Voters must choose candidates for two Miami Gardens City Council seats in August, and most of the candidates have a common message: reduce crime, create jobs and reach out to children in the city.
Council seats 2 and 6 are up for grabs. Council member Felicia Robinson was automatically reelected to Seat 4 because she drew no challengers.
Vice Mayor Lisa Davis will be challenged for Seat 2 by Charlene Butler, a retired postal worker, and Tamarah Lee, an attorney. Davis has held the seat, representing the northeast part of the city, since 2010.
Running against council member Erhabor Ighodaro for Seat 6 are: Andre Williams, a former council member and mayoral candidate; Francis Ragoo, a real estate agent; and Mykita Cherry-Prime, a high school teacher. Ighodaro has held the at-large seat since 2012.
Charlene Butler, 65, hopes to create and keep business in Miami Gardens by creating partnerships between private companies and small-business owners in the city. She takes pride in having voted in favor of the incorporation of the city, and now she wants to join the city’s leadership.
“I want to be a part of the process that creates, designs and organizes the charters, budgets and legislation of this city,” Butler said in an email. “I have the time, knowledge and experience to give back to the community that I call home.”
Also running is Tamarah Lee, 26, the youngest of the candidates. Lee sees her youth as an advantage, not a detriment, to her campaign.
“I believe I’m more in touch with what’s going on with the youth in the neighborhood and what needs to be done to put them on the right path,” Lee said.
Lee hopes to start an early-education program to work along with what students are getting from schools, while focusing on science and the arts. She also hopes to bolster community development and reopen facilities like neighborhood swimming pools.
“One of my main things is more activities for the kids,” Lee said.
Vice Mayor Lisa Davis, 54, said she hopes to keep her seat and to continue working with the city’s plan to attract more hotels and businesses.
Davis also hopes to create a program to encourage single mothers and to focus on crime-prevention.
“I want to work more with the youth to help get the crime lowered, by starting with the youth and their families,” Davis said.
Of the four candidates for Ighodaro’s seat, Andre Williams, 46, is perhaps the most familiar with Miami Gardens politics. He served as a council member for six years before making an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2012. Williams said he thinks the city needs to refocus on “kitchen-table issues” like balancing its budget, creating jobs and improving the relationship between police officers and residents.
If elected, he hopes to help create revenue in the city through the recently passed $60 million general-obligation bond.
“Miami Gardens is a fairly new city with an incredibly large amount of debt — debt that a lot of residents can’t really afford,” Williams said.
Francis Ragoo, 53, wants to curtail crime and believes that churches and the clergy need to play a larger role in the city.
“If we can mentor our professionals and retired personnel and marry them with the churches, I think that’s one of the solutions we can look forward to,” Ragoo said.
He also wants to focus on job-creation and emphasizing economic empowerment for crime-ridden neighborhoods, not just on a larger police presence.
“If we only focus on arresting the bad guys, we’ll be recycling criminals and never get to a solution,” Ragoo said. “We ignore the socioeconomic condition of that child that was 2 or 3 years old. If we wait until they are 11 or 12 years old, it’s too late.”
Mykita Cherry-Prime, 30, started working with the city when she was briefly appointed to its elderly affairs committee. Like some of her opponents, she is focused on educating children and creating jobs. She also hopes to build a relationship with the city’s new police chief, Stephen Johnson.
“I think we can reduce crime in Miami Gardens by working with our new police chief and seeing how we can better police the area. Then we can ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct studies,” Cherry-Prime said.
Ighodaro, the incumbent, said the bond issue is key to his plans to represent the community and reach out to children like his students at Norland Middle School.
“I’m a teacher and I look at my students and after football season it’s like, ‘What else?’ ” Ighodaro said.
He said he also wants more participation by residents at municipal meetings and in city committees.
“We need more community outreach and involvement in terms of policymaking,” Ighodaro said.
The election is Aug. 26. Early voting will begin Aug. 11.