It is time, once again, to remind Carlos Gimenez that he has not been a good Miami-Dade County mayor. Gimenez, a transactional figure who only seems to stick his neck out for constituents with money and the ability to pull favors for him, is reportedly considering running for Congress in 2020 in District 26 against Debbie Mucarsel Powell, a freshman Democrat who recently unseated incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo. The Miami Herald reported yesterday that the 65-year-old is seriously mulling a run.
Could he pull it off? Sure. He's got name recognition and a seemingly endless supply of rich friends happy to fund his race. Should he try? That's a whole other story — and the short answer, pretty much, is a flat no. Here's why:
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez — a man who himself was born in Cuba — sent a stark message to undocumented immigrants Thursday: Miami-Dade County will not protect you.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order pulling all federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal officials looking to weed out and deport undocumented people. The order threw Miami-Dade County — long touted as the immigrant-friendliest city in America — into a state of shock.
Gimenez signed an order today demanding that Miami-Dade County's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation comply with every aspect of Trump's plan.
"Yesterday, January 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," Gimenez wrote to Daniel Junior, the county's interim corrections director. "In light of the provisions of the Executive Order, I direct you and your staff to honor all immigration detainer requests received from the Department of Homeland Security."
Gimenez, a Republican, might be the first mayor in America to openly comply with Trump's anti-undocumented-immigrant policies. A 2015 study estimated that roughly 150,000 undocumented immigrants live in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties.
Miami's relatively small cadre of reporters spent the entire week struggling to cover a horrific school shooting in Parkland. The entire nation has been preoccupied with debates about gun control, politicians have spent most of the past few days reacting to news from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and typical news "beat" reporters have been shuffled around to cover the shooting news round-the-clock since Wednesday.
So what did Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez do while the public's mind was elsewhere? He vetoed the creation of an independent police-oversight panel that would have let civilians investigate complaints against Miami-Dade Police officers.
Miami Herald county-hall reporter Doug Hanks broke news of the veto yesterday at noon — the mayor's spokesperson, Michael Hernandez (who will soon leave his post for a cushy private gig), did not respond to a message from New Times yesterday afternoon asking why Gimenez couldn't have waited until at least next week to announce the news.
"I am vetoing this legislation because I am not entirely convinced that there is a need for an Independent Community Panel," Gimenez wrote in an order issued after 11 a.m. yesterday. "The county already has numerous internal mechanisms and external agencies that oversee and investigate complaints against any County employee or agency."
Few pockets of Miami-Dade are more hellishly clogged with hair-rending traffic than West Kendall. So passions ran hot when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimemez held a town hall there yesterday. Fresh off a trip to China, where Gimenez cooled on his dreams of a new high-tech bus system, the county mayor was there to sell a much more old-fashioned idea to alleviate that congestion: more highways. Specifically, he wants a 14-mile, $600 million extension of the Dolphin Expressway.
The idea was mostly met with support, the Miami Herald's Doug Hanks reports, but one woman stood up to challenge the mayor by pointing out building new highways tends to actually create more traffic in the long run.
Gimenez's response: "That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard," Hanks reports.
Myriam Marquez, the mayor's spokesperson, says Gimenez's point was that "the development rules for this proposed highway do not encourage growth" because the Urban Development Boundary would prevent new housing from being built near the road. As a result, the expansion "would draw cars from Kendall Drive, Killian Parkway, SW 120th Street, and many other now-clogged East-West roads" without adding new residents to the area.
Sorry, Carlos. But you're dead wrong on that one. The mayor has stubbornly fought efforts to expand Metrorail, which has languished with delays and decaying cars despite voters' efforts to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the system. So maybe it's no shock that Gimenez has never bothered to read any science on traffic.
Yes, it seems like common sense that building more highways with more lanes would ease traffic jams. But scientists who have studied the problem for decades have found the opposite is true.
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Carlos Gimenez has not been a good Miami-Dade County mayor. He will forever be remembered as the leader who agreed to cooperate with Donald Trump's Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation police. He also brazenly vetoed the creation of an independent police-oversight board.
And he definitely has some ethical issues. Yet Gimenez fired off a letter to the Miami Herald on Wednesday with the utterly hilarious and pathetic title, "My integrity is sacrosanct."
The problem is that the daily's columnists referred to the mayor's son, C.J. Gimenez, a Miami-area lobbyist. C.J. is currently paid to schmooze for David Beckham and financier Jorge Mas' "Inter Miami CF" Major-League Soccer team. (Gimenez's other son, Julio, also works in Miami politics, but his influence is less important here.) Fresh off getting portions of a stadium deal approved by the City of Miami, the Beckham/Mas group is now reportedly asking the county for some gigantic concessions: The soccer group wants to use portions of Amelia Earhart Park, a county-owned green space, to build what it is calling a "soccer academy."
This, obviously, requires county approval. A normal person might assume that since the Beckham group is paying the mayor's son a lobbying salary, the mayor would step away from voting or ruling on any deals involving the company that employs his kid. But that's not our Carlos.
The mayor is instead splitting legal and ethical hairs so thin they can only be seen with an industrial microscope: Gimenez says since his son is only a registered lobbyist with the city, and not the county, everything is fine. Nothing seems corrupt at all. This is obviously a joke, especially to anyone with even a passing understanding of the way Miami-Dade County politics works. (For what it's worth, New Times warned about this issue months ago: In July, this reporter scolded the Beckham group for hiring both C.J. Gimenez and lobbyist Barbara Hardemon, who is the aunt of current City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon. Keon Hardemon voted in favor of the Beckham stadium deal and did not recuse himself either.)
5. Our boy Carlos here loves taking trips overseas with lobbyists and developers.
From the Miami Herald:
When senior officials in Miami-Dade's government returned from an extended trade mission to China and Japan last month, the county took the unusual — and possibly illegal — step of erasing all the data from temporary phones issued for the trip.
A log by the county's Information Technology Department lists 13 phones assigned to county commissioners, department heads and top aides who spent 11 days in China and four in Japan for a trip focused on transit and infrastructure. Next to each official's name is the date the phone was turned in and a label indicating no data remains: "Wiped by User."
Myriam Marquez, spokeswoman for Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the elected official who supervises the IT department and led the trade mission, described the "wiping" of the data as a mistake. It was discovered after the Miami Herald requested text messages from the county employee who organized the March 13-27 trip. Marquez said the deletions were part of an effort to protect against Chinese computer viruses that might have been embedded in the phones, but that the data should have been preserved as public records.