As Miami Gardens prepares for the new budget year, settles into its new municipal complex and continues rolling out the plan for its $60 million general-obligation bond, voters will choose two members of the City Council in a few weeks.
City Councilwoman Felicia Robinson was automatically reelected to Seat 4 after she drew no challengers. Voters will choose from three candidates for Seat 2 and four candidates for Seat 6.
Campaign signs have flooded the streets, but the contests have remained civil, with multiple candidates describing their campaigns as “grassroots” and expressing similar ideas in their platforms: create jobs, maintain the city’s finances, reduce crime and keep children engaged in after-school activities.
The candidates for Seat 2 are: incumbent Lisa Davis; Charlene Butler, a retired postal worker; and Tamarah Lee, an attorney. Davis was elected to the seat four years ago.
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For Seat 6, Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro will run against Andre Williams, a former councilman and mayoral candidate; Francis Ragoo, a real-estate agent; and Mykita Cherry-Prime, a high school teacher. Ighodaro was appointed to the seat in 2012 to fill the vacancy left when Oliver Gilbert became mayor.
Tamarah Lee, 26, and Charlene Butler, 65, are newcomers to city politics, having never run for elected positions in Miami Gardens.
Lee, the youngest of the candidates, said she wants to focus on the causes of crime in the city, not just bolstering the police force and hiring more officers.
Butler said that after years of working for the U.S. Postal Service she wants to devote her time to building the community where she has lived for more than three decades.
“I have the time, knowledge and experience to give back to the community that I call home,” Butler said in an email. “I am confident that I can serve as councilwoman to the wonderful residents of Miami Gardens.”
Lisa Davis, 54, said that along with working to bring business to the city and strengthening families and single mothers, she wants to develop a program for young men in the city. When she campaigned in 2010, she suggested a mentoring program called “Pull Them Up.”
“That’s still something that I’d like to see happen with our young men,” Davis said. “Teaching them the basics of how to move on with life in the right way.”
The four candidates for the seat include former mayoral candidate and councilman Andre Williams, 46, who said the city should focus on creating revenue. Beyond that, he wants to take a closer look at the spending of the city’s bond money, focus on public safety and develop business.
“I am focused on getting Miami Gardens back on track,” Williams said.
Francis “Dave” Ragoo, 53, also thinks business is important, and believes that as the city builds and develops it has to find opportunities for construction jobs for residents and for construction contractors that operate in the city. Additionally, he belives that crime prevention starts in the home.
“We have to say no to the gangs, the guns and the drugs,” Ragoo said. “We need to look at a long-term strategy to minimize the crime in our community.”
Crime and the city’s image are major parts of Mykita Cherry-Prime’s campaign. Her website features the slogan “Mykita Cherry-Prime will be tough on crime,” and she said wants to advocate for the average resident.
“A lot of our residents have moved away to neighboring communities because of the crime statistics,” Cherry-Prime, 31, said in a statement. “I want to reassure families that Miami Gardens is a safe city and every day we are working to be a better place to live.”
Erhabor Ighodaro, 41, said the bond issue money and the development of parks and recreation facilities will play a major role in the city’s development and in crime reduction.
“We need to invest on the front end of the spectrum, and I think that’s what the bond does for us,” Ighodaro said.
Early voting for the election will begin Monday, and the election will take place Aug. 26. Potential runoffs would take place Nov. 4.