So a new mayor has been elected for Florida's most populous county. Now what? The Miami Herald does a good job summarizing the immediate challenges, noting the November 2012 cycle is around the corner. EOM knows that the special interests who backed Julio Robaina are not giving up. They will dig deeper into their pockets. That could be for Joe Martinez, a malleable soldier if there ever was one.
Robaina's supporters will quickly reach out to Gimenez. The Latin Builders Association, for example, will say of its bait-and-switch; no hard feelings. But there are hard feelings. (From our POV, it rankles that Gimenez was more careful about not offending the LBA than the constituency made up of Eyeonmiami readers who voted early and pushed him over the top, and Gimenez should rectify that soon.) The forces of darkness (as blog commenters observed) came closer to putting their man in office than any election since Alex Penelas left office under a cloud. Gimenez needs to think back to the years and years of service on the dais in County Chambers where being "political" meant often voting the right way but biting his tongue and holding back from speaking his mind: we hope for more.
Gimenez will be weighed down by severe demands of assembling a budget, the Herald notes. EOM believes winning in 2012 will be relatively simple compared to getting past Robaina. He has to show voters how he will protect what matters to them, not special interests.
First, Gimenez needs to put in place competent senior aides and staff who will do no harm. The county manager appears untouched by the tarnish of her predecessor, George Burgess. That is a good start. Second, he needs to reassure the public that he will not be an automaton in the pursuit of a new way forward. He could send a powerful signal to the public, by standing up for our quality of life: parks, wetlands protection, and the Everglades. That means embracing the challenge of land use planning now that the state and Governor Rick Scott washed their hands of it.
Our blog readers know that the first priority of monied interests who supported Robaina was to eviscerate environmental protections (DERM) and reversing zoning against converting farmland and wetlands to more suburban sprawl (UDB). During the campaign, Gimenez was disappointing on both subjects, trying to find a place where he wouldn't expose his campaign to further fund-raising disadvantage.
The game is different, now. Voters did not automatically fill in the circle to darken the county with the Hialeah machine. It would be good to hear a strong statement from Gimenez along the lines of the county needing to fortify environmental rules and regulations, articulating how we have to protect the features of life in South Florida that make employers want to create jobs, here. Voters and taxpayers need a signal of encouragement that is fundamentally different from the nonsense emanating from Tallahassee. Whether Gimenez is smart enough to see the opportunity and seize it, remains to be seen.