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 truthful answer: Most people believe this batch of commissioners cannot be trusted, period. Poll after poll has shown this, including one conducted by Bendixen & Associates in conjunction with New Times ("Tell Us What You Think," September 18, 2003). Had the Business Forum planned ahead, and had its members been honest with themselves, they would have had to agree with the public: No bond issue until the scoundrels on the commission are replaced by somewhat more trustworthy scoundrels.
But that kind of brutal honesty would have presented serious problems for several Business Forum members who had a pressing interest in the bond measure. One of them, attorney Aaron Podhurst, is chairman of the board of the Miami Art Museum. Forum members Cesar Alvarez and Paul Cejas, as well as the wives of members Woody Weiser and Herald publisher Alberto Ibargüen, also sit on MAM's board. If the bond were to pass, MAM would stand to reap a whopping $100 million to build a new home in Bicentennial Park. Between the Miami Museum of Science, Metrozoo, and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens -- all slated to be bond beneficiaries -- even more Business Forum members would have had difficulty facing the facts.
So they chose hypocrisy over honesty.
During a June 8 dinner meeting at the Coconut Grove Ritz-Carlton, the Business Forum wrestled with the issue and decided to punt on the airport, fearing that a commission-bashing election campaign would endanger the bond issue, which they (hypocritically) were willing to entrust to county commissioners.
Jorge Hernandez-Toraño, chairman of the Forum, explains it this way: "Airport changes are necessary. Our desire to see that happen has not waned, it's just been postponed. By the same token, the infrastructure improvements destined to take place if the bond passes are also of concern to us, as they should be for the entire community.... The bond issue is a long-term program. Commissioners are only there for their own terms."
As well-intentioned as Hernandez-Toraño and his Forum colleagues may be, they emerged from this political fight as losers, battered and bruised. Worse still is the perception they were compromised by the self-interest of a few members. Not exactly an auspicious activist debut for a group that has ambitions to leadership, and definitely not the kind of outcome that inspires confidence in future endeavors.
One observer familiar with the Forum's referendum debacle, who asks not to be named, draws a gloomy conclusion. "Their unwillingness to take on this battle was very revealing of how weak they are," he says. "In other communities in this country, the öestablishment' isn't so dependent on a political body like the county commission to fund cultural institutions, art museums. Elsewhere there's more commitment, funds are raised privately. But here in Miami, people have to go hat in hand to the politicians."
Meekly approaching Miami-Dade's county commissioners, hands outstretched, beseeching them for financial assistance on behalf of your needy cultural group? Now, that stinks to high heaven.
Chairman and CEO, City National Bank
President and CEO, Adorno and Yoss
President and CEO, Greenberg Traurig
Chairman and CEO, Carnival Cruise Lines
Chairman, Total Bank (executive committee)
President and CEO, American Ventures Corporation
Chairman and CEO, PLC Investments
Chairman, Cobb Partners
Chairman and CEO, Codina Group (executive committee)
Senior vice president, American Airlines
Partner, Bilzin Sumberg Dunn
Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (executive committee)
President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami
Chairman and CEO, Perry Ellis International (vice chairman)
President, Great Florida Bank
CEO, Southern Banking Group, Union Planters Bank (executive committee)
Jorge L. Hernandez-Toraño
Partner, Holland and Knight (chairman)
Publisher, Miami Herald
President and CEO, Baptist Health South Florida
President, Florida, BellSouth (executive committee)
President and CEO, TransAtlantic Bank
President, Florida International University
CEO, Watsco, Inc.
Managing partner, Allen, Norton, and Blue
President, Barry University
President, Florida Power and Light
CEO, Jackson Health Trust
President, Miami Dade Community College
President, Peebles Atlantic Development Corporation
Chairman and managing partner, Podhurst Orsek Josefsberg Eaton (executive committee)
President and COO, Univision Network
VP/dir. of community development, Wachovia Bank
Managing partner, Deloitte and Touche
Chairman, Premier American Bank
President, CEO and chairman, Noven Pharmaceutical
Chairman and CEO, Intercap Investments
President, Intercap Investments
Chairman and CEO, Continental Hospitality Holdings
President, Williamson Cadillac Co.