Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez got an earful from county residents about his proposed budget cuts Tuesday.
Most significantly, Gimenez heard about the $15 million budget gap for the county's 2,000 firefighters, and a $20 million shortfall for the county's libraries.
Residents brought signs that screamed no to cuts at a budget town hall meeting with Gimenez at the North Dade Regional Library in Miami Gardens. They wore similar colored T-shirts to show solidarity, and for firefighters the bottom line is simple.
"I have a true concern that this will lead to someone losing their life," said the Local 1403 Union President, Rowland Taylor. He says there's a lack of transparency and that the proposed fire rescue cuts are because of an accounting error.
Gimenez said he's made progress by cutting only three fire units rather than the original six and 75 staffers instead of 149. The mayor also shot back to a firefighter who took a jab at him that he's willing to sit down with the union and figure out the budget issues.
The most voiced topic was cutting libraries, which Gimenez says he's made concessions on by cutting only 14 rather than 22, and has another solution to save more saying, "We're doing innovative things to try to open as many libraries as possible. We're asking for the volunteers’ help – can you come and help staff more of these libraries."
Gimenez also defended his office telling the crowd he has a certain amount of money and can only spend what he has. That didn’t sit well with library supporter Patricia Martinez.
"That's actually not an answer,” she said. “What we would like to see is an actual discussion with the library staff itself and see what is the least amount of impact for the libraries.”
The overwhelming theme from those who showed up to express their concerns – and even throw some jabs at the mayor – was that more people need to show up to these meetings and express how important these services are to their neighborhood.
The next meeting is Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Village of Palmetto Bay Commission chambers, at 9705 E. Hibiscus St.
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