In the Dead of the Night

While you were sound asleep, the Dade County Commission spent hundreds of millions of your dollars. Aren't you glad they didn't bother to wake you?

1:37 a.m.
First Assistant County Attorney Murray Greenberg fell asleep in his chair. As aides and other county staffers moved quietly around him, Commissioner Betty Ferguson gently stroked his hair.

2:00 a.m.
After almost seventeen hours, the commission finally took up the issue Reboredo had been waiting for A the role of the county mayor, who will be elected in the fall of 1996. Forty-five minutes later commissioners decided that nothing would be decided until next spring, when a measure may or may not be put on the ballot. Margolis, however, did extract an agreement from Penelas, Teele, and Ferre A the three likely mayoral candidates on the commission A that a division of power between the mayor and the commission is appropriate.

Reboredo then delivered a short speech in which he talked about "special interests" controlling the mayor and the commission, though he didn't get specific, and how the mayor needed to have "reason" and not "power," though he didn't clearly explain what he meant. When he finished, the commission moved on to other matters. Reboredo slumped into his chair and waited for the end to arrive.

3:30 a.m.
For about an hour commissioners had been listening to arguments from a series of competing bidders who wanted to be the county's travel agent. Dade officials spend almost two million dollars per year on air travel, and the contract could be a lucrative one, though the amount is unclear. As the debate bogged down in a numbingly tangled mess, Commissioner Burke rose from his seat and decided to stretch his legs.

"That's impressive," Burke said, having settled into a seat toward the rear of the gallery. He nodded toward the front of the room and left the impression he was referring to the travel-agent debate being conducted by various lobbyists.

"No," he corrected, and pointed to the twelve-foot-wide television screen high above the commissioners' heads. The screen carries a much enlarged version of the televised commission proceedings carried by all Dade cable companies. "I meant the picture," Burke explained. "It's very clear."

He stared at it a while longer. "I wonder why they don't make the picture wider so it would fill the whole screen," he mused. He continued gazing. "It all looks so very different from back here," he said dreamily before finally getting up and walking back toward the dais.

4:11 a.m.
Dazed and deadlocked, the commission was unable to select a travel agent, and so put off the matter until September. Teele then adjourned the meeting, wished his colleagues a "happy and safe summer vacation," and began packing his bags. His assessment of the unprecedented session: "As long as the commission is awake and smiling, we have a chance."

Muttering to themselves, the others headed for the door.
Kaplan's assessment: The entire affair was a "clusterfuck.

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