Voters in Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Homestead will have a final chance Tuesday to choose their elected representatives and answer a number of ballot questions. Tops among them: A vote for Jackson Health System to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to, among other things, buy state-of-the-art medical equipment and build or upgrade urgent care centers around the county.
A countywide decision on the $832 million hospital bond question leads a list of other local referendum questions that include renovating a piece of Coconut Grove’s waterfront, and deciding if another city should use its resources to support decriminalizing pot. Some of the county’s most populous cities also have mayoral and council or commission races.
Early voting sites opened two weeks ago, but turnout has been fairly low. As of late Monday only about 100,000 of Miami-Dade’s 1.3 million registered voters have cast early votes at the polls or through absentee balloting for an election cycle not tied to a presidential race or any statewide runs.
Still, with some of the county’s biggest cities having elections, Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White is hoping for a 15 to 20 percent turnout with a last-day surge to the polls by voters who couldn’t get to polling places the past two weeks.
“It’s one county question, and four of our larger cities,” said White. “So there is probably some interest in those areas.”
Jackson Health System
The only countywide question on Tuesday’s ballot is an expensive one: Jackson Memorial Hospital officials say the largest chunk of the $832 million bond they hope voters approve will go toward new construction and new equipment.
Plans distributed by hospital officials call for $477 million in construction projects, including a new rehabilitation hospital at Jackson’s main campus and about a dozen urgent-care centers throughout Miami-Dade.
A significant portion — about $350 million — is for new equipment, everything from hospital beds and patient room furniture to CT scanners, cardiology X-ray systems and oncology radiation devices.
About $130 million is earmarked for computers and software to integrate electronic medical records, clinical information and physician decision-making tools across Jackson’s network of six hospitals, 12 specialty-care centers, and health clinics.
According to county projections, the debt would be paid through property taxes that peak in 2024 at $48.80 for a homeowner with a taxable property value of $200,000 in an unincorporated neighborhood like Kendall. The first year hike would be closer to $9.80.
In the county’s largest city Tuesday, voters will choose a mayor and two commissioners.
Incumbent Mayor Tomás Regalado is facing three relative unknowns as he vies for a second and final term. The mayor has an enormous fundraising advantage and is clearly the most recognizable from a group that also include hospital consultant Jeffrey Anthony Benjamin, Coconut Grove activist Williams Armbrister and Social Workers Party member Tom Baumann.
Miami voters will also choose a representative for District 3, which runs through Little Havana, The Roads and Shenandoah, and for District 5, which stretches from Overtown to Liberty City and east to Shorecrest and Belle Meade.
In the District 3 race, incumbent Commissioner Frank Carollo is expected to easily settle into his second term. He is being challenged by pharmaceutical salesman Alex Dominguez.
Miami’s District 5 race should be more challenging. The election has garnered considerable attention the past few weeks as the four candidates have bickered in a series of testy debates.
The Rev. Richard P. Dunn II of Faith Community Baptist Church — who has represented the seat twice in the past through appointments and once after winning a special election — is considered the favorite. His main challenger is Miami-Dade Assistant public defender Keon Hardemon, the youngest candidate. Hardemon lost a countywide race to Commissioner Audrey Edmonson last year.
Also in the race is Jacqui Colyer, a former regional director of the state Department of Children & Families, who now runs Neighborhood and Community Services for Miami-Dade Children’s Trust. The fourth candidate is Robert Malone Jr., a former aide to the late state House Rep. Larcenia Bullard who now is a substitute teacher and Jackson High School.
If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, there will be a runoff on Nov. 19.
Also on Miami’s ballot is a plan to renovate a seven-acre property on the bay just north of City Hall in Coconut Grove that is facing considerable opposition from some local Coconut Grove residents.
. The $18 million plan, which would pay Miami rent of at least $1.4 million a year, calls for replacing Scotty’s Landing and the Chart House with three new restaurants, restoring two historic Pan American Airways hangars and lining one of them with retail outlets, and building a promenade from Bayshore Drive to the bay, and a walking pier.
The developer would also contribute $5 million toward a three-level parking garage that would be built by the Miami Parking Authority.
In Miami Beach, a mayor’s race in which the leading candidates have kept up attacks on each other’s integrity has even attracted the attention of a former president.
Commissioner Michael Góngora faces wealthy Beach businessman Philip Levine, a friend and fundraiser for Bill Clinton, and former comedian Steve Berke, who is taking his second shot at the post, this time while filming the election for an MTV documentary.
Three commission seats are also up for grabs, with the city’s current mayor running for one because she is term-limited.
In one race considered wide open, Realtor Sherry Kaplan Roberts is facing retiree Elsa Urquiza and Micky Steinberg, the wife of former Beach Rep. Richard Steinberg. The seat is open because Commissioner Jerry Libbin is term-limited, already having served two terms.
In another commission race, Commissioner Jorge Exposito is fighting for reelection against a well-funded opponent, criminal-defense attorney Michael Grieco.
And the third commission battle, former Mayor Matti Bower is running against retired community banker Joy Malakoff and community activist Roger Abramson.
Runoffs will be Nov. 19.
Several ballot questions will be decided, including a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that could affect the Beach’s billion-dollar plan to renovate its convention center, and another that could decide if the city lends its support to decriminalizing medical marijuana.
Voters will elect a mayor and two city council members in elections that pit several incumbents against one political veteran and several first-timers.
Mayor Carlos Hernandez is seeking his first full term in office after winning a special election in 2011. Hernandez, a retired Hialeah police officer, served on the city council since 2005. He is being challenged by former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez, a Vietnam veteran and former boxer. Also in the running for mayor is local activist Juan Santana, a security officer and former UPS employee.
In a race for a city council seat, current vice president Luis Gonzalez is seeking his third and final term. He is being challenged by political novice Julio Rodriguez, a political science major at Florida International University.
Also, Paul “Pablito” Hernandez is running for his first full term after being appointed to the council in 2011 when Hernandez left to become mayor. He later won a special election to maintain the seat. He is the former commissioner of the Hialeah Housing Authority.
Homestead voters on Tuesday will pick a mayor, a council member, and a new vice mayor.
Political novice Mark Bell — whose wife Lynda is a county commissioner — and Jeff Porter are facing off for the city’s top post, in a race that has turned heated and expensive. Bell has promised to end the city’s building construction moratorium and to lower energy costs. Porter, who served on the city council from 1997 to 2007, said he will create jobs, reduce taxes, and ease traffic congestion.
For one council seat, incumbent Jimmie Williams III is challenged by Norman Hodge Jr. Both candidates have campaigned on developing the southwest area of town, the most underdeveloped and downtrodden in all of Homestead. Williams was elected in 2009. Hodge represented the same district seat from 2003 to 2007.
Councilman Stephen Shelley won a second term in office in October when he ran unopposed for a council seat. Tuesday, he is again on the ballot, but this time to become the city’s vice mayor.
That’s because Homestead has a unique way of choosing a vice mayor. Though it’s only a designation, the candidate must announce he or she wants it, and the public must vote for the title separately. Only Shelley and Hodge want to be vice mayor.
Miami Herald Staff Writers Daniel Chang, Lidia Dinkova, and Christina Veiga contributed to this report.