After presenting her first State of the County address, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava, discusses her strategies for South Dade. She previously represented South Dade for six years as District 8 Commissioner.
Catching up with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava after her State of the County address January 29 found her already working full speed on programs highlighted in the speech.
Asked about implementation of County priorities in Homestead and Florida City, the Mayor said, “I put a lot of emphasis on the agriculture sector. I know agriculture is evolving so we have to be innovative in our approach.”
“I am definitely working on all kinds of economic development for south Dade and support the work that was started with planning by the Economic Development
Council,” she said. “I want to bring that kind of model to the County work with some other programs that are not as robust on a local level.” The Mayor talked about importing the business accelerator program she developed as Commissioner, the first small business and nonprofit incubator of its kind in the County.
The same week as her election, Mayor Levine Cava had begun planning for the impending end of the COVID eviction and foreclosure moratorium in Florida.
“Yes we’re expanding the evictions freeze,” she said. “The federal government extended the moratorium through March and we developed a proposal to roll out soon to use the $60 million in federal monies to help landlords as well as tenants get the dollars they need to get back on track.”
“We know landlords have to pay their bills but we can’t have an avalanche of homeless people,” the Mayor said. “So we’re working with groups of landlord and tenant representatives to put together the plan for how to move forward yet protect both groups.” She said rental assistance programs would be part of the $60 million federal money just awarded.
The Mayor said there are distinctions between residential and commercial real estate, particularly the valuation of properties for tax purposes. “We’re very concerned about the reevaluation of property because everyone is hurting and we all depend on that tax base,” she said. “We’re waiting for the property appraiser to help us plan. Residential real estate hasn’t necessarily declined in value but is different from how commercial is valued, so the focus now is on the eviction moratorium.”
In the State of the County speech, Mayor Levine Cava touched on many County programs she’s worked on including the three long-term challenges she listed in November – improve transit, prepare climate change response, and provide more access to affordable housing.
On transit, she said, “We’re moving forward with the BRT (in the south corridor) and that will be a game-changer; a vast improvement. Commissioner McGhee raised the issue of trains and I agree with him. Unfortunately, that would take many more years and run the long-term substantial risk of ever getting federal funding if we turn it down now that it’s already in place.”
The Mayor’s essential platform on the State of the County included citizen engagement. Asked about holding county meetings in south Dade, she responded, “I don’t control what the County Commission does on their meetings. The Governor has ordered in-person meetings, while I’m a big fan of virtual meetings.”
“Anything that requires an official vote and official record has to be in-person,” the Mayor said. “The only exception is if there’s already an in-person quorum than you can participate virtually. So it’s up to the County Commission Chair to set any locations for public participation but he hasn’t authorized that yet.”
“On my part, budget meetings and participation input is not an official vote and I certainly will do those things virtually,” said Mayor Levine Cava. “Community Councils must be in person too and they’re very frustrated about that in the south end. It’s what resulted from the Governor’s decision.”
“We could have offices where we get County services in other locations and we’ll work on that,” she concluded. “But virtual is better.
We have to put in place a substantial amount of government service processing virtually and we’re going to be expanding that.”