Voters in North Bay Village, the tiny island community with a long and colorful political history, will go to the polls Nov. 8 as four incumbents and two newcomers vie for a pair of commission seats and the post of mayor.
The three-island village wedged between the city of Miami and Miami Beach boasts a population of just over 8,000 people. For residents, the races are filled with familiar faces.
The most high-profile race is for mayor, a ceremonial position that enjoys an equal vote on the commission. Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps is facing off against vice mayor Jorge Gonzalez — who is touting the endorsement of the three other current commissioners.
First appointed to the commission in 2011, Leon-Kreps was elected mayor two years ago. She says her priority will be the completion of a village hall and community center, slated for an empty parcel of grass on Harbor Island that currently serves as a police parking lot.
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“I have done an incredible job, I believe,” Leon-Kreps, a nurse, said of her tenure.
Her challenger, Gonzalez, insists he’ll do a better job because he enjoys a better relationship with fellow commissioners. “Our commission meetings sometimes go on until 1 o’clock with bickering back and forth,” said Gonzalez, who owns a real estate company. “I’d like to turn a corner on that.”
Gonzalez wants to work toward improving parking in the village, implementing community policing and helping build a boardwalk between the popular Shuckers Waterfront Grill and the studios of WSVN-7, the village’s most visible business.
For incumbent commissioner Richard Chervony, his main priority is to annex a portion of the 79th Street Causeway between the village and Pelican Harbor marina, and to alleviate traffic often caused by boats passing through the drawbridge.
Chervony says the village is in talks with the state to restrict how often the bridge can go up during business hours. “The bridge is only going to open on the half-an-hour if a pleasure boat needs to go by,” said Chervony, an owner of a medical center.
His opponent is Jose R. Alvarez, a five-year resident who manages his wife’s law firm. He is a member of North Bay Village’s Business Development Advisory Board and has crusaded against unregulated short-term vacation rentals.
Alvarez said he believes he can do a better job than the incumbent, while supporting small businesses and fewer condos.
“I’ve been going to the meetings and they don’t listen to what the people want,” Alvarez said.
The third seat up for grabs belongs to Treasure Island’s Andreana Jackson, a real-estate agent who was appointed to the post last year. She did not answer phone calls.
Her opponent is Joshua Furman, a cardiologist who applied for the seat after then-commissioner Wendy Duvall resigned. He is currently on the village’s planning and zoning board; he declined comment, instead referring a reporter to his campaign flier.
North Bay Village residents won’t be voting only for commissioners.
A special ballot measure also asks whether voters will approve a general obligation bond of up to $9.1 million to pay for burying utility lines throughout the village. A similar measure, which did not include cable lines, passed in 2006.