Mayoral candidate Fausto Gomez will not support a referendum on the Key Biscayne ballot to double the cap on the Village government’s debt.
Gomez, a former lobbyist for the Village of Key Biscayne and many other municipalities, was a guest on the radio show and podcast Anti-Social on WSQF Key Biscayne Blink Radio 94.5 FM.
On the Aug. 23 primary ballot, Gomez faces former Council Member Katie Petros and former Mayor Joe Rasco. Both Petros and Rasco support increasing Key Biscayne’s borrowing capacity. Mail ballots will be sent July 21, and early voting starts Aug. 8
On the ballot in November, village residents will be asked to vote on two separate questions involving Key Biscayne’s debt cap, which currently limits total borrowing to no more than 1% of the island’s taxable value. The ballot questions, part of a package of seven proposed changes, were approved by the independent Charter Revision Commission earlier this year with wording later approved by the Village Council.
The first measure would double the cap to 2%. The second measure would allow voters to exceed any debt cap through a future referendum vote. Supporters say increasing the debt limitation is needed to fund as much as $250 million in projects the village administration believes will be needed over 15 to 20 years to fight climate change and sea level rise.
“I will vote no,” Gomez said when asked if he would personally support doubling the current cap. “I am not against it. I think it is premature right now.”
Gomez explained his position saying that the Village didn’t have any pending projects to spend the money on. He also feared that if the money was not enough leaders would have to go back to residents, and again ask for more money.
“Then you create distrust in government,” Gomez said.
After avoiding whether or not he would personally support the second question that allows for the debt cap to waived by holding a referendum, he said: “If the voters decide to waive the debt cap. My default position is I like democracy. If the voters decide that’s what they want to do. I will support that.”
Village budget and taxes
On budget and taxes, Gomez said he wanted to trim a proposed 13% tax increase contained in the draft 2023 budget now before the Village Council.
“I spoke in front of the Council the other day, I told them I am not in favor of a 13% tax increase,” Gomez said. “We need to fund it appropriately, but not excessively.”
Instead, Gomez said he is in favor of keeping the current millage rate, which would still increase average property taxes 10%, because of newly-released numbers from the County Property appraiser. Key Biscayne’s tax base shot up 10% from last year, rising to $9.1 billion.
Homeowners with a homestead exemption are shielded, however: their property taxes cannot increase more than 3% under the Save Our Homes amendment to the Florida Constitution.
Co-host Thom Mozloom asked Gomez about three ethical complaints filed against him during his time as a lobbyist in light of a comment from Rasco when he appeared on the show and said, “Our community deserves ethical effective leadership with an eye towards the future.”
“All three complaints were dismissed,” Gomez said.
Although Gomez was never charged in any of the three cases, a 2016 report from the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found Gomez failed to disclose a conflict of interest while representing both the County and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority which enabled him to push an MDX version of a transit bill during the 2016 state legislative session over the county’s version.
“The investigation concluded that Gomez’s efforts undermined the County’s potential to receive nearly $1 billion in state transportation funding over the next 30 years,” the Commission said in a news release.
A commission investigator recommended the County terminate its contract with his firm, Gomez Barker Associates. It was not the first time Gomez had failed to disclose a conflict of interest with the County, the Commission noted.
On the program, Gomez said residents should read his resignation letter response at his web site, in which he said the Ethics Commission report was “false and unfair.”
All three Key Biscayne mayoral candidates are scheduled to partake in a candidate forum on Aug. 9 at Crossbridge church, 160 Harbor Dr, Key Biscayne.