Voters want Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to finish the job

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez the day after his reelection win.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez the day after his reelection win. MIAMI HERALD

Oh, right! There were some other elections held this week.

Some other race kind of overshadowed our most important local contest — that for Miami-Dade mayor, the leader whose decisions impact the day-to-day lives of the county’s 2.7 million residents.

Incumbent Mayor Carlos Gimenez, challenged by former School Board member Raquel Regalado, won another four-year term — his second, and his last because of term limits. He received more than 475,000 votes, with Ms. Regalado getting 375,900.

Though he didn’t win reelection outright in the August primary, the map of his runoff victory Tuesday showed the mayor winning about 85 percent of the 762 precincts reporting.

Ms. Regalado, despite her zeal, just couldn’t make a persuasive case that residents’ quality of life was so bad, so degraded that Mayor Gimenez should be ousted. If he was for it, she was against it, and that’s just not a winning argument. Challenges exist, for sure, and the mayor should be a leader on those issues. Gun violence is ripping through some communities, unemployment leaving others to stagnate. Affordable housing and housing for low-income families — there is a difference — needs a boost.

But, in reality, the mayor has been an effective public servant. He gets that climate change is a threat. He wisely threw his weight — and funding — behind police cameras to get out ahead of police-community frictions. He took a big gamble on remaking the crime-plagued, rundown Liberty Square housing complex. He has held the line on budget excesses, protected taxpayers’ checkbooks and ensured the good health of the county’s chief economic engines, PortMiami and Miami International Airport, which are seeing record levels of income and traffic.

And speaking of traffic, Mayor Gimenez told reporters after his reelection that he will be laser-focused on the county’s’ transportation problem, working to ease commuters’ daily torture on the roads.

This represents pragmatic progress on his part. Three years ago, he and other county leaders were sure that there was little they could do without federal money. But the mayor has steadily adopted a let’s-move-forward-now attitude to alleviate congestion.

The county’s SMART transit campaign presents the biggest mix of steep challenges and high expectations. Mayor Gimenez and other leaders debuted the plan in April, and the initiative starred in the mayor’s campaign materials and message. It was designed to address backlash over a failed promise by Miami-Dade leaders to expand rail across Miami-Dade in exchange for voters adopting a tax dedicated to transit.

Only a few miles of rail, to Miami International Airport, were built in the 14 years since, with too much of the money disappearing into the ether. The SMART plan is a reset, proposing six corridors across the county. A single rail line could cost billions, but cheaper options are possible, including a bus-rapid-transit system that uses dedicated lanes and rail-like boardings to increase speeds from stop to stop.

Now he and his colleagues must make it work. No neighborhood, no resident should be left out in the cold, ignored and yet again without adequate public transportation. It will be a delicate juggling act.

It’s but one of the challenges that voters wisely decided Mayor Gimenez could competently handle.