Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Miami Beach elections

 

OUR OPINION: Herald commission picks can move city forward

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

Three seats are in play on the Miami Beach City Commission. It’s been a bumpy few years for those on the dais: A majority had a contentious relationship with the previous city manager and replaced him with another who still has a bit of a learning curve; there’s a relatively new police chief, too, trying to straighten out a department in which the rogues have damaged public trust; and the attempt to build a new convention center has not brought out the best in some on the commission, where incivility and factionalism have taken root. Here, the Herald recommends three candidates — an incumbent, a newbie and a “wannabe again” — who can help restore civility on the dais and move the city forward.

Group 1

Four candidates are vying for this seat being vacated by the term-limited Jerry Libbin. Mohammed Rafiqul Islam, 53, is a civil engineer concerned about the city’s inadequate drainage system; Sherry Kaplan Roberts, 66, is a real-estate broker who serves on the city’s Board of Adjustment and joined the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s board of governors last year; Elsa Urquiza, 67, a former investigator for the EEOC, also sits on the Board of Adjustment.

The Herald gives the nod, however, to Micky Steinberg, 37. A Realtor, she is a member of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority. Now that an appeals court has thrown the convention-center deal back to the city to firm up the details, Ms. Steinberg stands to bring well-rounded, clear-eyed view of just what the city needs to wrangle from developers to ensure that the project is the right fit, delivers ample revenue and protects the interests of residents and established businesses.

She wants to bring a circulator to North Beach, ardently supports the new city manager and sees the need for a top-down independent audit of the police department. And as a parent raising two young children, she says that she is committed to focusing on quality-of-life issues that will keep the Beach a family-friendly place, a welcome perspective sometimes missing on the dais.

The Herald recommends MICKY STEINBERG in Group 1.

Group 2

Incumbent Jorge Exposito has drawn two challengers, Michael Grieco, former Miami-Dade prosecutor now in solo practice, and Dave Crystal, a financial advisor and owner of a test-prep company. Mr. Grieco, 38, decries what he calls the commission’s “kick the can” politics. This despite the fact that the commission confronted the issue of the convention center and is tackling street flooding and drainage. Mr. Crystal, 36, says that he’s running against the “Bower-Gonzalez regime,” unhelpful bombast that unfairly attacks Mayor Matti Bower and former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.

Mr. Exposito, 58, deserves a second term. He has worthy ideas and already quietly accomplished much on behalf of the city. In a second term Mr. Exposito should be more outspoken about the shenanigans of special interests and the commissioners who carry their water. He helped negotiate the kind of pension reforms the city desperately needs, reducing unfunded liability by $145 million over 30 years. He’s helping the Beach introduce a new parking app to ease congestion and will chair a working group on noise — always the bane of South Beach residents. Most important, he takes a stand for ethics and integrity in Beach government.

The Herald recommends JORGE EXPOSITO in Group 2.

Group 3

Mayor Matti Bower, a true public servant who is term-limited in that position, is running for a commission seat. During this term in office, Ms. Bower, 74, has become a stronger and more able leader.

Two others seek to replace Commissioner Michael Gongora, who is running for mayor. Joy Malakoff, 77, is a retired bank executive who served on the city’s Board of Adjustment. She says that the police department needs a “change of culture” and that North Beach is a “hidden gem” that needs more attention. Roger Abramson, 79, is also active, serving on the convention center board. He’s focused on all the right challenges: unfunded pension liability; beach erosion and, of course, getting that convention center built.

During Ms. Bower’s tenure as mayor, the convention center expansion, stalled for a decade, got off the ground. The city has maintained its highest-ever bond rating and reserves are healthy. She also maintained her focus on quality-of-life issues, working to balance the needs of residents with those who come to the Beach for fun and business. In the name of continuity, institutional memory, progressive leadership and civility, Beach voters should give her another shot.

The Herald recommends MATTI HERRERA BOWER in Group 3.

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