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Hialeah council’s criminal cuts

  • SumoMe

Just when you thought the election season in Hialeah could not get more surreal, the Seguro Que Yes council passed su alcaldito Carlos Hernandez’s bogus 2011-2012 city budget Wednesday night calling for the illogical and unnecessary termination of 105 of 271 firefighter paramedic positions despite a packed house of protestors and a barrage of honest, researched, logical and impassioned pleas from residents, employees, firefighters, police officers and children — and without asking a single real, legitimate question. That practiced-in-front-of-the-mirror peppering by Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz does not count. All she did when she asked smirky questions she knew the answers to already was present a premeditated and written justification of her eventual Oui nod-and-bob to help her at the ballot. Watch for some of that dramatic “challenging” to come out in her literature or campaign speeches.

The rest of the council was as criminally negligent to their community as she was when they sat silent and did not give anyone in the audience the courtesy of answering one question. How would this affect response times? Silence. How would this affect services? Silence. Has this 40 percent cut in fire rescue personnel been analyzed to predict or forecast potential ramifications? Silence. How many firefighters are needed, mimimum, to keep the city safe? Silence. Where are the operational plan and the reorganizational chart that go with these cuts, both public records that were requested Monday? Silence. In fact, Council President Isis “Gavelgirl” Garica-Martinez spoke more when she was ejecting four or five of the objectors (including yours truly) from the council chambers or from the building as she and her colleagues ignored laws, constitutional rights, Robert’s Rules of Order and legal processes to make strategic campaign platform speeches about a month from Election Day. And alcaldito Hernandez left the dais again in the middle of a public budget hearing, in the middle of someone’s comments, snubbing residents and employees he shows no respect for, so he could give TV interviews (read: campaign for votes). Really? Ladra has a question (well, another one): Is this the way elected officials should act?

Just another day in the Hialeah races.

Wednesday’s bogus budget hearing has been called a circus, a joke, a train wreck, a show. But Ladra’s favorite was a crime. Because what this council did when they rubberstamped the budget they know is false and full of holes just has to be criminal. It’s fraud. It’s robbery. It’s abuse of power. It’s all of that and it’s blackmail and extortion, too. Because the firefighters who went armed with truth and the support of the community were told they could make the layoffs, at least the immediate ones, go away. Disappear. Just like that. If, of course, they agreed to an offer from the city that was made in writing on Monday, more than two months after the administration prematurely declared another impasse during a bargaining session, which is the appropriate setting for a new contract offer, and at which this offer was never made.
It’s not that the firefighters would not consider giving up holiday pay. Union President Mario Pico — speaking to reporters outside the chambers after he, too, was thrown out when he challenged the criminal lies at the hearing — has repeatedly said that the firefighters — many of whom have been serving Hialeah longer than some council members — are willing to make sacrifices to help the residents preserve their quality of life. They simply want transparency and the comfort of knowing they didn’t sell everything they had to earn to keep giving funds away to questionable quid pro quos and that they won’t have to do it again next year because there is a solid recovery plan. Hernandez and his herd should applaud them for that. Everyone who has watched this 2 1/2 year process — in which the city has been found guilty twice of unfair labor practices, declared impasse three times and illegally fired 17 firefighters to try to affect the contract vote (a decision that cost the taxpayers $800,000 in overtime plus the backpay they are now ordered to provide for the 16 firefighters they were ordered to hire back) — knows it wouldn’t be that easy, though, and that the city only made that phony offer because they know it can’t be accepted without going back to the table, where they intend to add a few more demands, of course, but don’t want to have to show nada to justify it. All that offer is, in truth, is an illegal and improper 11th hour Hail Mary pass made publicly to save el alcaldito and the incumbent candidates from the critical backlash and career-ending fallout their dubious and dumfounding decision has already had. This phony profer, which would have saved only $1.3 million when the city last week was demanding cuts to “balance the budget” that totaled more than $7 million, is a bait and switch con job and Ladra would not be surprised if it was not planned all along. It is not the only thing the council will need, but if the firefighters had conceded, they would have claimed victory and use the contrived “compromise” to promote their questionable candidacies.

Councilman Luis Gonzalez — who probably drew the short straw because he is not on the Nov. 1 ballot — actually took the opportunistic liberty to ask about the offer (read: campaign stunt) in a question to the mayor that was obviously staged for the benefit of the TV cameras. It was such a set-up for su alcaldito to start proliferating on how he was willing to negotiate and trying to protect the residents with this offer, that Ladra could not control her bark and was tossed from the council chambers — and the building — again for speaking out of turn. I take whole responsibility. Something the Seguro Que Yes mess could learn to do. I know I wasn’t supposed to object, but I found the scene ridiculously abusive. And someone had to stop that charade. “Excuse me, the councilman can’t make an offer here at a budget hearing. Or in that letter you sent,” I interjected. “That is why there is a bargaining process.” Council President Isis “Gavelgirl” Garcia-Martinez warned me to stop talking. But Gonzalez — after regañando me with a whiny “I don’t even know who has the floor” — went on with his pre-scripted, made-for-TV effort to give el alcaldito his two-cent soundbite. There was no way this watchdog was going to let that happen. “I’m sorry but he simply cannot make an offer like that from the dais,” I said again, asking deputy city attorney Lorena Bravo, who sat in for William “Go-Between” Grodnick on his paid Jewish holiday, to advise them that a contract offer in this venue (read: political campaign stunt) would be illegitimate. She did, actually, eventually. And I applauded — as I was led out of the chambers by a police officer on order by Police Chief Mark Overton, who later trespassed me from the building — even before I received the public records I requested about Ladra’s first-ever trespass warning at the Hernandez et al campaign office opening Sept. 10. This time, they didn’t give me a case number but maybe it was because Overton (who las malas lenguas say is looking to get a job in Broward county) realized he stepped in it and sent a sergeant to tell me once I was outside the building — yes, escorted outside the building by three police officers — that I could return to the lobby only and only if I behaved. Yeah, this is the thanks I get for basically helping them out by pointing out a mistake they were about to make.

But while it is fun to watch former Mayor and current mayoral candidate Raul Martinez consistently show all the council members up on budget issues with trick questions they fail every time and it’s entertaining to watch former councilman and current candidate Alex Morales teach them a lesson or two at every meeting, you don’t have to be a professor or a successful administrator for a quarter of a century to know more about the council membrane’s jobs and roles than they do. Even a watchdog and one pissed off, redneck firefighter and a whistleblower cop and a single mom and a pre-teen child — who got a standing ovation when he told them that if they were in school, “you would get an F in budget” — know more than these bobble heads.

Pathetic. Sad. Unacceptable (read: rejectable come November). And it has to be criminal. It just has to be abuse of power when the city administration suddenly finds $3.5 million in cost reductions from one budget hearing to the next in order to make this hollow campaign season offer. That just has to be a crime. They are holding the citizens and the people who work in Hialeah hostage for their personal and political gain. That just has to be a crime. They make up positions and programs to pad the budget in other areas so they can dip into these funds later on down the year. That just has to be a crime. They give away fist over fist of taxpayer funds by awarding millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and change order increases for campaign contributors. That just has to be a crime. They hide monies and change the story every other day from surplus to deficit to surplus to shortfall. That just has to be a crime. They intentionally turn their heads to the poor math skills, gaping holes and padded pillows all over the budget presented as a “budget in stages” — a new term nobody has ever heard of that was invented for convenience. Let’s call it a pretend budget instead. That just has to be a crime. And they commit all these crimes against the residents and their own employees while risking the lives and property of the taxpayers who pay their $44,000-a-year salaries and the salaries of their assistants and their multiple lackies and botella friends. That just has to be a crime.

Ladra felt uncomfortably and uncharacteristically numb for several hours after she left the scene of the crime Wednesday night and took a walk for a cortadito, dark, like the night. It is almost time to get ready for the next day and I still can’t believe sometimes that it wasn’t all a nightmare. Because how could anyone get away with so much? Where’s the cavalry? And just where were our other electeds that should be representing Hialeah’s people against the criminals? Miami-Dade District 13 Commissioner Esteban Bovo, State Sen. Rene Garcia (R, District 40) and State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez (R, District 102) did not return my calls and were absent at both the first and second readings (read: accessories before, during and after the fact). So was former State Sen. Rudy Garcia (R, District 40), who is running for the mayor’s seat also but has been criticized for not having attended one meeting or voiced one concern over the aforementioned crimes. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been a busy bureaucrat with his own budget, but has anyone at the county given a thought to or looked at how Miami-Dade taxpayers could be impacted when the Hialeah council starts stealing their service providers to cover for a fire rescue department that was decimated for political retribution motives. That just has to be a crime.

After all, somebody — or some body —  has to be held responsible if even one person dies as a result of longer response times or decreased services caused by these unnecessary cuts. Because that really has to be a crime.

Ladra calls it political homicide.

12 Responses to Hialeah council’s criminal cuts

  1. Responder Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Write as long an article as you please, the fact is the union should have taken the holiday pay offer, period. Elaine, why do you keep asking where's the cavalry? Have you not realized the majority of the voters across this city, county, state and country are FOR union cuts! 

    Gimenez has not come to Hialeah because he has threatened to do the exact same at the county, employee layoffs if they do not accept his budget (see last weekend's Herald). You may not like the way it was handled, nor the ultimate outcome, but negotiation has and still will be the answer. This whole circus has MANY actors, not just the current administration. The union, Martinez camp and even you, have contributed to the creation of the spectacle this whole process has become. 

    I think it is about time that you and the union come to terms that Carlos will be in the second round and, brace for it, has an increasing chance of winning. Waiting till November for hopes of rainbows with Raul is ridiculous and historically stupid. Do the right thing and stop the political posturing, afterall NONE of the union members are running for office! How can you all not see it, Raul doesn't care about the union. Want to see your future repayment for this stubborn and CRIMINAL loyalty to Martinez? See how Gimenez has helped you, not that the guy can do much in Hialeah anyway (considering he lost 80% of the vote in the city a few months ago), and how Martinez helps his "friends" once elected.

    This entire show is demagoguery on ALL sides, including you Elaine. Do what is best for residents! Which means 200+ firefighters on the street but with some form of pay cut!

    I really cannot understand how some fools post on this board with complete certainity that Raul is going to win. Folks, this isn't the county mayoral race. The trends do not support you. The only "crook" in the race would be considered Martinez. Have you watched the ads on AmericaTVE? Elaine, write an article about how your dear Mr. Mayor (you really are a kiss ass by the way) hired an attorney to TRY and remove the ads (which he failed to do). You should be asking how many and varied ads are still to come? Does everyone remember the King of Corruption?? 

    Pico and Johnson's first call this morning should be to Carlos Hernandez to work on a settlement, unfortunately it was probably to a powerless candidate or campaign blogger (that would be you, Elaine).

  2. Lickerpoet Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I have been in Hialeah too long (Amen to that), too long, to be shocked by anything that happens in City Hall. The actions that Ladra decries as criminal, I just chalk up as the standard modus operandi in Hialeah. But what I do find shocking, beyond all belief, is a Mayor who stands up and leaves in the middle of a public budget hearing, while someone is exercising their 1st Amendment rights. I can see the Mayor asking for a temporary recess for an unplanned visit to the little boy's room; but the outright disrespect to the public, to the speakers, to democracy, to just up and leave. And for what purpose? To give interviews about what he should have been doing while he was being interviewed? Is the Democratic process not more important than being interviewed about the Democratic process?
    We can disagree about economic policies, about social issues, about climate change; for we are all legally entitled to our own voice, our own freedom to think and speak. But you do not come to this country, and be afforded the opportunity to excel, to represent the people, and then piss on our backs and tell us it is raining. For no other reason than gross disrespect to the Citizens of Hialeah, and to the Democracy that so many have died and suffered for, Carlos Hernandez must be retired, if not tried, for these offenses.

  3. Anonymous Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 8:45 am

    33 days left for the scumbags….they won't be running Hialeah much longer.

  4. Lickerpoet Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Responder, the Fire Union would accept the paid holidays being cut, or whatever else had to be negotiated; once they see the actual books, the real financial standing of the City.
    You keep harping on my comment of crimes of the past administration; as if they are old hat, no longer relevant, and without factual basis. The last quote I proffered on this subject was a quote from a Special Master ruling under Binding Arbitration. An arbitrator rarely rules against, or takes a harsh stand, against the municipality, because they wish to be hired again in the future. The arbitrator, a Special Master, went to the unusual extent of doing his own research, way beyond that is normally called for, because he could not believe the facts that the City was providing. He said, his words, Responder,not mine, the City was guilty of "obfuscation." That is a fancy word for lying, or obscuring the facts. He also said that their actions were "contrary to the law". Now, Responder, how do you negotiate, in good faith, with someone or some entity that is covering up the facts with illegal intent?

  5. Anonymous Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I say take the redux and keep working. it's cold out there on the unemployment lines. it's funny how the Union hawks make more enemies that friends these days. For some all bets are off.

  6. Anonymous Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 9:27 am

    The two Garcias, Gonzalez, Gimenez, and El Bovo did not attend the meetings because they are hiding behind their staffers who went to check out what was happening and kept them informed of who was there supporting whom. They are cowards who avoid the cameras but work the elections behind the scenes.

  7. Responder Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Lickerpoet,

    Do you really believe the city has the resources to be in a position to not have to demand concessions? The math isn't difficult. The city has had a 40%+ decrease in property values. Why are people questioning why it needs concessions. The county and other cities are doing the same thing! This is not unique to Hialeah.

    This is not political retribution. For the record, the firefighters are NOT the reason JR lost. The firefighters will NOT make or break the Hialeah mayoral election for any candidate. Lickerpoet, it was only holiday pay. That was an easy concession that would have disarmed Hernandez. Everyone is playing politics with people's lives, not first responder bullshit scare tactics, but their financial lives (layoffs). The union continues to bolster Hernandez, I just don't understand how they don't see that. By the way, arbitrators constantly rule against cities and for the unions. The administration in Hialeah is attacking at the heart of a nationwide municipal fiscal crisis. This is a hot button topic for which you can expect a backlash and resistance. Unfortunately, it's easy for those at the top (which are negotiating on behalf of everyone) to make martyrs of trainees and rookies. 

  8. Lickerpoet Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    NO, I don't believe the City is in a position not to require concessions; but with real information, decisions can be more easily made and then explained to the union membership.
    and Yes, property values dropped, but if you are not buying or selling your property, this is only an abstract valuation; not really pertinent to your continued residency in the same place. If the millage rate was increased, the homeowner could pay the same or less than in previous years.
    Yes, arbitrators often rule against municipalities, but they don't openly accuse the cities of lying and breaking the law.
    You are correct that agreeing to the loss of paid holidays would have disarmed Hernandez, but this was not my choice to make. This offer was late in the game, and as the City administration has not be quite open with financial information, momentum just carried the issue into an ugly place.
    Please don't assume that I back the Fire Fighters in their demands. I wish I had the benefits and pension that they have. Pension envy, as one columnist described it. (in contrast to penis envy, for others reading that are not as clever as you.) But I do back open information. This is one thing that I respected about Raul. These are the facts, and this is what I offer, take it or leave it.
    With this past administration, the financials seemed more like a game of shuffleboard, sliding back and forth. But, alas, soon it will game over.

  9. Responder Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Lickerpoet, you are correct on the basic premise regarding taxes and mill rates relative to value but you forgot how our current convoluted system  works. Our elderly population has "save our homes" property value caps at 3% per year. So yes, the recent homeowners have a savings if their values go down by a higher proportion than their mill rate increase. Unfortunately, the elderly (which makes a disproportionately higher percentage in Hialeah than other cities) actually see their tax bill increase yearly regardless of the general marketplace. Therefore a tax hike would be a double whammy. Lickerpoet, the previous and current administration are open books but like everything in life, it's all in how you ask. Lastly, the game is far from over sir.

  10. EMC Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    @Responder, You are a fool. Everyone across Hialeah has family & friends. They are not divided but very united on one undisputable fact…They paid TAXES and the POLITICIANS mis-managed their money! Plain and Simple tell those elderly voters (republicans) all the boogie man stories about UNIONS you like and use the phrase "TAXES WILL NOT BE RAISED" or better yet repeat over and over again "BALANCED BUDGET" but come October 1st when they start calling for rescue there will be a backlash against "POLITICAL MIS-MANAGEMENT & ABUSE of TRUST". Read the writing on the wall… Their TIME is UP. The people will no longer be complaining about Unions or taxes they will be complaining that the POLITICIANS did not take care of the residents needs FIRST! I leave you to think hard on this because it is no longer as high a wave to ride as the TSUNAMI that just hit the streets of Hialeah

  11. Responder Reply

    September 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    EMC, your quite funny. Have you been drinking the union and Martinez koolaide? Let me get this straight. Your post assumes that on October 1, the 12 vacant positions, 14 laid off firefighters and 9 trainees are going to lead to a wave (I'll use your hyperbole TSUNAMI) of deaths and calamities? And your calling me a fool? 70 firefighters will be laid off in December. Oh but the last time I checked that was after the election. So that wave of indignation at the impending apocalypse will come when? Stop playing politics, it's not your game.

    Now I do agree with you on one thing- politicians mismanaged tax money. That mismanagement started with Raul's administration and is still going on. Although circumstance has forced changes starting with Robaina and now Hernandez (still not good enough if you ask me). The mismanagement was in the form of salary increases for the mayor, new employee contracts, a new water treatment plant before the annexation area takes off, and countless other smaller stupidities. Just accept some concessions and move on. The public is not with you now and will not be, even if this stupid charade lasts until December.

  12. EMC Reply

    September 30, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Responder, you seem to throw the words Martinez and Unions as if you were victimized by them. I don't drink Kool-Aid or Hawaiian punch I prefer Perrier (sparkling natural mineral water). I am very serious when I said a TSUNAMI. What you fail to see is the forest for the trees, you tried to make it seem minimal with the numbers you provided but let me make it as clear as it is being informed to the voters, friends and family members 40PERCENT of firefighters/paramedics are let go by POLITICIANS even though residents and business owners paid for these essential services.

    You are correct Politics is not my game. My involvement is based on one daily affirmation-Government for the people by the people. Politicians in the City of Hialeah have forgotten they serve the people. Those same Politicians have overshadowed any message they wanted to use to propel them into office. Their actions as shown in the media this evening make them outcasts and many will not want to be seen in their company for fear that they will also be labeled as they are. Do you really think anyone in the republican party would pose for photographs with these individuals? I can't imagine a Marco Rubio or Diaz-Balart taking a picture with Isis Garcia-Martinez after her fishwife screeching. Do you think their wives will have someone like that over for tea (especially when she has a tacky white handbag)? That's what I am getting at, did you get that little kick in the Gut that tells you OH Boy someone has some image cleaning to do. Yes I am not a political player, but considering that you may earn a living from being one I am going to give you a piece of advice, RUN these Politicians are going to ruin any future you may still have in the GAME.

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