Three Incumbents Win Races in Miramar
March 16, 2017 | 7h18PM ET
By Dessalines Ferdinand
MIRAMAR - Six municipalities in Broward County held elections last Tuesday, March 14, including Miramar where 7% of the total population is made up of Haitian-Americans.
The Mayor and City Commissioner are elected at-large, with the City Commission designated by seat numbers. Both the Mayor and the City Commission are elected for four-year terms. Elections are held every two years with staggered terms. The Mayor and one Commission seat are elected at one election and the remaining three Commission seats are voted on during the next election.
The three Miramar Commission members who had opponents in Tuesday's election all retained their seats. Incumbents Maxwell B. Chambers, Yvette Colbourne and Winston F. Barnes cruised to victory, as they defeated their opponents respectively in the races for Seats 1, 2 and 3.
The revitalization of the city's historic East Side, taxes, and crime were the three major issues during the campaign season. Located near the Miami-Dade border, the county's fourth-largest city has seen crime rise 8.3 percent from January through June 2016, compared with that same six-month period in 2015, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Despite the editorial board of the Broward daily newspaper Sun-Sentinel endorsed Judge Norman Hemming for the Seat 1, incumbent Vice Mayor Maxwell 'Max' Chambers managed to win with a reasonable margin. The One-term Commissioner received 3,915 votes to Hemming's 2,987 (56.72 percent to 43.28 percent). This is the second time Chambers defeats his opponent, a federal administrative law judge with Jamaican roots as Chambers.
In the race for the Seat 2, Incumbent Yvette Colbourne beat challenger Venessa Walker. Colbourne garnered 4,240 votes (59.83%) and Walker collected 2,847 votes (40.17%).
Seat 3 incumbent Winston F. Barnes easily defeated two competitors. He received 4,674 votes (68.72%) against James R. Hepburn (1,196 votes ; 17.58%) and Haitian-American Jall's Dalton Bonheur (932 votes ; 13.70%).
Colbourne's Victory Celebration
Dozens of supporters gathered Tuesday night at Soulfully Good Restaurant & Lounge, located on the eastside of Miramar Parkway to celebrate Colbourne's victory. The now-two-term commissioner shouted her thank-yous over the cheering crowd who packed the small place, expressing in a short address her gratitude, particularly to her entire campaign staff. Awesome music, good food and drink were in large quantity for a joyful evening of celebration.
"I'm honored to have earned the residents' confidence and to once again represent them on the city commission for another four years," Colbourne said as she celebrated.
"The residents of Miramar are the winners," said Billy Hardemon, a grassroots activist who has been involved in community politics for over twenty years, and who played an important role in Colbourne's victory.
"She is a true public servant. She puts the residents' interest first in each decision she has to take as members of the Commission. She does not have another job, which is why she is fully dedicated to the Miramar residents," Hardemon added as he looked at Commissioner Colbourne and some female supporters dancing to the vibe of an American son played by a DJ.
"This is a very big victory," he continued. "Taking in consideration that the mayor of city of Miramar, the mayor of Broward county, the General Association of Miramar Employees, and that the Professional Firefighters of Miramar endorsed her opponent. Her record of accomplishments for the last four years talk for her. Miramar residents give her another four years, just to make sure that her progressive platform will keep moving forward."
According to Hadermon, Commissioner Yvette Colbourne played an important role in the Historic Miramar Infrastructure Improvement Project. The $70 million revitalization project of the city's historic East Side, which is intended to make this section of the fourth largest city in Broward County more attractive to business development, is moving forward. $10 million are already spent in sewage, drainage systems, and upgrades to water delivery, along with beautification and home rehabilitation projects.
Hadermon is so grateful to the Haitian-American voters in Miramar. During a short conversation with Le Floridien, he pointed out the big contribution of McKinley Lauriston, Chief of Staff for Miami-Dade Commissioner District 2 Jean Monestime, to Commissioner Colbourne's victory.
Lauriston, a resident of Miramar, who joined Colbourne's campaign team just one month before the election is the preeminent political strategist within the Haitian political community. Thanks to his data analytical skills and technological expertise, he was able to deliver the Haitian-American voters to Colbourne.
"As a good friend of Haiti," Hadermon said, "Colbourne appreciates the great support she received from the Miramar Haitian community. She always stands with the Haitian community throughout South Florida, as she participated in the last four commemorations of the severe earthquake, which hit Haiti in January 2010. Mrs. Colbourne heavily supports the Haitian Heritage celebration month in Miramar."
Her multiple realizations during her first term on the commission are tangible and have good impact in residents' lives. Construction of a new elderly daycare center, revitalization of many parks in the city, including River Run Park, where she hosted Halloween for the kids the last two years, are among Commissioner Colbourne's achievements. River Run Park today offers a convenient and safe environment for residents looking to spend time in a relaxed open air setting, a park where they can enjoy some good family activities.
As Miramar's longest-serving commissioner, Barnes has shared the dais with more than a dozen commissioners since he was first elected in 2003. Tuesday night's victory gives him a fifth term.
During a conversation with the Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board before the election date, Barnes said that it is time the city modifies its charter to move the commission to a district model where commissioners represent and live in a designated district.
Commissioners are elected at-large and serve four-year terms. They don't officially represent any area within the city, but some have acted as advocates of a particular community primarily because they live or work in the area. The commission includes four seats and the mayor.
"Residents continue to be confused about what Seat 3 means, for example," Barnes said, referring to his own designation on the commission.
"Time for that change," Barnes said, adding that residents would be better served by that model because the city's population has more than tripled since 1990, to approximately 122,000.