MIAMI, Fla – After her landslide victory over incumbent Commissioner Jeffrey Watson in the Nov. 2 election, new City of Miami Commissioner Christine King is focusing on improving her District 5 which includes the Design District, Midtown, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Overtown and Liberty City.
King, 55, a political novice, won 65 percent of the votes while Watson captured 16 percent in a relatively low voter turnout at 17 percent for the City of Miami election.
King, an attorney and president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation, defeated ﬁve other candidates in the race. She raised a total of $186,000 to run her campaign, much of it was grassroots contributions, she said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava and Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon endorsed King, who is married and has three children.
Watson, a Miami native who has over 30 year’s experience in ﬁnance, development and urban economic development, was appointed to the commission last year to replace Hardemon, who vacated the seat early to run for county commissioner.
King, who was born in Guyana and grew up in Miami, told the South Florida Times during an exclusive interview following her victory that she was elated, and thanked her supporters who stood by her after she launched her campaign earlier this year.
“Winning by 65 percent shows that hard work that I did paid off,” she said.
“The 65 percent left no doubt who should represent District 5 versus being appointed,” King added “I met some amazing and wonderful people, and many of them said I was the only candidate in the race that knocked on their doors and listened to their concerns.”
King joins Mayor Francis X. Suarez, and Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Ken Russell and Manolo Reyes on the commission. Suarez and Carollo both won reelection Nov. 2.
King is thrust into city politics that are in turmoil after city leaders recently ﬁred controversial Police Chief Art Acevedo, who was on the job only six months.
The city reportedly is struggling to get homeless people off the streets – where they built tents and makeshift camping grounds underneath I-95 in Overtown and other areas – and place them in shelters.
They city is also dealing with an affordable housing crisis, which King said is the priority she’s focusing on in her district. “We need housing and home ownership in our community,” she said. “I want families in our district to have the opportunity to own their own homes and achieve the American dream.”
King said the city has some vacant lots where affordable houses can go up for ﬁrst-time home buyers, with the city holding a second mortgage that could be forgiven in 20 years. The City of Hollywood has a similar program she would like to model, she said.
“Affordable housing in a big priority for me,” she said. “The costs to buy a home today is very expensive.”
King said another priority is making sure senior citizens, especially those who spend a lot of time shut in due to the coronavirus pandemic, are safe in their homes.
She said she wants to reduce the risk of seniors falling by placing bars that they can hold onto in their homes, and continue to advocate for seniors whose experiences hit close to home for her.
“I have experienced those issues with my mom and dad,” she said. “It’s important that we take care of our senior citizens.”
Youth and gun violence have been plaguing the city. King said her approach to curbing violence among youths is offering programs such as arts, music and sporting activities, and mentorship to keep kids out of trouble.
Providing summer jobs for youths can be a “tremendous” assistance for families in District 5, she said.
“Children can earn money to help out their families,” she said. “”I think youths having that responsibility can make a difference.”
Regarding Miami picking a new police chief, King said she hopes city leaders follow the procedure already in place to prevent more turmoil.
King said the city previously should have followed that procedure rather than the mayor handpicking the top cop.
“The city wouldn’t be in the crisis it found itself in if the process was followed,” she said. “Not following the process already left a bad taste.”
City Manager Art Noriega ﬁred Acevedo in October, and commissioners upheld his decision with a vote to ofﬁcially terminate him. According to Noriega’s memo, Acevedo had lost the conﬁdence and trust of rank-and-ﬁle as well as the executive staff.
Acevedo wrote a bombshell memo to Mayor Suarez and Noriega in September, accusing several commissioners of interfering with reform efforts and a conﬁdential internal investigation. He also caused a stir by telling police ofﬁcers during an August roll call that the “Cuban Maﬁa runs the Miami Police Department.”
FOCUS ON PEOPLE
Some of King’s supporters said changes are ahead with her at the helm of District 5. Ivan Ritchie said King is the right person to lead District 5 to new heights.
“Our prayers have been answered,” Ritchie said. “Now it’s time to focus on the people.”
Said Sabrinah Tillman: “She’s always been an inspiration.”
Watson couldn’t be reached for comment. Watson supporter Albert Monroe said he was stunned by the results, and that the low turnout was a factor.
Watson was the right person for the job, he said, because of his years of community service.
“He should’ve been able to ﬁnish the projects he had started,” Monroe said. “But I hope he stays involved in some capacity because of his experience of getting things done.”