Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oath taken today, test tomorrow

Although he has been at work since the day after the election and was sworn in privately so he could really start talking with authority to the unions and his staff, Mayor Carlos Gimenez (photographed here sitting next to his wife, Lourdes, between speeches) was sworn in at a public ceremony Wednesday that was more about family and faith -- three separate religious leaders gave their blessings (a reverend, a rabbi and a brother from Christopher Columbus High, where the mayor went to school) -- than pomp and circumstance.

He thanked his family and supporters and the standing-room only crowd was curiously devoid of the usual suspects. Like his victory party last week, it was mostlylongtime friends and supporters, county workers and firefighters and Republican Party women. Few lobbyists. None of the big ones.

But since he was already sworn in five days ago, the public oath also provided for a little campaigning opportunity. After all, Mayor Gimenez is also still a candidate who faces a primary in 13 months.

The mayor didn't have to reiterate his campaign promises about his own 50 percent salary cut and the cuts that would have to be made to roll back the tax. He didn't have to go on again about March 15 as if it were a real mandate when 17 percent of the people vote (oh, right, fewer elected him). He didn't have to promise real reform and a return of the public trust. Because it sounded a lot like a campaign speech (maybe it was for the benefit of the media recording the moment) and it was pretty much wasted on an audience who (for the most part) voted for him and will again. Although, truth be told, Ladra couldn't help but create mental columns for how the commissioners voted June 28 and suspects not all cast for their new captain. Today they seemed to be on board his ship. Let's see if that's the case Thursday at the first commission meeting.

Because it's going to be a fun one. There are a few big-ticket items on the agenda for tomorrow:

  • The sale of $100 million in "bond anticipation notes" (read: loan) for "interim financing" for transit to pay or reimburse the county for improvements already approved in the People's Transportation Plan, including $6 million in new train cars for MetroRail and $85 million for the MIC Earlington Heights line. These monies are apparently part of the plan of providing for a balanced budget on nine days. The resolution provides that the loan be repaid in 14 months at a total of no more than $120 million. (Citibank is recommended as the loaning agent, not former Hialeah mayor, county mayoral loser and freelance loan officer-under-investigation Julio Robaina, whose interest rates might have been higher).

  • The issuance of $42 million in bonds to pay for part of the paving of the new baseball stadium, adopted on first reading on May 17 -- after Gimenez had resigned to run for mayor in a campaign where his stance against public funding for the stadium was key.

  • The issuance of $400 million in paper notes in anticipation of bond monies (read: another loan?) for financing of Building Better Communities projects already approved.

  • The approval of a permit for MAT Concessionaire to drill 914 holes in Government Cut and fill them with "grout" in preparation for FDOT Port of Miami tunnel project.

  • A change in the comprehensive development master plan and land use map, from "agriculture" to "office and business" for 120 or so acres between Southwest 132nd and 142nd avenues and 333rd and 336th streets in what is called "Villages of Homestead." The site is outside the Urban Development Boundary but within the Urban Expansion Area of 2025 and the applicant, Homestead-Miami Speedway, LLC, wants to have the site included in the 2015-2025 UDB area. This is a second reading. The first reading was approved 9-1 in March. But Commissioner Audrey Edmonson voted against it, not Gimenez, who said he supported Commissioner Dennis Moss' item because it was different from most UDB applications and that the commission could ensure protection (whatever that means). There will be a public hearing on this item at 9:30 a.m.

So, in the first meeting for our new mayor, who is loved by the tree-hugging UEL bunch, the commission is poised to move the UDB line, one of the things the mayor said he would not do while on campaign, and approve the drilling of 1,000 holes along our shores. Environmentalists are going to scream, even if there is wetland protection funding in a separate item and a fixed bicycle path crossing the Coral Gables waterway on the agenda, too.

Then, the county will vote on issuing $42 million in bonds to pay for paving part of the baseball stadium, which he voted against and also became a pivotal point in his campaign. Add to that another $20 million in debt right off the bat to budget for transit and the $400 anticipated notes (if we spend it now we can't spend it later) for the community projects.

Well, even Ladra knows that transit and community projects need money, it just seems like a lot packed into one meeting and, being a dog, she can't help but wonder if the mayor's former colleagues (who swarmed the mayor and waited in line to embrace him and have their photos taken with him) aren't piling it on the agenda on purpose. "As a former member of the board, I think you're good people," the mayor said, and the audience laughed a little. Maybe some of these items on the agenda are jokes, too. They sure sound funny enough. But too many of them are too real for this to be a coaster.

Ladra has a feeling this first test is not going to be so easy for the new mayor, who better have been pulling an all-nighter studying this agenda after the hoopla of the afternoon. He knows better than anybody else that voters are watching closer than ever, and could pass or fail him as early as in 13 months.


  1. I know they weren't invited guests, but what big name county lobbyist was not there? EyeofMiami published photos and they all seemed to be present.

  2. We need to keep and eye on "some" of the Commissioners. We need to keep notes as to "who" votes "how". We need to know if we have a happy family and act accordingly at election time. Ooops! This goes for the Mayor also.


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