WLRN: Legislation To Ensure Pay Equity For Miami-Dade Women In The Works

Original link here: http://wlrn.org/post/legislation-ensure-pay-equity-miami-dade-women-works

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava is currently drafting legislation to ensure pay equity for women in the county. It’s a CEDAW ordinance — Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that hasn’t ratified the convention.

Cities and counties within the U.S. have taken it upon themselves to incorporate the principles of the international treaty for women and bring it down to a local level. Levine Cava says the county’s Commission For Women would lead the Miami-Dade CEDAW.

“We’re looking at legislation that would allow them to have an annual reporting function on how well we’re doing within the county itself on pay equity for women,” Levine Cava said.

Laura Morilla is the executive director for the county’s Commission for Women. She says it’s not just a fight for Miami-Dade women — men should support the legislation too.

“It means you can maybe buy that house, you can get that car, you can go on that vacation. I mean, it really is a family issue,” says Morilla.

Levine Cava expects to have the legislation completed by June or July to then have the County Commission vote on it.

But Florida is actually not doing so bad in terms of gender wage equality. Just this month, Institute For Women’s Policy Research released a new report putting Florida in the spotlight.

“Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Florida is projected to be the first state in the nation where women’s median annual earnings will reach parity with men’s, but not until the year 2038,” according to the report.

WLRN: Levine Cava Highlights County Services For Domestic Violence Victims

Original link here: http://wlrn.org/post/levine-cava-highlights-county-services-domestic-violence-victims

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava toured the county’s Coordinated Victims Assistance Center Monday. She wanted to showcase how $7 million in tax funds from the county are spent to help domestic violence victims.

Violet Felipe-Diaz, a domestic violence victim advocate for CVAC, says about 350 victims sign in per month in Miami-Dade — and 85 percent of those victims are women.

“Understand that these ladies get into an abusive relationship, they leave, and then they go back. So that’s why we get so many returning clients,” Felipe-Diaz says.

CVAC offers these victims about 35 services free of charge — protective orders, divorce filings and mental health counseling, to list a few. They’ve even repaired automobiles.

“We hear all the time the abuser put sugar in her tank to keep her from going to work,” says Felipe-Diaz.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Levine Cava says she’s impressed with the amount of services CVAC offers to local victims.

“Help is here. This is a warm, engaging place. Everything is done to make it easy to access,” says Levine Cava.

The commissioner says this visit was meant to demonstrate how the county is helping women as March — Women’s History Month — comes to a close.

 

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Commissioner debuts video highlighting Everglades trek

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/palmetto-bay/commissioner-debuts-video-highlighting-everglades-trek/

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava has unveiled a video showcasing her four-day canoeing trip through Everglades National Park called Postcards from the Everglades.

The commissioner was accompanied by her husband and two children, Everglades National Park acting superintendent Bob Krumenaker and Miami-Dade County EcoAdventures lead naturalist Ernie Lynk. The video details the trek through the national park and showcases the beauty and importance of this unique ecosystem.

“The Everglades is one of a kind and so many Miami-Dade residents are unaware that it is in our own backyard,” Commissioner Levine Cava said. “There are countless opportunities to explore the Everglades and develop a robust tourism industry around it, beginning with locals visiting this unique natural resource.”

The video includes “postcards” that explain the importance of the Everglades to local communities and to the entire state. It also underscores the commissioner’s legislative agenda, including the use of Amendment 1 funds for water and endangered land preservation.

“Besides its natural beauty, the health of Everglades National Park is essential to our future. It is the primary source of water for all Miami-Dade County residents and a third of Floridians,” Commissioner Levine Cava said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to mark my installation as county commissioner than by raising awareness about the importance of restoring and protecting this natural resource. We have only one Everglades and it is up to us to protect it and ensure that future generations have the same access to its beauty and resources.

“This video highlights these issues and I hope that it will bring attention to the importance of the Everglades in our community,” the commissioner explained. “I would like to thank the County Information and Outreach Department for putting this beautiful video together.”

Postcards from the Everglades. can be found in the February edition of the District 8 newsletter, on the Commissioner’s Facebook and Twitter pages or on YouTube.

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Commissioner Levine Cava opens new District 8 office

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/palmetto-bay/commissioner-levine-cava-opens-new-district-8-office/

Miami-DadeCounty Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, elected to the District 8 seat in fall 2014, formally opened her office at the South Dade Government Center on Saturday, Feb. 21, with a high school band as well as many guests and supporters attending.

Commissioner Levine Cava, who had promised during her campaign to return the District 8 office to that location, was clearly excited about the event and its significance. The office had been in a private shopping center the previous four years.

“It was really such an honor and privilege to be elected to serve this great district, and now we’ve brought our offices back to South Dade, more in the center of the district, and we’re trying to bring back services to South Dade,” she said.

“We want to make sure that the people of South Dade get their fair share and today is a great example. We’re going to see what we can do to bring back some of the critical services to people.”

Levine Cava said that going downtown for services in not convenient and is time consuming.

“We are fortunate, we do have the busway; we do have Metrorail. Those are great services for downtown, but commuting is everyone’s worst nightmare,” she said. “And we’re trying to fix that problem, too. We’re really trying to bring some common sense and real commitment to the transit system.”

The Junior ROTC Color Guard and Jazz Band from Miami Southridge Senior High participated in the event and Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn and Cutler Bay’s Mayor Peggy Bell and Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin attended.

“I think it’s really wonderful that Commissioner Levine Cava has brought the office of the County Commission District 8 back to the Government Center,” Mayor Bell said. “That’s an important place for our residents to be able to find all of the services in the same spot. I want to congratulate her. We’re very excited, the Town of Cutler Bay, about working with our commissioner for the betterment of all of the residents of District 8.”

As part of the opening there was a county services fair with nearly two dozen county departments providing information about Public Works, Transit, Animal Services, Miami-Dade Police, Miami-Dade Fire and other areas. The commissioner’s office hosted a light bulb and showerhead exchange, as well, and attendees dropped off book donations for children and incarcerated adults, and cell phones for victims of domestic violence.

Flinn also was pleased with the restoration of the District 8 office to its original location.

“Starting here, reopening these offices down here in Cutler Bay, bringing the county services here is great,” Mayor Flinn said. “If you have an issue, you can go upstairs and meet with your county commissioner, so it’s a one-stop shop again, and that’s good for the residents.”

In her brief speech Commissioner Levine Cava thanked the students of Southridge High School, Homestead Hospital for their sponsorship, and Catering by Les for providing the refreshments.

The District 8 office will be open Monday- Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To contact the office call 305-378-6677, 305-375-5218 or send an email to district8@miamidade.gov. In addition to the South Dade Government Center office, Commissioner Levine Cava holds monthly office hours the second Wednesday of every month at Homestead City Hall.

South Dade News Leader: Commissioner Levine Cava Opens New District Office

Original link here: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/commissioner-levine-cava-opens-new-district-office/article_710589ee-be99-11e4-b84b-97b810343862.html

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava officially opened her new district office at the South Dade Government in Cutler Bay with a ribbon cutting accompanied by the celebratory music of a high school jazz band.

The opening was played up to symbolize the return of the office to the geographic center District 8.

“It’s really important to be visible, to be easily accessible, to be centrally located and that’s what today is about,” Levine Cava told the South Dade News Leader.

“County government has to be accessible,” she said. “ This county is putting tax dollars to work, if we are not accessible, if we are not easy to get to, if people can’t find out about the services then people are not going to feel satisfied with what they are getting for their tax dollars.”

Levine Cava felt that former Commissioner Lynda Bell’s Palmetto Bay office was too far north for most of the district and came with logistic problems.

“There was no parking and it was very difficult for people to utilize that office,” Levine Cava said.

There is plenty of parking at the South Dade Government Center as it houses offices for many county services, including a library. Many of the departments were on display for the new commissioner’s ribbon cutting.

Booths were strung around the main building’s lobby offering information and free goodies. The Water and Sewer department were offering efficient shower heads. The elections department were looking for new poll workers, and the South District Police station was promoting pedestrian safety.

Around a hundred people showed up for the early morning festivities including local politicians, members of the business community, friends and family, and people just looking for service.

Levine Cave said she was “thrilled” with the turn out.

“It’s been a wonderful day for county services,” she said.

The New Tropic: Daniella Levine Cava: Inside the world of a new county commissioner

Original link here: https://thenewtropic.com/come-out-swinging-inside-the-world-of-a-new-county-commissioner/

“The good news is we’re united in opposing discrimination. The bad news is now we’re divided about bathrooms.” This is one of the first things Daniella Levine Cava said from the dais as a Miami-Dade County commissioner.

It wasn’t planned that way, but then local politics has never lent itself to easy prediction. It was December 2, just two weeks after she’d been sworn in as District 8’s new commissioner following a closely watched and often heated campaign.

The commission’s agenda included a final vote on an ordinance banning gender identity discrimination in Miami-Dade. The measure was expected to pass—more than half the commission signed on as sponsors—but not without contention. Hundreds of supporters and opponents had shown up in the chambers that morning, waiting hours for their tightly enforced two minutes of public comment.

The commissioners spent a while discussing the ordinance among themselves before they opened the floor for public comment. Commissioners Esteban Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Juan Zapata had concerns about public safety. What if someone used the transgender protections to enter women’s restrooms, saying they identified as a female, and molest or assault people?

“There are the cases of deviants who will take advantage of this,” said Bovo. It’s a specious argument with a long history in LGBT equality debates. But that is how the Miami-Dade County Commission, and hundreds of its constituents, came to spend six hours on the subject of bathrooms.

Most of the opposition statements began, “I don’t support discrimination, but…” The preface disclaimer is a curious feature of our political era: conscientious enough to acknowledge political correctness but not enough to prevent a politically incorrect statement. It’s an odd waiver of personal liability, and on this particular day, a hundred were issued. For five hours, supporters from the Save Dade organization spoke between longer blocks of opponents and skeptics, nearly all of whom invoked the restroom safety concern.

When her turn to speak arrived, Levine Cava called it out, smiling. She is disarmingly gracious, like a family member who loves you enough to remind you when you might not be living up to your potential. “This ordinance is not asking for special rights, it’s asking for equal rights. I honor the fears and worries of many in the room, but I believe that experience will show that it isn’t about this law. This isn’t the reason anything dangerous would happen to our children.”

“I formed that line five seconds before I said it,” she told me a few days later, “but it reflects a lifetime of experience. This issue is one I know. It’s one of the reasons I ran. My opponent had opposed it. I was really looking forward to it, but I felt bad—here I’d run this campaign on the issue and I don’t know what I’m going to say. It’s my first meeting.”

“My inclination is to be logical. People have fears, but there was nothing to latch on to. After the niceties, they would just spew hate. You can’t call people on it; it doesn’t serve anything. I wasn’t going to change hearts or minds.”

The business of local government is a melange of form and function, lofty ideas and expedient compromises, and it rarely tends toward logic. Public commentary is enshrined in government proceedings, but its execution has a less certain record. Most items have a known outcome, in practice if not in principle, before they ever reach the floor for public feedback.

The town hall kook is an almost universal concept in America, an easy target for cynics and a source of recurring frustration for everyone but our most earnest Leslie Knopes—and even then, sometimes there are just too many Eagletonians.

It’s easy to imagine how years on the job as a commissioner might dull the senses to the public procedures of governance, overlong and inhuman as they are. Elected officials can seem to be going through the motions, passengers in a machine whose direction and construction cannot be changed. Politics is rife with resigned acknowledgments of ‘the way things work.’ Many of them are true.

Levine Cava never seems to be along for the ride. She’s outside, tinkering with the machine, thinking about how we might all work on it together, prodding at the process of county government, asking questions that might have long since passed into accepted reality for her colleagues.

Later in that first meeting, as commissioners debated a $65 million no-bid contract for construction of urgent new airport projects, Levine Cava asked county staff to share at the public meeting information about the proposal that they’d given commissioners beforehand. When the issue first came up, she expected to oppose it on transparency grounds, she later told me, but when she went to the airport and learned the details of the process (most of the money would still be bid out) she decided it made sense.

“I’m not for form over substance. The bottom line is, what does this look like for the public?” She also suggested the commission might change the way it lists agenda items, to provide a better explanation to the public about each one.

I wanted to know what it’s like to be the new kid on the county commission, particularly when you have ideas for how to change it. Levine Cava ran on “restoring trust in government,” tackling corruption, social justice, transit, quality of life — not the terrain of easy rhetorical victories.

For every politician with a success story, dozens more have wrecked upon the shoals of bitter realities and stubborn statuses quo. But something’s worked so far for Daniella, as her team calls her: she’s only the third person in 20 years to unseat an incumbent county commissioner. And that doesn’t happen by accident.

“A Perfect Storm”

Levine Cava’s stay in Miami is about three decades longer than expected.

“We were going to sail around the world,” she says. Shortly before her husband was going to take a sabbatical, his father was diagnosed with cancer. So they started a family and raised their kids in Miami. And they never left.

Now 59, Levine Cava was born in New York City and grew up around the world, living in Brazil, Chile, Canada, and around the U.S.

“It took me about 10 years to decide Miami was a place I was going to invest in big time. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and my attitude about Miami was completely different. But there was a point in time I didn’t like this place. It was very frustrating to me that I couldn’t unlock the doors to create a more community-minded place.”

“It was Hurricane Andrew that was so transformational for this community. When I started to feel like, yes, I can do something here that would be valuable — that’s when I really started to love Miami.”

We’re sitting in her downtown office, at an austere conference table with a disappointing interior window onto the lobby of Government Center. She rises and falls visibly as she talks; the emotions of the subject have a way of flowing into her physical space.

“I just became so passionate about what Miami could show the world. We’re the canary in the mineshaft. We’re so far ahead of the curve on what’s happening in the world, everything happens first. We survived but we didn’t thrive. I hadn’t thought about it until this moment, but it’s our adversity that’s putting us at the top again.”

After Andrew, she helped create a new system for child abuse cases at the Department for Children and Families, and later managed foster care, adoption and child legal services for DCF. In 1995 she founded the Human Services Coalition of Dade County, later renamed Catalyst Miami. Catalyst bills itself as an organization “connecting people to shared purpose and place” by connecting people to financial, health, educational, and economic opportunities. Levine Cava built Catalyst into one of the most widely recognized social organizations in Miami-Dade, with a reputation for collaboration.

Over the years, friends would suggest she run for office, but the circumstances never seemed right — until Lynda Bell, in Miami-Dade’s 8th District, was up for reelection and considered a target for a challenge.

“I wasn’t planning to run for office. It wasn’t always an ambition to run for office. But the opportunity presented itself, and I was confident I could do it.”

“I was persuaded through my friend Cindy Lerner who became Mayor of Pinecrest. She was having fun and doing so many creative things. I cared about county issues but so much of their time was spent on issues that I did not think would be of interest; now I see they just don’t always exercise the power they have for good. I am amazed at the number of things I can touch on.”

We tend to expect an all-consuming ambition of our elected officials, and not to believe them when they say otherwise. We don’t talk much about the nuances of the decision to run for office; of how to make it accessible to people who might want to serve but aren’t driven by a primal need for power or attention. Which may be why many people don’t consider it. And why many people looked at Levine Cava’s victory as an opportunity for change in local politics. But she cautions against trying to generalize too many lessons from her journey.

“Many have said the fact I was able to unseat an incumbent gives people hope. But the conditions were such that it was a perfect storm for me. It was a lifetime of connections. It was a network of people who would not normally contribute to campaigns but were willing to contribute because they trusted me. It was the coalition of all these groups I had worked with for so long and saw me as being able to turn the tide on a number of different fronts. It was the fact that my opponent didn’t run a very good campaign and had a lot of enemies from her own behavior. It was an unusual set of things. But what I did was not ‘the answer’.”

The campaign was anything but usual. It set records for fundraising and spending in a county commission race — Bell raised nearly a million dollars, including major donations from county contractors and developers; Levine Cava raised more than $500,000, including from local and national Democratic heavyweights.

In the middle of summer, as the August election approached, Bell’s campaign and associated political committees published several misleading attack ads, including one saying Levine Cava was earning “over $500,000 in salary” as CEO of nonprofit Catalyst (they were getting the figure from adding up ten years of tax returns).

“I think what surprised us was the nature of what our opponent was saying about Daniella,” Matt Williams, who managed Levine Cava’s campaign, told me. “It’s not like they were just creative about what they were saying; they were just flat-out mistruths.”

Both campaigns sent mailers with photos of political associations, respectively showing Bell with Governor Rick Scott and Levine Cava with Congressman Joe Garcia. A televised debate between the candidates was passionate and forceful and made major local headlines. The stakes were high, and the Levine Cava campaign invested heavily in its field program. “There were some months where Daniella knocked on a thousand doors herself,” said Williams.

She won by fewer than 700 votes, a four percent margin on the roughly 17,000 votes cast. Local races have a different mathematics about them; where national campaigns can obscure the role of the individual voter, local ones are often decided by fewer people than would fit into a theater. The numbers make it possible for a field campaign to overcome fundraising or the benefits of incumbency, but it also makes campaigning that much more personal.

“They’ve really got to have a heart for it,” says Williams of potential candidates. “Daniella is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and she’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. You’ve got to master that resilience and that passion. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

For Levine Cava, the transition started almost immediately, and three months later she was in office. The move from campaigning to governing is a storied challenge for candidates who run on changing the way business is done. It’s easy to become Bill McKay in The Candidate, standing on another side of victory asking, “What do we do now?”

On the first day we meet, in early December, her entire team is outside Government Center posing for pictures. They call themselves “Team Daniella,” though the word “family” is often used between them.

Each commissioner gets a budget, which they mostly get to allocate as they like. Many use a large portion of the funds for sponsorships and grants to organizations in the district. Levine Cava invested heavily in her team — she has two people dedicated to community engagement, a team focused on special initiatives, and plans to provide a variety of support services to her district, such as help applying for nonprofit grants.

“It’s really amplifying my capacity to touch base with more people.” Levine Cava’s orbit has the feeling of a perpetual Thanksgiving; jovial, welcoming, and infused with a sense of vague but inescapable common purpose. She says being the eldest child gave her an early sense of leadership, though it’s a skill she’s still developing. “I don’t mind being in charge, but I told them, ‘I’m just one of the team’.”

“Come out swinging”

In late January, Levine Cava and Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose District 9 envelopes District 8, spoke at the dedication of a new event space at Central Campesino Farmworker Center in Homestead.

Levine Cava went first. “We need a South Dade plan,” she said. “What a special treasure we have here. But how sad is it that you go to a grocery store and you can’t buy local produce?” She talked about her agenda for District 8, which includes economic resources, increased transparency, quality of life improvements, environment, and transit.

Her vision is a webbing of issues that connect and affect each other; it acknowledges that nothing in local government is as simple as we might want it to be, but that can also make it harder to follow. When she finished, she took an audible deep breath and sat down, laughing. The audience laughed with her.

“It was a wonderful victory for the people of your district,” Moss said of Levine Cava. He’s been in office since 1993. Where Levine Cava is complex and nuanced, Moss is polished and precise, and only focused on one thing. “My platform is jobs.” He talks about a man who came up to him and thanked him for his jobs program because he’d finally been able to find work. Nods from the audience. People saying “yes” to themselves. He’s made a congregation.

It’s a trope in politics to have the apocryphal story of the man/woman/child/dog/cat you met and what they told you, which conveniently seems to align with the point you’re making. It’s a trope because it works. It makes things bite-sized, human; lets us look at faces instead of charts. But it also makes politics’ impossible game of trade-offs seem linear and easy; a switch we just need to flip instead of the Rube Goldberg machine it often is. Levine Cava doesn’t use many of these stories.

But that’s not to say she doesn’t understand how the game is played. “I ran on the idea of open, transparent government. I didn’t know what I’d be able to do,” she told me in early December. One goal is legislation requiring commissioners to disclose all their potential conflicts of interest when voting on items; right now, the requirements are fairly limited. “I’m one of thirteen,” she says. She’s meeting with each of her colleagues, finding ways to be collaborative.

“She’s both a big picture thinker, and knows how important it is to attend to the details of the district,” says Katy Sorenson, a former county commissioner (who also defeated an incumbent) who now runs the Good Government Initiative, which encourages and trains people to run for office. “She’s gone about forging relationships with her fellow commissioners in a very smart way. She’s convened a number of sunshine meetings with her colleagues to find out what their priorities are, so she doesn’t step on any toes but can be helpful.”

“She’s doing a lot of things right. The problem for Daniella will be that she will want to do everything and you can’t do everything.”

A common line of thinking says you only get one issue in a tenure, maybe two. Three if you’re lucky. Politics has a long history of teaching people with big ideas to meter their expectations. Miami-Dade County has a $110 billion GDP—more than many states—and more than 32,000 public employees (not counting another 50,000 in its schools). It has not, historically, been an easy ship to steer.

When we meet again in late January, she has two months on the job. We wander between looming subjects—sea level rise (“We’ve got another 20 years and then this place will be Venice or has-been; I’m fascinated by the resilience and human spirit to deal with those things”), transportation (“It will either sink us or save us.”), tolls, transparency—her energy is everywhere, but she also has an emerging sense of balance. There are the little balls to juggle, unexpected and sudden, and there are the big rocks, impending and difficult.

At the 2015 Citizen’s Transportation Summit in late January, Levine Cava was noted as the only commissioner who stayed for the whole meeting. Most came for the introductions and left shortly thereafter. “Maybe if I knew everything there was to know about public transit [I wouldn’t go]. But really the day wasn’t about learning. It was about hearing other people and their concerns.”

“I’m always looking for the win-win,” she says. When the Roll Back Tolls campaign started in her district in response to new tolling on local expressways, Levine Cava looked for opportunities to collaborate.“I can’t come out swinging the way [the organizer] would, but let’s see what we can do to work together.”

When vacancies opened on the MDX board, there were questions about conflicts of interest with some candidates. “I said, can you give me some questions I can ask on the record? That’s one thing I can do as a commissioner—get answers. To me that’s the ideal situation, where we’re working collaboratively.”

I ask her how we encourage more people to run for office, to challenge incumbents, to prod at the process of county government and try to make it better. She says trust in government and corruption are major obstacles. “We could, with the proper will, take it back. And I guess it gets my juices flowing. Because once we do there would be more fertile territory.” New candidates “wouldn’t have to kowtow and play the usual games.”

“Last night I was in South Dade and a friend got up to the microphone and said, ‘your campaign was about ending pay to play in politics, what have you done about that? You’ve been in office two months.’ It caught me short. I’ve been dealing with little things. Each of these things builds some credibility and political capital for me to tackle more things.”

She describes a few recent issues with lobbying, and proposals to limit conflicts of interest. “That’s a game-changer. It’s not that I don’t like lobbyists. I was a lobbyist. Lobbyists are important. But they’re not in charge. If you want to do business with the county, you shouldn’t be able to contribute to campaigns. That would be so big. But I can’t come out swinging on that.”

Three months in, she has her team assembled, a strategic plan underway, and an emerging legislative agenda. It’s hard to find your footing in a place with such high expectations, and once you do, you have to wonder where you’re standing.

“What I’m most fearful of is losing perspective and humility,” she says. She props her head on her hand and looks out the window, such as it is. One can’t see much from a commissioner’s office except the lobby of Government Center. Perhaps that’s fitting for making the point. “That I’ll forget what it’s like to sit in the audience instead of on the dais. I just have to stay in touch.”

A beat.

“I think the element of surprise is also good.”

The New Tropic: “Daniella Levine Cava: Inside the world of a new county commissioner”

Original link here: https://thenewtropic.com/come-out-swinging-inside-the-world-of-a-new-county-commissioner/

“The good news is we’re united in opposing discrimination. The bad news is now we’re divided about bathrooms.” This is one of the first things Daniella Levine Cava said from the dais as a Miami-Dade County commissioner.

It wasn’t planned that way, but then local politics has never lent itself to easy prediction. It was December 2, just two weeks after she’d been sworn in as District 8’s new commissioner following a closely watched and often heated campaign.

The commission’s agenda included a final vote on an ordinance banning gender identity discrimination in Miami-Dade. The measure was expected to pass—more than half the commission signed on as sponsors—but not without contention. Hundreds of supporters and opponents had shown up in the chambers that morning, waiting hours for their tightly enforced two minutes of public comment.

The commissioners spent a while discussing the ordinance among themselves before they opened the floor for public comment. Commissioners Esteban Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Juan Zapata had concerns about public safety. What if someone used the transgender protections to enter women’s restrooms, saying they identified as a female, and molest or assault people?

“There are the cases of deviants who will take advantage of this,” said Bovo. It’s a specious argument with a long history in LGBT equality debates. But that is how the Miami-Dade County Commission, and hundreds of its constituents, came to spend six hours on the subject of bathrooms.

Most of the opposition statements began, “I don’t support discrimination, but…” The preface disclaimer is a curious feature of our political era: conscientious enough to acknowledge political correctness but not enough to prevent a politically incorrect statement. It’s an odd waiver of personal liability, and on this particular day, a hundred were issued. For five hours, supporters from the Save Dade organization spoke between longer blocks of opponents and skeptics, nearly all of whom invoked the restroom safety concern.

When her turn to speak arrived, Levine Cava called it out, smiling. She is disarmingly gracious, like a family member who loves you enough to remind you when you might not be living up to your potential. “This ordinance is not asking for special rights, it’s asking for equal rights. I honor the fears and worries of many in the room, but I believe that experience will show that it isn’t about this law. This isn’t the reason anything dangerous would happen to our children.”

“I formed that line five seconds before I said it,” she told me a few days later, “but it reflects a lifetime of experience. This issue is one I know. It’s one of the reasons I ran. My opponent had opposed it. I was really looking forward to it, but I felt bad—here I’d run this campaign on the issue and I don’t know what I’m going to say. It’s my first meeting.”

“My inclination is to be logical. People have fears, but there was nothing to latch on to. After the niceties, they would just spew hate. You can’t call people on it; it doesn’t serve anything. I wasn’t going to change hearts or minds.”

The business of local government is a melange of form and function, lofty ideas and expedient compromises, and it rarely tends toward logic. Public commentary is enshrined in government proceedings, but its execution has a less certain record. Most items have a known outcome, in practice if not in principle, before they ever reach the floor for public feedback.

The town hall kook is an almost universal concept in America, an easy target for cynics and a source of recurring frustration for everyone but our most earnest Leslie Knopes—and even then, sometimes there are just too many Eagletonians.

It’s easy to imagine how years on the job as a commissioner might dull the senses to the public procedures of governance, overlong and inhuman as they are. Elected officials can seem to be going through the motions, passengers in a machine whose direction and construction cannot be changed. Politics is rife with resigned acknowledgments of ‘the way things work.’ Many of them are true.

Levine Cava never seems to be along for the ride. She’s outside, tinkering with the machine, thinking about how we might all work on it together, prodding at the process of county government, asking questions that might have long since passed into accepted reality for her colleagues.

Later in that first meeting, as commissioners debated a $65 million no-bid contract for construction of urgent new airport projects, Levine Cava asked county staff to share at the public meeting information about the proposal that they’d given commissioners beforehand. When the issue first came up, she expected to oppose it on transparency grounds, she later told me, but when she went to the airport and learned the details of the process (most of the money would still be bid out) she decided it made sense.

“I’m not for form over substance. The bottom line is, what does this look like for the public?” She also suggested the commission might change the way it lists agenda items, to provide a better explanation to the public about each one.

I wanted to know what it’s like to be the new kid on the county commission, particularly when you have ideas for how to change it. Levine Cava ran on “restoring trust in government,” tackling corruption, social justice, transit, quality of life — not the terrain of easy rhetorical victories.

For every politician with a success story, dozens more have wrecked upon the shoals of bitter realities and stubborn statuses quo. But something’s worked so far for Daniella, as her team calls her: she’s only the third person in 20 years to unseat an incumbent county commissioner. And that doesn’t happen by accident.

“A Perfect Storm”

Levine Cava’s stay in Miami is about three decades longer than expected.

“We were going to sail around the world,” she says. Shortly before her husband was going to take a sabbatical, his father was diagnosed with cancer. So they started a family and raised their kids in Miami. And they never left.

Now 59, Levine Cava was born in New York City and grew up around the world, living in Brazil, Chile, Canada, and around the U.S.

“It took me about 10 years to decide Miami was a place I was going to invest in big time. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and my attitude about Miami was completely different. But there was a point in time I didn’t like this place. It was very frustrating to me that I couldn’t unlock the doors to create a more community-minded place.”

“It was Hurricane Andrew that was so transformational for this community. When I started to feel like, yes, I can do something here that would be valuable — that’s when I really started to love Miami.”

We’re sitting in her downtown office, at an austere conference table with a disappointing interior window onto the lobby of Government Center. She rises and falls visibly as she talks; the emotions of the subject have a way of flowing into her physical space.

“I just became so passionate about what Miami could show the world. We’re the canary in the mineshaft. We’re so far ahead of the curve on what’s happening in the world, everything happens first. We survived but we didn’t thrive. I hadn’t thought about it until this moment, but it’s our adversity that’s putting us at the top again.”

After Andrew, she helped create a new system for child abuse cases at the Department for Children and Families, and later managed foster care, adoption and child legal services for DCF. In 1995 she founded the Human Services Coalition of Dade County, later renamed Catalyst Miami. Catalyst bills itself as an organization “connecting people to shared purpose and place” by connecting people to financial, health, educational, and economic opportunities. Levine Cava built Catalyst into one of the most widely recognized social organizations in Miami-Dade, with a reputation for collaboration.

Over the years, friends would suggest she run for office, but the circumstances never seemed right — until Lynda Bell, in Miami-Dade’s 8th District, was up for reelection and considered a target for a challenge.

“I wasn’t planning to run for office. It wasn’t always an ambition to run for office. But the opportunity presented itself, and I was confident I could do it.”

“I was persuaded through my friend Cindy Lerner who became Mayor of Pinecrest. She was having fun and doing so many creative things. I cared about county issues but so much of their time was spent on issues that I did not think would be of interest; now I see they just don’t always exercise the power they have for good. I am amazed at the number of things I can touch on.”

We tend to expect an all-consuming ambition of our elected officials, and not to believe them when they say otherwise. We don’t talk much about the nuances of the decision to run for office; of how to make it accessible to people who might want to serve but aren’t driven by a primal need for power or attention. Which may be why many people don’t consider it. And why many people looked at Levine Cava’s victory as an opportunity for change in local politics. But she cautions against trying to generalize too many lessons from her journey.

“Many have said the fact I was able to unseat an incumbent gives people hope. But the conditions were such that it was a perfect storm for me. It was a lifetime of connections. It was a network of people who would not normally contribute to campaigns but were willing to contribute because they trusted me. It was the coalition of all these groups I had worked with for so long and saw me as being able to turn the tide on a number of different fronts. It was the fact that my opponent didn’t run a very good campaign and had a lot of enemies from her own behavior. It was an unusual set of things. But what I did was not ‘the answer’.”

The campaign was anything but usual. It set records for fundraising and spending in a county commission race — Bell raised nearly a million dollars, including major donations from county contractors and developers; Levine Cava raised more than $500,000, including from local and national Democratic heavyweights.

In the middle of summer, as the August election approached, Bell’s campaign and associated political committees published several misleading attack ads, including one saying Levine Cava was earning “over $500,000 in salary” as CEO of nonprofit Catalyst (they were getting the figure from adding up ten years of tax returns).

“I think what surprised us was the nature of what our opponent was saying about Daniella,” Matt Williams, who managed Levine Cava’s campaign, told me. “It’s not like they were just creative about what they were saying; they were just flat-out mistruths.”

Both campaigns sent mailers with photos of political associations, respectively showing Bell with Governor Rick Scott and Levine Cava with Congressman Joe Garcia. A televised debate between the candidates was passionate and forceful and made major local headlines. The stakes were high, and the Levine Cava campaign invested heavily in its field program. “There were some months where Daniella knocked on a thousand doors herself,” said Williams.

She won by fewer than 700 votes, a four percent margin on the roughly 17,000 votes cast. Local races have a different mathematics about them; where national campaigns can obscure the role of the individual voter, local ones are often decided by fewer people than would fit into a theater. The numbers make it possible for a field campaign to overcome fundraising or the benefits of incumbency, but it also makes campaigning that much more personal.

“They’ve really got to have a heart for it,” says Williams of potential candidates. “Daniella is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and she’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. You’ve got to master that resilience and that passion. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

For Levine Cava, the transition started almost immediately, and three months later she was in office. The move from campaigning to governing is a storied challenge for candidates who run on changing the way business is done. It’s easy to become Bill McKay in The Candidate, standing on another side of victory asking, “What do we do now?”

On the first day we meet, in early December, her entire team is outside Government Center posing for pictures. They call themselves “Team Daniella,” though the word “family” is often used between them.

Each commissioner gets a budget, which they mostly get to allocate as they like. Many use a large portion of the funds for sponsorships and grants to organizations in the district. Levine Cava invested heavily in her team — she has two people dedicated to community engagement, a team focused on special initiatives, and plans to provide a variety of support services to her district, such as help applying for nonprofit grants.

“It’s really amplifying my capacity to touch base with more people.” Levine Cava’s orbit has the feeling of a perpetual Thanksgiving; jovial, welcoming, and infused with a sense of vague but inescapable common purpose. She says being the eldest child gave her an early sense of leadership, though it’s a skill she’s still developing. “I don’t mind being in charge, but I told them, ‘I’m just one of the team’.”

 

“Come out swinging”

In late January, Levine Cava and Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose District 9 envelopes District 8, spoke at the dedication of a new event space at Central Campesino Farmworker Center in Homestead.

Levine Cava went first. “We need a South Dade plan,” she said. “What a special treasure we have here. But how sad is it that you go to a grocery store and you can’t buy local produce?” She talked about her agenda for District 8, which includes economic resources, increased transparency, quality of life improvements, environment, and transit.

Her vision is a webbing of issues that connect and affect each other; it acknowledges that nothing in local government is as simple as we might want it to be, but that can also make it harder to follow. When she finished, she took an audible deep breath and sat down, laughing. The audience laughed with her.

“It was a wonderful victory for the people of your district,” Moss said of Levine Cava. He’s been in office since 1993. Where Levine Cava is complex and nuanced, Moss is polished and precise, and only focused on one thing. “My platform is jobs.” He talks about a man who came up to him and thanked him for his jobs program because he’d finally been able to find work. Nods from the audience. People saying “yes” to themselves. He’s made a congregation.

It’s a trope in politics to have the apocryphal story of the man/woman/child/dog/cat you met and what they told you, which conveniently seems to align with the point you’re making. It’s a trope because it works. It makes things bite-sized, human; lets us look at faces instead of charts. But it also makes politics’ impossible game of trade-offs seem linear and easy; a switch we just need to flip instead of the Rube Goldberg machine it often is. Levine Cava doesn’t use many of these stories.

But that’s not to say she doesn’t understand how the game is played. “I ran on the idea of open, transparent government. I didn’t know what I’d be able to do,” she told me in early December. One goal is legislation requiring commissioners to disclose all their potential conflicts of interest when voting on items; right now, the requirements are fairly limited. “I’m one of thirteen,” she says. She’s meeting with each of her colleagues, finding ways to be collaborative.

“She’s both a big picture thinker, and knows how important it is to attend to the details of the district,” says Katy Sorenson, a former county commissioner (who also defeated an incumbent) who now runs the Good Government Initiative, which encourages and trains people to run for office. “She’s gone about forging relationships with her fellow commissioners in a very smart way. She’s convened a number of sunshine meetings with her colleagues to find out what their priorities are, so she doesn’t step on any toes but can be helpful.”

“She’s doing a lot of things right. The problem for Daniella will be that she will want to do everything and you can’t do everything.”

A common line of thinking says you only get one issue in a tenure, maybe two. Three if you’re lucky. Politics has a long history of teaching people with big ideas to meter their expectations. Miami-Dade County has a $110 billion GDP—more than many states—and more than 32,000 public employees (not counting another 50,000 in its schools). It has not, historically, been an easy ship to steer.

When we meet again in late January, she has two months on the job. We wander between looming subjects—sea level rise (“We’ve got another 20 years and then this place will be Venice or has-been; I’m fascinated by the resilience and human spirit to deal with those things”), transportation (“It will either sink us or save us.”), tolls, transparency—her energy is everywhere, but she also has an emerging sense of balance. There are the little balls to juggle, unexpected and sudden, and there are the big rocks, impending and difficult.

At the 2015 Citizen’s Transportation Summit in late January, Levine Cava was noted as the only commissioner who stayed for the whole meeting. Most came for the introductions and left shortly thereafter. “Maybe if I knew everything there was to know about public transit [I wouldn’t go]. But really the day wasn’t about learning. It was about hearing other people and their concerns.”

“I’m always looking for the win-win,” she says. When the Roll Back Tolls campaign started in her district in response to new tolling on local expressways, Levine Cava looked for opportunities to collaborate.“I can’t come out swinging the way [the organizer] would, but let’s see what we can do to work together.”

When vacancies opened on the MDX board, there were questions about conflicts of interest with some candidates. “I said, can you give me some questions I can ask on the record? That’s one thing I can do as a commissioner—get answers. To me that’s the ideal situation, where we’re working collaboratively.”

I ask her how we encourage more people to run for office, to challenge incumbents, to prod at the process of county government and try to make it better. She says trust in government and corruption are major obstacles. “We could, with the proper will, take it back. And I guess it gets my juices flowing. Because once we do there would be more fertile territory.” New candidates “wouldn’t have to kowtow and play the usual games.”

“Last night I was in South Dade and a friend got up to the microphone and said, ‘your campaign was about ending pay to play in politics, what have you done about that? You’ve been in office two months.’ It caught me short. I’ve been dealing with little things. Each of these things builds some credibility and political capital for me to tackle more things.”

She describes a few recent issues with lobbying, and proposals to limit conflicts of interest. “That’s a game-changer. It’s not that I don’t like lobbyists. I was a lobbyist. Lobbyists are important. But they’re not in charge. If you want to do business with the county, you shouldn’t be able to contribute to campaigns. That would be so big. But I can’t come out swinging on that.”

Three months in, she has her team assembled, a strategic plan underway, and an emerging legislative agenda. It’s hard to find your footing in a place with such high expectations, and once you do, you have to wonder where you’re standing.

“What I’m most fearful of is losing perspective and humility,” she says. She props her head on her hand and looks out the window, such as it is. One can’t see much from a commissioner’s office except the lobby of Government Center. Perhaps that’s fitting for making the point. “That I’ll forget what it’s like to sit in the audience instead of on the dais. I just have to stay in touch.”

A beat.

“I think the element of surprise is also good.”

el Nuevo Herald: Comisionada Levine Cava inaugura oficina en complejo de gobierno condal

Enlace original aquí: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/sur-de-la-florida/article10900646.html

Entre los aplausos de más de un centenar de asistentes, la comisionada condal Daniella Levine Cava inauguró el sábado su oficina distrital en el complejo gubernamental del sur de Miami-Dade.

Levine Cava destacó que la nueva sede ofrece una mejor locación para que de manera masiva los residentes puedan acudir en busca de cualquier ayuda por parte de la comisionada.

“Estamos aquí para servir a los residentes del distrito”, resaltó Levine Cava, en español. “Este es un lugar muy conveniente, cerca del Turnpike, donde podemos atender a más residentes del sur del condado Miami Dade”.

Cava reemplazó en el escaño por el Distrito 8 a Lynda Bell, quien mantenía su oficina distrital en Palmetto Bay. El Distrito 8 comprende parte de las ciudades de Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Naranja y Homestead.

“La ubicación de esta oficina distrital en Palmetto Bay no era lo más conveniente para la mayoría de residentes del sur del condado”, agregó Levine Cava.

La nueva oficina está localizada en el primer piso del complejo del gobierno condal localizado en el 10710 SW 211th Street, donde se turnan y rotan los ocho empleados del equipo de la comisionada, el cual también despacha en la sede principal del Condado, en el downtown de Miami.

Más conocida como la directora de Catalyst Miami, una organización sin fines de lucro que se enfoca en programas para pobres y en el mejoramiento de áreas, Levine Cava recibió el respaldo del Partido Demócrata y de los sindicatos para derrotar a Bell en las elecciones de noviembre.

Un informe del Miami Herald detalló que Levine Cava es heredera de una acaudalada familia de Nueva York, y que dejó su trabajo para aspirar al escaño. Para ello compró una casa en el Distrito 8 antes de presentar su documentación como candidata. También cambió su nombre, y la mujer que durante toda una vida fue conocida como Danielle Levine optó por usar también el nombre español de su esposo en un distrito donde los hispanos componen el 40 por ciento del electorado.

“Una de nuestras prioridades será fomentar la creación de trabajo en nuestra comunidad”, dijo Levine Cava. “También estamos muy involucrados en tratar de mejorar el servicio de transporte público”.

Siga a Enrique Flor en Twitter: @kikeflor

Read more here: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/sur-de-la-florida/article10900646.html#storylink=cpy

South Dade News Leader: Miami-Dade Commissioners Talk South Dade Strategy

Original link here: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/miami-dade-commissioners-talk-south-dade-strategy/article_d9abf210-b081-11e4-96e7-87fde9ffd74c.html

CountyCommissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Dennis C. Moss joined forces last week to promote their “South Dade Strategy” for the region.

Levine Cava of District 8 and Moss of District 9 laid out their agenda at the CentroCampesinoFarmWorkersCenter in Homestead.

Both had the economy and jobs as a top priority.

“Bring more people into the middle class and achieve the American Dream. That’s what it’s all about,” said Levine Cava.

She said the area is blessed to have a farming component, but feels the hard profession should get assistance.

One method would be to promote the local brand by finding a way for locals to purchase local produce.

“How shameful is that,” Levine Cava lamented. “An avocado from Peru or a tomato from Canada?”

She also wants to partner with MiamiDadeCollege’s Homestead campus to offer courses that would get new generations into farming. There was also a suggestion for the county to buy off farming land from owners who no longer wish to farm it.

Commissioner Moss wants to provide jobs to a diverse group in the community. With construction, he would like it to mirror that of the Port of Miami project where he saw “workers from all over the county.”

“When we have job opportunities in this community, we need to make sure that the first groups who are in Miami-DadeCounty have an opportunity for those jobs,” he said.

Within the agriculture sector, he would like to change laws to allow more flexibility in the form farmers can produce income through related businesses.

“So they can sell milkshakes, [nursery] plants, and pony rides,” Moss said as examples.

The District 9 Commissioner is also a proponent of the controversial proposed development next to Zoo Miami. That plan has drawn intense protest as developers hope to pave over a parcel of protected pine rocklands. The project has been described as in commercial complex that will house a Wal-Mart, residential units, and a theme park. Opponents say, it will destroy the immediate environment and even threaten certain species.

Moss says he advocates for an environmentally responsible way to bring in that project for the positive economical impact it will bring the region.

LevineCave also hoped to restore trust in government.

“When people don’t trust the government, then we can’t get anything done,” she said.

Moss echoed that sentiment when he was asked how to solve transportation problems in the county.

He believes if public transportation is to be improved people are going to have to pay for it.

“Nothing in life is free,” he said.

Yet without trust, people are less likely to give another half-cent tax hike to improve the existing system.

Moss, the long time commissioner, acknowledged the commission dropped the ball with the last half cent tax raise and suggested that perhaps they could create an independent body just to oversee the construction, and nothing else.

“I don’t want to create an authority,” he said.

An idea they toyed around with out loud was to open up the bus way as a toll road. That could raise money for improvements or a bigger project.

The commissioners also spoke about the life conditions of the migrant workers.

Levine Cava once again advocated for a temporary driver’s license for those here without papers.

Moss advocated for help from Tallahassee to pass regulation that would protect migrant workers from having their pay stolen.

Both commissioners told the South Dade News Leader that they try to find a balance between serving the powerful farm industry in their region and helping improve the lives of migrant workers in the area.

“Certainly farm owners have their interests and the migrants have their interests, and to the degree we can, it’s our responsibility to try to be a referee for the people. And try to balance those interests,” said Moss.

“We have a thriving farm economy, not only thanks to the farmers but thanks to the workers. I know that the farmers appreciate that, but sometimes unfortunately farm workers are not given the protections that they are due. So my idea is to make sure that leadership in the farm community is aware of that and helps spread the word that our farming is not done at the expense of our farm workers,” Levine Cava told the South Dade News Leader.

Miami’s Community Newspaper: Commissioner shares thoughts on county government at KFHA

Original link here: http://communitynewspapers.com/kendall-gazette/commissioner-shares-thoughts-county-government-kfha/

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava returned to Kendall on Jan. 26 to greet a Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations audience of more than 50 “for the first time since the debate,” she said.

The newly seated District 8 commissioner referred to her only other Kendall appearance in July 2014 during a KFHA political forum with former Commissioner Lynda Bell whom Cava unseated in the Aug. 26 primary.

“It’s great to be back with you,” she began during a half-hour chat before answering questions for 45 minutes that covered dozens of hot Kendall topics, ranging from the Ludlam Trail, which she supports as a county-designed project, to the creation of a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) district to fund a Disneylike development near Zoo Miami — an action she opposes.

“I understand your concerns for the environment and preservation of areas with endangered species, and the need to build better protection into the current process that allows Comprehensive Development Master Plan changes without direct county input,” she said, noting it was the reason she supported placing the recent Florida East Coast Industries’ Ludlam Trail CDMP proposal under the county’s name.

“Projects like these and saltwater intrusion from FPL cooling canals at Turkey Point have a profound effect on our future,” she said, adding at one point that she is working on legislation to provide buffer zones to protect diminishing agricultural land areas from unopposed housing and commercial development, including a new method of regulating zoning densities.

“One of my biggest surprises as a new commissioner is seeing how actions largely reflect interests of each commissioner by the district they represent, rather than the effect on the county overall,” she said.

“My first learned rule was a ‘rule of seven’, you need seven votes (of 13 Commissioners) to get any legislation passed,” she smiled. Other highlights:

• Her office term agenda will include more focus on South Dade, the fastest growing area in Miami-Dade. Other points: building trust and accountancy in government, a campaign pledge.

• State legislation support to prohibit fracking (extraction of oil from minerals) from South Florida’s limestone sub-structure, typified by a recent Naples project that sunk a shaft 10,000 feet in depth and poured acid into it, the extraction method used.

• On Kendall clogged highways, we need to incorporate mass transit funding into an overall planning, including incorporating managed bus lanes on SR 836, the Dolphin Expressway, possibly financed by up to a 2 percent increase in gasoline taxes.

• On Miami Expressway Authority (MDX): review appointive members more closely for background expertise, and the method of appointments at the state level.

“Too many things happen behind the scenes that even commissioners know little about,” she concluded, adding that she sought more open communication with Mayor Carlos Gimenez as one answer.

“I found it strange that our county budget allows transfer of budgeted funds from library to parks or some other use,” she said. “I have already discussed with the mayor how we need a better, clearer budget presentation to see exactly how funding works.

“The county’s government will only be as good as we become active in it.”