Fabiola Santiago

Despite what his giant fliers claim, mayor didn’t put residents first

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has sent six huge campaign mailers to voters in the Northwest Miami-Dade communities affected by the megamall project he fast-tracked without their input.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has sent six huge campaign mailers to voters in the Northwest Miami-Dade communities affected by the megamall project he fast-tracked without their input.

I can officially proclaim the campaign fliers Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has sent to my house a collection.

Some of them almost poster-sized, they’ve been arriving more often than bills — not a couple, a few, or even a handful, but six already. And the primary election is not until Tuesday.

The week is young.

In more than three decades of voting, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a record-setting mailing, I’m pretty sure.

The only other postal overachiever this political season — U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat vying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio and touting President Barack Obama’s endorsement — doesn’t even come close to Gimenez’s overabundant, megamall-sized correspondence.

Facing a challenger with a lot less money but some name recognition — Raquel Regalado, a school board member and daughter of the Miami mayor — Gimenez must be antsy, but he has a lot of cash to blow through.

The mayor is lavishly funded, thanks to his powerful and deep-pocketed friends in construction, real estate and development, and county vendors and lobbyists. He has collected an unprecedented $4.3 million in cash donations — and he and his campaign committee have spent, according to the last filing of expenditures, almost $3.1 million to avoid a runoff race with Regalado and annihilate the other six candidates running against him.

Gimenez has plenty to worry about in Northwest Miami-Dade, where the voters he’s targeting live in bedrooms communities that will be negatively impacted by the megamall project he helped broker and fast-tracked for commission approval without seeking any input from residents.

The mayor touts the countless jobs the monstrous American Dream Miami complex will generate. But the only thing residents in cities like Hialeah Gardens and Miami Lakes and enclaves like Palm Springs North and Lakes on the Green see the project generating is constantly insufferable traffic in what are already congested zones.

Yet Gimenez claims in those huge campaign mailers: “Always putting Miami-Dade residents first,” echoing the name of his campaign committee.

But that’s not what happened in this part of town largely ignored by downtown interests before Gimenez. People liked living among cow pastures, a green canopy and A-rated schools, away from it all even if it meant a long commute.

The motto used to be: Thank God we’re not Kendall.

But under this mayor’s watch, that is poised to change dramatically, with the construction next door of what’s being billed as the largest mall in America, larger than Minnesota’s Mall of America, which holds the title. And as if it weren’t enough to erect 194.5-acres of retail, restaurant and entertainment space and 2,000 hotel rooms, another mammoth construction project is under way directly south of it, a mixed use business park by the Graham Companies with retail, office, and residences.

One could say Gimenez’s fliers are as abundant as are the angry voters.

“Always there for us,” claims a particularly sappy-toned 15-by-12-inch mailer with a sepia photograph of Gimenez in firefighter uniform — and did you know that he also served as paramedic for the SWAT team? That he lists among his credits: “created the urban search and rescue team that delivers aid to disaster victims at home and abroad.” Never mind the small matter that Gimenez was a city of Miami firefighter and chief and that the renowned international team was founded by the former Metro-Dade Fire Rescue in the 1980s. And the enlarged silhouette of a firefighter confronting flames makes it seem as if Gimenez, a grandpa now, were out in California fighting wildfires.

But the sweet, color-coordinated photo shoot with his wife and their six adorable grandchildren rounds out the portrait of a dedicated veteran against rookie Regalado.

She, in turn, has not sent a single mailing to my house.

In megamall land, she might not even need one.

The voters are still waiting for the first notice in the mail from the Gimenez administration calling for a public hearing on two construction projects that will forever change the landscape — and lives.

No doubt Gimenez is an accomplished elected official, but the slogans that truly fit are: “Putting developers first” and “Always there for them.”