Government, News, Politics

Regalado on Miami Turmoil

The Spotlight sat down recently with Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado to talk about several issues affecting Coconut Grove, including the political scandals now rocking Miami City Hall. Regalado represents District 7 on the County Commission, which includes Coconut Grove. The first installment of our conversation appears below. Questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Spotlight: Are you endorsing a candidate in the District 2 commission race?
Regalado: No, I don’t want to wade into that, and the reason is I have to work with whoever gets elected. I will say this, the city is kind of in a chaotic state right now, but we have good relationships with the city. We are able to get things done. This is not my district. I live in Golden Pines, which is right across from Coconut Grove. That used to be in [District 2].

Spotlight: Were you gerrymandered out of District 2?
Regalado: I am conveniently not in that district anymore. I am in Manolo Reyes’ district now. So, I was like, all right, I guess I have a different commissioner. But still in the city of Miami.

Spotlight: The cloud of corruption hanging over Miami feels very much like a repeat of the scandals in the 90’s. Structurally, do you think the city has to make some changes?
Regalado: We definitely need to change the rules in terms of disclosure. I think when you look at our disclosure form at the county, and the one the city uses, it reminds you of a world 10 years ago where people didn’t have passive income. It doesn’t get into this whole malaise we now have of independent contractors. It doesn’t ask, are you an independent contractor? Do you work as a consultant? And I think it should. So, I think there is a learning moment here like, hey, maybe these things should be updated every few years, so people can’t play this little game of “you didn’t ask me, so I didn’t tell you.” Which is not necessarily the most transparent way to go about this. It doesn’t build trust.

Spotlight: So, better disclosure. What about an independent inspector general for the city itself?
Regalado: We have one at the county, and when I was at the School Board we toyed with having one too, but we ended up contracting with the county [to engage its inspector general]. So the city could contract with the county.

Spotlight: Did that work?
Regalado: It did, the contracting worked. The other thing that is interesting, the county also decided that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is the one that investigates county officials. That’s another thing that the city could have a conversation about. The city could do something similar. I think they have to have an honest conversation about what went wrong, without getting into blame, like, how can we do this better. Putting aside whatever happens legally, I think we can all agree there’s a crisis in confidence.

Spotlight: So, does this create an opportunity to think about how city government could be restructured, maybe a strong mayor, or a prohibition on outside employment?
Regalado: Yes, definitely, I think they need to have that conversation. The only cautionary note that I would say is, understand that if you make a change, that is going to reset term limits, so just be mindful of that, because the timing is important.

Spotlight: Do you think the strong mayor form of government has worked for the county?
Regalado: I think a strong mayor could be impactful in the city of Miami. But similar to the county, the problem with the strong mayor is it depends on that person. You’re putting a lot of power in the hands of that person… [and yet], as the mayor, whether you’re the strong mayor or you’re not, you have to have your votes. As the mayor of the city of Miami, if you don’t have three votes, you don’t have an agenda or, if you have an agenda, it’s ignored.

Spotlight: The argument for strong mayor is about accountability, right?
Regalado: I don’t think you need a strong mayor to have accountability.

Spotlight: Another question: Redistricting. Do you think Coconut Grove should be put back together?
Regalado: I know that people feel very strongly about this. Every area of the city unfortunately has been carved up. Coconut Grove was just kind of the last stand. I don’t think it is a community that is any more or less unique than all the others. But I do understand, given the issues, they were unhappy with how redistricting happened. So, I don’t think that it necessarily needs to be kept together, but I don’t think that it should be divided the way that it was.

Spotlight: What’s next for you in 2024?
Regalado: I am running for reelection. It’s official. I have really enjoyed being a county commissioner for District 7, and I want to do it for another term.

This is taken from a longer interview with Commissioner Regalado. The Spotlight will publish additional portions of the interview in the coming weeks.

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