By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
The e-mail continued and she grew worried. "I became very alarmed because of the type of e-mail I was receiving," she says. "It was personal stuff and legal documents." Smith made a point never to download information. But in order to differentiate between her legitimate mail and that of the county, she had to read the message text. "I was concerned," she says. "I didn't want the police showing up at my doorstep, accusing me of hacking through county servers."
She believes messages with errors in the address are defaulting directly to her Website. The problem continues to this day.
Toward the end of last May, she sent an e-mail to the county's Information and Technology Department (ITD) and called them in the hopes something could be done. (Smith provided to New Times examples of the errant e-mail, including one from ITD, which handles county computers.) Smith believed at the very least officials could put an advisory on their Website or post a memo to employees informing them of the confusion. But several e-mails and phone calls failed to elicit a response from ITD. Finally in late July she got a call back.
Smith says she was told there was nothing that could be done. "We didn't have any technical problems," says Judy Zito, Webmaster for Miami-Dade County. "It was obviously people typing [Miami-Dade.com] by mistake."
Oddly enough Zito recalls the county had the opportunity to buy Miami-Dade.com from a previous owner. She cannot remember the price but says the offer, which was received in a correspondence, was rejected as too costly. When asked for documentation, a county spokesperson says no such correspondence exists and that Zito is mistaken. The spokesperson, Rhonda Barnett, suggests information about the offer is an "urban legend."
One consequence of Smith's sobriety was more time to indulge in a passion for politics. Ever the pragmatist, she passed on volunteering for the 1988 presidential campaign, convinced her efforts wouldn't make a difference. Instead that August Smith scoured the newspaper for a local politician with whom she could identify.
"I did it very systematically," she recalls. She chose to help a novice Democrat named Tom Easterly in his improbable bid to win election for state representative for District 118 against incumbent Republican Bob Starks. Easterly had vowed not to accept any contributions over $100. Starks raised more than $100,000. The Democrat, a successful insurance agent, ended up spending about $60,000 on the campaign, most of it his own money.
Although Starks claimed 250 volunteers, for most of the campaign Easterly only had one: Smith. Until the final weeks, she worked alone and obsessively. Smith remembers calling undecided voters repeatedly and later roping her friends into the struggle. In addition to going door to door for Easterly, she parked herself on Kendall Drive with an American flag, a poster of her candidate, and a boat horn to try to raise awareness.
When the votes were counted on election day, Easterly led Stark by 215 votes. After two recounts the final tally showed Easterly over Starks by eleven votes. "That was my intro into poli-sci 101," Smith remarks.
Toward the end of his two-year term as a representative, Smith claims Easterly called her for help on a bid for the state Senate. She never returned his call. "What had he done as state rep? Nothing," she answers her own question.
Smith has since supported several candidates, but perhaps her most noteworthy campaign involved another underdog: County Commissioner Katy Sorenson. Smith volunteered for Sorenson's first campaign when the commissioner successfully challenged Larry Hawkins in 1994. "Eve was a big help on the campaign," remembers Sorenson. "She brought in a lot of volunteers."
Today, after more than a decade of political involvement, Smith has become more cynical. "Democrat, Republican, it's all the same color -- green," she says disgustedly.
Looking for a new route for her activism, she turned to cyberspace.
On August 15, 1999, Smith launched her latest Website, MiaFla.com. The site strives to be a comprehensive look at Miami-Dade politics from a grassroots perspective. It also is a fascinating experiment in local activism. Through Smith's many contacts in the community, her friends have begun to feed her information to put on the site.
In a short manifesto at the beginning of MiaFla.com, Smith lays out its mission. "We want to provide access of political information and opinion to all residents of Miami-Dade County.... Thus MiaFla.com plans to be your 'eyes and ears.'"
By her association with Gentile, Smith became involved in the incorporation movement, which is featured prominently on the site through a group called LINC, short for Let's Incorporate Now. LINC claims to represent sixteen different communities in unincorporated Miami-Dade County that want to form their own municipalities. Their common bond is a feeling that county government is unresponsive. They believe the only way to change this is by retaining more localized control over decisions. Rebuffed in court and threatened by powerful interests opposed to incorporation, the group's momentum has nonetheless started to build. Unhappy with the responses of politicians, their latest project, which is endorsed by Mayor Alex Penelas, calls for term limits for commissioners.