We’ve been robbed. Cheated!

The four biggest cities in Miami-Dade have elections next month without a single mayoral race. Not really anyway. The four frontrunners have zero or marginal opposition. That means there will be no debates, no conversation about the direction of these cities, no real choice for the voters of Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Homestead.

Also the commission or council races and the charter questions on the ballots in those cities will suffer from the lack of any real mayoral contest, which is always the main attraction.

In Miami, Commissioner Francis Suarez is the presumed winner after Commissioner Frank Carollo, who is termed out this year, failed to throw his hat in the ring. Everyone held their breath til the last minute on the qualifying deadine because Carollo was supposed to challenge Baby X. But many political observers speculate that his brother, former mayor Crazy Joe Carollo, le tiro la jarrita de agua fria by jumping into the commission race in Group 3 (more on that later), because it would be harder to get two Carollos on the dais and even if he did, then what? Yeah, sure, there are three others who qualified for the Miami mayoral race but none of them have raised any money or are considered real candidates, so they will go unnamed. Expect Suarez to get 93% of the vote.

In Miami Beach, former State Sen. Dan Gelber gets a free ride thanks to Commissioner Michael Grieco‘s self destruction with the secret PAC that he denied having anything to do with but that is now under investigation by a really selective State Attorney who has seemed to look the other way at far more egregious PAC problems (more on that later). Again, three others qualified, but, again, they will go unnamed because none has raised more than $6,000 (to Gelber’s $500K-plus account) and their names won’t matter after Nov. 7 anyway.

Read related story: Mystery Miami Beach PAC goes down, but new PAC is up

In Hialeah, Mayor Carlos Hernandez is apparently not termed out, as an attorney for former Mayor Julio Martinez had argued in court, trying to boot the admitted loanshark and absentee ballot bully out of the race. Alas, a judge ruled with the city’s warped thinking, which is that a half a term is not to be counted. Getting Hernandez off the ballot was the only way to get him out of City Hall. It was the only chance anyone had. There’s a lady challenging him, but while she’s very brave (her husband is a city employee), she stands zero chance of making a dent in the Hernandez election armor. That means that he can use more money earmarked for needy kids to give his needy staff vacations in Vegas.

And in Homestead, Mayor Jeff Porter — who has brought some stability to the county’s fourth largest city after the last mayor was arrested for corruption — is automatically re-elected de-facto after nobody dared oppose him.

Yawn.

If it hadn’t been for Annette Taddeo‘s win last month over former State Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz in the Senate 40 race, this would be the most boring local election year ever.

Not that I don’t like Porter or Baby X or even Sen. Gelber (notice I didn’t include Carlitos because Ladra does, indeed, dislike the Hialeah hoodlum). Those three are all fine gentlemen with good track records, it seems, so far anyway. But I miss the process by which ellos se destacan. I want them to lay out their ideas and defend their positions and plans. You should too.

This just handing them over the seat seems like a bad idea.

It’s also a terrible reflection of our community that we didn’t have more qualified people vying for these important posts.


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After having denied any connection to a mysterious political action committee that raised $200,000  Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco, who is running for mayor, admitted last week that he knew the chairman of People for Better Leaders.

Then, just a few days after two Miami Herald reporters forced the admission and made several connections between Grieco and the PAC, the chairman said he was closing the Better Leaders PAC and returning the funds to the donors. 

But there is already another PAC operating that can do some of Grieco’s dirty work in his race for mayor of Miami Beach against former Sen. Dan Gelber. A new PAC created in April also has connections to Grieco.

For months, the commissioner denied having anything to do with the Better Leaders PAC. In January, after an anonymous email blast — which illegally had no disclaimer — made the connections, Grieco told Ladra that he didn’t know anything about Better Leaders or the people behind it. But in an email last week to the Herald reporters, Nicholas Nehamas and Joey Flechas, he said that he did know Chairman Brian Abraham, after all.

Read related story: Miami Beach: Anonymous email attacks Michael Grieco

“I know the chairmen of many political committees, such as John Morgan, Ben Pollara, Brian Abraham, Stephen Bittel, Adonis Garcia and others through my political, personal and professional relationships over the years, so the premise of your question and this article itself merely makes this publication an accomplice to a dishonest attack on me by my political opponent, his consultant, and developer backers,” Grieco wrote to a reporter he accused of being on the other campaign’s payroll.

“As I have demonstrated, this is a textbook case of character assassination, and in any other arena this would constitute an act of slander/libel.”

But he really hasn’t demonstrated anything — except maybe that he’s too defensive about it — and the Herald did a good job of connecting the dots. Such a good job, in fact, that Abraham said he was closing the PAC and returning the money to the donors.

Wonder how many of those donors will turn around and re-contribute that money to a second PAC, Our Time Is Now, which has raised only $10,000 so far — and quickly spent them on consulting and communications by Grieco’s newest political consultant, Pedro Diaz.

This PAC business may be par for the course in some elections, but it’s a big deal in Miami Beach, where they have become political piranhas. They were never looked upon fondly, but became extra sketchy in 2015 after Mayor Philip Levine and then Commissioner Jonah Wolfson collected more than $1 million for their shady Relentless for Progress PAC –and quickly came under fire. They were accused, understandably, of using their office and position to shake down contributions from vendors and contractors who either had business or wanted business with the city. It prompted the city commission to pass an ordinance in January of last year that prohibit electeds or candidates for soliciting PAC funds directly or indirectly. The county also passed an ordinance last year that requires candidates of any municipality to register if they raise PAC cash.

Grieco has not registered, but the Miami Herald reporters got at least one contributor to say that the commissioner himself solicited the contribution, which would be a violation of the Miami Beach ordinance. The commissioner did not return several calls and text messages from Ladra. But in January he said he would not open a PAC and he has since raised more than half a million in his candidate account.

Read related story: Michael Grieco hits $500K, with help from real estate investor

Our Time Is Now is actually an “Elections Communications Organization,” which is a PAC with a different name that operates under a few different rules (for example, you can’t say “vote for” in the propaganda). It opened in April and the only real contribution as of the end of May was $10,000 from TTD, LLC, which is owned by Roger Thomson and James Tyrrell, both of 4271 Alton Road.

Thomson, an attorney active in LGBTQ advocacy who appears to work in the restaurant industry, also gave $10,000 to People for Better Leaders in January. And that’s another connection to Grieco. It also brings Thomson’s investment total to $20K, around the same time that commissioners are considering limits on formula restaurants like Chili’s or Olive Garden in certain areas.

Our Time Is Now spent all $10,000 — $7,500 on May 5 and $2,500 on May 30 — on consulting and communications by Pedro Diaz, a political consultant that just joined Grieco’s team. The PAC is chaired by Mark Rivero, who works with Diaz Consulting Group.

Diaz did not return a call from Ladra, but earlier had told me that he uses a number of PACs for different campaigns. He also represents Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who announced she would run for Congress, and Miami city commission candidate Alex Dominguez.

Our Time Is Now says it will be used for Miami-Dade candidates — which I guess is anybody in Miami Beach as well.

There are three other active PACs in Miami Beach — Beach Residents for Quality of Life, Guardians of Miami Beach and Save Miami Beach 2016 — but none of them have done any recent fundraising or spending. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more other mysterious PACs operating.

And let’s remember the original email blast that exposed the connections between Grieco and the Better Leaders PAC had no legal disclaimer. Could be yet another mysterious PAC, so mysterious we don’t even know its name.

Ladra thinks the Beach voters don’t like any of this and that it might be an opportunity for a third candidate.


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Even before the next campaign report is due next week, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco passed the half million dollar mark in his quest to become the city’s next mayor. Last month’s campaign finance report shows $41,575 brought in April for a total warchest of $500,942.

But almost 10 percent of that comes from a real estate investor who supported higher zoning in North Beach and may want to gentrify several blocks of South Beach around Flamingo Park.

Adam Walker, who has given Grieco at least $40,400 bundled through his company, Boardwalk Properties, and 40 other related firms, bought 15 aging, low- and moderate-rent Art Deco apartment buildings in South Beach for $59 million last year and immediately raised rents 50 percent to force working people out and cater to a more affluent clientele.

Read related story: Dan Gelber raises mayoral money fast, and spends it fast

“It’s true that instead of having taxi drivers and sous chefs, you’ll end up with younger attorneys, people who work in the Design District, people who work downtown,” Walker told the Miami Herald . “These are people who drive Porsches and are drawn to Miami Beach but don’t want to live in high rises.”

In a February, 2016, letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Grieco — who is running for mayor against former Sen. Den Gelber, who has raised $361,519 and much of it from outside the city — defended workforce housing, saying that he and Commissioner Joy Malakoff had made efforts to preserve and increase it. But he told Ladra recently that what Walker did was invest in improvements to restore, even save Art Deco buildings that have long been neglected.

Meanwhile, Walker has been known to neglect his own properties. State records show that buildings his mulitple companies owns have, collectively, received dozens of violations since 2012 for such things as holes in the ceiling, holes in the wall, discarded appliances outside, cockroaches, and a failure to display balcony inpsections more than once, just for starters.

Miami-Dade Court records also show he’s filed paperwork to evict tenants 112 times since 2014. Grieco better hope they’re not still city voters.

“He supports me for the same reason anybody else supports me, because he likes what I am doing for Miami Beach,” Grieco told Ladra, questioning why I would even bring this up (because it’s the biggest case of bundling by far).

“He’s doing a good thing saving those buildings. He’s making a big investment,” Grieco said about Walker.

Yes, and the $40,000 given to the mayoral campaign can also be seen as an investment. In what?

“Good government,” Grieco said.

 


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The Cortadito calendar is back in time for May.

Yes, we missed the last couple of weeks in April but, other than the Gables runoff, nothing important was happening. Ladra needed some time off.

This week, we resume with a few meetings and candidate events. But there must be more going on.

Please make it easier for me and send me information about your government meetings, candidate forums and political protests to edevalle@gmail.com and they’ll keep — or start — appearing in the Cortadito Calendar.

TUESDAY — May 2

8:30 a.m. –The Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club seems to be going through the candidates for this year’s elections as speakers. After having gotten every candidate declared so far for the Group 2 commission seat, the attention has turned to the mayoral race. This Tuesday morning the cafe con leche bunch can hear from former State Sen. Dan Gelber, who filed to run for this seat earlier this year. Commissioner Michael Grieco, who filed last year, is going to speak next week. Former Mayor Matti Bower serves as moderator at the morning meetings, which are at Pueto Sagua Restaurant, 700 Collins Ave.

9:30 a.m. — Our Miami-Dade County Commission meets to consider several things, including $12.2 million in more water and sewer consent decree improvements,  a $37.5 million contract to Munilla Construction, pals of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, for upgrades to Councorse F at Miami International Airport. That’s $37.5 million in upgrades. They will also talk about funding two new park and ride lots for busways, as they continue to stall the inevitable light rail, and the creation of new committees to advise the commission on new municipal incorporation efforts. It also looks like there’s an amendment to the land use code to allow for a new “employment center planned area development” and a “retail entertainment district planned area development” which seem custom made for the American Dream megamall in Northwest Miami-Dade.

6:30 p.m. — There’s a new mayor in Coral Gables, but who is going to be the mayor in North Miami? Voters can meet the candidates Tuesday evening as each of them present their vision for the future of the city. Mayor Smith Joseph has three challengers. Danielle Beauvais, an alternative medical consultant who ran for mayor before, middle school teacher Tyrone Hill, who ran for a council seat in 2001 and lost in the runoff, and retired doctor Hector Medina, who is well known in the community. District 2 Councilwoman Carol Keys is challenged by Ilyana Albarrán, founder of a research and consulting company. District 3 Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime has two challengers: former Councilman Jean Marcellus and security company owner Wancito Francius. The meeting at the Griffing Community Center, 12220 Griffing Blvd., should be over by 8 p.m. The election is May 9.

THURSDAY — May 4

6:30 p.m. — If you want to meet the man behind so many presidents, including Donald Trump, and maybe buy one of his books, then this is the event for you. A Roger Stone book signing at The Club At Renaissance Gables, (the old Victor’s Cafe), at 2340 Sw 32 Ave. The event is supposedly hosted by Trump volunteers but you know Stone is a master at promoting himself, not just candidates. Hurry up. Before he is detained for his part in Russiagate.

7 p.m. — Help plan the future of Palmetto Bay’s park system. A public meeting on the city’s master plan for parks and open spaces begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Village Hall, 9705 E Hibiscus St.


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The mayoral race in Miami Beach is going to be expensive as both candidates election2017have already raised almost $800,000 between them. Ladra fully expects this to go over the million dollar mark before the November election.

Commissioner Michael Grieco — who loaned himself $25,000 in December — has raised the most with $459,367. To be fair, he started last summer. But, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed this week, Grieco also has spent less since June than former state Senator Dan Gelber, who has raised just over $308,991, has spent since February. Gelber has spent $64,223 already, in two months, while Grieco has spent $51,672 in nine.

Read related story: Ladra predicts Dan Gelber files for Miami Beach mayor

Sure, it’s early in the campaign, but consider this: Gelber raised $222,435 in his first month and $88,556 in his second month. That’s quite a drop-off. He spent $5,333 in February and $59,000 in March. That’s some inflation. If this trend continues — raising less and less griecogelberand spending more and more — he could be out of money by August.

In comparison, Grieco’s fundraising has not dropped off as hard. He started his mayoral campaign with $107,000 in January, followed up with $70,000 in February and $48,747 last month. Spending has nearly doubled, but that means it went up from $9,246 in January to $16,431 last month.

The $219,000 Grieco raised last year as a commission candidate — and none of those donors have asked for their checks back — were also a consistent series of reports: $34,600 in June, $28,200 in July, $24,200 in August, $37,650 in September, $36,650 in October, $19,000 in November and $13,250 in December — but fundraising always falls off during the holidays. During the entire year of 2016, seven months of campaigning, Grieco spent almost $5,280, the bulk of which ($4,000) went to a fundriaisng consultant named Owen Carhart. Most of the rest went to processing fees.

Carhart got another $3,550 so far this year on the mayoral account but there are three other consultants: Stefanie Epstein, who is also a fundraising consultant, has been pad $6,000 and Jonathan Fernandez got $1,000. The big cahoona here is Ladra’s favorite scuzbucket, and the main thing I hold against Grieco, David “Guttermouth” Custin, who has billed $17,286 so far for consulting and other things, such as stationery, hand fans, holiday calendars and other “collateral materials” on which he skims at least 15% and probably more.

“I’m very proud of the pace of my fundraising,” Grieco told Ladra this week shortly after the most recent campaign finance reports were filed. He also said that he expected Gelber to come out strong.

“I’m not surprised he can rraise a lot of money. Dan is a career politician,” Grieco said.

“Most of my supporters are people who know me,” Gelber said. “I don’t think I’ve been spending that much.”

Well, let’s see. In addition to about $2,200 for yard signs and another $2,000 for placards, magnets, bumper stickers and a banner, he’s doled out more than $30,000 on staff, according to the last reports through March 31 and filed this week. And again, this is all in two months time.

Gelber paid $9,500 to Tampa-based pollster SEA Polling for “research.” But his consultant, Christian Ulvert, who gelbergot paid $9,925, wouldn’t tell Ladra anything about the results, just that it was “issue oriented.” Gelber has a team of political consultants, too. And they are pricier. Michael Worley, out of Fort Lauderdale, is doing his social media for $6,680 so far. Campaign Manager Adrian Chamberlin, who was a field director for the Florida Democratic Party in 2016, has made about $4,000. and Nicole Arango, who does event coordination and senior outreach, has gotten $1,500 through March.

The biggest single payout from Gelber’s campaign account was to his professional fundraiser, Brian Goldmeier, who is best known for raising millions for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his allies on the commission, sometimes shaking down the very contractors and vendors who do or want to do business with the county. Goldie got $17,634, so far, because that fee is usually worked out as a percentage of what he brings in. He also got $840 as a reimbursement for an fundraising event, which was coincidentally the same cost of a February event at Perricone’s in Brickell.

Read related story: Mike Grieco first to run for open Miami Beach mayor’s seat

But while the former federal prosecutor’s spending habits are certainly interesting, that’s not the most troubling part of the campaign report. As usual, the devil is in the details and a quick count of the contributions by address show that roughly 70% of Gelber’s campaign cash comes from outside Miami Beach. That makes senses, I guess, if he is tapping into his statewide Democratic Party support base and Goldmeier is reaching out across the county.

Again, Gelber disagreed with my findings. “A lot of folks may be using an address where they work but they live in Miami Beach. Most of my supporters are people who know me. Maybe they don’t live here now but they did and they still work here. They have an interest in Miami Beach.”

Aha! There’s the word: interest. Yes, I am sure there is a lot of out-of-town interests in Miami Beach contributing to your campaign.

Ulvert, the candidate’s political consultant, called Ladra quickly after Gelber aplogogized for having to hang up to go to a private fundraiser at someone’s home. Ulvert wanted to explain that 40 or 50 of those out of town checks had come from lawyers and other professionals who live on the Beach but used their professional address. That would still leave Gelber with more than 60% of his financial support from outside Miami Beach.

Meanwhile, the exact opposite is true for Grieco, who reports almost 70% of his contributions as coming from Miami Beach, the city he wants to represent. One can assume they, too, have an interest.

Looking at his contributions and his staff, one has to wonder if Gelber, who ran for Florida Attorney General in 2010 but lost to Pam Bondi, is running a regional Democratic Party campaign (again) for a non partisan municipal seat.


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We have another Miami-Dade County commission meeting this week. calendar2Between the committees, the Comprehensive Development Master Plan meetings, the MPO (which is now the TPO) and the full Miami-Dade commission meetings, it seems like there is something going on at County Hall every day. We mean out in public view.

But we have more than 30 other municipalities within Miami-Dade that also have their own government functions happening. So you can bet there is always something going on somewhere in the 305.

This week, that includes Palmetto Bay, Coral Gables, Doral and Miami Beach.

As always, please keep sending information about your government meetings, candidate forums and political powwows to edevalle@gmail.com and they’ll keep appearing in the Cortadito Calendar.We can’t include your shindig if we don’t know about it.

MONDAY — March 20

6 p.m. — Get to know former State Sen. Dan Gelber, who is running for Miami Beach mayor, at a meet and greet this evening at Murano at Portofino, 1000 South Pointe Dr. The campaign event is hosted by Lois and Eliot Hess and should last until about 7:30 p.m.

7 p.m. — The redevelopment of downtown Palmetto Bay seems to be moving along. There are fivepalmbayhall zoning items on the agenda for a special meeting at Village Hall tonight, all within the newly-zoned downtown “urban village” area. But Ladra has a feeling that they might not get to all of them — unless the meeting goes until 2 a.m. or so. Yes, we expect there to be a crowd that might object to some of the density and height that will be allowed in what is called the Urban Development Village. Among the items is a mixed use development, a residential development where the Raggedy Anne and Andy pre-school is and reducing the width of the right-of-way from 75 feet to 60 feet. The meeting starts at 7, but the Village Council will meet an hour early (at 6 p.m.) at Village Hall, 9705 East Hibiscus Street, to discuss the possible resignation of the Village Clerk after, las malas lenguas say, being verbally abused by some council members and residents (more on that later).

TUESDAY — March 21

9:30 a.m. — It’s probably too soon for the Miami-Dade Commission to take any action on Mayor Carlos commission meeting budgetGimenez‘s deal with AirBnB for resort taxes, although they may certainly talk about it. Any consideration of ratification may have to wait, however, until the item has been properly advertised. But there is plenty on the budget to keep them busy, including a discussion about mosquito control efforts — which hopefully will give us more information on the mayor’s plan to drop millions of mutant mosquitoes somewhere over West Dade — and about using county properties to generate solar energy. They will also talk about a $1.7 million summer jobs program proposed by Commissioner Xavier Suarez and a charter review task force that Commissioners Esteban Bovo and Daniella Levine-Cava want to implement. Commissioners may also hand out $13.4 million to community grants under, Ladra believes, new guidelines and approve new boundaries for the town of Medley.

6 p.m. — Sen. Gwen Margolis and Miami Beach Commissioner John Aleman are the headliners of a women’s griecomugfundraiser for Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco‘s campaign for mayor Tuesday at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club, 2401 Pinetree Dr.  There are more than 50 women listed as hosts, including former commission candidates Betsy Perez and Elsa Urquiza. But, curiously, none of the other three female commissioners on the dais. Perhaps Commissioners Joy Malakoff, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Micky Steinberg want to sit this one out. Or perhaps they’ll support someone else. Awkward! Especially since the election is all the way in November.

7 p.m. — Local Democrats are still not over it. The South Dade Democrats Club is having a get togehter called Vent * Vino (it used to be called Whine & Wine but “Dems aren’t whiners,” the invitation says. Um, yeah, they are. That’s why they are getting together Tuesday with no speaker, just to “join like minded people in an informal meeting where we can discuss current topics and come up with some projects and solutions.” The group promises to have some “politically knowledgeable people there to answer questions’” as well as wine, soda and “light snacks.” This is supposed to keep them entertained for two hours at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami
7701 S.W. 76th Ave.

7:30 p.m. — The first of two candidate forums and likely the last debates before the April 11 Coral Gables election begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 DeSoto Blvd. The entire two hours Tuesday will go to the largest group running, four candidates in Group 5: Marlin Ebbert, Randy Hoff, Mike Mena and Serafin Sousa. If history repeats, this is a very well attended event. Doors open at 6:30 but Ladra suggests you get there even earlier.

WEDNESDAY — March 22

4 p.m. The Miami Beach Commission meets at 4 p.m. rather than in the morning, perhaps because of a time certain (5:01 p.m.) consideration of an ordinance that would set the limits and locations for marijuana dispensaries and certain tpes of businesses. The commission will also consider awarding two congtracts to Ric-Man Construction — one for $13.1 million and another for $30.2 million — for the Phase II improvements to West Avenue (north of 14th Street). Commissioner Micky Steinberg also wants a discussion on planned public works and capital improvement projects in the city in the next five years.

6 p.m. — The Doral City Council meets Wednesday to consider, among other things, landmarkthe final plat approval for Lennar’s Landmark at Doral Central and Landmark at Doral South  and a separate change in the comprehensive plan’s future land use map from business to high-density residential for 10 acres north of 41st Street between 107th and 109th Avenue. The council also meets an hour earlier at 5 p.m. as the local planning agency to consider an eight-month moratorium on any application to build workforce housing (duh) in the city and a land use amendment on parking requirements. Both meetings are at City Hall, 8401 NW 53rd Terr.

THURSDAY — March 23

2 p.m. The newly-named Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization will have two guest speakers on Thursday: Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Jose M. Rivera, executive director of the New York Metropolitan railTransportation Council. The 21-member board will also hear a special presentation by Keiran Bowers, of Swire Properties, regarding the transit-oriented Brickell City Centre. James Christian, division administrator from the Federal Highway Administration will update the TPO on fedeal highway funds in Florida and Jim Wolfe from the Federal Department of Transportation will provide a report on major projects. There will also be an update on the Stratetic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan. Commissioner Barbara Jordan also wants to urge the federal government to pay for some of the Metrorail cars and other transortation expenses. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. at the Brickell City Centre East Miami Hotel, on the 39th floor, 788 Brickell Plaza.

7 p.m. — The members of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition will be electing new officers and reorganizing Thursday night at Doc Thomas House, 5530 Sunset Dr., where they will also plan how to better save the last 1.5% of our critically endangered local Pine Rocklands.

7:30 p.m. — The second of two Coral Gables candidate forums and likely the last official debates before the April 11 rauljeannett2election begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 DeSoto Blvd. The first hour will go to the two candidates running for commission in Group 3, incumbent Pat Keon and former Commissioner Wayne Withers. The second hour will be for the mayoral debate between Commissioner Jeannett Slesnick and former Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli (incumbent Mayor Jim Cason has decided not to run again, for real this time). Again, if past debates at this church are any indication, you should arrive before the doors open at 6:30 if you want a seat.


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