President, David’s Cafe; President, AG Ventures
B.A., Florida State University
Board member with Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority; former president of the Lincoln Road Mercantile Association
1. Sea level rise is obviously on everyone’s mind. Do you think Miami Beach is on the right path? Is there more we could be doing?
Flooding and sea-level rise are the two greatest threats facing Miami Beach. Our city is literally in danger of being swallowed into the ocean. Both issues are greatly inter-connected and on the Miami Beach Commission, I intend to address them hand-in-hand on the local level as well as the global stage. Locally, we need to respond as best we can to the threat of flooding by installing more pumps; ensuring that the pumps we already have in place are fully functional; building better drainage systems; and holding insurance companies accountable when claims are filed. Globally, Miami Beach needs to continue in its role as a leader on the issue of sea-level rise by thinking innovatively about ways in which it can reduce its own carbon footprint. One way we might do this is by powering the pumps we use to deal with flooding (as well as the pumps’ back-up batteries) through solar power. Another way is by supporting more public transit projects like trolleys. We can also be doing more to make Miami Beach friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians. These solutions will help with the traffic issues we face which will, in turn, result in lower greenhouse gas emissions.
2. The costs of sea level rise are increasingly falling on property owners as well, as efforts like raising roads makes homes more vulnerable. What can the city do to help homeowners combat sea level rise? Help with the costs?
I do not support elevating streets in ways which could negatively affect the quality of life for residents or alter the historic character of our city as this response often has the unintended consequence of turning some first-floor dwellings into basements. Sea-level rise is an existential threat for us here on Miami Beach and we should be leading by example. One way we can do this is by reducing our carbon footprint through smart investments in solar power, public transportation. Another very concrete step I will take as a commissioner is to keep insurance companies accountable. When claims are filed, they need to be dealt with promptly. My office will be on the frontlines in this fight.
3. There is a lot of tension in Miami Beach right now around the question of who the city should put at the center of its decision-making: the long-term, year-round residents, or the lucrative tourism industry. What is your stance on:
3a. Whether Airbnb and other short-term rentals should be allowed? If yes, how should they be handled?
I’m against Airbnb in traditionally residential areas as these properties are often used as “party houses” and there have been too many instances of quiet, family-friendly neighborhoods being turned upside-down by short-term renters who do not respect their neighbors. If there are certain commercial areas which residents feel may be better suited to Airbnb rentals, I may be open to short-term rentals in those areas. I also believe that Airbnb needs to start paying the bed and resort taxes that they have been evading.
3b. The proposed change to Ocean Drive’s last call?
As its being presented, I am against the ballot initiative to roll back operating hours on Ocean Drive. This proposal simply puts a Bandaid on bigger problems we have in certain parts of Miami Beach with crime, drugs, and public safety in general. I also fear that this proposal could result in significant job less within the hospitality industry and less tax revenue collected from that sector of our economy. We depend significantly on this revenue stream in order to offset property taxes for residents. Additionally, I believe it’s important to consider what happened when Fort Lauderdale tried to implement similar measures, resulting in a 30-year drought to the tourism and hospitality industries in that city.
4. How do you plan to bring in a diverse range of voices in your decision making?Miami Beach has a large immigrant population that often goes unheard, plus a large working-class population that helps to support the tourism industry.
We need to take all voices into account and on the city commission, I plan to represent everyone in our community. My family came here from Cuba and I fully value the contributions the immigrant community makes to life here on the Beach. At my restaurant, David’s Café Cafecito on Alton Road, I’m proud to employ many individuals who came to our city from abroad in order to build better lives for themselves and their children. Frankly, my business would not exist without their help and hard work. Our diversity is a huge part of what Miami Beach such as special place – you can walk through Flamingo Park and hear five different languages being spoken in a period of five minutes. Whether you’re originally from Latin America, Europe, Africa, or anywhere else – we all share a home here on Miami Beach and we are all entitled to excellent and fair representation in local government.
5. What is one change you want to make that would improve YOUR life in Miami Beach?
As a proud parent to two young sons, Dylan and Theo, access to top-quality public education is one of the main factors motivating my run for this seat. I want to work with the Miami-Dade County School Board to ensure my children have access to the same academic and extracurricular programs that I had when I was growing up. On the Miami Beach Commission, I will prioritize finding municipal dollars to fund the types of programs that were formative in my own upbringing such as athletics, theater, band, and other after-school activities. Some of my best memories and the experiences that helped me grow outside of the classroom as a teenager were as a staff writer and photographer for the yearbook, along with countless hours spent in the pool on the water polo and swim teams. I feel strongly that these programs and opportunities are essential to character development and I will work to ensure that they remain funded for my own kids and future generations.