Miami’s Community Newspapers: “Accelerate South Dade office opens to help small businesses”

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Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava officially opened the Accelerate South Dade Small Business and Nonprofit Incubator office on Apr. 7.

The facility and program provides workspace and one-on-one guidance to about a dozen tenants and support services to other members and associates who are starting businesses or non-profit organizations.

Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the office were Commissioner Levine Cava, who sponsored the office; Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell and town manager Rafael Casals; Accelerate South Dade manager Danilo Vargas; Neighbors and Neighbors Association Inc. executive director Leroy Jones; Lisa Greer of the Economic Development Council; Jackie Souza of FIU’s Small Business Development Center; Lawanda Wright-Robinson of the county’s Internal Services Department, Small Business Division; Daniel Leyte-Vidal of U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office and numerous others.

Commissioner Levine Cava introduced the dignitaries and thanked everyone for attending. She said she was extremely pleased with the way everything had come together.

“This is a dream come true,” Levine Cava said. “A vision realized that could have only happened with the partnership of so many people here in the room. If this were my last act I would die happy. It’s a critical part of growing our economy here in South Dade. We all know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy.”

Mayor Bell thanked the commissioner for her efforts to help the community.

“Welcome to Cutler Bay,” Mayor Bell said. “This is a historic day for South Dade, in going in the direction of ‘More to Explore’ and we are the very best place. Of course, Cutler Bay is the number seven fastest growing suburb in the United States. I couldn’t be more pleased as a small business owner myself to see all these new businesses starting and having this wonderful opportunity.”

Leroy Jones, executive director of Neighbors and Neighbors Association Inc., which operates the Accelerate office, was pleased with the launch of the incubator.

“This is an opportunity to serve and I don’t take it lightly,” Jones said. “I’m thankful, Commissioner, that you believe in me. We go way back, in the same line of work, and to see you grow… I always knew you had great things inside you, and to see us do this together, it’s wonderful.”

Tenant members of the Accelerate office are especially appreciative of the facility and its program.

“It allows for me to focus,” said Farrah Joseph of Pure Essentials. “I’m a single mother, so at home it’s all about family. This allows me to be in a business environment with help and contacts.”

Joann Chan, a fashion designer at Grandstand Fashion, said, “This is a godsend, for Commissioner Levine Cava to do this.”

Wendy Muguercia, an investigator with Revival Private Investigators, said she also was grateful for the assistance and the opportunity provided by the incubator program.

Accelerate South Dade is located at 10700 Caribbean Blvd., Suite 301. For information call 786-732-0774 or send a email to Danilo Vargas at

Miami Herald: Let the 2018 campaign season begin

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Miami-Dade’s 2018 political season officially began Monday when County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava filed for reelection.

Two years into her first term representing South Dade, the Democrat expects a challenger for next August’s election, according to a source familiar with her thinking. The first commission candidate to file for the 2018 elections, Levine Cava said Monday she’s used to having her political vulnerabilities overestimated.

“They thought I didn’t have a chance to win the first time, too,” she said.

Though incumbents rarely lose their seats on the 13-member board, newcomers are more vulnerable than most. Levine Cava narrowly ousted predecessor Lynda Bell in 2014 during Bell’s first four-year term representing Miami-Dade’s District 8. Levine Cava also has been an advocate for workplace-housing requirements, campaign-finance caps and other left-leaning causes opposed by lobbyists, developers and other stalwarts of the county’s political fundraising circuit.
“I am proud of the progress we’ve made in a short period of time,” Levine Cava said in a press release announcing the filing of her candidacy papers for District 8, which includes Homestead, Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay. “I look forward to continuing to earn the voters’ trust and deliver on even more promises for our residents and businesses over the next few years.”

Monday evening, a former paid field operative for Florida’s Republican Party unveiled a website criticizing Levine Cava’s personal wealth and voting record, including her opposition to the planned American Dream Miami mega-mall proposed in Northwest Miami-Dade. Titled “Keeping up with Cava,” the website features a caricature of Levine Cava in a convertible zooming past a country club, cash flying out of the vehicle.

“Basically I want to bring a conservative back to that seat,” said Jaime Figueras, a regional field director for the Florida GOP until December. “I think people need to take a serious look at Levine Cava.”

Levine Cava said that the photo of the waterfront home on the website isn’t hers, and that she doesn’t belong to a country club. “I canoe and raft,” she said.

While Levine Cava is the first to file for any of the six commission seats up for election in August 2018, conditions are ripe for an unusually high-profile cycle.

Sally Heyman, a veteran commissioner and Democrat representing District 4 on the coast, drew the ire of Miami-Dade’s Democratic chairman this year when she championed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s new policy to detain local inmates being sought for deportation by immigration authorities. Jose “Pepe” Diaz, of District 12, faces his first reelection since a 2015 Key West drunken driving arrest (he refused to have his breath tested for alcohol during the incident and was acquitted in May).

The odd-numbered commission districts follow the election cycle for the mayor, and are voted on during presidential years. Even-numbered districts face elections two years later. Also up for reelection in 2018: District 2’s Jean Monestime, District 6’s Rebeca Sosa, and District 10’s Javier Souto.

While the first votes in the 2018 commission races won’t be cast for 17 months, the timing of Levine Cava’s filing isn’t unprecedented. Incumbent Audrey Edmonson filed her reelection papers for 2016 in March 2015, and fellow board member Barbara Jordan filed a month later.

Term-limit rules approved in 2012 went into effect only last year, meaning all but one of the commissioners not up for reelection in 2018 must leave office in 2020. The exception, Joe Martinez, replaced incumbent Juan C. Zapata in District 11 last year and is eligible to run for a second term. All of the incumbents whose seats are up for election in 2018 would be running for a final four years, though Levine Cava is the only one up for her second term on the board.

Because Martinez served on the commission before, Levine Cava retained her rookie status after he rejoined the board last year. The former director of Catalyst Miami, a leading social-services organization, Levine Cava won office with the support of the Democratic Party, unions and other mainstays of the left. Bell is a prominent Republican, and the race was seen as a proxy battle between the two parties.

The commission elections take place in two stages: a nonpartisan primary for each seat in August, and then a November run-off for any district where a candidate fails to capture more than 50 percent of the vote. Once the commission elections are over, fundraising efforts will turn to the 2020 mayoral race.

Term limits prevent Gimenez from running again, setting up a wide-open race that’s attracting the attention of commissioners and their supporters. Levine Cava is mentioned as a potential candidate, especially with Democrats seeing an opportunity to tap into the high turnout expected for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Other commissioner names making the rounds as potential mayoral candidates: Sosa, Monestime (who briefly flirted with an Gimenez challenge last year), Martinez (who lost to Gimenez in 2012), Xavier Suarez (a former Miami mayor who ran campaign ads against Gimenez in 2015 before opting against a challenge) and Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who represents District 13.