Good Enough for Political Work

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Marinello, who is married and has three kids and holds the title of bishop in the Mormon Church, stresses that he is not running to promote a religious agenda. He is pushing quality of life issues -- making sure there are enough police on the streets, preventing the type of urban sprawl that has made Kendall a suburban wasteland, and developing a much stronger commitment to the county's park system.

Marinello faults Moss for not leading the charge against Homestead Air Base Developers, Inc. (HABDI). Moss initially voted in favor of awarding the no-bid development rights of the air base, which falls within his district, to Carlos Herrera, president of the politically well-connected Latin Builders Association. Eventually Moss decided the deal did not make sense and voted to reject the agreement, but the most outspoken critic of the plan was Commissioner Katy Sorenson. "We need someone who will take a leadership approach on such important issues," says Marinello, who opposes the pact with HABDI. "Dennis sort of stumbles into issues, and even then he rides on the coattails of other commissioners."

Moss says he finds Marinello's attacks interesting, especially since Marinello has never been active in South Dade affairs. "I keep talking to people and nobody in South Dade knows him," Moss says, adding that Marinello moved into District 9 only five years ago. "Obviously he hasn't been a part of anything in South Dade, and yet he feels free to criticize the work of others." Moss also notes that since 1978, Marinello has voted only once in any county commission election.

Moss denies that he hasn't been assertive enough. "I take an aggressive role when there are issues that I feel strongly about," he says, citing as examples his support for building a new arena for the Miami Heat, developing 200 acres of Homestead Air Force Base into a regional park, and, most important of all, his efforts to speed along the recovery of South Dade following Hurricane Andrew.

On the first Wednesday of every month Moss convenes a daytime roundtable discussion with community leaders, and in the evening he holds a town hall meeting, open to any member of the public. "No other commissioner in the history of South Dade has been more open and accessible than I have," Moss boasts.

Moss and his campaign consultant, Phil Hamersmith, question Marinello's ties to lobbyists Rodney Barreto and Chris Korge and to developer Sergio Pino, who have all contributed to his campaign. "Rodney has said to me that he is the chief fundraiser for the Marinello campaign," says Hamersmith. "His statement to me was, 'Dennis Moss isn't my guy. I'd do better with a different guy up there.'" Hamersmith claims Barreto has raised more than $15,000 for Marinello. Barreto was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.

Marinello laughs at Hamersmith's assertion, saying he met Barreto for the first time after he decided to run. "I don't need Rodney Barreto to raise money," he says. "Rodney, Chris, and Sergio have all contributed to my campaign, but that doesn't mean anything to me. They will have no better access to me than anybody else in this community." He also says he finds it odd that Moss and Hamersmith would attack him for being too close to lobbyists, when Hamersmith himself is a lobbyist and is running Moss's campaign.

A bit of political intrigue surrounding the District 9 race involves Wilbur Bell, who is supposedly an LBA plant designed to draw votes away from Moss. This would be the LBA's payback against Moss, the theory goes, for switching his vote on the HABDI deal. "I keep hearing these rumors that I was put in the race by [former county commissioner] Larry Hawkins and the LBA," says Bell. "But it is just not true." Hawkins's name surfaced because he has acted as an unofficial adviser to HABDI and Herrera. "Before I filed I talked to Larry and he gave me a few pointers, but that's it," Bell continues. "And I don't know nobody at the LBA. That is the truth."

On election day, Dennis Moss's chances will probably have little to do with the machinations of lobbyists or special interest groups. Instead, they will depend on whether voters will go with what they know or with the unknown. In that regard, this election is reminiscent of the old television show Let's Make a Deal, in which the contestants have already won a lovely and dependable Maytag washer and dryer. But here comes Monty Hall, asking if they are willing to trade it all for what's behind door number two. It could be a new car or a fancy European vacation. Or it could be 500 pounds of kitty litter.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede