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Miami Beach Mayoral Candidates Runing Nose to Nose

Miami Beach Mayoral Candidates Runing Nose to Nose

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Published by Ryan Webster
President Clinton's endorsement and Levine's $2 million for a $10,000 job gave Levine the win.
President Clinton's endorsement and Levine's $2 million for a $10,000 job gave Levine the win.

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Published by: Ryan Webster on Oct 16, 2013
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11/09/2013

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MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS 
 
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Michael Góngora Phillip LevineLEADING MIAMI BEACH MAYORAL CANDIDATES RUNNING NOSE TO NOSE
Until President Clinton Intervened in the Nonpartisan Race
Columbus Day 2013By David Arthur WaltersMIAMI MIRROR MIAMI BEACH—The leading contenders in the City of Miami Beach mayoral election areMichael Góngora and Phillip Levine. Three commission seats are also up for grabs.Thus far the campaigns have been desultory and media coverage sparse. If a thousand MiamiBeach residents were selected at random and asked to at least three commissioners and themayor, or the city manager, the city attorney, and the city building director, only one personcould do so. An intelligent resident spoke to me yesterday about Levine’s run for mayor. He had never heard of Mayor Matti Bower, and thought Góngora was the incumbent mayor. He could not name a single commissioner.The sunny city on the beach is a small yet important city with a population of around 90,000souls. The struggle for power is of keen interest to perhaps a hundred people who have a vested interest in who rules. They in turn influence a basically apathetic electorate. Less than fivethousand voters routinely culled from the neighborhoods determine the outcomes of elections.The effectiveness of democracy depends on an educated electorate, yet the electorate is barelyeducated on the whole on political matters, and most people including the educated portion havegrown cynical and indifferent given their experience with the political struggle for power, which
 
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may remain in the hands of a dominating clique for decades. People may worship absolute power in church, but a passion for politics, which involves the relative distribution of absolute power, isanathema at the dinner table and workplace because it results in arguments, hard feelings, and violence. Furthermore, many folks are just too busy working, taking care of kids, and watchingthe games to devote much time to researching the qualifications and conduct of the people whohold sway over the future of their families, so they leave that to the experts who rule according totheir prejudices and biases.The City of Miami Beach, like 77% of cities in the nation, conducts its elections on a nonpartisan basis as if it should not matter whether the candidates are Republicans, Democrats, or otherwise.That means the ballot itself does not state what parties the candidates belong to, therefore theelectorate, largely uninformed about most if not all the candidates, does not have the minimum benefit of knowing from the ballot what their basic political ideals are supposed to be. Nonpartisan elections are a consequence of the movement in the 20s towards running cities like businesses, or nonpolitically, because it was believed that filling a pothole has nothing to do with political parties. But it certainly does. A city official told me that the plan to have the policedepartment’s internal affairs unit investigate complaints of misconduct against all city officials,not just police officers, was put on hold for the nonpolitical reason that there was no budget for the additional resources needed. But the reason for no budget allocation is political. Theinspector general has declined to service the city, and there is only one cop in the corruptioninvestigations unit, and he is assigned to task with the F.B.I., with its limited resources, so wemust patiently await the next arrest of a few miscreants over whom there is little or no oversight.The City of Miami Beach also adopted the weak mayor, strong city manager form of government, recommended by reformers in the 20s to curb corruption and take politics out of city administration. The city manager is hypothetically like a business CEO subject to generaldirection of a part-time board of directors, the city commission, on which the mayor, a glorified commissioner, sits as a chairperson with no power of veto. So the city manager, who is supposed to be a nonpolitical business manager, and who is really the most powerful city official of all, isnot even elected. How democratic is that? Kansas City Boss Tom Pendergast lauded the reformwhen it came to pass in his city, claiming that it made his job easier. It was indeed easy for himat the time to install his own councilmen and city manager.Jimmy Morales, Miami Beach’s current city manager, is a professional lawyer and politician. Hereplaced Jorge Gonzalez, a professional city manager. Gonzalez was suddenly forced intoretirement after fourteen years by a faux opposition on the commission spearheaded byCommissioner Jonah Wolfson, who most strongly objected to the former manager’s negotiationwith a development company for construction of what would be the grandest convention center in the country. Gonzales was soon hired as city manager by the City of Bal Harbour, where realestate development is also thriving. Wolfson, after endorsing sitting commissioner Góngora for mayor, switched his allegiance to Levine, a wealthy developer who has his own ideas and developers for the project. Levine said he looks forward to working with Morales. Perhaps ahandful of people really understand what is going on with the project. Others, who have heard about it but have not had the time nor will to consider the details, say that whatever happens will be business as usual, i.e. traditional corruption.
 
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What a few people may know is beside the point of getting elected. Statistical studies prove thatnonpartisan voters, lacking information, vote along ethnic lines. A notorious case on point is theelection of Steve Rocco to California’s Orange County Unified School District Board in 2004.Rocco did not campaign or otherwise publicly face his opponent anywhere. His website presented a conspiracy theory asserting that Andy Kaufman, a famous comedian, was still live.The only other source of information was an auto-biography that he published with anadvertisement promising revelations of political and corporation corruption, and murder, behind the “Orange Curtain.” He won by 8 points. The Hispanic name of his opponent, Phil Martinez, alocal PTA president with teacher’s union backing, was apparently a negative factor in the choice by the dominantly conservative electorate.Three or four thousand votes win an election in Miami Beach, which has a population of 88,000.Ethnic groups are historically best at getting out the vote. In Miami Beach, then, one might predict a win for Góngora over Levine. But do not count the chickens before they are hatched.The current mayor, Matti Herrera Bower, is Hispanic, but the commission normally has a Jewishmajority. Hispanics opposed to corruption may agree with the stereotypical view that Latinogovernments and Catholics are more corrupt and unstable than Anglo governments and Protestants, and may recall that Byzantine Catholic and Muslim potentates alike have engaged Jews to administer their governments, so they may vote for Levine.Phillip Levine, a wealthy businessman and developer who sports a degree in political sciencefrom the University of Michigan, is a kindergartner in the political arena. He has put nearly amillion dollars of his own money into a campaign to obtain a position that pays $8,000 a year.However, he is no slouch when it comes to business: he turned $500 pocket money into millionsin revenue handling media for cruise lines, selling and merging companies along the way, and then he went into real estate development. He is proud of his involvement in former PresidentClinton’s Global Initiative organization for wealthy benefactors, and the fact that the Secretary of Commerce drafted him onto a task force on tourism in 2010.The latest dirt is that he bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars developing Sunset Harbour inSouth Beach. But is that not what businessmen are supposed to do, cut costs, especially toincrease profits? And rumor has it that he is a friendly fascist who wants to run the cityundemocratically as if it were a big corporation. He reportedly wants to get rid of the committeesthat provide community participation in political decisions, committees upon which the part-timecommissioners depend for information.Thus far Levine appears to be a naïve, unresponsive candidate who lacks communication skillsand mishandles media despite his success as a minor media mogul. Given his experience in thetourist industry, and the fact that Miami Beach is a prime international tourist destination, wewould expect to see the city depicted as a cruise ship with him at its wheel bringing millions of visitors to the beach. But we do not see much of him and hear next to nothing specific about his platform, if he has one, giving us cause to wonder what happened to the million dollars of hisown money he has invested in the campaign.He implied nonsensically that he is so influential that all he had to do to stop a big development planned for Watson Island, but unwanted by Miami Beach, was to give top-dog developer JorgePerez a call and ask him to back out of it.

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