Two incumbents who are loyal members of Mayor Carlos Hernandez’s political team are seeking reelection for the only City Council seats on the ballot this year. In Hialeah’s tightly run political operation, members of the seven-member council rarely challenge the mayor’s position on any issue, and the two incumbents seeking another term this year are no exception to that rule.
Neither one drew strong opposition, however, which severely limits the choices for voters and undermines the importance of elections. Don’t expect things to change in Miami-Dade’s second largest city until stronger, experienced civic leaders in the community decide it’s time to break the political grip of the establishment machine.
Incumbent Luis Gonzalez, 43, who owns a printing business, is running for a third and final four-year term against first-time candidate Julio Rodriguez, 24, a student at FIU and owner and editor of a local newspaper called Hialeah al Punto.
Mr. Gonzalez, with eight years of service under his belt, serves as vice president. He says he wants his legacy on the council to be the improvement of the city’s recently annexed area. He is against raising taxes, despite a drop in revenue due to falling real estate prices, and says the current pension system for city employees is not sustainable.
The central issue in this race is not any particular policy, but rather the so-called “slate,” or political team, that Mr. Gonzalez belongs to. Mr. Rodriguez, running as an independent, complains that members of a slate, once elected, become unquestioning supporters of the mayor and allow the majority to govern in a manner that brooks no opposition.
Mr. Gonzalez says he is his own man and would not rule out running for mayor in the future if he is reelected. His record on the council, however, shows that he has rarely opposed the current mayor, at least in public meetings. In a written questionnaire submitted to the Editorial Board, he said he would cancel a controversial contract that restricts public use of Babcock Park — but days later denied having taken that position when the issue came up at a public hearing.
That’s disappointing. Mr. Gonzalez has a good grasp of the issues facing Hialeah and a respectable record of service on the council. We expect better of him in the future.
For Hialeah City Council Group 5, The Herald recommends LUIS GONZALEZ.
At 25, Councilman Paul “Pablito” Hernandez is the older of the two candidates in this race, facing 19-year-old Marcos Miralles, who is making his first race for office.
Mr. Hernandez was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2011 after Mayor Carlos Hernandez succeeded Julio Robaina, and he was reelected later that year with 59 percent of the vote. In the interim, he has become more polished and self-confident, a loyal and unquestioning member of the mayor’s team.
Like most independents running in Hialeah, Mr. Millares says the “slates” that run for office as a political team are a disservice to the city because they lead to a backroom style of governing, but Mr. Hernandez says elected leaders working together should not be a source of contention.
Our recommendation in this race is for Mr. Hernandez, based on his grasp of the issues facing Hialeah and his experience on the Council. Nevertheless, he should exercise more independence in the future and fight for transparency in local government.
For Hialeah City Council Group 6, The Herald recommends PAUL HERNANDEZ.