Miami-Dade Commissioners up for reelection face their toughest challenge in years as wealthy businessman and civic activist Norman Braman is backing a slate of candidates to reform county government — including challengers Shirley Gibson (District 1) Alison Austin (District 3) and Luis Garcia (District 5). Reforms are needed, including term limits, but the Editorial Board’s recommendations are not a blanket “kick the incumbents out” decision. We consider candidates’ background, community service and knowledge of issues.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan has two challengers for this District 1 seat, but one truly stands out: Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson.
Ms. Jordan, 69, has worked for the county for 34 years, including seven as an assistant county manager until she ran for the commission eight years ago in a district that covers Miami Gardens and Opa-locka. Unfortunately, she too often gets mired in protecting the status quo — even during tough economic times — and seems to have more of a bureaucrat’s perspective on county governance than a policy-making vision for the future.
Ms. Gibson, 68, is a formidable challenger to business as usual. She fought for incorporation of Miami Gardens and as that new city’s mayor she focused on quality of life issues: clean streets, code enforcement, fighting county plans for rock mining and pushing for better transit options and bus routes for North Miami-Dade residents. She has been highly successful in courting new businesses to her city, from an industrial park to insurance companies and retail stores. She brings common-sense solutions to challenges now facing the county, such as an aging sewer system.
The mayor makes clear that, regardless of high-profile support by anyone, she carries water for no one and that her track record and leadership in Miami Gardens speak for themselves. We agree.
For Miami-Dade County Commission, District 1, The Herald recommends SHIRLEY GIBSON.
Commissioner Audrey Edmonson has five challengers, but Alison Austin is the most impressive. Ms. Austin, 52, speaks passionately about the needs of this district’s diverse neighborhoods, from Liberty City to El Portal and Miami Shores to the Upper East Side. She is CEO of the Belafonte TACOLCY Center, which runs children’s programs, among other things.
Ms. Edmonson, 59, on the commission since December 2005, also knows her district’s needs well and has come to her constituents’ aid to help bring in affordable housing, advocating for Jackson Health System employees and combating wage theft. Looking countywide, she wants the Urban Development Boundary to stay put.
Ms. Edmonson also supports Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s money-saving consolidations of county departments and voted for his no-tax-increase budget this year.
There are a couple of worrisome blots: Ms. Edmonson does not support term limits for commissioners. She also needs to flex her political muscle on behalf of her district’s business owners — especially minority contractors — so they have more opportunities to compete for county contracts. We expect her to be more pro-active if re-elected.
For Miami-Dade County Commission, District 3, The Herald recommends AUDREY EDMONSON.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro’s District 5 runs from parts of Miami Beach west through Little Havana and includes the Marlins Stadium, a flawed county deal at the heart of his critics’ discontent.
First elected in 1998, Mr. Barreiro, 46, went along with the previous county administration on raising the property tax rate, he says, because he did not want to “cut taxes on the backs of people who need jobs.” Indeed, he has the support of various public labor unions and lobbyists.
He faces three challengers, with state Rep. Luis Garcia, 66, an experienced political veteran, making this race competitive. As a former fire chief and Miami Beach city commissioner, he is well-equipped to tackle the county’s fiscal policy-setting issues and understands where outlandish perks are buried in union contracts. Mr. Garcia says he does not walk in lock-step but does back a reform agenda. He opposes a casino in downtown Miami.
For Miami-Dade Commission, District 5, The Herald recommends LUIS GARCIA.