Hialeah, Florida mayoral election, 2013
|Form of government||Mayor-Council|
|Council composition||7 members (at-large districts)|
|Terms of office||4 years|
|Current mayor||Carlos Hernandez|
|Mayor of Hialeah, Florida, 2013|
|Nonpartisan||Carlos Hernandez Incumbent||81.2%||14,823|
|Source: Miami Dade County Board of Elections|
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.
In an endorsement of incumbent Carlos Hernandez, editors at the Miami Herald detailed the history of machine politics that had dominated Hialeah city government. According to the newspaper, historical governance in Hialeah had 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 were treated "curtly, if not rudely" if they criticize their officials.
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 said 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."
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.
Mayoral candidate Juan Santana, held the position that the referendum was just an excuse. He said, "They don't have money anymore. They're gutting the pension fund because it can't be funded anymore. But they're making it seem as if they were doing something heroic, of their own choice."
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.
On November 15, 2011, Hernandez defeated former mayor Raul Martinez.
|Mayor of Hialeah, Florida, 2011|
|Nonpartisan||Carlos Hernandez Incumbent||60.9%||19,055|
According to the 2012 U.S. Census estimate, Hialeah is the 88th largest city with a population of 231,941. 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. As of July 2013, the unemployment rate in Hialeah was 9.9 percent.
- Hialeah city council elections, 2013
- City of Hialeah Pension Reform Charter Amendment Question (November 2013)
- Miami Herald, "Hialeah City Council op-ed," October 8, 2013
- NBC Miami, "Serious allegiations made against seven members of Hialeah City Council," October 10, 2013
- Miami Herald, "Three candidates for mayor in Hialeah," August 2, 2013 (dead link)
- Miami New Times, "Hialeah's Carlos Hernandez: Next mayor to jail?," October 10, 2013
- Miami Herald, "Hialeah incumbents are easy victors," November 5, 2013
- Miami Dade County Elections, "Official Primary and Special Elections Ballot for November 5, 2013"
- Miami Dade County Election Results, "November 5, 2013"
- Herald Online, "Fitch Downgrades Florida Muni Loan Council's Rev Bonds (Hialeah), Ser 2012A to 'A-'; Outlook Stable," October 11, 2013
- Miami Herald, "For mayor of Hialeah," October 7, 2013
- NBC Miami, "Serious Allegations Made Against Seven Members of Hialeah City Council," October 10, 2013
- Examiner.com, "Vote YES on Hialeah Pension Referendum," October 13, 2013
- Watchdog, "Alleged privatization of Hialeah ballfields gets political," October 17, 2013
- Examiner, "In Hiealeah, council meeting turns into scandal," September 26, 2013
- Miami-Date County Elections, "November 15, 2011 Election Results," accessed October 14, 2013
- US Census, "2012 Population Estimates"
- Hialeah Florida, "City Clerk Information" accessed October 15, 2013
- Google Public Data, "Hialeah, Florida Unemployment," accessed October 18, 2013
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