Miami Herald: “Miami-Dade donors switch sides to support incumbent commissioner”

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What a difference the title of county commissioner can make.

When she successfully challenged incumbent Lynda Bell three years ago, Daniella Levine Cava received negligible support from the developers and county contractors who bankroll sizeable portions of county races. Now an incumbent herself, Levine Cava is collecting some large checks from some of the same donors who helped Bell.

Landmark, a top affordable housing developer in Miami-Dade, gave $17,000 to Bell in 2014 and none to Levine Cava. In April, Landmark’s president and affiliated entities gave $9,000 to Levine Cava for her debut fundraising report.

“We just think she’s doing a good job,” said Robert Saland, Landmark’s president. “She called us up and asked if we could help her out.”

Levine Cava, a former nonprofit executive whose South Dade district includes Homestead, was not immediately available for an interview after Wednesday’s release of her campaign committee’s report. She raised $118,000 in April, and the money represents the first stream of cash directed to the 2018 cycle of commission elections in Miami-Dade.

Christian Ulvert, Levine Cava’s campaign manager, said the commissioner’s converts on the donor side reflect a vote of confidence in her tenure. “I don’t think it’s a surprise,” he said. “Given how hard she has worked.”

Levine Cava and five other incumbents — Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Jean Monestime, Rebeca Sosa, and Javier Souto — face reelection in 2018. Term-limit rules enacted in 2012 also mean any incumbent who gets reelected could not run again in 2022. Levine Cava was the first to file for reelection last month, and last week Sosa joined the list of incumbents officially running for another four-year term.

Sosa, a former West Miami mayor who has been on the commission since 2001, will be required to submit her first fundraising report next month.

When she challenged Bell in 2014, Levine Cava received financial backing from county unions and the Democratic Party. Other former Bell donors now giving her money are the Miami Dolphins ($13,000 to Bell; $1,250 to Levine Cava), and Redland Market ($8,500 to Bell; $7,000 to Levine Cava).

Miami Community Newspapers: “GMCVB cuts ribbon on new South Dade Visitor Center”

By Ginny Gutierrez, Miami Community Newspapers

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More than 100 guests, elected officials and local business leaders were on hand for the Apr. 17 ribbon cutting of the new South Dade Visitor Center, located at the South Dade Government Center, 10710 SW 211 St. in Cutler Bay.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) — in partnership with Miami-Dade Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Dennis Moss, and the Economic Development Council — launched the opening in support of the new South Dade: More to Explore marketing campaign.

“Today’s savvy travelers are looking for authentic experiences and we want to help bring them to South Dade’s increasingly popular eco-habitat of wildlife, farmland, businesses and attractions,” said William D. Talbert, III, CDME, GMCVB president and CEO.

Welcoming guests to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new visitor center were Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn, Miami-Dade Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Dennis Moss, and Rene Infante of the South Dade Economic Development Council.

GMCVB Visitor Centers and neighborhood marketing campaigns serve two important purposes. In addition to informing and attracting visitors to new neighborhoods, they can also help revitalize and re-invent areas where they’re located. Visitor centers have reported a continued increase in traffic in recent years, an indication of their popularity and value for visitors seeking information about what to see and do in South Dade’s vibrant and evolving community neighborhoods.

“More customers can also mean greater economic development for a neighborhood,” Talbert said. “Local businesses and merchants benefit from visitor spending, increasing opportunities for growth and job creation.”

Residents also can benefit from learning more about South Dade by visiting

“We think even our residents will be surprised at how much there is to see and do in South Dade — Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, our local farms and attractions, great shopping, dining and a year-round calendar of performing arts, festivals and events,” Talbert added.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is an independent accredited not-for-profit sales and marketing organization with a mission to attract visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches for leisure, business and conventions.

For a vacation guide visit the website at or call 1-888-76-Miami (US/Canada only) or 305-447-7777. To reach the GMCVB offices dial 305-539-3000. Meeting planners may call 1-800-933-8448 (US/Canada only) or 305-539-3071 or visit

Miami’s Community Newspapers: Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade, in Partnership with Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Transforms 17 Homes of Veterans and Senior Citizens in Leisure City

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Sixteen Leisure City homeowners received new roofs, new bathrooms, new kitchens, Healthy Home Kits, painting and landscaping today as part of Rebuilding Together Miami’s signature event, National Rebuilding Day. National Rebuilding Day 2017 was made possible by the office of Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava who designated over $220,000 in funding to make capital improvements to 16 homes so that each resident may age in place safely and comfortably. Funding also provided beautification and repairs to Live Like Bella Park. “I’m thrilled to sponsor National Rebuilding Day in South Dade. Rebuilding Together has an excellent record of making critical home repairs in neighborhoods throughout Miami-Dade that improve the quality of life of our residents. I am looking forward to improving the homes in our community and making Leisure City even more beautiful and welcoming. When our community comes together, we all thrive” says Cava.

Over 300 volunteers gathered at Live Like Bella Park to kickoff the event before dispersing to the homes. Mrs. Johnson, a 60 year old widow, who has lived in her home for 37 years, addressed the volunteers. “The mildew in my kitchen made me have upper respiratory infections. They cleaned out all of the mildew behind the cabinets before they replaced the cabinets and my home already feels ten times better. Now that the cabinets have been fixed, the smell is gone and I won’t have to worry about breathing in dirty air. I am just so excited and happy to have this work done. Thank you for blessing me!”

By leveraging resources and organizing volunteers, Rebuilding Together Miami is able to provide repairs for homeowners to live in safe and dry homes. Additional event sponsors are Raymond James, Booz Allen Hamilton, Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, A. Galvez Construction, Coastal Construction, First Florida Building Corp, Margo Roofing, Coda Roofing, Energy Cost Solutions Group, COWs Container on Wheels, UPS Foundation, Behr Paint, Everglades Steel, KVC Construction, PepsiCo, Home Depot Store #6306, Starbucks, Shortys Bar-B-Q, Trinity Empowerment Consortium.

“Rebuilding Together Miami is committed to preserving affordable housing and making a difference in the community”, commented Donna Fales, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Miami. “Our vision is a safe and healthy home for every person.

Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade affiliate is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization preserving affordable homeownership and revitalizing neighborhoods by providing rehabilitation services to low-income senior citizens, veterans and disabled homeowners free of charge. Through the support of corporate sponsors, local businesses and the hands-on work of volunteers, the organization donates approximately $800,000 in market value each year by focusing on home modifications, energy efficiency and safety concerns. The organization is part of a network of more than 200 affiliates and is the nation’s leading nonprofit working to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize communities. For more information, visit

South Dade Newsleader: ‘Rebuilding Together’ is Making a Difference

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It all started after Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on South Florida in August of 1992. Out of the piles of debris arose a branch of a National Organization called “Christmas in April.” They rolled up their sleeves and began repairing homes that were in savable condition. Their name was later changed to “Rebuilding Together” thus becoming more “politically correct” therefore attracting a wider spectrum of volunteers. Today, on a national level, more then 100,000 volunteers have completed 10,000 projects. Last year the Miami Chapter repaired 44 homes all without cost to the owners. It’s about helping the elderly, the disabled, veterans and families with children who are in need of assistance in making their homes safe.

April 29th: Those who attended today’s function were amazed by the number of cars surrounding Live Like Bella Park in Leisure City. Close to the south entrance, a group of 37 bearded construction workers stood waiting for the starting call. This group, “The Bearded Villains,” is part of a National Club that can be found on the Internet ( Other groups comprised a work force of over 200 “professionals” many with hammers, saws and a variety of other tools in hand. These guys and gals were chomping at the bit to tackle anything in need of repair from major roofing repair to making a home handicapped accessible. Landscaping, street repairs and even demolition of abandoned structures is included if necessary.

After gathering around the “snack tables” filled with coffee and high energy drinks, a short presentation followed. As our beloved Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava took to the podium. The crowd was introduced to the Officers from the National Headquarters of Rebuilding Together. For those who didn’t know, today is National Rebuilding Day with some 20,000 volunteer workers donating their time, money and materials “to improve and preserve affordable homeownership to low-income homeowner by revamping neighborhoods.”

Funding of $220,000, for local projects, was obtained from a Community Development Block Grant. There have been other projects throughout Miami-Dade but today’s target
was 16 homes in our own back yard. Before the workers were “set loose” a recipient of this wonderful program, Rose Marie Johnson, was handed the microphone. If enthusiasm had not peaked by now Ms. Johnson’s words overflowed the cup of motivation with her appreciation.

The Bearded Villain Chapter stated that “It was an honor to participate in this years National Rebuilding Day. An event put together by the wonderful organization Rebuilding Together Miami-Dade. This event was to provide critical home repairs to low-income, elderly, veterans and disabled homeowners at no cost. So the BV305 was out in full force to tackle as many houses as possible. We painted, planted trees, etc. Thank you to everyone that supported us, and to the brothers that were able to make it.”

Commissioner Levine-Cava released the herd of workers with her unbelievable energy. She arrived home late last night but never missed a beat from jet lag…how does she do it? In closing. this yearly event deserves the praise equal to the beloved “Habitat for Humanity” program, so members of the media, how come we have never heard about this “positive” organization on a State or National level?
Oh well, Thank Heaven for local news.

HomeShopper Magazine: “Accelerate South Dade Grand Opening”

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, in conjunction with the Economic Development Committee and the Neighbors And Neighbors Association, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Accelerate South Date small business and nonprofit incubator on April 7. The new facility located at 10700 Caribbean Blvd #301 will provide a shared space and resources for small businesses to learn and grow.

Miami’s Community Newspapers: “Accelerate South Dade office opens to help small businesses”

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Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava officially opened the Accelerate South Dade Small Business and Nonprofit Incubator office on Apr. 7.

The facility and program provides workspace and one-on-one guidance to about a dozen tenants and support services to other members and associates who are starting businesses or non-profit organizations.

Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the office were Commissioner Levine Cava, who sponsored the office; Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell and town manager Rafael Casals; Accelerate South Dade manager Danilo Vargas; Neighbors and Neighbors Association Inc. executive director Leroy Jones; Lisa Greer of the Economic Development Council; Jackie Souza of FIU’s Small Business Development Center; Lawanda Wright-Robinson of the county’s Internal Services Department, Small Business Division; Daniel Leyte-Vidal of U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office and numerous others.

Commissioner Levine Cava introduced the dignitaries and thanked everyone for attending. She said she was extremely pleased with the way everything had come together.

“This is a dream come true,” Levine Cava said. “A vision realized that could have only happened with the partnership of so many people here in the room. If this were my last act I would die happy. It’s a critical part of growing our economy here in South Dade. We all know that small businesses are the backbone of our economy.”

Mayor Bell thanked the commissioner for her efforts to help the community.

“Welcome to Cutler Bay,” Mayor Bell said. “This is a historic day for South Dade, in going in the direction of ‘More to Explore’ and we are the very best place. Of course, Cutler Bay is the number seven fastest growing suburb in the United States. I couldn’t be more pleased as a small business owner myself to see all these new businesses starting and having this wonderful opportunity.”

Leroy Jones, executive director of Neighbors and Neighbors Association Inc., which operates the Accelerate office, was pleased with the launch of the incubator.

“This is an opportunity to serve and I don’t take it lightly,” Jones said. “I’m thankful, Commissioner, that you believe in me. We go way back, in the same line of work, and to see you grow… I always knew you had great things inside you, and to see us do this together, it’s wonderful.”

Tenant members of the Accelerate office are especially appreciative of the facility and its program.

“It allows for me to focus,” said Farrah Joseph of Pure Essentials. “I’m a single mother, so at home it’s all about family. This allows me to be in a business environment with help and contacts.”

Joann Chan, a fashion designer at Grandstand Fashion, said, “This is a godsend, for Commissioner Levine Cava to do this.”

Wendy Muguercia, an investigator with Revival Private Investigators, said she also was grateful for the assistance and the opportunity provided by the incubator program.

Accelerate South Dade is located at 10700 Caribbean Blvd., Suite 301. For information call 786-732-0774 or send a email to Danilo Vargas at

Miami Herald: Let the 2018 campaign season begin

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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

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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

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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.”