Public officials should be on the side of the public, not developers

Here at VoteWater we make a big stink about special interests showering elected officials with campaign cash.

That’s because dirty money = dirty water.

But clearly, we’re thinking too small. For what’s mere campaign cash when you can pay a politician directly?

That appears to be what’s happening in Miami, where last week the Miami Herald reported Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is — or at least was — a paid consultant for a real estate developer.

According to court documents, Suarez “quietly” worked for Coconut Grove developer Location Ventures “for at least eight months from August 2022 through March 2023, earning a minimum of $80,000 for a previously undisclosed consulting side job,” the Herald reported.

Location Ventures is developing URBIN Coconut Grove, a mixed-use condo project that “requires permits and inspections from city departments,” the Herald reported.

While Suarez confirmed he worked for the company, his office insists that no issues involving the company have come before him in his official capacity as mayor.

But even if Suarez steers clear of this particular development, or others involving Location Ventures, his willingness to work for a developer with business before the city while in office sends an unmistakable message to every OTHER developer:

Go for it. I’ll make sure you’ll get what you need.

I’m on your side.

But public officials shouldn’t be on a developer’s “side.” They should be on the public’s side.

Too often in Florida, they simply aren’t.

That’s how we get legislation out of Tallahassee like the execrable Senate Bill 540, which disempowers citizens by saddling those who challenge a comprehensive plan amendment and lose with the other side’s legal fees.

Legislation like this betrays a mindset that “the public” is a problem, one which must be managed so developers can get on with their business.

Indeed, this mindset is often the reason we see so many of those comprehensive plan amendments in the first place, passed in places like Miami-Dade and Martin counties over the impassioned pleas of citizens. Developers know best; and where the development community has contributed generously to local candidates and elected officials, well, of course local decision-makers will consider the developer’s point of view; it just makes so much sense, don’t you think?

It’s called access: The special interests have it — because they paid for it — and you don’t. And that’s how we wind up here, with Florida’s comprehensive planning process being undermined at every turn as water quality continues to go south.

Suarez’s side hustle as a special interest lackey may be disappointing, but it’s also emblematic and unsurprising.

This, after all, is the Florida way.

And it will continue — until voters demand it stop.