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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonilla encouraged business owners to look for every opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Commission backs gay marriage in a close vote

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Gay marriage divided Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday as they narrowly approved joining the court fight for same-sex unions.

In a 7-5 vote, commissioners passed a resolution instructing county lawyers to file a court brief supporting same-sex couples who are so far winning in their effort to be married in Florida. The issue brought out organized opposition from Miami’s Christian Family Coalition and a string of speakers citing both scripture and Miami-Dade’s support of a 2008 Florida ballot measure banning gay marriage.

“This resolution is disrespecting my vote,” Kendall resident Joe Davila told commissioners. James Pacley, pastor of the New Born Faith Deliverance in Miami, added: “We got here not by two men getting married. We got here thanks to a man and a woman.”

Nobody in the audience spoke in favor of the measure. Largely symbolic, the vote proved more divisive than when, in December, the commission approved new protections for transgender people. That ordinance passed 8-3, with commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Juan C. Zapata voting against. The same three voted against the gay-marriage measure Tuesday, and were joined by Rebeca Sosa and Commission Chairman Jean Monestime.

“I do support visitation rights, inheritance rights, property rights, and, in some cases, even adoption I would support,” Monestime said of same-sex couples. “But when it comes to marriage … according to my belief, that has a lot to do with procreation. … I think, truly, this is a matter of conscience.”

Audrey Edmonson, the sponsor, argued that Miami-Dade needed to take a stand on the issue. “This is what’s right. And I’m a Christian,” she said to snickers from the audience. “I don’t think this has anything to do with whether you’re a good Christian or a bad Christian.”

Joining Edmonson in voting yes for the measure were commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Daniella Levine Cava, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss and Xavier Suarez. Commissioner Javier Souto was not present for the vote.

Florida’s first same-sex wedding occurred Jan. 5 in Miami on the heels of a federal judge overturning state laws limiting marriage to straight couples. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on same-sex marriage last week in cases out of Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky that could ultimately resolve the issue nationwide.

Sosa said she was voting against the resolution because of her opposition to one government trying to tell the other what to do. The resolution calls for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to withdraw her appeals of rulings that are allowing gay marriages in the state. “I don’t believe the state should mingle in county issues,” Sosa said, citing a recent push in Tallahassee to rewrite the rules for a Miami-Dade transportation board. “I cannot support what is in front of us today.”

Tuesday’s debate captured the hard lines that exist locally in the gay-marriage debate, even as polls show a majority of Americans now endorse same-sex unions. In 2008, the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman won a 57 percent majority on Election Day in Miami-Dade.

“We voted. Now I know that fads change. I know it’s hip and cool now to embrace certain issues,” Bovo said. “The reality is no matter what man says, no matter what a court says, marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s the way it was designed.”

A federal judge last summer ruled that the 2008 amendment violated the rights of same-sex couples. That decision was suspended to allow for appeals. But when the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to intervene, a Miami-Dade judge was the first to declare gay marriages legal on Jan. 5 (they were allowed statewide the next day).

“Making sure someone has the right to follow their heart is something we should not take away,” Jordan said Tuesday before voting for the gay-marriage measure. “It’s more than about religion. It’s more about how I feel personally. It’s a right.”

Miami New Times: Miami-Dade Commissioner Drafting Legislation to Ensure Equal Pay for Women

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Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 8, is on a mission to ensure that Miami’s women receive equal pay for equal work. Levine Cava is currently drafting legislation that would ban pay discrimination across the county. The legislation would essentially enact the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Miami-Dade County. While the UN passed the resolution in 1979, the United States remains one of the few countries that never adopted the convention.

But regardless of the federal government’s foot-dragging on the issue, counties and municipalities across the country have taken it on themselves to enact CEDAW. And Levine Cava has decided that a variation of the UN resolution is right for Miami-Dade county. “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,” Cava told WLRN.

Though women in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area fair slightly better than women nationally, earning a median $34,644 to a man’s $40,079, the pay gap in South Florida is still very real, as is its economic impact. It’s currently estimated that nationally women lose $434,000 over a lifetime due to the career pay gap. And while Florida, again, is slightly better at pay equity than the rest of America, closing the pay gap still sometimes seems like science fiction: the state’s pay gap isn’t estimated to close organically until the year 2038. Legislation like Levine Cava’s would help it close a little more quickly.

Levine Cava says that she hopes to have legislation written by June or July for the County Commission to vote on.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 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

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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.