Key Biscayne voters have six candidates to choose from to fill three Village Council seats this fall.
Mayor Frank Caplan is term-limited as mayor but is running for the council.
Council member Mayra Peña Lindsay was automatically elected mayor when no one else ran for the position. James Taintor is seeking reelection.
Key Biscayne elections are at-large, meaning the three candidates with the most votes win the seats. The village charter says that the mayor is elected for a two-year term and is limited to serving no more than two consecutive terms. Council members serve four-year terms. No person can serve on the council, or as a combination of mayor and council, for more than eight consecutive years. Caplan served his two terms as mayor and is eligible for one term as a council member.
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Early voting starts Monday, and Election Day is Nov. 4. Key Biscayne residents can cast their ballots at the community center on election day, or they can visit any early voting site during the early-voting period. The closest early-voting site is Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive.
Some of the candidates expressed similar ideas for their platforms — spending the millions the village has in reserves on capital improvement projects and addressing crowding in the Key Biscayne K-8 Center.
Caplan, a commercial real estate attorney, has been active in the Key Biscayne community from before the village became incorporated in 1991. He served as chairman for the village’s first Master Plan Committee, served on the 2020 Vision Committee and chaired the Evaluation and Appraisal Report Committee, which evaluates the progress the village has made since the 1995 Comprehensive Plan.
After his two terms as mayor, he said, residents urged him to run for council. Caplan still feels he has work to do on the island.
“I’m term-limited as mayor, but I’m not done,” he said. “I still have things I want to accomplish that I’m working on.”
Outside of the capital improvement projects the council wants to fund with the village’s $22 million in reserves, Caplan was in talks with the former director of the Miami-Dade County Public Library System to modernize the village library. He has also been working on partnering with the city of Miami to build an athletic field on Virginia Key.
Caplan also would like to work on Rickenbacker Causeway improvements for better safety for bicyclists and to address crowding at the Key Biscayne K-8 Center.
“I want to continue helping the schools continue to be the best they could be,” Caplan said.
A public records search showed three liens were filed a between 2006 and 2008 against a condo he owns in Key Colony. The liens were for condo association fees.
“We weren’t living there, and we just missed it,” he said of the fees. The association began foreclosure proceedings in 2008, but later dropped the case and released the liens.
Citi Mortgage Inc. began foreclosure proceedings on the same property in 2008, but later dropped the case.
U.S. Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Caplan’s home in 2013. The bank later dropped the case. Caplan said the case arose from a dispute about how much money should go in his insurance escrow. The case was later settled.
Luis Felipe de la Cruz
Luis Felipe de la Cruz has lived in Key Biscayne since before the village incorporated. He was a director, sports commissioner and coach for the Key Biscayne Athletic Council before all athletic programs were handled by the village. He said he has experienced first-hand the growth of the village over time.
“I feel I could make a difference,” he said.
His children are grown and he wants to stay involved in the village. For de la Cruz, the most important things that need addressing are some longstanding community development plans, including expanding the community center, finding the best site for the temporary dog park at 530 Crandon Blvd., finding ways to reduce traffic congestion on Crandon Blvd. and renourishing the village’s beaches.
“Lots of things need to get off the ground and need to be pushed a lot harder than they have been pushed,” de la Cruz said.
Alex Lipzer attended high school in Olivos, a city in the Buenos Aires province in Argentina. He is a Realtor and president of a company, Key Biscayne Realty Group.
He also is president of the Villa Harbor condominium association and tries to get people involved in making decisions for what’s best for the residents of the complex.
“I’m a Key Biscayne resident, not a politician, not a lawyer,” Lipzer said. “I don’t talk very fancy. I get things done and I don’t talk too much.”
Lipzer thinks there is too much money sitting in reserves and not enough action on the part of the council in getting projects off the ground. He wants to help speed up improvements in the village. He said he does not know what he is doing, but he is passionate about the village and said he can make things work.
“I’m not material for council meetings, but I know I will get the work done,” Lipzer said.
A public records search showed eight liens were filed against his home, mostly by the village or Miami-Dade County for overdue solid waste disposal payments, from 2007 to 2013. All the liens have been satisfied.
As the youngest candidate running for council and the only candidate with children in school, Brett Moss feels he can bring a unique perspective to the council because he’s looking deeper into the future of his family and community.
He has three small children. His daughter attends the Key Biscayne K-8 Center. Crowding in the school is what Moss feels needs immediate addressing. He said when his daughter was in kindergarten, her class was doubled-up because there were so many students.
The school is operated by Miami-Dade public schools, but the village is working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to improve the schools.
“For me, it’s really about finding what problems are happening and developing a partnership between the village and the school district to improve and elevate the educational experience for children,” he said.
He said there are a lot of projects residents want to see completed, like a multi-use building with a senior center, a cultural center and a history museum. Moss, an architect, said the village needs to consider what the future of Key Biscayne is going to look like from an architectural perspective. He wants to work with the community to find space for all the things residents want — more parks, a permanent dog park and infrastructure projects.
H. Frances Reaves
For Frances Reaves, everything people say about Key Biscayne being a paradise is true, but there are issues that need addressing. A crowded and understaffed K-8 center, traffic congestion and flooding were on the top of her list.
Like the other candidates, Reaves also brought up the amount of money put aside for capital projects that is “just sitting there.”
“I’m running because I think it’s better to be part of the process than it is to throw rocks at it,” she said.
Reaves is interested in sand dune and seagrass restoration and beach renourishment.
She also wants to work on getting more of the arts in the K-8 center and suggested looking into hiring teaching assistants so students can spend time outside. She also wants to see construction of a senior center or expansion of the community center with more space for activities for seniors.
“I think any community can be judged by how they treat their young and their old,” she said.
James Taintor has been a council member the last four years. He, like Caplan, feels his work on the council is not done.
Taintor hopes to be re-elected so he can see the council accomplish things it did not accomplish in his first four years, like decide to expand the community center and establish a permanent use for the 530 Crandon Blvd. property, which is now being used as a dog park. He would like to see construction of a multi-use building on the 530 Crandon property, with underground parking, a senior center and a cultural center.
Taintor wants to see the village’s approximately $22 million in reserves spent on the capital projects and improvements to the village.
“We want to get these projects going and use this money we’ve set aside, which is really taxpayer money, to enhance the village,” Taintor said.
He also brought up the MAST Academy expansion, which will guarantee 1,100 seats in two new academies at the high school for Key Biscayne students grades six through 12. The village is contributing $11 million toward the project.
“We did it because it enhances educational possibilities on the island,” he said. “This way our kids can stay on the island. It’s better than going across causeway.”
The Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce will host a candidate forum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, in the council chambers at Village Hall, 88 W McIntyre Street. Candidates will introduce themselves to the public, and residents can ask questions from the podium. Residents can also submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key Biscayne council candidates
Franklin H. Caplan
Occupation: Partner at Berger Singerman LLP, a business law firm.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from McDaniel College in Maryland. Law degree from Western New England Law School.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 30
Public service: Key Biscayne mayor since 2010; former Art in Public Places board member; former chair of the Zoning Review and Land Acquisition committees; serves on the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade League of Cities, the South Florida Regional Planning Council and the Southeast Florida Coastal Ocean Task Force.
Luis Felipe de la Cruz
Occupation: managing partner at the law firm of De la Cruz & Cutler LLP.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida. Law degree from the University of Florida.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 35
Public service: Former director, commissioner and coach for the Key Biscayne Athletic Club; serves on the Board of Governors for Key Biscayne Yacht Club; lector at St. Agnes Church.
Occupation: President of Key Biscayne Realty Group
Education: High school in Olivos, a city in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 12
Public service: Member of the Key Biscayne Condominium Presidents Council Association; president of Villa Harbor condominium association.
Occupation: Owner of Moss Architecture + Design; adjunct faculty member at Florida International University.
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Architecture from Virginia Tech; master’s degrees in human resource management and business administration from Millenia Atlantic University; Doctorate in environment and behavior studies from University of Missouri-Columbia.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 9
Public service: Key Biscayne K-8 Center Parent-Teacher Association; chair of the Education Advisory Board in Key Biscayne.
H. Frances Reaves
Occupation: Principal at Latin America Connection, a company that helps small businesses find trade partners in Latin America.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Texas Christian University. Law degree from the University of Miami.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 6
Public service: Started Network 2000, an organization that promotes the advancement of women; involved in the Organization of Women in International Trade; volunteered and chaired committees for Women’s Fund of Miami; member of the Key Biscayne, Coral Gables and Greater Miami chambers of commerce.
James Spencer Taintor III
Occupation: Insurance agent for Willis of Florida.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in business from Emory University; Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation.
Years lived in Key Biscayne: 46
Public service: Past commodore of Key Biscayne Yacht Club; former member of Key Biscayne Athletic Club; president of Key Biscayne Anglers Club; Fourth of July Parade Committee member; treasurer and junior warden at St. Christopher’s By-the-Sea.