MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida’s Primary Election is August 18. There are quite a few high profile races including the race for Miami Dade County Mayor.
CBS4’s Jim DeFede spoke to the four major candidates and those interviews aired on Facing South Florida.
Here is part of Jim’s interview with Miami-Dade Commissioner Danielle Levine Cava.
DeFede: Just give me your overview as to where you stand on transit?
Cava: Yes. Well, I am a transit advocate. I’ve recognized from the beginning that traffic will only be solved with quality transit, we don’t have it. As Commissioner, I have fought hard for the replacement of the bus fleet, for the electrification of the bus fleet, for the last mile solutions, for circulators not just in the cities, but outside and the better bus project, which we have a plan. It’s been developed and we need to move forward with it because it will make our bus system much more reliable, much more frequent, and more people will be able to depend upon it. So we have a lot of things that are coming down the pike, as well as the six corridors that were prioritized in the smart plan with two of them really underway. We’ve got the 836 Express Bus that has saved a huge amount of time coming from Dolphin Mall downtown. With the lanes that were striped right before you know, just as MDX was shutting down. We got those and we did get the $100 million grant for the bus rapid transit on the south corridor.
Now I voted against Bus Rapid Transit, I voted for bringing the rail, the one seat ride, the continuation because it was demonstrated by the studies to so enhance the number of people that would use it, it would really have been a game changer. But the Mayor came in he said, ‘No, we can’t do it anymore. We need that money for other corridors’ and he shut the whole thing down, wouldn’t even consider going part way to Cutler Bay to the Southland Mall, which would have been a great solution and bus from there so extremely, extremely frustrating how these decisions have been made. For Alex Penellas to say that he’s going to dump those plans and start all over is another lie. You know, those dollars are not committed at the federal level, we could be considered for that but we wouldn’t be rated as high. But you know, this, this plan is underway, rail would be another eight years. So yes, I stood for rail. And what I’ve done is I’ve tried to make sure that we got gold standard BRT, which wasn’t in the original, so I got that. And also to make sure that when we have the ridership that justifies it, that these platforms, these stations will be convertible for rail. So we’re building for a future with a rail extension.
DeFede: The Kendall Express lanes, crossing over the EDB into the Everglades. What’s your position on that?
Cava: Yes, so I never supported this Kendall Parkway. Again, this was another bait and switch from Mayor Gimenez, who was all about transit. And then unfortunately, he became the chair of the Miami Dade Expressway Authority, and he had access to those funds. And he thought okay, we’ll tell the people in Kendall that will solve their problems with this toll road extension, but in actual fact, we had the information at the time of the decision. This was driven by the mayor, we knew that it would not really save time, three minutes was what we’re talking about.
DeFede: Let’s take a let’s take a step back and talk about money invested in the transit system. Because I know one of the things that for instance, Alex Penellas has, has hit on you and others regarding this, he advocated for the half penny sales tax. He says that the ultimate problem with the half penny sales tax is that the money that was being accrued for projects like rail ended up being raided by commissioners such as yourself to help fill budget gaps, that while that may have been necessary in 2008, when you had the recession, that you’ve returned to it every year since and you continue to use and he cites you specifically, continues to use the half penny sales tax money to plug budget holes in other parts of the budget.
Cava: Right. So this started with the half penny lie. And we need to be super clear about that because he’s seeking to dodge that responsibility. This was a program that was going to cost a penny. When the penny failed, they rolled it over to a half penny. They never changed the programs. So the same promises for a full penny, now we’ve got a half penny, you know, do the math, it does not add up. Now, there was a recession. This is before I came on the Commission, the Citizens Independent Trust that oversees the funds gave the county permission to use some of those dollars for operation. That’s because the county has never made a substantial commitment to transit. Transit should not be based on the fare box; transit is an infrastructure issue. We need it for everyone’s well-being. I came on in 2014 to the Commission and I have been pushing since the beginning to unroll what they call the unification unwind, unwind the unification and finally, this is the first year that it is fully unwound but last year as well, I’ve been pushing for it every year, and I tried even to make it permanent and my colleagues rebuffed me. They said, okay, and this year’s budget, but you know, we don’t have a commitment on the record from the commission to not go ahead and rate it in the future.
DeFede: It just to be clear, you did vote for budgets over during your time as Commissioner that included raiding into that fund and using those funds to plug budget gaps.
Cava: Yeah, so what happened was that it needed to go backwards. You couldn’t stop all of a sudden running the transit system.
All of Jim’s interviews are available at CBSMIAMI.COM/2020