Monday, December 29, 2014

EOM interview with Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County Commissioner … by gimleteye

Daniella Levine Cava being sworn in by Miami Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin (photo By Geniusofdespair)
Our top story of 2014 was the election of Daniella Levine Cava. We were early supporters and our blog archive contains many reports on her campaign to defeat an incumbent; inspirational for a younger generation of leaders considering public service. Here is our recent interview.

Daniella, There have been eight voting meetings of the county commission and various committees in just your first month. What has the transition been like?

DLC: I had three months from the election and used that period to a very good purpose. I met with each of the commissioners, I met with the mayor, with department heads, and with agencies that are allied with the county, from the convention and visitors people, to the Beacon Council, and of course with community advocacy groups that supported me and with non-profit groups that couldn't get involved politically in order to deepen my knowledge and preparedness for the job so when I finally got to be sworn in, I hit the ground running.

What is the biggest challenge for you?

DLC: We do not get meeting agendas very far in advance and there is alot of background and then research beyond what is given, that you have to do. I am relying on staff who are knowlegeable for historical background but I also want to get input from department heads and from the community. The part that is new and challenging is to be adequately prepared on a tremendous number of issues.

And your relationship with other commissioners?

DLC: We have had a number of public hearings and I've been very attentive. I have attended from start to finish every one of those eight meetings and only absented myself to go to the bathroom where, by the way, the meeting is broadcast. So I have heard every single word said and listened to every person coming to county hall to give public testimony.

What is the biggest surprise to you?

DLC: I find that the conversation on the dais can go on too long on issues and items where we already know how people are going to vote and, as a result, it doesn't go on long enough on some matters that require deeper attention. I understand that each commissioner is not only trying to get information to inform the decision but also trying to communicate with the public where they stand on certain things. Sometimes that has led to conversations going on longer than I wish, only because it makes us hurry up on other matters that require more attention.

What's the second biggest surprise?

DLC: People who wouldn't give me the time of day during the campaign are very eager to establish relationships now. That's not a surprise. It reminds me not to allow myself to be seduced by the treatment one gets as an elected official. I'm working very hard to stay grounded.

What are key issues facing the Miami-Dade County Commission in new year?

DLC: I am very concerned about the way the county spends money voted by the people. Like the $9 million recently approved for the tourist attraction on the bay, Skyrise. I will propose a moratorium until such time as new criteria are developed that will be more about spending money for community infrastructure like climate resilience and transit, rather than to create "job generators" as the primary focus, because these are very difficult to verify and document. There are also technical and timing problems related to the county requirements with these new projects that have surfaced so we really need to look hard at how to accomplish what we want.

I'll give an example how timing becomes an issue relative to the budget process. The Climate Change task force recommendations are not due for another year, but we need information by spring or summer at the latest to make the deadline for the mayor's next budget proposal. I don't want to wait two years to get started and so I proposed an amendment which was passed, to produce quarterly reports so we can start policy making and funding where necessary.

And on the budget itself?

DLC: The mayor seems very confident of the revenue stream, but I'm not so sure. In the past, there has been moving around of funds. That may not be sustainable for some of our core county functions that might be at risk. I'm very worried about parks ... our parks department is on life support. We are down to some park managers managing several parks and part time employees who are spread so thin and might not have the experience to meet the needs. They likely want full time work and could leave at any time. Our parks are our treasures. I also focused on the implementation of Amendment 1 and how we are going to get the benefit of it. Ludlam Trail, for example. Parks are quality of life issues that make this a place where we want to live. We need to spend more time and money on infrastructure that has to do with residents and not only visitors and investors. We have to have a different set of priorities and I really hope the other commissioners who are concerned with a lack of vision will take that step forward with me.

Speaking of Amendment 1 (that will create billions for land conservation and other public purposes from a percentage of the documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions, approved by 78 percent of Florida voters in the Nov. election), how are you dealing with the Miami-Dade state legislative delegation?

DLC: We need to provide our lobbyists to the legislature with a clear direction on priorities. I do not know yet how we should work to accomplish both purposes through Amendment 1 funds: acquisition of endangered lands and park lands that might be better described as infrastructure.

One of the big issues we have followed for many years at Eye On Miami is the possible expansion of State Road 836, a major beltway, down into farmland and open space in southwest Miami-Dade: where are you on that issue?

The same way that water is the key issue for our sustainability in South Florida, transportation is the driver for the economy. In the south part of the county, no single road is going to solve our transit problems. This policy area is the biggest challenge we face, as anyone knows who commutes to work or from work to home at rush hour. We are recruiting a new leader of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and I recently talked with the county's human resource director about the kind of leadership we need; someone who can bring a lot of different interests together and find a common vision. Transportation is the problem we have to wrestle to the ground, and I intend to invest a lot of energy in this issue.

I'm concerned about the extension of 836 and the dollars that could be used in a way more aligned with better land use and smart growth. I would prefer that we use our dollars for a longer term and more sustainable approach to development. We really haven't had a strong vision to accomplish the land use and development we want. We need stronger policies to change the dynamic.

Anything else?

DLC: Two points I'd like to make: in the midst of all the growth of Miami-Dade, our county continues to grow more unequal. The recession accentuated the economic divide. So I am looking at ways our policies can create more equity including more mixed income housing development and promoting things that would change neighborhoods so we wouldn't have so much concentrated poverty.

Lastly, my fundamental foundational issue is lack of trust in government. I am so delighted with the level of support I get from staff and the County Attorneys Office. There are so many people to help with history and drafting and strategy. You can't do alot of things if you don't have the public's confidence. We need to show the good things that our government does so taxpayers can see the return on their investment and we need to support efficient, productive government in the service of what is most important to people. It sounds trite to say that "people come first", but people really do come first. And thanks for making my election, Eye On Miami's story of the year! And thank Eye On Miami for being my first campaign endorsement!


Anonymous said...

Her comment about changing neighborhoods should scare anyone who has made their mortgage payment and takes pride in their home and who believe that one should work to earn their way into a better neighborhood. Her policies would further degrade established neighborhods. If nothing else, the crash has made better neighborhoods more accessible to those who would not have otherwise been able to buy in. Until I see her policies implemented in her area of Coral Gables, dont tell me I should be subject to government policy parking a demographic in my neighborhod that has no basis or history of meeting the standard of conduct and care for a given area. Her stance on this issue is exactly why despite nearly every group working against Bell she beat Bell by a paltry 700 votes. This is scary stuff.

Geniusofdespair said...

You touch upon a sore subject in your comment. Nimby. Yes you saved, you got a good job and you bought a house in a safe, attractive neighborhood to house your family. By the way, Coral Gables has a lot of crime and Daniella does not live there.

The question is, what about those less fortunate. Do we leave them in ghettos with sub-standard schools or gentrify their neighborhoods and ship them out to who knows where.
I don't have the answers but the way it is certainly is not working. Most people of means are afraid of
affordable housing, and they are good people. Why are we afraid of the less fortunate. I want my house to appreciate. Will it if they build affordable housing next door? Maybe affordable housing isn't the answer. You throw a bunch of people together in the same income bracket and their life is as it was. Maybe we have to house people one at a time in a better neighborhood so they too can not be stigmatized. I don't have answers. I am just proposing an alternative. Maybe Habitat for Humanity is a better way to go.

Anonymous said...

George Merrick planned and developed the City of Coral Gables in the early 1900's and implemented his plans in the 1920's. With vision, he created neighborhoods based on country themes - a Chinese villlage, a Dutch South African Village, a French Provincial Village, a Italian Village, a Florida Pioneer Village, a French Country Village. He placed larger homes next to smaller homes. He created a liveable and walkable place mixing a destination hotel in the midst of residential and a nearby downtown. I proudly live in Coral Gables but wish it was more affordable. I was able to purchase in the late 90's before the bubble that tripled my property value making it unaffordable if I tried to buy it just a few years later.

Mixed income isn't to be feared. Walling off guard gated neighborhoods just adds fuel to fear. I drive everywhere in this county. I don't understand the feeling that a few miles away others live with driveby shootings and residents in their suburbs think they are immune.

Fear from "those faceless people" is useless. There are bad neighbors in every neighborhood.

As far as crime, one nightmare example, Columbine, their allienated teens self-destructed. Living in an affluent, well educated, mono-racial community - the American dream - didn't protect their children from a crime.

Anonymous said...

Commissioner Cava is correct in not trusting Carlos Gimenez on budget issues and yes he does play "fast and loose" with the rules. Cava should request a "line by line" analysis of the budget. There is far too much "aggressive accounting". There are too many County employees and far too many employees are overpaid.

Anonymous said...

To the last "anonymous"

I totally agree about the line by line analysis of the budget. Please! This will be a gift to each and every tax payer.

I disagree, however, with the "too many employees" excuse.

When you see that $9 million flies out the door for a tourist attraction know that this is a loss of tax dollars for basic services. The loss of this revenue is not due to too many employees. Our Mayor knows that huge debt service bills from bonds will be coming due in the 2020's. He will be far removed from the problems that he has created as a Commissioner and now as a Mayor.

We are seeing a combination of gluttonous decision-makers implementing poor policies due to padded election campaign coffers driven by lobbyists. There is no accountability of how much money is spent on procurement. Just start with that and tally the waste.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor's business plan for Parks is exactly the same as his business plan for Libraries. It's the game of Jenga, chip away and dismantle until the county resource caves in. Just like the unlearned lesson with the county courthouse, ignore the decline of the maintenance issues and then force a huge infrastructure cost on the public.

The quote below holds exactly the relevance if the word Parks is replaced by Libraries.

To the nine Commissioners who voted to save the county library system's budget in 2014-2015, you deserve a sincere thank you.

"our parks department is on life support. We are down to some park managers managing several parks and part time employees who are spread so thin and might /not have the experience to meet the needs. They likely want full time work and could leave at any time. Our parks are our treasures. I also focused on the implementation of Amendment 1 and how we are going to get the benefit of it. Ludlam Trail, for example. Parks are quality of life issues that make this a place where we want to live. We need to spend more time and money on infrastructure that has to do with residents and not only visitors and investors. We have to have a different set of priorities and I really hope the other commissioners who are concerned with a lack of vision will take that step forward with me."

Anonymous said...

As per neighborhood and income I live in a middle income neighborhood across the street someone has decided to rent a home at a very discounted price for the area.

The people that moved in are nice (and are the same ethnicity as most everyone else) but there are issues (Old pick ups and vans, loud music, a multi family set up,) that I would frankly like to do without.

Yes it could be worse (as I said hey are overall good folks).
I did not agree with forced busing and I do not agree with DLCs housing vision. It would affect values and force uncomfortable situations for existing residents.

I suggest that every commissioner that comes up with these panacea type fixes first try it out themselves in their own neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I live in an affluent area. There are neighbors who have paid over $1 million for their property, leaving pizza boxes and items thrown out of their garages, on their swale for a bulk pickup that is five days away.

My immediate neighbors held a party in which they drunk karaoked until 1:30am when I called the police.

I've had alcoholics as neighbors.

I've had loners who decide to trim massive trees the day before a hurricane.

Common sense along with a sense of decorum can be found in the poor, the middle class and amongst the rich.

Check out any of the Housewives reality programs to get a glimpse into the nastiness of the classless.

Anonymous said...

Money does not purchase class as you so astutely pointed out, nor sanity I have lived in affluent neighborhood with a paranoid schizophrenic and a hoarder as neighbors.

That said when your going to spend over 350k on a home would you spend it in Liberty City, Allapatah or Palmetto Bay?
Just asking.

Anonymous said...

Daniella is a treasure - too bad that some people can't see beyond their own self-interest to see that "the invisible hand" doesn't work. I wish Daniella all the best and hope that she is re-elected in four years.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that's a good question posed about neighborhoods.

If I didn't have kids to consider, dealing with the public schools, with $350K, I'd pick Allapattah. It borders Winwood with it's edgy restaurants and art studios. The YMCA there is excellent. The people are very friendly and I'd get land along with an older fix-me-up house.

Palmetto Bay is an established community with problems with local infighting government.

Allapattah is up-an-coming and when a neighborhood encourages diversity, it's way more interesting and alive. I bet I'd profit from the purchase in short time.

old fart said...

Never fear NIYBY. In reality it is not poor homes get built next to nice ones, it's poor neighborhoods get gentrified.

From the Grove grove where I grew up in the 40's to Little Haiti and Riverside today.

it's a bitch if you're poor but that's the price we pay for a free market.

On the other hand if you have to have a problem, this is a good one to have.

The alternative end of the development spectrum is nobody wants to live in your town anymore and that's a REAL bitch, just ask Mike Duggan, mayor of Detroit.

Anonymous said...

Rather than wait a year for a Climate Change report, why not engage professional engineers to develop a plan? Allocating funds to hire an engineering firm or properly staff a permanent engineering office (this is not a temporary public issue) in the Public Works Department does not require a report - it requires a motion and seven votes. Don't let the bureaucrats freeze you in your tracks, DLC. Too much waiting and we will all be wading.

Bust A Cap said...

@Anon that pregers allapattah
Infighting government in PB is a nuisance outfighting gangs and drive by shootings in Allapatah can get you killed.
But if you want to prove me wrong go ahead and move there send me a post card with a hole from an AK round.

Anonymous said...

Daniela Cava can concentrate on getting taxes down. That might involve getting rid of all the silly CRA's that do nothing but divert needed tax revenues from the General Fund to connected insiders. City of Miami CRA's are the most corrupt. Witness Sarnoff's buddy Nitin Mowani getting a gift of $200 or more Million. Michael Simkins and a posse of others are lined up at the door.

Anonymous said...

I can finally sleep at night knowing that District 8 has a wonderful commissioner looking out for our best interest. The distrust in government was earned by the politicians in office.
Hopefully, other commissioners and councils like Daniella Cava will be elected and support the taxpayers and citizens which they represent.

Anonymous said...

Daniella please have a meeting with Mr. Pedro Garcia and encourage him to hire competent people in his office. Those investigations that his office perform are disgraceful and have a negative impact on him. They make him look bad.

Unknown said...

I liked your post dear. You have provided all the details about that interview. Well I have met Daniella Levine Cava in one of corporate events and I liked her views on social topics. She is just wonderful, Thanks for posting dear!!