Anyone who’s ever run for office knows that campaigns can be brutal. Aside from enduring endless fundraisers, walking from door to door, keeping track of campaign finances and smiling through the pain, politicians had better be prepared for the onslaught of personal attacks from the opposition. When it comes to politics, the thin-skinned need not apply.
After two years in office, North Bay Village Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez hasn’t yet figured out that, once elected, public officials are fair game. What Gonzalez also hasn’t learned is that when it comes to playing political football, the best defense is to refuse to play. No one ever gets hurt by sitting on the bench.
Gonzalez reminds me of another local politician who also made the mistake of going on the offense. North Miami Beach EX-Mayor Myron Rosner’s response to public criticism was to sic Code Enforcement on his detractors. Unfortunately for him, I was one of his “victims.” This blunder not only ultimately cost Myron his seat, but he soon found himself at the receiving end of an arrest warrant for campaign finance fraud, for which he is currently standing trial. The moral of that story is: Don’t piss off the blogger.
It now appears that another petulant politician is heading down that same path. Jorge Gonzalez’ seat is being challenged this Tuesday by political newcomer Mario Garcia, who has sent out “hit piece” flyers to voters in the hopes of garnering votes and unseating the incumbent. This is the same game that’s been played during every single election cycle since the invention of the printing press.
Instead of ignoring it and moving on, what does the Commish do? Why, file a lawsuit, of course! Doesn’t everybody?
On October 31, 2014, the Friday before election day, Jorge Gonzalez filed a Complaint for Defamation against MARIO GARCIA, individually; MARIO GARCIA, Candidate for North Bay Village at Large; and the MARIO GARCIA CAMPAIGN CAMPAIGN FOR NORTH BAY VILLAGE AT LARGE. In his Complaint, Commissioner Garcia claims that his opponent made “false damaging statements,” and is asking for “damages in excess of $15,000.00, exclusive of interest, costs and attorneys fees.”
He also filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
I’m sure Joe Centorino will get right on it.
So what got Jorge’s panties all twisted? Here’s the offending mailer:
Aside from the fact that all of it is true, poor Jorge is most incensed that he was called “Another Sketchy North Bay Village Politician.”
Oh, the HORROR!
In an article published yesterday, Gonzalez told Miami Herald reporter Melhor Marie Leonor, “I’m disappointed that Mr. Garcia chose to run a negative campaign and use dirty politics as his strategy.”
Because no one has EVER done that before.
Well, except for Gonzalez and his teammate Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps, who are both desperately trying to hold on to their seats. Gonzalez seems to have conveniently forgotten the hit piece that Team Connie produced against their own colleague, Richard Chervony.
As the Herald article pointed out, Gonzalez’ “HISTORY of bankruptcy and judgements of nearly $1 million in unpaid debt” doesn’t automatically disappear because he settled them. HISTORY cannot be rewritten.
Jorge Gonzalez is also upset about the accusation that he raised taxes by 35%. In his lawsuit, Gonzalez claims that he and his colleagues lowered the millage from 6.5145 to 6.3313 from tax year 2012-2013 to 2013-2014. What he failed to disclose is that a portion of that “decrease” was due to the expiration of a debt service millage from a voter approved bond. The Commission has no control of debt service millage, which simply expires once the bond is paid. The Commission only has the power to vote on the operational millage.
Despite that slight decrease in debt service millage, according to the Florida Department of Revenue, the Commission actually voted to INCREASE the operational millage from 4.4772 to 5.474 during that same period. Furthermore, the taxes levied in North Bay Village from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 increased from $2,979,826 to $3,663,305, which is an INCREASE of 22.9%. According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser, countywide taxable values increased by 6.5% from 2013 to 2014. Property values in North Bay Village increased even more. As such, NBV residents will ultimately see an increase in their taxes of about 35% since Gonzalez took office.
The attack ad also claims that Jorge Gonzalez “went on an all-expense trip to Turkey, after being rebuked by the Commission on Ethics.” Gonzalez denies this accusation, but he can’t alter the truth.
In May of 2014, Gonzalez and eight other individuals from South Florida were invited to “participate in a cultural and educational program” called the Second International Davraz Congress in the country of Turkey. According to Gonzalez, who filed the required Form 9 (Quarterly Gift Disclosure), his travel and hotel accommodations were paid for by the Turkish American Federation of Southeast (TAFS) in the amount of $5,024.00. Gonzalez does not deny this accusation.
However, Gonzalez does deny that he was “rebuked by the Commission on Ethics.”
He must have forgotten that on June 25, 2013, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics fined him $500.00 for failing to disclose that he accepted as a gift a ticket to a Miami Heat game on December 10, 2012 from one Pedro Cheng, Vice President of Asia Connect Media Corporation, a company that had been “involved in presenting real estate investment opportunities in NBV to Turkish investors.”
And finally, Jorge Gonzalez is having a hissy fit about being accused that he “voted to cut youth services including the Police Athletic League.” Ironically, as reflected in the very same Minutes of the September 30, 2014 Final Budget Public Hearing that he introduced as an Exhibit to his lawsuit, the record reflects that he made a motion to “amend the budget to re-appropriate the $20,000.00 for fireworks towards the PAAL program,” which he had previously voted to cut from the 2013-2014 budget.
To paraphrase John Kerry, Jorge Gonzalez voted for the cut before he voted against it.
I don’t know about you, but to me it sure looks like Jorge Gonzalez is just Another Sketchy Politician.
The filing of nuisance lawsuits such as this one is nothing more than a manipulative attempt at damage control right before an election.
In this instance, Jorge Gonzalez ended up looking like a crybaby.
Note to Jorge: If you want to play in the big league, suck it up, put on your big boy pants and deal with it.
“Spreading the Wealth”