As if there were any doubt about the difference elections make, here comes the race for mayor of Miami-Dade County – and who’s in charge now?
Mayor Carlos Gimenez — the populist!
The man who wanted to close half of the county’s nationally acclaimed library system and cut the hours of the remaining libraries two years ago is now proposing in the 2016 budget to expand hours and modernize them.
The man who remained silent as the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority slapped tolls on the county’s major east-west arteries is now speaking up, prioritizing traffic issues and demanding that tolls be lowered.
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No refunds for frequent users, Gimenez said, but lower tolls for all. Talk about adopting a rallying cry of the people. If he were a Democrat, one could even compare him to second-term President Barack Obama, who’s working through his change-you-can-count-on presidential platform with voice, agility and leadership.
But Mayor Gimenez, a Republican in a supposedly nonpartisan post, could be taking up popular causes more in the vein of Gov. Rick Scott, who distanced himself during his re-election campaign from controversial issues he had supported, like Arizona-styled anti-immigration laws — and is now back to being his bad-for-Florida, good-for-big-business self.
Will the breathlessly pro-development mayor ease up on the density and traffic woes he has helped heap upon his voters?
It looks that way.
After returning from a part-work, part-vacation trip to Europe, Gimenez has metamorphosed into the sensible man voters thought they were getting in 2012 when they wisely chose him over another Republican, Hialeah’s shadowy Julio Robaina.
Siding with environmentalists and nature lovers, Gimenez has scrapped the lunatic idea of bringing an international air show to a small jetport in the middle of the fragile Everglades.
While he was in Paris attending that city’s air show, Gimenez got a pounding in the media for the proposal, which had no saving grace to speak of and would have put in greater danger the Glades fauna and flora already suffering from human intrusion.
Now, to everyone’s surprise, the mayor also believes flying huge commercial jets into the Everglades is a bad idea. He said he wants to focus on bringing a version of the world’s most prestigious and largest air show to Homestead. Never mind that Homestead is not Le Bourget, where the action happens way north of Paris — or that this is a proposal the Pentagon already vetoed in 2011. Keeping the prospect of bringing the air show to Miami alive, if in fantasy form, has the feel of saving face.
One can only hope that The New Populist Gimenez will take an interest in the northwest Miami-Dade bedroom communities he ran roughshod over by fast-tracking in secrecy an assemblage of publicly owned land to complement acreage owned by the Graham Companies — and bring an ominous megamall and theme park to the already busy intersection of the Turnpike and Interstate 75, where express lanes and ramps are already under construction.
Gimenez calls himself in his Twitter platform a “proven reformer, protector of taxpayers, and public servant.” Maybe he could add “protector of communities” to that by ensuring that the interests of these pretty but choked enclaves are protected in the land-use evaluation and construction facet of the deal he and the Beacon Council concocted. Middle-class families, whose sole investment is their homes, deserve his attention as much as wealthy investors and developers.
The record shows Gimenez has been a protector of developers and a champion of foreigners who want to do business in Miami-Dade to the detriment of the quality of life of the people who have lived here for decades.
The new Gimenez sounds like he’s listening — but then, he’s on the campaign trail, so, who knows?