Esteban Hernandez

Libertarian cannabis advocate Martha Bueno to run in Miami-Dade District 10

Libertarian cannabis advocate Martha Bueno to run in Miami-Dade District 10

It’s never too early to start thinking about the 2022 race for Miami-Dade Commission, where there will be five open seats due to term limits and an opportunity for voters in District 8 to elect their commissioner, finally.

There are already five candidates each in the District 2 race to replace Commissioner Jean Monestime and the District 8 race, where Danielle Cohen Higgins was appointed in December. Cohen Higgins is one of them.

Martha Bueno, vice chair of the Miami-Dade Libertarian Party and the county’s Community Council 11 zoning board in West Kendall, filed paperwork Monday indicating she will run for the Miami-Dade Commission seat in District 10, currently held by Commissioner Javier Souto, who was first elected in 1993 — not 1968, as some might think — and is only being dragged out kicking and screaming because voters passed term limits in 2012.

Souto is going to miss being on Miami-Dade TV all the time. Ladra is not going to miss his long and barely coherent tangents.

Bueno, 41, is the only candidate so far, but probably won’t be the last. Many political watchers say the heir apparent is former Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, but there is talk that an unnamed police officer and Horse Country community activist Eric Thomas, are also running.

Rumors that Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo could be running can’t be true. She was first elected in a special election to finish a term and her first elected term ends in 2022 so she could have four more years in the Senate.

Bueno is going to run as a reformer.

“I’m kind of sick of what I’m seeing in Miami-Dade,” said Bueno, who Ladra recognized from the multiple times she speaks before the commission on a number of items, from the budget to police oversight to zoning.

Last fall, she posted a video on Twitter after she was unable to make remote, virtual public comments during the last of the county’s budget hearings, because of technical difficulties. On Monday, she posted a video to Facebook after she encountered technical difficulties printing the documents from the county’s elections website.

Read related: Public cut out of final ‘public meeting’ for Miami-Dade’s $9 billion budget

“I just want to show you guys what happens when I click on the link of the form that I have to sign which clearly states that I have received the document,” she says, flipping the camera to the computer screen. “Oh, sorry, looks like that page doesn’t actually exist.”

The elections department fixed the glitch, but you know Ladra already likes the candidate.

“I’m very vocal. I can’t stand the corruption and the lies,” Bueno told Ladra Thursday. “This is not what I want for my family and for my community.”

A cannabis advocate and hemp farmer, Bueno lived in Venezuela for several years and speaks impeccably in both English and Spanish. She is co-host of Libertarios Hispanos on LPTV, a YouTube channel for the Libertarian Party, and was active in Jo Jorgansen‘s presidential campaign.

Miami-Dade Commission races are not officially partisan, but both the Republican and the Democratic parties are getting increasingly involved.

So why not the Libertarians? It’s refreshing.

Libertarios comienzan recolección de firmas en defensa de sus principios

Libertarios comienzan recolección de firmas en defensa de sus principios

Un grupo de libertarios ha comenzado una recolección de firmas para promover sus ideales y dar a conocer los principios que ellos promueven.

La iniciativa la dieron a conocer a través de las redes sociales y contó con el apoyo de varios referentes del libertarismo en la región y España. Destacan la politóloga, Gloria Álvarez; la activista, Antonella Marty; el economista, Juan Ramón Rallo; la activista, Martha Bueno; el activista, Alejandro Bongiovanni y otros reconocidos defensores de esta ideología.

En el escrito, que ya cuenta con el respaldo de más de 1000 firmantes, se destaca la oposición férrea a la intervención estatal en la vida d ellos individuos y la defensa de las libertades sin discriminación racial, de orientación sexual, sexo, edad o nacionalidad.

Puedes firmar en el siguiente enlace:

Martha Bueno a Ocasio-Cortez: “Desafortunado que decidas hablar ahora”

Martha Bueno a Ocasio-Cortez: “Desafortunado que decidas hablar ahora”

La congresista demócrata por el estado de Nueva York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a través de una extensa transmisión de Instagram, denunció haber sido víctima de abuso sexual y relacionó esos hechos con el miedo que sintió en el capitolio el 6 de enero durante los actos violentos que se sucedieron ese día.

Para la activista del Partido Libertario, quien además aseguró también haber sido víctima de abuso sexual, Martha Bueno, es “desafortunado que Ocasio-Cortez decida hablar ahora,” pues apoyó a un individuo a la presidencia de los Estados Unidos que está acusado de ese tipo de comportamientos, “he hablado sobre el daño que han sufrido todas las víctimas al tener que escoger entre dos acusados de violadores durante el ciclo electoral, parece poco sincero hablar de ellos ahora, cuando apoyaste a uno de ellos.”

Bueno destacó que el trauma que le queda a las víctimas es real, y lamenta que, en caso de ser cierto, los eventos del capitolio “hayan revivido” eso en la congresista; sin embargo, enfatizó que no se puede defender a las víctimas y apoyar a alguien que ha sido acusado en reiteradas oportunidades, “millones de personas se sintieron victimizadas nuevamente por el candidato de tu preferencia, y te quedaste callada.”

La activista hizo un llamado a “colocarse del lado de las víctimas” y someter ante la opinión pública a los que hayan cometido este tipo de crímenes.

Public cut out of final ‘public hearing’ for Miami-Dade’s $9 billion budget

Public cut out of final ‘public hearing’ for Miami-Dade’s $9 billion budget

The most notable thing that happened at Thursday’s final Miami-Dade County budget public hearing — aside from a staffer dropping the f-bomb on a hot mic (more on that later) — is what didn’t happen: Several residents didn’t get to make public comments on the last stop for the $9 billion 2020-2021 spending plan.

They included former Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado, a commission candidate likely to inherit the board’s decisions, who wanted to discourage them from spending so much on capital projects until we come out of the COVID-19 crisis, which could change a lot of behavior, like in transit. She also wanted them to rethink the $400 million jail, not because we don’t need one but because we need to have one that has post-COVID design in mind so it doesn’t become another petri dish for our inmates and corrections staff. It’s no secret these are infection zones.

But Regalado never got the chance.

When she tried to sign on for the 5:01 p.m. hearing, she kept getting the same message, sending her to a 9:30 a.m. meeting. Then she emailed and texted her commissioner and called the live call number. A guy answered.

“He said they were having a lot of people call in and that it was unusual,” Regalado said. “He said he would put me in the queue. And I was waiting.”

Then she used her son’s phone to call again. Same guy picks up. “I told him they closed the public comments and I’m still here,” she said, adding that she had mistakenly been queued as a listener and not a speaker.

Read related: Miami-Dade’s first post Covid19 sets to hike fees in lieu of taxes

What’s more, Regalado told Ladra, she was told that Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson — who had already cut the alloted time to speak in half to one minute — was informed that several people had been queued incorrectly, and she chose not to let them speak. She didn’t tell the other commissioners about it. She didn’t ask for a legal opinion. She just brushed everyone off with a single stroke.

Sure, one might think Regalado was blackballed. A critic of and onetime challenger to current Mayor Carlos Gimenez, she could have been singled out. Esa Raquelita. Que se ha creido?

But, lo and behold, others were left holding their words, too.

“I am listening and we will not be given a chance to speak. This meeting should have been postponed or held in person,” said Community Council Member Martha Bueno, who posted a video on Twitter later Thursday night to make her point.

“Miami-Dade Commissioners had a meeting tonight on the Miami-Dade budget. It’s a huge budget. And all of us who wished to speak should have been able to. However, we were not,” Bueno says in the video, recounting the same problems Regalado had. To a tee.

“There was some issue and I had trouble signing up on their website. After that was apparently resolved, I did recieve an invite and was placed into a ‘listen only’ category,” Bueno says, a bit peeved.

“I understand the commissioners’ time is valuable. But they also need to understand that this year is different. This year we’ve been put into a six month lock down. A lot of peopole have been without work. A lot of people are unable to pay their mortgages,” Bueno said, uring them to take their time and find places to cut costs because the COVID-19 crisis fallout is going to be felt next year and the year after that (and the year after that).

“Please don’t kick this can down the road and push this off to a freshman class of commissioners,” she said.

Nice speech. But a little late, coming hours after the commission voted.

How can this be legal? The emergency order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that allows municipalities to have virtual meetings, during what we thought would be a shorter stay-at-home order, specifically says that it does not waive the public’s right to access and commentary. What the actual fuck? (Here, the word is appropriate).

Read related: Miami-Dade ignores calls to move some police budget funds to social services

This is going to be blamed on some technical issue. Or a series of technical issues. Like, really? They can’t expect us to buy that. Remember, Edmonson already cut the traditional two-minute comment time in half. Again. She has done it before. Just like she has cut speakers off before mid-sentence at the one minute mark. It’s almost (read: most definitely) like they don’t want to hear the comments at all. How much of a stretch is it to think they conveniently cut people off after a certain hour or number? Not much.

Ironically, many of those who did get to speak echoed repeated calls to make the budget process more participatory — not just a meeting at the end, after its all written, when nothing is really going to be changed — which this was the exact opposite of. Maybe the commission chairwoman was embarrassed by the sheer number of people shaming the board for completely ignoring an informed and engaged constituency who was there to raise legitimate concerns about the spending of their tax dollars.

It’s not like this is completely unexpected. They’ve had issues with speakers at these virtual Zoom meetings before. Is it too much to ask that they take a minute to ensure that everyone who wants to speak has spoken? The technology is not ideal in every case and one has to wonder why the county is still having the meetings solely this way — especially one so important as the final budget hearing — when restaurants are open and movie theaters and bowling alleys will be on Monday.

In fact, since the budget doesn’t have to be finalized until Oct. 1, technically, the county should have another public hearing next week — a real public hearing — to make up for this botched one.

And someone should investigate how this happened, how, on the evening of the very last public hearing on the county’s $9 billion budget, the public was snubbed.

Commission could cut community councils out for Fisher Island developer

Commission could cut community councils out for Fisher Island developer

Miami-Dade County Commissioners could cut the power to community councils Wednesday and change the rules on how they govern local zoning change requests so that more applications come directly to the commission.

And it looks like this amendment to the process, established in 1996 to bring zoning decisions closer to the people and neighborhoods affected, is being considered simply on behalf of Fisher Island developer Heinrich Von Hanau, builder of the new Palazzo del Sol luxury condos on the island, who now wants permission to break a covenant to build 54 new homes — and who has donated about $50,000 to at least two county commissioners recently.

Hanau — and his lobbyist — know that it is easier to get approvals for zoning changes from county commissioners than from a group of people without PACS who live in the neighborhood where the development is planned.

The item on the agenda Wednesday — tucked into other changes to address conflicts of interest — would amend the county code to provide commissioners the power to directly hear zoning applications and bypass the community councils and community zoning appeals process “where there are insufficient seated members to constitute a quorum.”

Only, Fisher Island’s community council is the only one of the local zoning appeals boards that is completely vacant. The only one that consistently can’t reach a quorum — because there is nobody appointed to the board. There hasn’t been for years,

And astute political observers have noticed that this attempt to simply cancel out the Fisher Island community council is coming at the same time as the proposal for a planned development in the posh community, possibly the richest zip code in the country. The developer wants to break a covenant and transfer density from one parcel to another — and he needs a zoning change.

Let’s dissect how the county may be trying to help him.

In September of last year, Greenberg Traurig attorney (read: lobbyist) Jorge Navarro wrote to Nathan Kogon, the county’s assistant director of development services at the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, otherwise known as the head of zoning. It was a “zoning verification request,” in other words, just checking to see if they can transfer 54 units from one of the tracts they own at 6 Fisher Island Drive to an adjacent tract. The developer wants to deviate from the “governing documents” that guide the master plan, including a change in zoning from business to residential, to develop over the lines that cross the parcels and break a covenant.

“At the time the Declaration was approved, the Island was in the very early stages of development,” Navarro wrote. “As such, the Declaration was crafted to create ‘maximum flexibility’ in the gradual development of the Island.”

Key word: Maximum.

And of course, they want to go to the commission because everyone knows a community council will be a harder sell.

Or a harder buy, as it were.

In October, even before the answer came, the developer contributed $25,000 on a single day though companies and a lobbyist to Transportation Solutions for Miami-Dade, the political action committee chaired by Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who is running for Miami-Dade mayor — and, lo and behold, is the prime sponsor of this amendment.

Hanau also gave — on the same day in October — at least $15,000 to the political action committee Rebranding Politics, run by Christian Ulvert, who is the campaign manager for Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who despite email requests to fill the vacant seats on the Fisher Island council from several people who are willing to serve, has apparently just not gotten around to it. Not a single person.

Chris Huldtwalcker, Higgins legislative director, responded to some of those email requests with what seems like a group brush off: “Thank you all,” he wrote, because there was obviously more than one person interested in serving. “We are setting a meeting for the Commissioner with the County Attorneys and staff to study the issue. I will follow up with you as soon as we have completed that to set up a time for you to discuss with the Commissioner. Thank you for your patience.”

Is he joking? Study the issue? Higgins was elected almost two years ago? And she still doesn’t know how to appoint community members who want to serve to the community councils? She hasn’t appointed anyone to either of the community councils she has in her district? No wonder they have an issue with quorums? And she has to talk to the city attorney about appointing community council members? Or does she have to talk to the donor who gave her $15,000 so far (oh, and Christian, you gotta hit Eric up. He’s good for another $5K).

This only proves that both Republicans and Democrats are willing to sell us out to developers and making races more partisan isn’t going to solve squat. Ladra can’t help but wonder if they are working together.

And who instructed city staffers to make this happen? Because Kogon — who was run out of Doral by none other than Miami Commissioner Crazy Joe Carollo and was later offered the city manager position when Joe was fired, in one of those only in Miami small political incest world things — went to the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to ask about the Fisher Island community council or community zoning appeals board (they are the same thing), raising the conflicts of interests that are now part of the amendment.

So even the “ethical” perception of this provision of the amendment is disingenuous at best, conspirational at worst.

Because what the county official asked was if it raised an ethical conflict if (1) a Fisher Island CZAB member who was also a member of the Fisher Island Community Association (like a condo or HOA, but richer), which has also has a few members of the developer’s Fisher Island Holdings board on it, could hear items requested by the developer and (2) if  a Fisher Island CZAB member could opine on an application if she or he had been involved in a legal dispute with the developer.

By the way, there is a lawsuit between the Fisher Island Community Association and Fisher Island Holdings.

The ethics commission responded on Nov. 13 that no, that, while there were some circumstances — employment for a subcontracting firm, for instance — that did fall under their purview, but that under the current code, neither of those situations would prevent a community council from hearing and voting on an application.

It seems that’s not the response that the county wanted — they can’t just stack the community council now with whoever they want — so they have decided, instead, to basically close the Fisher Island CZAB.

So, also in November, the amendment was discussed for the first time by the commission, who forwarded it on to the Capital Improvement Committee, scheduled for Dec. 10.

On Dec. 2, eight days before that meeting, Kogon wrote back to Navarro and basically told him what needed to be done to achieve what they wanted.

“The proposal contemplates a modification to the tract lines A-3 and B-4 and the development of the site crossing the parcel line,” community councilshe said, explaining that the parcels are zoned differently and the developer would have to change the existing zoning on Parcel B-4, currently zoned special business, to multi-family residential.

“Furthermore, all building heights must be consistent with the heights provided for each parcel,” Kogon said, adding that the developer will still have to submit a site plan and separate rezoning application if he wants a restaurant that has been approved in the master plan for the B-4 parcel.

Eight days later it went to committee, where every single speaker asked the commission to kill the amendment. They thought the community councils should be left alone and that lazy commissioners should just fill the vacancies that are causing any issue with quorums.

Lazy is Ladra’s word, not theirs. But commissioners — who, by the way, already get applications when the CZAB misses two quorums in a row on an application — are lazy and, apparently, deaf. Because nobody wanted the commission to take control of the community councils when they miss one single quorum.

Mary Waters, Dewey Steele, Wilbur Bell — probably the longest serving community council member, on the Redland council since the beginning in 1996 — and every other speaker told the committee members that the community councils and zoning appeals process should stay as is. Many told commissioners that there were lots of people willing to volunteer.

Community Council Member Martha Bueno said she was one of those people who asked to be appointed and never was. She Community Councilswas elected instead. “Personally I have seen several people who have applied for these positions there are 11 vacancies out of 64 seats,” Bueno, photographed right, said.

Yes, people, appointments are only made for vacancies because these positions are elected by voters. So taking away their power is taking away our power.

There was so much opposition, in fact, that even the city attorney admitted this was targeted to Fisher Island when he clarified that this adds a different rule strictly for boards that do not have enough members to make a quorum. “Sort of on the rationale that if there is no board there to hear it, it will come to the BCC.”

Or the rationale that if you eliminate the board to hear it, then it comes straight to the BCC.

The only commissioner to raise concerns was Daniella Levine Cavawho is also running for county mayor.

“Community councils are a very important part of the process,” Levine Cava said. “They are close to the community and the imput they get from people who have a real interest in land use is very critical to us.”

She asked around and realized “there is only one community council that we heard had a chronic problem because it hasn’t been needed,” she said, obviously talking bout Fisher Island. “So I agree with the speakers that we need to take our appointments seriously. We need to make sure that we have active members. There is a desire in the community to serve.”

Steele reminded the committee members that residents often have to travel a long way and miss work to attend committee and commission meetings and that sometimes there is not a quorum or the item is deferred. “That’s how it works.”

Eric Zichella, the registered lobbyist for the developer of Fisher Island — who, by the way, did not disclose that when he spoke — was the only person who spoke in favor of the amendment. And even admitted that it would not impact the majority of the Community councils Fisher Island community councils — so it would just be targeting the zoning appeals board where his client wants to build.

“I would just ask humbly for your speedy passage of the ordinance,” said Zichella, who gave Bovo $5,000 the same day his developer client gave $20K. Interestingly, he is registered to lobby for both Fisher Island Holdings and Fisher Island Community Association — now there’s a conflict of interest if Ladra ever saw one.

“It will strengthen the ethical provisions in your code for community councils, number one, and number two, provide certainty to applicants as far as timing for when a hearing will be held relating to development applications for specific properties,” Zichella said, because he wants his client’s development application to be heard by his friends on the commission, not by any residents of Fisher Island who might not want it.

After a super pregnant pause because nobody wanted to move the amendment after that, Jordan moved on it for discussion.

The city attorney explained that it does four things:

  1. Provides a penalty and process for removal if there is a conflict of interest proven
  2. Expands what constitutes a conflict of interest to include a situation in which an application involves a covenant on which a community council member who will be hearing that item has some role or some interest (custom made for Fisher Island)
  3. Provides for applications to come directly to the county where there are not enough members on the board to form a quorum
  4. And provides for a “do over at county commission at no additional expense” if a developer finds that a council member who voted against her or his project did, indeed, have a conflict of interest that was not disclosed

Still, nobody feeling very comfortable with it, Jordan deferred it to another committee meeting. So why is it turning up Wednesday already before the full board of county commissioners?

It’s actually one of those items left over from the Feb. 4 meeting with all the 4-day ruled items, allegedly caused by the Caribbean earthquake that resulted in the evacuation of the Stephen P. Clark Center. When it was deferred, Fisher Island resident and retired Miami Police officer Jose Acuna and others immediately asked Higgins to name members to the council.

“We have four people who want to volunteer,” he said. “She has not responded. I even went to the committee meeting last time because that is the remedy.”

Acuna said he would be there Wednesday and hopes to talk on the issue. But Ladra is not sure the commission will let speakers talk again. They’ve been in the habit lately of saying we can only speak at committee meetings and not before the full board of commissioners, which is ludicrous. All the commissioners were not there when these people spoke.

The community council model works when it exists. But if commissioners hamper it on purpose so that applications from their donors can come straight to them for zoning asks, well that’s not just lazy and incompetent, is it? That’s downright dirty.

And quite the opposite from what she was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying when Higgins won her special election race in June 2018: “When I got started, it really was about making sure that our neighborhood, our friends, our neighbors, and the rest of the county felt represented. And that we put people first, rather than special interests.”

Higgins may have been a Democrat darling, but, like a sponge, she has learned a lot from Bovo.

Let’s see if Wednesday, part of her one-term legacy will be to join Bovo and the other commissioners who have joined as co-sponsors to basically kill one of the two community councils in her district and bring the Fisher Island development proposal directly to her — and away from the people most affected.

Hopefully the rest of the commission will see this for what it is — a gift or reward to a particular developer for his political support.

Because we simply cannot wait for law enforcement to wake up and smell the contributions.

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