Link to VIDEO of meeting.
Mayor Gimenez showed up thirty minutes late to his budget hearing in Florida City to find the room filled to capacity. He was just late enough for the “he’s just another politician who can’t find his way south” jokes to start fluttering around the room.
The Mayor was well modulated throughout the hearing; however, he was visibly not thrilled when formerly ardent supporters (and fundraisers) from Kendall and the Falls area chided him on the library and pet shelter. Gimenez was tweaked on the “same old faces” comment by some of the same old faces (they reminded him that they were tax payers and they could go to public hearings). Some of the new faces took their time for a show of hands in the audience to offer-up to the Mayor and his entourage a whole new set of faces to study for the next meeting.
He started off with the comments explaining how they had to worked things around so no libraries would be closed, 4 police academy classes would start, the pets got an amazing 40% increase in their budget and that fire fighters would be pretty much the same.
It wasn’t until 15 minutes later that people began to understand that “no libraries would be closed” (that was what he called the “footprint” of the library system) – was not the same as keeping the librarians in them. Gimenez spoke about how hard staff is working to find everyone jobs --- looking even in the private sector to help them transition. That just turned up the heat a bit as that realization took root that buildings “open” did not equal trained librarians but maybe volunteers from non-profits agencies in them.
The room got rowdy when the Mayor cut off Kendall pet advocate Michael Rosenberg. Michael asked Gimenez why he let them go through the whole straw vote process to let the issue die in the commission. The mayor told Michael he and his people did a great job in a two year period by bringing the issue to forefront and resulting in a 40% budget increase for animal control.
A highlight of the evening was when a team of teens sang to the beat of rhythm instruments a “you’ll miss us” song about the librarians being gone from the library. Gimenez said that was the nicest way anyone had told him their opinion.
The oldest attendee was Connie Ingram of Florida City who came to the budget hearing on her 97th birthday. She was pleased with all the attention and hugs; but with her hearing being a bit lacking, she missed all the racket and catcalls directed at the Mayor making for a better experience during her visit.
The Mayor insists that this issue is the Commission’s problem. He can veto their final budget numbers and they can override his veto. He says he only makes the suggestions when he presents the budget; they fund what they want in it or not.