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Big Miami-Dade donor Wayne Rosen wants another shot at county money


[Updated at 8:57 a.m. with news of a delay in the re-vote plan.]

Wayne Rosen gave more money to Miami-Dade commissioners than almost anybody did, but the generosity failed to win him the vote he wanted three weeks ago. Now he's trying to reverse that unfavorable decision regarding a $5 million grant request for his Palmetto Bay charter-school complex. 

"I need two votes" to flip, Rosen said last week during a visit to the vacant lot that would house a school, shops, evening vocational center and condos. He's hoping to get a re-vote when commissioners convene Monday for a meeting that's supposed to be devoted to swearing-in the six commissioners who started their new four-year terms last week and electing a new chair for the 13-member panel. 

[Update: Rosen wrote Naked Politics Monday morning to say he won't try for a re-vote on Monday. Instead, he's going to wait to see if his candidates  win in Tuesday's Palmetto Bay election. He's backing former mayor Eugene Flinn over the incumbent, Shelley Stanczyk, a chief Rosen critic. "I will wait until the Palmetto Bay run-off [and] then  regroup," Rosen wrote.] 


Facing Palmetto Bay's city hall, Rosen sees the Parkside at Palmetto Bay project reviving an area bereft of restaurants and foot traffic. The development effort has languished for more than a decade, and he sees the county help a good use of resources to boost hiring in a population center in need of a downtown.

"It's been 11 years," he said. "This is just a catalyst."

Rosen's critics in Palmetto Bay see him using his political standing to win a hand-out from taxpayers. Palmetto Bay's city council declined to back his grant application before Nov. 5 commission vote, which was part of the heated debate on a county economic-development fund. The most high-profile seeker of the money, the proposed SkyRise tower, also failed to win approval for a $9 million grant thanks to a 6-6 tie. A revote on the SkyRise project is expected next month. 

Rosen donated $60,000 to incumbent commissioners up for reelection this year, and his charter-school partner in Parkside, Academica, gave another $43,500. Combined, that would  make them the second-biggest contributor in the cycle, just behind Turnberry's $109,600. By himself, Rosen tied lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez for the No. 3 slot, according to our latest analysis of campaign-finance data. 

Most of Rosen and Academica's money went to Lynda Bell's reelection effort; they were her two largest contributors and gave $62,000. Bell lost her District 8 seat to Daniella Levine Cava, making Rosen's revote quest even harder.  His grant application failed 6-7 on Nov. 5, and now only five of the yes votes remain on the dais.

The commissioners  voting  against Rosen were: Esteban "Steve" Bovo, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Jean Monestime, Sally Heyman, Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto, and Juan C. Zapata. Rosen contributed $15,000 to Diaz, $10,500 to Monestime, $2,500 to Heyman and $2,000 to Souto. Sosa reports showed no Rosen contributions; Bovo and Zapata don't face reelection until 2016.  

Rosen also supported  Gimenez in 2012, and he initially won the mayor's backing for Parkside. But in what Gimenez himself called a "12th hour" switch, the mayor recommended against Parkside and other grant applicants in favor of focusing on SkyRise and a planned theme park called Miami Wilds. 

"It was upsetting. It's still upsetting," Rosen said of the last-minute switch by Gimenez. But even without the  mayor, Rosen said he figured  he could win the grant vote on its own merits.

"I'm a big boy," he said, recalling his thinking at the time. "If he didn't want to supporter it,  I'll get the commission to support it."