Miami Shores

Shelved annexation try is top issue in Biscayne Park election

The Village of Biscayne Park’s log cabin and town hall, dedicated in 1935, was restored and re-opened in January 2016.
The Village of Biscayne Park’s log cabin and town hall, dedicated in 1935, was restored and re-opened in January 2016.

One of Miami-Dade’s smallest cities is nestled between Miami Shores and North Miami. It has 3,000 residents, most of them white, and no commercial business to speak of.

Besides an iconic log cabin meeting hall that an Architectural Digest devotee would die for, the Village of Biscayne Park is probably best known for speed traps that peeved mostly non-locals.

Originally a part of the city of Miami, Biscayne Park incorporated at the height of the Great Depression in 1931. Today, it has a mayor, a vice mayor and three commissioners. On Nov. 8, three of the village’s commission seats are up for grabs.

Five candidates are running for election; three will win a seat. The top two vote-getters will serve four-year terms. The third-place candidate will serve for two years.

Four of the candidates are political novices. The fifth is finishing out his first term. One is a teacher. Another runs his own pest control company. There are an attorney and an employee of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. The incumbent is a psychiatrist.

A sixth candidate, Michael Rawson, qualified, but then withdrew from the race too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. Voters will be told he’s no longer a candidate.

The village’s biggest issue is an annexation attempt that for the time being has been shelved. With no commercial businesses to tax, residents pay one of the highest tax rates in the county to keep the parks and government services running.

Biscayne Park has tried to annex a small commercial strip across train tracks on its northeastern side. Two large office buildings and a couple of strip malls, one that includes a CVS, make up most of the property. Recently the County Commission turned down the village’s application. No one knows if it will ever reconsider the request.

“Our modest home values limit the ability to create revenue,” said councilman Fred Jonas, 66, who is divorced and has two children. He said he wasn’t going to run for a spot again, but decided to declare because he wasn’t thrilled with the list of candidates. “I want to keep making us better. Whatever it takes to do that.”

Daniel Samaria, 62, served in the military and spent six years on the village’s recreation board. He owns a pest control company. He is against the annexation because “it wasn’t done right,” and said children’s issues are very important to him because he suffered attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“The main recreation center needs to be run a little better. The commission wants to cut recreation center programs,” Samaria said. “There’s still a lot of stuff I have to look into.”

Also wanting a spot on the Biscayne Park Village Commission is Jenny Johnson-Sardella. She’s a 41-year-old commercial litigation attorney who has lived in the community for five years. She calls Biscayne Park “a wonderful place to live,” and says she’s running to improve people’s quality of life.

“One of my main concerns in the village is to maintain our safety. There have been concerns in the past about police,” she said.

The two other candidates did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails requesting interviews and photos for this story.

Tracy Truppman’s notice of candidacy with Biscayne Park lists her primary source of income as Florida Atlantic University. So far her only expense was the $270 fee to run for office, which she paid with a loan to herself, records show.

William V. Tudor is also running for a commission seat and did not respond to emails or phone calls to either himself or his campaign treasurer Laura Launer. His financial statement says his primary source of income comes from the Securities & Exchange Commission. So far, records show, he has lent himself $400 for the election.