News: Mayor on The Move

Bower:  convention center “ugly”

When enthusiasm for the Miami Beach Convention Center’s current state is draining and support for an overhaul is mounting, one important mover and shaker integral to the facility’s future has pronounced it “ugly”:  The mayor herself.

At Tuesday night’s “Mayor on the Move” Q-and-A with the public at the Miami Beach Golf Club, Mayor Matti Bower reported that City Manager Jorge Gonzalez and she had recently returned from an official trip to Chicago where their itinerary included a tour of a convention center.

The new part of the Windy City’s complex was “beautiful” and “just gorgeous,” Bower extolled, in contrast to its old part – “how ugly, how depressing…[which is] how this [Miami Beach's] convention center looks like when you walk in.”

Gonzalez added that any proposals for a new convention center – likely a five-year construction project – are currently only at the master plan level and that the administration does not foresee construction starting for another two years.

Controversial Curry appears with mayor

Among the batch of city officials that Mayor Matti Bower brought along with her to her “Mayor on the Move” meet-and-greet with the public Tuesday night was a bit of a head-turning surprise:  The controversy-steeped and recently-absolved new city building director.

Standing with city officials introducing themselves from the sidelines at the session’s start – including the city attorney and representatives of the police, parks, code enforcement, and planning departments – was Cynthia Curry, just two months on the job and fresh from a September decision by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office not to prosecute her for double-billing the county a decade ago for an airport expansion project to which she was a private contractor at the time.

Bower told the Miami Herald last month that although the SAO’s memo clearing Curry raised concerns for her, especially given that the city’s building department had been tainted by a 2008 bribery scandal, “If there is nothing wrong, it’s sad to put her through this again.  But also we have to make sure because the building department is a place we’ve had trouble and we don’t want anybody thinking anything else is going wrong.”

City Manager Jorge Gonzalez told the paper that he was not aware of the state’s investigation of Curry, a former assistant county manager and budget analyst, until after he hired her, but said he had known her for 20 years and that she continued to have his full confidence.

Whatever distance city leaders may have wanted to keep from their new building director and her controversial history was not evident Tuesday night, however, as Curry, feet away from the mayor and manager, watched and listened.

No audience questions were directed to Curry, however, and she was not called on to speak.

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