Miami voters to pick mayor, two commissioners, and decide on Coconut Grove waterfront plan

11/02/2013 12:00 AM

11/02/2013 5:46 PM

Are Miamians satisfied with the stewardship of Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Frank Carollo?

With Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones term-limited, does anyone particularly standout from a group of four candidates whose resumés indicate they are all capable of representing the city’s most diverse district?

Does a chunk of Coconut Grove waterfront near City Hall need a makeover, or is the $18 million plan too bulky and obtrusive?

Tuesday, Miami voters from Flagami to Little Havana, Overtown to Liberty City, and Coconut Grove to Shorecrest will answer those questions as they make their way to the city’s polling stations between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Though Regalado appears likely to win a second term, voters throughout the city will have the opportunity to voice their opinion of the job the mayor has done the past four years by casting a vote for Regalado, or for one of three other candidates contending for the post.

The mayor has had a fairly smooth run since late August when his main competitor, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, dropped out of the race after a series of campaign gaffes that included an absentee-ballot scandal in which his cousin was arrested.

Still, Regalado, 66, who considers stabilizing the city’s finances his biggest achievement in office, continued to spend campaign money in the hope of receiving a mandate from voters.

“I don’t want to be seen as the mayor of the minority,” he said.

His competition: Coconut Grove activist Williams Armbrister, hospital consultant Jeffrey Anthony Benjamin, and Socialist Worker’s Party member Tom Baumann. Combined, the three have raised less than $7,000. Regalado has collected more than $1 million.

The race for the Miami’s District 5 seat, which runs from Overtown north to Liberty City and east to the bay through Shorecrest and Belle Meade, promises to be livelier than the mayor’s race.

The past two weeks have turned especially feisty between the campaigns of the Rev. Richard P. Dunn II and assistant public defender Keon Hardemon. As the Dunn camp hammered away at Hardemon’s lack of political experience, Hardemon and his politically connected family portrayed the more-experienced Dunn as part of the special-interests problem at City Hall.

Twice since the late 1990s Dunn has been appointed to fill a vacated commission seat in District 5. He won a special election for the seat in 2011 while Spence-Jones was suspended from office and successfully fought felony charges. Spence-Jones, who remains popular in the district, has thrown her support at Hardemon.

Last week a woman who worked for Dunn’s campaign quit after publicly stating that she was being paid in cash — a possible campaign violation — and that the candidate’s report listed her as being paid far many more times than she recounted. Hardemon, the youngest of the candidates at 30, lost a race last year for Audrey Edmonson’s county commission seat.

Also battling for the District 5 seat are Miami-Dade Children’s Trust executive Jacqui Colyer, and substitute teacher Robert Malone Jr.

Colyer has considerable name recognition as the former regional director for the state’s Department of Children & Families in Miami. She resigned from office two years ago after a high-profile abuse case that resulted in the death of a child happened under her watch.

Now she directs Community and Neighborhood Services for the Miami-Dade Children’s Trust. She has run unsuccessfully for a state seat and said she entered the Miami race after requests from friends and family.

Malone, who worked for the late state representative Larcenia Bullard, is a favorite among the city’s Upper Eastsiders, the newest neighborhood in the district after redistricting changed its borders last summer. He’s a substitute teacher at Jackson High School.

Dunn has raised the most money, $114,985, according to the city’s most recent records reported on Oct. 18. The records also show Hardemon has raised $65,129, Colyer $41,148, and Malone $10,665. .

With no one likely to receive a majority of the vote in the crowded field, a runoff election is expected. It would take place two weeks after Tuesday’s election, on Nov. 19.

Miami voters will also take a position on a controversial plan to renovate the Coconut Grove waterfront just north of City Hall. The plan caught the attention of a group of Grove activists who have signed petitions and filed a lawsuit against the proposal.

The opponents say the seven-acre plan is too large and obstructs views of the bay. Supporters argue the proposal falls in line with a well-prepared master plan to open up the waterfront and create public walkways.

The plan calls for developer Grove Bay Investment to replace Scotty’s Landing and the Chart House with three restaurants, including a Don Shula’s steakhouse and a Peruvian seafood eatery that would offer outdoor and rooftop seating. A third restaurant would also be built and named Scotty’s Landing.

The $18 million proposal would also refurbish two historic Pan American Airways hangars and put a marine store and other retailers in it, add a walking pier on Biscayne Bay, and create a pedestrian promenade from Bayshore Drive to the water. The city is guaranteed $1.4 million a year in rent for 50 years with two 15-year extension options.

Finally, voters will be asked if the city’s representative for District 3 should receive a second term.

Frank Carollo, an accountant who prides himself on studying the most obscure of details in the city’s budget, wants another four years in office. He is opposed by pharmaceutical salesman Alex Dominguez. The incumbent is currently embroiled in an ethics complaint in which it was determined there was probable cause to believe he misused his elected post by placing a phone call to the police chief during a traffic stop.

The race has been fairly low key, with Dominguez offering occasional criticism of the administration, not necessarily his opponent. The district runs mostly through Little Havana, but stretches into the The Roads and Coral Way.

The city’s most recent records show Carollo with a significant fundraising edge, having collected $233,300 through Oct. 18. Dominguez, who lost a race for a state house seat last year, has collected $43,834 over the same period.

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