Six candidates for town offices answer questionnaires

Featured By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, July 3, 2024

     Four candidates are seeking to serve on the Miami Lakes town council where two incumbent officials -- Vice Mayor Tony Fernandez and Councilman Josh Dieguez -- want to become the next mayor.

     Mario O. Pinera Jr. and Angelo Cuadra Garcia, who was an unsuccessful council candidate in 2022, are vying for Seat 1. Juan Carlos Fernandez was unopposed as of June 28 as he runs for Seat 3, as is Steven Herzberg, unchallenged for Seat 5.  

     Candidates filled out questionnaires and their responses are published in full, below:

Joshua “Josh” Dieguez, candidate for Mayor of Miami Lakes

Where do you live?

What is your education?

What is your occupation?

What is your employment history? Attorney and business owner.

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime?

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you?

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations?  Miami Lakes Bar Association; Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Miami.

Have you ever run for office before? Elected in 2018 and re-elected in 2022.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far? None at this time.

Do you have any endorsements?

Councilmembers Luis Collazo, Marilyn Ruano and Bryan Morera; Miami-Dade Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia; School Board Member Roberto Alonso III; State Rep. Tom Fabricio; former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas; former acting Mayor and Vice Mayor Ceasar Mestre, Jr., and former vice mayors Tony Lama, Frank Mingo; Nelson Rodriguez; Tim Daubert; Nancy Simon and Robert Meador.

Why are you running for this office?

The next mayor needs to meet five criteria: (1) have strong ties to the community and a proven record of continuous service to the town; (2) have a record of successful legislation that puts Miami Lakes first by protecting or enhancing our quality of life; (3) bring strategic partnerships and knowledge of government processes for the town’s benefit to the job; (4) be a statesmanlike figure who treats colleagues and residents with respect, fosters consensus building on issues before the town council, and provides historic insight; and (5) have a record of supporting our Town’s business community. I believe I meet all these requirements.

(1) As a Miami Lakes resident since 1989, a co-owner of my family’s law firm located in Miami Lakes, and a longtime volunteer as chair of the Neighborhood Improvement Committee, vice president of the Miami Lakes Bar Association, member of the Elderly Affairs Committee and Charter Revision Commission and town intern, I have a unique understanding and appreciation of the town. (2) I’ve used my time in office to cut taxes and fees multiple times, continuously support our police and vote for other public safety initiatives such as specialized car theft details and license plate readers, vote for the most substantial investment in our drainage infrastructure in town history, restarted town-wide investments in our parks system, re-focused the town on beautification efforts, attracted new events to build up our community, and was delegated the responsibility of leading the town’s 2020 Census efforts during the COVID Lockdowns and still obtaining a 70% self-response rate. (3) I bring over 14 years of government relationships and advocacy to the table which has so far resulted in the town being selected for over $4 million in additional infrastructure money in partnership with Congressman [Mario] Diaz-Balart’s office and restarted efforts to create new highway connections to reduce congestion at Miami Lakes Drive and the Palmetto [Expressway] in partnership with Congressman Diaz-Balart’s office and Commissioner [Sen.] Rene Garcia’s office, just to name two ways I have already leveraged my relationships and knowledge to benefit the town and will continue to do so on Day One as Mayor. (4) I have always treated colleagues and residents with respect and will continue to do so. (5) I am the most active member of the town council when it comes to promoting the town in other cities and to outside trade groups and will continue to do so as Mayor in addition to creating events that benefit our local bars and restaurants, as I already have when I brought the Leadership Miami organization to Miami Lakes and started the Community Bike Rides.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party?

Yes. The issues we encounter affect everyone equally regardless of their party affiliation. For example, the potholes on the street and the people breaking into cars do not stop to ask your party affiliation before causing damage.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions?

Investment in basic services and infrastructure: Continue to leverage federal, state and county partnerships to do more drainage and street projects. Complete the Northwest 59th Avenue extension as thoroughly and quickly as possible to free up tax dollars for more sidewalk and light repairs and maintenance. Continue re-investing in all our parks starting with our local pocket parks. Make periodic trips around town with the Town Manager to inspect conditions on the ground personally and more quickly address them. Hold regular town halls with residents and other decision makers to hear directly from residents on a year-round basis and not only during election season.

Public safety: I have been a steadfast supporter of a town-wide License Plate Reader net and will continue to support completing the net and additional implementation in communities that want them. I also am supportive of a meaningful plan to gradually increase the number of our uniformed police officers. As I have on Northwest 79th Avenue and at the corner of Miami Lakeway North and Miami Lakes Drive, I will continue to support reasonable pedestrian safety measures from speed humps to protective vehicle barriers.

Traffic mitigation. Continue working with our federal, state, and county partners to create new highway access points to push traffic away from the knot at Miami Lakes Drive and the Palmetto Expressway. We can’t widen our roads and we cannot ban development under state and federal law, therefore the most meaningful traffic relief is how quickly we can move cars out of town.

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force?

I believe the town receives great police services from the Miami-Dade Police Department and am supportive of maintaining that relationship as they become an independent Sheriff’s Office. If we need or want to add to our police force, it currently costs $150,000 per officer each year. I am supportive of a plan that will eventually lead to an increase in the total number of officers we have under the existing contract. However, I am also in favor of conducting a formal study to get hard numbers on the cost of starting our own police department to ensure the town council and town residents can make informed decisions on this topic.

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?

I believe our state representatives are motivated to address this issue. In fact, the biggest impediment is ensuring legislators from other parts of the state understand how big of an impact blasting has on our homes is because of the different soil in Southeast Florida. This is why I have long supported grassroots efforts for passing proposed blasting reduction legislation such as co-sponsoring making the Blasting Advisory Board permanent, approving a budget for them to travel to Tallahassee to supplement the council’s advocacy efforts, and met with other elected officials in other cities to get them involved. I also continue supporting the return of jurisdiction for blasting damage claims to Miami-Dade Circuit Court, which I first proposed as a member of former Rep. Diaz’s Blasting Advisory Taskforce in 2018.

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

Like most residents, I support improvements to all our parks. It’s why I championed restarting the Mini Park Capital Improvement Program for our pocket parks and building parking spaces at K-9 Cove in the Carryforward Amendment to the budget. However, like most residents, I opposed the $20 million plan and bond proposed for the Optimist Park in 2022. I believe the town should focus on replacing and improving the existing Optimist Park facilities (dugouts, batting cages, lights, etc.) based on the current layout using a combination of grants and sponsorships from government agencies, non-profit groups, and companies in conjunction with a targeted multi-year investment plan by the town. As I understand it, it’s also possible for the town to meet parent requests for additional bathrooms and water fountains under the existing layout.

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected?

I think it was important for residents to see we are doing all we can to keep property taxes low and to highlight some of the challenges of opting for a rollback reduction each year in light of increasing costs of labor and materials. It’s also consistent with my record and promise to keep taxes low. Ultimately, the property tax rate should be based on the existing financial conditions and the available budget forecast in each fiscal year. Any increase in the property tax rate should only be considered in a financial emergency and after all other options, including budget cuts, have been exhausted.

 

Tony Fernandez, candidate for Mayor of Miami Lakes

Where do you live? Lake Elizabeth

What is your education? Master’s degree in Information Systems, Florida International University, 2016; Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, cum laude, Barry University, 2011.

What is your occupation? Founder & chief executive officer of Layer 8 Solutions, an IT services firm that focuses on technology solutions for schools across the country.

What is your employment history?

2004-2008 IT Manager, Academica Corp.

2008-2010 Director of Information Technology, Academica Corp.

2010-Present Founder and chief executive officer, Layer 8 Solutions.

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? No

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you? No

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations?  I am a member of the International Society of Technology in Education; the FIU Alumni Association; the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce; a former member of the Hialeah-Miami Lakes Republican Club and the current president of the Lake Elizabeth Homeowners Association.

Have you ever run for office before? Yes. I was elected to the Town of Miami Lakes Council, Seat 1 in 2020 and currently serve as the Vice Mayor since 2023.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far? Yes, I am the Chairman of Together Our Neighborhood Improves.

Do you have any endorsements? Yes, from Mayor Manny Cid, Councilman Ray Garcia, former Vice Mayor Jeffrey Rodriguez and former Vice Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Why are you running for this office?

I care deeply about our residents, and the prosperity of our community, and I am looking forward to making our town the best place to live, work and raise a family in Miami-Dade County. As your next Mayor, I will put my experience and leadership skills to work, making Miami Lakes an even better place to live for ourselves and our families. We need leadership that focuses on making responsible and wise decisions that benefit our community and improve our quality of life.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party?

My ideals and positions on key issues influenced my joining the Republican party, not the other way around. I consider myself an independent thinker, and I am always willing to listen to people with differing viewpoints and perspectives on issues that impact us all. Sometimes we can reach common ground and at times we cannot, but I believe that all residents deserve the respect to be heard and their ideas and feelings considered in earnest.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions?

Public safety is the most important responsibility of our town Government. Prioritizing properly funding our police department, by both making sure we have sufficient staffing at all times and giving them the tools and equipment that they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

Communities all around us are taxing their residents into foreclosure and pricing them out of the homes their families have lived in for decades. Continuing to keep our town administration accountable, and making sure that our tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively is the best way to keep the burden of taxes as low as possible for our residents.

Reducing traffic and eliminating the harmful effects of blasting are two issues that are also at the top of the priority list, but both are issues that are largely controlled by other agencies. I am committed to working with our representatives from the federal government, state, county, school board and other agencies, to not only be a strong advocate for our community, but also to use my background to work with them to generate fresh and innovative ideas to tackle some of these issues in ways they have not thought about before.

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force?

The town has decided not to pursue starting its own police force at this time, although this is a decision that should be re-evaluated periodically, as our police contract costs more than the entire amount of what we collect in property taxes on a yearly basis. What is abundantly clear is that the community wants to see more officers patrolling our neighborhoods. I am committed to prioritizing funding the additional officers going forward.

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?

Blasting is an incredibly complex issue that impacts many residents’ homes and businesses, including my own. Extracting aggregate cheaply from the local quarries benefits the majority of the state financially. The rock produced by the mine is vital for building new roads and housing developments throughout the region, but this comes at the expense of the destruction of the homes of those living closest to the mine, including our town.

In essence, as I argued before a House committee in Tallahassee earlier this year, our community is being unfairly “taxed” to provide subsidized lime rock for the rest of the state. If the benefits of mining the rock cheaply are realized by the entire state, then the state as a whole should shoulder the responsibility of paying for the damage caused to our homes. The state must then evaluate whether it prefers to pay for our damages or give the miners an incentive to change their business practices and extract the rock in a manner which does not destroy our property. I am willing to pursue all recourses, be they through legislative or legal channels to provide a resolution to this issue that stops our residents from shouldering the burden of this alone.

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

It is undeniable that Miami Lakes Optimist Park needs improvement, and I am fully in support of making those improvements. While the initial vision and funding source was not approved by the voters in 2022, we need to move forward with a more conservative plan to improve the park over time, while sharing the costs with our state, county, school board and private partners. I will be bringing a plan forward to accomplish this with no impact on our property taxes.

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected?

I believe the rollback rate was the correct decision for the current budget year. Year after year we continue to have record surpluses and rather than returning the money to the taxpayers, or using the money to invest in capital projects, millions of dollars of funds are then re-allocated to other projects or initiatives, outside of the normal budget process. Failing to re-calibrate the budget after consecutive years of exceeding revenues with an operating surplus can lead to wasteful spending and is not in the best interest of our residents.

The reason that we have several hearings and workshops as part of adopting the mileage rate and the budget every year is so that we can adjust and adapt to shifting financial realities. It may not be feasible to adopt the mileage rate every year, and in the face of a steep decline in property values, and by extension revenues collected from property taxes such as occurred in 2008, the council will have to make difficult choices and balance setting the correct rate needed to fund the services at the level our community expects. I am always eager to study the budget and make the best decision possible for our residents.

 

Angelo Cuadra Garcia, candidate for Town Council Seat 1

Where do you live? Royal Oaks

What is your education? High school diploma, American Senior High School.

What is your occupation? Road and bridge supervisor for the Florida Department of Transportation.

What is your employment history?

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? N/A

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you? N/A

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations?  Town of Miami Lakes Blasting Advisory Board.

Have you ever run for office before? Yes, 2022.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far? No PAC.

Do you have any endorsements? Pending.

Why are you running for this office? [To] Better [the] direction of the town.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party? My vote is never for sale.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions? Blasting, sidewalks and beautification.

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force? No.

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?  The Blasting Advisory Board is working on a solution!

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

We all agree that the park requires improvement. How the improvements are [paid] for is what all taxpayers need to agree on. I Angelo Cuadra Garcia support improvements. Improving the park with funds that include the State of Florida, Miami-Dade [County] and the park part owners, the Miami-Dade [County] Public Schools.  

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected?

I am committed to defending Miami Lakes taxpayers, and they expect efficiency, honesty and good stewardship from the town council. That means keeping taxes [low] and the quality of town services as high. That is my goal.

 

Mario O. Pinera Jr., candidate for Town Council Seat 1

Where do you live? West Lakes.

What is your education? Dade Christian School, high school diploma, Miami Lakes, FL 8/1992 — 6/1999; Florida International University, Business Administration, Miami, FL 8/1999 – 6/2003; Broward Community College, Continued Education, Hollywood, FL 8/2003 – 6/2004; Miami Dade College – Continued Education, Hialeah, FL 6/2023.

What is your occupation? Self-employed / Automotive industry.

What is your employment history?

6/1997 — 8/2000 Camp Counselor, Dade Christian School & Masters Academy, Dade & Broward, FL Coordinate games, activities and meals with counselors and children. Managed and cared for over 22 children from first to sixth grade.

6/1999 – 9/2000 Sales Rep, Purple Rain, Miami Lakes, FL. Responsible for evening inventory, restocking clothing, managing cash register, and communicate with vendors.

9/2000 - Present Chief Operating Officer - MOP Foreign Cars Division, Medley, FL & Unicity Auto

Manage, delegate, daily operations and communicate with 25+ employees, Exporting Project. Manager responsible for daily sales, payroll, purchases, and vehicle destruction.

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? No.

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you? No.

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations?  No.

Have you ever run for office before? No, this is my first time running for office.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far?

Do you have any endorsements? Yes, Councilman Ray Garcia, Vice Mayor, Tony Fernandez.

Why are you running for this office? I am running to bring a fresh perspective to our community, address key issues facing our town, and ensure that Miami Lakes continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party? Yes, I can make unbiased decisions that are in the best interest of our community, regardless of political party affiliations.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions?

Traffic Congestion: Implement strategic traffic management plans, improve public transportation options, and enhance road infrastructure.

Property Taxes: Work towards keeping property taxes low while ensuring efficient use of funds for essential services.

Community Safety: Increase funding for local law enforcement and community safety programs to ensure a secure environment for all residents.

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force?

I don't believe that having our own police department is feasible at this time due to the costs involved. Additionally, the Miami-Dade Police Department has done an exceptional job so far, and we don't yet know how the new Sheriff's Office will impact local law enforcement.

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?

We should continue to examine the Mining Defendants Impunity Act and its unconstitutionality. The Blasting Advisory Board has already led the way, and we should file a constitutional challenge in the 11th Circuit Court. This effort needs to be supported and expanded to motivate state representatives to take action to protect our residents.

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

I support improvements for Optimist Park, but not solely at the expense of Miami Lakes Residents. Funding should come from the school board and through partnerships with local organizations.

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected? With inflation and the high cost of everything, it wasn't wise to roll back the rate. Instead, I would have left it the same. If elected, I would need to review the budget thoroughly and make a decision based on that.

 

 

Juan Carlos Fernandez, candidate for Town Council Seat 3

Where do you live? Royal Oaks

What is your education? Associates in Business, Miami Dade College and short a semester at Florida Atlantic University, Bachelor's – Marketing.

What is your occupation? Real Estate Professional.

What is your employment history?

2018-Present  Keller Williams Realty (Part Franchise Owner)

2012-2014 Golden Acre Real Estate

2008-2012 The Keyes Company

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? No

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you? No

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations?  

A. Chair, Planning and Zoning Board for Town of Miami Lakes

B. Board Member Royal Oaks H.O.A.

C. Former chair, Neighborhood Improvement Committee, Town of Miami Lakes

D. School Board Member, ACE Charter School Little Havana 

E. Realtor (Trade Organization for Real Estate Professionals)

Have you ever run for office before? No.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far? No.

Do you have any endorsements? Mayor Manny Cid; Vice Mayor Tony Fernandez; Council member Joshua Dieguez, Council member Luis Collazo, Miami-Dade County Commissioner [Sen.] Rene Garcia.

Why are you running for this office? As a 21-year resident, active real estate agent and chair of the PNZ [Planning and Zoning] Board, I believe I have a unique perspective on what it takes to preserve our beauty, charm, and prestige by raising our standards to what Miami Lakers expect and deserve.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party? Yes I will always remain objective.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions?

A. Maintaining our code, right-of-ways and public spaces (solution: resolute on code compliance, hold staff accountable).
B. Blasting (solution: work with county commission and state representatives to lower blasting limits and lobby state reps to move jurisdiction to county, and consider recommendations from Town of Miami Lakes Blasting Committee).
C. Optimist Park (solution: urge town staff to seek park grant options, work with MDCPS Board to secure partial funding from MDCPS and open to private sponsorship options).

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force? No, the starting capital is extremely expensive and the costs don't outweigh the benefits. 

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?

Work with county commission and state representatives to lower blasting limits and lobby state reps to move jurisdiction to county, and consider recommendations from Town of Miami Lakes Blasting Committee.

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

Almost all residents agree that Optimist Park is in need of repairs. Urge town staff to seek park grant options, work with MDCPS Board to secure partial funding from MDCPS and open to private sponsorship options.

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected?

Sometimes the rollback rate is appropriate but it's important to keep our tax decisions in line with what most residents want, and most residents want better services than what we're currently receiving, which are only getting more expensive. Sometimes, keeping a flat tax rate is better to cover that increase in costs. 

 

Steven Herzberg, candidate for Town Council Seat 5

Where do you live? Royal Oaks

What is your education? University of Miami School of Law J.D. 2014.

What is your occupation? Attorney.

What is your employment history?  

In law school I clerked for U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, a local real estate developer, and for Legal Services of Greater Miami. After graduation I then spent one year working as an in-house attorney for a local real estate investment company. In January 2016 I began working at my current firm Vazquez & Associates (soon to be VHL Law) where I am now a partner. My work focuses on real estate transactions, and real estate and business disputes in Florida and federal courts.

Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? No

Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure or had a restraining order issued against you? No.

Do you belong to any professional or civic organizations? Florida Bar; Town of Miami Lakes Blasting Advisory Board; Dade County Bar Association; Florida Bar Young Lawyers Section; Florida Bar Real Property, Probate & Trust Section; Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section, and Provisors Professional Networking Group Miami-1.

Have you ever run for office before? No.

Do you have any political action committees? What's the name of your PAC? How much money have you raised so far? I do not have a PAC.

Do you have any endorsements?

I have not sought endorsements yet. As we get closer to the election, I will seek endorsements from community leaders who know me and have worked with me. I am confident that their support will reflect my commitment to serving the residents of Miami Lakes effectively.

Why are you running for this office?

My decision to run for public office is driven by two core reasons: my commitment to serving the residents and making Miami Lakes the best community it can be, and my deep admiration for our system of government and commitment to building engagement and trust within our community.

First and foremost, I am dedicated to serving the residents of Miami Lakes and making our town the best possible place to live. My goal is to guide our town's growth while preserving its unique identity, maintaining the qualities that have made Miami Lakes a family-friendly town. I believe in fostering a civically engaged community, ensuring that Miami Lakes remains a welcoming place to raise a family and retains its town atmosphere. I firmly believe that the best opportunity to make a difference and effect change in your community is at the local level.

Secondly, my admiration for our system of government is deeply influenced by my family's incredible journeys to the United States. My grandparents and father crossed the Atlantic after WWII, arriving at Ellis Island in pursuit of the American Dream. In 1961, my grandparents sent my mother alone on a plane from Havana to Miami at just five years old, rejoining her almost a year later. These stories highlight the strength of our system and the opportunities it can provide to all. I am committed to building trust and transparency in local government to ensure we have a community that is engaged and trusts our system of government. I am running for office to serve our community and ensure a vibrant future for Miami Lakes, keeping it a place we are all proud to call home.

Given this is a non-partisan seat, if elected do you believe you can make decisions without being influenced by your political party?

I strongly believe that partisan politics do not belong in local decision-making. If given the privilege to serve the residents of Miami Lakes, my decisions will be based solely on what is best for the residents of this town, and nothing else.

What are the top three issues for Miami Lakes and what are your solutions?

Traffic: Traffic is a significant concern for every resident of Miami Lakes. While the town can implement measures to alleviate some traffic issues, achieving real change requires strong advocacy at the county and state levels. We need to fight for the proposal and implementation of effective, long-term traffic solutions for our region in NW Miami-Dade County. These solutions include additional access points to major highways, updating traffic control devices, improving major intersections within and just outside town limits, and exploring mass transit options. Although the town lacks direct control over most of these matters, it is crucial to advocate for them strongly and consistently at County Hall and in Tallahassee. This is a promise I make to our residents.

At the local level, I believe our Police Department should prioritize speed enforcement and address careless driving. Despite being a family-friendly town with numerous small residential streets and neighborhood parks, we lack active and visible traffic enforcement.

Additionally, I will advocate for reviewing options to reduce speeding with traffic control devices and enhancing pedestrian safety at busy intersections, especially around the Main Street district, parks, and schools. I also aim to explore ways to streamline bureaucratic processes with the county to empower our town with more local control over our streets. Furthermore, conducting regular traffic studies when necessary and requiring them with new large developments is essential.

Lastly, we must build on community engagement to identify and address specific traffic hotspots and concerns effectively and directly with stakeholders and residents.

Budget/Taxes:  The council's most crucial responsibility is determining and setting the town’s budget. Every budget season is pivotal in deciding the level of services the town will provide its residents, ranging from public safety to programs for children, seniors, code enforcement, and town upkeep.

My goal is to work with our budget to enhance critical town services and improve the upkeep of our public spaces. This includes initiatives such as increasing the number of police officers in our force and providing law enforcement additional tools such as expanding our LPR network, enhancing our code enforcement and building departments, and ensuring accountability for third-party contractors who fail to meet the standards expected in Miami Lakes.

Additionally, we need to implement measurable performance metrics to ensure that our government is working effectively for the people and delivering a high standard of results. Recognizing the continuous need for improvement, I will use every budget cycle as an opportunity to assess the town's performance and ensure that government serves residents effectively with a high standard of care and results.

I am also committed to conducting a detailed review of the Special Taxing Districts budgets under the town's purview and sitting down with each districts’ advisory board. For many residents the payment to their Special Taxing District approaches or even exceeds their town tax obligations. I am dedicated to minimizing tax burdens on our residents while safeguarding essential town services from any adverse impacts.

Rock Mine Blasting: With almost four years of service on the Blasting Advisory Board, I have gained a deep understanding of the enduring impact of nearby rock mining operations on our homes, businesses, and infrastructure. The mine blasts have unquestionably inflicted significant monetary damages on the town and its residents.

At the previous June town council meeting, the Blasting Advisory Board presented an advisory opinion I prepared, which was unanimously adopted by the town council. This opinion provides a roadmap to potential relief and outlines actions that, if elected, I will ensure are followed through. This includes pursuing legal action to grant Miami Lakes residents the right to seek monetary damages in a normal court setting.

As I have consistently stated, co-existence between the mining industry and our residents is essential. Regrettably, the industry does not share this position, necessitating exploration of all available options to hold them accountable.

I am the strongest candidate poised to tackle this issue. My nearly four years on the Blasting Advisory Board have afforded me extensive time and research on the matter. Through dialogue with leaders from various communities and government entities, both in support and opposition, I have cultivated a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in addressing this issue.

Should the town start its own police force? If yes, how should it be paid for, and do you know the cost of expanding the police force?

No. Currently, the Miami-Dade Police Department provides excellent service to the town. The significant investment required in police infrastructure is unwarranted when we already receive high-quality professional law enforcement services under our county contract. Simply put, at this time the town cannot afford it, nor is there any rational reason to undertake such an endeavor.

Blasting affects many residents on the west side of Miami Lakes. How would you motivate state representatives in Tallahassee to reduce the impact upon property owners?

I have actively pursued this goal by visiting Tallahassee three times in the past three years and engaging with numerous elected officials on the matter. Additionally, I represented the town in a legislative committee workshop focused on this issue, which discussed this issue for the first time in 20 years in Tallahassee. I have also been and will continue to work on gathering support from other municipalities in the state that are affected by the issue. While most legislators I've spoken with do not oppose the legislation I support, the main challenge lies in getting the legislation to a committee vote. Although passing a bill that primarily affects specific localities is a significant undertaking, our State Representative Tom Fabricio has shown remarkable motivation on this issue. To garner support, we have concentrated on educating every elected official we meet and highlighting that this issue will become statewide as development encroaches on mining areas.

Furthermore, collaboration with our local state elected officials is crucial in proposing various types of legislation that could offer relief. Momentum is building, and I believe there is a strong chance of some legislative relief in the next two legislative sessions. Nonetheless, the complexity of navigating the political landscape in Tallahassee underscores the need to pursue all possible avenues for relief from mine blasting, including legal action. I am committed to an all-options approach, which includes attempting to bypass Tallahassee altogether. However, should there be an opportunity to pass legislation, I will be the first one in Tallahassee knocking on every single legislature’s office to secure the votes.

Do you support any improvements for Optimist Park? If yes, what should be done and how should it be paid for?

Two things were made very clear in the 2020 Bond Referendum. First, the residents of this town do not want an increase in their taxes to fund those improvements. Second, residents believe that Optimist Park needs improvements, but not a redevelopment. I am committed to respecting these sentiments. I will not support any measure that would increase taxes on our residents to enhance the park. Instead, upkeep and necessary improvements will be made on a year-to-year basis based on our Town’s available budget.

I will also explore all alternative funding sources, including county and state funds, as well as grant opportunities. Additionally, I advocate for exploring public-private partnerships between the town, School Board, and private entities willing to contribute to park improvements. By leveraging these partnerships and seeking external funding, we can ensure that Optimist Park receives the enhancements it needs without imposing additional financial strain on our residents.

Do you think it was the right decision to choose the rollback rate for the budget? Will you be willing to raise the rate if you are elected?

Considering the town's carry forward surplus with the rollback rate, the decision made at the time was appropriate. If elected, I must acknowledge that strict adherence to the rollback rate every year may not be feasible. However, I am committed to not supporting an increase in our millage rate (tax rate). Each budget cycle will require careful examination, considering current economic conditions, property valuations, and the needs of the Town.

I will be dedicated to working hard to make government as efficient and effective as possible and to work towards lowering taxes. However, I will also prioritize ensuring that essential services maintain the level we expect in Miami Lakes.