Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And not for the first time... a Miami Herald reader reveals more insight in their comments about the news than the Herald reporter does in their reporting of a news story; re Miami-Dade lobbying fees


And not for the first time... a Miami Herald reader reveals more insight in their comments about the news than the Herald reporter does in their reporting of a news story; Miami-Dade's lobbying fees

A well-informed and observant Miami Herald reader states what radio industry icon Paul Harvey used to famously call "the rest of the story" in his syndicated show, via the comments section of Monday's article about Miami-Dade's tortured handling of its lobbying fees. 
Again.

The reader states factual connections with devastating aplomb: " Becker & Poliakoff also employs Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Carlos Gimenez Jr, and George Burgess."
As someone has no doubt said a few times before, though never in my family, "Eureka!"

Which is to say, 
a.) Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the former Miami-Dade County Commissioner and current FL State Senator for District 36, who replaced one brother, Alex, currently a lawyer/lobbyist and former State Senate Majority Leader, and another brother, Renier, who's currently on the Miami-Dade School Board.
b.) Carlos Gimenez Jr., the son of Miami-Dade County's current Mayor, and, 
c.) George Burgess, the former Miami-Dade County Manager who resigned in March, after his job was overwhelmingly eliminated "with prejudice" by county voters in August of 2010, presaging the delicious and much-deserved recall of County Mayor Carlos Alvarez earlier this year.

It's helpful context alright, especially for those of us who have followed how the M-D lobbying process/charade has been abused over the years so that commissioners could make sure that their pals kept getting their cut of the American Dream, Miami-style (crony capitalism), which to cite but one example, where Comm. Sally Heyman kept Carrie Meek on the reservation regardless of her actual use, or the fact that her team was not one of the lowest bidders, but useful context of the sort that for the past few years has routinely NOT appeared in Herald articles, and Laura Brannigan's article is no exception.

(No serious follower of Miami-Dade politics and government that I know ever asks what a particular decision, vote or legislative bait-and-switch means on its face without first mentally scrolling thru his head the family trees of the county commission -and their assorted unofficial "families"- and then thinking about which members of la familia works for which one of the companies, firms or parties involved. 
Yes, just like in a banana republic, that's just the fundamental default question you have to ask.)

Just like the Herald NEVER mentioned in the days and weeks leading up to this decision that the subject would be taking place, much less, when the vote would be taking place.
Just keep the readers in the dark:THAT'S the Herald's local coverage policy -always after the fact.
And sometimes, NOT even then.

As it happens, the Miami-Dade County vote described took place last Monday, Dec. 19th.

Correct, it has taken the Herald exactly one week to report upon this vote in Miami, not in Timbuktu, in Mali, where a past housemate of mine in Arlington county served in the Peace Corps, and explained to me many times how difficult it was to communicate with the outside world from the village that she lived in.

Should a professionally-run news organization, esp. one that still claims to have a degree of relevancy and currency in the South Florida market have the same problem reporting from Miami in the last days of the year 2011?
I don't think so. 

For more on this point, see my post of November 27, 2010 about the use of technology, wherein I draw a comparison between the ability of a great song performed at a Paramore concert last year in Stockholm -at the bottom of this post- to be uploaded to YouTube and be seen by me thousands of miles away within hours, and the Miami Herald's myopic Pony Express-style of news reporting, where they constantly miss what's current because of their conscious decisions made by editors and management, leaving readers who want fresh news in the lurch.
How a video of Paramore in Stockholm and Razorlight at the Cuckoo Club, London proves the Miami Herald is moving too damn slow in its news coverage., Iceberg dead ahead!
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/how-video-of-paramore-in-stockholm.html

That the powers-that-be at One Herald Plaza chose to print this story about lobbying and the commission vote that decided it -at least temporarily- so long after-the-fact, and on the day after Christmas, instead of in Sunday's paper, their largest circulation day, well, to me, that's a very curious conscious choice indeed.
Yes, more Pony Express-style news coverage from the Miami Herald, but it doesn't end there.

Also as it happens, Monday marked 13 days since the Broward County Commission voted on redistricting and approved new district maps, and the Herald has STILL NOT printed anything in the newspaper or posted anything online about it.
Even though it directly affects roughly 40-45% of their readers.

Seriously, is it really asking too much of a local daily newspaper to actually report news within 24 or 48 hours?

For more on los hermanos Diaz de la Portilla, see also: http://www.ccfj.net/CCFJDeLaPortilla.htm

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Miami Herald 
Miami-Dade Commission aims to cut lobbying tab, ends up paying $50,000 more 
By Martha Brannigan
Posted December 25, 2011

Facing a tight budget, Miami-Dade commissioners launched plans this fall to ink new contracts with Tallahassee lobbying firms. Their goal: to slash spending. 

The two firms that had the business offered to reduce their prices, but the county rebuffed them.It was a costly decision. When commissioners doled out four lobbying agreements last week totaling $450,000, they wound up spending $50,000 more than the reduced price offered by the two incumbents.

After 90 minutes of debate and five failed motions, the vote was 10-3 — with Commission Chairman Joe Martinez voting against an initiative that he had spearheaded.

Also voting “no’’ on Dec. 19 were Commissioners Lynda Bell and Xavier Suarez, who argued for reduced spending.

“Nobody wants to cut out one of their friends,’’ Martinez said wearily from the dais. “Why doesn’t someone make a motion to defer and put us out of our misery?’’ 

In an interview afterward, Martinez added: “It was my item, but it didn’t turn out the way I expected. That’s why I voted against it.’’

Under the deal, sponsored by Commissioner Barbara Jordan, a team of lobbyists led by the two incumbent firms — Ron L. Book P.A. and Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell P.A. — were kept on, but were scaled back each to $170,000 a year from $225,000. Erased, too, was $50,000 for special projects, or “work orders.’’ 

Two additional firms — Akerman Senterfitt & Eidson and Ballard Partners Inc. — also were awarded contracts for $55,000 a year each. Akerman already does federal lobbying for the county. Book subcontracts with the Pittman Law Group. Rutledge subcontracts with Becker & Poliakoff, Dutko Worldwide LLC, and Gomez Barker Associates Inc. The one-year contracts come with annual options to renew for three years.

Besides the lobbying team, the county has its own government affairs staff and assistant county attorney Jess McCarty doing work in the state capital.

Brian Ballard said his firm won’t be doing work for the county on the casino issue. Ballard represents Genting Group, the Malaysian gambling giant that is pushing for legislation to permit destination resort casino gambling in the county, a pivotal issue now before the legislature. 

Akerman partner Mike Abrams said in an email that his firm has represented a Genting affiliate, Bayfront 2011 Property, “in several real estate matters,’’ but has “not been contacted or engaged to lobby on behalf of Genting or any of its affiliates with the state government at any level, including the legislature.’’

The commission’s money-saving effort began a week into the county’s new lean budget for fiscal 2011-12. “The ominous specter of layoffs threatens employee morale and the county’s ability to deliver services to our residents,’’ Martinez said in an Oct. 7 letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez, adding that to “drastically reduce’’ costs it would be necessary to advertise for lobbying firms through a competitive selection process. 

In a bid to hang onto the lucrative and prestigious county work and to head off a competitive search, honchos at Ron L. Book P.A. and Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell offered on Oct. 24 to cut their annual contracts to $200,000 each, from $225,000. The firms took reductions in 2009 and 2010 as well. 

But commissioners brushed aside the offer, pushing forward with a selection process and giving themselves the broadest latitude in handpicking the new team. “I thought we could get it down to $350,000 or $300,000 [in total],’’ Martinez said. 

The commission named the selection committee members, and rather than have the committee rank firms with numerical scores, asked simply for a list of firms meeting the basic qualifications. 

At the commission meeting, Bell recommended spending a total of $300,000 for three firms. But the measure died for lack of support, as did four other ideas.

Some commissioners fretted that changing lobbyists with the legislative session set to begin next month was ill-timed. Others said cutting spending at a time when Tallahassee is facing its own severe budget constraints was ill-advised. 

“This is a very tough year in Tallahassee,’’ said Commissioner Jose “Pepe’’ Diaz. “It’s a chaotic situation, plus there is redistricting,’’ he added, referring to the drawing of new political boundaries. 

Finally, Jordan successfully proposed the $450,000 deal, divided among all four firms that had applied. 

“If this was really about saving money, when you add it up, it cost $50,000 more than the two firms agreed to reduce their fees to,’’ said Commissioner Sally Heyman, who voted for the measure but was unhappy with it. She said by being on the prevailing side she is in a position to bring the issue up for reconsideration. 

“I question whether we need lobbyists in Tallahassee at all,’’ Suarez said afterward.

The commission plans to take up the issue of reducing payments to the county’s Washington lobbyists next year.


MIAMI-DADE LOBBYING 
Incumbent lobbyists in Tallahassee: Ron L. Book P.A. and Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell P.A. Book subcontracts with Pittman Law Group. Rutledge subcontracts with Becker & Poliakoff; Dutko Worldwide LLC; and Gomez Barker Associates. Additional firms receiving state lobbying contracts: Akerman Senterfitt & Eidson and Ballard Partners Inc.
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Paramore - Misguided Ghosts - (Acoustic) LIVE at Fryshuset, Stockholm, Sweden, November 30, 2009, http://youtu.be/O9OuNtlXiGA

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