Miami Shores election won by three council members who opposed controversial plan

Miami Shores voters on Tuesday elected three new council members who may impact decisions about the city’s comprehensive plan on development, which has been a point of contention among residents for the past year.

George Burch, a retired veterinarian and Jesse Valinsky, a pizzeria owner, came in first and second with 23% (1,741 votes) and 22% (1,636 votes) respectively, according to unofficial results on the Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections website. Jerome Charles came in third with 21% (1,569). Burch and Valinsky will serve a four-year term because they received the two highest votes, per the village charter. Charles will serve a two-year term.

Jesse Valinsky was elected to the Miami Shores Village Council.
Jesse Valinsky was elected to the Miami Shores Village Council.

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The winners will replace outgoing Councilwoman Alice Burch, who is also the wife of George Burch, and fill the seats vacated by former council members Katia Saint Fleur and Crystal Wagar, who resigned last year. The council had voted to replace them with Tim Crutchfield and Wesley Castellanos until this election, in which Castellanos was a candidate.

The candidates elected Tuesday have fervently opposed the comprehensive plan, which would allow for more development in the village of 11,000 residents. The three men were also endorsed by Miami Shores United Political Action Committee, which has also staunchly opposed the plan.

Jerome Charles was elected to the Miami Shores Village Council.
Jerome Charles was elected to the Miami Shores Village Council.

Mayor Sandra Harris will become a council member after serving two years in that position and a new mayor will be appointed at the village’s first full meeting with the new council, according to the village charter.

The winners in the election edged out four other candidates: Castellanos, attorney Andrew Bellinson, small business owner Deepak Ganju, and former Florida prosecutor Peter Walsh.

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Residents also voted on 10 charter amendments, including four which were election-related. The four amendments passed specify how the village would hold future runoff elections; require candidates to run independent from any other village candidate; require that municipal elections be nonpartisan; and specify that a person must reside in the village continuously for one year before they can qualify to run for office.

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Other amendments passed include: requiring a referendum for the sale of municipal property; the approval of creating a charter review committee; how to resolve conflicting amendments on a ballot; and prohibiting the council from dictating the appointment, removal or activities of employees appointed by the village manager.

Residents also voted to amend the village charter to create a citizen’s Bill of Rights that encourages citizen participation in village government.