Florida Senate Candidate Slams Miami Beach for Fouling Biscayne Bay, Sunshine Law Failures

Democratic Florida State Senate candidate Michael Gongóra
Democratic Florida State Senate candidate Michael Gongóra

”Nobody should be charged $73,000 to find out how government works.”

Michael Gongóra should know.

He’s a former Miami Beach city commissioner, and now he’s locked in a 6-way Democratic primary battle to run for Florida’s new 38th District state senate seat.

Gongóra’s upset that his hometown of Miami Beach is denying scientific evidence of pollution, and hiding email discussions about the problem from local media too.

He appeared on the Only in Miami Show radio program (complete podcast below) this week, to discuss issues facing the state, his district and particularly state issues like poor water quality and obstructions to public records access impacting Miami Beach, his hometown, saying:

“FIU is coming back and saying that the pump stations are not properly cleaning and treating the waters before they get pumped back into Biscayne Bay and that are human fecal matter and other issues that could be causing a problem.”

“That was never the intent that we were putting them in without treating the water before pumping it out into Biscayne Bay. What happened in Miam Beach I don’t agree with. The [Miami] Herald and anyone else who wants to see these communications should have access to it.”

Michael Gongóra is also a practicing lawyer in the state’s largest condominium firm Becker & Poliakoff, and considered by many a front-runner in the packed field, based on his experience, eloquence and of course name recognition with voters too after running unsuccessfully for Mayor of Miami Beach, against the self-funding millionaire Phillip Levine in 2012.

“It was under our watch that we began the installation of the pump stations to take water off of the streets and hold it so that it’s not flooding real property,” said Gongóra, clearly upset over his city sending pollution levels skyrocketing when ‘King Tides’ impact the low lying island city,

“It was never my intention when I left my commission to put in so many pumps so quickly, because when you’re putting in scientific inventions to deal with environmental issues, you have be able to put them in in a slow time and monitor the environmental issue.”

 “We could pass state legislation that before water is pumped out into the bay or other public waters that it is treated,” he responded when asked how a Florida senator could regulate Miami Beach’s water quality dilemmas, “and it’s not just Miami Beach, we’re using this an example, but this is an issue or should be an issue for all people that live in the state of Florida.”

“What we are seeing in Lake Okeechobee is that our fresh water lakes are also being contaminated.”

Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine appeared on the same radio program last year, which airs weekly Monday nights from 7-8pm on Miami’s Bloomberg affiliate 880 The Biz.

In 2015, Phillip Levine ran a winning re-election campaign, and back then spoke about the vital importance of Florida’s Sunshine Law which provides residents and journalists alike, a constitutional right to public records access:

I think the objective of the Sunshine Law, of course - is to make sure that everything is out in the open, and I believe that assuming you’re doing the right thing for your constituents and for the people that you’re serving, it’s a wonderful thing. Most people - I believe - appreciate the fact that... everything you do as it relates to the business of the city is public information, and it should be.

Now that Levine is in office again, his administration is showing far less appreciation for the Sunshine Law’s open records access.

It’s a glaring sign that the City of Miami Beach isn’t doing the right thing for its constituents.

A few weeks ago the City of Miami Beach caused national headlines for sending an outrageous bill to the Miami Herald for public record emails, when reporter Jenny Staletovich asked for emails related to a growing scandal caused when scientists disclosed that its water pumps are expelling human fecal bacteria into Biscayne Bay.

City officials lowered their $73,000 demand to $40,000 after the embarrassing story broke. 

It’s an ugly and all too public constructive denial of vital documents about water quality affecting hundreds of thousands of residents given to the newspaper of record and largest local media institution remaining in Miami-Dade County today.

Making matters worse, the City of Miami Beach’s lawyers demanded a retraction of Staletovich’s original breaking report about FIU scientist Henry Briceño’s findings. 

“It was under our watch that we began the installation of the pump stations to take water off of the streets and hold it so that it’s not flooding real property,” said Gongóra, “It was never my intention when I left my commission to put in so many pumps so quickly, because when you’re putting in scientific inventions to deal with environmental issues, you have be able to put them in in a slow time and monitor the environmental issue.”

Unfortunately, the city of Miami Beach disagrees, and now the State of Florida will have to step in to regulate water quality in Biscayne Bay, if our elected officials in Tallahassee recognize that there’s a serious problem. 

“We certainly want to make sure that we remain the Sunshine State both environmentally,” said the Florida senate candidate in conclusion, “and that we remain the Sunshine State as far as one good government and exposing how good government works.”

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