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Xavier Suarez Doesn't Rule Out Running For Mayor Against Old Foe Carlos Gimenez

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Eight years ago, Xavier Saurez lost a

county commission race to the man who now occupies the mayor's seat

on the 29th floor of Miami-Dade County Hall. But defeat

has never stopped the X-Man, who last year won Carlos Gimenez's former county

commission seat. In the nine months he has been in office, Suarez has grown

increasingly frustrated with his old foe.

Suarez tells Banana Republican he

hasn't ruled out entering the 2012 mayor's race, which so far, is a

two man competition between Gimenez and County Commission Chairman

Joe Martinez.

"I want to see what Joe can do first," Suarez says. "He has been very supportive of my ideas, unlike the mayor. The lack of vision with Carlos is very frustrating. But there are all kind of reasons why I would not run for mayor, including the possibility of losing and not having a voice at all in county affairs."

During a sit-down interview at his downtown office and a subsequent phone interview, Suarez laid out a various projects he has been pushing that have been met with a lukewarm response from Gimenez. 

The former Miami mayor complained about a lack of progress in the county's takeover of the Coconut Grove Playhouse to a breakdown in negotiations between the county and the city over Miami's continued use of the Virginia Key landfill. He also has a beef withGimenez's reluctance to cut a deal with the developers of a controversial project at the South Miami Metrorail Station.

"He is on neutral all the time," Suarez says. "It is part of his pattern of doing nothing rather than risk looking bad."

The South Miami project particularly irks Suarez because he believes the county passed up on a good deal to end a lawsuit and move forward on a development that has languished for close to two decades. During a meeting with Gimenez two weeks ago, Suarez says the mayor informed him the county could get a better deal by putting the project out to bid. Gimenez was also reluctant to work with the developers because one of the principals was criminally indicted in the House of Lies scandal, Suarez adds.

With good reason.

To recap the situation, the county had an agreement with a company called Hometown Station Ltd. owned by ex-prominent banker Raul Masvidal to build a $25 million office building next to the South Miami Metrorail Station, with Miami-Dade contributing $5 million. 

However the building was never completed and the county canceled the project and sued Masvidal to recoup the $5 million. Masvidal was subsequently criminally charged for allegedly falsifying bills to hide the purchase of a $150,000 art sculpture for himself using money from the Hometown Station deal. Prosecutors also charged construction magnate Juan Delgado, whom Masvidal had hired to build the project. However, Delgado's case was thrown out this past October.

According to a Dec. 22 letter from the law firm Broad & Cassel submitted to Miami-Dade's real estate development division, Masvidal is no longer involved with the Hometown entity. The new owner, auto magnate Gus Machado, along with affordable housing developer, the Pinnacle Group, offered the county $1.5 million in cash and to pay off a $2 million mortgage on the property. In exchange Machado and Pinnacle would build a 100-unit apartment building and an office building. But Delgado is still involved in the project, Suarez says.

Machado, who recently donated $2,000 to Gimenez's PAC Common Sense Now, met with the mayor this past Feb. 13 to discuss the offer. Gimenez's spokeswoman Suzy Trutie declined comment. "Your questions are related to settlement negotiations and the county is not at liberty to disclose any information," she says. Machado could not be reached for comment.

Suarez, though, says that Gimenez "unilaterally rejected the offer." Suarez complains that the mayor's stance means the county would have to wait until the outcome of the lawsuit against Hometown Station to do anything with the land. "I don't think he understands the value of money," Suarez says. "Who knows how long the litigation will take? There is not even a date set for trial."

Suarez adds, "if you're going to lead, you have to take some risks."

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