The Miami Beach commission will appoint someone later this month to fill the seat of Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who was forced to resign when she ran for Congress by a Republican law aimed squarely at the Democrats in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
City commissioners should reject the GOP measure’s calculated retroactive effect and respect the voters’ wishes by appointing Rosen-Gonzalez for the remainder of her term.
And, naturally, they should reject the allegedly fixed appointment of former commissioner Joy Malakoff, who already tried to get back in the city’s employ with a $50,000-a-year job overseeing the general bond monies.
Is this a second swipe at putting her in control of those funds? Or is someone getting a guaranteed fourth vote on the commission?
Florida’s resign-to-run law only applied to state and local officials until last year, when the legislature approved a measure that would extend the limits to federal seats. This was, of course, after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement of a District that was expected to, and eventually did, go blue. So they made the law include candidates who were elected under the old law and many observers believe it was squarely aimed at Rosen Gonzalez, who was the only Dem who had announced by then.
That was unfair already. The Miami Beach city commission has the rare opportunity to right a wrong, and send a message to Tallahassee, by keeping Kristen where she belongs.
She may have lost the Congressional race — nobody expected her to win against Donna Shalala, who was sworn in Thursday, same day that Rosen Gonzalez’s resignation became effective — the former commissioner is a good public servant who has said some stupid things and once trusted the wrong guy. Those episodes have gotten way too much attention from all the good she has done in only three years, much of that against a block of political opponents who worked against her.
She brought the an energy home improvement program to Beach homeowners and the Common Threads program to teach teens about obesity and eating healthy. She got Bell Isle their park, brought affordable solar to the Beach and helped a condo association get the parking lot they needed.
She also championed the next generation of leaders, forming the Miami Beach Youth Commission and the Miami Beach Youth Job Fair. She brought free test preparation for high schoolers and free drug education for teens and their parents.
In between those things she helped hold the line on over development in mid beach, successfully lowered the density and height of many projects and had uncomfortable trolleys retrofitted for senior citizens.
Several active residents and homeowner association members want to see her appointed to serve out her term.
You might think this is a no brainer. Rosen Gonzalez was elected to a four-year term by voters and should be first on the list of potential appointees. But there’s one problem: She votes her conscience. She belongs to nobody.
There are at least two commissioners — Ricky Arriola and John Elizabeth Aleman — who would feel better with their old ally back and some say the fix is in with Mayor Dan Gelber on their side so he can have a fourth vote.
Gelber, who wants everyone to see him as a super Democrat and ran on an ethics campaign, should do the right thing and reject the GOP agenda by leading the charge to appoint Rosen Gonzalez to her seat. It would really be a signal to his independence from the former regime that some think he is beholden to. It would be the ethical thing to do. Especially after his role in the bonds job fiasco where he voted to waive the two-year waiting period to hire Malakoff, even after she donated to his campaign.
If Gelber votes for Malakoff again on Jan. 29, Miami Beach voters should ask why.
Appointments already stink because they raise the possibility of cronyism. With Malakoff it’s practically guaranteed cronyism. After all, she is not going to vote against the commissioners who bring her on.
In fact, it doesn’t matter how many great names are on a list of people who want to replace her for the next year. The voters wanted Kristen. And anybody else would be beholden.
It’s only one more year. If the mayor or anyone else wants someone other than Rosen Gonzalez in that seat, wait for the election, like the voters intended.