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Gimenez and Rivera attempt peace talks at Biltmore

@doug_hanks

Two of the biggest foes in Miami-Dade's budget battle, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and police union chief John Rivera, met Tuesday on neutral territory. 

The morning sit-down  happened in a private office at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, after weeks of the men and their surrogates lambasting each other over police funding and contract talks. 

"I need to move on," Gimenez said during a brief interview in a Biltmore hallway before the 10:30 a.m. meeting. "I need to save some jobs." Leaving the meeting about an hour later, Gimenez said: "Problem solved? No. But it was a good, frank discussion."

Rivera's comments before the meeting weren't warm.  "My members have strictly instructed me: No more concessions," he said. 

In an email afterwards, Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, wrote: "Pretty much no different than before I walked in." 

The two  did not bring aides into the closed-door meeting in the office of Biltmore president Gene Prescott. Rodney Barreto, a partner in a top local lobbying firm who is on friendly terms with both men, brokered the meeting and sat in during the discussion, Barreto said. 

"I wouldn't say it was really tense. But there were a few moments there,'' Barreto said. "The reality is John hasn't had a working relationship with this mayor." 

When Gimenez's staff first proposed about 450 job cuts in the county police department, Rivera told the media Miami-Dade residents may need firearms to protect themselves. Earlier this month, a Gimenez spokesman accused Rivera of "flat-out lying" regarding the mayor's attempts to negotiate with the union.

Rivera had objected to a former PBA lawyer serving as the county's negotiator, and recently Gimenez said he would tap a new representative if it would jump-start talks. 

Gimenez's negotiating team this week dropped demands that county unions extend concessions set to expire later this year, and recently announced he had found enough revenue to bring police-job cuts down to about 150, including civilian posts.

Now he's pressing unions to accept less generous health benefits in order to cut costs and prevent any job reductions in police. 

Rivera said he had an "open mind" about the meeting, but was not ready to comment on the healthcare proposal. "I'm sitting here to see what he has to say," Rivera said on his way to the private meeting. 

The meeting was posted on the mayor's daily schedule. Gimenez, dressed in his usual business suit, and Rivera, in jeans and a Nike shirt, arrived separately and alone.

Rivera questioned the need to publicize the talks, and said multiple people have tried to arrange a reconciliation.
"Everybody's trying to be a king maker," he said. "Everybody's trying to get us together."

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