Miami-Dade’s new mayor says listening and being honest are key to building trust in government

This week, we’re having a conversation with Daniella Levine Cava. She was was just elected mayor of Miami-Dade County, the nation’s seventh-largest county with over 2.7 million residents.

She also recently tested positive for COVID-19, though has since recovered and been cleared to end quarantine.

We met Levine Cava a few years back when Miami-Dade was considering entering a public-private partnership (P3) to build a new water treatment plant. She opposed that deal, and we agreed with her.

As Levine Cava says below, everyone deserves access to clean, fresh water. Privatization jeopardizes that.

JEREMY: Congratulations on being elected mayor. How do you see your role in advancing the common good in Miami-Dade?

DANIELLA: I ran to be a mayor who would bring government closer to the people. That means prioritizing collaboration and public engagement and bringing residents into the decision-making process.

One of the key roles I just appointed in my new administration is a Senior Advisor for Innovation and Performance. This role will work across county departments and directly with residents to bring citizen-led, impact-driven problem-solving to Miami-Dade’s biggest challenges.

Seeking out diverse perspectives will help us deliver on meaningful change for those we serve and build stronger ties with our residents. Particularly those who have been marginalized or felt disconnected in the past. 

JEREMY: Nationwide, many of those who feel marginalized and disconnected have been increasingly vocal about what they see is a lack of true public health in their communities. What does a safe, healthy, thriving Miami-Dade look like to you?

DANIELLA: Right now, the best way to protect the safety and wellbeing of our community is to deal with the coronavirus pandemic head-on. We must bring COVID-19 cases down to keep our economy moving forward.

We also can’t delay in taking on some of our community’s biggest challenges. Like mounting a response to sea level rise. Building out our public transportation corridors to expand mobility and economic opportunity throughout the county. And making our economy more just and equitable by doubling down on investments in small businesses, especially those that are minority- and women-owned.

JEREMY: Public goods are so important to a just and equitable economy. Why is it important for some things to be public goods available to everyone?

DANIELLA: Our community is only as strong and prosperous if we all have an opportunity to share in that prosperity.

Look at Biscayne Bay. Miami-Dade’s central body of water has been in deepening crisis due to pollution and our aging, vulnerable water infrastructure. Everyone deserves access to clean, fresh water. And the prosperity of every one of us is tied to the health of the bay because the bay is the cornerstone of our regional economy and public health. 

JEREMY: You mentioned crisis. Everywhere you look these days, it seems like there’s a crisis. One of the biggest is mistrust in government, which we’re seeing explode during the pandemic. How can we build trust in public institutions?

DANIELLA: The first step is simple. Listen to people and be honest with them. I’ve already started making changes in the mayor’s office to put that into practice. We want to make county government more collaborative and more transparent.

And we need to deliver on results. When people see their hard-earned tax dollars going to work on new transit, affordable housing, infrastructure to combat flooding, public health infrastructure, and more, that helps to build faith that we are responsible custodians of the public trust. 

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