Monday, April 14, 2014

The Caragiulo-Barbetta Conundrum and why It Still Isn't Time.

On Saturday afternoon I attended an It’s Time Sarasota community forum at the Downtown Sarasota Selby Library. It was sponsored by the Better Government Association. Professor Robert Martineau (main author/drafter of the proposed charter) spoke in favor of the charter and John Wesley White (former Sarasota County Administrator) spoke in opposition to the charter. Dr. Frank Alcock (Political Science Professor at New College) moderated the debate. 

I don't blame any of you for not attending, it was a lovely day and I sort of felt like a kid being held in detention. However, I am happy I attended.  I learned a bit more about the proposed charter that is trying to deliver a Sarasota Mayor to our town.  The initiative was also authored by these three men, all very important "players" who bandy about town.  The Strong Mayor initiative appears innocuous enough but when you have these three smiling faces staring back at you, well, the initiative begins to smell a bit sour.

City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo*, County Commissioner Barbetta and Michael Barfield, Sunshine Law Bottom Feeder
(Caragiulo has removed his name from the It's Time Sarasota Charter, but he was an author for the first draft)
City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, who in 2012 unsuccessfully pushed to put a mayor referendum on the ballot, hopes the community embraces this shift. He recruited University of Cincinatti law professor Robert Martineau to draft language for a new charter that reimagined the form of government for Sarasota. "Over the next year we chatted about this while people started talking to me," he said. "There were about 60 people I got input on this from." Caragiulo said he was happy to start this effort going, but wants to take a hand-off approach with the campaign now. "At some point, this has to stand on its own and needs a wider base of support."  SRQ Daily, February 2014.

City Commissioner Paul 
Caragiulo hit a home run when he invited local thug Mr. Barfield to help draft the It's Time charter.  What in the hell was Commissioner Caragiulo thinking?

It's been a hell of a weekend for tasty news bits regarding the Benderson Slush Fund Water Park (SANCA).  However, the recent firing of Sarasota county's first ethics coordinator, Steve Uebelacker, again shows me, all dirty roads seem to be leading back to County Commissioner Barbetta these days.

These news items lead me back to the three buddies in the picture above.
But first a quick review of the Saturday debate over the Strong Mayor issue.  While the new initiative is easy to read, there is still some vagueness in the proposal.  One item that struck me as odd is the vague job description of the Deputy Mayor who "would not be required to have any local government management, executive or administrative experience."  Professor Robert Martineau insisted this is the only legal way to describe in writing what the Deputy Mayor does not have to possess skill or past experience wise.  Call me a simpleton, I often do, but being a college dropout with out any government experience, hell, I want to be Deputy Mayor.   I certainly do NOT have the experience for that position, so I think I'm a shoe in.

I agreed with John Wesley White when he said "The answer is not Less Democracy.  Turning authority to one individual is not effective."  And since the It's Time supporters think that a Messiah Mayor will solve all of the cities problems, well, as Mr. White pointed out, Congress has monumental problems and we don't see our Congress changing the U.S. Constitution to a parliamentary system.

I have written before and I'll write it again so the It's Time gang cannot simply peg me a naysayer.  I am not opposed to a mayor for our town.  But the issues at hand will not be solved by a mayor.  I have written before, FIX THE COUNTY/CITY CODES or update them.  Codes are truly non-partisan, codes cannot take bribes, codes won't smoke crack in the mayor's chambers, codes should be definitive and codes won't cost the city a mayor's salary of $100K + benefits (and probably a car, etc.).  Update the damn codes.  And while I'm bitching, Elected Officials, FIX YOURSELVES, you greedy sons o' bitches.

One final thought on the Saturday debate, Mr. White illustrated throughout his lengthy career he has seen many people in positions of power abuse that power.  For me, this is definitely the case in Sarasota.  Professor Robert Martineau insisted throughout his career he had never, not even one time, has he encountered any nefarious government behavior.  Some people have all the luck. Professor Martineau helped author the It's Time Initiative with the three smiling faces in the above picture.

As far as I can tell, it still isn't time for a mayor.  We have some serious problems with dysfunction in our town that needs to be handled prior to getting all jazzed about electing a mayor.

Now, enough about my glitzy weekend.  Let's do a weekend review on local political b.s.

For Sarasota County, a course change on ethics

Steve Uebelacker,  Sarasota county's first ethics coordinator was fired last week.  As quoted from the SRQ Herald Tribune: 

  • Uebelacker maintains that he lost his job because he refused to back off from investigating complaints against the elected County Commission, which sets policy for local government."  The conflict, he said, centered around a series of complaints made against County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. “If I had just done everything they wanted me to do, I'd still be there and we'd all be happy,” Uebelacker said.
  • In an interview last Thursday, Commissioner Barbetta said that it should be the Florida Ethics Commission, not the county ethics officer, who looks into cases involving commissioners.
Now, stay with me here, because this is where it begins to get really amusing:
  • My integrity was clearly attacked and I do not intend to sit idly by,” Barbetta wrote to Uebelacker. “I will pursue this and, if necessary, ask for an independent investigation by the Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney, along with bringing in my own personal attorney.” Barbetta said in an interview that his personal attorney is Morgan Bentley, who is also chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Listen folks, I would have been HAPPY to file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics this past March when Commissioner Joe Barbetta lied on video about Mary Keanealy Events not being Barbetta's business and fudging senility about what his wife Mary may or may not have done for the SANCA Slush Fund Waterpark.  However, why would I waste any time filing a complaint when Commissioner Barbetta's personal attorney Morgan Bentley is the CHAIRMAN of the Florida Commission on Ethics?    

So let's get to to the upcoming County Commission seat that is being vacated by Commissioner Barbetta due to term limits.  Politically, it would be prudent of City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo to distance himself from his mentor County Commissioner Barbetta.

County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, left, hopes that City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo,

right, will take his seat on the County Commission once his second and final term ends in

2014. Caragiulo plans to continue Barbetta's efforts and has cited philosophical differences

with city commissioners as a reason to the transition.
Caragiulo said he wanted to emphasize that welcoming investment is not something that can be taken for granted, and that he hoped to continue Barbetta’s efforts in that regard." + “(With the City Commission) there’s no sense of urgency with how to open up to investment, how to get more players in the game,” Caragiulo said. “That’s going to be very difficult to operate if you don’t have that philosophy.”

I am curious, is Caraguilo's approach to "welcoming investment" similar to Barbetta's? Will Caraguilo want to operate with a sense of urgency, like Barbetta? Not relying on due diligence, solid business plans and always with the cherry on the top, award ample tax revenues or tax exemptions as further incentive to "grow businesses" etc.?  Continuing with the County Commission philosophy of saddling the tax payers with the burden of economic growth for our town?  

I expect more of the same from this junior version of Barbetta. This does not bode well for the counties future.

And per Barbetta's "...said he has no intent on running for any other elected office when his commission term is up, though he said he’s sure he’ll stay involved and active in city and county affairs." I saw Commissioner Barbetta at the Saturday "It's Time" debate, and I bet the It's Time Sarasota posse are whispering to Joe Barbetta he'd make a lovely mayor for our town.

People who are playing in our local political sandbox need to clean up their acts before we even consider another Mayor initiative for Sarasota.

1 comment:

  1. It does not take a Harvard Law grad to see a conflict of interest in Sarasota County (and City ). It seems pretty clear.

    Steve Wooden, native of this county.