A closer look at the situation, however, suggests that’s neither the case, nor the real issue going on in Bal Harbour. The real fight in Bal Harbour isn’t over whether or not to expand the Shops –the true fight is over who should decide the issue once and for all: a small handful of powerful Village Council members or the citizens of Bal Harbour themselves. Mayor Martin Packer has made it clear that he does not want Bal Harbour residents to have any say whatsoever in the Shops matter – as recently as April of this year, he voted to deny them that opportunity. By contrast, the candidates challenging Packer and Sanz have publicly stated that they would support a public referendum on the Shops issue if elected to office – giving the power back to the people.
The contrast is stark: entrenched Council members who don’t want the public to have any say in important civic matters, versus political newcomers who want the public to determine what’s best for the future of Bal Harbour Village as it relates to the Shops’ proposed expansion. The divisions don’t end there, though. Reports have painted Bal Harbour’s upcoming elections as Bal Harbour Shops versus the incumbent candidates. Bal Harbour Shops isn’t confronting Packer and Sanz directly – it is confronting the deep-pocketed outside interests who are propping up their campaigns by funding attacks on their challengers.
Why are outsiders pumping anonymous dollars into tiny Bal Harbour’s municipal elections? Why are they attacking candidates who support Bal Harbour citizens’ right to vote on the Shops expansion and giving a pass to candidates who stonewall the public referendum option at every turn? The answer is simple: because an expanded, upgraded Bal Harbour Shops would provide competition to their own business and potentially impact their bottom line. And with an existing Village Council that continues to stonewall the Shops’ proposal and prevent the public from ever voting on it, keeping that Council in place is their best shot at fending off the competition in South Florida’s competitive luxury retail market.
In short, there’s much more than meets the eye going in Bal Harbour’s upcoming municipal elections, and it goes far beyond the misleading ‘Shops versus Council’ narrative that outsiders have been aggressively peddling in the Village. Bal Harbour citizens, regardless of whether they support or oppose the Shops’ proposed expansion, have a simple choice on Tuesday – and it’s not a vote for or against the Shops expansion, as moneyed outside interests would like Villagers to believe. It’s a vote for two incumbents who are backed by these outsiders and will prevent the public from having a voice, versus a vote for two challengers who believe that consequential decisions that impact the entire community should be made by the community itself.