LowT Gimenez Puppet via Political Cortadito

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Who squashed Santa’s Enchanted RFP? Puppet Carlos Gimenez won’t say


As if anyone needed more proof that someone is pulling his strings, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez last week publicly admitted that he stopped the request for proposals process to replace the Santa’s Enchanted Forest holiday operation after someone — and he won’t say who — asked him to.
Say what? So, he does work for someone other than the voters and commissioners!
But when asked point blank, Gimenez wouldn’t say who specifically asked him to stop the process, or, in other words, whose bidding he was doing.
“We’ll leave that for another day,” Gimenez actually said during last week’s county commission meeting during a discussion about extending the current vendor’s contract for one more year to ensure a 2020 event at Tropical Park. The vendor’s operating contract expired last year and the county should have requested a request for proposals months ago.
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Both Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Audrey Edmonson wondered out loud why this hadn’t been taken care of.
“We knew for years this contract was going to expire,” Edmonson said. “The RFP should have gone out a while ago.”
Said Gimenez: “This administration was ready to move a while ago and I was asked not to move it.”
Edmonson: “Asked by this commission?” It’s a logical, reasonable question.
“No, uh, but you have committees,” Gimenez said. “We knew this was coming and we had ideas.”
But when Chairwoman Edmonson asked him specifically who requested the squash on the RFP, Gimenez refused to say.
“We’ll leave that for another day,” he said. We’ll leave that for another day? Who we? What day?
Really? Really? Someone is pulling on his puppet strings and in a public meeting he both admits it and refuses to say who? Where are the proper authorities? Or do we just have to wait until Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle is voted out later this year (more on that later)?
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Look, everyone knows that for the right amount of campaign contribution — or the right job for an in-law — Mayor Grimenez will start or stop something. But he’s never been so blatant as to say it in a public meeting. Ladra blames the virtual format. He’s at home alone and it feels like he can say anything. These meetings are a blessing — you can see how the animals behave in their own environment — and a curse because the public participation has definitely been hampered (more on that later).
The whole Santa’s Enchanted Forrest discussion seemed so, um, I don’t know, irrelevant? There’s a public health pandemic goingon and South Florida is still under stay-at-home orders but our commissioners want to talk about holiday lights?
Apparently, Commissioner Joe Martinez brought the item up because he thought the COVID19-battered community would need a local cheery holiday getaway. And Ladra bets he’s never been to Santa’s Enchanted Forrest before because cheery is a stretch. Even Gimenez knows it’s a little ratchet.
“I’ve been there. I’ve taken my grandchildren there,” the mayor said. “I think we can do better.”
But there are a lot of people who love Santa’s Enchanted and create fond memories year after year. A petition on change.org to keep the event through 2020 had already been signed by about 15,000 residents by the weekend.
“The community is at risk of losing this beloved holiday event and over 1,000 jobs for the 2020 holiday season,” the petition language says, but Ladra can’t confirm that. “While Santa’s plans on bidding for a new long term lease agreement and spending millions of dollars in park improvements to benefit the community, that decision will not take place in time for the 2020 season. This petition only addresses a one-year extension for 2020 while the competitive bid solicitation process is ongoing.”
Gimenez said at last week’s meeting that any event won’t be the same as it was last year or any pre-COVID19 year. There likely won’t be rides as there may still be social distancing requirements in place and that it may not be worth it to the operators to open if people will still be too scared to attend crowded events. Events for large crowds are still a question, even in the future.
Still, the commission approved a resolution that gives the mayor a month to bring back an extension for a temporary holiday-themed fair by Santa’s Enchanted Forest Inc., so that there is something rather than nothing. Commissioner Javier Souto, who considers Tropical Park his own, personal crown jewel, voted against it and seems to want the county to put its own festivities together. Ladra bets it would involve horses.
But make no mistake of it, the exercise clearly showed us that Gimenez can be manipulated by outside forces to stop a competitive bidding process for a beloved community event. Imagine what else he’s been “asked” to do that we don’t know about.
Ladra asked a spokeswoman on Tuesday to please ask Gimenez to answer the question: Who asked the mayor to stop this RFP process? As of Sunday, there was still no answer. I also made a public records request for emails to and from his office with the words Santa’s Enchanted in them. Those will obviously take longer to produce.
But Mayor Gimenez can just decide to be transparent and tell us who asked him to stop the RFP process for Santa’s Enchanted. Whose orders do you follow, mayor?
It’s another day.

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