Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Carmel on the Case: County Newsletters
Miami-Dade County commissioners are looking at a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars. In deciding where to cut, some critics think they should start by looking at their own spending, including their million-dollar office budgets. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with a look at how some of that money is being spent.
WSVN -- These days, there are lots of ways to stay in touch. From e-mail to Facebook to even Twitter, but some Miami-Dade County commissioners are still using the printed word.
Taxpayer: "It's not a question of getting the word out. I just think you can get the word out a lot cheaper."
This taxpayer who lives in Commissioner Dorrin Rolle's district asked that we protect his identity. He wasn't too happy when he received this glossy newsletter from Rolle in his mailbox.
Taxpayer: "My initial reaction was, this looks like this cost a lot of money to print."
There are 13 members of the commission. Eight of them publish newsletters with the cost coming out of their office budgets. In the last two years, they spent more than $155,000, and at least one taxpayer does not think it is money well spent.
Taxpayer: "It doesn't have to be a slick publication."
Rolle says residents in his district asked for a newsletter, and over the years, it just continued to grow.
Dorrin Rolle, Miami-Dade Commissioner: "I got stuff in there about senior citizens, stuff in there about housing, foreclosures, optimist activities, pee wee activities, things that touch the folk that I touch."
And clearly Rolle touches a lot of folks. We counted all of the pictures in his newsletter; there are 135 and he is in 99 of them, so we asked him about all those pictures.
Dorrin Rolle: "Picture's worth a thousand words."
Carmel Cafiero: "But the biggest issue and the most expensive comes from Commissioner Javier Souto. It is 17 by 11 inches. There are 33 pictures here, and he is in 23 of them."
Javier Souto, Miami-Dade Commissioner: "We're always trying to improve it. If you know how to make it better, I will give you a seat in my office."
Souto is at the top of the top spenders. He spent $48,000 on his newsletter. Natasha Seijas is next at $26,000. Then there's Jose "Pepe" Diaz at $21,000 and Rolle at $18,000.
Katy Sorenson, Miami-Dade Commissioner: "I do an electronic one because it's a green alternative, and I try to be the environmental commissioner."
Commissioner Katy Sorenson gives her residents the option of signing up for her e-mail newsletter. The cost to the county, zero.
Katy Sorenson: "There's no paper, no folding and all the other things that goes along, postage and all that stuff that goes along with having a newsletter."
Commissioner Rebeca Sosa spent $11,000 last year on her newsletter, but this year she tells us she is using Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch, but both Souto and Rolle say they represent a lot of low income families that do not have computers.
Javier Souto: "The district I represent is not a super hi-tech district, cybernetic wise."
With big budget cuts looming, commissioners can expect more taxpayers to question how money is being spent.
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