The city of Hialeah has grown considerably in recent decades.
According to the 2010 Census, its population is about 250,000, making it the fifth most populous city in Florida — and the second largest in Miami-Dade.
It also has the highest percentage of Spanish-speaking residents in the United States — about 89 percent of its residents speak the language.
Hialeah is often the first city in which new arrivals from Cuba and Latin American settle. This population growth has come at a price.
The city has spread westward, removing wetlands to accommodate a growing working class. Developments west of the Palmetto Expressway have generated great traffic congestion. This has led to some neglect of the older eastern part of the city, residents say.
Hialeah must confront several major issues that require strong leadership from local elected officials.
Among them is the proposed construction of the Villa Las Palmas project, a 250-unit rental-apartment complex in an area of single-family homes, criticized by many residents who fear that their property values and quality of life will be threatened. Another challenge is a costly water plant that’s not fully-functining, along with some residents’ perception that they are being kept in the dark about these issues.
Another hot topic is the privatization of garbage collection. An investigation by el Nuevo Herald documented that the winning contract benefited a company represented by a friend of the mayor, Carlos Hernandez.
Hialeah also faces problems with its crime rate, domestic violence and the lack of public parks, once the city’s jewels. Solutions must be found, quickly.
In the upcoming election for two City Council seats, political newcomer Tania Garcia is challenging incumbent Vivian Casals-Muñoz, and John Salvador Molloy and Juan Carlos Sousa are challenging incumbent Jose Caragol. The incumbents declined invitations to be interviewed by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald editorial boards.
In Group 2, the challengers are Mr. Molloy, 43, and Mr. Sousa, 55. Mr. Molloy is an immigration detention officer in Broward County. He was a member of the city’s Code Enforcement Board and a Miami-Dade board for equal employment opportunity.
Mr. Sousa, is a Realtor and newcomer to city politics, but he says that he often attends council meetings and that his main contributors are former mayors Raúl Martínez and Julio Martínez.
Like all the challengers, Mr. Sousa opposes Villa Las Palmas and said he was appalled to see that at the unveiling of the Hialeah Reserve Osmosis Water Plant, city officials had to hand out bottled water. To help the city’s economy, he wants to bring high-tech industries to Hialeah, which once was a manufacturing powerhouse.
Choosing between Mr. Molloy and Mr. Sousa, who are cordial to each other, is difficult because both are well-versed in the city’s problems and offer real and worthy solutions to consider. The advantage goes to Mr. Molloy, who has had a head start in the area of municipal governance. For the Hialeah Council, Group 2, the Herald recommends JOHN SALVADOR MOLLOY.
In Group 3, Ms. Garcia, a Realtor and businesswoman who once ran Party Paradise Inc., a popular events-planning company, is a long-time resident. Her husband is a driver for the city’s waste department. She became an activist and candidate because of the controversy created by Villa Las Palmas near her home. She criticizes the leadership of Mayor Hernandez and wants to be a new independent voice on the dais.
The energetic Ms. Garcia admits her campaign is grassroots, but spirited. It’s also a good chance to break up the mayor’s slate of automatic supporters on the council with a more-independent and responsive voice.
For the Hialeah Council, Group 3, The Herald recommends TANIA GARCIA.