FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Florida, the Candidates and the Latin Builders Association

by ALAN FARAGO

For decades, from the time Hispanic builders began to profit from construction of low cost housing in Miami Dade farmland, the Latin Builders Association has been the de facto political arm of south Florida construction and development interests. They gained hundreds of millions in profit by manipulating zoning codes and permitting; using local legislatures and appointed boards to direct public tax dollars for infrastructure servicing new platted subdivisions in the hinterlands.

The results required circumventing regulations protecting the environment, under the lazy eye of mainstream environmental organizations; if not by hacking from outside, then gutting from within. Regulations are only as stiff as the backbone of regulators; few in Miami Dade have been able to resist the pressure of building industry lobbyists, elected officials in their back pockets, or the revolving door between government and private industry engineering and consulting firms who stick close to their LBA affiliations.

Courting LBA political money by presidential candidates requires a willful disregard of the systemic degradation of representative democracy. This is not exactly how it was reported in The Miami Herald last Friday, “GOP Hopefuls perform for Hispanic Builders”.

“The wooing was at full force at the Latin Builders Association, which managed to score all four candidates in a single day”, reports the Herald. Of course it did. While Democrats certainly have their four score and twenty contributors from the champions of sprawl, the Republicans did it more better.

From their Hialeah political fortress (although the wealthiest live in gated estates in Coral Gables, South Miami and Pinecrest), the LBA ensures political orthodoxy in the Cuban American voting bloc.

The LBA exerts its influence through a well-lubricated campaign fundraising apparatus, wringing maximum contributions not just from its members but the entire supply chain–from suppliers of urinal biscuits to rebar, investing in election day street operations, and also through members’ payments to Spanish language AM radio hosts-whose conservative, anti-Castro fury obscures any criticism that could emerge from public disaffection with the underlying political structure that serves LBA interests.

The organization links home grown production homebuilders to large national corporations, like Lennar, that prefer not to dirty their hands in local politics. The most successful, Sergio Pino, grew a plumbing supply business into a major production home developer and a bank with more than a billion in deposits, all branded under the name “Century”.

None of this, of course, will ever appear in a Herald story. (Interesting how the NE 15th access Miami Herald is named Alvah Chapman Way-and intersects at the stretch of Biscayne Boulevard named for Jorge Mas Canosa. The Cuban American National Foundation, that Mas Canosa founded, was the foreign policy analogue to the LBA.)Long ago, Anglo public officials in Florida with roots farming and development, like the family of former Senator Bob Graham, ceded political control of South Florida to the Latin builders. (This was the appropriate view-finder through which to witness in 2005, Graham family interests attach several hundred acres of property to a LBA backed application by developers to move the Miami Dade urban growth boundary in Hialeah, that required a major zoning change by a super majority of the county commission. The county commission allowed the Graham family development corporation to latch onto the LBA project, but not before a strong measure of condescension from the dais.)

According to the Herald, “In his bid to court the builders, Romney painted their industry in patriotic terms. ‘What you are doing in creating jobs is not just putting money in your pocket, as important as that it is. It also, perhaps unbeknownst to you, keeps America a strong land.” How the LBA chieftains in the audience must have smiled; “unbeknowst”, is that a joke?

The LBA is a gifted special interest, wrapping up the political fortunes of African American leaders like Carrie Meek, Barbara Carey Shuler, and others like James Burke and Barbara Jordan. (The one African American leader to resist the LBA, Arthur Teele, paid the price while he lived.)

In the Herald report, Rudy Giuliani “talked about declining home sales and pledged help, citing what he said was his turnaround of New York City. ‘I know how to fix this problem. I’ve seen it before, I fixed it before, and with your help, I will go to Washington and fix it together,” he said.”

In fact, Giuliani is dead wrong. There is no simple fix for the massively overbuilt markets that benefited LBA members in the past decade.

The Latin Builders Association and its lobbyists here and in Washington, DC played a historic role in the inflation of the housing boom, allied as they were with Governor Jeb Bush, who principal goals as governor were to secure infrastructure planning and investments to accommodate more growth and more campaign contributions from the Republican faithful.

Miami Dade, more so than California’s Central Valley, claims title as the epicenter of the national housing bust.

Miami is the epicenter, heaving under the weight of mortgage fraud, foreclosures, and billions in debt spun from derivative confections, because LBA interests perfected the formulas to push suburbia into farmland, wetlands, mangroves at Biscayne Bay, through control of local zoning councils, state and national politics that fit with new forms of structured finance and mortgages like an iron hand in a velvet glove.

If the LBA runs Miami Dade county until sea level rise, and it would serve the place, right.

But the softening core of the national economy spells trouble for the status quo.

Presidential candidates who have beaten their way to the LBA door should be wary collecting fairy dust from those who bear much responsibility for the economic distress afflicting the national economy. It is a whole new ball game.

ALAN FARAGO of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment and the politics of South Florida, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail