Miami-Dade County

Jackson assembles political team to campaign for $830 million bond initiative

Jackson Health System is preparing to wage an expensive countywide campaign to persuade Miami-Dade voters to approve $830 million in hospital upgrades financed by a property-tax rate hike.

The public health system has created a political action committee to raise money, and Carlos Migoya, Jackson’s chief executive, has hired a campaign manager who is assembling a political team to lead the fundraising and outreach effort for the Nov. 5 special election.

Though county commissioners only just approved the referendum on Tuesday, Jackson has been gearing up for the bond initiative behind the scenes for months. A privately funded poll whose results have not been made public gauged voters’ interest a year ago in raising additional public funds for the hospital. Jackson registered its fundraising committee, Citizens For A Healthy Miami-Dade, in May.

“After years of painful neglect, it is abundantly clear that without modern facilities, Jackson will always struggle to compete,” Darryl Sharpton, chairman of the Public Health Trust that governs the hospital, told commissioners Tuesday.

He said trust members had been batting around the bond initiative idea for two years, though they only voted on it last week — without details on the size of the property-tax rate increase.

The peak rate hike would amount to an additional $48.60 for a homeowner with a taxable property value of $200,000 in an unincorporated neighborhood such as Kendall. That peak increase would hit in year 10 of the 30-year bond, according to county projections; the hike the first year would be about $9.80.

Jackson’s PAC does not have to report any raised funds until next week. In Miami-Dade, countywide campaigns typically aim to raise about $1 million to pay for pricey television, radio and direct-mail advertisements in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. The Miami-Dade school district’s successful $1.2 billion bond initiative last year raised more than $992,000.

But the schools campaign was on a crowded general-election ballot. Jackson will be the only countywide question on the ballot this year, meaning it won’t have to compete with high-profile political candidates for TV and radio air time and voters’ attention. The health system will share the Nov. 5 ballot with municipal races in just four of the county’s largest cities: Miami, Hialeah, Miami Beach and Homestead.

Putting the countywide Jackson referendum on the ballot will cost the Miami-Dade elections department an additional $2.6 million, Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley told commissioners Tuesday.

Heading Jackson’s campaign will be Ashley Walker, the Florida chief for President Barack Obama’s reelection effort. Walker led the Miami Dolphins’ short-lived push earlier this year for a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium partly funded by public dollars.

Joining or in talks to join Walker are two other Dolphins veterans, fundraiser Brian Goldmeier and strategist Steve Marin, and communications consultant Freddy Balsera, who has advised Obama on Hispanic issues.

Balsera and Goldmeier worked on the school district’s bond initiative last fall. Goldmeier also handled fundraising for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s two successful campaigns; one of the mayor’s sons, Carlos J. Gimenez, is vice-president and general counsel for Balsera’s namesake firm, Balsera Communications.

Marin, a specialist in reaching out to voters through mailed fliers, has extensive experience in the city of Miami, where a mayoral contest between incumbent Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Francis Suarez is expected to draw voters’ interest.

“Wherever they could use our firm, we’d be interested,” Marin said of Jackson, noting the public hospital’s deep ties to the community — a potential campaign theme.

“At one point in our lives, I think everybody has been at that facility, at Jackson, with a loved one in a very, very difficult place and giving thanks that we have that first-class facility.”