Next Monday marks an important day in Key Biscayne: the start of the qualifying period for Village Council. Starting at noon, local residents have until noon on Thursday, August 25 to get their name on the ballot for a Council seat.
Any citizen who is a qualified elector and a resident of the Village for at least one year preceding the date of filing can run, and candidate packages are available in the Village Clerk’s Office, 88 West McIntyre Street, suite 220, from 8:30 a.m.-noon and 1:30-4:30 p.m.
We’re hoping for a long and diverse list of candidates, not only because it makes for a more interesting election season leading up to the vote November 8, but because it’s what the Village deserves. Not even two months before Election Day, Key Biscayne will celebrate its 25th year as an independent community, honoring the founding fathers and mothers who drove incorporation and helped make the Village government a reality.
In those 25 years, Key Biscayne has built better services, a lower tax rate, a more well-respected government, etc. than it likely would have had if it had stayed under the auspices of Miami-Dade County. But all of those things must be nurtured, and there are a variety of issues facing the Key as it heads into its next 25 years.
Frequent power outages continue to plaque the island, many occurring for little or no discernable reason. Should the Village bury its power lines? It’s an expensive and disruptive project, but if it proves feasible in the island’s low-lying environment it could mean a major boost to reliability.
The fire and police departments are worried about staffers leaving for better compensation at other area departments. Reports suggest changes the Council made to employee pensions several years ago are driving the retention woes, which cost the Village valued employees who are in tune with the community’s needs and wishes. If local leaders agree this is a problem, how can it be addressed in a way that keeps good employees in town while protecting local finances?
And what about Bear Cut Bridge? Miami-Dade officials promised to work with the Village on designing a new one that better accommodates traffic and sea level rise, but so far we haven’t heard much from County Hall. How can the Village make sure it has a seat at the table, and once it does, what should it ask for?
Marine Stadium remains a concern. How can Key Biscayne help ensure its rehabilitation while at the same time making sure it doesn’t become the type of event venue that clogs the Rickenbacker Causeway and creates environmental and public access problems for Virginia Key? And the Flex Park…will the public green space the City of Miami promised ever become a reality?
Speaking of parks, what’s going to happen within Key Biscayne’s own boundaries? There is a renewed commitment to buying land, but so far the addition of actual ball fields to accommodate fast-growing youth sports programs has proven elusive. Is there anything the city can do? Should it keep spending money on smaller lots while the ball field shortage lingers?
There are so many important questions, and the community will look to the next Council to help find answers. Three out of seven seats could be available: Council member Michael Kelly is term-limited from running again, Council member Theo Holloway says he won’t seek reelection, and Vice Mayor Ed London has said he’s undecided. The Council could change significantly, and that means its newcomers will play a key role in molding the Village of the next 25 years. We hope there are plenty of residents – young and old, men and women, newcomers and old-timers, condo and single-family home residents, etc. – who want to be part of that.
After all, a s we celebrate our roots, it truly is the best way to honor our founders. A seat on the Council isn’t an easy gig, but neither was the bold move to pull away from Miami-Dade County.
And that one certainly seems to have worked out pretty well.