My column on South Florida’s inexplicable penchant for shoveling public money into the pockets of lobbyists struck a chord with former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez. Mayor Suarez writes:
You are 100% right in your column of today. In my eight year tenure, the best lobbyists we had were our elected officials. (We even used Paula Hawkins - god bless her.)
In DC, Miami maintained a presence at minimal cost through an affiliation with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The conference prepared excellent testimony for me when I appeared before Congressional committees and also provided logistical support for my visits to the Hill.
As for dealing the executive branch, the office of mayor in Miami had so much inherent clout and so many local figures were so well placed in Washington (Lula Rodriguez, Janet Reno, etc. later followed by my own Jeff Watson) that a lobbyist was simply a facilitator. When our lobbyists failed even in that task, during one of my Tallahassee visits, I refused to vote to renew the lobbying contract. But knowing I would be outvoted by the commission, I cut the contract in half -- from $150,000 a year to $75,000.
And the only reason I even needed logistical support was that at a $5,000 annual salary, I did not have the time to learn who the key legislators were.
To give you an idea of Miami's inherent clout, I was called by both HUD secretaries on the very day they were appointed: Jack Kemp and Henry Cisneros. (They were both friends and both probably wanted to be president, but the fact remains that they were a phone call away - something no lobbyist could claim.)
It is borderline immoral to pay a private party government funds to convince a government official to do what they were elected to do in the first place.