Chamber SOUTH, the Chamber of Commerce in South Miami, sponsored a ZOOM event on Tuesday January 26 with the three Miami-Dade County Commissioners of Districts 7, 8 and 9 of Deep South Dade.
Commissioner Kionne McGhee was elected in 2020 to represent District 9 after eight years in the Florida House of Representatives where he was House Minority Leader from 2018-2020.
McGhee holds degrees from Howard University and a juris doctor degree from Texas Southern University.
“For the first time in our history, Districts 7, 8 and 9 are on the same page,” said McGhee. “There are four principles I operate on in everything I do; faith, family, flag and future.”
As to COVID plans, McGhee continued, “The prior administration did a horrible job in seeing that vaccinations got to the proper destinations to help the people in this County. The County has not synchronized vaccination sites and did a poor job rolling out vaccines and opening test sites.”
The Commissioner spoke about help for landlords and tenants during the pandemic and wants to revisit the County’s rental assistance program. He was emphatic that improvements to the COVID response could be done without raising taxes.
McGhee is also a committed advocate for No Kill Shelters for abandoned animals, sponsoring the adopted resolution applying to all County shelters beginning in 2022.
“Since 1997, there have been two Miami’s – North and South,” McGhee concluded. “South Dade has been the neglected pushover. I do not believe the BRT system leads to equity in transportation. We want a seat at the table in planning on this issue.”
Commissioner Raquel Regalado was elected District 7 Commissioner in 2020 after serving six years on the County School Board. Daughter of former Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, the Commissioner is an attorney working in real estate and construction law.
“You will see a real change of pace in how Miami-Dade County works,” Commissioner Regalado said. “There are six Commissioners under age 50. We now have our committee assignments, so this is a prelude to what we’ll be talking about at the County Commission.”
Regalado stressed the problems of misuse under the CARES Act for rental assistance saying relief was not properly allocated. “This will have a long-term impact on commercial property values,” she said. “Commercial properties are valued not by sales but by revenue, so every landlord not receiving rent will go to the property appraiser and lower their assessment. This will have a real impact on next fiscal year.”
Commissioner Regalado worked for two years on the School Board’s value adjustment board to correct the County data which was two years behind.
“The gift to the County was data specifically from the court on evictions,” she said. “These are specific predictors of what will happen to our local economy.”
The Commissioner said she hoped the vaccine distribution problems would be on the February Commission agenda. She briefly touched on her aggressive agenda for capital improvement plans, water quality issues, the permitting process, and economic development now including the airport property.
New District 8 Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins was appointed in a ten to one vote to fill the unexpired term of County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. She was the only candidate nominated by the Commission although six others had applied.
Representing the areas of Cutler Bay and Homestead, the Commissioner said she was a mother, an attorney and a small business owner for eleven years.
“There is a change never seen before - a lot of new commissioners and a lot of new ideas and fresh perspectives,” Cohen-Higgins said. “We’re still dealing with the confusion and chaos of this pandemic and the vaccines,” Commissioner Cohen Higgins said.
“I asked our Mayor to consider home testing; what about those without access to transportation or to the internet?”
“I was also concerned about our teachers, bus drivers, and law enforcement officials no longer deemed essential workers during the pandemic,” she said. “My colleagues and I passed a resolution at the last Commission meeting urging the Governor to put all essential workers on the list for the next round of vaccines. We need to use our voice collectively as the largest County in the state.”
Cohen-Higgins spoke about her commitment to economic development as a small business owner.
“This is a priority for south Dade so I was proud to sponsor legislation to support bringing tech to the County,” she said. “There’s lots of talk about large technology companies moving their headquarters to the County; what are we doing as a County to attract them and retain them?”
The Commissioner said transportation is a big issue within District 8. “I’m working to promote several small projects to help mitigate the traffic issues we deal with every day. It is inevitable that we’ll get back to the gridlock shortly,” she added.
Finally, the Commissioner said she wants to tackle issues of government spending.
“The County has a $9 billion budget,” said Commissioner Cohen Higgins. “I will not vote to raise taxes or lay off employees; we’ve been taxed enough in this pandemic.”