Three of seven commission seats are up for grabs in Miami Gardens, the county’s third-largest city by population, incorporated just 15 years ago. Its claims to fame: Hard Rock Stadium, the soon-to-come Miami Open tennis tournament, and in recent years its status as the murder capital of South Florida, with more murders per capita than any other large city in MIami-Dade or Broward County.
In total, 10 people are running for the three commission seats, and only one is an incumbent. Lisa Davis (Seat 2) and Felicia Robinson (Seat 4) are not running for re-election. Candidates who gain 50 percent of the vote or more on Aug. 28 will win their seat outright. Otherwise, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
All the candidates who responded to the Miami Herald’s questions listed public safety as the city’s number one issue, then described their plan for combating violent crime. The Herald also asked the candidates about their stances on new developments coming to the community.
Here are the candidates for Miami Gardens commission seats 2, 4, and 6. Unless otherwise noted, the information was provided by the candidates and was not verified by the Herald. Campaign finance information is based on the most recently filed report by each candidate. All reports include a list of donors and can be found online at http://edocs.miamigardens-fl.gov/WebLink/0/doc/704257/Page1.aspx.
Seat 2: Northeast district
Francis Dave Ragoo, 58
Francis Dave Ragoo is a guardian ad litem and immediate past chair of the Miami Association of Realtors Professional Standards Committee. He served on the Miami-Dade County School Board bond oversight committee. For 30 years, Ragoo has participated in UPPAC (Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council) meetings, discussing issues affecting the community.
On Crime: “I do believe that we have to have a dialogue with our stakeholders in our city, including the City Manager, Police Administrators and some members of the clergy to determine the root cause of the violent crimes. ... We have to give the police department all the necessary support and tools to make them more efficient in their duties and execution of their responsibilities.”
On Development: “I am pleased with the increasing commercial developments in our city, which helps to increase our taxable base, as such, that would keep our millage rate down for our residential property home-owners. My concern, however, is the increase in the traffic congestion. ... We are saying to the Miami-Dade County, that we as a community need for them to accelerate the SMART Plan in their transportation plan. However, our choice is not buses but overhead rail based on the Record of Decision Study that was approved by the Federal Government back in 2007-2008.”
Reginald “Reggie” Leon, 39
Occupation: Operations supervisor for UPS
Contributions/Expenditures: $21,442.95/$11,580.37 (Biggest spender in the race)
Reggie Leon grew up in Miami Gardens and attended Florida Memorial University. He has worked at UPS for 18 years, most of that time in management. He also serves as co-chair for the Florida district of the UPS African-American business resource group. In 2016, Legacy Magazine put Leon on its 40 under 40 list.
On Crime: “We need a community approach, policing and programing. We lose our kids when they start to become teenagers. We have to have programing for our adolescents so they can have other options. ... The neighborhood that I live in, they pay extra money for police detail in the community and the crime is down. That shows you right then and there that if you have officers there on the street corners, crime goes down.”
On Development: “We need to make sure that we have livable wages coming to the residents of Miami Gardens. We have to make sure we are employing Miami Gardens residents. ... We should have some minority contractors. ...The concerns will be transportation. Seat 2 will be affected the most when it comes to traffic coming in and out of the stadium. We need rails instead of buses.”
Linda Hodges Holloway, 67
Linda Hodges Holloway did not provide any information to the Herald.
Seat 4: Southwest district
Sandra E. McDowell, 51
Occupation: Licensed insurance broker
Sandra McDowell grew up in Miami Gardens. She was a banker at Bank of America for over 18 years, and is now a full time insurance agent who specializes in Medicare. She started her political career working for Shirley Gibson, Miami Garden’s first mayor.
On Crime: “It stems from the home. And volunteering with some of the middle schools, you can see where you have children that are feeling hopeless and don’t have any consistency. ... My short-term workaround would be to work with the police to bring in other resources to help like the FBI. Some of these violent crimes against children are not being solved.”
On Development: “As a business person I’m pro development. But there has to be oversight. One of the things that I would put in place is legislation that would give oversight that would fall on the city manager that would provide oversight for these developments. ... We were supposed to get a pool. Now we are not getting a pool. Why? There’s no transparency.”
Shannon Campbell, 48
Occupation: Business owner
Shannon Campbell was educated in the Miami-Dade public school system. She later earned a Bachelor’s degree in Varying Exceptionalities (education) and a Master’s degree in Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. She served on the Police Athletic League; as councilwoman Felicia Robinson’s ambassador; and fought for restoration of rights for ex-felons.
On Crime: “I plan to address this issue by supporting organizations teaching by addressing their situation and then encouraging them to take action in order to that demonstrate positive interactions with our youth. This includes; but are not limited to improve their access to resources ultimately transforming their consciousness through their beliefs, values, and attitudes.”
On Development: “Economic development is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. I support the cities long term objective to continue to attract commercial businesses such as restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and entertainment venues. Also, I support the implementation of more cultural and recreational programs for our Park and Recreation system.”
Katrina Delphine Wilson-Davis, 55
Occupation: Educator, Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Katrina Wilson-Davis is a native of Miami-Dade County. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Reading K-12 from Florida Memorial University. She has also done postgraduate work at Nova University in Educational Leadership.
On Crime: “I plan to reduce crime using strong intervention, prevention and reintegration strategies that target the population most commonly involved in committing crimes. ... I plan to work intensively with our youth, social service agencies, law enforcement and community to develop cohesive efforts to identify, counter and intensify our efforts to deter crime in our community.”
On Development: “My concern is that the new development in our community does not compromise the quality of life for our residents but rather leads to the improvement in the quality of life for our residents.”
Janice Ann Coakley, 60
Occupation: City of North Miami Beach administrative assistant
Contributions/Expenditures: $12,239.15/$7,061.26 (Biggest spender in race)
She has worked for the city of North Miami Beach since 1977 and is currently an administrative assistant. She has volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and was a cheerleader coach, served on the Broward County Fair Cheerleader Commission, was PTSA president at Turner Technical High School, co-chair of the Miami Gardens Women of Commission, and board officer for National Association of Commission for Women.
On Crime: “There is a Real Time Crime Center that has the technology and the capability of automatic license plate readers and video surveillance cameras which is supposed to help combat crime in real time, this should be focused on the hotspots in our city. I would ... hire more police officers and giving them a sustainable wage to keep them in our city. Having community policing, empowering our community through community crime watch organizations, creating proactive measures by focusing on those age groups 10-29 years of age that are most likely to commit these crimes. “
On Development: “I want to make sure that the economic developments in our community are beneficial to both business and the residents. Keeping money in own community is great for our community. I want to make sure the residents play a part in the conversation in helping to be a part of working along with our governance in the creativity of what the residents would like to see in their community, by creating a great community with work, play, and resources for the whole family become advertising for others to want to come to our city and maybe even move in our communities.”
Seat 6: citywide
Ulysses Harvard, 61
Occupation: Insurance agent
Ulysses Harvard served as a Miami Gardens city councilman in 2005. Prior to that he was a volunteer for programs focused on education and crime prevention. Harvard worked for former Florida Congressman William Lehman until he retired in 1993, but has stayed active in local and state politics ever since.
On Crime: “One of the things I would do is sit down with others in the community to create different types of parenting programs. ... I’ve gone to a lot of community meetings and it always seems to be us telling them you have to do this you have to do that but I think we need to hear from them, the kids.”
On Development: “If it’s going to bring revenue to the city. That part is great. The only concern that I would have is how would the traffic affect the residents that currently live there. Hopefully they did traffic studies and some of that could be alleviated.”
Andre Williams, 50
Occupation: Real estate attorney
Andre Williams served as a Miami Gardens city councilman from 2006 to 2012. He is a businessman, an attorney, and an investor. “I understand finance and business. We certainly need more folks like that in our City Council,” he said. “I have that municipal experience. We need elected officials that are good stewards of our public money.”
On Crime: “We need more patrols in our neighborhoods, we need to see officers on the street corner and I think that will be a deterrent to crime. ... In addition to that we need to prioritize more after school programing and provide more opportunities for our young people to be involved in recreation in our local parks.”
On Development: “I was a city councilman before 2006-2012, and we believed in smart growth. Measured development. Development is an important part of the growth and evolution of our city. ... I don’t think the current city leadership has done a good job of that. None of this development provides opportunities of employment.”
Erhabor Ighodaro (incumbent), 45
Contributions/Expenditures: $65,016.00/$46,803.52 (Biggest spender in race and overall)
Erhabor Ighodaro did not provide any information to the Herald. He was first appointed to the seat in 2012 and won reelection in 2014.
This article has been updated to accurately reflect the current commissioners in seats two and four.