I-Team: Examining Robaina’s Record in Hialeah

HIALEAH (CBS4) – At every campaign appearance, Julio Robaina touts his record as Hialeah mayor, reminding voters he did not raise property or business taxes in the city.

“As the mayor of the second largest city in Miami-Dade County I had to face these challenges,” he has said on numerous occasions.

At its core the Robaina campaign is based on a simple premise: He will do for Miami Dade County what he did for Hialeah.

“I would hope not, he’s destroyed the city,” said Barbara Hernandez, president of union representing a majority of Hialeah’s 1,600 employees. “I believe he acted out of malice toward the residents and its employees.”

So what exactly is his record in Hialeah? For the past week, the CBS4 I Team has been analyzing Robaina’s tenure as mayor. And what we found is that Robaina’s campaign rhetoric doesn’t always match his record.

Take for instance his claim during a recent radio debate that he could solve the county’s $400 million budget deficit without affecting the salaries of employees making less than $80,000 a year. “You don’t take it from the backs of those people making 30, 40, 50 60, 70, $80,000 a year,” he said. “You look at the top heavy bureaucratic salaries that have existed.”

But in Hialeah, Robaina did exactly the opposite, according to Hernandez, president of AFSCME Local 161.

“Let me explain what he did in beautiful Hialeah to the employees,” Hernandez said. “He gave my employees, which are general employees, non management, making under $80,000, a 30 to 17 percent pay cut while his management team took a three percent pay cut.”

The same pay cuts hit the city’s firefighters and police officers.

Robaina’s campaign argues the management employees only took a three percent cut because they had not received annual pay raises the city’s general employees had been receiving.

But a review of records shows while those managers did not receive raises in the last couple of years, they had received larger than average raises in the years prior to that.

The bottom line, according to Hernandez, is that for all of Robaina’s talk about needing to protect the lowest paid employees – since they can least afford pay cuts – that is exactly who bore the brunt of the pain in the city.

“It’s devastating what he has done to city services,” agreed Mario Pico, president of the local firefighters union.

The union has thrown its support behind Robaina’s opponent, Carlos Gimenez. Pico does not hide his disdain for Robaina, who fired 16 firefighters last December in what was supposed to be a cost cutting move.

“This was all a political play for him,” says Pico, who believes Robaina has been cutting services and imposing draconian cuts on the unions to bolster his credentials heading into the county mayor’s race.

“He was hoping that this would all get swept under the rug and he could demonstrate to the world what a hard nose fiscal conservative he was and he ended up being a fiscal fool,” said Pico.

In April, an arbitrator ordered the city to rehire the firefighters and provide them their back pay. The decision could cost the city more than a million dollars. The arbitrator found the firings unjustified and he criticized Robaina, saying the city’s actions made little sense and may have cost the city money – not saved it any money.

Last week when Robaina announced the endorsement of Luther Campbell, he said they both shared a “passion for the investment of the youth of this community and making sure that not only do we have parks but we have the appropriate sports programs in those parks.”

The reality in Hialeah appears far different. Parks, pools and libraries have had their hours drastically cut. Jose Azze has been with the city’s parks department for 29 years.

“They eliminated field trips, arts and crafts, ceramics, they eliminated our youth baseball league,” Azze said. “But more important they closed parks and when you close a park kids don’t have anywhere to go.”

Even more troubling by closing parks in the morning, the city no longer qualifies for the state’s free meal program – which provides a free lunch at the parks for children in need.

Azze estimates more than 500 kids are affected.

Robaina’s supporters argue he has always supported the park’s program and in the past helped launch a variety of programs for at-risk kids as well as developing programs for kids with autism. They also maintain it is wrong to assume he will cut the county’s park programs to solve the budget deficit since he believes he can find the money by making county government more efficient.

Robaina clearly sees his greatest accomplishment was not raising taxes. He believes he left the city on sound financial footing when he stepped down as mayor three weeks ago.

“We are going to bring that fiscal responsibility model to Dade County,” he said.

But in an interview with CBS4, the new mayor of Hialeah, Carlos Hernandez, refused to say how the city was faring financially.

“At this moment we are paying our bills,” Hernandez said, a tone of caution in his voice.

Hernandez said it will take him “a couple of weeks” to get a clear picture on the city’s finances and whether the city will end the year with a deficit.

Skeptics note Hernandez – a longtime political supporter of Robaina – is saying he won’t reveal the true financial state of the city until after the election, so as not to embarrass Robaina. Hernandez couldn’t say how much money the city has in its bank accounts – he just knows they do have some money in the bank

“At this moment we do,” he said.

More from Jim DeFede
  • bobbyb

    Thank you I-Team—please help save Miami Dade

  • phantom

    Unbelievable that the citizens of Miami- dade County only have two choices to vote for and both are corrupt. No one should vote at all…. Until we get candidates worth voting for.

  • Rolando D Bolanos

    If anyone has any doubts that former Hialeah Mayor Julio ROBAINA has slowly and deliberately gutted the vitality of the parks and recreational programs that once existed in Hialeah, please take a moment of your valuable time and look up the City of Hialeah Budget for Fiscal Year 2007-2008. In the Budget Message letter submitted by ROBAINA and addressed to the Hialeah City Council on December 7, 2007, ROBAINA writes that ” in order to have a balanced budget, without affecting our reserve levels, more than $15 million will have to be reduced from general fund activities.” ROBAINA then wrote that, ” service levels will have to be scaled back, and the following reductions will be implemented – REDUCING HOURS AT LIBRARIES AND PARK FACILITIES. ” The irony of this story is two-fold: ROBAINA had just finished giving the Police and Firefighters Unions significant double-digit pay raises and, on the very date ROBAINA wrote the budget message letter, the City of Hialeah general fund balance had $29,695,777 tucked away. By any public or private standards, the annual fund balance is considered to be adequate when it is approximately 5 -8 percent of annual general fund expenditures. In FY 2007-2008, the general fund EXPENDITURES were appropriated at $152,669,350. According to Moody’s on Municipals, published by Moody’s Investor Services, ” generally, a fund balance of 5% of the budget is deemed prudent.” In any case, ROBAINA cut park and recreational services in Hialeah for reasons OTHER than to preserve the general fund balance, as he would have you believe. NOT when in a short five plus years that ROBAINA was in Office, the City of Hialeah general fund balance was reduced to what it is today, $19 Million. The ONLY question that remains is Que Paso Hialeah? ROBAINA has consistently balanced the general fund budget by drawing from the general fund balance – Unreserved/Undesignated Surplus account, which once upon a time in Hialeah sat comfortably at $30,050,362, and that was not too long ago, but it was under a different captain at the helm of the ship. Now, as to the Interim Mayor, Carlos HERNANDEZ not being able to answer whether or not the City has a fund balance or a fund deficit, please don’t put too much emphasis on WOW, because to be honest with you folks, Carlos HERNANDEZ just simply does not know.

  • Mari

    I realized that for the past 15 years or so I have been going to the polls voting for the LESSER OF TWO EVILS!! A very sad commentary on who is willing to run. We need to CAP the amount of money that is spent for running an election and all donations should go to a fund to give everyone the same amount. This would give a chance to a real, honest person to run who does not have the money or is bought by special interests who fund them. Our country is going to hell in a handbasket!!! WE THE PEOPLE have NO voice! Mob mentality is ruling!


      Mari, you are right. Seems we are left to vote against someone at every election. However, BY FAR this mafioso “caudillo” Robaina is far worse than Gimenez. Just the fact that he is from HIalean says it all!!!

    • Roger Keith

      Mari, you are truly correct. I hope your sentiments are echoed somewhere in our community but I feel that our community is to large for this.

      Hialeah is doomed with its current Mayor. What can you expect from a guy whose idol is John Gotti?

  • lmmd

    Robaina is a crook and will be a disaster if elected mayor – DO NOT VOTE FOR HIM

  • Vigilante

    Both candidates are paid and bought by special interests, particularly developers that want an “open door” when accessing county government for approval of their atrocious building plans. No honest candidate can expect to win an election in Dade with the meager grassroot contributions they’re able to raise. We all complain, but tightly control our purse when time comes to help a better candidate to compete in a political race. So, we get what we deserve!

  • The Truth about Robaina needs to be told

    Why wouldn’t the new mayor of the city of Hialeah release the financial status of Hialeah. Mayor Hernandez needs to separate from Ex Mayor Robaina before it is to late.This information should be released before the election like now so the truth is known. The truth is what the citizens of Miam Dade County deserve.

    • Kaylie

      Heckuva good job. I sure apreipcate it.

  • Money

    I hope all the people that voted for the recall of Carlos Alvarez are happy !! At least Alvarez had no ethical issues that we know about ? These two candidates are well below Alvarez , integrity and professionalism . Good job dade county!

    • lmmd

      yes good job dade county in getting rid of alvarez – who had ethical issues with the funding of the marlins stadium – he’s supposedly employed by loria btw. And who was so out of touch with his constituents that he was willing to give employee raises, increase taxes and think he was doing nothing wrong since he owed his constituents nothing but the unions everything. Alvarez/Burgess were and still are, FOOLS!

      • lmmd

        oh yes money, it’s monies well spent – don’t forget that alvarez and burgess would have had 2 more budget cycles – imagine the havoc they could have wreaked on the taxpayers…….so yes spending the money on the recall was a good investment indeed

      • Money

        So , spending millions to elect another crook is smart in a cash strapped county ? Besides the pay raise to his buddy , I haven’t heard any ethical issue with Alvarez ir burgess . Mind you they had been public servants for decades . These guys are fairly new to public service and there’s already questionable behavior ! Great job dade county ! Let’s just elect and recall all our politicians ! It’s so cost effective ?

  • Lourdes Fernandez

    I lived in Hialeah for about 25 years, I no longer reside there but my mother still lives there, even under Raul Martinez, Hialeah had a great park and library system, from a series of mayors going back the last 30 years Robaina has been the worst mayor ever. I sincerely hope that he does not get elected as Dade County Mayor.

  • Rolando D. Bolanos

    On June 17, 2011, at 12:34 A.M., under comment # 3 I wrote that the City of Hialeah Fire Department had received “double digit” pay raises in Fiscal Year 2007-2008, at the same time that former Hialeah Mayor Julio ROBAINA had ordered cuts in service hours to Hialeah libraries and park facilities. Today, I was informed that the Hialeah Firefighters did not receive double digit pay raises when ROBAINA opened the contracts in 2006. I, therefore, wish to correct the information that I posted to reflect that in 2006, Julio ROBAINA opened the Police and Firefighters contract, at the same time that he ordered cuts in service and reduction in force of general employees, whom he now claims he would protect if he were elected mayor of Miami-Dade County. Also, I reaffirm my position previously stated and pertinent to this news report, that Julio ROBAINA LIED to the community when he publicly stated that he is a passionate supporter of parks and recreational activities.

  • janemiami twitter

    Rewrite of title: Robaina Claims Great Accomplishments As Mayor of Hialeah. Residents respond “Really?”

  • Belkis Bernardo

    Julio Robaina is a lier, a crook and everything that you can call to a bad person…he never, ever!!!!! think about “WE, THE PEOPLE”…he is always thinking about him and his friends….don’t get confuse Miami-Dade!!!!!!….if you vote for him, YOU DESERVE IT!!!!!!!

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