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The typical profile of a big-city politician is that of a wealthy lawyer or businessman. Financial disclosure forms for elected officials released at the beginning of the month show city Commissioners Angel Gonzalez and Marc Sarnoff with net worths of $883,695 and $2,257,500, respectively; Mayor Manny Diaz leads the pack with $2,448,750.
And then there is Tomas Regalado, the city's longest-serving commissioner, with 13 years in office. A radio host and television reporter for TeleMiami, Regalado prides himself on being a "man of the people." When it comes to his bank account, he might have a point: His net worth is $5,000, according to the disclosure form he signed July 1.
There are a few ways to interpret this figure. It could be that the form isn't accurate — though Regalado says it is. ("It better be, or I'll be in trouble.") Or that he has difficulty managing his personal finances and has no business administering a city budget. Or you could just take it as proof that this guy is not in it for the money. Regalado prefers the last explanation and is happy to speak candidly about his financial situation.
"I'm poor," he says. "I can't afford to pay to go to the performing arts center or see the Heat play more than twice a year. But I don't care; that's the way I choose to live."
On the disclosure form, Regalado lists a mortgage of more than $100,000. As a commissioner, he makes $58,200 a year, and while contractual obligations prevent him from revealing how much he makes from his TV and radio gigs, he says it's "under $75,000." Assuming an income as little as half of that, altogether he makes somewhere around $95,000 a year.
He says his money has gone to pay for the education of his children. The two oldest are in their thirties and are successful professionals (his daughter is a real estate lawyer; his son is a televesion reporter for TV Martí). Regalado's youngest son is in his last year of college at Florida International University.
County records show Regalado has had a history of problems with the IRS, racking up a series of federal and local property tax liens going back to 1988. But he says he has paid everything back. He was released from the last lien in February 2004.
To be fair, it has been a hard year for the Regalado family. His wife, Raquel Regalado, a popular Cuban-American radio host, died in February, and he has said her death played a big part in inspiring him to run for mayor.
He points to his latest campaign finance report as an indication of his popular support; it shows that, unlike most local pols, he relies primarily on small donors. Regalado raised $12,935 from 352 donors; only nine people gave the $500 maximum. (By contrast, during Manny Diaz's 2005 mayoral run, nearly 90 percent of his donors gave the legal limit.) "I call them Miami's army," Regalado says of his contributors. "And they're going to take back the city." Riptide hopes that army comes with some accountants, because the figures he has released so far just don't seem to add up.