2022 Midterm Election Guide: Part II

🧑‍⚖️ District Court of Appeal

We’re starting here since we’re moving through the sample ballot in order. As with the Florida Supreme Court justices, the vote here is to retain (or fire) the governor-appointed justices. Rather than reinvent the wheel or pretend to be a legal expert, I’m returning to the guidance of the UM law professor whose blog I referenced in the guide I put together ahead of the August primaries, Michael Froomkin:

“For the 3rd DCA, I start with the presumption that sitting judges deserve retention unless there is a good reason not to retain them. I don’t know either of the two judges up for retention this year, Judge Alexander Bokor (appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020), and Judge Edwin Scales (appointed by Governor Rick Scott in 2013 and retained by the voters in 2016). My research has not revealed anything to disturb that retention presumption. Admittedly, though, information was hard to come by this year.

Both judges had at least very respectable approval ratings in the Florida Bar poll of its members: Judge Bokor got a 73% approval rating, and Judge Scales got a very creditable 80% approval rating. This is consistent with my informal poll of acquaintances who, to the extent they had an opinion, were favorable to Scales.”

🗳️ County Commissioners

Housing affordability, the ongoing UDB vote, our aging water and sewer systems, expanding public transit — these are just some of the recent major issues under the purview of county government.

District 2’s boundaries are a little too wonky to describe (take a look here), but it includes parts of the cities of Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Opa-locka, and Hialeah, plus unincorporated areas of Liberty City, Biscayne Gardens and central North Dade.

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Family Action Network Movement. Her endorsements include the current officeholder, Commissioner Jean Monestime, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and about a dozen local organizations. Here’s a video interview in Haitian Creole with the candidate (apologies to English and Spanish speakers, it was the best I could do).

Philippe Bien-Aime is the mayor of North Miami. His endorsements include Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, County Commissioners Keon Hardemon and Kionne McGhee and Commissioner-Elect Anthony Rodriguez, and about a dozen other local elected officials. Here’s an interview with the candidate in English.

District 6 for the most part is bordered by the Palmetto Expressway to the west, NW/SW 37 Avenue to the east, W/E 21 Street in Hialeah to the north and Bird Road to the south, plus an extension into Glenvar Heights.

Kevin Marino Cabrera’s work experience includes public relations, lobbying, and staffing political campaigns. He has endorsements from former President Trump, Rep. María Elvira Salazar, and the mayors of Miami, Hialeah, and Coral Gables, plus a handful of other local elected officials. Here’s a Q&A with the candidate.

Jorge Fors Jr. is a Coral Gables Commissioner and attorney. His endorsements include the current officeholder, Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, the mayors of Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens, and about a dozen other local elected officials. Here’s a Q&A with the candidate.

🏛️ State Amendments

No. 1, Limitation on the Assessment of Real Property Used for Residential Purposes 

This amendment would authorize the state to pass laws prohibiting flood resistance improvements to homes from being taken into consideration when determining property taxes. Currently, state law authorizes as much for resistance to wind damage and installation of solar/renewable energy source devices.

A yes vote supports authorizing state lawmakers to legislate against counting flood resistance improvements towards assessed property values for property tax purposes.
A no vote allows flood resistance improvements to continue being taken into consideration when assessing property values.
To read more about the measure and potential effects, click here.

No. 2, Abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission is a 37-member commission that meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state’s constitution and refer them to the statewide ballot for voter approval or rejection.

A yes vote would disband the CRC.
A no vote would keep the commission running.
To learn about what the CRC last referred to the ballot and arguments for and against its continuation, click here.

No. 3, Additional Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Specified Critical Public Services Workforce
This amendment would authorize state lawmakers to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption of up to $50,000 of assessed value on property owned by certain public service workers.

A yes vote supports authorizing the state legislature to give certain public service workers an up-to-$50,000 tax exemption.
A no vote changes nothing.
To read which workers the exemption would apply to, the potential consequences on tax revenues, and arguments for and against, click here

✒️ County Referendum

Referendum 1 asks if the county charter should be rewritten to include a “local oath of office” for the county commissioners and mayor to take swearing their support of Miami-Dade County Home Rule and county government. 

The intrigue here lies with home rule, our county’s authority granted by the state constitution to govern ourselves. When the state takes action that limits local power or control (WLRN has an entire series called Tallahassee Takeover about issues in this realm), any county officials falling in line could be potentially flying in the face of this oath. The oath would serve as a reminder to the mayor and commissioners that they are accountable to us citizens of Miami-Dade, not the folks in Tallahassee.

Referendum 2 asks if the county charter should be rewritten to say that the public has to vote to approve the transfer of ownership or authority over the airport, port, or expressway authority from the county commission to some other authority.

This is related to Referendum 1, but with more teeth — the county commission is trying to put in place a safeguard against a “Tallahassee takeover” of MIA, PortMiami, and/or MDX. The best resource to inform you here is precedent: consider that in 2019, the state legislature voted to dissolve MDX, our local authority managing our toll roads, and replace it with their own Greater Miami Expressway Agency (GMX) — taking control of, among other things, toll revenues. A legal battle ensued. In 2021, Miami-Dade used home rule to rebirth MDX and abolish GMX, and the state’s legal challenge to this move failed because of our home rule authority. You can read up on the clash here.


🍎 School Board Referendum

Miami-Dade County Public Schools requested this referendum, which acts as a renewal of sorts of a referendum to improve teacher salaries and school safety measures that passed in 2018 and will expire next June.

The difference this time around is an increase (through 2027) in homeowners’ property tax rate of 1.0 mill rather than the current .75. The district says the motivation for the increase is a new state law requiring 25% of revenues to be shared with charter schools. The raise, then, would allow the district to maintain its improvements at public schools. MDCPS built a calculator to help voters get a sense of the impact to their property tax bill.


📑 Local Races and Referendums

Ready for a lightning round? With 34 municipalities and only one Grace (😅) it’s the only way to wrap this up. We’ll take a look at select referendums based on where the majority of Miamians (and our readership) live.

There are mayoral races in Cutler Bay, Doral, Key Biscayne, Opa-Locka, Palmetto Bay, South Miami, and Sunny Isles Beach.

Aventura, Bal Harbour, Biscayne Park, Doral, Hialeah, Key Biscayne, Medley, Miami Beach, Miami Lakes, North Miami Beach, Opa-Locka, Palmetto Bay, South Miami, and Sunny Isles Beach — you’re all electing new local council members/commissioners.

City of Miami residents are voting on a single referendum: whether or not to authorize the city to give a 99-year lease extension to move forward grand redevelopment plans for the downtown Hyatt Regency and James L. Knight center. We’ve talked about these plans before in the newsletter: a trio of towers housing hotel rooms, apartments, and meeting space, plus a skybridge and restaurant and expanded riverwalk and greenspace.

The ballot item also includes a minimum $25 million from the leaseholder for affordable housing and an increase of their rent from $250,000 to a minimum of $2,500,000 or 2.5% of gross revenues, whichever is greater.

Miami Beach residents are voting on a whopping eight referendums, and basically all of them have to do with real estate development. An exception to that is Amendment 2, which would approve a General Obligation (GO) Bond to fund improvements to the city’s arts and cultural facilities.

The city has a basic election guide of their own, or you could turn to WLRN’s amendment guide which goes into what supporters and opponents are saying. Finally, Miami Herald subscribers can access the paper’s dive into the referenda.