You know Miami-Dade politics is a joke when the county mayor's race comes down to whichguy sucks less
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. If you're into a Cuban version of Arthur Fonzerelli with his own private shadow bank, you'll vote for Julio Robaina. If you're interested in the fire chief version of recently ousted mayor Carlos Alvarez, you'll vote for Carlos Gimenez. For those voters planning to head out to the polls on Election Day tomorrow, we're taking a look back at how both candidates stuck it to the taxpayers in their previous public sector assignments.
Today, we highlight Robaina's boondoggles:
- The $100 million water treatment plant. Last year, Robaina succeeded in pushing through his number one pet project which he claims will serve future residential development on 1,800 acres Hialeah annexed in west Miami-Dade. The cost to build the plant is being split between the city and the county. Although Robaina claims the bond used to pay for the plant will be covered by future residents' water bills, the financial burden would fall on existing Miami-Dade taxpayers if no one moves into the land the plant is supposed to serve.
- The $2.1 million lay-off. Last December, Robaina terminated 16 city firefighters claiming it would save the city $2.5 million. This past April, an arbitrator ruled that Robaina didn't show cause to fire them and that the savings amounted to less than $500,000. While the city has promised to rehire the firefighters, it has not done so. As a result, the city continues to accrue $10,000 a day in unnecessary overtime and back pay costs.
- The $10 million appeal. This past March, the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission ordered Hialeah to rescind a contract with the city's unions that cut rank-and-file employees' salaries and benefits by up to 30 percent. Instead, Robaina appealed to the Third District Court of Appeals to overturn the commission's ruling. As a result, the city owes employees $10 million in lost wages and benefits.
- The no pool summer. Last year, Robaina cut the hours the city pools stay open by 67 percent. There was no public swimming at Milander Park and four other city neighborhood pools were only open twice a week on a rotating basis.
- The budget director's $74,000-a-year concubine. In August 2009, Robaina approved budget director Alex Vega's request to transfer Ana Maria Gonzalez from an internal auditor position to a higher paying post in the city's department of Education and Community Services. Five months earlier, Vega had been busted by his then-estranged wife having an affair with Gonzalez. The budget director subsequently got a divorce and wedded his mistress.