Political Cortadito: "New, secret Carlos Gimenez ‘Baylink’ proposal benefits pals"

Political Cortadito:

New, secret Carlos Gimenez ‘Baylink’ proposal benefits pals


Elected officials are set to consider a secret deal, months in the making, that gives public land for development and operation of a Baylink monorail to a partnership between a manufacturer in communist China, a gambling giant pushing for a casino in Miami — and two of the mayor’s best friends/lackeys.

No, this is not the plot to an episode of Scandal or the latest novel by James Ellroy. This is real life in Miami-Dade, where Mayor Carlos Gimenez is doing his best to line the pockets of his family and friends plan before his reign is over next year.
This giveaway deal, first reported by the Miami Herald last week, is from the “Miami Beach Monorail Consortium,” comprised of three partners: Genting — which owns the old Miami Herald property on the mainland side and wants to build a casino there — Chinese monorail maker BYD Co., and Aqualand Development, a Florida corporation owned and/or operated by Ralph Garcia-Toledo, the mayor’s former BFF and campaign driver, and Jesse Manzano-Plaza, the mayor’s former campaign consultant, both of whom worked for Genting as a lobbyist or consultant in the past.

According to Florida Division of Corporations records, Garcia-Toledo started the company in 2006. Manzano-Plana is not listed as Vice President until this year’sannual report, filed in April, which also added Lucas Pizzutti, who works for Manzano’s Trident Strategies consulting firm, as secretary.
They’ve got good timing, huh?
The group wants to build a slick, speedy, modern monorail system connecting Miami Beach to the mainland, not coincidentally just about where Genting wants to build its future casino (rendering, right), on the old Miami Herald property it bought in 2011 for $236 million.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking private investment in this type of public project. In fact, this seems to present a perfect example of a public/private partnership opportunity.
But opportunities, especially those in the public sector, should be provided on an even playing field. This is clearly not.
While Gimenez is only asking the commission Wednesday to give the green light to seek proposals or bids for the Beach corridor, these people with their “unsolicited offer” head start have the upper hand. They’ve been working on this for months. It was first discussed during the mayor’s trip to Hong Kong last year, which Manzano and Garcia-Toledo tagged along to (so something came out of the junket, after all).
And Gimenez is helping them.
LowTGimenez cashing Chinese checks... Courtesy of Mr. Bacon.

After all, these are his pals.
Any open bidding process started now seems like theater. Maybe this is how they get around calling it a no-bid contract, but it will be the same thing.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has already asked County Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson to delay Wednesday’s vote. Only because he does not want the future Baylink track to be tethered — his wonderful word, not mine — to a casino, which Genting is still pushing for in Tallahassee. But, let’s face it, any transportation station along the MacArthur Causeway is going to land at or near that old Herald property. He’s fighting for a few feet.
We should also demand that any deal be made out in the open from the get-go. Then we should disqualify Miami Beach Monorail Consortium from the process. Because what they did was akin to cheating. This just reeks of inside, backroom deal and no other bidder will think they are getting a fair review.
Let’s also add another rule, shall we? Let’s demand that the interested parties not include anyone on the mayor’s friends and family plan. Just like contest rules often disqualify the relatives of employees of the brand, contract awards at the county should disqualify relatives and campaign staff of our electeds.
Can you imagine that?
Now that we know it can be done, now that Gimenez has ruled there is a viable path forward for a monorail between the mainland and Miami Beach, let’s throw this secret, inside, backroom deal out and open a truly transparent process to make it happen.

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