This November, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez will be leaving office as he reaches his term limit and a new mayor will be elected.
Though the deadline to sign up for the race is many months in the future, residents weighed in on the things they feel most strongly about: traffic, pandemic response and housing costs.
Candidates that have signed up include: former Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo, former Hialeah council members Vivian Casals-Muñoz and Isis Garcia-Martinez, and former mayoral candidate Juan Santana. None returned requests for an interview.
According to some of its residents, the city of Hialeah is definitely prone to fender benders and traffic jams. Malena Hernandez is 72 years old and has lived in Hialeah for 30 years. She has seen it grow right before her eyes and one thing she has noticed is that the streets are becoming unmanageable.
“Traffic here is terrible,” said Hernandez in Spanish. “People here do not obey the law when it comes to driving, they don’t use their signals, they drive extremely fast, and they don’t obey traffic signals.”
She said that the future mayor should focus on alleviating traffic for those who have to travel back and forth in the city every day.
Eric Mulet is 20 years old and has lived in Hialeah his entire life, he said that one of the main issues he sees in the city is the congestion.
“In regards to Hialeah, I can think of the traffic,” he said.
Mulet said he feels that the amount of traffic in the area leads to conflict on the streets and heightened tension.
Gabriela Avila is 20 years old and has lived in Hialeah for 10 years. She said that while living there she has definitely noticed that you don’t get much bang for your buck when it comes to housing.
“The rent is really high,” she said. “For the quality of an apartment that you are getting in Hialeah while paying $1,500 a month is ridiculous considering that it isn’t a luxurious apartment or something worth the money.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2015 and 2019, the median residential rent in the city of Hialeah was $1,170, which is only a $13 difference from the city of Miami’s $1,183 median residential rent.
Mulet said he’d like to see Hialeah officials figure something out for city residents to get more out of what they pay for in rent. “The quality of what you get and the price just doesn’t add up,” he said. “If they could find a way to find a resolution for something like that it would be huge for people in Hialeah, especially with the wages they receive. There are high living standards that don’t meet the pay and so people pretty much live paycheck to paycheck trying to survive and are not really advancing financially.”
Maria Perez is 24 years old and has lived in the city of Hialeah for 17 years. She believes that there is a disconnection between housing programs, benefits and the residents sometimes due to a language barrier. “The vast majority of Hialeah residents are Spanish speaking,” she said. “A lot of the housing programs I have seen are either not promoted in Spanish or lack proper advertisement.”
According to the current mayor of Hialeah’s Instagram, the city got its first permanent vaccination site on March 15th at Bucky Dent Park and will be able to help people get inoculated. While this is a gain for the city of Hialeah, people have mixed feelings about the way that things have been dealt with throughout the pandemic
Perez said she can’t help but think about her grandparents and the older populations living through this pandemic.
“COVID has affected everyone and the older generations are in living situations not suitable with supportive services and the accessibility they need as their physical and cognitive limitations increase,” she said.
Perez believes that the current mayor has done his best considering the adversity that they’ve faced with the pandemic. She thinks that a mayor needs to be transparent and listen to their constituents in order to tailor their needs. “The next mayor should focus on the areas that have been deeply affected by COVID such as community programs, help small businesses and improve safety protocols,” she said.
Hernandez, who is retired, believes that the mayor has done a great job dealing with the pandemic so far.
“I love him. I think he has done great work in the city and that he has fought hard throughout the pandemic to get vaccines,” she said.
Avila said that she respects those who take care of their people and that the work that Mayor Hernandez has done throughout the pandemic is important. “I definitely feel like people need to take the pandemic seriously and get vaccinated. The next mayor should do everything that they can to enforce people to get vaccinated and help us move forward in this pandemic.”
The deadline for filing to run for mayor is July 26. Primary elections for the position and various council seats will take place on Nov. 2. If no one receives a majority of the vote, the runoff election is scheduled for Nov. 16.