A group calling itself "Citizens Against Triple Taxation" was kind enough to send me a colorful, if poorly-designed 6" x 9" mailer today exhorting me (as a Miami Springs voter) to "Vote NO on Annexation."
Now, annexation is not a new issue in Miami Springs. But, it's kind of a settled issue. Nearly a decade ago, Miami Springs voters went to the polls on April 7, 2009 and over 76% voted in favor of annexation.
There is a fact sheet online at the City's website, here.
The fact that I'd seen ads over the Spring and Summer in the River Cities Gazette published by this group, "Citizens Against Triple Taxation" (hereinafter, "CATT") got me curious, since their ads used a lot of words like "WE" AND "US" and "OUR" -- I reasonably inferred it was a group of politically engaged Miami Springs residents voicing concerns.
That doesn't appear to be the case.
According to sunbiz.org, CATT is an active, Florida Not For Profit Corporation, led -- not by a Miami Springs resident -- but by a sole individual, Mr. Derick Ferrao. The mailing address for CATT is Mr. Ferrao's homestead-exempted property; a waterfront home just off Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove.
According to Mr. Ferrao's LinkedIn profile he presently serves as President of Doral East LLC, which holds property within the proposed annexation area, at 5149 NW 74th Avenue. According to the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser's website, the building held by Doral East has an assessed value of $2,950,000.
played the Star Spangled Banner to get underway. Thanks to the efforts of former Councilman Paul Dotson, we were joined by Bill Kniffin, the son of Walter D. Kniffin, one of the men whose name appears on our War Memorial monument.
I was gratified to be able to talk about the six men whose names appear on the memorial, giving details as to their service and their lives prior to the military, while introducing the names of three men who are "Sons of Miami Springs" but whose names do not appear on the memorial. As I was speaking, Chris Mayhew approached and gave me yet another name, and early indications are that my "three missing" will soon have a fourth in Robert Cain, Miami Springs '68.
I put out a call for volunteers to get involved with a larger project to renovate the memorial to include more detail about the men and their service, and I came home with 20 new contacts willing to step forward.
Finally, we had reporter Isabella Cueto of WLRN on hand to cover the event. You can read her coverage here.
If you haven't yet had an opportunity to peruse the research-in-progress on the Miami Springs War Memorial, you can find the page with links to the individual soldiers and marines here. I know there is a lot more information out there to be had, and I welcome all the help I can get, so please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas and feedback.
Thanks once again to all who came out to make this year's Memorial Day service one of which we can be proud.
So, it's been a couple of weeks. We've had ourselves an election and a swearing in.
Sincere thanks to our departing council members, Mayor Zavier M. Garcia and Councilwoman Rosalyn Buckner for your service.
A Special Thank You to the citizens who cared enough to step forward and put themselves out there on the ballot to be considered [read: knocked around] as prospective elected officials, but fell short: I'm looking at you Donna Hernandez, Eric Elza, Constantino Hernandez, Kathie Marquez and Martin Marquez. Having worked closely on campaigns that ended in victory as well as some that didn't - I will say that "those who talk far outnumber those who know." Let no person (or at least, no person who has never had their name on the ballot) minimize your contributions based solely on the returns - an election result is merely that...and I hope that your zeal for - and engagement with - our community and the issues it faces continue undiminished.
Last, but most assuredly not least, Thank You to the newest members of our Council, Councilwoman Maria Mitchell and Councilwoman Mara Zapata; and our returning members, Mayor Billy Bain, Vice Mayor Bob Best, and Councilman Jaime Petralanda - who have some idea of what they're getting into, and stepped forward anyway. I know I speak for many in the community when I tell you that our hopes are high and we're expecting great things from you. Good luck to you all.
Time to go to work. s/o
OK, there's a lot of ground to cover, so I'll probably break this into a couple of pieces.
First, I'd like to clarify - this post - like my others on campaign finance - is a commentary on the state of campaign finance in the hopes of getting some traction in reforming campaign finance and bringing integrity back to our elections at *every* level of government: Federal, State, and Local.
With that, I'd like to share a few mail pieces that have been sent by an "Electioneering Communications Organization" (also known as a "527" or "ECO") called "Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership" - a name too long to type over and over, so we'll just call them "CFEEL."
The gallery below depicts three mailers I've received at my home over the past two years from CFEEL. Note carefully, these are not campaign literature, as they do not use any of the "eight magic words" defined by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo as "express advocacy" which would be subject to campaign finance laws.
The "magic words" as defined in Buckley are "vote for," "elect," "support," "cast your ballot for," "Smith for Congress," "vote against," "defeat," "reject," and variations of those phrases. Anything using the "magic words" has to be paid for by campaign using the kind of fundraising money that is reflected in your donor reports.
Mailers like the ones below, put out by CFEEL are not bound by the limits for campaign fundraising. This handout from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice illustrates nicely why the "magic words" test is laughably inadequate.
There's something else all the pieces have in common. See if you can find it. I'll wait...
Did you see it?
OK, so CFEEL was back again for this election cycle, sending at least two mail pieces ("at least" because received two, but there may have been others) that were, again *fully legal* and *not electioneering* since they passed the magic words test.
See if you can find what this year's two mailers have in common...
It's a little bit like how DeBeers says "A Diamond Is Forever" and sends a clear message without ever telling you, "Go Buy A Diamond!"
Finally, I wonder if you noticed anything else interesting regarding the layout and design of the preceding mail pieces? They were sent months (or years) apart, so it would be easy for the average person to miss certain similarities in real time.
Take another look before scrolling down...
No fair looking!
OK, here are a 2015 mailing and a 2017 mailing side-by-side.
Yes, they really are two different mailers.
While recycling copy and layout for different campaigns and different mailings might certainly be considered "efficient", I'm not sure it is either "ethical" or "effective".
So much for "Citizens for Ethical and Effective Leadership."
Next post, we'll attempt to "follow the money" with CFEEL. s/o
Former Councilman Eric Elza reports a total of $570 in campaign income, all self-loaned, which covers the $103 filing fee and $420 in campaign signs. The one discrepancy is with expenditures, on his "G3" report (p.3 of attachment) he reflects a payment of $1,475 to the River Cities Gazette for newspaper advertising, but there is no reported income to offset. I'm guessing this is an oversight and I've reached out to Mr. Elza to get clarification. UPDATE: Elza confirms that he is filing an amended report today 4/3 to reflect an additional loan of $1475 - bringing his total campaign to $2045, all self-funded. Nothing else of note with respect to his other qualifying documents.
Ms. Hernandez reports a total of of $3,359.12 in contributions, $2,124.12 of which is self-funded. Her largest single contribution is $675 from "Miriam and Evelio Cabrera" on 3/8. I note this only because Mr. Cabrera also appears as the top contributor on the donor lists of Candidates Martin Marquez ($300 on 3/20 and an additional $250 on 3/27) and Kathie Marquez (identical contributions of $300 on 3/20 and $250 on 3/27.)
Cabrera is President of Zimmerman Auto Brokers on NW 36th Street.
Ms. Hernandez's candidate petition was a group effort, with no fewer than 8 individual canvassers collecting signatures, including Hernandez herself. She is the only candidate to have petitions circulated by a sitting member of the Miami Springs City Council, Hon. Roslyn Buckner (pp.32-33 of attachment).
Billy Bain update:
We have received a response from State Sen. Rene Garcia of the PAC, "People In Need of Government Accountability" with respect to their $1000 contribution. The Senator's reply begins at the bottom of page 1 and goes over the page 2. Because it appeared to have come from a personal account, I chose to partially redact the email address.
See you at the Polls - again, comments and feedback welcome at email@example.com. No matter who you vote for, be sure to vote Miami Springs! s/o
So, in my original post I introduced myself and dropped the disclosures for the Mayor's race without further elaboration. I apologize, I wanted to be sure to get all the documentation posted first and foremost - and this race has the most to discuss, perhaps fittingly. The collective field for Mayor is an embarrassment of riches for the community with respect to passion, integrity, experience, dedication, leadership, service, and judgment. The challenge will be cutting through the bluster to find the right combination. Let's break down the documentation.
William "Billy" Bain
The former Mayor and incumbent Councilman reported $10,550 raised, including $2,750 of his own money. In addition, he accepted $1000 (legally) from City Vendor Becker & Poliakoff. Major contributions from local business included $1000 from from Mas Fuel (same owner as Orion Gas and Downstairs Market on 36th St.) and $750 from Milam's. Other local contributors would be former Mayor J.C. "Chet" Field's firm for $100, and Medley's Big "E" Trucking for $300, and Veron [sic] Green from Sonic Aviation for $250.
Finally, there are contributions of $1000 each from the Orwellian-sounding "People in Need of Government Accountability PAC" (which, coincidentally, is a shoo-in for the "Most Unfortunate Acronym" award) and "Fighting for Florida's Families PAC", as well as $1000 from the more benign "Miami Realtors PAC". The influx of PAC money is out of character for Bain. His 6-0 win/loss record in Miami Springs elections is a testament to his natural, friendly manner. Instead, it's the outgoing Mayor who is a particularly prodigious fundraiser. Given that his reports reflect payments of $829.25, $3,049.50, and $829.25 to the outgoing Mayor's firm ZMG Media, Inc. for printing and mailing, it's unclear who is getting the greatest benefit of those PAC dollars. I have reached out to find out how those contributions came about, and will update with any new information I receive there. UPDATE! Response received from the Chair of "People in Need of Government Accountability," State Senator Rene Garcia - HERE.
With respect to the other qualifying documents, nothing jumped out except that all of the qualifying petition signatures appear to have been collected by Billy's spouse, former Councilwoman Grace Bain. Except for one sheet that was circulated by Ms. Nora Lob, spouse of former Councilman George Lob.
So I guess we can't say, "Bain and Martin Marquez have nothing in common."
(That's a joke - c'mon, there's no reason this can't be fun...)
To be continued... s/o
In the first post, we saw the filings from the Mayoral candidates, and here are those for the two candidates who won re-election unopposed. Councilman Best ran a shoestring operation, loaning himself $500 and spending only $85 to pay the required candidate filing fee.
Councilman Petralanda raised $2,665, including $500 from Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.,
and $1000 from Waste Management, Inc. (WMI - listed on p.8 of the report as Trail Ridge Landfill, Inc).
Not for nothing, but Becker & Poliakoff is the City's lobbying firm, and WMI is the solid waste disposal provider for Miami-Dade County, and Miami Springs re-approved our interlocal agreement with Miami-Dade (thus sending our solid waste business and dollars to WMI.)
Later I will check, but I doubt that the Miami Springs Charter or Code has any explicit rule against accepting campaign contributions from city vendors. I am confident that it's a bad practice - even if only for the perception.
To wit: the motion to send our business to the County and thus, Waste Management passed 5-0. Doubtless it was the right decision. But , but when you accept a contribution from a vendor, and then second a motion that benefits that vendor, it invites speculation. The good news it's not too late to return contributions like these.
Finally, I want to reiterate that I feel Councilman Petralanda is a decent and honest public servant, and this is not to single him out, as there were a number of candidates who accepted large, outside sums, and I mean to discuss them all here. It also bears repeating that acceptance of campaign support does not automatically equate to impropriety, and it's unfair to suggest otherwise without evidence.
A couple of years ago in December 2012, my spouse then-Councilwoman Jennifer Ator asked the Council to consider adoption of a code of ethics and a "Citizen's Bill of Rights." It literally died on the dais for want of a second.
Perhaps its time has come? Documents below. s/o
Bob Best - Campaign Documents
Jaime Petralanda - Campaign Documents
Bill Tallman has been a Miami Springs resident since 2002, and a community activist since 2003. He believes that the best decisions tend to come from people with the best information at hand.