The Sunny Isles Beach commission race is headed to a run-off election after none of the three candidates secured more than 50 percent of the vote, the threshold needed to win on Tuesday night.
Political newcomers Alex Lama and David Grossman received the most votes and will face off again on Dec. 4. They beat Felix Kizhner, another political novice, in the race to represent the central section of a city grappling with traffic, rapid development and pedestrian safety.
Lama, 47, a Republican who has lived in Sunny Isles Beach since 1988, finished first with roughly 45 percent of the vote. He works in advertising and has served on the city’s resident advisory committee since April. Lama also volunteers with the Parent Teacher Student Association at Sunny Isles Beach K-8 Center.
Grossman, 39, finished with 35 percent of the vote. He works as a lease broker at Evolution Leasing and identifies as a Libertarian. Grossman grew up in New York and moved to Sunny Isles Beach in 2009. Like his competitors, Grossman has never held public office, but he said he has been involved in local issues, including protesting city signs prohibiting guns in certain areas.
The winner of the run-off election will fill Seat 2, which represents a swath of the city between 172nd and 178th streets, and will serve a four-year term on the nonpartisan five-member City Commission.
Lama outraised his opponents, bringing in more than $53,000, including a $5,000 loan to himself. Many of the donations came from real estate developers. Kizhner, 50, a semi-retired life coach and DJ, raised close to $20,000, much of which he loaned to himself, and Grossman collected roughly $3,700, of which $1,300 came from the candidate. Kizhner finished with roughly 20 percent of the vote.
Mayor George “Bud” Scholl was automatically re-elected after no one filed to run against him, and newcomer Jeniffer Viscarra ran unopposed for Seat 4, which represents the South-Central section of the city. The commissioners who previously occupied seats 2 and 4 were ineligible for re-election because of term limits.
Sunny Isles Beach, a 1.5-mile strip of land almost at the northern tip of Miami-Dade County, is known for its luxury condominium towers. The city of 22,000 is a favorite destination for foreign investors and has a sizable Russian community.
The rapid pace of development in the city is one of the issues the candidates for Seat 2 have vowed to address, as is traffic congestion on Collins Avenue. The candidates have also promised to push for pedestrian safety measures. That issue came to the forefront in Sunny Isles Beach over the summer after a car veered onto the sidewalk along Collins Avenue and crashed into a bus stop where a family was waiting, killing a 34-year-old father of two and injuring his wife and daughters.
In order to address pedestrian safety along Collins Avenue, Lama said he would bring together a team of experts to study the issue. He said he also plans to work with other government agencies and environmental groups to find long-term solutions to beach erosion and flooding.
Grossman said his focus would be to make the city government more efficient and transparent. He said he’d also address homelessness by coordinating with the county to provide more mental health resources for the city’s homeless population and by pushing for tougher enforcement of no-camping rules.