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Alex Penelas: Mayoral loser

C. Stiles

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke — who is a candidate to replace more-boring-than-bread-pudding ex-Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez — explains why a rerun for former Mayor Alex Penelas would be no good.

Just when you thought the old days were over, they're back. The establishment's favorite Cuban-American politician, Alex Penelas, told the Miami Herald last week: "I'm thinking about [running for mayor] because I see a community at a crossroads." But in case you have forgotten what Penelas left behind for county taxpayers, let me remind you. He was among those who originated the idea of a baseball stadium for the Marlins. He started the mess we are in now. He got the ball rolling after tricking voters into approving a basketball arena on Biscayne Bay for Micky Arison.

Penelas, elected in 1996 as the first "executive" mayor, was the guy who let all the lobbyists get rich under his watch. His buddies, including lawyer Chris Korge and lobbyist Rodney Barreto, became multimillionaires after getting pieces of county contracts. Some of Penelas's other stellar accomplishments include selecting unproven and inexperienced ex-Homestead Mayor Steve Shiver as county manager and trying to rid Miami-Dade of its first African-American aviation director, Angela Gittens.

Then there's Penelas's unwavering loyalty to the Democratic Party. Not! He publicly refused to help the Clinton administration when it was trying to return Cuban rafter boy Elián González to his father on the island. And he wasted millions in taxpayer money by suing the federal government over Clinton's decision to kill the commercial airport at Homestead Air Force Base. As if that weren't enough, Penelas screwed Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election by disappearing at key moments.

Since he was soundly defeated in the 2004 U.S. Senate Democratic primary, Penelas has been trying his hand at lobbying. I guess he hasn't had much success working in the shadows. Now the special interests need someone else to parade in the African-American community because Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina can't cut it. After all, Penelas is the king of buying off black campaign strategists.

But this special election is about people power. I'm going to bring together every Cuban, Nicaraguan, Colombian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Jew, Gator, Hurricane, Golden Panther, Seminole, and Rattler in Miami-Dade County. And we are going to take our community back.


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