Joe Martinez says bye-bye county… hello Congress?
Days before the swearing-in of seven new county commissioners (okay, six old and one new), exiting Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said good bye to his electronic constituency via his weekly e-newsletter.
These props, from a honk and wave at La Carretta this summer, may not be the last Joe Martinez campaign signs we see.
But maybe it’s just a “see you later” instead.
Martinez told Ladra Friday that while he’s “gotta find a job in the private sector,” he was seriously considering a run for the U.S. Congressional seat stolen earlier this month by former Public Service Commmission Chairman Joe Garcia, who could only beat the beleaguered U.S. Rep. King David “Nine Lives” Rivera in an Obama rush year with horrific headlines hovering over the incumbent and a fifth or sixth or 27th investigation into his campaign affairs.
“It’s my district,” Martinez said. “I’ve represented these people for 12 years.”
And he knows low hanging fruit when he sees it. While the seat’s possible turnaround in 2014 has already been the talk of the town — with names like State Sen. Anitere Flores, former Florida Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and School Board Member Carlos Curbelo floated as candidates even before the election was over — Martinez offers something, well, different.
Basically, no party baggage in a redrawn district where voters may be more diverse than ever before.
“I’m a moderate Republican and a fiscally conservative leader,” Martinez told me. “When you’re a non-partisan elected leader in as county like this one, you learn — you can’t be all the way to the left and you can’t be all the way to the right.”
Sounds refreshing. Also sounds early. Martinez is just thinking about a bid and hasn’t opened an account. Well, that might be seen as a bit rude even before Garcia is sworn in.
Outgoing Miami-Dade Chairman (and future U.S. Rep?) Joe Martinez on the campaign trail this summer in his failed bid to become county mayor.
Besides, has some unfinished business as a county elected first. Martinez may have lost his bid for mayor in the August primary to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos “Not So Golden Boy” Gimenez, who lost his preferred elected status with Ladra due to an unholy alliance with the absentee ballot machinery in Hialeah — and, no, I do not have to move on, until I see reason to — but he still has some events to attend and some requests to attend to in his office, which he has already cleared of personal belongings.
And while Martinez won’t be at the Tuesday meeting where his replacement in District 11, former State Rep. Juan Zapata, will be sworn in, he still has to write the agenda for the meeting.
“I’m finishing my job ’til my last day,” Martinez told me.
That’s the same thing the Chairman said last week during his last meeting, when he took to the mic and thanked mostly the county employees, giving them one last boost before he flew the coop.
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done,” he was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying. Then, the former county cop pointed to his future ex colleagues and added, “If you deliver excellence every day, it’s in spite of what we do up here. Don’t let anybody tell you you’re not worth what you make. People take government services for granted.”
Martinez told me Friday that his dozen years on the dais have been full of ups and downs and, at first, he couldn’t find very much to gloat about. When I asked him what his proudest achievements were, he said there was too much to really point anything out. But after prodding, he mentioned his involvement in healthcare — getting the county insurance Blue thing that would have been a national model before Obamacare — creating senior affordable housing in his district, which is now under construction, getting a senior center for his constituency and programs for kids like the “turn-around awards” and the Creative Visions art contest.
The downs included a most recent one: failing to get the red light camera ordinance repealed, an effort that was thwarted by an 11-2 vote Nov. 8 (Commissioner Esteban “El Bobo” Bovo, whose new nickname is Stupidface, based on his father’s name, voted with him).
Martinez said that while he supported red light cameras in the past — because the idea was to save lives — he did not believe that was what they were doing. He says the practice is simply a revenue generator for the county and that the cheaper, more effective and less punitive alternative is what is called a “no red clearance,” or a programmed delay in the timing between when a light turns red and when it turns green on the cross street. Right now, it’s too quick and if someone guns it to take an amber light, someone else can get killed. He seems to make sense. (So more on that later).
“But the room was full of lobbyists and it was shot down,” Martinez said.
This is what he talked about. His disappointments.
Sure, having the Dr. Olga Maria Martinez Senior Center named for his mom — an activist who took him to park clean-ups when he was 13 — was a proud moment, he said. But the happiest days of his life were when he would reward students and teenagers who had done good. Or when he heard from their parents afterwards about what a difference his gesture made in their lives.
Maybe that’s his true legacy. Or maybe it’s too soon to talk about going softly into the night.
Martinez’s grateful email to his constituency — and less than a week before Thanksgiving, too — could also be seen as the first salvo to his new Congressional voter base.
“As I write this last e-newsletter, I realize that this has been an amazing journey,” Martinez began.
“When I took office in October of 2000, I vowed to work diligently to bring forth improvements, create and enhance services, and establish new legislation that would be in the best interest of the residents. Together we have successfully made District 11 a great area to live, work and play.”
The inbox missive also mentioned Alzheimer’s awareness, a community parks meeting, a roadway construction project and the opening of Colombia at Westwind Lakes Parks, the Monday dedication of which is one of the events Martinez still has on his calendar.
Maybe the newsletter intro ended with a clue to his next step: “Please remember that one voice can make a difference but many voices can make a change,” Martinez wrote. “I urge you to be involved in our community so together we can continue to make this a better place for our families.
“Thank you for providing me with such an incredible opportunity to serve you.”
Key word: Opportunity.