County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia addresses Chamber of Commerce

Business By Alexandra Herrera, Reporter Wednesday, August 17, 2022

     When Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia addressed the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce luncheon this month, he was among friends. 

     Garcia represents District 13 in the northwest section of the county.  

     During his 25 years in politics and growing up in the area, Garcia, 48, of Hialeah, has come to know many of the business professionals, educators and politicians who filled a ballroom at the Miami Lakes Hotel on Main on Aug. 10. 

     Garcia spoke about starting a non-profit to serve the community, his investment in Sierra Medical Center in the Windmill Gate Shopping Center in Miami Lakes, the practices of the county commission and recent legislation.

     Of most interest to the audience were proposed on and off ramps from Interstate 75 to Hialeah and Miami Lakes. 

     “It’s not about crossing over bridges trying to get connectivity, it’s about getting people in and out of both Hialeah and Miami Lakes,” Garcia said.

     Garcia said he has been working on the project with Miami Lakes Councilman Josh Dieguez, who was at the luncheon, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Jimmy Morales, chief operations officer for the county

     A call was planned by the leaders this week with the Florida Dept. of Transportation District 6 secretary about whether the ramps can happen, where they would be built and estimated costs.

     Garcia said things have moved along thanks to help from Levine Cava.

     He called her “instrumental” in getting language passed through the county’s Transportation Planning Organization. 

     Relative to today’s divisiveness in politics, Garcia said he worked well with Levine Cava on issues despite belonging to different parties: She’s a Democrat, he is a Republican. 

“We can sit down and talk about [being polar opposites] … and how we can solve it,” Garcia said. 

     As far as working on the commission, Garcia said that he hopes as the fall election brings new faces to that body and there may be more transparency in how the county solicits and 

and awards bids. 

     “I am not going to sit up here and say I’m the biggest saint, but we have to respect the taxpayers and respect the integrity of government,” Garcia said. 

     Garcia said he remains confused on how contracts are awarded and described how a company at the bottom of a list of bidders ended up winning a job.

 Garcia reflected on the longevity of his political career, which includes serving on the Hialeah city council, in the state senate and on the county commission, where he works on behalf of residents from both Hialeah and Miami Lakes.

     “Representing both communities, I have had to walk that fine line,” Garcia said. 

     His role was tested during negotiations between the county and municipalities over the two closed bridges that span I-75. 

     The Northwest 170th Street bridge opened Aug. 16.  The bridge at Miami Lakes Drive could remain closed for up to a decade unless ramps to I-75 are built from that span. 

     “I voted against the initial bridge openings that they wanted, but I did that because there was not a comprehensive plan on how to address the issue,” Garcia said.

       “The political will was there, the strength of the politics was there, we have a chairman [Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz], that was his whole commitment, to open both bridges,” he said.

        A memorandum between the entities was signed in May.

     “Sometimes in our constituency they don’t understand why we’re voting this way,” Garcia said.  “[But] if we didn’t do it a certain way, both bridges would have opened and it would have been worse for the area of Miami Lakes.”

     Garcia said a goal after leaving the state legislature was to start a non-profit, which became Hope Mission Center, at 1490 W. 68th St. in Hialeah. 

     “It really is a community access center, that is the safety net when people fall on hard times,” Garcia said of the organization that assists constituents with rent, registers them for state and federal aid programs and other services.

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