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Wanted: Real job for Metro commissioner

July 18, 1990

It's rough when even the politicians can't get a job.

This is the plight of Metro Commissioner Jorge (No Visible Means of Support) Valdes.

He claims a net worth of $357,581, drives a Mercedes-Benz, owns a big house and two boatsand is unemployed.

Times are hard, but Valdes is resourceful. His family works, and he relies heavily on the kindness of friends. Many of these friends conduct regular business with Dade County, and appear before the County Commission to seek favorable rulings. Valdes often votes for his friends' projectsbut not, he insists, in return for personal favors.

Sure, a county contractor catered his daughter's wedding. And it's true that he used the legal services of a heavyweight zoning lobbyist for a private land deal in Key Largo. And Valdes doesn't deny that he has supplemented his commissioner's income by working for firms connected to the Latin Builders Association, a group frequently appearing before the Metro Commission.

Says Valdes: "It's hard for the public to understand. Personal contacts make people friends. Who are you going to ask to help you?"

In a way, it's refreshing to find an elected official who makes absolutely no attempt to conceal obvious conflicts of interest. Valdes, in fact, seems unfamiliar with the term.

Facing re-election this fall, he ought to think about lining up a real job, pronto. He can't afford the poignant delusion that all these folks are showering him with generosity simply because he's a nice guy, and not because of his position. If Valdes gets voted out of his office, his pals in the building industry won't be nearly as helpful.

No one can possibly live on the $6,000 that county commissioners are paid annually, but it's supposed to be a part-time gig. Most commissioners at least go through the motions of finding other employment. Mayor Steve Clark, for example, is part owner of a travel agencyalthough he doesn't spend a great deal of time at the office booking Disney tours.

Many politicians claim to be lawyers even if they have no clients and, in some cases, no office. It's a convenient occupation because people expect you to dress nicely and eat well. When you drive up in a fancy car, everybody assumes you made the dough from your law practice and not bribes.

Another occupation often claimed by elected officeholders is "consultant." The beauty of this job is that it sounds important but, at the same time, no one knows what it means.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Valdes currently isn't in a position to do much consulting. And he doesn't have a law degree, so that's out, too.

Still, there must be something that suits his skills. All over Dade County, men and women of his age put in a full day of good honest work. The classifieds are full of interesting opportunities, if Valdes would only look.

We're talking hundreds of jobsauto mechanics, typists, medical assistants, accountants, computer programmers, bartenders, truck drivers, salesmen, cashiersOK, scratch that last one. It's probably not a brilliant idea for a county commissioner to be handling money.

But there's this ad for what seems a good match: "CLOWNS WANTED. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. WILL TRAIN." I called the number and told Fran Bombino (of the Bombino Brothers) that Commissioner Valdes needed work. Bombino said Valdes would probably make a wonderful clown, once he learns how to juggle and ride a unicycle.

For a less strenuous vocation, a Dade beauty shop is advertising for a professional hair weavera craft that Commissioner Valdes could probably pick up, with a little practice. Also, there'd be lots of time to visit leisurely with his constituents.

If it's solitude the commissioner wants, the Rivero funeral home is looking for an embalmera peaceful respite from the turmoil of county government. Best of all, there's virtually no chance of a future conflict with Valdes' official duties, since dead people seldom ask the commission for favors.

The dock, Mayor Daoud and CenTrust April 13, 1990 | Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen | From pathetic to revolting, our leaders run gamut May 29, 1994