Kudos to Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez -- and not just because he reads my blog. And not just because he said he would cut his own salary as mayor (we are going to hold you to that, Commish). And not just because he got Brian Goldmeier, a team leader for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink's South Florida campaign, as his finance manager (read: fundraiser).
Okay, Ladra admits her tail wagged Wednesday when she learned Gimenez -- whose actions and words in his quest to become the next county mayor have drawn our public growls -- was up on Political Cortadito. But my cheer is not because he likes smart writing. It is because he candidly welcomed scrutiny into his own office budget spending and pointed out a difference between them and discretionary funds (in line item and semantics, because those funds can still be used with little oversight). It is because he invited me to his office and said I had carte blanche to look over his documents. It is because he was polite and amicable when he agreed to disagree on the definition of discretionary funds. (I use the word as an adjective. Not as an administrative label.)
Gimenez gave us more one-on-one time than we expected moments before he spoke to a group of more than 100 people in Coral Gables at the Latin American Business Association's monthly meeting (here he is photographed at the Westin Colonnade Rotunda). Ladra salutes the group for giving their members and the public an opportunity to ask hear from candidates or activists and ask questions themselves (and for having Morton's bring those awesome tiny steak sandwiches!). LABA does not endorse any candidates, though some members do support campaigns from time to time. But in a group like this, with a number of movers and shakers in the business and legal communities, that is bound to happen. So they are transparent about it.
Gimenez also acknowledged that he could not take back any of the three main things that he said drove the recall. (1) There will still be a stadium. "But I can hold their feet to the fire to make sure they are abiding by their deadlines," he told me. (2) Nobody can roll back this year's taxes, no matter what anybody else claims. And (3) he likely can't go retroactive on the outrageous salary increases made by the mayor. But he said he would cut the number of departments and salaries for top administrators, including himself."
"I would cut my salary as mayor. I would eliminate some of the perks, like the car allowance. You have to lead by example," Gimenez said, noting it would give the administration a better position to negotiate with the labor unions, whose contracts expire at the end of this year.
And, yes, he drives around in a taxpayer-paid 2009 Mercedes Benz ML 350 W4 SUV. But as mayor, he says, he would drive his own car. Commissioners, who each make a salary of $6,000, get an $800 a month car allowance and Gimenez pays $805 for his Mercedes. And as mayor, he told Ladra, he would cut his salary to under $200,000, drive his own car, and reduce his monthly expenses ($3,500 now) to be more in line with that of other commissioners ($2,000).
Gimenez told the crowd he has opposed most if not all of the unpopular measures that made Alvarez a target for the recall and that as mayor he would sell Miami to Latin American businesses and increase commercial use of Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami.
But it was what he didn't tell them that also makes him a candidate worth considering. He didn't make promises to quick fixes. He said he was going to count on his experience and his ability to hit the ground running to sell his candidacy.
"I don't like to over promise and under deliver," he told me earlier. "I like to under promise and over deliver."
Okay, Commissioner. Let's see how you deliver Monday when I stop by to look at those records.