Archive for the ‘Mattie Bower’ Category

Miami Beach Mayoral Runoff– An Off-Air P.S.
November 13, 2007

Did a TV piece on the mayoral runoff today– about a newly-released list of lobbyists who donated thousands to the benignly-named “Citizens Coalition, Inc.”, a group that paid for lots of ads and fliers attacking candidate Simon Cruz. The lobbyist involved are some of South Florida’s best-known– uber-lobbyistRon Book, former state lawmakers Miguel de Grandy and Manny Preiguez, and Dusty Melton.

Cruz claims that their contributions highlight hypocrisy in the campaign of his opponent, fellow City Commissioner Matti Bower… that her claims that he’s a captive of “special interests” are gutted by this revelation.

Bower still claims she knew nothing about the group or its donors. Book, the only lobbyist of three we called who’d say anything substantial, claims he was approached by someone other than Bower, and that he gave without any agenda in mind.

Cruz himself says he doesn’t have any theory about what the lobbyists’ agenda might be. None of them are registered to lobby the Beach commission. A Cruz supporter, St. Rep. Luis Garcia, suggests Miami-Dade county might be behind the “Citizens Coalition, Inc.” effort, because the county is interested in taking over fire service in Miami Beach. Garcia, who used to be the Beach Fire Chief, pointed out that County Commission chair Bruno Barreiro’s backing Bower.

Firefighters and police unions have endorsed Cruz, and when a debate this morning focussed on budget matters, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Cruz said budget cuts should focus on the city’s executive structure, because “that’s where the salaries are. You need your workers to be out on the street.”

Bower, in contrast, said tough budget times ahead might demand re-opening issues of pay for cops and perhaps firefighters. “Unions are special interests”, Bower said at one point in debate. She told me afterward that the average police salary on the Beach is now $108,000.

But if Bower’s incurring the wrath of police and fire unions, her cause is drawing good money from another arm of labor. The biggest donor to “Citizens Coalition, Inc.” is another vaguely-named group, the “Community Strength Coalition”. Cruz said– and Bower didn’t challenge him– that that was an arm of the Serive Employees International Union. He said the SEIU’s trying to unionize condo workers up and down the Beach, which will lead to higher condo fees for residents.

Bower responded that those workers needed a union– that some condos pay ridiculously low wages.

She’d appear to be in pretty good shape, going into next Tuesday’s runoff. She led last Tuesday’s vote 47%-44& over Cruz, despite his huge fund-raising advantage (Cruz did get LOTS of contributions from developers and their reps, though he points out that those hard-money gifts were in the public record well before election day, unlike the soft money funneled through “Citizens Coalition”).

That money imbalance will even out, in the runoff. Bower says a lot of folks who dismissed her mayoral bid as hopeless are now coming to her with checks in hand. Nothing draws cash like a win at the polls.

Just a taste of some topics I couldn’t fit into a 2-minute TV piece.

Ethnic Voting on Miami Beach
November 6, 2007

Unless there’s a HUGE surprise at the ballot box, Miami Beach is about to get its first Hispanic Mayor. City Commissioners Simon Cruz and Mattie Bower are in a close race, but some Beach-watchers are saying– there’ll be a runoff, strictly because of pockets of anti-Hispanic feeling remain on the Beach.
Two other City Commissioners (not Bower or Cruz) suggested this to me off-camera, as I toured polling places today. Their reasoning? There are still voters who don’t want to cast votes for a candidate with an Hispanic name.
My sources said little-known mayoral candidate William Smatt might get a lot of those votes– they each said Smatt was pulling as much as 8% of the vote (I assume they were citing exit polling). Smatt is Jamaican-born, and has focussed much of his campaign on the quirky notion that if casino gambling comes to the Beach (something they Mayor can’t really achieve), he would abolish property taxes for city residents.
There’s another minor candidate, Raphael Herman– but my commissioner/sources said the name “Raphael” would keep Hispano-phobes from voting for him (Herman is not, in fact, Hispanic– he’s Israeli).
The politicos figure– if minor candidates get 5% or better of the vote, that could well mean a runoff for Cruz and Bower. All indications are, they’re running very close together.
Whatever anti-Hispanic feeling there is on the Beach, the city’s population is now 53% Hispanic, and the election of Bower or Cruz will mean a comparatively quick political coming-of-age for Hispanics in a city where, less than a generation ago, they had very little clout at the ballot box.