B.A., Florida International University
J.D., Florida International University
Vice-chairman and executive board member of Consortium for a Healthier Miami Dade; former law clerk, City of Miami Attorney’s Office; former chief policy advisor for Frank Carollo, outgoing District 3 commissioner; former board member and hearing officer for Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights
1. Where do you stand on the Miami Forever bond program?
I am against the Miami Forever bond (“Bond”). What the Bond aims to accomplish has merit and are priorities, and I promise to work for our residents to secure funding for sea level rise and affordable housing. The Bond, however, has lacked due diligence and input from residents.
The Bond concerns me for three reasons. First, lack of details and the rejection from the City’s Finance Committee. This Bond has placeholder dollar amounts, but no specifics of where or how money is getting spent. The City’s Finance Committee addressed concerns regarding the City’s financial future if the Bond were to pass—alarming. Second, this Bond is a legacy project. Not a legacy for residents, but a legacy for an administration that had ample time to propose this, yet only did so as it exits City Hall.
Finally, all residents deserve a voice in this. In an off-year election where only two districts will have significant voter turnout and a Mayor’s race which isn’t heavily contested, we won’t get a true voice of the voters. I much rather see the Bond return during the 2018 election cycle when we have both federal and statewide races on the ballot, assuring better turnout.
2. The City of Miami has tremendous income disparity. What are your plans for prioritizing inclusive development, particularly expanding the scope of affordable housing?
To ensure inclusive development a step in the right direction would be having impact studies which review economic and health outcomes whenever new developments of a large scale are proposed in cost-burdened neighborhoods. Furthermore, it is time to discuss community land trusts and more public housing opportunities on the vast public land owned by the City of Miami and other government entities.
I will work with our local universities and colleges to identify faculty members and departments who can work with the City in order to identify policy which can assist in short term results and build our long term goals. We need to have community input from residents, institutions, and the private industry which is building in our City and our neighborhoods.
A feature I believe would help in my District is mixed-use development. Neighborhoods like Little Havana deserve to have amenities located walking distance, and within one’s own building. As Commissioner I will work to advocate and draft language in our zoning code to see mixed purpose development become more prominent. A mixed-use development program must incentivize affordable housing, workforce housing, housing for veterans, and housing for social service employees (teachers, first responders, and other government employees).
3. Do you think Miami is on the right track for addressing sea level rise? Are we taking drastic enough steps?
We need to do more. Steps have been taken in the right direction. We now have a resiliency officer in the City of Miami, we have a sea level rise committee, and we are having the conversation openly about the impact sea level rise will have on our neighborhoods and our future.
I think the next major step needs to be both local and global. The City of Miami must sit with our neighbors and Miami-Dade County and get on the same page. We must look at the efforts in Miami Beach where Miami Beach and its residents have invested a great deal to mitigating sea level rise, and we need to take what has worked and see how to craft it to our community. Regarding globally, we need to partner with similar cities in the United States and abroad and learn what is working and what can be brought to Miami in order to implement the best practices.
Finally, it is also wise to think about our own choices at home and in our neighborhood. We must ask—how can we take steps to lessen the impact we are having on our environment at the most basic level.
4. Traffic is a major issue for Miami residents and those who pass through. What can we do to get people out of their cars? Particularly to make the city safer for cyclists and pedestrians?
We need to promote people getting out of their cars and using mass transit. Yet, this is a tough ask—since our transit system is in the hands of Miami-Dade County and for many users it is a lousy system.
Therefore, how do we get individuals to go on buses and use Metrorail—we need to work with employers and see what incentives can be made via worksite wellness. We need to promote the opportunity of time saving, money saving, and benefits for getting to work without a car. Also, working with employers in the community to hire more residents who can go car-less would put less of a strain on our roads. This incentivizing with employers is a tall order, but in the interim it may be one of the easiest ways to start getting more people out of their cars.
For cyclists and pedestrians we need to make bike safe and walk safe routes a priority, especially in Little Havana where accidents are frequent, and even fatalities occur. I will work with our next Mayor and administration to identify streets where we can make mobility more about bikes and walking than pushing cars through the neighborhood.
5. How do you plan to bring in a diverse range of voices in your decision making and to take concerns of unheard populations into account?
I am committed to hosting numerous town halls and Sunshine meetings. Town halls need to be where residents and stakeholders have an opportunity to ask questions and propose their ideas to city officials and departments. It is time for the neighbors of District 3 to have an additional opportunity to provide public input on the items the City Commission is taking up. Many residents cannot attend a Thursday meeting at City Hall for the entire day. I will work on providing a platform either through the town hall style meeting or noticed Sunshine meetings where residents can provide input that will be made available through my office and/or the City Clerk. (I would also be interested in exploring the possibility of open door days at the District 3 office in City Hall, where residents know they can come in and speak with me and staff.)
Finally, there are numerous City of Miami committees and boards, I think the manner in which the current District 2 City Commissioner has created applications and made the process more transparent in appointments is key. I will do much of the same in selecting members of our community to serve on these important boards.
6. What is one change you want to make that would improve YOUR life in Miami?
Empower my neighbors.
For too long the same people have been in office, whether them or their relatives. This election is another example; my opponents in this race (and their families) have been on the political scene for a combined 90 years. And what has it gotten us? The problems are the same and some are even worse. Traffic, cost of living, trash on the streets, inadequate amount of parks—District 3 doesn’t even have a dog park. Yet, we have the same names running again and again. My neighbors feel like they have been lost and forgotten.
Being a public servant is about more than pastelito politics, people want someone who we will listen and advocate on behalf of their issues. My neighbors and the 19,000 doors I have knocked on tell me the same thing—Miami deserves better.
I want to be a voice for my neighbors, after 11 months of knocking on doors and listening I know what change we need in order to improve our life here in Miami. We know what the same old, same old gets us. We need our neighbors to be empowered and have a public servant and not another politician.