Cutler Bay residents will choose two new legislators for their city on Nov. 8, in addition to a new president.
This election will fill two spots in Cutler Bay’s government, the vice mayor and council member for District 2 (of three districts). The other two council members, Mary Ann Mixon and Roger Coriat, as well as Mayor Peggy Bell, aren’t up for election for two more years. The current vice mayor, Ernie Sochin, is not seeking re-election.
The major issues are the city’s parks, traffic along major thoroughfares and how the city should handle the influx of citizens and businesses.
Javier Giraud, 46
At first, Giraud says, he wanted to be a Miami-Dade police officer, but county Commissioner Javier Souto convinced him to be his aide instead. He’s a lawyer and serves on the board of Centennial Homeowner’s Association for the community of Chanterelle by the Bay.
He gathered $16,200 in campaign donations, $15,000 of which he loaned to himself.
Giraud wants “controlled, sustained growth” in Cutler Bay. “We need to build the city’s tax base, and that only happens with development,” he said. He opposes the land development regulations his opponent supported that allow four-story buildings along Old Cutler Road.
Currently, he said, the city’s investments bring in a “dismal” $40,000 annually. Giraud would like to invest some of the city’s nearly $20 million in reserves in government bonds to give that investment return a boost. He’d like to see city service aides writing more parking tickets and freeing the city’s police officers up for more important tasks.
As for the parks, Giraud wants to make one pet-friendly, install basketball courts and make them all compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He vowed to not take any donations from lobbyists or their clients and bashed the current council’s “willingness to meet privately with lobbyists and developers.”
If elected, he said “I will be the people’s voice, not the lobbyists’.”
Sue “Susi” Loyzelle, 55
Loyzelle is the only incumbent candidate up for re-election and chose to run for a different seat, that of vice-mayor. She has served on the council since 2010, when she represented District 2 for a partial term, and was re-elected in 2012.
She’s the executive director of grants and government relations for the YMCA of South Florida and serves on several committees, including Miami-Dade County Age-Friendly Initiative Advisory Committee; Chamber South’s Transportation and Government Relations Committees; United Way of Miami Dade Older Adult Advocacy Taskforce; and Miami Dade League of Cities Transportation Committee.
While she served on the council, Cutler Bay was recognized twice as an age-friendly community, hired more police officers and expanded service for the town circulator bus. Loyzelle said she’s prepared to be vice mayor after unofficially stepping in for the mayor on multiple occasions.
“It’s an easy transition for me,” she said.
She received $11,650 in campaign contributions this election cycle, including $2,550 in loans to herself, $3,000 from the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee and $100 from current Cutler Bay Mayor Margaret Bell. In late May, Loyzelle paid Green Point Group, a noted lobbying firm in town, $150 for campaign materials. She said she “severed my business relationship” with the firm after this.
She plans to commission more traffic studies with additional resident input because “they know where the problems are.”
When it comes to development, Loyzelle said “just because we have a space doesn’t mean something has to be built on it.” She said she wants smart growth, starting with an assessment of property in the city “to see who’s doing what.”
Chuck Barrentine, 55
This is his second run for the District 2 seat. In 2011, Barrentine lost to Loyzelle.
He’s worked in retail asset protection and investigations management, served on the South Dade Military Affairs committee and was the team leader for the town’s first Community Emergency Response Team. He’s against raising taxes at all, supports more city money for parks and less development.
Barrentine raised $3,900 for this election. Of the total, $1,900 was from himself and the rest was from his parents, who contributed $1,000 each.
“The residents are our customers, and it’s our job to make them happy,” he said. “I don’t think the town council remembers that.”
As a wrestling and soccer coach in the city, “I got to see what was needed at the parks,” Barrentine said, “and where people would like to see it going.” He said his opponent’s time on the parks committee has made him complacent with the state of the city’s parks.
His major issue is the growing traffic problem on Old Cutler Road. Barrentine understands the road, which is under new stress thanks to growing communities nearby and in the south, cannot be widened. His solution is to “curtail residential growth as much as we can,” and be stingier with permits for medium or high-density communities.
Barrentine said as a council member he would focus on informing his constituents. At the minimum, he said, he would institute a quarterly mailer to residents of Cutler Bay.
He wants to increase involvement in the city’s government without placing the burden on residents. They shouldn’t have to come to council meetings, he said, “That’s not their job.” He vowed to respond to any email he receives within 48 hours, even if he doesn’t have an answer.
“If I don’t know, I’ll say so,” he said.
Barrentine is concerned with lobbyists’ influence on decision-making by the council. He promised to recuse himself from a vote if there’s ever a conflict of interest.
“I definitely will not be part of the status quo,” he said. “I’m not going to go with the flow.”
Michael Callahan, 52
Michael Callahan has worked in theater, written a children’s book, served as manager of facilities and supply chain asset protection at Macy’s and spent the last seven years on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, which he currently chairs.
His campaign raised $1,950, with $1,000 of the total coming from a self loan.
His time on the committee offers him an inside view into what the city wants and needs, he said — while he says his opponent has “never been to one park meeting.” (Barrentine said that is true but that he doesn’t need to go to a committee meeting to know what’s going on with parks.)
Most of the parks committee’s work has been unseen, Callahan said.
“We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot to do,” he said.
Callahan wants to attract more businesses, both big corporations and mom-and-pop stores, to Cutler Bay. He doesn’t see the city’s development as a negative, or even as a driving force behind the traffic issues.
“Our residents want us to wave a magic wand and make traffic go away,” he said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have that magic wand.”
He wants to work with neighboring cities to include Cutler Bay in their traffic studies for new development, pursue alternate methods of transportation with Miami-Dade County and work on synchronizing traffic light timing.
And for residential areas, Callahan preached a thoughtful response to development.
“We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our residents,” he said.