This sticker on the window could save lives

Read Full Story

read more

Of all the Florida constitutional amendments on the ballot — and there are 13 of them — Miami-Dade voters should be the most excited about Amendment 10, which gives us the chance to have an elected sheriff and tax collector and supervisor of elections.
And maybe end the series of abuses of power by a mayor who thinks he is all of these things.
That’s exactly the type of tyrannical dictatorship that Ladra’s parents fled when they left Cuba, a government without checks and balances where the leader appoints everyone and did whatever he wanted because he was the big boss of everybody.
Don’t think this is an exaggeration.
Read related: Carlos Gimenez abuses power in election interference for lobbyist son
It was less than two months ago that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez actually declared himself supervisor of elections — saying he only gives Christina White permission to act in the role for him — so that he could give his lobbyist son a week’s extension to write language for a ballot question. If that’s not an abuse of power Ladra doesn’t know what is.
And maybe he wouldn’t need or be able to justify his $100,000 raise if he wasn’t trying to do everybody’s job.
“I’m the supervisor of elections,” was his direct and arrogant quote to the Miami Herald, almost incredulous that anyone would even raise an eyebrow. “I delegate that power to Christina White.”
He delegates that power? Are you kidding me? That power should not be delegated and then taken away whenever the mayor gets a political whim.
If we had an elected Supervisor of Elections, that definitely wouldn’t have happened. If the mayor had called on a Sunday morning to see if an elected supervisor of elections could change her mind about a deadline she told another mayor was hard and fast, an elected SOE could have sent him to hell in a hand basket or somewhere less polite.
It also might have been more difficult for Gimenez to swoop in after hours, just before 11 p.m. on the eve of qualifying in the 2016 election with a replacement check — because the first one was invalid. An elected SOE would likely tell him to come by in the morning, like everyone else.
Read related: Carlos Gimenez submits late night campaign check
The measure on the ballot would make the five local constitutional offices — sheriff, tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of the court and property appraiser — mandatory and require elections for the offices in all 67 counties. It would also prohibit charter counties who opted out of these elected seats, like Miami-Dade, from abolishing or modifying those offices.
We already have an elected property appraiser and an elected clerk of courts. And if we need an elected clerk of freaking courts we certainly need an elected sheriff, who would have independence to run police operations without political interference — and investigate whatever elected official needs investigating.
If we had an elected sheriff, then Gimenez wouldn’t have any authority over the police chief. Everybody knows Police Director Juan Perez (in the photo, right) doesn’t take a pee without asking Gimenez for permission. And the mayor wouldn’t have been able to completely eliminate the public corruption unit in 2014, after they found absentee ballot fraud in his Hialeah campaign.
Maybe if we had an elected sheriff, he wouldn’t have gotten away with the AB fraud to begin with.
An elected sheriff who did not have to answer to the mayor could more easily investigate corruption without fear that his or her boss would fire him. Because his or her boss would be us, not the mayor. These positions are too important to be handled just like department heads that can be hired and fired by the mayor, who could use such power to do, well, whatever he wants.
Why do you think the county sued to get this amendment off the ballot? Because Gimenez doesn’t want to lose that kind of power. Luckily, the Florida Supreme Court saw right through his agenda and refused to take the question off the ballot.
There were also challenges because of four linked items on what some call a clustered amendment. One would move up the state’s legislative session to January rather than March in even-numbered years. Another that would create a counter-terrorism office. And a third would make the existing state veterans affairs department constitutionally required.
All these are good things. But none are as good as having an independent elected sheriff in Miami-Dade. There is a reason why all other 66 counties all have an elected sheriff. Why do we think we’re so special? Because Miami-Dade is so morally superior? Riiiiiight!
It is true that Miami-Dade voters themselves did away with the sheriff’s office decades ago. But look at what’s happened! We have a mayor who eliminated the public corruption unit after they found AB fraud in his campaign! It wasn’t a good idea and we have a chance to fix it and we may not have another chance to fix it for another 20 years.
These should be independently elected offices accountable to the people. And if there is one place that ought to have an elected sheriff, it is right here.
Vote yes on Amendment 10.

Read Full Story

read more

Expect to hear about transit, jobs and public safety

To the victor go the spoils, don’t they? To the victor, also goes the spin.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez will do what he does best at this year’s countyaddressinviteState of the County address Wednesday: Pat his own back.

Sure, he’ll provide shout-outs to his apologists and allies — especially Chairman Esteban Bovo, who many say he is grooming as his chosen replacement for 2020 — and largely ignore or smugly chide his critics and naysayers. He’ll thank former Chairman Jean Monestime for his service the last two years. And he might have a person (read: prop) or two in the audience to serve as an example of something great he’s done. Probably a young person who is working thanks to the great efforts the mayor has made.

But be sure that Gimenez will be the star of the show. It will sound a lot like the last address, which sounded the same as the last and so on, and so on. He’s in love with himself.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez gets a ‘C’ on State of the County speech

He will take credit for the smooth election in Miami-Dade as well as the economic turnaround and the successes at Miami International Airport and the seaport, which is woefully under achieving in cargo sales compared to even Port Everglades (that won’t be in the speech, though) because it is not open 24 hours a day. He will take credit for the new animal shelter, even though it was a mandate from the people and approved in a bond referendum more than a decade ago. He will talk about all the great things he’s done — Gimenez never misses a chance to repeat how he delivered the biggest tax break ever — and all the great things he’s going do do in the next four years. After all, he is sure to remind us, these are his last.

After reviewing past addresses, the things he said after his re-election and the speech he gave at Bovo’s swearing in earlier this month — and talking to several sources inside County Hall and insiders outside County Hall — Ladra has a pretty good guess of at least some of the issues or projects that are most likely to be in Wednesday’s speech. And it’s no surprise that it is the three main issues of the mayoral campaign which he also told reporters would be his priorities after he beat School Board Member Raquel Regalado in November: transit, economic development and public safety in the light of the gun violence plaguing some of our neigborhoods.

Transit will be center stage. Many longtime county observers and insiders say Gimenez will use this speech to lay out his transportation plans. That will likely take up a good part of the first half of his monologue. You know, after he miami_metrorailacknowledges his family and talks about leaving the county better for his grandchildren blah blah blah. He hinted in November toward a major announcement soon. Maybe this is soon enough. He will talk about finally making some headway in finishing the six famous corridors that closely match what was promised to voters — except they won’t all be rail (some people will have to compromise for rapid busways). He won’t talk about how he has misspent some of the People’s Transportation Tax dollars so that he could give us that tax break he loves to remind us about, but he may announce which of the six corridors goes first. Spoiler alert: It’s either the South Dade corridor to Homestead or the 27th Avenue corridor to Miami Gardens. He won’t tell people that he increased the transit payroll by $1 million in 2015 with five other six-figure salaries for people to babysit new director Alice Bravo.

He may also talk about his recent trip to Las Vegas, where he attended the AT&T Smart Cities conference and how he himself was the one who made Miami one of the cities tapped for their initiative and get one of the first Smart Cities operation centers, which are supposed to help governments see community conditions — traffic flow, lighting and public safety operartions — in real time and present solutions immediately. Let’s hope he explains what that means exactly and let’s hope it’s not just another layer of beaurocracy that sounds good because it has the word smart in it. Let’s also hope he doesn’t make a lame joke about what happens in Vegas coming to Miami.

Wait a minute. Didn’t the Denver trip last year promise to bring us some transit solutions?

Economic development and jobs will also be highlighted. He will talk about the number of jobs he created, again without going into the details about the type of jobs (low paying and temporary) that most are. He may even say “a mega malljob is a job” again, which is easy to say when you are drawing from three pensions and you make $150,000 a year. But now he will talk more about diversification of the economy (almost like he learned from Regalado during the campaign). He will talk about the upcoming projects that are going to bring new jobs, like the megamall planned for Northwest Dade just north of Hialeah — which is coming before the commission next week — and the Miami Wilds theme park planned for the property next to the zoo, which has been broken up into two phases to make it more palatable and easy to get each piece through despite the objections of environmentalists (more on that later). He will talk about smaller projects brought through incentives and public private partnerships and, perhaps, moving forward with the privatization of Vizcaya (more on that later), though he won’t call it that. He will call it a pathway to preservation, or some such nonsense. No, he hasn’t given up on that plan. He just put it on the shelf until after the election. And he will talk about expanding his own legacy program, Employ Miami-Dade, which I suspect is just a feel-good program with a subsidy replacement check instead of a real job and someone ought to investigate how many of those people are still employed afterwards.

He may also talk about soccer. He sorta has to. Everybody wants to know what is going on with that.

Read related story: Miami-Dade Police cuts by Carlos Gimenez cause concern

And even though he doesn’t want to, Gimenez will have to talk about the gun violence that has claimed the lives of so many Police Crimechildren and young people all over the county, from Miami Gardens to Homestead. The speech was probably edited this week to include a mention of the people injured when shots were fired at the Martin Luther King Jr. Festival Monday. But Ladra hopes he talks about more than just us policing ourselves. And I hope he doesn’t talk about expanding his living room cops again. Taking officers off the street and putting them into the homes of at-risk kids — his brilliant idea last year — is not just a band-aid, it’s a cheap generic band-aid from the dollar store that doesn’t really stick and is falling off five minutes after you put it on. Unless Gimenez restores some of the specialized units he dismantled in 2014 — because he would rather make cuts than fill vacancies — hoods with guns will play across our county. It was reported yesterday that the shooting was perpetrated by rival gangs. And it is time Gimenez wake up to the fact that gang activity has increased since he dismantled the very specialized unit that investigated them and stopped these shootings before they happened.

But that will be one of the many things he doesn’t say.

Like the fact that after the speech Wednesday, the mayor and his lobbyist son are flying to D.C. for the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump, who he tried so desperately to distance himself from during the election.

Is it too much to hope that Regalado — or someone — will have a response to his address again this year?

read more

On a recent Friday night, there were nine police officers patrolling the Hammocks district. Nine police officers in hammockscopstheir marked cars, covering the area between Southwest 8th and 200th streets and the Turnpike and Krome Avenue.


The addition of 140 new police officers to our Miami-Dade County Police force is certainly a good thing to begin to alleviate the shortage we have of cops on the street. Mayor Carlos Gimenez may be right when he says that it’s the largest graduating class in MDPD history.

But that only makes it worse when you realize it is only a band aid.

Not just because most of those officers will need to ride with a field training supervisor for at least four months — so it’s not really more police cars on the street right away as Mayor Carlos Gimenez implies when he says that 132 of those officers will be added to patrol. They’ll be doubled up with existing patrols for four months.

Read related story: Miami-Dade Police cuts by Carlos Gimenez cause concern

No, it’s because by the time these rookies finish their first year of probation, we’ll have lost another 120 officers or so. Which is the number of “separations” that the police department has every year. Fifty-eight officers are scheduled to retire through the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, according to the Dade County PBA. That means their newcopsretirement in 2017 is mandatory. And the county typically loses another 50 or 60 officers every year  through attrition (to other agencies or careers).

So it’s a net gain of only 20. At best.

Gimenez will say yeah, but we hired 100 officers in January. To which Ladra says, yeah, but we lost 100 officers so far this year (66 in the DROP), according to numbers provided by the police department. So that means it’s a net gain of zero.

It’s basic math, which the mayor has shown to be, eh, not so good at. So, let’s do the addition and subtraction for him, shall we? At least 100 officers have left so far this fiscal year, plus the 119 we lost in 2015 is 219. Plus, oh, let’s split the baby and put next year’s separations at 110. That makes for a total of 329 officers gone in the past three years.  Add the 140 rookies who graduated Wednesday to another class of about 100 that graduated in January and that’s 240 new officers. Subtract 240 from 329 and we still have a net loss of 89 cops in three years.

I sure feel safer already. Don’t you?

This is how we have gotten to a shortfall of close to 200 officers between the budgeted positions and the filled positions. But if you go by the budgeted positions in 2011, before Gimenez was elected, we are short about 390 newcopsmayorofficers. And that is with the graduating class that Carlos Gimenez used Wednesday as a photo op six weeks before the election. He also used the opportunity to issue a campaign email saying that crime was down statistically.

“As your Mayor, I know the fight against crime is one that every community struggles with everyday,” said the man Ladra christened Cry Wolf Gimenez when he threatened to fire 400 officers in 2014, just two years ago. Then it was 228. No, 110. No, 70. And when it went to zero, he blamed the police director for inflaming the community needlessly.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez scolds police director: ‘Layoffs may not come’

We also know that crime statistics can be manipulated by the way incident reports are written and filed. How much you wanna bet we have a whole bunch more “information reports” this year than we did last year or in 2010 even. And, anyway, numbers don’t comfort the parents of Jada Page or King Carter or the family of Miami firefighter Chadrick Davis, shot dead last week. Not when the plain truth is that their deaths might have been avoided – if only we had the proper police coverage in the community.

But we don’t even try to have the proper coverage.

Based on the county budget and the police department goals prepared by Gimenez this year,  three out of five killers are practically guaranteed to get away with murder. That’s because the goal for solving homicide cases for the Miami-Dade Police Department is only 40%. That’s hardly a deterrent. In fact, it’s almost encouragement to pick up a gun because, well, why not? The goal for clearance of sex crime cases is just a little better at 41%.  But for robberies? Well, we’re aiming to solve the crime and nab the bad guy only 28% of the time.

These are our goals? Really? That’s the best we can do?

And Gimenez’s solution, instead of hiring more officers and restoring the specialized units he dismantled in 2013, is to create a squad of living room cops. He wants to take two dozen of the officers we do have on the street and put them in the homes of at risk kids we then further reward with extra empowerment and access to more services and programs. Really?

Can’t help but wonder how many police officers are patrolling the district tonight. And I sure hope it’s more than nine.

read more

Ladra loves police body cameras. I mean, what’s not to like?

We have the technology to capture the cops interacting body cameras policewith victims and culprits and it gives us a glimpse into both how hard their job is and how some of them may abuse their role. It serves as a deterrent to both the officer, who might now count to ten, and the mouthy drunk that might not want to be on the late night news getting into it with a cop. There’s no reason not to use them if you can. Body cams are a good thing — when used properly and the video is stored in such a way that it is accessible to whoever wants it.

Heck, I wish we could put them on everybody. Firefighters. Meter readers. Procurement officers. Electeds. In fact, can someone please sponsor an ordinance where a lobbyist has to put one on as she or he enters County Hall? Commissioner Levine Cava?

But at $1 million a year one has to wonder if this is a police priority our budget can afford. Especially right now, when we have shootings almost every other day and another child killed about every week on our streets.

Body cameras won’t stop the shootings. They make for good headlines, however. Miami-Dade is now the largest department nationwide to use body cameras. It makes us look good. But only on the surface.

Read related story: Body cams are swell — but put one on the mayor, too

Miami-Dade Commissioners, at the direction of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, voted last week to spend more than body cameras for cops$1 million a year on body cameras for our police officers for an approved total of $5.4 million over the next five years. This is mostly for storage and maintenance since the cameras themselves aren’t that expensive. At $300 a pop (which is high, because the county ought to be getting a bulk rate), the 1,500 cameras would cost $450,000. So that’s $4.5 million or so for storage and maintenance? Doesn’t that seem high?

What did commissioners do about the crime that is creeping into our neighborhoods and the shootings that have become commonplace? How much went to increased patrols or a special task force to focus on this youth gun crime? Absolutely nada.

Oh, sure, there is talk about mentoring programs and that’s as good as body cameras — it won’t stop the bleeding going on now. Especially since the Florida legislature just passed a law that requires the department to have a policy before it implements the program.

Read related story: Politicos want to shield body cam footage from us

Only one thing will put a stop to the violence that is not just limited to Liberty City and Miami Gardens. There was a shooting the other day at The Falls, fam. The freaking Falls!

We need more police on the street. We need more experienced police to stay in the department. We need specialized units like the gang unit and the robbery intervention detail to be restored so that they can stop these things from happening.

And we need a mayor who will recognize that he made a mistake in 2014 when he dismantled all the specialized units, a mayor who will acknowledge that, yes, there has been a spike in violent crime and a mayor who will take responsibility for it and make real changes that do make a difference in addressing the needs we have right now.

read more