October 07, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor names new elections supervisor


Miami-Dade County has a new elections supervisor.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said Wednesday the mayor has appointed Christina White to replace Penelope Townsley, who is retiring. White is Townsley’s chief deputy and, as a veteran employee, she has frequently served as the face of the elections department.

“I am confident that Ms. White has the experience and expertise needed to successfully lead the Election Department as we enter into the 2016 Presidential Election year,” Gimenez wrote in a memo to county commissioners informing them of her designation.

Miami-Dade is the only one of Florida’s 67 counties that does not have an elected supervisor. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees elections, had asked Gimenez for a clear succession plan ahead of Townsley’s May 1, 2016, mandatory retirement. White won’t take over until that date, though she will be running day-to-day operations until then, Gimenez’s memo said.

White’s county career began in 2002 as a spokeswoman for what was then the Department of Environmental Resources. She has worked in the elections department since 2006, rising from senior executive assistant to the elections supervisor to chief deputy in 2013.

Townsley was thrown into the spotlight during the 2012 presidential election, which was plagued with voter lines so long that a few people cast ballots after President Barack Obama had already started delivering his victory speech.

The department has since invested in new elections equipment and reorganized its precincts, and Gimenez has become something of a poster child for the Obama administration of a Republican willing to undertake voter reforms.

This post has been updated. 

October 01, 2015

Carlos Gimenez files reelection papers for Miami-Dade mayoral race


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's fund-raiser broke the news Thursday morning that Gimenez had filed his reelection papers for the 2016 mayoral race.

“It's Official! Mayor Gimenez wanted me to make sure you were one of the first to know that 10 minutes ago, he filed his paper work to run for re-election,” Gimenez’s professional fundraiser, Brian Goldmeier, wrote in an email to Gimenez donors and supporters shortly after 9:30 a.m.

“With that said, we are launching our campaign fundraising efforts today! Remember, we are required to file campaign reports monthly now, so we need to make sure we have a great showing for our first report in October. Please mark your calendar! We will have our Fundraising Kickoff event on Thursday, October 29th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Biltmore Hotel."

A spokesman for Gimenez's campaign said it was Goldmeier himself who filed the reelection papers on Gimenez's behalf sometime Thursday morning. 

Gimenez has already said he will seek another four-year term, and Thursday's planned filing was not a secret among local media. By filing his papers, Gimenez officially launches a showdown that so far is between him and Raquel Regalado, a two-term school-board member and daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

When this post first went live a little before 10:30 a.m., Gimenez's reelection papers had not been posted to the website of the county Elections Department. 

Read the story here.

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January 09, 2015

New Miami-Dade commission chairman hires top mayoral critic as policy adviser


In one of his first moves as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, Jean Monestime plans to hire a top critic of Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Terry Murphy, a former aide to ex-Commissioner Natacha Seijas, would serve as policy adviser to the office of the chair, according to a Jan. 7 county intent-to-hire memo. Murphy would start Jan. 19, with an annual salary of $101,000, the memo says.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to serve the Chair, and am grateful for the opportunity," Murphy said in a text message Friday afternoon while he was in meetings.

Monestime's chief of staff, Gerard Philippeaux, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Murphy's hiring raised eyebrows around County Hall, where insiders wondered whether Monestime, a Democrat, was sending the Republican Gimenez a message. Murphy, who has a doctorate in public affairs and is an adjunct professor at Florida International University, has been working as a government-relations consultant to county labor unions, who have locked heads repeatedly with Gimenez over contracts and employee benefits. 

However, Gimenez's communications director, Mike Hernández, congratulated Murphy in a statement to the Miami Herald and made no mention of those disagreements.

"We look forward to working with Mr. Murphy and the entire commission staff," Hernández said.

January 06, 2015

Miami-Dade mayor attends Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration


Florida Gov. Rick Scott invited Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to his inauguration in Tallahassee on Tuesday, and Gimenez went -- by land.

Gimenez and his chief of staff, Alex Ferro, carpooled in one vehicle Monday, according to Mike Hernández, Gimenez's spokesman.

Google Maps lists the drive from County Hall to the Governor's Mansion at 478 miles -- 6 hours and 43 minutes shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, though anyone who's driven between the two cities knows the drive can be longer than that if there's bad traffic (here's looking at you, Greater Orlando area).

The trip could cost the mayor's office travel budget about $1,800, Hernández said, taking into account the cost of two hotel rooms for one night and a $556.71 mileage reimbursement. (He later said the total would be actually be closer to $1,000.)

But Gimenez might have some relationship-building to do. He toyed with leaving the Republican Party a few days before the Republican Scott was reelected -- an idea that made Scott's campaign less than happy, given that it highlighted the fact that Gimenez had not publicly campaigned with the governor.

Gimenez did fundraise for Scott, though, and said he planned to vote for him.

December 22, 2014

Miami-Dade police union wants to subpoena mayor, county commission chairwoman in labor dispute


During a 12-hour Miami-Dade County Commission hearing a year ago, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa spoke for about five minutes, on the dais but away from the microphones.

That conversation has become a focal point in a legal dispute between the county and its police union, which contends the two elected officials broke the law when they spoke privately during a public meeting.

A hearing officer for Florida's labor appeals board ruled last week that the Dade County Police Benevolent Association could subpoena Sosa and Gimenez to compel them to disclose what they talked about. The Dec. 5, 2013, hearing ended with commissioners voting to eliminate an unpopular worker healthcare contribution.

In her Dec. 18 orderSuzanne M. Choppin of the state's Public Employees Relations Commission, opined that the conversation is relevant to the PBA's case -- and that only the politicians who took part are in a position to disclose what was said.

"It is evident that, in this unusual case in which it is a private off-the-record- conversation between two high-ranking government officials that is at issue, the best and only reliable evidence on that crucial issue is the testimony of the participants in that conversation," Choppin wrote.

The county had argued in an earlier filing that the conversation was irrelevant to the union's complaint because it took place hours after the PBA was addressing the county commission -- and because Sosa ended up voting to eliminate the healthcare concession, as the union wanted.

Miami-Dade also argued the PBA should not be allowed to subpoena elected officials without first exhausting every other option. For example, the union could have compelled the mayor's then-deputy chief of staff, Alex Ferro, who was sitting next to him during the conversation with Sosa, to testify.

"Mr. Ferro is a lower ranking official who appears on the video as a person who may have knowledge of the conversation at issue," Candela wrote Dec. 16. "Notwithstanding, the PBA did not take even the most basic of steps to determine whether Ferro had knowledge of the alleged conversation."

Choppin dismissed that argument, saying Ferro was too far away from Gimenez -- and apparently not paying attention to the mayor's discussion with Sosa -- to be a likely source of accurate information.

The union is pursuing an unfair labor practice complaint against the county over its handling of the collective-bargaining impasse that resulted in last year's vote. 

Miami-Dade plans to appeal last week's order, Assistant County Attorney William Candela said Monday. 

December 11, 2014

Miami-Dade mayor's deputy takes on additional role as head of public works department


Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has filled a vacancy atop the county's public works department -- by tapping one of his deputies to permanently take on the role.

Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak will serve as director of the Public Works and Waste Management Department in addition to her existing work, the mayor told county commissioners in a memo Thursday.

Hudak becomes the third Gimenez deputy to pull double duty. Ed Marquez also serves as finance director, and Jack Osterholt heads the Regulatory & Economic Resources Department.

The practice saves the county money -- Hudak didn't get a raise for taking on the new job, according to Gimenez's office -- but also piles onto each deputy mayor's plate. Each deputy is also charged with overseeing other departments and agencies.

Public works has been under Hudak's portfolio for three years, and she's been the department's interim director since October 2013. The previous director, Kathleen Woods-Richardson, is now the Miramar city manager.

"I have full confidence that Ms. Hudak will continue to lead the department successfully and smoothly," Gimenez wrote.

December 09, 2014

Miami-Dade mayor heads to New York for CBS News interview on race relations


Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez will be traveling Tuesday to New York, according to his office. The purpose of the trip: a "CBS Evening News" interview on how mayors handle race relations in the wake of national unrest about policing in minority communities.

Gimenez will be one of four mayors interviewed by anchor Scott Pelley, said the mayor's spokesman, Mike Hernández. The other mayors are from Seattle; Gary, Ind., and East Orange, N.J., he said. 

As Miami-Dade mayor, Gimenez oversees the largest municipal government in the Southeast. He's also  a former firefighter/paramedic who was working during the 1980 riots that followed the acquittal of a group of county cops for the beating death of motorist Arthur McDuffie, who was black.

The day trip will be paid for from the mayor's office budget, Hernández said. The cost of the plane tickets for Gimenez and Hernández, who is traveling with the mayor, was about $975, according to Hernández's office.

Dec. 11 update: Here's a link to the CBS Evening News report that aired Wednesday.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed the name of one of the cities represented by the four mayors. It's East Orange, N.J., not East Lawrence.

February 26, 2014

Carlos Lopez-Cantera earns his LG spot, headlines Rick Scott fundraiser with Miami-Dade mayor


Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 7.46.28 PM copyLess than a year after Rick Scott was elected governor, he was so disliked in South Florida that Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Carlos Gimenez said he didn't even vote for his fellow Republican.

What a difference a few years -- and the addition of Miami son Carlos Lopez-Cantera to Scott's ticket -- makes.

Behind the scenes, the newly minted lieutenant governor worked now-Mayor Gimenez to back Scott publicly and to hold a joint fundraising event for him on March 6 in Coral Gables. Here's the fundraising email from Gimenez backer Rafael Garcia-Toledo:

Continue reading "Carlos Lopez-Cantera earns his LG spot, headlines Rick Scott fundraiser with Miami-Dade mayor" »

April 23, 2013

PolitiFact: Gimenez's remark about the Dolphins' taxes is False

The Miami Dolphins are attempting to score what would be an incredibly fast political touchdown: a one-month campaign to convince Miami-Dade County voters to sign off on a stadium construction deal.

After nearly around the clock negotiations at the stadium and county hall, fueled by frequent runs for Cuban cafecito, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez hammered out a deal with the Dolphins.

During the county meeting on April 10, 2013, when commissioners signed off on the referendum, Commissioner Sally Heyman asked if the stadium would continue to pay property taxes. During the negotiations, the Dolphins proposed turning over the stadium ownership to the county. The team had also appealed their property taxes two years in a row but then dropped the appeals.

Gimenez replied:

"Commissioner, as far as I know the Miami Dolphins are the only professional team in the state of Florida that actually pays property taxes. And, as far as I know, the Dolphins are the only NFL team in the entire nation that pays property taxes. This does not change."

At PolitiFact Florida, our ears perk up when we hear that something is the "only" one in the country. Are the Miami Dolphins the only NFL team to pay property taxes? Read the answer at PolitiFact.com 

March 25, 2013

Miami-Dade mayor stumps for Coral Gables mayoral candidate

By Howard Cohen

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez popped over to the Biltmore Hotel’s Fontana Courtyard Tuesday evening to host a fundraiser for Coral Gables commissioner Ralph Cabrera.

Cabrera, who is term-limited, is seeking the Gables mayor’s seat in a race against incumbent Jim Cason.

Gimenez and Cabrera, two old pals who once coached football together at the Coral Gables Youth Center, swapped stories amid the politics.

Gimenez said he supported Cabrera’s campaign because of their personal connection — “Ralph and I have been friends a long time” — and because he feels that fiscal accountability will be a primary goal to tackle in Coral Gables.

“We have to bring in fiscal accountability and accountability in general, and he’s the better person for the job,” Gimenez said. “Not to take away from the current mayor, but Ralph would do a better job and we’ve known each other longer.”

More here.