The working summer vacations in Europe are paying off for Carlos Gimenez.
The Miami-Dade mayor has acquired a certain je ne sais quoi about him, a flair that allows him to deliver bad news to hard-working, traffic-choked commuters with such charm that the room melts around him.
“The art of the impossible,” Gimenez dubs the act of pleasing those pesky constituents who want clean, safe, reliable and speedy public transportation.
In his sales pitch on the budget this year, there’s almost a Jean Paul Sartre existentialist ring.
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“The numbers that we have today are the numbers that we have today,” Gimenez told the Miami Herald’s editorial board this week.
So while the housekeeper who has to endure three bus transfers under the steamy Miami sun to get to her life-sustaining job has her existential problem, the mayor has his — and it’s to not indulge the people’s clamor for rail expansion that he campaigned on only nine months ago. Or to push for the rail expansion under the much-touted SMART Plan for which federal transportation dollars were so necessary that the undocumented immigrants among us had to be quickly abandoned for the county to be the first in the nation to bow our heads and comply with President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.
Nope, our shifty mayor is not counting on federal bucks these days to make county ends meet. Apparently, he’s just discovered that they come with strings attached, such as oversight and a mandate to meet federal guidelines and hire union workers and conduct environmental impact studies. Oh, and there’s Congress — they have to agree to give us the money.
All this to explain that he’s swearing off rail.
The mayor reads widely and exhaustively now — as opposed to the year when he tried to shut down 50 percent of the county’s libraries and got the surprise of his political life — and the big news of his budget reveal is his discovery that technology will revolutionize transportation as we know it — and quicker than we could imagine!
Riding the rails is a thing of the past, not worth the investment, Gimenez says as the county rolls out $376 million worth of long-overdue new Metrorail cars over the next two years but no expansion plans.
“I’m looking to the future,” the mayor said. “Trains are 19th century technology.”
So what does he propose?
Let us ride buses!
So Marie Antoinette. Paris has changed the man.
From climate-change skeptic to proselytizing believer, he’s ever the scout at the Paris Air Show every summer for all that it might mean to bring a version of it to Miami. His focus is on Homestead these days, an improvement over his first idea to fly jets among the wildlife on a runway in the middle of the Everglades.
The rail betrayal is only natural.
“I’m a human being. I’m allowed to evolve,” says Gimenez, who this year took a police escort to Paris for security at a cost of some $3,500 to taxpayers because of the heightened terrorist alert every traveler faces these days.
His new vision is for us to get on board with a “rapid bus transportation” plan he can deliver more quickly than expanded rail, with buses that will whiz by on a dedicated lane. As if we didn’t have enough accidents on the express lanes in town, with short-tempered drivers illegally weaving in and out. As if the cyclists could spare room in their competition with cars, their safety another broken promise.
But his evolution on transportation doesn’t extend to fessing up to the neglect of Metrorail and ordering his staff to quit making excuses and put to work oversized bottles of Windex to at least clean the darn dirty windows.
And, inconceivably so, Gimenez’s $534 million express-bus plan with rail-like stations and parking garages in strategic places isn’t going to help that beleaguered housekeeper with her struggles.
Fewer stops means more walking in the heat and rain.
This is a vision that also requires our not holding politicians accountable for the rail they promised would get us around — and above — the clogged mess they created and continue to fuel with overdevelopment in every direction, north-south and east-west.
“We can’t possibly run a bus for everybody in this town,” Gimenez says.
The French would say that he’s become très cynique.