By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On Tuesday, November 5th, the City of Miami Beach will hold the General and Special Elections, which will determine who will fill the Commission Seats for Group 4, 5, and 6, as well as a vote on six ballot questions, following any national, state, or county issues.
Early voting has been open since October 21st but so far less than 1,000 residents have cast their ballot. The early voting will be open through Sunday, November 3rd, at either the two Miami Beach Early Voting sites; Miami Beach City Hall (First Floor Conference Room) at 1700 Convention Center Drive, and North Shore Branch Library at 7501 Collins Avenue.
Tanya K. Bhatt, President of Miami Beach United, a volunteer non-profit group of local activists, shared, “As with any election at any level, for any office/issue, voting is a fundamental right and responsibility for every citizen.”
“If you love the direction in which your community is going – that’s great – let your elected officials know they’re doing a great job, and weigh in on the referenda items put before you,” she added.
“If you don’t like the way things are going, this is your opportunity to make a change and put new people into office who will, ideally, align with your values, and to vote on referenda items that you want to see passed or stopped.”
The commissioners serve for terms of four years and are limited to two terms, they are voted for citywide and every two years three commission seats are voted upon. The city pays them $6,000 annually, which has not been changed since 1966 (but an increase to $45,381 is one of the six items being voted on November 5th).
The commissions play a key role in governing the city, and as Bhatt explained, “The biggest issues facing our community right now are: how to handle resiliency issues in a correct, thoughtful and non-wasteful manner; how to manage development without losing the character of neighborhoods that are so meaningful to those communities.”
Also, “how to manage the chaos that seems to dominate in our entertainment districts; and how to build consensus and find common ground between groups which seem to be getting increasingly polarized – we wouldn’t all be fighting this hard if we didn’t all care so much about our beloved Miami Beach!”
The commission seats open this election are Group 4, with Joy Malakoff not up for re-election, Group 5 with Ricky Arriola as the incumbent running for re-election, and Group 6 with John Elizabeth Alemán also not up for re-election.
In the Group 5 elections, Arriola has gained nearly $230,000 in monetary contributions, nearly three times Stephen Cohen has (just over $86,000), while Raquel Pacheco and Jonahtan Welsh have both raised under $10,000 for the campaign.
In the race for the Group 4 seat, vacated by Joy Malakof, former Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez is running for her old seat. She’s competing against Rafael Velasquez, whom she accused of sexual harassment in 2017. Velasquez said the claim was made up and has filed a defamation lawsuit against Rosen Gonzalez.
In terms of financial support, their monetary contributions are close, Rafael Velasquez with $151,129, while Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has received $149,195. Michael “Mike B” Barrineau received $68,105 in support while Steven Meiner brought in $27,696.
Group 6 will be vacated by John Elizabeth Alemán, and the leader in terms of fundraising is David Richardson, with $157,787 in monetary contributions. Following are Adrian Gonzalez with $70,875, Mohammed Rafiqul Islamstatus with $6,717 and Blake Youngstatus with $1,800.
Bhatt said, “[I]f you don’t vote, then you abdicate responsibility to the next person who DOES vote, and you lose all right to complain about things. We are a tiny village, really, when you look at the number of full time residents, and the even smaller number of registered voters, and so every single vote really has an outsized impact in every single election.”
If a Run-Off Election is required, it will be held on November 19th and early voting will be from November 16th and November 17th at the two Miami Beach Early Voting sites. November 9th is the deadline to request a Vote-by-Mail ballot.