Four Florida House and five of 10 Kendall Community Council candidates pushed election bids before a small but attentive audience in the third of three pre-primary election forums hosted by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) on July 26.
Only Republicans Jose Diaz and Ana Rivas Logan provided occasional fireworks in verbal exchanges about voting records and endorsements. They were the only candidates appearing face-to-face in a battle for party votes in the newly redrawn District 116.
KFHA president Michael Rosenberg said he had eight acceptance calls but a late-hour turndown from Republican Jeanette Nunez to appear with primary opponent Libby Perez, allowed the former KFHA vice president to campaign before friendly constituents without a head-on debate for the House 119 seat.
Democrat Jeffery Solomon was the only other House candidate on the primary ballot to appear, soliciting votes for the District 115 seat as Republicans Michael Bileca and Eugenio Perez failed to attend.
Kendall issues of growth and lack of representation in county decisions were primary topics voiced by East Kendall Community Council 12’s Anthony Petisco, Angela “Angie” Vazquez and Jorge Garciga. They were joined by Jeff Wander and Ileana Petisco of West Kendall Council 11.
Several council members, renewing pledges to maintain the county’s Urban Development Boundaries, indicated non-appearances by several opponents resulted from building interests seeking to overturn the five incumbents.
Former Miami-Dade School Board member Frank Cobo, who often has challenged Logan’s views on her record as his successor, posed a single question for all candidates: Did each (“yes or no”) support casino gambling?
Community council members unanimously chorused “no” with the four House candidates agreeing less emphatically, emphasizing the issue should be decided by a Miami-Dade County voter referendum. Letting voters decide on incorporation for Kendall areas also got unanimous support of both legislative and council candidates.
In her appeal for votes, Logan cited her long-standing support of educational goals, including a primary need to address Miami- Dade’s lack of fairly apportioned state funding — an issue that brought general agreement from Diaz.
Lowering taxes, reducing regulatory costs for businesses, expanding education and passing legislation for stronger child protection were major campaigning platforms listed by Diaz.
Perez noted that the new District 119 focuses on West Kendall from SW Eight Street south to SW 120th Street between 137th and 177th (Krome) avenues. It is the county’s largest growth area needing higher educational funding and new legislation to assist small businesses in continuing growth issues.
“We’ve had the wrong kind of development in Kendall for too many years,” she concluded, ending a lengthy discussion by council candidates who deplored the lack of council liaison with county government.
“In former years, we interfaced with the county on road and park issues through Team Metro, leading to better representation in local issues,” recalled Wander.
It was a view seconded by Garciga who said such involvement originally stirred his interest to “represent my community on a council seat.”
Vazquez stated that councils as Zoning Boards of Appeal nevertheless “play a vital role in protecting property values” while both Ileana and Anthony Petisco as appointees seeking first-time election to four-year community council seats said the value of councils lie in giving representation to local neighborhoods throughout Kendall.
Both said they would work to expand those roles.