Miami Herald: Let the 2018 campaign season begin

Original link here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article142404769.html

Miami-Dade’s 2018 political season officially began Monday when County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava filed for reelection.

Two years into her first term representing South Dade, the Democrat expects a challenger for next August’s election, according to a source familiar with her thinking. The first commission candidate to file for the 2018 elections, Levine Cava said Monday she’s used to having her political vulnerabilities overestimated.

“They thought I didn’t have a chance to win the first time, too,” she said.

Though incumbents rarely lose their seats on the 13-member board, newcomers are more vulnerable than most. Levine Cava narrowly ousted predecessor Lynda Bell in 2014 during Bell’s first four-year term representing Miami-Dade’s District 8. Levine Cava also has been an advocate for workplace-housing requirements, campaign-finance caps and other left-leaning causes opposed by lobbyists, developers and other stalwarts of the county’s political fundraising circuit.
“I am proud of the progress we’ve made in a short period of time,” Levine Cava said in a press release announcing the filing of her candidacy papers for District 8, which includes Homestead, Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay. “I look forward to continuing to earn the voters’ trust and deliver on even more promises for our residents and businesses over the next few years.”

Monday evening, a former paid field operative for Florida’s Republican Party unveiled a website criticizing Levine Cava’s personal wealth and voting record, including her opposition to the planned American Dream Miami mega-mall proposed in Northwest Miami-Dade. Titled “Keeping up with Cava,” the website features a caricature of Levine Cava in a convertible zooming past a country club, cash flying out of the vehicle.

“Basically I want to bring a conservative back to that seat,” said Jaime Figueras, a regional field director for the Florida GOP until December. “I think people need to take a serious look at Levine Cava.”

Levine Cava said that the photo of the waterfront home on the website isn’t hers, and that she doesn’t belong to a country club. “I canoe and raft,” she said.

While Levine Cava is the first to file for any of the six commission seats up for election in August 2018, conditions are ripe for an unusually high-profile cycle.

Sally Heyman, a veteran commissioner and Democrat representing District 4 on the coast, drew the ire of Miami-Dade’s Democratic chairman this year when she championed Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s new policy to detain local inmates being sought for deportation by immigration authorities. Jose “Pepe” Diaz, of District 12, faces his first reelection since a 2015 Key West drunken driving arrest (he refused to have his breath tested for alcohol during the incident and was acquitted in May).

The odd-numbered commission districts follow the election cycle for the mayor, and are voted on during presidential years. Even-numbered districts face elections two years later. Also up for reelection in 2018: District 2’s Jean Monestime, District 6’s Rebeca Sosa, and District 10’s Javier Souto.

While the first votes in the 2018 commission races won’t be cast for 17 months, the timing of Levine Cava’s filing isn’t unprecedented. Incumbent Audrey Edmonson filed her reelection papers for 2016 in March 2015, and fellow board member Barbara Jordan filed a month later.

Term-limit rules approved in 2012 went into effect only last year, meaning all but one of the commissioners not up for reelection in 2018 must leave office in 2020. The exception, Joe Martinez, replaced incumbent Juan C. Zapata in District 11 last year and is eligible to run for a second term. All of the incumbents whose seats are up for election in 2018 would be running for a final four years, though Levine Cava is the only one up for her second term on the board.

Because Martinez served on the commission before, Levine Cava retained her rookie status after he rejoined the board last year. The former director of Catalyst Miami, a leading social-services organization, Levine Cava won office with the support of the Democratic Party, unions and other mainstays of the left. Bell is a prominent Republican, and the race was seen as a proxy battle between the two parties.

The commission elections take place in two stages: a nonpartisan primary for each seat in August, and then a November run-off for any district where a candidate fails to capture more than 50 percent of the vote. Once the commission elections are over, fundraising efforts will turn to the 2020 mayoral race.

Term limits prevent Gimenez from running again, setting up a wide-open race that’s attracting the attention of commissioners and their supporters. Levine Cava is mentioned as a potential candidate, especially with Democrats seeing an opportunity to tap into the high turnout expected for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

Other commissioner names making the rounds as potential mayoral candidates: Sosa, Monestime (who briefly flirted with an Gimenez challenge last year), Martinez (who lost to Gimenez in 2012), Xavier Suarez (a former Miami mayor who ran campaign ads against Gimenez in 2015 before opting against a challenge) and Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who represents District 13.

Miami Today: Daniella Levine Cava: Targeting more economic opportunity, accountability

Original link here: http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2016/11/15/daniella-levine-cava-targeting-economic-opportunity-accountability/

Daniella Levine Cava was trained as an attorney and social worker. She moved to Miami from the Northeast when her husband began working as a doctor here, and soon thereafter immersed herself in the community, first as an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami, followed by directing the guardian ad litem program and founding Voices for Children, its fundraising arm.

After Hurricane Andrew hit, Ms. Levine Cava was asked to lead an effort for addressing the displacement of children in South Dade. With the onset of welfare reform, she started a not for profit then called Human Services Coalition, which is now Catalyst Miami.

When people from groups in South Dade approached her in 2013 and asked that she run for office, Ms. Levine Cava had been at Catalyst Miami for 18 years. It was time for her to let it grow up, she said, as well as a good time for her to find a new opportunity.

Tomorrow marks two years since Ms. Levine Cava has been in the commission representing District 8, which covers about half of South Dade County, including Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Princeton, Naranja, Homestead, Redland, The Falls and parts of Kendall.

She said her job on the dais is an opportunity to get involved in some of the same concerns she had from her community work. The commission has done a lot of work toward fostering economic opportunity, bringing a fair share of resources to South Dade, and government accountability, she said, which was the main reason she ran in the first place.

Trust in government is critically important, Ms. Levine Cava said. She thinks people are not feeling very good about government at any level. That’s the framework for our democracy, she said, so it’s vital that our government inspire confidence and trust.

Miami Today reporter Susan Danseyar interviewed Ms. Levine Cava in her downtown office on the second floor of the Stephen P. Clark Center.

Florida Bulldog: Miami-Dade Commissioner questions value of $3.7 million Beacon Council subsidy

Original link here: http://www.floridabulldog.org/2016/10/miami-dade-commissioner-questions-value-of-3-7-million-beacon-council-subsidy/

An elected official’s recent inquiry into The Beacon Council, a private agency that is tasked with keeping companies in Miami-Dade and attracting new ones, revealed that 10 firms that supposedly received assistance in the past year have either zero presence or no employees based locally.

County Commissioner Xavier Suarez said his investigation raises doubt about whether Miami-Dade should continue subsidizing The Beacon Council, which it does to the tune of $3.7 million a year.

“My instinct tells me we could use that money more effectively for micro-loans and insurance subsidies for small businesses,” Suarez told Florida Bulldog. “Just about anything else but giving money to The Beacon Council bureaucracy makes more sense.”

Dyan Brasington, The Beacon Council’s executive vice president of economic development, defended the agency’s performance in an email statement that claimed the agency facilitated the creation and retention of 2,840 jobs in the past fiscal year.

“These jobs contribute an estimated $50 million to the local economy and help families thrive and prosper while generating additional indirect jobs,” Brasington said. “The companies that have expanded or located to Miami-Dade will spend $188.2 million in new capital investment and occupy over 1 million square feet of commercial space.”

Suarez colleague Daniella Levine Cava, a Beacon Council board member, also defended the agency’s track record. “I think the Beacon Council has done a good job in the narrow aspect of economic development,” the county commissioner from South Dade said. “What they have done has not been effectively communicated to the public.”

However, Suarez’s probe turned up some troubling evidence when members of his staff attempted to verify The Beacon Council’s assertions in its Third Quarter Key Performance Indicators Report. During the first week in August, Suarez’s staffers conducted on-site visits to the addresses of the 10 firms that were provided to The Beacon Council, according to an Aug. 22 memo the county commissioner sent the agency’s then-CEO Larry K. Williams.

For instance, on Aug. 10, Suarez aide Joanne Padron visited The Doral Professional Center at 7950 NW 53rd St., where Alpha Trade, a construction materials import and export business that received Beacon Council assistance, supposedly had an office suite. Instead, Padron found Offix Solutions, a shared-office space for multiple companies with a single receptionist, who informed her that no one from Alpha Trade was available to meet with her.

Padron was also unable to find any state incorporation records for Alpha Trade or its phone number. On Oct. 21, during a visit to Offix Solutions, the receptionist told a Florida Bulldog reporter that there was no Alpha Trade located in their shared office space and that the company’s CEO, Sergio Santa Ana, was not listed in their directory. “I’ve got an Alpha International,” she said. “But there’s no one with the name Sergio Santa Ana. Maybe they went out of business.”

Santa Ana did not respond to a request for comment sent to an email address listed on Alpha Trade’s Facebook page, which lists the Offix Solutions location as the company’s location.

Another Suarez aide, Ela Pestano, stopped by 2330 Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables on Aug. 12 to verify the existence of GeoGlobal USA, a start-up company that is going to import and sell home goods and furniture in the United States and Mexico, according to The Beacon Council’s third-quarter report. The agency claims it helped GeoGlobal by providing contacts, referrals, training and workforce recruitment assistance.

Pestano informed Suarez she found an accounting firm, Hernandez & Co., at 2330 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, but no GeoGlobal. She also visited another address in Doral that GeoGlobal listed in its state incorporation records that turned out to be the headquarters for A Customs Brokerage, a shipping and logistic company. Padron told her boss that individuals at Hernandez & Co. and A Customs Brokerage had never heard of GeoGlobal.

Florida Bulldog visited Hernandez & Co. and A Customs Brokerage the same day as Offix Solutions. A woman at the accounting firm said GeoGlobal was her client and uses 2330 Ponce de Leon Boulevard as a mailing address. She declined to provide Florida Bulldog with a contact person for GeoGlobal. At A Customs, a company representative also said GeoGlobal was a client that used their address, but was not physically located there.

Suarez’s aides turned up similar results for the eight other firms identified in The Beacon Council’s third-quarter report.

According to a Sept. 2 memo from Williams to Suarez, The Beacon Council’s then-CEO informed the commissioner that it was not unusual for new companies like Alpha Trade and GeoGlobal to have temporary office space before establishing a permanent address. “Given the nature of decision making for corporate relocations and expansions, the outcome of your staff’s outreach does not surprise me,” Williams said. “The person knowledgeable about the transaction is not the person at the reception desk and is sometimes in a different office.”

In his response to Florida Bulldog, Brasington said CEOs and executives whose companies receive Beacon Council assistance must attest in writing to the work the agency provides their businesses. “Company leaders often do not share information about location or expansion decisions with employees or even middle management, which is why some employees may not be aware of the assistance provided by The Beacon Council,” Brasington explained. “The economic development process of educating and then recruiting or retaining businesses can be lengthy.”

However, the same week Williams sent Suarez the letter, he resigned as Beacon Council CEO to assume the same role for Atlanta’s Technology Association of Georgia, where he was previously a vice president. The commissioner’s inquest occurred just as The Beacon Council — which relies on $3.7 million in county permitting fees for its $5.2 million annual budget — became an issue in the county mayor’s race. Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, who is in a runoff with County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, has made eliminating The Beacon Council one of her campaign promises.

Suarez told Florida Bulldog he held a public meeting earlier this month with Levine Cava and Beacon Council chairman and Greenberg Traurig co-managing shareholder Jaret Davis to discuss his findings. “I stated my views that a lot of people in the business community don’t see the sense in giving $3.7 million to The Beacon Council for promoting economic development,” Suarez said. “I am leaving it in the hands of my colleague, who expressed some of the same concerns I have.”

Levine Cava told Florida Bulldog that The Beacon Council does have room for improvement, but doesn’t believe it should be cut off from county funding. “I found The Beacon Council’s response to Suarez to be credible,” she said. “In each case, there was a logical explanation for what his staff found. There is nothing that cries out a problem exists.”

South Dade News Leader: Levine Cava Seeks to Ban Fracking in Miami-Dade

Original link here: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/levine-cava-seeks-to-ban-fracking-in-miami-dade/article_07df8ed6-81d1-11e6-a64e-1b49b72160ac.html

An ordinance banning fracking has passed an initial committee hearing at county hall.

The legislation was brought forwarrd by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who represents parts of South Dade, and would regulate and/or prohibit the well stimulation method of gas and oil exploration, commonly known as fracking.

There is a way to receive a variance, but it would require a public hearing and a positive vote from the board of County Commissioners.

Judging by the passionate response this ordinance got from the public last week in its preliminary form, a public hearing would be a daunting hurdle to jump over.

“This shouldn’t be just atheoretical ordinance, there is a proposed well site in Broward that possibly possesses a threat to the Miami-Dade water. They [the oil companies] are looking for sites in South Florida,” Jorge Aguilar warned at the public hearing.

Levine Cava thanked the crowd for showing up, showing passion, and making a compelling case.

“This commission has stood solidly behind the state ban,” Levine Cava said when addressing the dais.

She also acknowledged the situation in Southwest Florida where the oil and gas industry have set their targets on, and possibly even more of the South. She called the possibility “chilling.”

“This risk, the potential long term damage can not be compromised for the short term gain of a few,” said Levine Cava.

In it’s current form, the ordinance will serve as the rules in unincorporated parts of the county, and as a minimum standard for the incorporated portions.

The new article it creates is specifically for gas and oil exploration that utilizes well stimulation. Usually such tactics employed are a protected trade secret, and so no specifics in chemicals or methods are traditionally made public. And so the wording is broad while still specifically describing fracking.

It is described as “a well intervention, exploration, operation, or maintenance procedure performed by injecting fluid, which may include additives, into a rock formation to increase the rate of production at an oil or gas well by increasing the flow of hydrocarbons from the formation into the wellbore.”

But the ordinance does chiefly cite the “health, safety, welfare, comfort and convenience” of the county residents and their property rights as the driving force behind the steps.

The legislative findings state that potential impacts of such fracking would impact properties well past the immediate vicinity, possibly causing structural damage to buildings and foundations.

While variances are a possibility, they would only be granted if a hardship is shown by the literal enforcement of the regulations. Meanwhile the variance must be simpatico with the spirit of the ordinance and not result in harm to the land.

Fracking in Florida would mean using acids and chemicals said Levine Cava, and it could “pose a threat to the drinking water.”

Then of course it must be granted with a public hearing attached to it.

“I wanted to thank you all for your leadership. The ordinance passing last week sent a message to the state legislature,” said Pete Gonzalez who spoke during the public hearing. “It has no place here, and we already have enough threats to our drinking water.”

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Commissioner experiences first National Convention

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/kendall-gazette/commissioner-experiences-first-national-convention/

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who represents District 8, served as a delegate to the recent 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. This was Levine Cava’s first time at a Democratic National Convention and it made a huge impact on her as a commissioner.

The Convention ran from Monday, July 25, to Thursday, July 28.

“It is a convention of a lifetime,” Levine Cava said. “I had never been active in Democratic Party matters prior to the convention.”

Levine Cava said she believes this upcoming presidential election is important because it determines what is at stake for the nation. She was excited to attend the convention for a couple of reasons. In addition to being her first time at a convention, her son just moved back to Philadelphia after being out of the country for one year in India.

The ability to witness Hillary Clinton on the convention stage was an overpowering experience for Levine Cava.

“I have been a great admirer of her for many years,” Levine Cava said.

She knows Clinton personally because they worked on the same children and women’s issues for organizations that supported the Children’s Defense Fund where Clinton served as the board chair. Clinton and Levine Cava also attended Yale University, although at different times. Levine Cava went to Yale as an undergraduate student and Clinton went as a law school student.

“I feel confident that the Democratic nominee will be able to move the country forward. She will be inclusive and be able to allay our fears. I think she will be able to strengthen our economy and restore trust in the government,” the commissioner said. “The whole tone of the convention was one of optimism with a path toward strengthening our democracy and country.”

Levine Cava takes her job as a commissioner for Miami-Dade County seriously. She serves in a non-partisan seat and believes that it is very important to solve issues at the local level. She said that the decisions that are made cross political lines, and she doesn’t want to mix her Democratic Party affiliation with her commissioner duties.

“I’m always looking for a commonsense approach for my constituents,” Levine Cava said.

She was sworn into office in November 2014 and wants to accomplish many things for South Miami-Dade including enhancing environmental factors, creating more jobs, improving transportation options and solving economic issues. “It has been a great opportunity, and I’m so grateful that I was elected.”

Levine Cava said the main reason ran for office is because of the distrust in the government, which she feels is hurtful.

“I will do everything I can do in my lifetime to instill a sense of pride in the government and the country.”

She has worked on improving government transparency as a commissioner.

Levine Cava received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and graduate degrees in law and social work from Columbia University. She is married to Dr. Robert Cava and raised two children, Eliza and Edward Cava, in Miami-Dade County.

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Student is a summer intern with county commissioner

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/featured/student-summer-intern-county-commissioner/

Mark Merwitzer, a resident of Palmetto Bay and a student at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, is turning his summer vacation time into a learning experience of a different kind. He currently is a summer intern for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.

Merwitzer, who has been very active in standing up for the needs and wants of his community since age 7, when he helped push for higher wages and better benefits for teachers, was appointed at the age of 15 to the Palmetto Bay Youth Advisory Board.

Since then he has raised money and handled many logistical aspects for the Palmetto Bay Relay for Life booth. He has taken an active interest in politics on all levels, local through national.

“I first met the commissioner in May, when I saw about the FPL Turkey Point Power Plant meeting in Community Newspapers,” Merwitzer said. “I’ve learned a lot about how local government works. I’m really thankful for Commissioner Levine Cava mentoring me and giving me useful advice.”

A personal project Merwitzer has been working on relates to distracted driving due to cell phone use. Besides research, he has drafted a letter to the legislators for his district, Rep. Michael Bileca and Sen. Gwen Margolis. He plans to reach out to them by telephone and also invite them to meet with him in the hope they will sponsor legislation at the state level to allow county or municipal regulations regarding cell phone use while driving. Currently the state has full control over cell phone laws. Already, the Office of Rep. Holly Raschein has invited Merwitzer to meet and discuss these policy considerations.

“I want to give back to the community and help make this a safer place to live and work,” Merwitzer said. “Cell phone usage is the No. 1 cause of distraction in auto accidents. My plan right now, since Florida legislators are in recess, is to try to speak with them about this issue.”

Merwitzer started his summer internship at the end of June and in the fall will begin classes at the Miami Dade School of Advanced Studies, Wolfson Campus, where he will do both high school and college level work. Merwitzer also has a passion for aviation and computers. He built his first computer at age 13 and currently is pursuing his private pilot’s license.

Richard A. Morgan, community liaison and special projects at Commissioner Levine Cava’s office, is pleased Merwitzer is there.

“He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our team,” Morgan said. “We have enjoyed having him, as well as our other summer interns.”

Merwitzer would like to encourage others to reach out and share their concerns about distracted driving due to cell phones as well.

Readers may find their state representatives at the following link: www.flsenate.gov/Senators/Find or by calling Miami-Dade 3-1-1.

Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Commissioner calls for special meeting on Zika efforts

Original link here:

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2016/08/miami-dade-commissioner-calls-for-special-meeting-on-zika-efforts.html

UPDATE: Monestime and Levince Cava have called a special meeting Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on the 18th floor of the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday she will request a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners to discuss coordinating local, state and federal efforts to quash a Zika virus outbreak in the city of Miami.

So far, health officials have identified 15 people who have contracted the virus from mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County, all but one of which inhabited a one-square-mile zone in and around Wynwood. The county has increased efforts to kill mosquitoes in the area, and county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have all made appearances in the neighborhood during the last three days to answer questions about local and state efforts.

Gimenez and Scott have planned a joint press 3:30 p.m. conference Thursday at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center, 9300 NW 41 Street, in Doral.

Here’s a copy of Levine Cava’s letter:

August 4, 2016

The Honorable Carlos A. Gimenez
Mayor, Miami-Dade County
Stephen P. Clark Center
111 NW 1st Street
29th Floor
Miami, Florida 33128

Dear Mayor Gimenez,

Thank you for your leadership thus far in addressing the threat of the Zika virus in our community. We have all been watching developments in the spread of this disease closely, with national and international news outlets reporting on the matter over the last few days.

I know your office has been coordinating with various government agencies to ensure we engage in an aggressive public education campaign. Further, I know action has been taken for aerial spraying to control mosquitoes and the distribution of repellant wipes for residents.

As we work together to face this challenge and keep our residents and visitors healthy, it is imperative that we all coordinate our efforts effectively and deploy our elected leaders to ensure that the state and federal governments put resources in place to combat the impact of Zika on our community and our tourism brand.

Today I will send a memorandum to Chairman Jean Monestime requesting that he convene an emergency meeting of the Board of County Commissioners pursuant to Rule 3.02(b) of the Rules of Procedure to discuss our response to the public health threats posed by the Zika virus. Such a meeting would provide the opportunity to coordinate the support from our federal partners, and to understand what support Miami-Dade County can expect from the state of Florida.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to working together to keep Miami-Dade healthy and open for business.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Danilla Levine Cava celebrates first year as District 8 Commissioner

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/pinecrest/danilla-levine-cava-celebrates-first-year-as-district-8-commissioner/

It’s been a whirlwind year for District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who celebrated her first year in office on Nov.18th.

An active volunteer in her community since her childhood in the ‘60s and working in community service in South Florida since 1982, her victory in District 8—which includes Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Homestead and unincorporated areas of South Dade including the Redlands, Falls, Princeton, Naranja, Leisure City and parts of West Kendall—marked the first time she ever ran for public office and just the third time anyone in Miami-Dade County history defeated an incumbent commissioner.

“There were many individuals over the years who had asked me to run for public office and I thought that it was a good opportunity to take my decades of service to a different level and give back in this deeper way,” she said. “We’re very happy with what we’ve accomplished this year.”

With an ambitious campaign focusing on issues such as job growth, increased environmental responsibility, improved transit, affordable housing, government accountability and responsiveness to community concerns, Commissioner Levine Cava knew she had to hit the ground running her first year.

She partnered with District 9 Commissioner Dennis Moss to host the inaugural South Dade Solutions Summit, where business, community and government leaders outlined success plans in the areas of transportation, the economy and quality of life and where more than 170 community stakeholders were in attendance.

Recommendations included the county buying local food and produce, promotion of “farm to table” dining, transit investments and greater marketing of the region’s unique assets. The plan drawn from the summit, she said, will be the guiding document framing District 8’s agenda over the next three years.

“We really are working with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Beacon Council and local mayors to come up with a shared marketing plan for South Dade,” she said.

Commissioner Levine Cava was instrumental in the purchase and implementation of 60-foot, super-capacity “bending” buses along the South Dade Busway, a crucial move to relieve commuters of congested roadways. She also secured county support for transit-oriented development in Palmetto Bay with funds recovered from stagnant projects.

“Even though we’ve got the new buses, we still have to make improvements to the busways and do more to turn our bike paths into real transportation options,” she said. “We currently have an item to move the city circulators onto the busway and coordinate them so it’ll also be an enhancement to transit.”

Joining forces with a coalition of engaged county residents, Commissioner Levine Cava helped restore funding for local parks, doubling her goal of 10 percent to 20 percent. On the climate change front, she and District 6 Commissioner Rebecca Sosa have united to combat sea level rise with sensible approaches that will continue to develop over the course of her term.

“In recent years, there have been cuts to all kinds of basic services and this was the first year that we were going to see an opportunity to restore some of those cuts,” she said. “We were determined to restore funding to the parks in a significant away and did so in coalition with hundreds—if not thousands—of residents who petitioned, sent letters and showed up at public meetings, so we’re really thrilled about these particular results.”

Great strides were also made in the agricultural region. She added a position to the Office of the Agricultural Manager, passed legislation that required the county to purchase locally for produce (a move which is now being applied to Metro Zoo and corrections), voted against proposals that would move the urban development boundaries into agricultural areas and held a meeting of stakeholders, the Agricultural Innovation Zone, to develop competitive grant funding for improvements in agriculture.

“Focusing on lifting up small businesses in the agricultural area is critical, but we’re also trying to bring new revenue and investors into the area,” she said. “We’re just developing the Agricultural Innovation Zone now, but that would be one way we would bring new investors to the area, new excitement and new momentum. There’s a lot of interest among the stakeholders that include Miami-Dade College, Florida International University, Farm Hero, local farmers and the like.”

Last month, the inaugural Small Business Academy concluded its first implementation with a panel discussion and expo that saw more than 30 local entrepreneurs meet with financial institutions to explore growth and partnership options. The brainchild of Commissioner Levine Cava and several economic development agencies, the program was designed to provide free workshops, training and tools to help local businesses overcome challenges. She also worked to expand access to libraries by soliciting additional funding and hours for several branches throughout District 8 and launched a program to bring technical assistance and training to nonprofits, as well as additional funding through impact grants.

“I come from a nonprofit background and feel that nonprofits are the backbones of our communities,” she said. “As a former nonprofit exec, I know how hard it is to gain funds that you can use to advocate for public policy and not just for the purpose of providing direct service. All of our grants were to nonprofits that had plans to lift up the voices of the people they were serving by becoming involved in advocacy and civil engagement.”

In commemoration of her first year in office, Commissioner Levine Cava revisited places and participated in activities she knew would attract diverse crowds of people from her district. She attended a rousing church service in Homestead, spoke at the Small Business Academy graduation and expo in Cutler Bay, recognized nonprofit grantees at a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, spent her inaugural “Small Business Friday” at various small business including Motes Orchids and the Circle D Ranch in Homestead, watched NASCAR at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, spent time with seniors at East Ridge in Cutler Bay, went to a parade at The Falls, went on a Sunday bike ride with Palmetto Bay mayor Eugene Flinn, visited a fire station to meet firefighters and kicked off the 100th anniversary of national parks on Monday.

“That week was like a panoramic view of all the wonders of District 8 and really how joyful it is to be able to serve,” she said. “This was a way not only of celebrating, but reporting back to the community and hearing suggestions for year two. It was the voters of District 8 that had the confidence and hope that I could be a good steward for their wants, needs and public investments. I want to underscore that it goes back to them.”

For information, visit MiamiDade.gov/District8.

Miami’s Community Newspapers: District 8 Small Business Academy concludes with expo

Original link here:  http://communitynewspapers.com/cutlerbay/district-8-small-business-academy-concludes-with-expo/

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava concluded the inaugural District 8 Small Business Academy with an access to capital forum and expo on Nov. 16 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.

More than 30 entrepreneurs attended the free, eight-week program — the first of its kind by a county commissioner — which culminated with a panel discussion and expo, where participants could meet with financial institutions to explore growth and partnership options. Graduates received certificates signed by Miami- Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, commission chair Jean Monestime and Commissioner Levine Cava.

“The District 8 Small Business Academy was created to support our small businesses in South Dade, who are the backbone of our economy and help our community thrive,” Commissioner Levine Cava said. “We created the program with input from the priorities expressed at the South Dade Solutions Summit earlier this summer and it culminates tonight, in our capstone event, with our small business owners making pitches to possible investors, bankers and other groups that can help finance their operation.”

Held in June, the South Dade Solutions Summit identified investment in small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurialism as key factors in local prosperity. Participants pointed to training, technical assistance, joint marketing and access to capital as important issues in need of addressing. The District 8 Small Business Academy was one of the results of the summit.

“Small businesses are vital community partners and I am committed to delivering the resources they need to prosper,” she said. “Empowering our local entrepreneurs is a win-win for our economy and our quality of life; when we empower our small businesses, our entire community thrives.”

The expo marked the first anniversary of Commissioner Levine Cava’s election to office. In commemoration, the District 8 office launched 8 Days of Engagement, a celebration of South Dade’s unique community.

“I am enjoying this anniversary even more than my 60th birthday, which was earlier this fall,” she said. “South Dade is a very unique and special place. We have tremendous assets — our people. It was my greatest wish that I’d be able to contribute in some way to growing our local economy. Because of the work of everyone putting this program together and because of you all showing up, my wish has come true.”

Sponsors for the District 8 Small Business Academy include Partners for Self- Employment, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, Economic Development Council of South Dade, Miami-Dade County Small Business Development Division, The Beacon Council, CareerSource of South Florida and the Florida International University Small Business Development Clinic.

For more information, visit MiamiDade.gov/district08.

South Dade News Leader: Small Business Academy Helps Fledgling Enterprises Hit Next Level

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http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/small-business-academy-helps-fledgling-enterprises-hit-next-level/article_b3d4a4ea-8fa3-11e5-8fac-07451973ce0f.html

This week the ever-changing colorful facade of the South Dade Cultural Arts Center radiated over the next generation of small businesses in the county.

Over 30 entrepreneurs concluded their seven week course in the SmallBusinessAcademy with the graduation gift of an “Access to Capital Expo” where they informally picked the brains of lenders and financiers.

The program is the proud brainchild of District 8 Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who says she took the initiative after feedback from the South Dade Solutions Summit some months earlier. The summit brought together stakeholders in the southernmost part of the county to discuss how to break out from the area’s status quo and progress forward.

“When small business thrives our economy thrives,” Levine Cava told the News Leader.

“This is the first time that it has ever been offered for free to businesses at the south end of the county,” said the commissioner. “The participants are so eager so excited to learn – they have supported each other – and many of them received the mom and pop small business grants.”

For seven weeks participants met to learn a different aspect of business that would help make them successful.

The cap off event was a panel on finding capital to reach particular goals and grow.

Cava said the entire program couldn’t have gotten off the ground were it not for volunteer partnerships, some of which were part of the panel.

Sheri Colas-Gervais from the Beacon Council moderated the talk that included Daivd Deza, a Vice President at TD Bank; Fabiana Estrada from micro lenders Accion East;Jose D. Alvarez of Hispanic Business Initiative Fund; and a small business success story in Patricia Bonilla, principal at Lunacon Construction Group.

Deza said three things that a bank looks at for a loan is credit, cash flow, and collateral.

“We look globally at your ability to pay back the loan,” said Deza.

Estrada agreed saying that “credit is key,” but she also mentioned that a big part of success begins with building relationships.

Alvarez added that your numbers are essential to securing loans, and that banks look for red flags in those reports.

“Banks look at overdrafts, that’s a bad sign,” said Alvarez.

Bonilla encouraged business owners to look for every opportunity.

“Try for everything,” she said from experience. She started her construction business in the height of the crash when “construction” was a bad word. But she was able to make it work by knowing what she wanted out of her endeavor.

“You need to have some kind of business plan,” she said. “Know what you want and modify it.”

She also said you have to highlight your competitive edge, what you bring that nobody else has which requires studying the field.

“You have to become an expert in your field,” she advised. “They aren’t going to give their money to someone who doesn’t give off confidence.”

The participants all received certificates for completing the program, but they also created a small network for themselves. Many went around the small expo of tables set up inside the SDCAC and met with the organizations.

Levine Cava was quick to add that the interactions were informal and noncompetitive.

“This is not Shark Tank,” she said to the owners. “Explore how to make your case.”

And so a new batch of more learned small business goes forth to their fates.