A kids' tantrum at county hall threatens to smack all of us
By Michael Lewis
If you think it'd be great to be a kid again, you're forgetting those childhood arguments. Think back …
"I won't play with you anymore," Carlos suddenly pouts, pointing to Bruno and his teammates. "You yell nasty things at us when we bat. We're taking our ball and going home."
"Yeah, well it's all your fault," Bruno shoots back. "You're just a big baby. Now we can't play the game at all. You're the one who's not nice. What do you say to that?"
Carlos continues to pout and won't talk. He and his team leave the field. His little sister Vicki says somebody insulted someone and caused everything, but she won't say who said what to whom or what set Carlos off.
Then Bruno's pal Joe tells everybody he'll get Bruno's whole team after Carlos and twist his arm behind his back until he says uncle, and then they'll make everyone play.
Next thing you know, Bruno's family won't be speaking to Carlos' folks, and the neighbors will be taking sides as a shouting match over who knows what — because nobody will tell — escalates, with each side finding fault with the other, none of which has a thing to do with either the original insult or the reason the kids were playing in the first place.
Yeah, who'd want to go back to those stupid arguments over nothing that got in the way of what was supposed to happen — either a sandlot ballgame or the setting of the $7.4 billion Miami-Dade County budget that takes effect in less than six weeks.
Because today what Carlos and Bruno and their teammates are blocking is the budget: It's a year when the county must trim perhaps $220 million as a result of a state-ordered tax cut, and it's not a game.
Carlos (last name Alvarez, county mayor) said last week that Bruno (last name Barreiro, county commission chairman) insulted Carlos' teammates, the county's department heads and executives, so he ordered them to skip commission budget hearings. He won't tell who said what, but he didn't like it. Carlos says Bruno and his commission friends can play alone if they won't make nice.
But Bruno says Carlos' team has to give him all the facts Bruno's team needs to decide, as it must by law, whether it agrees with Carlos' budget cuts — and it already knows it doesn't agree because Carlos wants to cut lots of stuff Bruno's team wants to spend money on.
Bruno says he's only got nine people to help his team dig into the budget and Carlos has 30,000, which isn't fair. If Carlos got upset, says Bruno, he shoulda talked with me and not run away. He's being childish.
Now, Bruno says, a couple of million county residents are going to get hurt because Carlos won't share his toys. And Joe (Martinez, a county commissioner) plans to ask the commission to subpoena the mayor and the department heads and make them show up and talk. So there.
And that is where the "As the County World Turns" soap opera stands today — Carlos letting Vicki (Mallette), his spokeswoman, say he's not around to talk, and Joe threatening to get grownups involved by going to court. Meanwhile, millions of taxpayer dollars hang in the balance as well as hundreds of county worker paychecks.
On second thought, maybe being a kid is better. Nobody much cares about which kids are right or whether they ever make up and play their sandlot ballgame. But everybody should care about the way the kids in county government are playing in the sandbox with our future.