Imagine getting a telephone call from a city commissioner about making a sizeble contribution — there’s a chilling effect. At our June 10 Miami Beach Commission meeting, I requested that all city vendors inform us whether they were contacted to contribute to a political action committee whose chairperson is Commissioner Jonah Wolfson. My colleagues did not support me after the mayor and Wolfson said that this information is available online with the state of Florida — even though the average citizen does not have the resources to obtain that data.
A report filed on June 10, 2015 showed that more than $500,000 was raised from developers and city vendors during the month of May. I along with Commissioner Ed Tobin, voted No on all of the procurement items because we were prohibited from asking whether they had been solicited to write checks to this PAC.
When first elected in 2007, I made a request to form TRAC (the Transparency Reliability and Accountability Committee) so that Miami Beach could lead in providing relevant information to the public. Although it was a new idea at the time, we succeeded by putting information online that had never been there before.
What occurred at the last commission meeting is a giant step backward in transparency. Miami Beach for decades has led the way on ethics issues and community information. Sadly, we are moving in the wrong direction. My colleagues have the opportunity at our July meeting to correct this injustice to the public, and I hope they will join me. Public officials should not be dialing for dollars to companies that currently or in the future are doing business with the city they represent.
Deede Weithorn, commissioner, Miami Beach