Miami Beach Group 5 commission candidates Ricky Arriola and Mark Weithorn are facing off in what has become a contentious campaign leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.
Although neither has held office, both have well-known names in political circles.
Arriola, a son of former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola, is CEO of Intkel Holdings LLC, a global outsourcer that does business with Miami Beach. Arriola is immediate past chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts trust board and helped usher the center during its infancy through tough financial years. He has sometimes campaigned with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a personal friend who is running for re-election this year against political newcomer David Wieder.
Weithorn, husband of current term-limited Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn, owns a website development company, Showcase Websites, and has served as chairman of the Miami Beach Transportation and Parking Committee.
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Along the campaign trail, candidates Arriola and Weithorn have beat the drum on transportation issues, calling for mass transit across Biscayne Bay to move forward and for more parking garages to be built. Both approve of the police department’s recent performance.
They differ on the approach to developing a headquarter hotel for the soon-to-be renovated Miami Beach Convention Center. In March, voters will likely have the chance to weigh in on a proposed 800-room, 30-story hotel at the corner of Convention Center Drive and 17th Street. The lease of public land requires 60 percent approval.
Arriola said he prefers an option with plenty of green space.
“I don’t like seeing big, tall buildings. Particularly in Miami Beach,” he said. “But there’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make for this hotel because I want to see more green space in Miami Beach.”
Weithorn said residents have told him they don’t want a 30-story building in that location. He prefers a lower-rise building across the street from the convention center, where the city plans to build a six-acre park instead.
“Well, we have the botanical gardens across the street. We have the Holocaust Memorial. We’ve got SoundScape Park. We have Lincoln Road,” he said. “So I don’t know if building another park has a higher purpose.”
Voters are also considering whether to increase the floor area ratio for a swath of beachfront properties in North Beach. The proposal has gone to the ballot box because a developer wants to build a hotel/condominium project on Ocean Terrace, a small strip of beachfront properties between 73rd and 75th streets.
Weithorn hasn’t committed to supporting or opposing the concept.
“I’d rather not say because I don’t want to influence the electorate,” Weithorn told the Miami Herald. “And I want to see what the people of Miami Beach are in favor of.”
Arriola said he will vote in favor.
“The area is blighted and it has been for many decades, and I think this project is going to kick-start the area,” Arriola said.
Early in the campaign, Arriola and Weithorn butt heads. In the first attack piece of the election season, an ad was sent in March criticizing Arriola for running for office while doing business with the city.
Arriola’s firm, Inktel Holdings, currently has a $200,000 contract providing customer service support for Miami Beach’s building department.
The ad was paid for by an electioneering communications organization called Common Sense. Weithorn denied involvement with the ad, even though he donated $5,000 to Common Sense.
Arriola has asked the city to expedite finding a new vendor, but the city won’t be soliciting a new contract until the end of the year. If elected, Arriola would sit on the dais while having a contract with the city until April.
Arriola, who earlier this year said voters don’t like attack ads, sponsored a mailed advertisement that pointed out some trouble Weithorn had during his last run for public office.
During his 2012 state House campaign, an attorney for Weithorn’s former business partner — who supported one of Weithorn’s opponents — filed an ethics complaint against Weithorn. The Florida Ethics Commission later fined Weithorn for failing to disclose a $13,500 judgment against him on his financial disclosure.
Early voting has begun in Miami Beach. Early-voting sites are open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends through Nov. 1.
▪ Miami Beach City Hall: 1700 Convention Center Dr.
▪ North Shore Branch Library: 7501 Collins Ave.
Voters in Miami Beach have several races on the ballot, including mayor and three commission seats.
Miami Beach Group 5 candidates
▪ Age: 46
▪ Occupation: CEO of Intkel Holdings LLC, a global outsourcer of business and direct-marketing services
▪ Educational background: bachelor’s in economics from Boston College; Juris Doctor from St. John’s University and master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School
▪ Years as a Miami Beach resident: more than 15
▪ Previous public service: Has never held or run for public office. Worked on President Barack Obama’s national finance committee. Immediate past chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts trust board. Serves on the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for North Beach in Miami Beach
▪ Fundraising: Raised $171,000, spent $78,000 as of Oct. 1
▪ Age: 58
▪ Occupation: President of website development company Showcase Websites
▪ Educational background: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York
▪ Years as a Miami Beach resident: 35
▪ Previous public service: Has never held public office. Ran unsuccessfully for Florida House in 2012. Serves as chairman of the Miami Beach Transportation & Parking Committee and treasurer of the North Beach Development Corp.
▪ Fundraising: Raised $101,000, spent $58,000 as of Oct. 1