a lot. He is a straight shooter.”
Told about some of the holes in the email he said was written by the campaign and edited by him, Penelas said it “doesn’t take away my enthusiasm and my friendship with him.”
And, also, at least Phil’s doing something.
“The mere fact that he’s willing to recognize sea level rise as a problem is better than other politicians who don’t believe it exists,” Penelas said.
But now he’s talking about Republicans.

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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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Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has basically taken over the procurement process at Miami International Airport, just like that, in what amounts to a seizure of one of the county’s fattest cash cows. Who thinks that’s a good idea?
Certainly not Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio Gonzalez, who suddenly resigned Tuesday. While his is among a bunch of names that have been floated for the next city of Miami manager (more on that later), the resignation comes just two weeks after Gimenez told county commissioners that the mayor’s office was going to directly oversee vendor bids and other procurement issues at the airport from now on.
Wanna bet the two are related.
Gonzalez said he was leaving to spend more time with family. But, in the same breath, he said he would pursue other opportunities in January. Political observers, which include two lobbyists who work with airport vendors, believe he would not have left the county job until he had the city job in hand — but then Gimenez basically slapped him in the face.
Despite winning a bunch of airport industry awards for this and that, despite adding airlines so that MIA has the largest number in the U.S., despite overseeing its $6 million expansion and earning high marks from everyone, Gimenez basically threw Gonzalez under the bus when he told the director in a memo late last month that he was no longer going to be involved in any procurement matters.
“There will be no exceptions,” the mayor’s memo to Gonzalez said.
Read related story: Aiport City is dead, but firm gets $65 mil consolation prize
Gimenez later told commissioners that he “realigned the concession area of MIA and the overall supervision of the business (non aviation) areas in MIA to report to me through a Special Assistant for MDAD Landside Business Operations.” He is also moving the procurement staff at MIA to the downtown building so “they can be directly supervised as part of the overall procurement function of the county,” according to his Oct. 30 memo to commissioners. And Leland Solomon, director of the departent of Regulatory and Economic Resources, is that special assistant.
“MDAD’s procurement organization has been operating independently at MIA for many years and I believe that these changes will result in a more streamlined, open and competitive with decision making reestablished in my office and with appropriate board approval,” Gimenez said in his memo, trying to make it more palatable because the commission has to approve anything anyway.
Really? More streamlined? Yes. More open and competitive? Doubtful.
The memo comes at the same time as Gimenez suggests Hurricane Irma breaks in the guaranteed minimum payments wanted by airport vendors who donated bigly to his re-election campaign. I mean, he has a lot of IOUs from his $8 million re-election pricetag and this is one way to pay that off. Which is why he also has a list of RFPs that need to go out “immediately” and other concession bids that need to be approved. It’s no coincidence that some of his campaign contributors are on that list, too.
Ladra is not the only one who thinks this stinks. Both Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo and Commissioner Bruno Barreiro said they were concerned about changing the current process so that the mayor’s office is more involved. Especially since things are going so well. MIA ranked 5th in the nation for customer satisfaction last year, up from 18th place in 2015.
Read related story: Miami-Dade’s problematic procurement helps county lobbyists
“The airport staff should handle procurement. I don’t think it should be the mayor’s office,” Barreiro said. “That should be under the airport professionals.”
He also said it was a “shame” that Gonzalez had resigned. “That raises concerns now about what we’re going to do to fill that vacancy.”
“I don’t know if it’s justified or not,” Bovo told Ladra about the change. “We do have vendors who on a continual basis are trying to get reduction of MAGs or extension of contracts and the director has been pretty steadfast against those things.”
Exactly! Concessionaires complain because “Emilio doesn’t play games,” as one insider said. That must be what Gimenez objects to: His friends and family aren’t getting the red carpet treatment.
But, as a strong mayor, he apparently has the right to just take over the airport procurement.
“This does not require commission action,” Bovo added. “He’s made the decision. He’s determined that this would work better under his perview.
“I would be very cautious about this kind of thing because that’s what we have directors for,” the chairman told Ladra. “This could be a slippery slope.”
Exactly! Because today it’s the airport and tomorrow it could be the seaport. Or maybe the water and sewer department. That’s a lucrative area.
What’s to stop Carlos Gimenez from taking over any other department and giving the county away one piece at a time?
Nothing. Except a recall.

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