From the mayor’s race on down, the names are the same — at least the last names — the faces are familiar and there’s sense of déjà vu, some of which makes us hopeful, some of which makes us queasy. That’s pretty much sums up Miami’s races for mayor and commission.
We think a newcomer and a city of Miami veteran bring the right combination of fresh ideas and institutional know-how. On Wednesday, the Editorial Board will make its recommendation for mayor.
There a crowd of candidates to replace Commissioner Frank Carollo. They include his older brother Joe Carollo — in Miami, you can’t get anymore déjà vu than this; the current mayor’s son, Tomás “Tommy” Regalado; the wife of Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, Zoraida Barreiro; along with Alex Dominguez, José Suárez, Alfonso “Alfie” Leon III, and Miguel Soliman — who says that drug dealers and other criminals are conducting business in broad daylight in Little Havana.
Unfortunately, personalities, more than issues, are at play in the battle to represent this mostly Hispanic district, which includes Little Havana, The Roads, and a section of Coral Way.
Here’s how a Miami Herald article described Joe Carollo, when he announced his plan to run: “Bombastic, sometimes paranoid, often vindictive toward those he believed crossed him, but always colorful and often right.”
That assessment is on the money.
At the candidate interview with the Editorial Board, Carollo — who was first elected Miami commissioner in 1979 when he was 24 — showed a command of city issues and had solutions at the ready. That’s one side of Carollo.
Then there’s the other troubling side, the Carollo who emerges when he confronts what he perceives to be wrongdoers in his circle of politicos. Currently, in campaign mailers, he attacks competitor Regalado for being a communist sympathizer — a ridiculous claim for the Regalado family, long-known to be staunch anti-Communists. Their crime: posing for a picture with left-leaning actor Sean Penn.
Fresh in our minds, too, are Carollo’s battles in the city of Doral, where for months the business of running the city was hijacked by feuds between then-Mayor Luigi Borgia and Carollo, the city manager until he was fired in 2014.
Despite Carollo’s institutional knowledge when it comes to Miami, the Board is loath to see a this former commissioner and mayor who panders so blithely on some residents’ fervent fears of communism; someone who is quick to point the finger, pick a fight, and drag a city through the mud with him, reintroduced to the dais.
Voters should move on, not regress.
Regalado is a pleasant former Spanish-language reporter who promises to keep the city on much the same course as his father, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. That means no major scandals, but it also means no big vision to make this a city of the future — though we give his dad credit for seeing the light on sea-level rise. On Friday, an article by Herald reporter David Smiley said that candidate Regalado and his father were involved directing campaign funds to a secret political action committee or PAC. The two say they were given bad legal advice about their obligation to fill out a campaign report. This kind of controversy is not the way to start a political career.
Barreiro, Dominguez, Suárez, and Soliman are credible candidates, but none of whom brought many new ideas to the table. The most impressive District 3 candidate is Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, 32, and an attorney who has proven to be a hard-working campaigner in the district, where there will likely be a run-off. He worked for departing Commissioner Frank Carollo as a legislative aide and chief policy adviser. But for a few blips, his boss indeed was concerned with constituent service and, more impressive, took on the issue of youth crime. So Leon clearly knows the issues and what the job entails.
Leon’s earnest, people-centric views are refreshing: “I decided to run because we need public servants and not politicians. We need people who are beholden only to their neighbors and will act towards bettering these neighborhoods,” Leon told the Board.
Most of the candidates pointed to a unique problem in the district: unfettered dumping on the streets, which give the district a Third World look.
Leon also considers such issues — trash, traffic, the cost of living, crime — to be the district’s main issues. We think he can do something about cleaning up the district — literally.
For the Miami City Commission District 3, the Herald recommends ALFONSO “ALFIE” LEON III.
The race for the commission seat in District 4, vacated when Francis X. Suarez decided to run for mayor, is not as crowded or as high-profile. It pits two newcomers against another 1980s-era Miami politician who seeks to return to the public arena.
The three candidates are Manolo Reyes, 73, Ralph Rosado, 45, and Denise Galvez Turros, 42. All are vying to represent the district that includes the largely residential neighborhoods of Flagami, Shenandoah, Silver Bluff, and Coral Gate.
It will be the seventh campaign for Reyes, who has lost six Miami political campaigns over three decades. Nonetheless he seems to be running a close race with Rosado, the better-financed candidate with an impressive resume.
So how does an old-school Cuban exile running for office in Miami since 1985 — yes, when Ronald Reagan was president — still appeal to voters? His opponents have seen it first hand.
“Everybody in the district knows Manolo,” admits Galvez. “He just connects with people; he talks to them; he listens to them.” Those are flattering words from an opponent.
Reyes does have a charm. A Westland Hialeah Senior High government and economics teacher, he asked the Editorial Board to reschedule his candidate interview because it conflicted with class. “I am a man of my word; I can’t let my students down,” he said.
Reyes said the main change he’ll bring is to address “the lack of efficiency endemic in the city administration — I’m a fanatic about efficiency,” he said. Reyes is a former city of Miami budget analyst, a position he also held at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, too.
If Reyes brings old-timey politicking to the race, Rosado and Galvez bring fresh faces to the campaign. Both are well-versed in the district’s needs and have innovative ideas about want needs fixing — mainly traffic congestion.
Rosado, a polished candidate with a Princeton University degree, is president of Rosado & Associates, a company that provides consulting services to municipal governments, nonprofits, and foundations. In the past, he has worked as an assistant city manager in North Miami Beach, assistant to the mayor of Sweetwater, and an assistant to the city manager of South Miami.
Along with the other candidates, he lists the four main priorities in the district as improving public safety, reducing dangerous traffic congestion, increasing housing affordability, enhancing our livability through greater economic development.
Denise Galvez Turros, who works in marketing and public relations, agrees those are among the main issues in the district — traffic being the most pressing.
Galvez recently lost a bid to have ballots reprinted after state law forced her second last name to be considered as her first last name, making her third on the ballot, as opposed to first. “I was told by legal experts I had a good case,” she said.
At their candidate interview, Rosado implied that Galvez is a straw candidate and in the race to steal votes away from him — and help Reyes win. She denied that charge and that her lawsuit was a publicity stunt.
Galvez says she wants to improve the city’s archaic communications system for residents and in every single department. “Our 311 number, the building and planning department, the city website you name it, all need to be upgraded to respond better to the residents and their needs in 24 hours, not 7 days,” she said. She’s right.
But the fact is that this is a race between Reyes and Rosado, candidates that bring additional qualities to the table. We give Reyes the edge because he’s a numbers guy who stands to rigorously watch out for taxpayers’ money.
Unlike in District 3, in this race we’re going with an administrative veteran. For the Miami City Commission District 4, the Herald recommends MANOLO REYES.