A Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) forum lasting just over two hours heard campaign rhetoric mixed from opinions of the United States’ role in the Mideast to occasionally heated exchanges between two candidates for the non-partisan Miami-Dade Property Appraiser post.
In the only head-to-head session of the night, incumbent Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia, 74, steadfastly defended taxing of the Marlins Park garages despite sharp criticism from ex-House Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, 38, who proposed legislation to exempt levying more than $1 million in taxes against the City of Miami.
“It’s not the only reason I decided to run against him,” declared Lopez-Cantera, face-to-face with Garcia. “His failure to reassess foreclosures has hurt the county during four years and that office is a disgrace because of how it treats the public.
“If elected, I’m going to do away with the counters that separate staff and make office people deal directly, one-on-one with the public.”
Later in the session, ex-school principal Rosemary Fuller of Florida City bitterly criticized Appraiser’s Office personnel for failing to resolve an issue which she said had twice levied $8,000 against her by mistaking her home address for that of her son.
Apologizing for any potential discourtesy or delay, Garcia said he “would review the matter personally,” offering her his business card and adding, “If something has occurred here that is wrong, it will be righted.”
Noting current statutes still require taxing of the stadium garage, Garcia reiterated his continuing stand on that issue by “following the letter of the law rather than act arbitrarily.”
He defended his 370-member staff, adding that to improve communications, he has expanded Internet services and recently announced filing liens for more than $5 million in back taxes that were identified with improved software.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has held that office since Kendall’s Janet Reno became U.S. Attorney General under the Clinton administration in the early 1990s, made the most of a solo appearance before a warmly receptive audience.
When opponent Roderick Vereen failed to appear, she traced her background from service under Reno to directing a current staff of 1,200 that includes 370 lawyers and has become the nation’s fourth largest office of its kind.
Rundle reviewed a series of strategies implemented in recent years to reduce crime in Miami-Dade with its primary focus on “career criminals responsible for 75 percent of all crimes committed in the county.”
Noting a current wave of sex crimes targeting juveniles, she said a strategic force was formed after a January conference of Miami-Dade law enforcement officials, a move that directly aided mid-July arrests of four male operators of a teenage prostitution house.
As of deadline, U.S. District Judge William Zloch had not yet ruled on a request to open the Aug. 14 primary to permit Republican and Independent voting in the Democratic-only race, barred due to the qualification of two write-in candidacies for the Nov. 6 General Election.
U.S. House District 26
Three of four Democrats and two Independent candidates for the new District 26 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives provided a variety of comment on state and national issues, each hoping to oppose former District 25 Rep. David Rivera, a Republican with no primary opponent.
District 26 was created as a result of the 2010 census to represent southwest Miami-Dade County and portions of Monroe including the Florida Keys.
Democrats attending included Gloria Romero Roses, Joe Garcia (unsuccessful in a previous bid for District 25) and Gustavo Marin. The fourth Democrat, Lamar Sternad, did not attend. Independents Jose Peixoto of Key Largo and Angel Fernandez of Cutler Bay completed a panel of five at the forum.
A summary of answers to moderator and KFHA president Michael Rosenberg’s query: “What is the first act you would propose if elected?”
Reducing infrastructure in government with defensible criteria (Garcia); expand science and technology education to aid economic growth (Marin); tax reform eliminating loopholes in current codes (Romero Roses); budget reduction (Fernandez), and passage of the Dream Act for immigrants (Peixoto).
The three Democratic candidates supported United Nations peace efforts and aiding Israel without risk to U.S. security, but Fernandez said, “we shouldn’t be involved at all” and Peixoto urged U.S. cooperation to “take out” Iranian missile capability, as necessary.
The session also heard from Jacci Suzan Seskin, an assistant state attorney, and Ivonne Cuesta, a senior supervising attorney for the Public Defender, both seeking election as Miami-Dade County Court Judges in Group 27.