Municipal governments have a direct impact on residents. By Andres Althabe.
Another November approaches, and, besides marking the beginning of another tourist season and the end of the suffocating humidity, is the time we get to play local politics.
Three city commissioners will see their term expire, which, theoretically, means the fate of a majority in the city commission — hence the direction of the city — might have been on the ballot. Not quite turning that way.
The three commissioners ending their terms are Manolo Reyes in District Four, Willy Gort in District One, and our downtown commissioner Ken Russell in District Two. But no one in District Four saw it fit to run against Commissioner Reyes, so he’s been re-elected automatically. And while Ken Russell faces three challengers and a loud group who delight in terrorizing him through social media, his re-election is as good as certain.
The Real Race
The only real race this year is in District One, where Commissioner Gort’s retirement opens the door for a newcomer to become the swing vote in the city, including on critical issues for downtown. Downtowners who want to pick a pony and affect the future of city policy might be advised to look west to Allappattah.
Coming from a family that’s been involved in politics since before the Revolution in Cuba, former State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla is hoping loyalty to that family name will allow voters to look past the fact he’s lost his last four races (Florida House district, a different Florida House district, State Senate, and county commission) and dismiss the mountains of negative information about his personal life and finances. He’s running on a fully pro-developer platform, which likely explains why those developers have showered him with close to half a million dollars.
Challenging Diaz de la Portilla are his neighbors, car dealership owner Miguel Angel Gabela, publicist Eleazar Melendez, and real estate broker Horacio Aguirre.
Gabela has ran for the seat three times already and is running as a neighborhood family man and small businessman. Melendez used to work as chief of staff for Commissioner Russell some years back is half the age of the other frontrunners, and positioning himself as a young and energetic leader who can use his knowledge of City Hall to deliver for the people in the working-class district. Aguirre, who comes from a blue-blood Cuban family that’s been engaged in civic service for decades, was the establishment candidate and favorite early in the race, but has been losing steam for months and now appears to be hugging an anti-development platform into a distant fourth place.
With the race just four weeks away, chances are two of these four will qualify for a run-off just before Thanksgiving. Whoever wins there will join Commissioner Russell, Reyes and Carollo, as well as Mayor Suarez, in having a say as to what happens downtown.
Commissioner Hardemon, the fifth member of the commission, will probably also serve with the new District One commissioner for at least a few months. But it is widely expected he’ll resign to run for a county seat in early 2020. At which point downtowners should begin to pay attention to THAT city commission race.
President, Biscayne Neighborhoods Association