MIAMI (CBS4)- Two weeks before voting concludes in the Miami-Dade County mayoral race, five of the candidates — and, briefly, a sixth — met in a debate Tuesday morning to discuss what remain top issues across the region following the searing recession: fostering economic development and creating jobs.

At the forum, each of the candidates spoke about cutting red tape so small businesses can open and operate with a freer hand, putting government incentive programs under one roof so business owners can more easily access them, and declared they will operate as the county’s top salesman, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

“It’s about leadership,” said Marcelo Llorente, who pledged to be the county’s “chief economic development officer.”

Julio Robaina said the region has “failed horribly” at business development. The Hialeah mayor said the region remains “one of the poorest communities in the country.”

Unemployment currently stands at 12.9 percent in Miami-Dade and, more broadly, the region is continuing an effort to diversify from an economic base long supported by staples like tourism, trade and real estate construction. There are some bright spots. The University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park in Miami’s Health District, for instance, along with projects nearby, such as Scripps Research Institute in Palm Beach County, have injected some optimism about new industries emerging.

Early voting is under way in the race that will be decided on May 24. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top finishers will go to a runoff on June 28.

The debate, sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, featured five of the candidates: former county commissioner Carlos Gimenez, business executive and one-time commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cancio, former county transit director Roosevelt Bradley, former state legislator Llorente and mayor Robaina.

Five other candidates were not present: Eddie Lewis, Wilbur “Short Stop” Bell, Farid Khavari, Jeffrey Lampert and Gabrielle Redfern.

Redfern appeared after the debate and complained that said she had not been invited. “I thought this election would be open to all, not a few,” she said.

Chamber president and CEO Barry Johnson told Redfern that “everyone was invited.” The candidate said they were not.

Meanwhile, Luther Campbell, the former frontman for rap group 2 Live Crew, was invited but didn’t show up until the conclusion of the debate. He walked in as candidates prepared to give closing remarks.

Campbell apologized for being late but promptly took aim at the Chamber. “I’m a little disturbed,” Campbell said. “The Chamber says it is about the all the community. But I don’t think it’s been serving all the community, just some parts.”

For more stories related to the Mayoral election, click here.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

Comments (11)
  1. SANTI says:

    MR. CAMPELL,YOU SOUND TO RACIST.IF YOU BECOME MAYOR,YOU SUPPOSE TO BE FOR EVERYBOBY IN MIAMI DADE ,NOT JUST THE AFROAMERICAN COMUNITY IN MKAMIDADE.

    1. jack ostrander says:

      VOTE OUT ALL REPUBLICANS.
      They voted to kill medicare, medicaid, and hurt social security in House and Congress and it passed…..
      They voted to not stop giving Oil Companys there Bosses 16 billion a year, they don,t need this they make billions each quarter. this could be put towards medicare and medicaid…..
      STOP THE WARS IRAQ, AFGANISTAN, LIBIA, PAKISTAN drones.
      save 1 trillion there..
      Close 400 of the 600 bases and save 1 trillion there.
      Republicans are cutting policemens jobs, firemens jobs, school teacher jobs.
      BUSTING UNIONS.
      PLEASE DO NOT VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN UNLESS YOU WANT TO DIE.
      THEY ARE ONLY FOR THE RICH.

    2. EOS says:

      HeraLdRDR your use of ad hominem attacks puts you in the same category as the persons you accuse

    3. EOS says:

      All caps in your comments are not allowed

    4. EOS says:

      Mr Campbell’s platform says :”One Miami” and he will keep his word

  2. Marco Cruz says:

    Chamber holds a forum about the economy and jobs, but does not invite the economist who is ready to implement a plan to create 150,000 private sector jobs and turn Miami Dead into the leader of the country.

    Message from Mom:

    if we will allow ourselves to live in an abusive depressed economy we might as well go home and help our own people.

    She says that Miami was a good city and now it is a southern Detroit

    She was always proud to vote Cuban but that process has been over taken
    By the status Quo – put four Cuban lookalikes on the ballot and stay in power
    Now our blind pride is being used against us with trickery.

    This process of excluding solid candidates to create a fixed election is no better than our home land.

    If you wanted a Cuban by name only that represented the crooks that take from us, we had Alvarez.

    She also encouraged me to get an education so that I could think for myself
    And based on what is right and will help us all, mom and I will vote for Dr. Khavari

    I say we need to recall the Chamber – You guys are also responsible for Miami being among the poorest communities in the nation.

    OVERTHROW STATUS QUO

  3. observerfromupnorth says:

    First off I have to say this is NOT CUBA, let’s get off on the right foot here, we need people who are for the American dream that is what they came here for. So if you want the American dream start acting like one. We need to quit putting down the different cultures that live here and live as Americans, if you do not like the laws of the land then go back home. We had many immigrants for years and never one time did I see the disrespect that you see on every corner of this nation now. Let’s take America back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Marco Cruz says:

    Since I was the only mentioner of Cuban at this point I must assume you are mistakenly referring to my post – so I looked it over to see what has confused you –

    Maybe you read it to fast – and may it was her statement of – put four Cuban lookalikes on the ballot and stay in power
    Now our blind pride is being used against us with trickery.

    The reference is that Cubans aren’t voting are being tricked with the fake Cubans and need to focus on who is the better candidate – In our case we are voting for an economist that does have plan of recovery.

    I do agree that America needs to be taken back but it is not Cubans that have it.

    The article refers to closed elections and keeping prosperous ideas of recovery excluded much the same way as in Cuba.

    Voting for any other reason than because he or she is the best candidate will lead to – Oh yea, current day Miami Dade

  5. Sebastia says:

    We need someone with experience. Yesterday, congressman Mario Diaz-Balart endorsed candidate Juli Robaina for mayor of Miami-Dade.

  6. Jimbo99 says:

    “Meanwhile, Luther Campbell, the former frontman for rap group 2 Live Crew, was invited but didn’t show up until the conclusion of the debate. He walked in as candidates prepared to give closing remarks.

    Campbell apologized for being late but promptly took aim at the Chamber. “I’m a little disturbed,” Campbell said. “The Chamber says it is about the all the community. But I don’t think it’s been serving all the community, just some parts.””

    Wow, does anyone think this one could show up to work on time ?

    1. Jimbo99 says:

      Of course he’s disturbed ? My concern is that he’s not disturbed enough to show up and participate. Who knows, maybe he overslept ?