Miami-Dade skips bidding process, re-signs firms to lobby for hundreds of millions in transportation funds

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Officials waived competitive bidding requirements to allow the renegotiations without outside proposals.

Miami-Dade will continue paying for the services of three lobbying firms that for years have advocated for the county’s transportation interests in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, the county’s transportation planning board — composed of several city officials, an education representative and all 13 members of the County Commission — approved resolutions rehiring Ronald L. Book Inc., Becker & Poliakoff P.A. and Alcade & Fay Ltd. Inc.

Alcade & Fay lobby for the county at the federal level. The two other firms do so before state officials.

All three resolutions extended the county’s contracts with the firms for another year with two one-year options to renew at the same annual pay rates the county and companies agreed to in late 2019.

The board OK’d the contract renewals without comment or further solicitation. Aileen Bouclé, executive director of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), negotiated the terms of the new agreements, according to a TPO memo. The TPO Governing Board previously approved resolutions to waive the county’s competitive bidding process to allow her to enter talks with the firms without having to field proposals from competitors.

The amended contracts with lobbyist Ron Book’s firm and Becker & Poliakoff, respectively based in Aventura and Coral Gables, are tentatively set to commence Jan. 11 and end Jan. 10, 2024, unless the county taps the renewal options.

Book’s firm would receive $75,000 annually, while Becker & Poliakoff would get $50,000 a year. The amendments would extend their state advocacy services “without interruption through the 2023 Legislative Session,” the memo said.

Book and Jose Fuentes, a senior government relations consultant with Becker & Poliakoff, signed off on the contract amendments Dec. 1.

Alcade & Fay, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, is slated to continue receiving $50,000 per year for its lobbying services in Congress. Its amended contract terms would commence Jan. 14 and run through Jan. 13, 2024, around which time the TPO Governing Board would have to either renew the contract or seek alternative services.

Maurice Kurland, a partner and lobbyist at the firm, signed the amended contract Dec. 1.

Over the next several years, Miami-Dade is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal grants to fund transportation improvement and expansion projects. Much of the money sought are for the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, an initiative the county adopted in 2016 to develop modern mass transit solutions for six key commuting corridors countywide.

So far, only the 20-mile South Corridor stretching from the county’s unincorporated Kendall neighborhood to the city of Homestead abutting Monroe County has received full federal and state funding matches of $100 million apiece.

That project, which involves upscaling an existing busway running adjacent to U.S. 1 for “gold standard” bus rapid transit, began in June 2021 and is now projected to reach completion in March 2024.

Thursday’s meeting marked the first time several new Miami-Dade Commissioners — Marleine Bastien, Kevin Cabrera, Rob Gonzalez and Anthony Rodriguez — cast votes as TPO Governing Board members. New Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Carlos Bermudez has served on the board for years in his prior role as the Mayor of Doral.

They joined seven other TPO Governing Board members, Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris, Homestead Mayor Steve Losner, Miami Beach Commissioner David Richardson and Miami-Dade Commissioners Oliver Gilbert III, Keon Hardemon, Eileen Higgins and Raquel Regalado at the meeting.

Losner abstained from voting on the Becker & Poliakoff contract renewal, as his son, Miami-Dade GOP Secretary Max Losner, works for the firm.

Absent members included Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo, Medley Mayor Roberto Martell, Miami Dade College Culinary and Hospitality Institute Chair Shelly Smith Fano, Miami Mayor Francis Saurez and Miami-Dade Commissioners Danielle Cohen Higgins, René García, Kionne McGhee and Micky Steinberg, who pends swearing in as a new TPO board member.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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