Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: In pols we trust not

Miami-Dade commissioners want to post the motto “In God We Trust” above the county seal in the commision chambers.
Miami-Dade commissioners want to post the motto “In God We Trust” above the county seal in the commision chambers. DOUGLAS HANKS

In a “world-class city” where the historic downtown courthouse is literally falling apart, the Miami-Dade County Commission — which has neglected making dire repairs, claiming lack of funds — is now planning to invest in symbolic signage for its chambers.

After operating for almost 30 years in perfectly decorous accommodations, commissioners are pining for a sign that, from high above their dais, assures everyone: “In God We Trust.”

I would say I’m s-o-o-o relieved to know that, except that I don’t trust people who use God for business or state purposes, or for that matter, conveniently wrap themselves in the flag to push their agenda. Same aim: manipulation of the masses evoking symbols people hold dear.

As everyone who is not in deep slumber knows, the well-known religious affirmation is not only the national motto — check it out, back center of the almighty dollar bill — but also the motto of the state of Florida.

So it’s not like we haven’t already made its acquaintance.

What’s new is that the commission's Public Safety & Animal Services Committee voted Wednesday to ban discrimination against transgender people during an emotional meeting that included invocations of biblical damnation and brought speakers to the verge of tears.

One can only imagine the calls and emails to commissioners after the vigorous show mounted by religious conservatives, who outnumbered the victims of discrimination speaking of isolation, disenfranchisement and sorrow. The evangelical speakers called the county ban immoral and a threat to the safety of people using public bathrooms. One woman cried on television over what her children might be exposed to in public.

And so, commissioners moved Thursday with the signage plan — tailor-made to appease that crowd — in essence reversing their previous commitment to inclusion by now excluding from their grace atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and anyone who doesn’t call the higher power they believe in “God.”

Not as important but still relevant is the issue of spending taxpayer money where it’s not needed.

Signage cost, dollars-wise: Yet unknown — at least to the public.

When I inquired Friday with the office of the commissioner who came up with the resolution — Jose “Pepe” Diaz (he’s the one who cuddled with a cute puppy on the dais to encourage a vote for the never-funded Pets' Trust) — I couldn’t get a figure or a call back. The commissioner’s communications director, I was told, was too busy to come to the phone.

But apparently the lack of a price quote didn’t keep the commission’s economic development committee from voting Thursday to erect the sign. The dollar weariness only sets in when it comes to issues they don’t support. But let me pose this question, philosophically speaking: Since the deteriorating courthouse belongs to the county, couldn’t the money being spent on this sign, say, fix a leaky bathroom?

Never mind.

The cost to the community is easier to gauge: More division, this time along religious lines.

In God I might trust. In politicians and bureaucrats, not at all.

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