Early voters face choices galore

Aug 11, 2008

Miami Herald Staff Report

The Miami Herald

Along with the mayoral and county commission races, Miami-Dade voters will decide other issues. In several cities, the Aug. 26. ballot will also settle primary races for commission seats and proposed charter changes. Early voting -- on the county's new optical-scan ballots -- begins on Monday.
Here's a look at each issue:

In Miami Beach, voters will decide on a change to the city's charter that would make it harder for commissioners to rezone parks and golf courses.

Currently, five of seven city commissioners can vote to rezone those lands. Under a measure sponsored by Commissioner Richard Steinberg, any zoning changes to 'recreational open space' must be approved unanimously by the City Commission.

In Miami Gardens, voters will fill two at-large council seats.

The first race, for council Seat 5, pits incumbent Sharon Pritchett against former Councilman Ulysses Harvard. Pritchett, 56, elected in 2003, has focused on endorsing universal healthcare and measures to curb school-related arrests. Harvard, 51, was appointed to the council in 2005 and served until November 2006. His platform includes equipping the city's police force with the latest technology and helping troubled teens.

In the race for council Seat 6, incumbent Oliver Gilbert III faces challenger Joseph L. Cook. Gilbert, 35, was appointed to the council in March after former Councilman Oscar Braynon won a seat in the state House. Since then, Gilbert says he has focused on identifying gangs as he plans on forging ties with the police department and community. Cook, 62, said his platform includes introducing a police reserve unit, and an annual $35 tax on homes and condos to generate extra revenue.

In Hialeah, voters approved term limits for the mayor and council 10 years ago. This year, they will decide if those term limits should be removed.

The city's Charter Review Task Force, made up of City Council members, recommended removing the limits -- two consecutive terms for the mayor and three consecutive terms for council members.

The question is lumped in one referendum with six other proposed charter changes that would, among other things, create a citizen's advisory panel to give budget recommendations.

In West Miami, voters could decide whether their city leaders deserve pay. The ballot includes a charter amendment that would establish a salary of $250 a week for the mayor and $150 weekly for commissioners. If approved, the salary would increase yearly according to the urban consumer price index.

The current charter only calls for a $100-a-month expense account and $20 per meeting. Commission members also receive a cellphone, full medical coverage and reimbursement for city-related travel and expenses.

In Cutler Bay, a mail-in vote that starts Aug. 27, residents will decide on proposed charter amendments that include allowing elected officials to run for a third term and doubling the yearly salaries of the mayor and council, to $2,000 and $1,000,respectively. Ballots will be in the mail to voters and are due back by Sept. 18.

To vote, you must bring valid identification with your name, photograph and signature.

Acceptable forms of identification include:

Florida driver's license.

ID card issued by the state.

U.S. passport.

Debit/credit card.

Military ID.

Student ID.

Retirement center ID.

Public assistance ID.

Neighborhood association ID.

If you do not have a valid and current identification, you may be asked to use a provisional ballot.

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