FLORIDA POLITICS: “Jason Pizzo endorses Daniella Levine Cava for Miami-Dade County Mayor”

Sen. Jason Pizzo is endorsing Daniella Levine Cava in a jam-packed field for the Miami-Dade County mayoral contest.

“Miami-Dade County has a serious backlog on meeting critical infrastructure needs, including septic to sewer conversions, stormwater drainage, and addressing a federal consent decree to upgrade our sanitary sewers,” Pizzo said Thursday.

“While state legislators are annually tasked by their counties to solicit state funds for local projects, I’ve only heard from one mayoral candidate committed to this obligation for their administration, which is why I am proud to endorse Daniella Levine Cava in her campaign for County Mayor.”

In announcing his endorsement, Pizzo also referenced heavy rains in the region earlier this week that caused massive flooding in parts of Miami-Dade.

“This week’s weather has further exposed infrastructure failures and why we must work collectively to mitigate disaster through best practices,” Pizzo argued.

“Although the work ahead may be extensive and politically unpopular, given her track record, I know Daniella will act decisively to invest in Miami-Dade’s future. I look forward to seeing Daniella Levine Cava make history this year and lead our County as its next Mayor.”

Pizzo was elected to Senate District 38 in 2018. Levine Cava currently represents District 8 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. She’s seeking to become the first female Mayor in the county’s history.

Several ex-lawmakers also announced their support for Levine Cava Thursday. Former Rep. Willie Logan, former Miami-Dade County Commissioners Ruth Shack and Charles Dusseau, and former South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard joined Pizzo in backing Levine Cava’s bid.

“I have worked for years alongside these local leaders to build a brighter future for Miami-Dade,” Levine Cava said.

“I’m honored that they are supporting my candidacy because they have worked with me first-hand and know that this County needs proven leadership to get us through these times of crisis. As Mayor, I will continue my efforts of building broad coalitions of support and reaching out into diverse communities to ensure a stronger and more inclusive Miami.”

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FLORIDA POLITICS: “José Javier Rodríguez, Daniella Levine Cava to host food distribution in Homestead”

Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava will host a food distribution in Homestead Thursday morning.

The distribution will take place at St. Martin de Porres Church in Homestead at 9 a.m. The church is at 14881 SW 288 St.

The two Miami-Dade lawmakers are partnering with Farm Share, the Miami-Dade Police Department, Temple Israel of Greater Miami, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami for the event. Farm Share is a nonprofit organization aimed at providing food to those in need.

Though the economy is beginning to reopen, thousands of families are still impacted by the slowdown caused by social distancing restrictions instituted in response to the novel coronavirus.

Farm Share and other organizations have helped put on events throughout the outbreak. Rodríguez participated in one earlier this month alongside Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes.

Rodríguez secured an endorsement Wednesday from the Florida AFL-CIO which cited, in part, his work to help constituents during the COVID-19 outbreak. Rodríguez represents Senate District 37. He won that seat in 2016 and is seeking reelection in 2020.

Levine Cava represents District 8 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. She is one of several candidates competing to be the next Miami-Dade County Mayor. Levine Cava would be the first woman candidate to win election to that office if successful.

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NBC MIAMI: “Miami-Dade Mayor Candidates Walk Fine Line Running During Pandemic”

Candidates running for office have to walk a fine line during the coronavirus pandemic. Usually the four major candidates raise and spend half a million dollars a month. Not in April.

While candidates did not overtly ask for money or campaign, Miami-Dade County campaign finance documents show people took different paths.

Truce?

According to Miami-Dade campaign finance documents, Commissioner Xavier Suarez raised $0 with his campaign and his political committee, Imagine Miami. His two organizations spent $1,765 in April, mostly for accounting service on previous activity.

Commissioner Suarez told NBC 6 he thought there was a truce between the candidates stopping political activity during the pandemic.

“It’s not a good moment to campaign. It’s not a good moment to raise campaign funds,” said Suarez. He does not feel the month off of campaigning will hurt him getting his message out to voters.

“Hopefully, they see what I’m trying to do as a commissioner. Never mind campaigning, which will be later on,” said Suarez.

The other three major candidates – Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner Steve Bovo, and former Mayor Alex Penelas – continued to raise and spend money but at lower levels than normal. All four candidates were seen around the county at service events, testing drives, food giveaways and other community charities. Their primary attention was helping Miami-Dade during the pandemic.

A look at campaign spending in the Miami-Dade Mayor’s race from December 2019 to April 2020.

Shifting Campaigns to Help

Commissioner Levine Cava’s campaign and political committee Our Democracy raised $12,844 and spent $108,332. The largest chunk of that came from a $38,350 expense for advertising. Levine Cava told NBC 6 it was for the final push to market and collect petition signatures to get on the ballot. If she survives the August primary and wins in November, Levine Cava would be the first female mayor and she says the petition drive was going to continue for that historic benchmark.

“We did not actively campaign during this pandemic. We were checking in on the wellbeing of our citizens of our community. But there is a mayor’s race. There will be a vote,” said Levine Cava.

Her records show most of the other money went to access to the voter file, retainers, consulting services, and professional fees – so she could keep her seven campaign staffers on the payroll and not lay them off during the pandemic.

She said those staffers continued to organize volunteers to organize charity events and check in on people in the county during hectic times.

“We sent postcards to older citizens. We made calls, tens of thousands of calls. We have been very actively reaching out in the community during this time. Money well spent,” said Levine Cava.

Her largest donation came from AECOM Technology, an engineering firm, who sent Our Democracy $5,000. It’s important to note, some campaign donations can take weeks to come into the campaign and be reported. Levine Cava told NBC 6 they suspended fundraising in April.

Former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas is running again for his old job and is usually the leader in fundraising. In April, his campaign and political committee, Bold Vision, reported raising $37,350 and spending $70,712.

Campaign records show much of the spending was on consulting, professional fees, payroll, and texting. Penelas was not available for an interview but his campaign told NBC 6 they stopped public-facing campaign activity, fundraising, and advertising.

Instead, their resources shifted to an effort to coordinate help during the COVID-19 pandemic called #ServingMiamiDade.

The effort is “an on-going and privately-funded community partner program that works to address our residents’ immediate and long-term needs due to the pandemic” wrote a campaign spokeswoman.

Penelas’s #ServingMiamiDade organized in-person food and aid drives.

For the monthly fundraising haul, including $5,000 checks from Mata Consult Inc, BBB Supplies, and Aecom Technology, a campaign spokesperson wrote NBC 6, “While we did not proactively do any fundraising over the past two months, we were happy that some supporters still chose to continue to contribute to our campaign and expect to have a relative good showing in May despite the slowdown.”

Commissioner Steve Bovo also organized several charity events during the pandemic, including testing and food drives.

Bovo’s campaign and political committee, A Better Miami-Dade, raised $20,000 and spend $30,839. His largest donation in April was $15,000 from Reform Government PAC. His largest expense was $17,970 for canvassing.

NBC 6 requested an interview with Bovo’s campaign and have not heard back.

Another commissioner, Jean Monestime, dropped out of the race during the pandemic citing challenges brought by the coronavirus. He will continue to lead his district through the crisis.

“A large segment of the constituency I depend on for this campaign is amongst the hardest hit,” he wrote in a statement stepping out of the race. “Many of them are now laid off and uninsured.”

A look at campaign fundraising in the Miami-Dade Mayor’s race from December 2019 to April 2020.

A Fine Line

All the candidates had said campaigning would fall by the wayside during the pandemic. NBC 6 political analyst Carlos Curbelo said they would still need to stay in the spotlight – with a soft touch. Blowback from the community could come if they were too aggressively asking for money or votes while the crisis continued.

“They might be calling voters at home. Not with hard sells, strong campaign messages. But maybe asking people how they’re doing. Asking if they need anything. Or if they have any concerns they want to share during the crisis. I think you have to stay active but it has to be a soft campaign,” said Curbelo.

None of the candidates ran attack advertisements against each other or criticized each other while people in the county were battling the pandemic and the economic crisis that comes with it. The election in August is three months away, so that could soon change.

Three of the candidates are serving on the Miami-Dade County Commission: Levine Cava, Suarez, and Bovo. They were able to stay in front of voters with county zoom meetings and press conferences touting government activity. To combat the power of incumbency, Penelas has mobilized a large fundraising network that will give him resources through the end of the campaign.

“What they’re trying to do to survive is get any attention that they possibly can. But generally speaking it’s going to be hard for any of these candidates to break through when this is going on. That tends to benefit the candidates who are best known and who might have a fundraising advantage from the work they did before the crisis,” said Curbelo.

Suarez and Bovo must leave office in November under county term limits. Florida has a resign-to-run law so Levine Cava must give up her seat to run.

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Miami Herald: What in the world does protecting workers in Miami have to do with communism, commissioners? | Opinion

When you’re living through unprecedented times, it’s tempting to go back to where it all could have been different, right the wrongs and find a better path forward. Miami-Dade County commissioners were given that opportunity recently when commissioner and mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava proposed legislation that would require private county contractors to extend seven days of paid sick leave to their employees.

Rather than engage in the ongoing public-health crisis and need to get people back to work safely, commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Rebeca Sosa seemed more concerned with Cold war politicking than implementing safety measures that could slow the spread of the coronavirus and even offset the next deadly outbreak.

Levine Cava proposed similar legislation in mid-February along with paid family leave, but the vote was deferred. A few short, but endless, months of quarantine later and with our economy in shambles, Levine Cava made her case again. An auditor’s report showed a marginal hike in contract costs could be offset by reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. Most important, in light of COVID-19, it would reduce the risk of public-facing employees such as security guards and maintenance staff reporting to work sick or being exposed to sick colleagues. The irony that they were participating in a meeting held virtually because of social-distancing safety measures seemed lost on the committee that voted down the legislation.

Bovo compared paid sick leave to policies implemented in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. In fact, it’s already required of federal contractors and offered to full-time Miami-Dade County employees. Eleven states have adopted similar mandatory paid sick-leave policies without devolving into communist dystopias.

Sosa likened paid sick leave to the government mandates that caused her to flee Cuba, even after acknowledging that the government could and should set guidelines for the private sector in circumstances like a hurricane or virus. This inconsistency speaks to the poverty of the argument and how reflexive it has become for local politicians to fall back on red-baiting when faced with any policy they don’t agree with.

But paid sick leave isn’t communism, it’s common sense, and their constituents know the difference. A recent Change Research online poll of Miami-Dade County voters shows support of paid sick leave is at 82 percent across racial, ethnic and partisan lines. These results may soon hit closer to home for Bovo, who is also running for county mayor.

While we’ve become used to this rhetoric being deployed to neutralize and censor thoughtful debate, COVID-19 lays bare the danger of injecting Cold War platitudes into a discussion about public health standards.

It also underestimates the very communities they pretend to represent — many of whom fled dictatorships because their work wasn’t valued, their well-being wasn’t considered and their voices weren’t heard. As the daughter of Cuban refugees, I am tired of our community’s pain and trauma being used as a political trump card, played to prop up a weak argument or — worse — deny basic services or relief to those experiencing economic hardship. We need elected leaders who will guide us toward recovery and regeneration, not resentment and regression.

When the paid sick leave was first brought to the commission in February, Bovo compared it to a free hand-out and was quoted as saying, “News flash: Somebody has to pay for this.”

With Florida’s Department of Health reporting more than 40,000 coronavirus cases and Miami-Dade County projecting an almost $300 million loss in tax revenue, it would appear we’re all paying for it. For Bovo and Sosa and the commissioners who failed to support this legislation in its second and final go-around, it was a lesson unlearned.

If a global pandemic does not impress upon local leaders the need to have basic health safeguards in place for essential workers serving the public in a time crisis, what will?

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CARIBBEAN NATIONAL WEEKLY: “Commissioner Levine Cava Leads Effort to Provide Assistance to Miami-Dade Businesses and Families”

The legislation, sponsored by Commissioner Levine Cava, authorizes the County to use federal CARES Act dollars to provide direct assistance to local businesses and families. A small business assistance program will provide forgivable loans to businesses with 25 or fewer employees. The loans will be available for the payment of business expenses, including employee payroll costs. Businesses receiving the loans will be required to document job creation and/or retention, with the majority of jobs to be held by individuals with low to moderate income – those less than 80 percent of area median income.

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MIAMI TODAY: “Miami-Dade backs bill for US bottled water tax”

It’s affecting our springs. It’s affecting our water flow,” said Daniella Levine Cava, a co-sponsor of Mr. Moss’ item alongside Barbara Jordan. “This water is being basically sold to the public, and the company taking it out virtually for free is not good for our environment. It’s really appropriate that it should be charged, if even allowed.

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MIAMI HERALD: “At Miami-Dade mayoral forum, talk of transit for frontline workers and budget cuts”

With about two months until Miami-Dade voters receive mailed ballots for the 2020 mayor’s race, candidates are ready to try and land some blows if given the chance.

Seven candidates fielded questions online Monday afternoon during a forum sponsored by the Miami Foundation, with newcomers promising a fresh approach to politics and veteran office holders urging the audience to blame others for unaddressed problems and lingering challenges.

The sharpest conflict came when Esteban “Steve” Bovo, one of three county commissioners running, turned to the other candidate with political roots in Hialeah and mocked the idea of former Mayor Alex Penelas returning for another stint in office.

He also targeted Commissioner Xavier Suarez, a former Miami mayor, for a platform that includes permanent elimination of transit tolls and lifting tolls on roads across Miami-Dade.

“I hear one candidate talk about all the things he did in the ‘90s. … We had to literally elect a police director after eight years of Alex Penelas after the bad situation he left us with,” Bovo said, referring to Penelas’ successor Carlos Alvarez, who was recalled in 2011. “I hear my good friend and colleague, Commissioner Suarez, talk about free stuff for everybody. I don’t know when he became Bernie Sanders.”

The latest installment of the nonprofit foundation’s “Our Miami: The People’s Forums” captured a mayor’s race both upended and overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than gather in an auditorium where they could interject and play the crowd, the candidates waited by their computer cameras for a chance to speak from moderator Nancy Ancrum, editor of the Miami Herald’s Editorial Page.

Ancrum challenged Penelas on his transit legacy from eight years as mayor between 1996 and 2004, asking if he promised voters “too much” from the half-percent sales tax voters approved in 2002, only to see most major transit projects attached to the effort never get built.

“Absolutely not,” Penelas said, blaming administrations that succeeded him for not securing the federal dollars needed to expand Metrorail. “The thought that that half-penny alone was going to fund all of those projects was not true. … Unfortunately what has occurred is that that money was grossly misspent … basically to balance the county budget.”

Three candidates seeking their first elected offices — Monique Nicole Barley, Robert Ingram Burke, and Ludmilla Domond — pitched themselves as the change Miami-Dade needs to finally tackle big problems.

“I’m running to end corruption,” said Barley, a law-firm supervisor. “I’m running to represent the under-served African-American community.”

Asked how Miami-Dade government can balance its budget during the pandemic, Burke said expenses must be reduced. “There’s definitely going to have to be some cuts,” said Burke, a former Miami police detective and frequent candidate for office who participated by phone during a visit to California. “We’re just going to have to minimize the effects of the cuts.”

Domond, a real estate agent, said she wanted to see Miami-Dade’s next mayor bolster public transit’s image in the community and position buses as favorite options even for people heading to South Beach for an expensive meal as they would in New York. “Right now you have the residents of Miami-Dade County feeling like it is a shame to use public transportation,” she said.

Daniella Levine Cava, the third commissioner in the race, received some heat when Barley accused her of only riding Metrorail for “picture purposes.” Levine Cava said she uses transit when it’s convenient while Miami-Dade needs to make it a priority for riders with no other options.

“Especially right now,” she said. “Our healthcare workers are commuting to Jackson by train and bus. We owe it to them, and they deserve, a highly functioning transit system.”

Races for Miami-Dade offices are officially nonpartisan, and all candidates compete in a single primary to be held Aug. 18. One candidate can win with more than 50 percent of the vote. Short of that, the top two finishers face each other in a runoff on Election Day.

Suarez, the father of Miami’s current mayor, Francis Suarez, used his closing comments to try and separate himself from two county mayors: Penelas and incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who is barred by county charter from seeking a third term in November.

He pointed to his nine years as a top foe of the mayor on the commission as what distinguishes him fromBovo and Levine Cava, who mostly voted to approve Gimenez budget proposals. “They basically stood with the mayor all these years. They’re business as usual,” Suarez said. “As far as Alex Penelas, he invented business as usual.”

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Seven candidates fielded questions online during a Miami-Dade mayor candidate forum sponsored by the Miami Foundation. 
THE MIAMI HERALD VIA FACEBOOK

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