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Campaign 2020: 1-On-1 With Miami-Dade Mayoral Candidate Xavier Suarez

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida's Primary Election is August 18. There are quite a few high profile races including the race for Miami Dade County Mayor.

CBS4's Jim DeFede spoke to the four major candidates and those interviews aired on Facing South Florida.

Here is part of Jim's interview with Xavier Suarez, a member of one of South Florida's political dynasties as father of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and a former Miami mayor himself.

In his interview with Jim, Suarez talked about the county's pandemic response and how he would take on the challenge of rebounding the local economy.

Suarez: I think there was a little bit of a lack of the kinds of measures that I would have put in place for restaurants, hotels, and other shops and other retail facilities. And you know, shopping centers, grocery stores, etc, to make sure that every single person that walks in, doesn't have a temperature, and that every employee doesn't have the virus. Protective equipment is great, but you've got to make sure that you're not having people to people contact with folks that already have the virus, and we didn't do a good job enough on that. But, but yes, we reopened at the right time.

DeFede: How difficult is it to campaign under this environment? And what are the issues that that that you're trying to get across? Obviously, everyone is preoccupied with the pandemic, but what are the issues that you're hoping we'll break through for you?

Suarez: Everything is different. My first big problem was that all these interviews or Zoom conferences, or Skype, and I've had every technical difficulty imaginable, plus you know, not being able to meet up with people and not being able to be with your opponents in one forum where people can see you is a problem. Because, you know, it just isn't the same. The other issue is how many folks are actually going to show up at the polls, as opposed to using absentee ballots. And if we rely totally, as it seems like we're heading in that direction, and voting by mail, that is a little bit of a skewed electorate. And we're having to deal with that. I mean, we all have internal strategies and statisticians and experts, so-called experts helping us. It's not traditional politics, there's not a lot of face to face, I in some of my books, I've written about face to face democracy, you know, kind of direct democracy and, you know, this is kind of far away from it. It's very electronic, a little bit detached, confusing, and I think frankly, the voters are more looking at November than August and that's a scary proposition if people don't participate in August. We're not going to get a fair sample of folks in in this county.

DeFede: Well, again, what's the major issue for you that you were trying to communicate with voters?

Suarez: Before the coronavirus, it was clearly transportation and it still kind of is and we have an opportunity now, we have an asset that came out of a liability. We've lost so many. so much in revenues from the coronavirus and we've slowed down or we've reduced rather the number of folks that are expected to use automobiles in the future probably by 20% from people staying and working out of their homes. And then if we do free public transit, which I have proposed, I think that's another 20%. So we're going to have 60% of the traffic we used to have. And that bodes well for us. It's going to cost a little bit of money, the lost revenues from free public transit, which I have proposed, somewhere between 40 and 100 million dollars.

DeFede: The next mayor of Miami Dade County is likely to face some severe economic realities, you know, loss of sales tax revenue, and county budget is going to take a major hit. You know, if you're talking about providing more free transportation, providing more affordable housing, you know, I think the reality is, is that you're probably going to have to, or whoever the next mayor is, is going to have to do some serious cutting to the county to make up for all of the lost revenue because of these businesses being shut down. And many of them going out of business. How do you address that?

Suarez: And I proposed that serious cutting back to 2011 when I was elected and Chairman Martinez asked me to do a taskforce report. I thought I was going to get a lot of help. I ended up doing it pretty much by myself. And I proposed at the time savings for $400 million, which was 10% of the entire operating budget of the county. Now it would be it would be more like 8%. But there are serious cuts that have to be made. I mean, we've been asked to approve $88 million in furniture, new furniture. $100 million in new automobiles. We have 7,000 automobiles. We haven't reduced the fleet of automobiles.We have 4,000 people making over $100,000 in the county. One department, the IT department, that hasn't fared too well in all of this by the way because these Zoom meetings haven't worked out real well. has, you know, $211 million budget for a department that didn't used to exist 30 or 40 years ago. We have a lot of fat in the county and I'll be cutting a lot of it.

All of Jim's interviews are available at CBSMIAMI.COM/2020

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