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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Daniella Levine Cava formally joined the Miami-Dade County Commission Monday after defeating incumbent Linda Bell in the August primary.  Levine Cava, a liberal Democrat, beat a commissioner she said belonged to special interests.  Her pledge on Monday?

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“To be a voice for the people, many of whom have felt voiceless,” she said.  “No more.”

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Linda Bell blocked expansion of the county’s human rights law to include transgender people.  Among Levine Cava’s first acts in office?  To push again for transgender equality.

“I’m a prime co-sponsor of the human rights ordinance,” Levine Cava said with a broad smile.

Levine Cava was opposed by developers, who heavily bank-rolled the incumbent.  Bell got much of her money from builders, including $11,000 from Florida East Coast Industries that owns the Ludlum Trail, a six mile stretch of abandoned railroad that runs from MIA to Kendall that the company plans to build on.

Conservationists have said the narrow, long piece of land has the potential to be the “Central Park” of Miami.  The company promises to include green space but also construct commercial and housing development on the trail.  Levine Cava says she’ll fight for a trail that’s more green than sprawl.

“I don’t think we need development all along the corridor,” Levine Cava said.  “I think we need to have places that are pure park and we need to have places that are greater density, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to work that out.”

Ideally, Levine Cava said, the county can find a way to use the just passed state Amendment 1 (that provides funds for conservation) to buy the Ludlum Trail from the developers and make it a showcase park.

In a remarkable moment Monday, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson withdrew her candidacy to become chair of the county commission.  Edmonson, saying she wanted to unify the commission and the community, threw her support to the only other nominee, Commissioner Jean Monestime.

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Amid a cheering full house, Monestime was unanimously elected the first Haitian-American chairman of the commission.  He is a progressive Democrat and champion of the poor.

“We will allow our diversity to strengthen our community instead of divide us,” a visibly moved Monestime said.

Labor was loving it.

“I think it’s a breath of fresh air,” said John Rivera, president of the P.B.A., the county’s police union.  “It gives county employees the hope of respect and an open door and an open ear.  We are excited.”

A conservative Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has clashed with the unions, shrugged off Monday’s lean to the left on the commission.

“In no way shape or form should party politics get involved with Miami-Dade County,” Gimenez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.  “Listen, it hasn’t worked very well in Washington, so why should it work well here?”

Out-going Chair Rebeca Sosa, a Republican, called Edmonson’s support of Monestime to assume the chairmanship one of the most impressive political moments she had witnessed.

In the love fest at county hall, it was indeed hard to tell the Democrats from the Republicans.

For all his insistence that party isn’t important in county politics, Mayor Gimenez may feel a shifting wind, however.  It has been reported that he is considering changing his party affiliation from Republican to Independent.

Gimenez stands for re-election in 2016, and there is already buzz he could face some formidable opponents.  Perhaps with that in mind, he’s scheduled a round of TV interviews Tuesday as a new and potentially less friendly commission takes office.

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