- Faith & Family
Once again Miami businessman Norman Braman is opening his checkbook and putting on his activist hat in his efforts to line up a slate of candidates to run against four Miami-Dade County Commissioners in the upcoming August elections. Braman, who bankrolled last year’s historic mayoral recall of former County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, says he wants candidates who are “interested in reform,” and denies charges that he is targeting any one commissioner in particular.
“I am trying to give people a choice — that’s all these efforts are about,” he said.
Among 13 commission seats, the seven odd-numbered districts are up for election with a runoff scheduled for November, if necessary. Braman is opposing Commissioners Barbara Jordan [District 1], Audrey Edmonson [District 3] and Dennis C. Moss [District 9] and says he hopes to quickly find candidates to run against the three incumbents, all of whom are Black. He also hopes to make a change District 5, currently represented by Commissioner Bruno Barreiro as well as fill Commissioner Joe Martinez’s District 11 seat, which will become vacant because of his plan to run for mayor.
Will voters change their minds on term limits?
Braman has long been a supporter of term limits for the county commission but voters have continued to defeat such proposals on recent ballots. However, when a 21-member charter review task force was convened in 2007 that also encouraged public input, part of their final recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners in January 2008, was to pay commissioners a population-based salary [$91,995] and to limit their time in office to two, four-year terms. We asked Braman why voters couldn’t simply chose another candidate if they were dissatisfied with the efforts and track record of the incumbents.
“It’s important to have term limits so we can give new people an opportunity to serve,” he said. “Those who are allowed to stay in office for too long become the darlings of the lobbyists and benefit from the
contributions those lobbyists provide. Others are dissuaded from running because they don’t have the resources to mount a credible campaign. We have term limits for the president of the United States and the governor of Florida — if it’s good enough for them it should be good enough for county commissioners.”
Commissioners weigh-in on Braman’s rhetoric
Moss says he worries that Braman’s actions could set a “dangerous precedent in county elections.”
“Braman can identify whoever he wants to run against me but I hope our community is smart enough not to allow him to use us in this process,” he said. “Anyone he funds will be under his control — they will be a bought candidate. What he is doing is being a bully and just like in the schoolyard when we were children, the only way to handle a bully is to stand up to him — eventually he will go away and terrorize someone else.”
Moss added that it is important that Miami-Dade County maintains its 13 single districts so that Blacks are guaranteed adequate representation.
“I can’t say that Braman is targeting the Black commissioners but it sure is interesting that the three of us who are up for re-election will apparently face candidates that he has hand-chosen and will financially support,” Moss added. “The Black community needs to say to him that we are not going to allow him to dictate what happens in our community and our neighborhoods. We don’t need outsiders telling us how to manage our communities. I’ve been in office since 1993 and am prepared to deal with whatever clown they march out to oppose me. The people will decide.”
Edmonson agrees with Moss and frowns upon allowing “one person to dictate who will represent the citizens of our community.”
“The last time I checked, we lived in a democracy,” she said. “I am confident in my ability to serve the constituents of District 3 and I welcome and admire those who seek elected office. I don’t believe shopping around for a candidate is a good approach in a democracy. I believe voters are intelligent enough to vote for a person of their choice.”
As for her being targeted by Braman, Edmonson said she questions Braman’s rationale of endorsing candidates with a “commitment for reform.”
“I was elected to serve the residents of District 3, to uphold the laws of the Charter . . . and to make decisions based on facts and factors presented to me — I would think my colleagues are all in elected office for the same reasons. Commitment for reform is a lofty phrase [but] there is no magic wand that will change the way in which government runs and operates overnight.”
Edmonson has been in office for six years and says she will definitely seek reelection and “run on the record of my work.”
As for Jordan, who brings “34 years of experience in county government and eight years as a policy maker for the county,” she says, “If he wants to change the face of county government, maybe he should run himself.”
“It’s his money and he can do whatever he wants with it, but it takes more than money — it takes commitment and passion and the ability to address the needs of a specific community,” she said. “The needs in Mr. Braman’s community are different from mine and while he seems to feel like we have not responded to the community at large, I have responded to my particular community.
I was elected to represent the people in District 1 and what they feel matters is what matters to me. That doesn’t mean I am opposed to reform — what it means is that I must represent those who put their faith in me and chose me as their commissioner. Let Braman stick to what he does best — running his business.”
By D. Kevin McNeir