Volsky on Slesnick “The Mayor Does it Again”

GEORGE VOLSKY

THE MAYOR DOES IT AGAIN

Early last Thursday morning, a friend woke me up: “Have you seen our   mayor, his hands outstretched like Nixon saying ‘I’m not a crook.’?”  Not fully awake I replied: ” What are you talking about?” The friend laughed and said: “Look at today’s Neighbors.”  Believing it was a joke I didn’t get to it until a couple of days later after I rescued the Herald’s Neighbors section from trash.

It took a while to find the picture of our allegedly Nixonesque mayor. It had never occurred to me to glance at the Neighbors’ last page. Neither selling nor buying a residence, I was not interested in what for a long time has been an advertising space paid for by “Slesnick and Associates,” a real estate firm of the mayor’s wife,  Jeannett, of which he  is presumably a shareholder. (It makes one wonder how many people have looked at that page during this busy, apolitical holiday week.)

But instead of the usual Jeannett Slesnick ad on the Neighbors’ back page there was the face of the ever-happy and insincerely grinning mayor. Given the reflective and somber mood in the country – and in Coral Gables – the smile seemed highly inappropriate.  No surprise here. Few in our city, even the mayor’s acolytes,  would accuse Slesnick of gracing residents with simple, believable sincerity.

Still, standing in front of the City Hall building, the happy mayor – his hands widely extended-  projected  an image of the elected official who less-than-humbly asks constituents  to forgive him for the mess he has inflicted upon them, doing it with the trite,  less-than-redemptive sentence  “Wishing You the Best in 2011.”

(For the record, my friend was partially right. Nixon, trying to squash the unfolding Watergate scandal, uttered his historically famous phrase “I am not a crook” in a televised address.  The memorable outstretched-hands “Tricky Dick” picture  was taken when having already  resigned the presidency to avoid almost certain impeachment  Nixon was boarding a helicopter to leave Washington in disgrace.)

The Nixon analogy or not, the mayor’s  message (whatever its text, a comment later) cannot be laughed off because  it raises several serious political and ethical questions.

First, Slesnick is already officially a candidate for reelection and as such has to follow state regulations or at least faithfully adhere to axioms of  political ethics and transparency. Second,  his message  is clearly a political advertisement even if he pretends it isn’t one. Only with a very strong amplifying glass readers can decipher  at its bottom “This ad was not paid with public funds.”

The disclaimer appears vintage Slesnick. Evasive at least, it does not reveal the pertinent information which, according to several election law experts,  voters are entitled to. It only indirectly tells residents (who have a magnifying glass handy) that the mayor did not dip into city funds to purchase the page. But it does not say who paid for the ad’s elaboration and insertion, and how much the Herald charged for it.

It could well have been Slesnick himself (thus why he didn’t state it clearly), his spiritual guru or his friend. But unless the full provenance of the ad’s funding is revealed, the payee might have been a person with a widely known unsavory or even felonious record.

Had the disclaimer  said “Paid Political Announcement” – as it should have been –  the money would have come from Slesnick’s political campaign fund, whose detailed proceeds and expenses must be  periodically reported to the Coral Gables’ clerk’s office. (Some experts said that most newspapers would not have accepted Slesnick’s  vaguely-phrased disclaimer as the Herald did.)

Even if he doesn’t say so, Slesnick’s advertisement  is unabashedly political. His “New Year’s resolutions“ sound like his reelection platform. Yet his “resolutions” are at least laughable. The man under whose tenure city payroll benefits grew from about 35 percent in 2001 to the economically unsustainable 70 percent in 2010, now says he wants to control the cost of government.  And he hasn’t yet reimbursed the city – as some residents still demand – for countless expensive meals and liquor he and his friend, the former and disgraced city manager David Brown, had consumed at the taxpayers’ expense.

Slesnick wants to  “encourage and promote smart growth of our business district”  and “recruit and welcome new businesses.” Yet over the years the “economic” efforts of our “Smiling Society Mayor” have consisted almost exclusively of cutting ribbons and being photographed at cocktail parties.

The mayor also intends to “work” with the School Board to improve and expand education opportunities in Coral Gables – an issue he invented out of pure cloth. Finally, Slesnick promises to “focus” on promotion of culture. That – with a cruel irony – comes from the elected official with a bloated office who last September agreed, without a pip, to a 50 percent cut in the city’s 2011 cultural appropriations.

Are Slesnick and his ads – presumably last Thursday’s was not his last – believable?  Is Slesnick’s word his bond?

Ask Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, our mayoral candidates Tom Korge and  James Cason, Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk, reportedly Stan Adkins, Slesnick’s own long time political advisor and many other prominent residents. In strongest possible terms, Slesnick personally assured all of them  that he would never for mayor again.

About Stephen E. McGaughey
International consultant in economic development programs and projects

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