The DNC weighs in on FDP's unfair voting structure

As many of you know, the Florida Democratic Party is one of ten state parties that still operates under an antiquated and unfair weighted vote system. This system allows for 14 people to hold the majority voting power in the State Executive Committee of the Democratic Party in Florida, and it also under represents minority communities. 

We have known for some time that this weighted vote system ran afoul of the DNC rules that one person should have one vote. However, FDP leaders have insisted that there is no other way. In the last year the Miami-Dade delegation joined other smaller and mid-size counties to push this issue and bring it back to the forefront - only to be met by the same naysayers who have the most to lose from changing the system.

Well, now the DNC has weighed in (again), and it has given Florida one year to fix this mess. Their letter is below and attached, along with the resolution they passed.

At its meeting on August 22, 2019, in conjunction with the recent Democratic National Committee meeting in San Francisco, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) approved the attached resolution concerning the use of weighted votes by State Democratic Parties. 

The issue of individual state committee members casting weighted or multiple votes was initially raised as part of a challenge to a state’s selection of its DNC members. While the Credentials Committee ultimately dismissed the challenge raising this issue, they did direct the RBC to review the use of weighted votes by state parties in order to determine if the practice is consistent with both the spirit and intent of the Party’s rules. 

To date, DNC Staff has identified 10 states that use some type of weighted vote process for conducting business -- including the selection of Democratic National Committee members. Those states include Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota. In order to do the necessary due diligence to fully assess the use of weighted voting in our process, the RBC is seeking to gather additional information about State Party voting structures.

To aid the RBC’s review of State Party voting structures and to address any potential issues that may be identified prior to your state’s selection of DNC members next year, we have asked PADS Staff to reach out to you and to gather the following information.  Staff will schedule a call with you and your team in order to have the information below by Tuesday, October 15, 2019:

  • A copy of the State Party’s current bylaws and any other relevant rules or procedures related to voting by the State Committee members;
  • Any relevant statutory language describing the composition and/or voting structure of the State Party.
  • A description and number of members that serve on the State Committee;
  • A description of the method used for calculating the number of votes allocated to members and the total number of votes (weighted or otherwise) cast by State Committee members;
  • A description of how votes are allotted to members, and a chart showing how many votes each member casts;
  • A description of the procedures used to elect the state’s DNC members and Party officers, including the time frames in which those elections occur;
  • A description of how the committee provides for the equal division of its membership in accordance with Article 9, Section 16 of the National Party’s Charter; and
  • A chart indicating the demographic composition of the State Committee membership.

We will note that the RBC’s resolution allows one year for any State Party whose voting system is found not to comply with the Party’s rules to bring its voting system into compliance. As also noted in the resolution, any voting process that is found not to comply, could possibly put into question the election of the DNC Members for the 2021 term, a scenario we want to avoid.

We sincerely appreciate your assistance in providing this information to the RBC by October 15. Should you have any questions about the resolution or the materials being requested for this review, please contact us directly, or the office of Party Affairs and Delegate Selection at the partyaffairs@dnc.org.

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Trump Backlash!

Trump Backlash! Politico reports that Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and investor in companies such as Soul Cycle and Equinox, is facing intense backlash after news broke that he's hosting a mega-fundraiser for Donald Trump.

After the damage Trump has caused our country and the cruelty he's unleashed on immigrant communities, we should be naming the people that are financing his hate-filled campaign. They are enabling hate.

With that in mind, a friend ran a search of federal max-out contributions from Miami-Dade millionaires to Donald Trump's campaign and found that Don Shula (yes, that one) and former FIU President Modesto Maidique are among them. The list of Miami-Dade max-out donors to Trump can be found here, or you can simply make a search at FEC.gov. The list also includes Duty Free America owner Simon Falic, and the owner of Sunshine Gasolines Maximo Gomez who, by the way, does business with Venezuela and Maduro, but you won't hear the Republicans complaining about that.

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Capping the Price of Insulin

Capping the price of insulin. State Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) filed a new bill to cap the price of insulin co-pays at $100. Colorado was the first state to do this earlier this year, and we hope more states follow. It is a national embarrassment that people that need insulin are forced to ration it because they can't afford the outrageously high prices. This tragedy with real life consequences for thousands is a market failure facilitated by weak government regulation. This video from Business Insider and this article from The Week breaks down how we got here:

A final problem is government policy. Most other western countries like Canada either strictly regulate drug prices across the board, or health insurance is provided by some sort of single-payer system, giving the government enormous leverage to force drug prices down. The United States has none of this: We have a hodgepodge of different buyers, from government programs like Medicare and Medicaid to private insurers. Medicare is explicitly forbidden from trying to negotiate drug prices down. And we don't really regulate drug prices much.

In short, our patent system — and the way the drug manufacturers game it — keeps a lot of competitors out. The FDA process, for good or ill, throws up an extra hurdle. That gives the manufacturers of insulin and lots of other drugs a lot of room to just keep jacking prices into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, America's adherence to a strictly "market friendly" policy philosophy means the government has no leverage to push prices down on the back end. As a result, the price of insulin (like many other drugs) has been inching upward for decades, and really took off in the last few years.

However, with the current makeup of the Florida legislature, it will be an uphill battle to pass Sen. Cruz's bill. We need to focus on winning state legislative seats if we want to make meaningful progress in Tallahassee.

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A Miami Handmaid's Tale

A Miami Handmaid's Tale. On July 11, the City of Miami commission (all men) unanimously passed a resolution on first reading to abolish the Commission on the Status of Women, among other boards like Parks and Recreation, etc. Presumably this is a move to save money (perhaps to make some room in the budget for their future sweetheart lifetime pensions Keon Hardemon is pushing for). Unfortunately, City of Miami staff and Commissioners treat these volunteer boards as a chore rather than an opportunity to meaningfully engage with residents. In a city that rarely elects women to serve on the commission, hasn't elected a woman to serve since Michelle Spence Jones, and is currently run entirely by men, the move to abolish the Commission on the Status of Women was alarming and so politically tone-deaf that it makes you wonder what's going on over there. The sponsor, by the way, was Keon Hardemon. It goes for a final vote at the next commission meeting on September 12. 

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Campaign Finance Reform

In 2016, local activists teamed up with state and national groups to try to pass campaign finance reforms in Miami-Dade County that included public financing of county elections. Unfortunately, after collecting 140,000+ petitions to get on the ballot, the County Commission killed it (longer story for another time).

During that process, I learned a lot about public financing of elections. Most programs are structured so that governments match contributions made by supporters. New York's program has a nine to one match, so if someone contributes $10 it would be matched by NYC with another $90. It has worked in NYC. Seattle took it one step further. In 2015, Seattle passed something called a "Democracy Voucher". They gave every registered voter $100 (four $25 vouchers) that they could use to contribute to candidates running for City Commission in Seattle. The theory was that a voucher program would give everyone a financial stake and provide an incentive for candidates to speak with every voter (not just super voters) and thus increase overall participation in local elections. It's an incredible experiment. The University of Washington studied how well it performed in the 2017 Seattle elections, and it seems to be working. Here are the results! Perhaps one day we can revisit campaign finance reform in Miami-Dade County.

side note: Miami-Dade County actually has a campaign public financing program for County Commission candidates. It's structured as a grant-based system. Commissioners Xavier Suarez and Barbara Jordan both used it. But it was reformed in 2004/06 and made ineffective. No one uses it anymore (another story for another time).

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Politician Pensions Delayed

Sweetheart pensions delayed. The City of Miami Commission decided to delay the sweetheart pension vote that would give them a minimum lifetime $50,000 pension for serving at least seven years. It's coming back on Thursday, September 12.

I bet you're wondering why seven years (it's such an odd number for commissioners that get elected to four-year terms). Well, Commissioner Keon Hardemon is stepping down a year early to run for County Commission. 

Please call Commissioners Carrollo and Gort and ask them to vote NO. 

  • Willy Gort: (305) 250-5430, or email wgort@miamigov.com
  • Joe Carrollo: (305) 250-5380, or email jcarollo@miamigov.com
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The Fix Is In

Miami-Dade College is an important anchor institution in our community. After months of searching for a replacement to retiring President Eduardo Padron, the Miami-Dade College Board of Trustees (appointed by Gov. Desantis) decided to scrap the entire process and start over. This was months of work led by a professional headhunting firm and a 17 member search committee of community leaders. A new process has not been announced, but many - including former members of the search committee and former MDC board members - speculate that the board will lower qualifications for applicants to elect a politically connected candidate as the next President of MDC. The Herald reports:

Thirteen of the 17 members of the presidential search committee wrote a letter condemning the board for discarding their months of work. “Simply put, the board’s decision is a travesty,” the letter read.

Among those members who signed the letter: United Way of Miami-Dade president Maria C. Alonso, MasTec CEO Jose Mas and Miami Foundation CEO Javier Alberto Soto.

Six of the seven of the MDC board members are recent appointments by DeSantis including Nicole Washington, former State Rep. Michael Bileca, Marcell Felipe, Carlos Migoya, Anay Abraham, and Benjamin Leon.

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Money in Politics

There are few things more frustrating in Miami than the legalized bribery that happens in our local government. One example covered by the Herald recently is the $17,000 that Ultra just put into Commissioner Hardemon's political entities in the lead-up to a vote on whether Ultra should be allowed to return to Bayfront Park.

Since June 27, newly posted campaign finance reports show the commissioner sponsoring the deal, Keon Hardemon, received political contributions totaling $7,000 from Ultra and affiliated entities on May 31 — the same day administrators produced a draft agreement, according to city records. Hardemon is running for the District 3 seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.

On June 26, the day before commissioners first considered the new Ultra deal, the festival’s parent company cut a $10,000 check to One Miami Dade, an elections communications committee chaired by Hardemon’s aunt, Barbara Hardemon, who has lobbied for Ultra in the past.

There are usually no political consequences in the City of Miami for headlines like this. This doesn't have to be the case. Other municipalities have passed laws to prohibit campaign contributions from lobbyists, vendors and contractors doing business with that respective city. It's not a silver bullet, but it creates some accountability. Take Miami Beach for example. They passed this law several years ago, and while it did not stop some politicians from bending those rules, it caused severe political blow back once they were caught by the Herald.

While we're on the topic of money in politics. Politico Cortadito had a good article a month ago about all the new PACs that are being setup in Miami-Dade, and every politician has their own. Here's a current snapshot of the county mayoral PACs:

  • Bold PAC, controlled by Alex Penelas, has $1.08 million cash-on-hand
  • Transportation Solutions, controlled by Commissioner Bovo, has $877,000 cash-on-hand
  • Our Democracy, controlled by Commissioner Levine Cava, has $722,000 cash-on-hand
  • Imagine Miami PC, controlled by Commissioner Suarez, has $688,000 cash-on-hand

And that's just a fraction of the $3-5 million each candidate is expected to raise for next August's mayoral election. Side note: Penelas, Bovo, and Suarez have not officially filed paperwork to run for Mayor yet.

Shout-out. Typically it's tough to find out who's controlling what PAC, but a few years ago, Commissioner Levine Cava passed a county ordinance that required all municipal candidates and elected officials in Miami-Dade County to disclose if they are soliciting funds for any political committee, 501c4, or political party. You can find those disclosures here:

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Transit in Miaimi

If you don't know about the Transit Alliance, you need to check them out! They have been running innovative campaigns to advocate for more and smarter investments in our transit system. They have run campaigns such as the "mobility scorecard" and "where's my bus?". Their latest campaign is the Better Bus Project and they just completed a detailed report that includes detailed recommendations on how to improve our bus system. The Herald covered it.

The evaluation of the system, called the Choices Report... showed that how often a bus arrives is a critical element of service. Yet only five county routes have a bus arriving every 15 minutes or less during midday; most routes involve a minimum 30-minute wait. Although 60 percent of residents are near transit service, only 6 percent are near frequent transit service...

“If you build a network that maximizes freedom and opportunity, then you maximize ridership,”.

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Running for office shouldn't be a retirement plan

On July 10, Joey Flechas from the Miami Herald published an article about the City of Miami commission's effort to resurrect their sweetheart pension deal they had in the 90s. It's crazy! So, I wrote a letter to the editor which the Herald published today.

Restoring Miami commissioners' pensions is an insult to voters

The City of Miami Commission's effort to reinstate a $50,000 minimum lifetime pension for themselves is an insult to taxpayers and families that work their entire lives to retire.

I believe in compensating our elected officials fairly, but this proposal reeks of self-serving corruption.

Unlike their own employees that pay 10% of their salary toward their pensions, commissioners would pay nothing. Commissioners are also allowed outside employment to supplement their income. And if they structured their pension the same as their employees, after serving 8 years they would only receive 18% of their annual salary once they retire, not 55% as proposed.

Instead of opting into the pension system used by their employees, commissioners resurrected the sweetheart deal they received in the 90s. This deal was so generous that one of our former elected officials will start receiving $10,000 monthly payments in 2022. (see City of Miami Elected Official Trust Fund actuarial report)

What makes this proposal stink more is that commissioners fully vest into the pension after serving only 7 years. It's such an odd number for commissioners that are elected to four year terms. It makes sense, however, when you realize the sponsor Keon Hardemon is planning to run for County Commission next year and step down a year early.

Running for office should not be a retirement plan.

Commissioners Hardemon, Gort, and Carollo who approved this proposal on first reading should be ashamed. The public needs to speak out and demand this proposal be defeated on second reading.

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