Hialeah, Florida city council elections, 2013

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Hialeah, Florida seal.jpg
Hialeah, Florida
Population231,941
Form of governmentMayor-Council
Council composition7 members (at-large districts)
Terms of office4 years
Current mayorCarlos Hernandez
Two seats on the city council for Hialeah, Florida were up for election in 2013, for council-member positions Group V and VI. The Group VII seat was also up for election -- however, because incumbent Katharine Cue-Fuente was the only candidate to file, the race was unopposed and did not appear on the ballot.[1]

The primary election took place on November 5, 2013. A general election runoff was not required, as all winners received the required more than 50 percent in the primary.

All three incumbents running for re-election triumphed easily.[2]

Candidates

The following candidates appeared on the November 5, 2013 primary ballot.[3][4]

Group 5

City Council of Hialeah Florida (Group 5), 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngLuis Gonzalez Incumbent 75.3% 12,025
     Nonpartisan Julio Rodriguez 24.7% 3,943
Total Votes 15,968
Source: Miami Dade County Board of Elections

Group 6

City Council of Hialeah Florida (Group 6), 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngPaul Hernanez Incumbent 76.2% 12,684
     Nonpartisan Marcos Miralles 23.8% 3,964
Total Votes 16,648
Source: Miami Dade County Board of Elections

Group 7

Note: Because only one candidate declared in this group, Cue-Fuente automatically won re-election and the race did not appear on the ballot.

Relevant issues

Bond rating

In October 2013, Fitch Ratings lowered the City of Hialeah bond rating from "A" to "A-." The city's unlimited tax general obligation was lowered from "A+" to "A." The city's Rating Outlook was changed from "Stable" to "Negative." According to the Fitch report, Hialeah's defined benefit pension plans were 69 percent funded with an unfunded liability of $227 million, as of October 2012. However, Fitch calculated the fund as 62 percent funded if a more conservative rate of return of 7 percent was used.[5]

Transparency

In an endorsement of incumbent Carlos Hernandez, editors at the Miami Herald detailed the history of machine politics that has dominated Hialeah city government. According to the newspaper, historical governance in Hialeah has been dominated by strong mayors who discourage independent thinking from city council officials while brewing "backroom deals," infringing on transparency. At city council meetings, it was described that loyal political allies to the mayor rarely challenged him while any opposition was ignored. The newspaper described a scene where citizens are treated "curtly, if not rudely" if they criticize their officials.[6]

Sunshine law

In early October 2013, allegations arose that the city council met with the mayor behind closed doors in advance of a city council meeting, which some say would violate Florida's Sunshine Law, requiring all government business conducted in public. Mayoral candidate Julio Martinez released a video showing the seven city council officials leaving Mayor Hernandez's office two hours prior to a city council meeting. Hernandez denied any violations, stating, "I am a strong mayor. I don't vote so I have the right to meet with my council members individually. They have the right to meet with my chief of staff, to meet with the budget director."[7]

Pensions

One key issue that came up in this election was the reform of pensions for city officials. Prior to the election, elected council members were given a pension after they reach the age of 55 and if they have completed 12 years or more of service on the city council. A ballot measure putting an end to this pension plan for future candidates and requiring voter approval for any future changes in city official pension plans was approved on November 5, 2013. Some said that this ballot measure was nothing more than an electoral tool, used to manipulate voters with regard to the mayoral and city council member races.[8]

Marcos Miralles, a candidate for a group 6 council position, announced his approval of the pension reform referendum and encouraged electors to vote "yes" on November 5. He also said that, although the referendum was a positive step, it did not solve the problem of current retirees receiving large pensions and putting stress on the finances of Hialeah. Miralles also criticized the city council for using the measure for political posturing and an election trick. Although Florida law protects pensions already being received, Miralles stated that he believes Hialeah has the lobbying power to change Florida laws.[8][9]

Baseball fields


Mayoral candidate Juan Santana videos city of Hialeah baseball fields that are locked. Note: The video is in Spanish.

One contentious issue in the city was the handling of seven public baseball fields. In 2011, Mayor Carlos Hernandez signed a deal with former Major League Baseball player Orlando Hernandez, allowing him exclusive rights to operate a for-profit baseball academy on public fields. Some community members said that the baseball fields were often locked -- even when nobody was using them. These neighbors insisted that because the fields were maintained with taxpayer dollars, they should remain open to the public. Other residents maintained that the fields are always open. More than 100 citizens attended a September 24 city council meeting about Babcock Park, one of the fields at the center of the situation.[10][11]

Endorsements

The Miami Herald recommended incumbents Luis Gonzales and Paul "Pablito" Hernandez in an editorial on October 8, 2013.[12]

Election history

2011

Three council seats were up for election on November 15, 2011, to Groups I, III and VI. Lourdes Lozano, Vivian Casals-Munoz and Paul "Pablito" Hernandez won election to those seats, respectively.[13]

City Council of Hialeah, Florida, Group I Council Seat, 2011
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngLourdes Lozano 61.3% 17,917
     Nonpartisan Alex Morales 38.7% 11,329
Total Votes 29,246
City Council of Hialeah, Florida, Group III Council Seat, 2011
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngVivian Casals-Munoz Incumbent 67.5% 18,374
     Nonpartisan Danny Bolanos 32.5% 8,840
Total Votes 27,214
City Council of Hialeah, Florida, Group VI Council Seat, 2011
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngPaul Hernandez Incumbent 58.9% 17,087
     Nonpartisan Frank Lago 41.1% 11,908
Total Votes 28,995

About Hialeah

According to the 2012 U.S. Census estimate, Hialeah is the 88th largest city with a population of 231,941.[14] There are seven city council members who are all elected to at-large districts. The city is a mayor-council form of government. The mayor earns a salary of $150,000 and has an annual expense account of $40,000.[15] As of July 2013, the unemployment rate in Hialeah was 9.9 percent.[16]

See also

External links

Additional reading

References