MIAMI — As one of two Miami-Dade county commissioners with 15 years on the board, Dennis Moss is considered a knowledgeable and resourceful community leader.
The commissioner of Miami-Dade’s District 9 (which includes Florida City and Homestead) brings to the board a pragmatic, results-oriented approach known for steering clear of scandal, making him one of the most respected and effective politicians in South Florida.
In an 8-5 vote, Moss was selected to lead the 13-member board on Nov. 21, a position that brings power, clout and increased visibility to the five-term commissioner. Moss’ two-year term as chair will become effective on Jan. 1, 2009. Commissioner José “Pepe” Diaz, Moss’ competitor for chair, was elected vice chairman. Although the role of chair garners less power following the county’s approval of a strong- mayor form of government in 2004, Moss’ stellar reputation is expected to boost his clout.
If the track record he has established in his district is an indication of how he’ll lead the commission, Miami-Dade county residents may be in for a treat. Moss believes strongly in delivering on his promises, and has several projects in his district to prove it.
“I brought Jackson South [hospital] to South Dade. When I came to office that was one of my priorities,” the married father of three adult children said.
Another commitment he made to the community is slated to open next year: a brand new cultural arts center. He was also instrumental in keeping Homestead Air Force Base open.
The chair-elect is already eyeing other parts of Miami-Dade County that have been affected by unfulfilled promises.
“I’ve got some specific obligations to the African-American community – specifically dealing with the issue of trying to get the North Corridor built, even if we have to do it in phases. We made that commitment 30 years ago and we need to follow through on that,” Moss said of the county’s promise to extend the metro rail station to the northern end of the county.
The extension would serve the predominantly black communities along Northwest 27th Avenue with seven new stations from Northwest 82nd Street to Northwest 215th Street.
Moss and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez recently co-hosted a public summit to address the failure of The People’s Transportation Plan, a half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2002.
A portion of the revenue from the tax was to have funded the North Corridor.
Redevelopment in Overtown and Liberty City’s Scott Carver community are also priorities for Moss.
“We have to make sure we put together a mega plan for Overtown. We’ve got a mega plan for the baseball stadium, and the tunnel and the museums,” Moss said.
He said he hopes to replicate his success in bringing affordable housing to his district in the Liberty City community.
“We also have to make sure that we make good on the Scott Carver promises that we made. Replace all of the public housing that was lost as a result of the Hope VI project,” he said of the scandal and corruption-plagued housing debacle that was the subject of the Miami Herald’s “House of Lies’’ expose.
Moss’ 1993 election to the commission after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 provided him with an ideal opportunity to test his mantle. The plan to rebuild what is now a revamped South Dade area was named The Moss Plan in recognition of the commissioner’s diligent efforts to restore the community after the devastating storm – landing the area $73 million in federal spending.
Commissioner Sally Heyman voted in favor of Moss’s selection as chair. In an emailed statement, she said, “In voting for Commissioner Moss as Chair, I believe he offers this Commission and our County a disciplined leadership that will be respectful, inclusive and professional. That he has consistently demonstrated that style as a commission colleague merited my vote.”
Heyman was joined by Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Dorrin Rolle, Audrey Edmonson, Carlos Gimenez, Katy Sorensen, Javier Souto and Moss himself in the vote that won him the selection.
Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Joe Martinez, outgoing Chair Bruno Barreiro, Natacha Seijas and Diaz all cast their votes for Diaz.
Moss, who has been the executive director of the Richmond Perrine Optimist Club – a non-profit that serves the youth, the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and otherwise disadvantaged people in South Miami-Dade for more than 25 years, said his top priority as chair is dealing with the local economy.
He said his plans include “making sure that we can get through this financial crisis, keep as many people as possible in their homes…keep people in jobs, and keep people in the community.
Stop the flight that we see out of Miami-Dade County.”
Photo: Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Dennis Moss