Why I Passed on Carlos Gimenez
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. Six days after his controversial endorsement of Julio Robaina, Luke issues the last word on his decision.
The spin doctors are hard at work because I am endorsing the candidate the media dislikes. Now everybody in the press corps is trying to misconstrue my hourlong video interview with New Times and only taking the part about me suggesting that Pierre Rutledge is someone both candidates should hire because he is a squeaky-clean guy who will make sure they do the things that need to be done to help the community. What the fuck is wrong with that?
Don't we all have suggestions about who would serve in county government for the good of the people? Now everyone wants to falsely claim that my campaign was just about getting this man a job. So much for transparency and honesty. Rutledge is doing fine work as director of operations for the Miami-Dade County School Board. He doesn't need the job, but he is one of the few individuals in civic affairs whom I trust, so excuse me for trying to make sure that either Robaina or Gimenez does right by the community.
If I was about getting paid, then when Gimenez supporter and Homestead City Councilman Jimmy Williams offered me a $40,000 appearance fee for a restaurant that had not even opened, I would have taken it. Williams made the offer after we concluded a 1 a.m. meeting on June 7 with Gimenez inside the Snapper's at 800 Ives Dairy Rd.
Williams is the same guy who signed off on the press conference with Gimenez before I had even made up my mind. He is the guy who sent me a press release the day before the scheduled press conference with statements attributed to me that I did not say, putting words in my mouth. I don't operate that way. No one can put words in my mouth, and it certainly has never been about the money with me.
Since the May 24 special election, I've had several extensive conversations and face-to-face meetings with Robaina and Gimenez about the issues affecting Miami-Dade. I thought long and hard about the ramifications of giving my endorsement. The easiest thing I could have done was stay out of the race, but that would be a disservice to democracy and the 20,000 people who voted for me.
But I wasn't just going to endorse Gimenez over Robaina because Miami Herald editor Myriam Marquez or Michael Putney or plain old conventional wisdom expected me to. Yeah, I attacked Robaina on the campaign trail. I hit him harder than any of the other candidates. But I also hammered Gimenez, not only calling him a "soft-money whore" but also pointing out his son is a lobbyist who represents companies doing business with the county. Yet I don't think I'd be getting so much flak had I supported Gimenez.
For me, Gimenez and Robaina are the establishment candidates. Unfortunately, more voters decided to go with the two establishment candidates in the runoff.
But despite the things I said and wrote about them, both candidates put egos aside to meet with me and convince me that one of them is capable of uniting this community and fixing county government over the next 17 months. I put my ego aside to listen to what they both had to say about moving Miami-Dade forward.
My endorsement was never contingent on Gimenez or Robaina giving Pierre Rutledge a job. I made my decision based on several factors. Being a political novice, I figured I'd ask both guys how they would feel about a Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama situation, where I could have input in their administrations and I could suggest -- not strong-arm -- hiring good, squeaky-clean people who will do the right thing for Miami-Dade's deprived communities, economic development, youth programs, and the arts. Robaina was cool with doing that, while Gimenez wavered.
The former county commissioner also wavered on his position about Miami's community redevelopment agencies. When we initially met, he was adamant about eliminating the CRAs and putting the millions of dollars that both generate annually back into the county general fund. That was a problem with me. A strong mayor needs to tell the CRA to get its act together before abolishing it. If the county has no say, the mayor needs to demand a seat at the table, provide more county oversight, and prepare a blueprint for creating jobs in the most blighted neighborhoods in Miami. When I told him so, Gimenez backed off his stance, but he didn't seem genuine about it.
As part of my research, I went to the West Grove, where African-American community activists told me Gimenez was largely absent during his seven-year tenure as county commissioner. When people are telling me he has never been to the Goombay Festival and has never created an economic development plan for one of Miami's oldest African-American neighborhoods, that tells me Gimenez is not for all of Miami.
Furthermore, during this campaign, Gimenez has not spent a quarter to court the African- American vote. He has not spent a dime on any minority-owned media outlets or taken the time to visit black neighborhoods. His strategy has largely been focused on getting elitist, wealthy Republicans and know-it-all Anglo Democrats.
This was a long, hard informed decision for me. I spent a lot of time talking to people I trust, folks who I know are not going to bullshit me. Yet everyone wants to paint a For Sale sign over my head. I'm making it clear that under no circumstances was my endorsement for sale.
Robaina never offered me a quarter. I fought for constitutional rights all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And now all of sudden I am going to sell out the voters to get a friend a job? C'mon, man. I endorsed Robaina in exchange for the promise of thousands of jobs for Miami-Dade residents, not for just one individual.
I believe Robaina -- even though he is hated by New Times, the Miami Herald, CBS4, WPLG, and every no-name political blogger in town -- has the best shot at putting people to work. If that is criminal, throw my ass in jail.
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