There's a good reason people are paranoid about muting themselves on Zoom, and what happened last night during a Miami-Dade government meeting is a prime example.
Two and a half hours into the county's second budget hearing, commissioner and mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava commended members of the public who took the time to review the county budget and participate in the meeting. Speakers organized by social-justice groups Dream Defenders and Catalyst Miami advocated for a reduction in the Miami-Dade Police Department's $781 million budget and pushed for increased spending on affordable housing and mental health. In the middle of the commissioner's comments, the screen switched over to deputy county mayor and budget director Jennifer Moon.
"Behind my mask, I'm saying, 'Fuck you,'" Moon said.
What followed was several seconds of seemingly stunned, awkward silence.
"OK..." Levine Cava said. "I'm sorry?"
Moon shook her head and could be heard saying, "I didn't."
Commission chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, who apparently was unaware of the unfolding Fuckgate, told Levine Cava to continue with her remarks. Later, Moon interrupted the hearing to apologize.
"I inadvertently triggered my microphone, and the folks on this meeting and everybody listening heard the end of a conversation I was having," Moon said. "I used an inappropriate word, so now you all know I'm human. I apologize tremendously to everyone."
Moon did not respond to texts from New Times this morning, but she told the Miami Herald that her comment was not directed toward Levine Cava and that she was having a conversation with six other people inside a county conference room. Moon told the Herald she was "completely mortified" and should not have used that language during a county meeting.
Levine Cava is in a runoff for the soon-to-be-vacated seat currently occupied by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez. The race, which pits her against fellow county commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo, will be decided in the general election on Tuesday, November 3.
Not everyone is buying Moon's explanation. A number of Twitter users took her comments as symbolic of the annoyance, and sometimes disdain, that Giménez, his administration, and some commissioners have shown for public commenters and critics of county government.
This administration has long showed its disdain for the public’s participation in our democracy. Is it really surprising that this is what they’re saying about their colleagues and constituents behind muted mics? https://t.co/R2L9y61K5d— Kevin Amézaga (@kevinamezaga) September 17, 2020
The blog Political Cortadito reported that during the first county budget hearing on September 4, commissioners largely ignored the public commenters calling for a reduction in police spending and an increase in funding for affordable housing, mental-health services, and alternatives to incarceration. Commissioners ate, talked on their phones, and got up from their seats. Giménez said speakers were misinformed and even chided some of them for their comments.
Although Levine Cava voted to approve the 2021 county budget, she criticized it for inadequately addressing the current health and economic crisis. In a statement following the budget hearing, she said she was "deeply concerned that this budget does not adequately reflect the unprecedented crisis we are living in or prepare us for what time will bring."
Christian Ulvert, Levine Cava's mayoral campaign manager, called Moon's language offensive and demanded an apology. He did not return a message from New Times this morning.
In a text to the Herald, Levine Cava said Moon called her to apologize.
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"I believe her that it was not directed at me. It was a regrettable indiscretion," Levine Cava told the Herald. "What's most important tonight is that we need a plan for our future to keep our community safe and stable."
Still, the commissioner threw some shade in a tweet today.
"Behind my mask, I'm smiling because I know our better days are still ahead of us," she wrote.