In My Opinion

Joe Martinez’s day went to the dogs

Pit bulls did better than Joe Martinez.

About 82,000 voters in Miami-Dade County voted in favor of a referendum that would have lifted the county’s 23-year-old ban on pit bulls. Joe, running for county mayor, only managed 72,000 votes.

Apparently, Joe is less popular than a breed of dog that 141,000 county voters considered too vicious to be allowed in these parts. The pit bull referendum was beaten decisively. So too was Martinez, who was running against incumbent Carlos Gimenez. Yet Joe Martinez refused to concede, demonstrating the kind of dogged obstinacy that reminds us newspaper writers of a certain breed of canine. He was like a pit bull. Just not as popular.

Nor did Tuesday’s election do much for government reform. Three of the four martyrs that Norman Braman unleashed against incumbent county commissioners did no better than Joe or the dogs. A fourth member of Braman’s reform slate, Luis Garcia, barely made it into a runoff with County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who missed an outright majority by 11 votes.

In January, Braman and his followers had opposed a county ballot initiative that would have instituted eight-year term limits and barred county commissioners from holding outside jobs. Reformers were peeved that term limits would not be applied retroactively. (Others were bothered that the no-outside-employment ban came with reasonable salaries, based on a state formula, as opposed to the $6,000-a-year pay set back in 1957.) In January, about 83,000 voters said that reform package wasn’t good enough. But after the dismal showing by Braman’s slate on Tuesday, “not good enough” begins to look better than nothing.

It was an equally bad day for good government in Pompano Beach, where voters approved a referendum holding the mayor and commissioners to an ethical standard regarding outside employment and financial disclosure that’s “consistent with and limited to the requirements of Florida law.”

Sounds great. Except the referendum was really designed to get the town’s elected official out from under Broward County’s new ethics ordinance, which is much tougher than the state’s tepid restrictions. The county law, overwhelmingly approved by voters last year, bars public officials from lobbying and requires real financial disclosure.

The Pompano Beach referendum was plainly contrived to mislead voters, said Robert Wechsler, research director for the non-profit City Ethics (and author of an 800-page handbook on ethics available on “Sneaky,” he called it. Pompano Beach fashioned its weasel-worded anti-ethics initiative after similar measures passed earlier this year in Wilton Manors, Hillsboro Beach and Sea Ranch Lakes.

The irony, of course, is that the current mayor in Pompano Beach, Lamar Fisher, has been fined by the state Commission on Ethics for selling used city equipment through his family’s private auction company. Voters had tossed former Mayor Bill Griffin out of office after revelations that he had taken a job with a construction firm trying to finagle a massive condo and Swimming Hall of Fame deal on city-owned land.

The sneaks at Pompano Beach City Hall, like a number of towns and county commissions down our way, could use a little ethics reform.

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