You said it, Mr. Mayor - now shout it out loud: No slots!
By Michael Lewis
Dear Mayor Alvarez:
Congratulations for being the first - and so far only - local leader to stand up and say that slot machines are bad for our county and that you will vote against them.
You said the right things. That's the first step in leadership on this threat. If we get slot machines, casinos will soon follow, and we'll never get rid of them, either.
But placing yourself on the side of the angels should be only your first step. The next step is action.
Mr. Mayor, time is short, but your media schedule offers ample opportunity to tell Miami-Dade residents why they should follow the example of Carlos Alvarez and vote against an expansion of gambling.
As former county police chief, you are well aware of the reasons.
You mentioned "social problems," a euphemism for the M word - whether you call it mob or Mafia, you know that the people behind slots aren't the acceptable hired guns like the former state education secretary who is being paid to shill for gambling. They're the unacceptable folks who carry guns.
You know that the people who will pour their money into the slots aren't rich tourists but local working folks who will lose the rent money.
You know that funds promised for education depend on actions by the Legislature that could come only after the March 8 election. Promises now of even one penny are totally empty without state rules for slot machines determining how much to tax them and for whose benefit.
You know that communities rife with gambling do not offer a lifestyle Miamians want or the kind that will attract the big money that now flows here from abroad.
You know that the people who lined up for a job fair to attract slots-related workers were being duped because no jobs would be available for many months even if this community were foolish enough to welcome the Mob and its machines.
Most of all, you know that only the worst public policy would link payments to a good cause with a social vice - the more gamblers fleece taxpayers, the more blood money the schools would get in their small slice of the billion-dollar annual windfall that would debilitate our county without offering a real return to its economy.
Mr. Mayor, you of all people know that our county's well-being depends on defeating gambling. As our leader, we depend on you to do more than say privately that you won't vote for slots because they hurt a community. We depend on you to stand up in your mayoral pulpit and shout it.
It was probably just coincidence that after Miami Today called on you last week to take a stand on the evils of slots, you did so.
But maybe you're listening, so let's try again: Being a leader doesn't mean counting the votes and then going with the majority, as your predecessor did. It means getting out in front on the issue and leading the voters behind you.
Of course, it's more political to be certain that you will prevail before saying anything. But, Mr. Mayor, you were elected not for political slickness but because voters who were sick of tricks trusted you to say and do what you thought was right regardless of the odds.
You set a tone last week in your State of the County address. You can carry that through by actively campaigning for what you know is right.
The gambling promoters are sending flyers showing Johnny left outside the classroom door. You can counter brilliantly to help keep Scarface outside Miami-Dade County's door.
Mr. Mayor, that's the leadership voters want from you - and the leadership we desperately need. No matter how the voting goes March 8, you can't lose by doing the right thing.