Possible Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Xavier Suarez is airing another television ad against incumbent Carlos Gimenez, this one promoting Suarez's failed plan to boost funding for sterilization of pets.
"In 2012, the people voted overwhelmingly to fund outreach centers to spay and neuter cats and dogs so as not to have to kill them," Suarez, a county commissioner, says in the ad. "For three years, Mayor Gimenez has refused to fund that voter-approved program."
The reference is to a non-binding referendum that passed easily three years ago. It endorsed a special property tax to fund animal services. Known as the Pets' Trust ("trust" being the name for a specialized tax), it was championed by an advocacy group of the same name.
Last month, Suarez failed to get his $13 million animal-funding initiative out of a commission committee, with his fellow commissioners noting the county had been increasing spending on pets since ballot item put a spotlight on the issue. Spending on the Animal Services department is up 45 percent during the last four years.
The ad focused on pets follows a Suarez TV spot criticizing Gimenez on transit funding, which launched last week.
Suarez said a another ad is set to air next week criticizing an economic-development grant program pushed by Gimenez that has earmarked $9 million for the SkyRise Miami observation tower and $14 million for the proposed Miami Wilds amusement park next to Zoo Miami. Suarez's TV spots have been airing locally on English and Spanish cable, including on MSNBC.
Suarez hasn't said whether he will challenge Gimenez in 2016 or run for reelection on the commission. Suarez won a special election for Gimenez's commission seat representing parts of Miami, South Miami and Key Biscayne. School board member Raquel Regalado has already filed to run against Gimenez.
The Pets' Trust organization has been sending out emails to supporters criticizing the Gimenez budget, which bumps the Animal Services budget by 6 percent to $17.6 million. In the ad funded by Suarez's political committee, Imagine Miami, the commissioner targets pay increases for Gimenez's top aides that are funded in the 2016 budget. They're part of a broader restoration of pay for non-unionized workers after unionized employees had similar benefits restored this year.
"Send a message to Mayor Gimenez: Save the pets and stop funding the bureaucrats," Suarez said in the ad.
Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernández issued a statement noting the increase in survival rates at the county's shelter thanks to a funding boost that did not require the kind of tax increase called for in the 2012 ballot item.
"Unfortunately, even though Commissioner Suarez is aware of all this, he cancelled a meeting he had scheduled with Mayor Gimenez and his budget team last week," Hernández wrote. "Instead of having an opportunity to ask questions of the mayor and his team and provide feedback, the commissioner cancelled the meeting and I assume he decided to air an ad. That's unfortunate."