DeFede

A Prayer for Natacha

It was even more ludicrous, though, for our sexy little mayor, Alex Penelas, to express shock and dismay about the Herald's findings, especially since nearly every lobbyist with his snout in MIA's trough is a part of Penelas's fundraising machine. In fact the funniest line in the entire Herald series was uttered by Penelas himself. After the Herald exhaustively documented how every major lobbyist was tied to the mayor, Penelas was quoted as saying he would like to reform the process by cutting commissioners out of the loop.

Excuse me, but it appears that what we really need to do is yank Penelas and his cronies out of the process.

Indeed Penelas's holier-than-thou attitude is beginning to grate on commissioners. Natacha Millan, for example, repeatedly made references to "the 29th floor" (where the mayor's office is located) during last week's meeting. "The 29th floor continues to promote their image, and they are very effective at it," Millan huffed. "They promote purity.... I have serious problems with that. I have that issue with the 29th floor. Because you know what? We were all born the same way; we all came into office the same way."

Translation: You're a whore just like the rest of us, Mr. Mayor. You can act all sweet and innocent for the TV cameras, but we know better.

Commissioners simply don't understand how Penelas can stand ankle-deep in a pile of manure, and step out of it smelling like a rose as far as the public is concerned.

It must be particularly galling for Millan, who like the mayor is up for re-election next year. Already the pressure of the race is getting to her. She's even more surly and belligerent than usual, a sure sign she is running scared.

During last week's meeting, Millan publicly humiliated G.T. "Tom" Arnold, a long-time member of the Miami-Dade Police Department who is on special assignment at the airport as an assistant director. Among other things, Arnold has been trying to clean up the airport's procurement process -- a process that, as I've noted, has been corrupted by the political machinations of various commissioners.

Earlier this year Arnold, a no-nonsense kind of guy, spoke candidly to me about many of the problems at MIA, including the interference of commissioners. This is what he had to say about Millan: "I have not had any specific incidents with her in the time I've been here. I do know that she carries a lot of weight around the airport, mostly from the fact that she was on that aviation committee. She showed an interest in airport operations, plus there are quite a few people who are connected to her. There are several individuals in the aviation department who were placed here by her, which is another issue. I call them PPs, political placements."

Last week Millan sought her revenge. She already had demanded that Arnold write her a letter of apology; now she was going to make him grovel. She summoned him to the podium during last week's meeting. Once again he apologized and said that his comments were never intended to disparage her. Even though his quote to me indicated that he had no personal knowledge of her actions at the airport, she made him repeat that assertion.

Millan's little spectacle served only to undermine Arnold at a time when commissioners should be trying to promote reform and change within the airport. It was a selfish bit of grandstanding by Millan that may have done wonders for her ego but that ultimately hurts the county she supposedly represents. How sweet it must have been for her, though. Fifteen years ago Arnold was president of the Dade County Mental Health Association and had to fire Millan because of budget cutbacks.

Well, like they say, payback is a bitch, and apparently her name is Millan.

Arnold is useless now at the airport. Whereas he once might have been seen as the type of person who could stand up to the political pressure, he's now just another cowed county employee. Luckily for the public, the county's independent Inspector General will be setting up shop at the airport in the next few weeks. Millan can't touch him.

Following the Arnold debacle, I received a number of calls from airport employees disgusted by Millan's conduct. If she doesn't realize this already, let me make it clear for the good commissioner from Hialeah: She is despised by airport employees. They have no respect for her. They believe she is a hypocrite who loves to brag that she is a champion of women. But the only woman she is really interested in helping is Natacha Millan.

The people I've spoken to hope -- no, actually they pray -- that a year from now she will be driven from office by the voters.

Let us bow our heads.

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