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Sunday November 4, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 3: county charter

Well, here we are: the day before election day. I’m aware that a lot of you have already voted; this ballot was a doozie, and early voting — or particularly absentee voting, which is sort of like a take-home exam — is a smart way go to. I salute you. But for the old-school (read: procrastination-inclined) among us, going to the polls on election day is the only way to do.

So we still need to figure out how to vote on a big chunk of the ballot. See part 1 of this guide for the state charter amendments and part 2 for some ideas on voting for elected officials. Today, Miami-Dade stuff. Let’s dive in.

School Board Question

Funding Modernization and Construction of Public School Facilities Through Issuance of General Obligation Bonds

Shall the School District of Miami-Dade County fund a plan for modernization and construction of public school facilities throughout the district, including educational technology upgrades, by issuing general obligation bonds in an aggregate amount not exceeding $1,200,000,000, in one or more series, bearing interest at market rates, maturing within thirty years, and secured by the full faith and credit and ad-valorem taxing power of the district?

I’m not sure how you get around to opposing this. “We can’t afford to raise taxes for big government programs” doesn’t really work for schools, does it? Neither does, “sure we need to invest in schools, but now is not the time.” The preponderance of online opinion is pro. Vote FOR BONDS.

County Questions

Home Rule Charter Amendment Relating to Term Limits of County Commissioners

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that County Commissioners shall serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to 2012?

Here we are. TERM LIMITS. The holy grail. Stop the revolving door. Get in some fresh perspectives. But it turns out that this is actually an extremely difficult thing to reason out. There are persuasive arguments for and against. Incumbent commissioners manage their constituencies, so they’re very difficult to get rid of. Want to get fresh voices on the commission? Term limits are the only way to go. The Herald says yes to term limits.

But not so fast. Michael Lewis argues the side against term limits. It’s very much worth a read, but the short story is that limiting the terms of elected officials empowers lobbyists and government bureaucrats. It keeps relationships among commissioners fleeting. Institutional memory suffers. And commissioners who are term-limited are more likely to vote in ways that’ll benefit them once they’re out of office than to be accountable to voters. If you want to strengthen the county commission, Lewis argues, go back to county-wide elections.

But each of these arguments has a mirror-image counter-argument. You’d need deep knowledge about what happened when in term limits have passed historically on commissions like Miami’s around the country and a degree in political philosophy before you could really even discuss this question intelligently. But here’s the thing. County-wide commission elections aren’t on the ballot. Term limits are. We’ve tried the commission without term limits, and the results have left us wanting. And while it’s impossible to draw a line from the problems with the commission right now to term limits being the best solution, it’s the only tool in the box at the present moment. Will term limits be an improvement in Miami-Dade? I hate to be flip, but there’s only one way to find out. Perhaps a future charter amendment will allow us to reconsider county-wide commission elections. If this turns out to cause problems, it’ll not be difficult to get a charter amendment reversing the term limits decision. It’s an expriment. Let’s try it, and see if benefits of fresh voices are worth the certainty that their reign will be short. Vote YES.

Technical Amendments to Home Rule Charter

Shall the Charter be amended to clarify the titles of subsections, correct and update cross-references between provisions, and delete references to offices and agencies which have been abolished?

Here we are: the boring shit. I have no idea why I have to make a decision about why the titles of subsections should be clarified. If they’re unclear, isn’t “clarification” an opportunity for obfuscation? Am I not better off with a charter that’s got some obsolete stuff in it than a charter that someone gets to muck around with in the name of “clarification”? To the point: is it worth taking 5 minutes to google what the proposed amendments are? FINE. >> and << indicates stuff being inserted, [[ and ]] stuff removed. Feast your eyes. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Requiring Extraordinary Vote to Include Additional Land within the Urban Development Boundary

Shall the Charter be amended to require a two-thirds vote of County Commissioners then in office to include additional land within the Urban Development Boundary established by the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan?

Yes, it should. Not that we’re kidding ourselves that it’ll do much to bolster the integrity of the UDB, but any brakes we can apply here. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Pertaining to Changes in Municipal Boundaries and Creation of New Municipalities

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Require the County Commission to consider the benefits of any proposed annexation of commercial areas, when approving or authorizing an annexation
• Establish alternative procedure for creation of new municipalities in unincorporated areas of the County by petition which provides conditions for creation of new municipalities and a single election to approve the creation of a new municipality and approve its Charter, instead of two elections for these purposes?*

The Herald’s discussion on this one is interesting. They support the creation of more an more cities and sub-cities, towns, and villages, but they disagree with this particular implementation. Personally, I don’t think that fragmenting what’s clearly a single municipality into fractal pieces — each with its own commission, mayor, and often police and fire services — is a good strategy. In either case, Vote NO.

Charter Amendment Regarding Penalties and Enforcement of Citizens’ Bill of Rights

Shall the Charter be amended to eliminate the provision providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and allow, in addition to suit in circuit court, the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights with penalties authorized by the Code?

Isn’t it awesome that we have a “Citizens’ Bill of Rights” and a “Commission on Ethics and Public Trust”? Doesn’t that just make you feel so good? I don’t know, I’m all for ethics commissions and Bills of Right. But it seems that the a provision that gets the person who violated the Bill of rights OUT before anything else is not something to be eliminated? Heres’s the problem: you know how it’s determined that someone violated the BoR and should be removed? In court. So as it stands, the only way to get enforcement is for YOU the citizen to sue. Guess what? It’s never happened. If this passes, you can appeal to the Ethics Commission and see what happens. It’s all weak sauce, but the new sauce turns out to be less weak than the existing sauce. Ugh. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Related to Option for Filling Mayoral or County Commissioner Vacancy

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Extend the time to conduct an election to fill a mayoral or commissioner vacancy from 45 to 90 days from the decision to call such election and provide a timeframe for qualification and any necessary runoff;
• Temporarily transfer, during a mayoral vacancy or incapacity, certain mayoral powers to the Commission Chairperson, Vice Chairperson or Commissioner chosen by the Board?

So we’re planning on making a habit of recalling commissioners who piss us off, and we want to make the process smoother. Well color me pink and call me bamby. Don’t retreat, reload. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Regarding Mayoral Conflicts in County Procurement

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that when the County Mayor declares a conflict of interest in a particular procurement of a County contract, the chairperson of the Board of County Commissioners shall exercise all authority provided by the Charter or the County Commission to the Mayor with regard to such procurement including the authority to recommend a bid waiver?

I’m so ready to vote yes on this, but every reputable source I can find online says it’s a lame solution to a real problem, and Vote NO.

AND THERE IT IS. Oh, wait, you have city items tacked on at the end? Blah, you’re going to have to look that up yourself, as per part 2 of this guide. In Miami for instance, there’s something about a tennis center (funded solely by tournament revenues and private funs — YES), a straw poll about increasing taxes for improved animal services (I might write something about this tonight), and something about contracting with companies doing business with state sponsors of terrorism (resolved, we do not like terrorists). And you’re out of there. See: easy.


Monday October 29, 2012

What's up with the Florida electorate?

florida map It’s election season, and time to talk about election things. And since Florida is going to decide this election, it’s worth doing a deep dive into what’s happening here. In Slate, a pretty bold headline: The Fraud That Failed: How the GOP’s voter suppression laws may have inadvertently cost them Florida. The gist of the article is a little weaker than that: seems that the movement to get the word out about Republican voter suppression efforts was effective, and it’s a mobilizing force for Democratic voters.

“I think that this whole thing is gonna backfire on ’em,” says Curry. “If they had left it alone, African-Americans may have been less excited about this election than they were about 2008.” Take the fear of disenfranchisement away and they might have been skittish about voting for a president who endorses gay marriage. In other states, like Maryland and Washington, there are campaigns directed at black voters that straddle the line between patronizing and true. But in Florida, where the Obama campaign is running an ad to remind people of the 2000 election, it doesn’t play. “Just because he says he’s for gay marriage doesn’t mean he’s going to implement it,” says Rev. Gary McCleod of the nearby Mount Sinai church. “That doesn’t concern people.”

(Special note to anyone who opposes legalizing gay marriage: fuck you. See me after class.) Also:

Democrats are proud to say it: If they win this election, it’ll be because a superior ground game turned out their base and overcame a Mitt Romney comeback. In Florida, they have twice as many campaign offices as Romney-Ryan. “With absentee ballot requests, usually the Republicans have a pretty significant advantage on us,” says Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman who represents a liberal slice of the Miami sprawl. “We’ve cut the advantage by 85 percent.” This is true.

Meanwhile, Molly Ball traveled around Florida and reports all the ways voters are upset with Obama. Predictably, it’s the economy, stupid:

They all promise a lot, Romney too,” she said. “I just want a better economy. Gas prices going down. Someone who can fix it for the long term.” The polls currently show Florida looking more hostile to Obama than almost any other swing state. (Only North Carolina looks worse for the president.) If he loses here — indeed, if he loses the 2012 election — it will be because of voters like these: the ones who refused to take him back.

So you see, the forces they are strong here in Florida. Meanwhile, the polls are pretty much evenly tied, and the election still rests on us. Stay tuned.


Thursday October 25, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 2: the people

voting machinesI promised you people a part 2 to our election guide, and here we are, less than two weeks to election day. Lots of people have done absentee voting, taking hours and hours to research all the stuff on the ballot, so we need to figure this out. Back to the sample ballot. (Note: your ballot will look different! To get YOUR actual ballot, go to this page, type in your info, then click Sample Ballot in the second blue box. You’ll also get to see a photo of your voting place, which is kind of cool.)


You people don’t need me to tell you who you’re voting for, so I’ll keep this as short as I possibly can. Generally, I’m a fan of “anyone but the first two” strategy on this one, on the grounds that we need to do whatever we can to strengthen the voice of third parties generally. But it’s a close election that Florida is most likely going to decide. So none of that funny business. I’m still registered Libertarian, and I like a lot about Jill Stein, but no.

Now, a word to my Republican friends. I don’t think you guys are unreasonable! A lot of you see the problems with Romney, but on the other hand he looks like a Reasonable Republican in a tough situation Doing What He Needs To Do. Let me submit to you that the next president will appoint probably two Supreme Court justices, and that if Romney is elected we have an excellent chance of ending up in a country where abortion is outlawed for decades. If that concerns you at all, then consider this: the economy is in recovery. Obama has not done everything he could have done, but it’s a fact that Republicans for the last few decades have been much worse for the budget deficit, and Romney’s “cut taxes and grow the military” is a strategy for more of that.

He underestimated the recession, doubled down on government secrecy, and refuses to stop the drone strikes. But hold your nose and vote for Obama.

US Senator

Your choices: Bill Nelson [D], Connie Mack ®, and two independents: Bill Gaylor and
Chris Borgia. Both the independents have a touch of the tea party about them, but Borgia is talking the “big rethink of government” talk that I think we need to hear more of. I don’t agree with all his positions, but I like the cut of his jib. He won’t win, but there’s a good argument here for voting for an independent voice.

US Congressman

I don’t get to vote for a congrescritter, but they’re up for reelection in districts 23, 25, 26, and 27. Look your people up on Vote Smart and figure it out.

State offices

This is the place to get smart. I can’t really help you, because everyone will be voting for different people. But keep in mind: your vote here is maybe the most important of any you’ll cast today, because there are a lot fewer people voting in each of these races and you have a real chance of swinging an election. You know all that stuff Rick Scott did that you didn’t like? These are the people who voted on it. Don’t be a dumbass — you have maybe a half-dozen people to look up. Do it. Check out Vote Smart, Ballot Pedia, and the Herald’s recommendations.


Good news: nothing too bad coming out about these people, and replacing them gives more people to Rick Scott. Yes on all of ‘em.

Board of County Commissioners, Community Development Districts, etc.

What I said for the state offices? More so here.

State constitutional amendments

See part 1 of this guide. (Short story: No on everything except maybe the Veterans stuff.)

School Board Questions, County Charter Amendments

That’ll be next week. Stay tuned for part 3! (Wow, this turned out to be surprisingly useless.)


Thursday October 18, 2012

Term Limits for Dade county commissioners are on the ballot.
Michael Lewis gives you the argument for voting against the limits. It’s a tough call, but term limits empower government bureaucrats and lobbyists.


Tuesday September 25, 2012

The November 6th ballot: part 1: state constitutional amendments

i voted today sticker The good news is that you people are all going to vote this November. You have strong feelings about whether Obama or Romney would make a better president, and it looks like Florida will be the tie breaker.

The bad news is that the ballot will be a doozie. The ballot contents document, with the various questions for each of the municipalities, runs to 100 pages(!), the ballot itself will be 5 pages long, front and back. It’s the longest ballot on record. And remember what these things look like when you get into the voting booth:

sample ballot

One day we’ll get into just printing separate ballots for English, Spanish, and Kreole speakers, and it’ll be a happy day for printing budgets and voter sanity. But for now, there it is, and all we can do is prepare. Let’s look at the proposed state constitution amendments. There are 12. Let’s see how many we can get through in one morning. I’m going to give you the text of the amendment, and tell you how you should vote. Don’t scroll down, you’ll just get dizzy with how much of this there is. Feel free to not read the amendments themselves (because they are HORRIBLE) and you’ll be through it in no time. And by the way, I’m dipping into the Collins Center’s summaries and comments and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting’s awesome trove of info. Ready? Let’s get busy:

For the love of god click the link and at least scroll through these:



Tuesday September 4, 2012

Get your election on


I know you’re disappointed with Obama. But look, you don’t want Romney and a Republican congress running the country for the country for the next four years. And if you think about it, you don’t want Obama going down as a one-term president.

And here’s the thing: Florida will decide this thing, more than likely. We’re the largest tossup state, and we’ve been picking the president since 1992 (when, amazingly, we voted to give George Bush Sr. a second term).

All of which is to say that you need to get ready to vote. If you’re registering for the first time, the application is at the bottom of this page. You should also fill out one of these if you want to change your party affiliation or if you’re moving. (Though if you’re moving within Dade County, you can just call the elections department, 305-499-VOTE, and they’ll do it over the phone.) If you’re submitting one of these forms anyway, you might consider changing your party affiliation, either to lodge your weak protest against the hegemony of the two-party system or because you’d like to vote in someone else’s primaries (like this year’s Republican primary). You should to enjoy perusing the list of political parties recognized in Florida.

Don’t get purged — make sure your Drivers License is up to date. You can update it through Florida HSMV’s charming Virtual Office. This would also be a decent time to consider becoming a Poll Worker. I bet you have no chance if you don’t speak Spanish or Creole, but you can give it a chance anyway. (As a hint, the link to the voter application PDF is broken at that link. If you click “ESPAÑOL,” you can get the application there.)

Do it today, otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself like those jackasses who voted for Nader in 2000.


Wednesday June 20, 2012

Is Florida about to hand the presidency to Romney?

electoral map Folks, here’s my vision of the near future. Elections happen in November. It’s close. Florida ends up deciding the race again, as the NYTimes map suggests. The last poll, now a month old, had Romney ahead of Obama by 6 points. It’s no good.

There’s plenty of jockeying going on, what with Romney considering Marco Rubio for his VP choice and Obama’s immigration announcement. But, same as it ever was, it’s going to come down to the economy. And the economy is looking grim. The unemployment numbers get worse with each month. Europe is about to go off a cliff. Bad stuff.

My question is, what do we do about it? There are five months before the election. Most of the people reading this believe that Barack Obama needs to be president for four more years despite his legion of disappointments (highlights include the continuation of the policy of secrecy begun by GWB, the drone war, and the treatment of whistleblowers). We’re on the ground here in Florida. What can we do to persuade our fellow Floridians who voted for Obama last time but are considering voting for Romney this time that they shouldn’t? The future it is in our hands people. We need a course of action.


Wednesday March 12, 2008

Yeah, what is it about Florida and voting? I mean, we can’t even have a vote for best burger without “voting irregularities.”


Wednesday January 30, 2008

Ye election results: YES on slot machines, YES on the property tax amendment, YES on the Miami “bill of rights,” McCain, Clinton, and of course it wouldn’t be elections in Florida without some clusterfuck disenfranchisement.


Tuesday January 22, 2008

A Citizens’ Bill of Rights has been added to the January 29th elections ballot. Here is the question, and here is the ‘Bill’ itself (I think). So it looks like this crappy Herald article is wrong — it’s not “Miami voters,” it’s “Miami-Dade voters” (thanks again, Miami-Dade officials, for making this extra confusing), not an insignificant distinction. What the article does not bother to do is to explain just what consequences this measure might actually have. Update: I’m wrong wrong wrong: the “Bill of Rights” is a City of Miami thing, the County thing is something else.


Thursday November 8, 2007

Vote -- So You Can Bitch

SotP takes a swipe at Coconut Grove Grapevine.


Wednesday November 7, 2007

Miami Beach will have a runoff for the Mayor’s post, and all your election results at the Herald.


Monday November 5, 2007

Double the Vote

Double the Vote Double the Vote, a project of Category 305, is out to increase participation in local elections, starting with tomorrow’s elections in Miami Beach, Miami, Hialeah, Surfside, Homestead, and Golden Beach. Only 10% of registered voters vote in local elections in Miami-Dade. This is particularly silly when you realize that in local elections, every individual vote is proportionally much more important then a vote in national elections, and that local issues have much more effect on your day-to-day life then national ones.

Ah, but who to vote for? Who follows local politics, anyway? Well, DtV has links to information about Miami Beach candidates at Category 305, and the Sun Post and Miami Vision. See also the Herald’s recommendations for tomorrow from their politics page, which links to numerous stories related to the election(see also this). So read your ballot, do your research, tell your employer you’ll be in late tomorrow cause you’re voting (prepare for looks of shock, but most bosses have no problem with this), and off to the polls first thing in the morning.


Tuesday July 31, 2007

33% of election polling clerks found incompetent, fired

Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor Lester Sola is all proud of himself, because he just fired 261 election polling clerks because they failed a test on voting procedures. That’s out of 787 that took the test (more are still to be given). Here he is: “We could have very well continued like we did in the past, just making sure there were warm bodies. This year, we said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Nice work, Lester. No use crying over the spilled milk of the botched elections of the last few years, eh? Oh, and where do you plan on hiring more competent folks willing to work for $8 to $11 an hour for two days a year?

In any case, the article is an interesting read for the detail it gives about election procedures. This is rich, too: “‘I think we can all vouch for that one,’ said Commissioner Natacha Seijas, whose Government Operations and Environment Committee oversees Sola’s department. ‘We do need to professionalize our elections.’”


Monday February 12, 2007

Charlie Crist wants to get rid of all the electronic voting machines in Florida. I say great. But just before we do, I want someone to add up exactly how much they all cost (in equipment, training time, and fixing time, putting aside the priceless lost votes), and I want to sock someone in the jaw. Seriously. Find me the idiot who actually made the decision to spend that money and let me hit them just once.


Thursday January 25, 2007

Here is a good question for you: There were 150,399 ballots cast in the election. If you add the yes and no votes together they total 149,335. What happened to the other 1,064 ballots?”


Wednesday November 8, 2006

WTF, Herald?!

The Herald's graph showing Jim Davis at 53%, the Herald's headline declaring Christ 'Florida's new governor'

Check out the Herald: As of 5:41 am, this page shows Jim Davis at 53.55%, and this page, not to mention the cover, is declaring Christ the new governor. WHAT THE HELL, GUYSPEOPLE CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF!

I know it’s been a long night for y’all, but is nobody at the the controls over there? Update: Eddie points out that the graph represents only the voters in Miami-Dade.


Tuesday November 7, 2006

Voting-day observations


Tuesday September 5, 2006

How to vote

don't forget to press the red buttonIt’s election day, y’all! Time for us to celebrate the fact that we live in a free (sort of) country, and maybe even make some changes to make that country better. Oh, but wait, these are local elections? Well, crap, who bothers with the small-time shit? Local government doesn’t do the really important stuff, and nobody knows any of the names, so why bother?

Well, of course voting in local elections just as important as in the nationals: this is about the money and decisions that are closest to us, and since (all the more reason) very few people are voting, one vote can be a really powerful voice. The way it rarely is in, say, presidential elections. Though it was in 2000 in Florida, a super-close swing state, and so, thanks again to you jerks that voted for Nader. But I digress. The question is, how do you decide who to vote for today? I present to you some possible methodologies:

  1. Keep up with local politics all year. Then you’ll be ready. Of course it’s too late to do that now. And by the way, I write a local blog, so I should know more then the average person about this stuff, but I’m pretty clueless.
  2. Just print out the Herald’s recommendations and vote down the line with the Herald (or vote down the line opposite what they recommend, you anarchist you).
  3. Delve deep into the Herald’s logic and decide on which points you agree with them or not. Which would be a lot easier if there were a competing newspaper news source in town who’s recommendations you could compare against the Herald’s. God love Miami Today, but their only mention of the elections just isn’t very helpful in this regard. The New Times? Helpful . . . if you’re wondering who writes the dirt. (Ok, I admit—it’s me. What, the slick design didn’t give it away?[1]) Biscayne Boulevard Times? Nope.
  4. I was going to suggest keeping up with the results throughout the day, and voting for whoever’s behind, the idea being that it’d make it easier for those who do know what they’re talking about to get those people elected, despite, say, the Herald’s recommendation. But now I’m not sure this approach is mathematically correct. After all, you might be counteracting the votes of just those well-educated voters.

So where does that leave us? I guess reading up in the Herald (And, no, the Sentinel’s coverage doesn’t say peep about Miami Dade elections.), and cursing the darkness. You should also check out the antidisenfranchisement guide at Hidden City. The official Miami-Dade elections page.

[1] Joking.