Three candidates are gearing up for the Feb. 17 special election that will decide who will fill the commission seat in Sunny Isles Beach left vacant after George “Bud” Scholl was elected mayor in November.
Up for grabs is commission seat 3, which encompasses the southern part of the city and includes all addresses south of Sunny Isles Beach Boulevard or State Road 826.
The candidates include attorney and registered nurse Kevin Thomas, business consultant and investor Gene Newman and real estate attorney Dana Goldman — who was unanimously approved by the City Commission in December to fill the seat on an interim basis.
Goldman previously chaired the city advisory committee, which she said serves as a liaison between city officials and residents as well as an incubator for public policy ideas. She also noted she hosted a workshop series that educated condo residents and associations about rights and responsibilities.
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Her work has hit very close to home. Goldman, a real estate attorney who focuses on condominiums and planned development communities, has filed a lawsuit against her condo association and its board claiming harassment and intimidation due to her inquiries into the board’s governance and financial practices. Some of the allegations include Goldman’s car being keyed, her tire slashed, and a dead rat with exposed entrails placed on her back porch.
In 2012, Goldman filed a suit that was dismissed four times, most recently in January 2015. She also filed a suit in 2014 that was dismissed in October 2014 and the defendants were granted entitlement to attorney fees and costs. Goldman appealed the dismissal in November 2014. Her appeal is currently pending.
Scott Bassman, attorney for the condo association, declined to comment on pending litigation.
“This is one of the reasons I have worked so hard to assist other condominium owners and associations,” said Goldman, who has lived in Sunny Isles Beach since 2001.
Goldman said she would like to “provide a voice to condo owners and associations” and is working to establish a city Office of Condo Advocacy to help residents with problems and associations deal with regulatory issues such as permits and code enforcement.
If elected, Goldman also would like to build a senior center for residents, ensure smart redevelopment on the west of Collins Avenue and relieve overcrowding at the Norman S. Edelcup K-8 School. She stated she is currently working with the school board to create solutions to overcrowding.
She also plans to continue working on legislation to prohibit commercial vehicles from blocking major streets. She would also like a citywide traffic study for planning.
Traffic is also a major concern for Thomas, who would like to ease congestion on Collins Avenue by asking FDOT to place no stopping or standing signs on the northbound side during rush hour.
An avid bicycle rider, Thomas says he would also like bike markings placed in the right-hand lane of Collins designating that bikes have priority. He noted that neighboring cities including Bal Harbour, Surfside, Golden Beach, Hallandale Beach and Hollywood have the bike markings.
“Every city but us has designated bike paths,” Thomas said.
Thomas also would enforce the city’s comprehensive business plan on the west side of Collins.
“[I would like] enforcement so that variances are few and far between,” Thomas said. “If we do give them, it should be at some kind of substantial benefit to the city.”
If elected, Thomas also plans to “bring the city commissioners to the residents” by attending two meetings per year for each condo in his district.
He also would like to create an automated phone check for seniors throughout the city to make sure they are doing well, a practice of the condo building where Thomas lives.
“I don’t want them left behind and want to advocate for seniors,” said Thomas, noting that about 40 percent of the city’s residents are seniors.
As for Newman, he would like a traffic light installed on Collins by Haulover Park to relieve traffic congestion.
Residents that at his condo building near 158th Street and Collins have to drive farther south and race oncoming traffic to make a U-turn by Haulover Park, Newman said.
“I would like to get a traffic light there so drivers can make safe and legal U-turns,” Newman said.
Newman stated he and other residents initially pushed for a left turn traffic light at 158th Street and Collins and would like to revisit that location as a first choice since the recent announcement of the construction of a Ritz Carlton Hotel near his condo building.
He is also concerned about flooding at the shopping plazas on the west side of Collins, where standing water after heavy rains causes businesses to lose money. Tow trucks sometimes have to pull 25 to 30 cars in a day out of the water, he said.
“It is unsafe and unsanitary,” Newman said. “When the water starts to drain, bugs start to come out.”
Newman pointed out that the city recently required shop owners to take care of flooding within 48 hours, but the water often recedes before then.
“We need new drainage systems,” Newman said.
Newman is also concerned about the management of city funds concerning capital improvement projects, specifically Intracoastal Park at 160th Street and Collins. He noted that the sod was reinstalled several times due to major drainage issues, damage from earth-moving equipment and to install a new seawall.
“I would ask the city manager to investigate,” Newman said.
Occupation: Real estate attorney focusing on condominiums and planned development communities
Education: B.A. in history from Brandeis University, J.D. from George Washington University Law School
Civic Involvement: Former chair of Sunny Isles Beach city advisory committee and former chair of the Sunny Isles Beach non-traffic safety subcommittee, deputy director of Summit of the Americas hosted by former President Bill Clinton, legislative assistant to former U.S. Sen. Al Gore, legal intern to former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, research assistant at the Helsinki Commission, former director of Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews
Occupation: Attorney and registered nurse
Education: J.D. from Georgia State University, B.A. in business administration from University of North Florida, A.S. in nursing from Miami Dade College
Civic Involvement: member of Guardian of Ad Litem, which provides free legal representation for children abused, abandoned, or neglected, President of Arlen House condominium association
Occupation: business consultant and investor
Education: B.A. in English literature at Brown University, MBA in marketing and finance at Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania
Civic Involvement: Serves on board of directors of the master association for Trump Tower