Critics of Republican congressional District 26 candidate Carlos Curbelo hoped to embarrass him at Wednesday's Miami-Dade School Board meeting. But they ran into a few complications:
1) Curbelo wasn't there (He told The Herald he's vacationing with his family.)
2) Miami-Dade School Board policy prohibits public speakers from criticizing district employees and officials.
When Curbelo didn't show, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee simply sent out a picture of Curbelo's empty chair a la Charlie Crist. But when it came time for the school board's public comments, two speakers were shut down and kept from discussing a Miami New Times article on his campaign contributions and school board votes.
"You’re a nice young lady and I’d like to be able to speak to you and listen to you. But we have rules," Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman told one speaker.
The board rule muting negativity often comes up at meetings during public hearings, when critical speakers are told not to mention district employees and officials by name or specific title. But some on the nine-member board think it's too restrictive.
"Not using names is a good way to protect the individual rights of our teachers and students and parents," said Board member Raquel Regalado. "But I think there are nine people up here who have forsaken that right."
Reached by phone, Curbelo agreed -- and blamed opponent U.S. Rep Joe Garcia, D-Miami, for stirring up what he says is a bogus controversy.
"Anyone wishing to go to the school board to advance the political intererests of Joe Garcia, one of the most corrupt members of congress, should be allowed to do so even if it’s of no benefit to the public or the business of the school board," he said.