Politics

Turning Up the Heat on Miami Politics


The last week has been an unusually busy, and sometimes confusing, time for Miami’s political class.

It started with the Jan. 25 meeting of the City Commission. The commissioners covered several important topics and took action on a few of them. For a Spotlight summary of the meeting, click here.

The most important action item was a resolution introduced by District 2 Commissioner Damian Pardo asking the City to resolve the conflict over the contested February 2022 map of Miami’s electoral districts. The commissioners unanimously approved a meeting on Thurs., Feb. 8, to pursue this goal. Despite a court case challenging the legitimacy of the February 2022 map led by the ACLU, several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that the map would be used in the November 2023 election. But that was only a temporary measure to avoid election chaos. The map is still in play.

The ACLU lawsuit came to trial on Monday, Jan. 29, and the trial ended the next day. Sometime in the coming weeks, possibly before the Commission’s Feb. 8 meeting, Judge K. Michael Moore will decide either to accept the Feb. 2022 map or require the creation of a new one. Already there is talk of a possible new election of the entire City Commission if the plaintiffs prevail and the Feb. 2022 map is thrown out. If that happens, the new election is likely to take place in November 2025, when Miamians will elect a new mayor.

Miamians scarcely had time to catch their breath before Tuesday, Jan. 30, when Mayor Francis Suarez gave his annual State of the City speech. Suarez painted a glowing picture of Miami’s progress, boasting that in the past year Miami had fewer homicides and lower unemployment than in past years and had seen construction of 1,800 affordable housing units. He said he would support steps to increase the number of city commissioners and electoral districts from five to seven, revisit the concept of a “strong mayor” with greater authority over city business, hire an independent auditor to “avoid the appearance of impropriety,” and move municipal election dates to even years in order to involve more voters in the electoral process.

The mayor’s speech was largely overshadowed that day by a Miami Herald report that once again raised questions about whether Suarez had sought to use his official position to benefit both his clients and himself. Suarez declined to comment on the report, and ignored Herald reporters when they approached him after his speech.

A day after the speech, Suarez went on the offensive. The occasion was the release of a Florida Ethics Commission report dismissing a complaint against Saurez based on reports that Suarez had used City of Miami police officers as his private security team while traveling on non-city business. According to the Ethics Commission, the complaint, made by Thomas Kennedy, a Miami resident active in the Democratic Party, lacked “legal sufficiency.”

Celebrating that decision, Suarez issued a statement blasting his critics. “Today, the Florida Ethics Commission formally dismissed yet another frivolous complaint filed against Miami Mayor Francis Suarez…, concluding once again that the Mayor continues to act properly, following all laws and regulations,” the statement read. “The Commission’s action exposes the coordinated coup attempt that radical liberal activists, political mercenaries, and their allies in the local leftist media have perpetrated in the City of Miami. For over a year, the Mayor has been the target of a vicious, dishonest smear campaign led by a small group of special interests hellbent on destroying our thriving city’s reputation and its prominent position on the world stage.”

To anyone paying attention, the most prominent among “leftist media” could only be the Miami Herald, which, in recent months, has published a series of investigative reports on what appear to be Mayor Suarez’ abuses of his power and privilege for personal gain. The mayor remains under investigation by several governmental agencies, including the FBI and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. 

Topping off the week of political whiplash, there have been several calls for the Mayor to resign. Leading the charge is Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried. Not far behind is District 2 Commissioner Damian Pardo.

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