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What You Need To Know About The Two Candidates Running For Miami-Dade County Mayor

Bovo and Cava 2.jpeg
Pedro Portal and Daniel A. Varela
Miami Herald
Miami-Dade county commissioners and mayoral run-off candidates Esteban "Steve" Bovo (left) and Daniella Levine Cava

Miami-Dade County will have a new mayor come November. We heard from the two remaining candidates for the mayoral post.

On this Monday, Oct. 19, episode of Sundial:

In just a few weeks, Miami-Dade County will have a new mayor.

Voters across the county lined up Monday — the first day of early voting — to submit their ballots.

Miami-Dade County mayoral candidates, County Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Esteban "Steve" Bovo, joined Sundial to discuss their ideas for responding to COVID-19 and their approach to the environment, traffic, housing and social justice issues.

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Bovo currently represents District 13, which includes Hialeah, Miami Lakes, Palm Springs North, and neighboring areas of unincorporated Miami-Dade. He’s held that seat since 2011.

Levine Cava currently represents District 8, which includes South Miami-Dade. She’s held that seat since 2014.

They are both running to succeed Carlos Gimenez, who has reached his term limit and is running for U.S. Congress.

The conversation was moderated by Sundial host, Luis Hernandez, and Miami Herald reporter Doug Hanks.

This excerpt of the conversation has been edited for clarity.

On the county’s COVID-19 response

BOVO: The ones that were punished the most were business owners and restaurants. And I didn't agree with that. Once I’m elected mayor, what I will do is not only collaborate with the city's administrators to come up with one game plan, where we are united in our voices across the spectrum in Miami-Dade County, but that we also start working with the businesses and the mom and pops. These businesses are not members of big chambers in order to come up with plans that allow them to open safely and take care of their customers.

We need to come to grips with the fact that we may have to live with this virus for another six months or a year. And I would tell you right now, this is not sustainable. We need to take care of folks that are most vulnerable in our community. But let's start letting people act responsibly. You can require masks and social distancing, but you can't put a hammer on businesses where people that live in my community have been without work now for seven months.

LEVINE CAVA: We know that number one is our health. I'll be bringing in a chief medical officer to guide us through all of this. We need both our lives and our livelihoods — it's a false dichotomy to pit one against the other. Unfortunately, we closed down too slowly and opened up too quickly. We spiked and the damage was huge to our business community and to our entire economy. We need to proceed with facts and science.

Any time that we let up and take away these simple measures and communicating clearly in coordination with our cities, in coordination with the majority who definitely still recognize the virus is with us, then we are putting our businesses at risk once again. As we open, we must continue to take all these precautions and be guided by science.

On policing and social justice

LEVINE CAVA: We have racism in our society, we have racism in our country. Fortunately, we have not had the kind of George Floyd murder that happened in Milwaukee (note: George Floyd's death was in Minneapolis). I'm not saying that's what happened here, but unfortunately, communities have a history sometimes of fearing police because of what is perceived and has been disproportionate treatment bias targeting. There are communities that train their children, for example, not to trust the police. We have to get past that. We have to find a way for the police to be trusted across communities so they can do their jobs. But to be clear, the current police training is state of the art. I had the chance to visit a couple of weeks ago with the training bureau and all the things that people talk about in terms of implicit bias and quick decision making, our police training is oriented in that way and as a result, we are seeing good outcomes in our county police department.

I was a sponsor of the [police review panel] legislation. I'm a firm supporter of it. I'm looking forward to putting it into place. I think it will be a huge boon to communities that do lack trust in our police and we'll help to restore trust. I think it will turn out to be a win-win-win for the community and for the police.

BOVO: The commission made a decision [in favor of the police review panel]. As mayor, not only will support that decision, I'll work to make sure it's implemented and working in the best way possible. What I hope is that we don't allow it to turn into some sort of political apparatus just to justify itself. And I hope that the cases that it takes up are cases that will lead to better outcomes as far as our police is concerned. I hope it may lead to a better training manual for our police officers. And as mayor, I will make sure it's working to what the commission believes is its intent and purpose.

There may be [distrust in the police]. I can't put myself into a situation where somebody might have that distrust of the police department. I consider our police department’s training process probably most progressive. It should be an example for the entire southeast United States. We have body cams and chokeholds banned. I enjoy not just the wide support of the South Florida PBA, but of all the local Fraternal Order of Police units and the Hispanic Police Officers Association. I'm going to be working with them because I think everything starts with safety and security. If you create safety and security, you're going to create prosperous neighborhoods that I'm committed to doing that.

On transportation

BOVO: In order for us to move on transportation, it's going to take federal and state money. It may take public-private partnerships. Having transportation options is not cheap. It's expensive. We need to fulfill the vision of the SMART plan and we need to do that in housing at the same time. Like what we've seen a Dadeland where the west of the Metrorail station has seen some growth apartments. One of my colleagues, Commissioner Dennis Moss, said he'd like to see more Dadeland down the south corridor all the way into Florida City. There's no reason why we can't replicate that model in many instances. If we don't solve this issue of transportation, we're not going to be able to bring the Amazons and Googles of tomorrow. We need to solve this in order to diversify our economy and doing that also energizes our economy because you're gonna have a lot of jobs that are going to come in.

LEVINE CAVA: We definitely need to move forward with the things that are ready to move forward. We are going to have an express bus on I-95 going over to Miami Beach to serve the hotels and the workers there. That's going to be critical with FDOT support. We need to move forward on the greater frequency of the most popular bus routes. And let's not make fun of people who are dependent on transit. This is what people ride to work every single day. People need an improved bus service. But let's just be sure we're not rushing something against the wishes of the receiving city so it can be on someone's resumé as they leave County Hall. This is not something that needs to move forward without that kind of input.

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.