It’s no secret that former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner has been waiting for Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez to be termed out or make his move so she can run for the district seat.
On Monday, she made those intentions clear when she filed documents Monday at the Miami-Dade Elections Department indicating she had opened a campaign account.
Read related: Cindy Lerner confronts Rubio, Bush on climate change
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Lerner — who has kept active on issues, particularly sea level rise and infrastructure — made reference to broken promises and traffic.
“I am pleased to announce that I am a candidate to represent the people of Miami-Dade County Commission District 7. I grew up in Miami-Dade County and raised my 3 children in District 7. During that time, I have fought to make our community a better and stronger place for people to live, work, raise their families and enjoy a quality of life. The time has now come to act and address the serious threats to our community that require bold action by the Miami- Dade County Commission.
For too long, leaders have danced around pressing issues from traffic gridlock causing frustrated residents and workers to spend too much time traveling to and from their homes, work places, schools and other activities. For too long they have paid lip service to the real threat from sea level rise and flooding. For too long they have ordered studies to deal with the real danger to our drinking water and public safety from failing infrastructure.
I am running to represent the people in Commission District 7 because we can no longer afford hollow promises that simply waste taxpayer dollars and provide little results. We need new leadership for the district. In my vision as a county commissioner, the Commission and County Government work together and collaborate with the leaders of the many municipalities to implement solutions to the threats we face in District 7 and in Miami-Dade County. I am running because the clock is ticking and it is Time for Action.”
This sets up a contest between Lerner, a popular Democrat who was also a state representative from 2000 to 2008, and former Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado, a popular and moderate Republican who forced Mayor Carlos Gimenez into a runoff in 2016.
Read related: Political musical chairs: Recycled electeds vie for 2020 county seats
Regalado, who briefly ran for Florida Senate and then U.S. Congress last year before abandoning both, switched to the county commission bid and started fundraising in February. She has already raised $19,000 for her county commission bid, according to her last campaign reports. That includes notable small bundles like $2,000 from Norman Braman, $2,000 from lobbyist Jorge Luis Lopez and $3,000 from lobbyist Eric Zichella.
Of course, more candidates are expected in this open seat.
Scratch Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago off he list. He is said to be looking at a mayoral run in the City Beautiful in 2021. But former Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is still in play.
District 7 runs from the southern tip of Brickell Avenue all the way to Miami-Dade College’s Kendall Campus. It includes all of Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, South Miami, Downtown Dadeland and Pinecrest as well as  large parts of Coral Gables and East Kendall near Baptist Hospital.

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Pinecrest voters rejected a plan Tuesday that would seek $15 million in bonds to pay for approximately 18.5 miles (98,000 linear feet) of pipeline infrastructure so 739 properties can connect to Miami-Dade County water.
The vote came down to 63% against and 37% for taxing themselves an additional 23 cents per $1,000 of taxable value, or an average of $158 a year — of course, some homes would pay much, much more — for the next 20 years so that every property in the village would have access to county water.
Not even the promise of an additional 208 fire hydrants — which are not necessary to cover water needs according to the fire rescue guys but good for drumming up fear votes — could sway villagers who made the decision via a mail-in ballot only.
According to Miami-Dade County’s elections department, 5,720 of the 13,083 registered voters in Pinecrest returned ballots. That amounts to practically a 44% turnout.
The village undertook an aggressive “get out the vote campaign” that included eight — count ’em, eight; two per week, including the last one this past Saturday  — public workshops for residents and property owners to learn about the project and see the map. They were not very well attended.
The village slapped posters in public spaces and sent postcards to all registered voters and a letter from the administration explaining what the financial impact would be.
They got one of those FDOT-like signs with the blinking lights to remind folks to vote — and they hired a guy with a spinning sign on U.S. 1.
Read related: Pinecrest voters to decide if they’ll pay extra taxes to get county water
The two recurring themes among some of the 3,593 who voted against it were (1) a reluctance to subsidize the water hookup for homes of multimillionaires and (2) the concept that it should be a responsibility of Miami-Dade County, which would retain the infrastructure and derive all the profits from the water sales. Those were exactly the reasons that Councilman James McDonald voted against putting the referendum on the ballot and campaigned against it.
The red properties are the ones that need lines. The yellow properties already have lines and will have to pay for hooking up to water in addition to the additional tax.
Miami-Dade County policy dictates that the cost associated with new water infrastructure be borne by private developers/private property owners. Revenue from the sale of water to existing customers can only be used to fund expenditures and improvements to the existing infrastructure, not new infrastructure — not unless, of course, they can cover it with “economic development” like the megamall in Northwest Dade.
But the county has paid for some of the hookups.
When Pinecrest first incorporated in 1996, about 1,500 homes were on wells, without any way to hook up to the county water supply. The 2004 countywide Building Better Communities bond referendum supplied the village with $4.3 million and a Florida state grant gave another $1.5 million for the water pipeline infrastructure up to the sidewalk. That work was called Phase I and Phase II and was completed about 10 years ago, said City Manager Yocelyn Galiano.  Property owners still had to pay for the service hook-up connection from the public right of way to their homes/buildings, she said.
More than 2,100 people voted in favor, including, we suppose, advocates like former mayors Evelyn Greer and Cindy Lerner and former Councilwoman Cheri Ball, right, who basically stepped down to push for the measure and served as treasurer of the Pinecrest H2O political action committee.
Ball and her husband also happen to own a two-story, 6 bedroom, 4 bath house they bought in 2016 for $1.6 million — that doesn’t have access to county water.
Some might think this is over, that the referendum was a way of putting this long fought issue to rest. But Ladra knows it’s never that easy. Ball and the other proponents are unlikely to give up. And while it’s not a big county issue — only 2,000 people lack water access countywide compared to hundreds of thousands on septic tanks (more on that later) — there may be other places to turn to for funding.
“We’ll just keep looking for the funding from the state legislature, which we’be been doing but we keep getting vetoed,” Galiano said. “Maybe with this new governor…”

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One of the great truths of politics is that the devil is in the details. It’s true of almost everything. but it is especially calendar2true in politics. Another thing that is becoming clear is that the details are in the committees.

Is it me, or are the Miami-Dade County committee meetings getting more interesting?

This week, we have discussion at the committee level about millions of dollars in contracts, discussions about sea level rise and the cooling canals at Turkey Point, $26 million in new vehicles for solid waste, $2.3 million for road improvements in Doral and the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands in South Dade, just for starters.

We all have to start paying more attention.

Please keep the information about your meetings, campaign events, speakers and what not coming. It’s a lot of work to find out about these things if you don’t tell Ladra — or is that the idea? Well, sorry to spoil it for ya.

MONDAY — March 13

All day — Last day to register to vote for the April 11 election in Coral Gables. You can register online with Miami-Dade Elections here, but if it is your first time registering, you must print out the form and deliver it to the Miami-Dade Elections Department in Doral by 5 p.m.

TUESDAY — March 14

9 a.m. — Coral Gables Commissioners will talk about a recommendation from the city’s school and community relations committee (committees are doing it for themselves!) urging the City Beautiful to “purchase” a classroom at gablescityhallWest Lab Elementary School for $4.2 million, ensuring that at least 180 students from kindergarten to eighth grade can attend the school. They will also discuss and could give a preliminary vote to swapping its public safety building — where the police and fire headquarters are located at 2801 Salzedo — to another building in the downtown that will be redeveloped with a parking garage (that’s at 10 a.m. time certain). There will also be a discussion on the Cocoplum bridge project, a report on abandoned properties and an update on the proposed plans for “the Plaza of Coral Gables,” formerly known as “Mediterranean Village.” Commissioner Vince Lago will also ask his colleagues to consider a citywide ban on the distribution of single-use plastic retail bags, which he says contribute to litter and cause environmental problems. The meeting at City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, will be followed by closed executive sessions with the city attorney on a couple of different lawsuits, including one filed by Starbucks against the city.

9:30 a.m. — The Miami-Dade County Commission’s Infrastructure and Utilities Committee will consider spending moneypit2$26.5 million on new vehicle leases for the solid waste department and $19.4 million on equipment and products for the information technologies department. They could also spend $1.4 million on air conditioning for the water and sewer department and $60,000 to buy 10 acres of environmentally sensitive lands in Cutler Bay. Also on the agenda for the meeting in commission chambers at County Hall, 111 NW First Street: The January and February monthly reports from Mayor Carlos Gimenez on the ongoing water and sewer projects.

6 p.m. — Retired Coral Gables Police officer Randy Hoff is running for city commissioner and has a cocktail reception fundraiser Tuesday night at George’s on Sunset, 1549 Sunset Drive. Hoff is running for the empty seat vacated by Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick’s move to the mayoral race and he is facing thee other candidates, including Marlin Ebbert, who ran against Vince Lago in 2013. Hoff has spent more than $14,500 of the $24,000 he raised through Feb. 28, so drop a little something in the bucket. Consider it a tip for his 30 years of police service.

WEDNESDAY — March 15

6:30 p.m. — The kick off fundraiser for David Borrero, who is borrerorunning for a Sweetwater commission seat, starts at 6:30 p.m. at 109 Burger Joint, a popular eatery for some FIU students at 646 SW 109th Ave. The host committee is topped by former Doral Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera and includes such notable young Republicans as Jessica Fernandez, Armando Ibarra, Maria Wadsworth, Juan Fiol, Jose Mallea and Eric Diaz-Padron. Borrero, who worked on the campaign of State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, is running against incumbent Eduardo Suarez — who was appointed in 2015 to fill out the term of Orlando Lopez, who ran for mayor –and Isidro Ruiz, who is one of Lopez’s campaign volunteers. Sweetwater needs some real candidates to straighten that city out. Is Borrero a start?

THURSDAY — March 16

9:30 a.m. — Because mass transit and traffic solutions have become the main subject at every other commission meeting — and MPO meeting, and MDX meeting and CITT meeting —committee the Miami-Dade Commission’s Transportation and Public Works Committee will be heavy on trains this week. In addition to the reconstruction of the Florida East Coast railroad crossing and traffic control devices at NE 16th Avenue and approximately 131st Street, the committee will also consider the refurbishment or installation of four railroad crossings, at North River Drive, NW 46th and 62nd streets and 22nd Avenue and Ali Baba Avenue in Opa-Locka, with the county paying the annual maintenance of each. Maybe this is a good time to talk about the future development along that rail line? The committee may also approve a $2.3 million contract to Gannett for road improvements in Doral, on Northwest 25th Street from 87th to 117th avenues in Doral, which is Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz‘s district. The meeting is in commission chambers at County Hall, 111 NW First Street.

1:30 p.m. — The Miami-Dade Commission Economic Development and Tourism Committee will consider giving the welcomeMIApolitically-connected Munilla Construction Management company a one year extension and $6 million more for renovations and repairs at Miami International Airport (specifically something called the e Satellite and the “Federal Inspection Services,” which sounds like Customs. This is not the first time Munilla gets a bump in their contract as far as dollars and time (more on that later). The committee may also approve a five-year, $5.5 million contract with Ricondo & Associates for “aviation planning and master planning services,” which certainly seems like something we should be able to do in-house. They will also get updates on Florida Power & Light’s cooling canals by Turkey Point and the county’s efforts to address sea level rise. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa wants to discuss the Beacon Council’s use of public funds of the county’s business tax revenues. They could also instruct the mayor to look into “best practices” (read: regulations) for hosts with AirBnB and other such home-sharing services, which have come under fire lately (Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado wants to ban the practice in residential neighborhoods). This committee takes over the commission chambers from the last committee.

6:30 p.m. — Learn about how local government works from a panel of real experts at this cindylernerevent sponsored by the Downtown Democrats Club. The horses with mouths here are former Pinecrest Mayor and former State Rep. Cindy Lerner, Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso and Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Susie Torriente. It’s $5 for Downtown Dem members and $15 for non members for the two-hour lesson at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design, 100 NE 1st Ave. Two hours of inside info! This should be good.

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Municipal and state candidates wait in the wings

If anyone ever made an argument for term limits, it was Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo just last week when he was sworn in as the new chairman of the board and talked about actually making decisions in the next two years ticktockclockbecause, after all, this is his last term and he’s got a looming deadline.

“We embark on a new era, an era that is tied directly to term limits, and that is going to affect how we conduct the business of the people of Miami-Dade,” Bovo said “It becomes very clear to me that we have to work in an expedited fashion.”

It becomes very clear to me that Bovo and the others in their last term, have been forced to act, rather than talk about acting, by the fact that the clock is ticking. What? Have they beeen dawdling up to now? Just passing the time? Do they need to have a fire under their, uh, feet to make things happen?

Apparently so.

Read related story: Carlos Gimenez, er, Stevie Bovo wins commission chair

Bovo ain’t alone in preparing his exit. Term limits approved by voters in 2012 mean that six commissioners will be out of office and replaced in 2020 (Jordan, Edmonson, Barreiro, Suarez, Moss and Bovo). Another six will be replaced in 2022 (Monestime, Heyman, Levine Cava, Sosa, Souto and Diaz), leaving only newly elected Commissioner Joe Martinez (that sounds weird) on the dais with 12 fresh faces. Although “fresh” might be an overstatement.

This is the 305, after all, where recycling politicians is not just a sport, it’s a cottage industry. The most likely replacements will be electeds who move up the political ladder from municipal office or down from the state legislature to Miami-Dade.

It’s no secret, for example, that State Sen. Anitere Flores hasaniterecindy long been eyeing Commissioner Javier Souto‘s county seat and that former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner is waiting for Commissioner Xavier Suarez to be termed out so she can run for an open seat.

Flores pretty much has it in the bag. But Lerner might find, however, that it’s not going to be just handed over to her. Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago surely has higher aspirations and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who is termed out this year, may find retirement boring. Anything is better than Mayor Carlos Gimenez wanting his old seat back or, knock on wood, his lobbyist son, who just started his own consulting firm wheeling and dealing for Latin American interests who want the ear of our President Donald Trump.

Read related story: Mayor’s son lobbies Trump with silent, same ol’ partners

Some districts have more potential hopefuls waiting in the wings than others. Take Commissioner Bruno Barreiro‘s seat. His replacement could come from either Miami Beach or the city of Miami. Maybe Miami Commissioner FrankDeede Weithorn, Michael Gongora Carollo hasn’t filed paperwork because he’s thinking of jumping the bridge to the 111 building. Ladra wouldn’t be surprised at all if former Commissioner Marc Sarnoff ran. He’s been conspicuously quiet. And what if former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla thinks the city of Miami is too small for him?

But this is also an opportunity for former Miami Beach Commissioners Deede Weithorn and Michael Gongora (pictured here), both of whom lost state bids last year. It very well could turn into a Miami vs. Miami Beach thing.

District 13 might also get a clusterbunch of candidates when Bovo runs for mayor in 2020. Ladra suspects that newly-elected Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid has aspirations beyond the town. He just seems so ambitious. And he’s worked closely with Bovo on several district initiatives. Chances are, just from the sheer number of them, that he will have a challenge out of Hialeah. Maybe Carlos Hernandez. Maybe Vivian Casals-Munoz. Maybe even State Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, who has been quietly lobbying for the megamall development in Northwest Miami-Dade, which is coming before the commission this week (more on that later).

Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter ought to run for Daniella Levine Cava‘s seat in District 8. It’s really a good way to jeffdaniellacontinue to advocate for your hometown, which is largely ignored. Ladra thinks he’d get the support of the Democrats and labor groups that supported Daniella. We would have said former Sen. Dwight Bullard would run for Levine’s or Moss’s seat — whichever one he lived in — except he apparently moved to Gadsen County to run for chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. He may move back. It’s not unthinkable. And don’t count former Commissioner Lynda Bell out. Sure, she lost to Levine Cava in 2012, but she could come back. Stranger things have happened. Recently. The very Repubican pro-life advocate may feel empowered.

Read related story: Voters replace Luigi Boria with first mayor J.C. Bermudez

Former Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz might jump at the chance sandraluigito run for Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz‘s seat. She might finally be able to win one, with the Democratic Party’s help again, especially if her only opponent is Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez. But there’s always the hope of a rematch. After all, former Doral Mayor Luigi Boria , who loaned himself quite a bit for a failed mayoral re-election, has the money to run another race if his ego gets the best of him. And, now, he also has the time. But Ruiz likely has the support of Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez, who just beat Boria decidedly in November. That is, if he doesn’t run himself. It isn’t entirely out of the question either; Bermudez at one point mulled a run for county mayor.

Certainly, Ladra has forgotten some notable recyclables who are just chomping at the bit. Please feel free to add your own predictions in the comments below.

Of course, all these “new” people — recycled electeds and any fresh faces that may sprout — start with the clock running already. Nobody is going to get 27 years, like Souto and Commissioner Dennis Moss will have served by the time they are forced to leave the dais almost, practically at gunpoint. The new batch of commissioners will have only eight short (?) years to get things done and that’s it. Then there’s a whole new crop of people coming in every four years. The turnaround should be a fantastic motivator.

Maybe we should shorten term limits to four years. Imagine how much more would get done.

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Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner went to New Hampshire last week to personally Lerner Rubio NHdeliver a letter signed by her and 14 other mayors in Miami-Dade regarding climate change and the federal response to both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Lerner, a deep blue Democrat who served in the Florida House with Rubio, told each of them at separate events that she hoped they would meet with her and the other mayors before the Florida primary March 15.

“We appreciate that you acknowledge the reality of what we are experiencing in South Florida, being ground zero,” she told Bush at a town hall meeting, in what sounds like a dig at Rubio for his more exreme denial position.

She asked both to look at the impact the fossil fuel industry has on global warming and explore renewable energy sources.

Read related story: Miami-Dade 2015 budget rally is for climate change funds

Bush, who once lived in Pinecrest, told her he “would love to meet you. But I’m not coming back for a couple of weeks.”

And of course there’s already a “but.” He is in a Republican primary after all.

“You can’t destroy our economy in recognition of that,” Bush said, adding that all the taxing solutions would just be passed on to the consumer. “We  have to balance our economic interests with this legitimate concern that the climate is changing…the federal government should play a role in research ad development to find the next source of energy that would have less impact on the climate.”

Senator Rubio was a little less enthusiastic when he also agreed to meet with these mayors during a campaign event last Thursday — responding “sure” to the surprise invitation.

“But I can tell you right now I’m not going to destroy our economy. The climate has never stayed the same. It’s always changing,” Rubio said.

He said that scientists don’t expect the proposed measures to make changes in sea level rise or the dropping temperatures for years and years to come but that economists say they will make things more expensive and put us at a disadvantage economically.

“I can’t support something that does nothing to help the environment but devastates our economy,” Rubio said.

Read related story: Top 10 reasons Miami-Dade residents must buy a life vest

He said he would instead favor measures that rewarded and increased the use of alternatives to fossil fuels.

“Let’s beat the world in every energy resource. Let’s beat the world in wind, in solar, in bio fuels, in renewables. But we are going to fully utilize our natural gas, which by the way is a clean source of energy. Let’s build more nuclear power plants.”

Lerner — who is arguably Miami-Dade’s lead sea level action champion — came home satisfied that both presidential hopefuls had heard her out and agreed to meet. Both encounters can be found on YouTube, published by, which sponsored Lerner’s trip and has collected a number of videos of people confronting the candidates on the issue.

“With Jeb I was really pleasantly surprised because not only did he acknowledge climate change, he also said he would support eliminating subsidies on oil products,” Lerner said. “He has a much more moderate position.

“Rubio launched into his rote response,” she added, echoing earlier sentiments about the senator’s need for new material (Ladra told Team Marco months ago). “But I know he knows better.”

But she certainly isn’t going to vote for either of them. Lerner spent the rest of her time in New Hampshire making phone calls from two campaign offices and walking door-to-door in Bedford for Hillary Clinton.


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