The city of Miami, as with the early years of Mayor Tomás Regalado’s first term, was on shaky ground. A wretched national economy was taking a toll locally. The stock market cratered. Property values were in freefall. The city reserves were way down.
Similarly, Mr. Regalado, was locked in a public battle with a police chief over a series of police shootings in which black men, mostly unarmed, were killed, raising Justice Department eyebrows. And there was a here-today-gone-tomorrow series of city managers that didn’t lend an air of stability.
But things have changed — for the better — and Mr. Regalado deserves much of the credit. His reelection is pretty much assured since his main opponent, City Commissioner Francis Suarez, dropped out this summer. But voters shouldn’t sit out the election. There are other important issues on the ballot, including commission races and the Jackson hospital bond issue. Though Mr. Regalado faces nominal competition, voters should take nothing for granted. Given the city’s growing financial stability and the mayor’s increasingly firm grasp on its finances and administration, Miamians can vote for Mr. Regalado with more confidence now than had this election been held even a year ago, when the Editorial Board criticized his lackluster performance.
But during Mr. Regalado’s tenure the city has wrangled concessions from well-larded union contracts to put city revenues on more-solid footing. It’s a well that the city should not turn to again and again, but with cost reductions and attrition, the city has been able to present balanced budgets. Mr. Regalado says that there is $57 million in reserves now, and that he wants to raise it to $100 million in the near future.
He has worked to streamline government by seeking partnerships with the private sector, which has the responsibility of maintaining costly properties. For example, in 2011, commissioners handed the keys to the Gusman theater to Olympia Center Inc., a quasi-autonomous trust made up of a group of community leaders. The trust now manages and raises funds to maintain the theater. Mr. Regalado says the model has been a success, and that bookings have doubled since the takeover — and with minimal political interference. And the city no longer has to subsidize its operation. In the case of renovating beloved Miami Marine Stadium, a nonprofit group of true believers, including stadium architect Hilario Candela, have taken the lead. The only public funding would come from the county’s preservation fund.
Challenges remain, and Mr. Regalado will have to be more assertive in finding resolution: The SEC reports into the city’s past financial lapses need closure; so does the U.S. Department of Justice’s inquiry into the police shootings of seven black men. Mr. Regalado inherited some of these issues, but they’re on his watch now.
He has stepped up in seeking court permission to revise the ruling guiding how the city treats its homeless population, hoping to balance the rights of the homeless with those of others who want to fully enjoy downtown’s burgeoning entertainment center without being accosted. He hopes to attract thousands of jobs through a special visa program to encourage foreign investment in the city — a forward-looking plan.
For Miami mayor, the Miami Herald recommends TOMAS REGALADO.