South Miami Voter Guide

The election for South Miami is on February 13, 2018. Polls are open from 7:00am to 7:00pm. Find your local polling station here

The Mayor and City Commission comprises the five member elected legislative and governing body of the city responsible for establishing policies, managing growth and land use, adopting an annual budget and tax rate, setting storm water utility rates, and other fees and charges for city services, adopting local laws and ordinances and hiring and overseeing the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk.

All commission members serve for a term of four years. The mayor, who presides over commission meetings, serves two year terms. All elected officials are elected "at large" and must reside within the city to be an elected representative.

 

MAYOR

Horace_Feliu_South_Miami

HORACE G. FELIU

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?
  • I am running to restore transparency, honesty and common sense in our city government.
  • Support only responsible growth that will not adversely affect our quality of life. 
  • End the culture of lawsuits and litigation so that we taxpayers can use our budget to purchase more neighborhood parks while lowering our parking fees and parks and recreation fees for our residents.

My Qualities:

  • As a husband, father of a daughter, 2 sons and 2 granddaughters I have worked my entire life for equality so that my children and those of my community may have the opportunity to live without prejudice and prosper.  My qualities include common sense, frankness and fairness.

My training and experience:

  • My training includes a MS Degree in Adult Education, working as an Adjunct Professor of College Math & Algebra at a Nursing School, operating a successful biomedical business along with working as a Mechanical Engineer.
  • I am a 3 term former mayor, vice mayor, commissioner  and served as a member of our city's Environmental Review  & Preservation Board (ERPB).
  • As the former mayor, I sponsored and passed our City's Equal Rights Ordinance (2009).
  • Led the Commission in hiring our first female City Manager (2002).
  • Created the city's Green task Force.
  • Was amongst the first mayors in Miami-Dade to sign the Mayors for the Kyoto Agreement.
  • Was the first Mayor to require our City Budget to be posted on our website for all our residents to have access at any time.
  • Was the first Mayor to require that all our Planning Board Meetings & ERPB meetings be televised.
  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?
  • End the culture of litigation by not supporting actions which violates contracts. This problem can be resolved by simply not approving contracts to department heads or approving outsourcing our Public Works Department which would require a contract.
  • Large scale development and special zoning without publicly held workshops which include citizen participation, discussion, input and dialogue is an issue. I would resolve the issue by sponsoring an Ordinance requiring developers to have a minimum of 2 publicly held workshops
  •  Drive-by shootings have occurred for the first time in South Miami. This issue cannot be resolved by ignoring it or not mentioning it. I would restore our Gang & Drug police task force so that proactive measures can once again be taken.
 
Phil_Stoddard_South_Miami

PHILIP K. STODDARD

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

From 2015-2017, I represented the Southeastern United States at the Whitehouse Office of Environmental Policy, drafting national policy on how to address sea level rise.  To help South Miami do our part in mitigating global warming, I sponsored a grant by the Green Corridor Interlocal (which includes South Miami) to write a grant to create Solar Buying Co-ops in Miami-Dade County, a project initiated and co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  We have already budgeted for a continuation of the solar co-ops in the coming year.  In addition, I sponsored a program to fund low-income energy efficiency programs in Miami-Dade County.  The Green Corridor will spend 3x more than FPL this year, helping low-income families in our area lower their power bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  We will begin installing solar on city facilities this year and continue until every building is included.   South Miami joined New York and the West Coast states to defend the Clean Power Plan.  This year I submitted an amicus brief to the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of South Miami, demanding that the Public Services Commission follow state law and require FPL to consider the economics of switching to renewable energy instead of forcing us to bear the costs of more carbon-pollution in the years to come.  I have spearheaded other initiatives to find better ways to control mosquitoes than with neurotoxic pesticides that can hurt our children, and I have led my city to replace toxic herbicides with safer products in the parks where our we take our children and pets.

In 2016, Politico Magazine included me in the Politico-50, their “guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016”.  This year, Miami New Times named me “Best Politician of 2017”, and the Sierra Club of Florida gave me the Osprey Award, ”presented for extraordinary effort by a governmental staff person to promote or effect changes in policy or practice to protect or preserve Florida's environment."  In the next two years, I will strive to lead our City further on this path, protecting our residents and our future.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

I consider both a micro and macro view of the challenges facing South Miami.  On the micro scale, our community is threatened by changing economics and development patterns in the communities surrounding us. South Miami is paying heavy costs from development outside our City in the form of increased traffic and lost revenues.  First, peripheral development is driving commuter traffic through our neighborhoods. Secondly, our businesses are suffering from competition with internet sales as well as with neighboring downtown areas that have recently been upgraded. Redevelopment of nearby communities has eaten our lunch and it’s coming for our dinner.  And finally, these challenges are threatening our tax base, which is particularly worrisome for suburban residents because they (we) depend on the business district as our tax base.  South Miami sometimes self-identifies as a bedroom community, but residential property taxes cover just 1/6th of our budget.  The lion’s share of our funding comes from our downtown commercial district straddling the Metrorail corridor. 

Our reluctance to allow development in our downtown area has backfired.  Refusal of South Miami and our neighboring municipalities on the eastern side of the county to allow development around the Metrorail has promoted creation of moderate cost housing to the south and west in the farmland and Everglades.  Most of those residents work at jobs on the east side of town and many must drive through South Miami.  Directed by smartphone navigation apps, and with the County’s tacit blessing, they take shortcuts through our neighborhoods, putting our children and pets at risk.

Our best response to all of these challenges, ironically, is to build more multifamily housing in downtown South Miami near our Metrorail station, outside the single family zones.  Such housing allows more people to take transit to work and to walk to our shops and restaurants.  This “transit-oriented” development benefits our commercial district and tax base, offers less expensive housing choices for young people, and helps to relieve development pressure in the periphery that increases our traffic and forces the County to expand its Urban Development Boundary further into the Everglades.

South Miami needs to take charge of local development near US 1/Metrorail and make our own downtown competitive, so our community reaps the economic benefits of re-development.  Our quality of life will be improved by having a more walkable downtown (with shade from a good tree canopy, unlike Dadeland) and apartments near Metrorail that let our new college graduates afford life in our City.  We will all benefit every day from continued improvement to our excellent and responsive neighborhood services ranging from community policing programs to new bikeways, new parks, and recreation programs that are in our plans and in need of funding.  Residents cannot fund neighborhood improvements with residential property taxes because the homestead exemptions push any tax increase disproportionately onto renters and local merchants, both groups already strained.  The only realistic way to fund the neighborhood improvements requested by our citizens is increasing the tax base near Metrorail.

On the macro scale, we are changing our planet faster than anyone imagined possible.  Coastal communities are starting to feel the effects of increased storm intensities and sea level rise.  This summer, South Miami faced its first mandatory evacuation order when Hurricane Irma aimed a large storm surge our direction before (thankfully) deviating westward.  Our wind and flood insurance rates are already rising, and mortgage rates will soon follow.

 

COMMISSIONER GROUP I

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SANDRA DIMARE-VIVAR

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

First and foremost I decided to run for South Miami Commissioner because of my own personal experience in having to go in front of the current commission as a resident of South Miami.  It was during this experience I realized the inadequacies that exist and this sparked my motivation to effect change in the commission, not only as a resident,  but from within if fortunate enough to be elected.

I am a wife, mother and small business owner.  Owning my own business gives me a business prospective that I will utilize in  making smart, fiscally responsible decisions for our beautiful City, something I believe we are lacking at the moment.  

Before owning my own business I worked for a Miami Dade County Commissioner as a Legislative Director.  In this position I was responsible for every piece of legislation that came out of our District as well as directly briefing the Commissioner on every legislation that would come in front of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.  

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

  1. In my opinion one of the most pressing issues is the unnecessary litigation the city is faced with  due to poor decision making by our Government.  Tax payer dollars is paying for litigation, this is abusive to our residents.  As a commissioner I would vote against using tax dollars to fight an elected officials personal litigation. 
  2. Cut thru traffic is increasing (ex. waze users) and we must find solutions to eliminate this new and growing trend.  There are solutions for this very issue being implemented In other municipalities that we can certainly look to for its effectiveness and possible implementation in our city. 
  3. Sunset Place - It is no secret downtown South Miami has been struggling for the past few years.  Open lines of communication between the the developers, investors, business community and residents is vital when addressing developmental issues.  I do feel a state of the art mall that conforms to our standards can revitalize our downtown area once again for all to enjoy.
 

LUIS J. GIL

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

The candidate did not respond to request for information.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

The candidate did not respond to request for information.

 
Donald_Jackson_South_Miami

DONALD D. JACKSON

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

Donald D. Jackson, is a graduate of Miles College, a candidate for a Master's degree in Public Administration at the University of Miami and a devoted volunteer for the youth through sporting activities. He defied the odds in pursuit of his Undergraduate degree from Miles College on an Academic, Track & Field, and Football scholarship.

Jackson, also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. continues to serve as a role model for at-risk youth from disadvantaged families within the various communities and is actively engaged in bringing about the necessary changes in his community that he desires to see through his service as a Board member of the City of South Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (SMCRA). As a CRA Board Member, he is championing the cause of mitigating the gentrification of a historically Black section of the city by supporting the development of affordable housing.

Local communities need transformational leaders like Donald D. Jackson, who work with others to identify needed change and who help create a vision to guide the change through inspiration.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

Every campaign is filled with promises of providing certain things to certain people for their support on election day, but a good amount of those promises too often tend to go unfulfilled and ignored. I don't plan on providing the people with empty promises of achieving the unachievable, my goal is to deliver what the city is so desperately in need of; and that happens to be three things:

  1. Affordable/workforce housing & updated city-wide infrastructure
  2. Update of the City's land & zoning codes
  3. Park and Recreation programs revitalization

For too long, the critical issue of housing has been a growing concern, being that many residents over the years have been forced to either relocate or pay high-end rents. Also, the condition of City Hall has been displayed and spoken on both by this past administration as well as voters in the last election. I do believe that it is time for new improvements to City Hall and public Library, being that the infrastructure of both buildings isn't the best right now, but there's a smart way to go about it rather than sell the property and in turn rent it back from a developer.

As I see it now, the city's current land and zoning codes need serious a close look at and eventually updating, especially within the TODD district. With some changes, this could potentially ease the city's burden of lack of affordable/workforce housing and entice developers to want to do business and complete projects rather than to file lawsuits.

South Miami compared to its surrounding neighboring cities has a well-organized Parks and Recreation department that does a great job in keeping the beautifications of each of its park above required standards. But, the underlying issue with the Parks and Recreation department isn't with the upkeep of the parks, it's more so with the programs being offered for our youth. I remember a time when the City's Park and Recreation department facilitated an elite sports program that offered multiple sporting avenues to all of its residents city wide. Programs that were once offered that bridged different communities of people within South Miami is desperately missing and needs to be reinstalled to better serve and navigate our youth of South Miami in a more positive direction.

With both combined support and backing of the entire City Commission, the three issues that I previously listed are well in scope of being attainable with myself being in office as one of your esteemed City Commissioners.

 
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VELMA P. PALMER

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

I am running for the Group 1 Commission seat in the City of South Miami because I want to offer my years of experience with the City, my dedication to education, and my belief in the power of inclusiveness in the community to make the city a shining example of what we can do by working together. 

My civic experience includes my previous service as Vice-Mayor and Commissioner for South Miami. Currently, I am a member of the city’s Planning Board.  I am a retired educator, published author, Certified Life Coach, hold a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a Masters in Guidance Counseling, and a Bachelors in Elementary Education

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

The issues that face our community are affordable housing, reasonable development, and adherence to our Charter. Affordable housing is a nationwide issue in all major cities, not unique to our city. An area that has been designated under the Community Revitalization Act (CRA) will “sunset” in 2020. After many years of empty promises many residents left the city or relocated when sub-standard housing was torn down but never replaced with planned improvements.  We now have a unique opportunity to reach out to all of our residents to build housing that will enhance the surrounding neighborhood, provide reasonable and affordable housing, and respect the quality of life of all residents of our city.

Development and growth are a natural part of all progressive cities. Of late, proposals are being made that will change the small town quality of life that South Miami has enjoyed for decades. I am to open to commercial development in areas zoned for that purpose, but I will not agree to anything that threatens the character of our residential areas.

The Charter informs our zoning codes and I will remain vigilant when it comes to weighing any proposed changes to the Charter that would have an adverse impact on our city. What draws people to South Miami are its positive aspects including that it is a great place in which to raise children. To that end, I am committed to working with the residents and commercial property owners with diligence and transparency. I believe that in our participatory government, the will of the people must be upheld.  

 
Gary_Robinson_South_Miami

GARY ROBINSON

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

I live in South Miami because of its small-town way. It's the kind of place where people stop and talk and where you know the name of each other's dogs. I love to walk with my family and Harley, my pup, to Deli Lane on Weekends. As a residential realtor, I enjoy helping people to buy or sell their homes. I especially enjoy getting my clients everything they want. I can do this because I listen to them and then search for what they actually want. The most important part of this process is negotiating the right deal. Two years ago when there were some burglaries, there was a neighborhood meeting to address the problem. The Police Chief and a Commissioner spoke, when some of the neighbors didn't understand the nuances of what they were saying, I spoke up and helped bring consensus. As a result, I was asked by the commissioner who was there to get involved. So I started going to Commission meetings.

After I had gone to commission meetings for a few months, I was asked to get more involved by going on the Green Task Force, then months later, the Building and Planning Committee, and later still, the Budget and Finance Committee. The more involved I became, the more concerned about our beautiful town's future I became. Two Commissioner continuously blocked changes South Miami critically needs.

That's why I decided to offer myself as a South Miami Commissioner.

I worked my way through Temple University waiting on tables, valet parking, and working on burglar alarms. I graduated with a major in Finance and Marketing. After working a few years I had saved up enough to purchase a small product manufacturing company. It was grossing $600,000 a year, struggling financially and employed only a few people. When I sold it, 20 years later, it was grossing +$18 million a year, very profitable and employed about 100. I served on the board of the Florida Furniture Manufacturers Association for over ten years also serving as its President. As a proud parent, I was always active in PTA and was a basketball coach on the Beth Am League. All of this community participation taught me how to work well with others.

My family and I live here because of the love we have for this community. That’s why we need to protect our financial future.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

Our town’s critical concern is Sunset Place, our largest taxpayer. They pay a whopping 62% of our taxes. It is an understatement to say that it isn't doing well. We just cannot afford to allow this property to fail. We cannot raise residential taxes enough to cover the failure of this potential shortfall. A very reputable company bought Sunset Place and is proposing to spend $350 Million to revitalize it. Bluntly, our town needs the tax revenue. We can also use the 250 jobs it will bring. 

Like it or not, South Miami must be proactive on this issue. The developer is not offering everything exactly the way we want it, but I believe with negotiation, we can come to something that will work for them and South Miami. I think negotiation has to be a function of our government if we want the best deal possible for it residents. I know that with my unique skills, we can achieve an even more beautiful South Miami, including more and better parks. That's why I know I'm the best choice to be our commissioner.

 

COMMISSIONER GROUP IV

Walter_Harris_South_Miami

WALTER HARRIS

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

I have lived and worked in South Miami since 1973. My education consists of a BA from the University of Miami, a Juris Doctor from the University of Tulsa College of Law, passed the Florida bar and practiced law for 5 years. I began Walter Harris Photography and Video in South Miami, from 1974 to 2010.

My community service is extensive: 

  • Co-chairman of the Charter Review Board
  • Community Relations Board
  • Chairman Senior Citizens Board
  • CRA Advisory Board
  • South Miami Alliance for Youth
  • Green Task Force
  • South Miami Homeowners Association (President & VP for 8 years)
  • Red Sunset Merchants Association
  • Habitat for Humanity

South Miami projects and activities initiated and organized by me:

  • Senior Citizens Awareness Day
  • First annual City-wide Get Together
  • City-wide Talent Show
  • City-wide Eat Together
  • Movies in the Park

I was instrumental in passing charter amendments 1 & 2, limiting excessive development in South Miami, which was approved by 63% of the voters in 2008 election. I was one of the original founders of  "StopFPLNow" regarding additional nuclear power at Turkey Point. For the last 8 years i have been the Commissioner and Vice Mayor for the City of South Miami. I have served on the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade League of Cities for 6 years. I have always been an environmentalist and a concerned animal advocate. I have been actively involved with the homeless since 1978.

As is evidence from my history, i have always held the well being and quality of life of the residents first and foremost.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

Of course everyone is concerned about traffic and neighborhood cut-throughs. I have been working with the county to bring about traffic calming and the reduction of cut-through traffic. I have been responsible for many speed humps, round-abouts and stop signs. I am proud of my successes on Manor Lane. Needless to say there is much to be done.

I have always fought excessive development. We have at this moment a situation that can change the face of our community, a developer wants to create an 18 story and a 16 story buildings in an area zoned for 4 stories. They plan to do this by creating their own special zoning district without any input from the residents. If allowed, many developers will demand their own special zoning opportunities. I will not support the special zoning district, but I will support negotiations with the developers which will be agreeable and beneficial to both sides - a solution acceptable to both sides.

We need to find a way to create more affordable housing. Madison Square must be completed and other affordable housing projects must be developed. I have always been a strong advocate of Madison Square, affordable housing and the CRA.

There are many other issues that I am involved in, such as parks, taxes, environmental concerns, health and after school programs, financial issues and budget concerns and everything else that may come up in the city on a daily basis.

 
Mark_Lago_South_Miami

MARK A. LAGO

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

I am running for office to do my part to make the world a better place and to lead by example. So many of us watch the news and discuss how things should be done and how to solve problems, yet we do not get involved. I recently become a father of two and I want to be an example for them. I believe that by running for office I can become involved in the community and become a positive force in it.

I feel that I am uniquely positioned to add value to the local community through my finance and real estate background. I have an MBA in Finance and am a certified general appraiser. I currently work for a mortgage lender and I was a portfolio and project manager. These positions have taught me how to make sound and rational decisions that add value.  The business experience and education I have received, have taught me how to identify problems, find solutions and implement them. Additionally, when I was younger I was an explorer for US Customs and that taught me how law enforcement and civic service are keys to a great community.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?

The single most important issue facing our community is that some on the current commission think that doing nothing is a good strategy. Fortunately, the two commissioners that block any sort of progress are up for reelection. If the residents get involved and choose to support my candidacy, I pledge not to fight, but work together with the stakeholders of each issue and bring forward positive and tangible results. We need South Miami to adjust with the times and progress as a city or we will be left behind.

The downtown area for South Miami has been on a decline for years and it is the major economic engine for the city yet nothing has been done. We need to institute a BID (Business Improvement District) in order to help revitalize the downtown. Street beautification projects, city planning and working with the business owners to reduce parking fees, reduce vehicular traffic and increase pedestrian traffic are necessary to drawing more people back to South Miami. 

The safety and well-being of the community is of utmost importance. Between working with the local police department to foster a great relationship between the residents and officers and working with the county to reduce cut through traffic, we can achieve a goal of a safer South Miami.  The key is working together with common goals. My goal for South Miami is to provide a more pleasant place to live where families can grow, people feel safe and are connected to the community.  

 
WIlliam_Taylor_Lapane_South_Miami

WILLIAM TAYLOR LAPANE

  • Why are you running for office and what qualities, training, experience and skills do you bring to this position?

I AM SOUTH MIAMI.  I was raised by a wonderful community and would like to give back. I understand the neighborhoods both from a child’s point of view and as an adult.  Having lived here all my life, I know the frustrations of many of its residents both young and old.

  • What are the 3 most important issues facing your community? For each concern, how do you propose to mitigate/improve/resolve the issue?
  1. Improve the line of communication between city and residents. I plan on meeting individually with the constituents and hear what their needs, wants and concerns are. I also feel that our local government can make a more concerted effort to reach out to them.
  2. Suitable development for a great live and work and play small city. Development is important, but what is more imperative is the impact that it can have on the current residents.  I believe that with the developer, city and community involvement that there can be a win-win for everyone.
  3. Enhance police and city neighborhood participation.  I feel that there is lack of communication between the residents and the police department. So often each side feels a lack of respect and understanding.  Setting up block parties in the specific neighborhoods allows residents and police to mingle and get to know each other.  Neighborhood watches also allows this comradeship and creates a safer and more positive environment.