Mission Impossible

An emphatic mayor. Tons of polling. Heaps of money. But something went wrong with the Penelas campaign that couldn't.

Teele believes Penelas's promise of jobs in the black community boomeranged. "They walked into their own artillery," he says. Black men voted against it.

"They didn't recognize the deep concern black men have that they can't get jobs because they go to Hispanics," he continues.

By the end of election day, Knight and those who worked the black community will have been only partly successful. Black turnout is average and only Liberty City will vote resoundingly for the penny tax.

Brian May speculates that residents are still angry about broken promises regarding the Miami Arena and the jobs that never arrived.

Sometime shortly after the polls closed on election day, the rain finally broke with a fierce but short-lived intensity. Even a daylong downpour probably wouldn't have given Penelas a victory. Much of the campaign had backfired. The team had followed all the right strategies: They amassed a war chest, took polls, spread the pork, and called in favors from special interests. They did everything but involve the public.

The slick, well-financed organization, which had worked so well in the past, gave voters the impression they were being sold snake oil. The $1.8 million raised from the construction industry and other interests stirred suspicions of quid pro quos. The campaign's effort to create a broad plan to generate support from many special-interest groups brought accusations of a bait and switch. The hope that these special-interest groups would provide a deciding "yes" vote disappeared in the large turnout.

Those who voted against it had not been given the chance, through community meetings and other forums, to buy into the proposal's creation and assert ownership of it. The campaign wagered on voter apathy, usually a safe bet, unless the electorate's own money is at stake. On election day the campaign's precise voter arithmetic got lost in the sea of anger.

But penny-tax campaign strategist Brian May believes the idea that the citizenry is motivated enough to show up at meetings to shape their own future is a myth.

"I would submit to you right now that we could hold charettes and meetings [about transportation] and nobody would come," he insists. "People don't care unless it is sitting on a ballot and they have to pay for it."

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