— Submitted by Steve Showen
Miami Green, and Co-Chair of the Green Party of Florida
February 15, 2014
SOUTH MIAMI, FL, February 15, 2014 — They called it a “mudslide” because of the exceptionally dirty attacks that had been leveled against incumbent South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard. But those smears only gave the hoots and cheers from the exuberant gathering of neighbors, supporters and volunteers (including a contingent of Greens) at Stoddard’s victory party a more special meaning.
Stoddard racked up 62% of the vote (1,169 votes) in this 3-way nonpartisan election, trouncing challengers Valerie Newman (431) and Rodney Williams (275). The City Commission for this city of 12,000 people has five members, including Stoddard, whose allies also prevailed as incumbent Walter Harris (1,069) beat Horace Feliu (754) and Gabriel Edmond (1,059) polished off Donna Shelly (765) to take Newman’s vacated seat. They will work with progressive incumbent Robert Welsh, who was not up for re-election this year, to continue to work on finishing the cleanup of City Hall. (The mayor serves a 2-year term, while the commissioners are elected to staggered 4-year terms.)
As the totals came in, Stoddard’s wife, Gray Read, said she “breathed a sigh of relief, that a load had been taken off!”
The mudslinging against Stoddard came from a slate of candidates supported by Florida Power and Light (FPL). It was FPL’s plans to build two new nuclear power plants at Turkey Point and run high voltage power lines up US 1, through his city and others, that had been the impetus for Stoddard’s first mayoral run in 2010. Stoddard has been one of FPL’s staunchest opponents. With Greens and others, Stoddard had co-founded Citizens Allied for Safe Energy (CASE) to educate the public on the consequences of FPL’s plans. Once elected, however, Stoddard found a whole new set of problems at City Hall, from fiscal impropriety to cronyism in the police department, with the former police chief suing Stoddard over the chief losing his job. Stoddard, Harris, Edmonds and Welsh have made great strides in setting matters straight, and are now looking to finish the job.
According to the February 12 Eye on Miami, Stoddard stated, “South Miami voters have become too smart to fall for these tactics. We want a civil and gracious city. We believe it’s possible for city government to be both socially responsible and fiscally responsible, and to be responsive to the needs of the residents. Today South Miami voters said loud and clear: mean people suck, and FPL should stay the hell out of our elections.”
Commission meetings have been notorious for divisive bickering, with some factions being backed by special interests. In a more positive vein, the city is also noted for intense citizen engagement at its commission meetings. With Stoddard’s progressive majority growing from 3-1 to 4-1, they now have a mandate to build on that work of moving the city ahead, independent of special interests. Stoddard now plans on holding a series of public workshops to develop a strong agenda for the city.
The moment was not lost on the party goers, one of whom remarked, “Now we can get some sh*t done!” Stoddard intends to.
(See this site’s prior article for further background.)