Three candidates are running for Miami Beach Commission Group III in the November elections.
Community activist Roger Abramson faces Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who is term-limited in her current job, and retired community banker Joy Malakoff.
The Group III seat is currently held by Commissioner Michael Góngora, who is running for mayor.
The election is Nov. 5. Two other commission seats and the mayor’s seat are also up for election.
Here’s a look at each group III candidate’s background, and their stances on important issues.
Abramson unsuccessfully ran for Miami Beach commission in 2006, spurred by talks to turn over the Jackie Gleason theater to Cirque du Soleil — a plan he opposed.
Abramson was born in Ohio and has lived in Miami Beach for 26 years. A former concert producer, Abramson put on shows by top rock stars of the 1960s and 1970s. He was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2011 for his work organizing sit-ins, marching against Jim Crow-era laws and pushing voter registration drives. Abramson is married and has four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In 2009, a HSBC Bank sued Abramson in Miami-Dade Circuit Court for allegedly failing to pay a debt. Abramson didn’t respond to the suit, and the court awarded a $57,000 judgment to the bank. He said the debt is from a “business deal gone astray.”
If elected, Abramson said he would focus on renovating the convention center, making parking easier for residents and expanding access to city hall, as well as parks and recreational programs.
• Convention center: After a public competition process wherein 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.
Abramson thinks the current project has lost sight of the original intention: to upgrade the convention center to make it more competitive. He is against scope of the current project, and the planned 99-year leases to private developers. The city should focus on adding a ballroom, and ensuring that rates for the new hotel are competitive within the convention center industry, Abramson said.
He added that he would like to see the Gleason theater turned into a Latin music hall of fame.
“That would be the biggest economic boost,” Abramson said.
• Parking: Abramson said he would implement a voucher system for residents whereby parking fees would be reduced by half.
“The residents of Miami Beach can barely go to Lincoln Road because they can’t afford the $15 and $20 parking garages and valets,” he said.
• Access to city services: The city should make sure all residents can afford to join city-run parks and recreation programs, as well as senior and adult programs, Abramson said.
“They have a lot of highly-paid people in that Parks and Rec Department. They get pensions,” Abramson said. “So somewhere along the line there is some money, and if they’re putting it in administration fees ... well, that’s wrong. They should put it in the program.”