A plan to privatize the Rickenbacker Causeway faced stiff political headwinds Wednesday, with County Commission members and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava appearing to take opposing sides on making many changes to the existing bid specification, as the Village government appeared poised to formally oppose the current project.
Levine Cava reiterated that she is awaiting a financial analysis that includes a traditional ‘public option’ for the project, instead of the privatized model that is at the core of the current competition.
Commissioner Raquel Regalado said she hopes to work with colleague Sally Heyman to put her proposed changes to a vote next week, saying there is a lot of public mistrust in the current process.
But the chairman of the Commission, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, said he opposed significant alterations, meaning there could be a fierce debate at an upcoming Oct. 5 County Commission meeting where the plan is up for a vote on removing the Venetian Causeway, as demanded by Commissioner Sally Heyman.
As the hour-long “sunshine meeting” appeared headed to disagreement, the driving force behind the cyclist-friendly “Plan Z” proposal, meanwhile, offered to make public the design details of his still-secret unsolicited proposal.
“Our team wants to have the best result,” said architect Bernard Zyscovich, who pointed out that previous versions of his vision to renovate the network of roads and bridges linking Miami to some of its most popular beaches have been public for years. He said only the corporate and financial aspects of his current unsolicited proposal needed to remain confidential. And he said he was open to alternatives.
Both Levine Cava and Commissioner Raquel Regalado stressed they wanted to include input from Key Biscayne’s elected leaders and the community to refocus the project on transportation concerns.
Another alternative Regalado floated was to start a new, separate, and parallel Rickenbacker proposal that would be unencumbered by the privatization secrecy law. That law is due to sunset soon, making future “P3” projects unlikely until the statute is renewed by the Legislature next year, county lawyers said.
But Diaz, the Commission chair, said it would be improper to make major changes to the process. “I don’t think this is the way you change things in the middle of the game,” he said.
Regalado pushed back. “Changing an RFP after it goes out is less than ideal, but those are kind of the cards that we’ve been dealt.” she said. “Our other option is to cancel it.”
Indeed, cancellation is the option now apparently favored by Key Biscayne’s elected leaders, who are meeting Thursday night. The Village Council will consider a proposal by Council Member Luis Lauredo that the Village go on record calling for the current RFP to be rescinded and replaced with a new collaborative process with all stakeholders.
“This process started wrong and cannot be band-aided back to health,” he said. “We need to send a simple message. Start a new process.”
Mayor Mike Davey agreed a restart is also his preference. “This is an existential issue for Key Biscayne and that’s why people are so keyed up about it.” But he added that Levine Cava and Regalado had been very open to the island’s needs. “They’re not shutting us out,” he said.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.