In the most crowded race on Miami Beach, four candidates are facing off for the Group I commission seat in the November election.
Competing for the seat: business owner Mohammed Islam, Realtor Sherry Kaplan Roberts, Realtor Micky Steinberg and retiree Elsa Urquiza.
The Group I seat is now held by Commissioner Jerry Libbin, who is term-limited. He considered a run for mayor, but dropped out of the race.
The election is Nov. 5. Early voting starts Monday.
Here’s a look at each candidate’s background, and their stances on hot-button issues.
Mohammed Rafiqul Islam
Islam is running for office for the first time, though he says he helped with the campaign of former Mayor David Dermer.
A native of Bangladesh, he has lived in Miami Beach for 18 years. Islam is married and has three children. He says he speaks six languages.
“I can communicate with the people. I can understand what they have to say. This is my extra qualification,” he said.
Islam has focused most on the city’s need to address drainage and flooding. He says he is most qualified to fix these problems because of his engineering background.
“It is a long-term process,” he said.
He also said he would work to make the city government, including the building department, easier for residents to navigate.
Islam says any new employees the city hires should be put on a defined-contribution plan for their pension. Right now, the city offers a defined-benefit plan.
Court records show that a multi-unit building in North Beach owned by Islam and his wife went into foreclosure in 2011. He filed for bankruptcy, but the case was dismissed because he didn’t provide all the information required. In May 2013, the foreclosure was reversed and Islam got the building back. He said his loan was modified.
Sherry Kaplan Roberts
Kaplan unsuccessfully ran for a commission seat in 2009. Born in Ohio, she has lived full-time in Miami Beach since 1999. She has been with her partner, Alice Randolph, for 30 years. Together, they raised three sons.
“We need new leadership in Miami Beach,” Roberts said. “I have the right approach to being able to handle the issues that are affecting Miami Beach at this time, and I understand how the city works. I’m not a novice.” If elected, Kaplan says she will focus on the city’s convention center redevelopment plan, pension reform, improving infrastructure, managing traffic and improving parking.
• Convention center: After a public competition process where teams bid on the project, Miami Beach recently picked a private development team to redevelop 52-acres of public land around the convention center. The deal needs to be approved by voters, probably in 2014.
Plans call for a renovated convention center, the addition of an 800-room hotel, and shops and restaurants. The city would pay for the convention center renovation, which could cost half a billion dollars, while the private developer would build the other parts of the project. The developer would lease out the land for the hotel and to build the shops and restaurants.
Roberts says the city should put the project back out to bid. The bid should ask for proposals on how to renovate the convention center, add a ballroom and create green space where there’s now only a parking lot. She supports building a hotel nearby, but thinks that should be put out to bid separately from the convention center renovation.