Miami-Dade Mayor Wants to Spend $1.5 Million on Polo Shirts

Polo shirts: timeless fashion statements that say, "I could be headed to a vigorous round of tennis! But probably I'm headed to work and am simply too lazy for a full button-up." In Miami-Dade, where a laid-back beach attitude and swampy subtropical weather make full suits as practical as Borat Speedos, most office workers rarely wear anything dressier than polos.

So it makes sense that polos are the de facto uniform of Miami-Dade County. And Mayor Carlos Gimenez says it's time to re-up the supply of popped collars for everyone, from county morgue workers to aviation employees and sewer workers.

In fact, the mayor wants to drop $1.5 million on new polos for county employees. Gimenez spells out the request in a letter sent to the county commission.

"The majority of these polos will be used as county uniforms," Gimenez writes in the letter, which was first noted by the Miami Herald's Doug Hanks on Twitter.

Gimenez points out that his request — which is being considered by a county committee — is about $300,000 less than the last polo shirt order, which was approved in 2013. Five years is, admittedly, about the lifespan of a polo shirt, particularly in sweaty Dade.

Still, asking for more than a million bucks for polo shirts will likely raise some eyebrows in a county that has been aggressively pinching pennies on some major priorities, particularly public transit. Gimenez is fresh off a massive trip to China to scout out a bus system he hoped could alleviate some of Dade's traffic woes at half the price of a Metrorail expansion — a plan he soured on after checking out the buses in person.

In fact, county polo orders have made for contentious politics in the past, particularly because of the county's awful record of investing in public transportation improvements.

In 2008, the Herald looked into how the county had blown an $800 million plan to improve bus and train service over the previous decade. Barely more than half of that money had actually gone to transit, the newspaper found, with hundreds of millions being diverted to pay for other stuff — including polo shirts for county workers.

This time, Gimenez says most of the cash for new shirts would come from the county's general fund or from proprietary accounts in the various departments looking for new duds.

In fact, only one department wants to pay for its polo shirts from operating funds: Transportation and Public Works! Gimenez's request says $38,000 in operating funds from Transportation would go toward polos.

Granted, $38,000 won't buy a lot of new Metrorail lines. Even $1.5 million would barely make a dent in the tiniest piece of Miami's traffic woes.

But commuters would feel a lot better about Miami-Dade workers looking good in their new polos if the public had a little more confidence that Gimenez had a serious plan for fixing the gridlock.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink