IN MIAMI THE FAT LADY GETS MUGGED A LOT, SO DON'T GET SUPER EXCITED JUST YET
The one thing that I've learned over the last 7 years is that the Fat Lady seldom sings for long in Miami.
Right now, a lot of folks are happy that the City Commission by a vote of 5 - 0 decided to find the Flagstone Group in default of their development contract, and those folks are ready to lift Ken Russell, Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo on their shoulders for a victory lap around Coconut Grove and the Venetian Isles.
Although this victory seems like it's decisive, and Commissioner "Selfie Boy" Russell is being quoted in the Miami Herald story that's come out after the vote that, “There is no opportunity for them to challenge it. There is no cure period,” said Russell. “So, this will be the end of it.,” that's not necessarily true.
In fact, you can bet money now that it's not true.
Unfortunately for "Selfie Boy," who after a year and a half in public life continues to be as dumb as a rock when it comes to how the real game of politics gets played, this is Miami, and not only is there a lot of money involved in this deal, but you can bet that the everyone associated with the Flagstone Group gamed out all the possible options well before the meeting started on Tuesday including figuring out that while public sentiment and personal agendas might result in the Commission voting for the default option, that if they did, the Flagstone Group still had a powerful ally in Mayor Tomas Regalado, who has veto power over any decision made by the Commission.
That's why the claims about this deal being over and dead are not only misleading, but that sometime in the next 10 days Regalado could very well veto the Resolution, and 2 of those 5 Commission votes might decide that on second thought, they will not vote to overturn Regalado's veto.
While the magic number for most items that comes before the Commission is 3 - that's the number of votes needed to pass most items - when it comes to overriding a veto, the vote requires 4 of the 5 Commissioners.
To further emphasize that the Flagstone Group probably did not lose much sleep last night over the vote, here is a Tweet posted by lobbyist Tim Gomez, who along with Brian May are part of Floridian Partners, the lobbying firm that represent the Flagstone Group.
MAY 31, 2017
WHILE THE CELEBRATION OVER THE UNANIMOUS DECISION BY THE MIAMI CITY COMMISSION TO FIND THE FLAGSTONE GROUP IN DEFAULT ON THEIR CONTRACT FOR WATSON ISLAND HAS MADE SOME PEOPLE GIDDY, DON'T THINK THE COMMISSION'S DECISION MEANS THAT IT'S ALL OVER
While amateurs like Russell think that they're really smart because they think they've learned how to play simple checkers, guys like Gomez and Brian May play chess at the Grand Master level, and when the going gets tough I've yet to see any of Miami's top lobbyists, including these guys, lose.
Simple. The lobbyists have a built in edge in Miami because so many of the politicians they deal with are corrupt in one way or another.
If Tomas Regalado decides to veto the Commission's decision what does he have to gain, and what does he have to lose?
He's only got 6 months left in office, so he really has little, if anything to lose. He's not going to run for public office again, and given that this is his last year, he is, in one way or another looking for every opportunity to cash in before he walks out the door.
That's where this gets very interesting because Regalado has a son and daughter, who worse than going off to college together, are both running for public office this year. Tommy Jr. is running for the District 3 Commission seat where Daddy started his own political career, and daughter Raquel is running for Congress.
Both of them are now in need of all the campaign money they can raise, because both of these campaigns are being waged in races with multiple candidates, some of whom have their own ability to raise significant amounts of money.
How much money do you think that the Flagstone Group could arrange to have deposited into Tommy Jr. and Raquelita's campaign accounts and PAC's? Maybe $100,000 for Tommy and $250,000 for Raquel?
Maybe it might even require more money, because if, as the Flagstone Group claims, they've already spent $100 million, then what's another million or two if that's what it takes to make this problem go away?
Several months ago, Flagstone demonstrated their willingness to stage a fundraiser for the Mayor's favorite charity, hours after the State closed down their illegal restaurant.
While no evidence has surfaced so far that Barbara Hardemon has been hired by the Flagstone Group, one of the problems that occurs if someone like Hardemon becomes radioactive is that instead of filing as lobbyists themselves, they can be hired as a sub-contractor by another lobbying firm and thereby evade being identified on any public records.
Given the past activities involving Barbara Hardemon, this raises a legitimate question as to what, if any role she might be playing behind the scenes this time, and then, how does that impact her nephew's behavior as the Commission Chairman?
EVEN COMMISSIONERS RUSSELL AND SUAREZ WOULDN'T LOSE BY A VETO
Hours after the Commission voted to support his Resolution, Commissioner "Selfie Boy" Russell announced that he was now - after a full year and a half as an elected official - considering running for Congress and had formed an Exploratory Committee.
Russell, who in the last 6 months has been choosing political positions and sponsoring legislation that he figured would be beneficial in running for higher office, a decision he had reached after only being a City Commissioner for 6 months, because in that short period of time he had determined that his talents and sensibilities were too big and magnificent to be wasted on just being a City Commissioner - could come out of a veto of his Resolution claiming that he was a true people's champion who was undermined by politics as usual.
In fact, given his non-existent resume and lack of substance or real accomplishment, having the Mayor veto this Resolution could probably turn out to be his biggest issue on the campaign trail.
Commissioner Suarez would also benefit from a veto because while his initial vote now allows him to claim that was wasn't the 100% bought and paid for politician that I and others have been claiming that he is, a veto would let him reassure those deep-pocket donors who have ponied up over $2.3 million in campaign and PAC donations that they don't really need to worry that he's still their guy and won't turn on any of them, and that this vote was one that he felt he had to take on principal, not to mention cover his ass.
Standing on principal is a big thing for politicians who spend their days at the feeding trough.
WHO REALLY LOSES?
The public loses, but then the public loses just about every time a big time developer shows up at City Hall, because the way that the City of Miami operates, the developers, going all the way back to the beginning when Miami rose up out of the swamp land around the Miami River they have always been in the catbirds' seat when it came to how, and by whom the city was run and developed.
Of the politicians, Frank Carollo loses, because for all of his craziness, Frank is the only true believe when it comes to being honestly upset by the way that the city operates, especially when it comes to the skanky deals that have screwed the citizens and enriched the developers and his fellow Commissioners.
So, make no mistake, this is Miami, Bitches!, where money walks, and bullshit talks, and that noise you hear coming from City Hall in the next couple weeks might not be the Fat Lady singing, but rather, getting mugged by the Mayor!
If this fundraiser was, as many people believe, a pretty naked effort to curry influence with the Mayor, then what do you think that they'd be willing to do now in order to have the Mayor veto this default Resolution.
THE TWO VOTES NEEDED TO SUSTAIN A VETO
Even though Commissioners Gort and Hardemon voted in support of the resolution, their votes should be seen as votes that were cast strategically because Gort during his comments did not raise a single question related to either the contract or the legal issues that he would be required to walk back, and Commissioner Hardemon went out of his way to make supporting comments and raising hypothetical questions that not only could be perceived as useful to the Flagstone Group in any future lawsuit, but could certainly be used by him to justify a decision to support the Mayor's veto.
Hardemon is also running for reelection this year, and even though no one has filed to run against him, that has not stopped him from collecting $190,934.44 in campaign donations so far, and there's nothing to stop him from continuing to accept sizable donations to run against himself.
While campaign donations are often seen as a simple, yet effective way to buy influence with Miami politicians, especially when they are bundled in ways that allows some folks to donate tens of thousands of dollars through the various companies that they own or control, Hardemon has been accused by me and others of also being influenced by the way in which high profile developers have employed his auntie Barbara Hardemon to provide "community outreach" for their projects.
Barbara Hardemon, was a registered lobbyist for several very high-profile development deals including last year's Rickenbacker Marina RFP deal that eventually got thrown out and the Ultra Music Festival, which has faced problems over noise and drugs.
The term "Community Outreach" has long been considered a euphemism for someone acting as a bagman who gets hired for an outrageous amount of money to provide this service, but who in reality is actually serving as a conduit to funnel a bribe to a politician.
Barbara Hardemon was accused in 2007 of playing that role by then Commissioner Marc "Mr. Pay For Play" Sarnoff, who in a famous memo to himself named her and former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Schuler, wrote that each of them were alleged to require a payment $50,000 to assure that then Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones would vote in favor of the Mercy Hospital Condo project.
Jorge Perez of The Related Group admitted that he had hired these ladies to provide "community outreach," but denied that it was part of any bribe of Spence-Jones.