Donna Shalala: "Let Them Eat Mangoes"

We've always had a soft spot for that spunky Donna E. Shalala. Shalala, who served as President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services for eight years -- and gave him a proper tongue-lashing over L'Affaire Monica -- currently serves as the President of the University of Miami.

donna shalala house 2.jpg

Now President Shalala is receiving some poorly timed publicity. A reader advises us:

Just as University of Miami President Donna Shalala is fighting off attempts by low-wage janitors at her campus to win a living wage, the Sunday New York Times magazine goes and prints a two-page spread about her luxury home in Coral Gables. Since leaving the trenches of the Washington battles over health care, Shalala and her dog "Sweetie" are living it up with a Lexus SUV and Lenox china bowls.

After the jump, more details about Shalala's 9,000 square-foot mansion, 29-foot-motorboat, collection of fine antiques, and luxurious garden -- where she grows fresh mangoes and grapefruit. YUM!

Our source continues:

One of the many ironies here is that Shalala -- who as a proper Clintonista held her ground on keeping the health care crisis front and center at HHS -- is now catching flack on campus for denying health insurance to low-paid janitors who clean the university. In a campaign that echoes that of the well-publicized Harvard janitors a few years ago, the students at the famously apathetic school are side-by-side with the janitors in protesting Shalala's stance.

Now, it appears that the Miami janitors are about to vote to strike -- making this NYT mag "profile" truly poor form. Just as Shalala confesses in an almost satirical interview that she can't do without the help making her bed every morning, U of Miami janitor Maritza Paz can't even clear seven bucks an hour and is staggering under the burden of trying to pay off her $33,000 medical bills for two life-saving operations.

The Miami Herald has this to add about the university's woes:

U.S. News & World Report last year ranked UM worst in the nation in the amount of average debt its students carry upon graduation. And students on campus have recently highlighted a survey that showed the school's janitors were ranked next-to-last in pay in a national Chronicle of Higher Education survey.

But enough of this depressing stuff! We don't want to be downers here at Wonkette. For your voyeuristic pleasure, enjoy some choice details from the NYT piece about Shalala's lavish lifestyle:

Best recent purchase: A 1790 French country cabinet from the estate of the late Washington Post columnist Meg Greenfield. I always loved it and admired it, and it reminds me of Meg and the times I spent with her.

Worst recent purchase: My 29-foot motorboat. I bought it when I came down here because I have a dock, and I thought it would be fun. But I just don't use it enough. If anyone wants it, it's for sale. It seats 12.

Favorite Clinton memento: When his term was over, he gave each cabinet member a beautiful Lenox bowl with text that says, "Thanks for Making America a Place Called Hope."

Here's a little-known fact about those Lenox bowls: the inscriptions were changed at the last minute. The original dedication? "Thanks for Lying to the Media for Me About Monica!"

Domains: An Academic Retreat [NYT]

UM Feels Like a Billion Dollars [Miami Herald]

Is Donna Shalala Anti-Union? [Working Life]


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