MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez hosted a social media town hall meeting Thursday night at the Stephen P. Clark Center.
Six hundred questions were submitted to Mayor Gimenez via Facebook; Twitter, #AskMayorGimenez; and www.miamidade.gov from Miami-Dade County residents and employees.
“I’m excited to be here,” Mayor Gimenez said. “This is my first time ever doing something like this, and I think it provides a great opportunity for me to get in touch with our community in a new way. I want to thank everyone who submitted questions and participated. In the coming weeks, I’ll be hosting more in-person and virtual town hall meetings.”
Earlier Thursday, tutoring students inside the Sunset branch of the Miami-Dade library, Janine Rodriguez had a simple question.
“If they cut this library down where will our kids go?” she asked.
It is a question that will need answering if Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s budget is approved by county commissioners this fall.
Gimenez calls for closing the Sunset branch as well as 12 other libraries. Those libraries are: Kendale Lakes, Little River, Edison Center, Fairlawn, South Shore, North Central, Culmer, Country Walk, Palm Springs North, Virrick Park, Tamiami, and Civic Center.
He also plans on closing the larger regional libraries on Sundays and the remaining branch libraries will only be open four days a week. As a result, 191 county employees who work for the library system could be laid off.
The library cuts will save the county $18.5 million.
Rodriguez is a teacher at Cypress Elementary. On Thursday, she was at the Sunset branch along with fellow teacher Jennifer Spurr tutoring students.
“If you look around the library there is young and old here,” Spurr told CBS4’s Jim DeFede. “It is definitely benefiting everybody in our community. I’m surprised to hear [the mayor wants to close it].”
Both women said the library provides a safe place for kids and that every effort should be made to keep the library open.
“It’s a small library, so I don’t think it is taking up too much money,” Spurr said. “But it is definitely being used. Every time we come here it is crowded and there are people here at all times.”
“Anything that has to do with education should never be cut,” agreed Rodriguez.
But Gimenez needs to find places to cut. He has a $409 million budget gap to fill, as well as a campaign promise to cut property taxes by as much as 11 percent.
In order to accomplish both, the mayor unveiled a budget that calls for laying off up to 1,300 county employees. He plans to close the county’s Boot Camp for juvenile offenders as well as the Women’s Detention Center.
Reaction to Gimenez’s budget has been cautious as community leaders and county commissioners study the details.
Thursday, commissioners debated the mayor’s plan to eliminate the county’s Head Start program – resulting in 400 county employees losing their jobs.
County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who used to oversee the county’s Head Start program, angrily decried the plan to eliminate the program.
“When it comes to people and their livelihoods it is personal, it’s personal to me,” Jordan said.
The mayor, as well as several commissioners, believes the county will be able to serve more disadvantaged children by paying private companies to take over the Head Start program since the private firms are able to do it cheaper.
“If we don’t have the money there is nothing we can do,” said County Commissioner Rebecca Sosa.
Gimenez will be hosting a traditional town hall meeting on Thursday, July 28 at 7 p.m., at the Kendall Village Civic Center Pavillion at 8625 SW 124th Avenue.