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Questionnaire: Maria Rodriguez, candidate for Pembroke Pines City Commission District 3

Name: Maria A. Rodriguez

Age: 28

Website: mariaforpines.com

What distinguishes you most from your opponent(s)?
It is essential for our government to be representative of the electorate – and as the only Hispanic, only female, and only liberal candidate in this race to represent a district which leans toward all three of these demographics, this makes me a stand-out choice for Pembroke Pines City Commission, District 3.

My age and local government experience are advantages for our community, providing a unique perspective and familiarity with the challenges faced by younger constituents and young families, such as affordability, housing shortages and community disengagement. Unlike any other current commissioner or candidate, I am in the process of growing my own family in Pembroke Pines and relate to our young families who care deeply about quality-of-life issues such as public education and recreation spaces.

As the only Hispanic candidate, my background allows me to better connect with the almost 45% Hispanic population in this district – enabling me to address the challenges faced by non-English speakers, bridging the gap in accessing essential services. I am committed to making information and key services available in multiple languages and advocating for a more multilingual city staff.

The issues we face in Pembroke Pines, such as traffic and recycling, require collaborative efforts beyond the local level. Through my position at the Broward County Commission, I’ve cultivated relationships with key stakeholders at neighboring municipalities, the county and the state level. By leveraging these local relationships, I am poised to hit the ground running on day one, facilitating the collaboration needed to address pressing issues in our community effectively. I may be young, but I am far from inexperienced in local government, and I am ready to put my knowledge to work for the residents of Pembroke Pines.

List in reverse chronological order, starting with most recent, colleges and universities attended with years of attendance and degrees held.
Bachelors of Arts Degree in Comparative and International Politics from the American University of Paris (2018) – Paris, France

List in reverse chronological order your work history for the past 15 years.
Communications and Outreach Coordinator for Broward County Commissioner, Tim Ryan of District 7 (May 2021 to Present)
Glam Picnic Co. (January 2021 to Present) – My events small business based in Pembroke Pines.
Azul Painting Inc. (November 2019 to December 2020) – My family’s business based in Pembroke Pines.
BBDO Advertising Agency (August 2018 to October 2019)

Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit, including bankruptcy or foreclosure? If so, provide details and disposition.

Have you ever been charged or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, including an adjudication of guilt withheld? If so, provide charges, dates and terms of sentence.

If a proposed regional incinerator is not the right answer to the region’s long-term waste disposal needs, what is?
We must embrace a multifaceted approach that prioritizes sustainability and community involvement with a focus toward reducing waste by bolstering recycling programs, ensuring widespread access to composting, and educating residents on proper waste reduction practices.
The City of Pembroke Pines must reinstate a robust recycling program for residents. We must focus not only on waste collection but encourage both businesses and residents to embrace environmentally conscious practices – enabling the city to move toward a circular economy, wherein byproducts are recycled and repurposed rather than discarded. For example, recycled glass can be processed and crafted into glassware, providing a sustainable alternative for local bars and restaurants. This not only reduces the demand for raw materials but also helps build a more circular economy.

Introducing composting programs further contributes to waste diversion and soil enrichment. A local composting program is crucial for overall waste reduction and diverting waste from landfills because organics in solid waste constitute the largest contributors to methane gas emissions.

A comprehensive education campaign is essential to remind and inform residents about responsible waste management practices. We should work collectively with county and state partners, like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, using their comprehensive “Rethink. Reset. Recycle.” education program. Folks must be educated about the importance of these waste reduction practices, ensuring they know how to properly adopt them (reducing recycling contamination), and making it easy and convenient for residents to shift behavior.

Pembroke Pines should also reconsider joining the Broward County Solid Authority, providing the community with a collective voice to influence decisions on waste disposal methods and enabling the city to vote against projects like the proposed incinerator.

By exploring innovative waste management technologies and embracing a holistic approach, Pembroke Pines can forge a sustainable path forward that aligns with our community’s environmental values.

Broward County’s plan to close and “repurpose” schools is certain to affect Pembroke Pines. What should be the city’s goals on this issue?
The presence of high-quality local public schools in Pembroke Pines is essential to the health and wellbeing of our community – not only for our students, educators and families, but also for the economic vitality of our city. High quality schools attract positive residential and economic growth which our community needs to maintain and improve quality of life for our residents and continue the smart, sustainable development.

It is reported that 11 public schools in Pembroke Pines are under-enrolled, three of which have below 50% of the capacity of the school. While the Broward County School Board holds jurisdiction over this matter and will ultimately make the final decisions regarding public school repurposes, I will fight to ensure any changes made to the schools – including those I grew up attending – and the public education system are well thought out and include extensive input from stakeholders like parents, students, educators and community leaders.

School closures can impact home values, students’ quality of life (excessive commutes and the impact on students’ sleep, ability to participate in after school activities, parent participation, etc.), enrollment rates of Pine’s charter schools, employment for educators, and more. Every option will bring its pros and cons, but I will fight to ensure our local students always have ample local options for high-quality public education because it is a quality-of-life issue for our community.

I believe solutions lie in expanding programs, such as magnet schools and afterschool programs, to boost enrollment rates. If consolidating schools becomes necessary, I would advocate for unused space to be transformed into workforce housing, enabling more teachers to reside in the communities they serve, or community centers that the city can utilize to develop youth programs and afterschool activities for students.

Assess the strengths and weaknesses of City Manager Charlie Dodge.
City Manager Charlie Dodge has demonstrated notable strengths in overseeing Pembroke Pines, contributing to the city’s growth and prosperity under his management. His ability to provide stability in the face of changing dynamics within the commission and the evolving community has been a key positive factor. The consistent leadership he offers brings about the continuity necessary for fostering economic opportunity and maintaining the city’s quality of life. Furthermore, maintaining consistency in management contributes to staff stability and low turnover within the city’s bureaucratic departments, ensuring their efficiency.

Nevertheless, although long-term management has contributed significantly to positive city development, it may inadvertently foster a lack of fresh perspectives within the city’s leadership – something which I bring to the table as a candidate for District 3. While consistency is valuable, the absence of new viewpoints may limit the city’s ability to assess and address challenges from different angles. Introducing diverse perspectives can offer innovative solutions to emerging issues, ensuring that the city remains adaptable and responsive to the evolving needs of its residents. I look forward to helping strike a balance between continuity and a fresh outlook that could further enhance Pembroke Pines’ capacity to navigate complex challenges and continue its sustainable smart growth under City Manager Charlie Dodge’s leadership.

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