Monday, July 9, 2007
Help Me Howard: Suing Crooked Politicians
Don't you just love paying taxes and then turning on the news and finding out another politician or another bureaucrat has been accused of stealing, giving away or losing millions more in tax money? Of course, you don't like it, but there is nothing you can do or is there? That's what one couple wanted to know, so they put in a call to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Doris and Robert are just like you, hardworking, honest, taxpaying people.
Robert Becker: "You have to work a lot, but it's well worth it. It's rewarding."
Doris Becker: "It's very hard. You have to be responsible and accountable for everything you do."
They are just like many South Floridians in another way, fed up with money-wasting politicians and bureaucrats.
Robert Becker: "Well, what aggravates me the most right now is the ineptitude of our commissioners, the fact that they have squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in failed projects."
As taxpayers, we wish Robert was exaggerating, but he's not. For example, Miami-Dade airport's expansion is a billion dollars over-budget. Guess who is going to pay for that?
Robert Becker: "It's crazy, it's ludicrous that we allow this."
Speaking of ludicrous, it cost $250 million more to build the Carnival Center than the county thought, and, in its first year, they miscalculated and came up $4 million short. But that's OK. County commissioners just dipped into our tax money to bail them out.
Robert Becker: "I don't see Carlos Alvarez or the commissioners calling me to say, 'Robert, you can't pay your bills this week? We are going to cut you a check.'"
Of course, there is the Miami-Dade housing agency, which gave millions and millions in our tax money to wealthy developers, who kept the money and never built a single house for the poor, and, just recently, the Miami Herald discovered the county paid a developer millions in tax money to build a bio-tech park. He didn't build it, but he did share the money with an influential congresswoman.
Robert Becker: "I want to know why the ex-representative Carrie Meek received $40,000? Why did she get a $40,000 gift."
The money was tax money, of course. Our tax money.
Robert Becker: "For me, it's frustration. I think the anger part, I am over it, because, if I stay angry I am going to wind up blowing a gasket."
Now Miami-Dade is currently wasting millions, but Broward has their embarrassments like the Davie administrator accused of stealing $380,000 in tax money. At least he was fired. In most cases in South Florida, nobody gets in trouble for anything.
Doris Becker: "The lack of accountability. They can just walk away and say. 'I am sorry.' That's what bothers me."
And from the "you-got-to-be-kidding" department: when the State of Florida considered lowering property taxes to help out taxpayers, South Florida government agencies screamed that they needed all that money to run the government. Robert says they wouldn't if they hadn't wasted so much.
Robert Becker: "Our tax dollars are our money. The commissioners and the representatives of the State of Florida work for us. They are not above us."
But what can they do? Every time you turn around, a few million more tax dollars are wasted or stolen or lost?
Robert Becker: "That was my reason for contacting you, was if a citizen or resident of Dade County can sue the government. I want to know if I can sue Miami-Dade county government for being incompetent, for taking our money and squandering it."
It's the first time anyone ever asked us that question. Mr.Finkelstein, got an answer?
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately, no, you cannot sue the government for being incompetent, negligent, wasteful or even being blatantly corrupt. But you can do two things: one, report them before the waste and theft reaches the millions and, two, organize to vote them out of office."
In that case, Robert says, since he has lost trust in the elected leaders, it's time to bring someone in to watch over them.
Robert Becker: "And bring in auditors or investigators here to find out why there is a continual pull of giving money to developers, giving money to friends, giving money to businesses. There is no checks and balances. Nobody does background. Nobody does due diligence. We should all, as a group, stand up and say, 'Enough is enough, guys. We're done. We're done with you guys.'"
Patrick Fraser: "Great idea but the politicians who need to be watched have to approve watchdogs over them. Call me when that happens. Now, there are good politicians, good, honorable, hardworking bureaucrats, but the bad ones overshadow them, so let's get rid of the crooks, one by one. If you know of any crooked, incompetent politicians or bureaucrats, give us a call, we'll expose them."
Tired of seeing the crooks in the cookie jar? Is it taxing your patience and wallet? Elect us to tackle it. We can't be bought off. We're free.
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