Early voting for the runoff election in Miami Gardens voters begins Monday and residents will choose between two candidates for an at-large City Council seat.
The candidates, incumbent council member Erhabor Ighodaro and challenger Andre Williams have both been on the campaign trail since the primary, pushing very similar ideas about the needs for the city. Both men want to focus on bringing jobs to Miami Gardens, reducing crime and improving education.
The two men were the top two finishers in the August primary. Ighodaro, who has served in Seat 6 since 2012, earned 37 percent of the vote. Williams, a former councilman who served for six years, finished with 40 percent of the vote. Neither candidate received the outright majority needed to win.
The other candidates, Francis Ragoo and Mykita Cherry-Prime, tied for third place and were eliminated in the primary.
At a community meeting at Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church, Williams addressed his time away from the council and how he hopes to improve if elected.
“I need to work harder to engage my other council members,” Williams told the crowd at the meeting.
Williams said that the council has lost focus on providing for residents and criticized the borrowing the city has done in past years, including the $60million general-obligation bond that voters approved in April.
Miami Gardens “is not about putting TVs in community centers or renaming streets. It’s about providing service and value to you all,” Williams said.
Some of the services Williams wants to bring to the city are job fairs and continued partnerships with clergy members and business owners to help reduce crime and the city’s unemployment rate. The city’s rate is 10 percent, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That’s more than 3 points above the countywide rate of 6.8 percent.
“That means our young people are not working, our grown folks aren’t working and that leads them to go astray and not do the right things,” Williams said.
Ighodaro, a teacher at Norland Middle School and adjunct professor at Florida Memorial University, agrees that the schools have to play a role in preparing students for the workplace and partnering with the city and the police.
“We all have aspirations to make Miami Gardens a better place,” Ighodaro said. “I think my record speaks for itself serving the children in this community.”
Despite sharing perspectives on how to improve the city, Ighodaro said Williams had his fair chance to serve the community and he hopes to keep his seat.
“I think we need to diversify instead of placing ourselves in the old traditional pockets and silos,” Ighodaro said. “Andre has had his time on the council. How many times does he need to get it right?”
Early voting will take place from Oct.20 to Nov2. Election day is Nov.4.
Miami Gardens City Council candidates
Occupation: Florida Memorial University adjunct criminal-justice professor; Norland Middle School world history teacher.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida Memorial University; master’s degree in justice administration from St. Thomas University; doctorate in conflict resolution from Nova Southeastern University.
Years lived in Miami Gardens: 22 years.
Public service: Miami Gardens City Council member, former president of Rotary Club of Opa-locka and Miami Gardens.
Occupation: Real estate attorney.
Education: Bachelor's degree in English and American literature from Harvard University; law degree from Vanderbilt University.
Years lived in Miami Gardens: 46 years.
Public service: Board of directors of the Richard Allen Leadership Academy; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity; member of Mount Hermon AME Church.