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A Year in Politics: Indicted Mayors, Cocaine Congressman

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A look-back on politics in 2013 (Source: CBS4)

A look-back on politics in 2013 (Source: CBS4)

Jim-DeFede-600x450 Jim DeFede
Jim DeFede joined CBS4 News in January 2006, providing reg...
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Politics

MIAMI (CBS4) – By all accounts, 2013 should have been a quiet year in politics.

In Washington, the President was riding high after an easy re-election. In Tallahassee, the Republicans remained in firm control of the state’s government. And locally, there were no major elections to embarrass South Florida.

But there is no such thing as a quiet year in Florida politics.

President Barack Obama started the year out by placing his left hand on bibles owned by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King and taking the oath of office. He addressed the crowds and offered a message of inclusion and hope.

“You and I as citizens have the obligation to shape the debates of our times not only with the votes we cast,” said Obama in his inaugural address. “But the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.”

But the year would be marked, not by cooperation but, by the increasing political divide culminating with the 16-day government shutdown.

While Republicans and the Tea Party took the blame for the shutdown, it was the President who owned the disastrous healthcare roll out and it was the President who was haunted by these words: “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan.”

He repeated it often, so often in fact that it was judged Politifact’s “Lie of the Year.”

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned in March after it was discovered her public relations firm once represented a company under investigation for operating so-called ‘internet cafes’ that were really fronts for illegal gambling.

Nine months after Carroll’s departure, Gov. Rick Scott still hadn’t selected a replacement. It seemed like everyone Scott offered the job to, turned it down.

And then there was Charlie Crist, who not only became a Democrat, but also declared “the leadership of the Republican Party lost their minds.”

Crist wants his old job back and announced his plan to run against Scott in 2014.

It promises to be an amazing race.

In 2013, a trio of mayors were indicted on public corruption charges. Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono were caught in a government sting. Marono pleaded guilty while Pizzi denies any wrongdoing.

“I am innocent, I am innocent, I am not guilty, I am not guilty,” said Pizzi.

The third mayor, arrested in 2013, was Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman. CBS4 exposed him of receiving undisclosed payments from a company that did business with the city.

In other mayoral news, Broward swore in its first African American woman, Barbara Sharief, while the mayor of Doral just swore vengeance against the city manager he hired but is unable to control.

The feud between Mayor Luigi Boria and City Manager Joe Carollo is expected to run well into next year.

So are the Miami Dolphins efforts to get the state to chip in to help renovate its stadium. After losing that battle this year in Tallahassee, owner Stephen Ross mounted a campaign to target legislators that opposed him.

There were a new round of arrests and convictions for ballot fraud this year, some got off with a slap on the wrist while Congressman Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia, was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a scheme to apply for absentee ballots for people who never asked for them.

But the scandal of the year easily goes to Republican Congressman Trey Radel, who represents the West Coast of Florida.

“I have had my wake-up call,” said Radel.

Dubbed the Cocaine Congressman, Radel was busted in DC after he bought some coke in a sting operation. He blamed it on the booze.

“I need to take responsibility, own up to the decisions I’ve made and move forward,” said Radel.

Now it wasn’t all bad news in 2013. Miami-Dade voters went to the polls this year and approved a property tax increase to improve Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Despite everything our politicians do, the public still has a desire to make this a better place.

Let’s see what next year brings.

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