Tension between Miami-Dade commissioners and Mayor Carlos Gimenez is hardly a novelty, but the tone of a Thursday committee meeting seemed unusually harsh.
The commission's Economic Development committee convened to consider a batch of grants the Gimenez administration had recommended for approval. But on the eve of the hearing, Gimenez announced he wanted to change course and shift the dollars to larger projects, including Miami's planned SkyRise observation tower.
Lynda Bell, the outgoing commissioner who chairs the committee, refused to let Gimenez deputy Jack Osterholt brief commissioners on the new grant plan. (Gimenez didn't attend.)
Bell was already steamed at Gimenez for softening his formerly hard-line on union contracts during her losing reelection campaign against a union-backed challenger, Daniella Levine Cava.
"I was not pleased to read in the newspaper that the mayor has once again changed his mind," Bell said at the start of the debate, which ended with most of the grants being recommended to the full commission. "It's inappropriate to have the mayor's office call each of us [to] sponsor these items... now the mayor changes his mind.
"It's almost schizophrenic," she continued. "I'm not going to put up with it."
(We should note that Bell did her own about-face on these grants, too. She sponsored a $5 million request for a commercial complex backed by her top campaign donor, Wayne Rosen, then dropped the sponsorship when the grant program sparked controversy during the campaign. Bell returned as Rosen's sponsor after she lost the election. In her comments, Bell said the mayor's office asked her to sponsor Rosen's project.)
Osterholt sat silent throughout the meeting, but left during Bell's concluding remarks, which continued her broadside against the administration.
"We either have a process, or we don't," Bell said after the meeting. "I'm tired of the nonsense."
The mayor's office said it had no comment on the meeting.
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