Hialeah, Florida mayoral election, 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
The city of Hialeah held a mayoral election on November 5, 2013. A general election runoff on November 19 was not required after incumbent mayor Carlos Hernandez carried more than 80 percent of the vote in the primary to win re-election.[1]

Candidates

Primary

The following candidates appeared on the November 5, 2013 primary ballot.[2][3]

Election results

Mayor of Hialeah, Florida, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCarlos Hernandez Incumbent 81.2% 14,823
     Nonpartisan Julio Martinez 15.7% 2,864
     Nonpartisan Juana Santana 3.1% 566
Total Votes 18,253
Source: Miami Dade County Board of Elections

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.[4]

Transparency

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.[5]

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 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."[6]

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.[7]

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."[7]

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.[8][9]

Endorsements

The Miami Herald recommended incumbent Carlos Hernandez in an editorial on October 7, 2013.[5]

Election history

2011

On November 15, 2011, Hernandez defeated former mayor Raul Martinez.[10]

Mayor of Hialeah, Florida, 2011
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCarlos Hernandez Incumbent 60.9% 19,055
     Nonpartisan Raul Martinez 39.1% 12,239
Total Votes 31,294

About Hialeah

According to the 2012 U.S. Census estimate, Hialeah is the 88th largest city with a population of 231,941.[11] 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.[12] As of July 2013, the unemployment rate in Hialeah was 9.9 percent.[13]

See also

External links

Additional reading

References