Jeb Bush Jr. is one of the future faces of the Republican Party. He is the 29-year-old president of Bush Realty and sits on the boards of several local corporations. The youngest son of Florida's former governor is even considered a possible contender against Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia in 2014. But apparently, the Bush name doesn't hold water with a majority of Miami-Dade's county commissioners.
Junior couldn't muster enough votes to land a seat on the board of directors of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), the local transportation agency charged with setting tolls and expanding local highways, such as the Dolphin and Airport expressways.
Only Rebeca Sosa, Javier Souto, Juan Carlos Zapata, and Jose "Pepe" Diaz voted for Bush on January 23, when the commission chose five MDX members. He was passed over for Maritza Gutierrez, a Hispanic marketing guru married to lobbyist and political consultant Armando Gutierrez; ex-Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre; and lobbyists Alfredo Gonzalez, Rick Rodriguez Piña, and Robert Holland.
Sosa tells Riptide she doesn't know why nine of her colleagues rejected Bush (who didn't respond to two messages for comment). "Maybe they had already made commitments to the other nominees," she says. "But I chose him because I thought adding a young voice with some fresh ideas would be good for MDX."
Recently, transportation activists — most notably bloggers at Transit Miami — have criticized the makeup of the MDX board for being stacked with lobbyists and pro-development forces (of the 13 members, only one is a real transit expert: Gus Pego, the Miami district secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation). The result: votes that often favor building more roads, which in turn encourages more construction of residential homes and commercial properties.
Take for instance a vote in November, when MDX proposed a plan to add toll booths on South Dixie Highway on the southern end of Miami-Dade. Transit Miami argued the move would do little to help Dade motorists. "Let's kill this awful idea and send MDX packing," blog contributor Felipe Azenha wrote.
Sosa, though, rebuts those criticisms and defends the new, Bush-less appointees. "We have a hard time finding people willing to sit on any board," she says. "We demand they invest a significant amount of their time. It's not easy to get competent individuals to serve."