Miami Dade College (A.S.)
Florida International University (B.A., Political Science)
CELA University (Ph.D., Philosophy)
Revelation University (Ph.D., Theology)
Former Congressional Community Liaison, U.S. Congress
Worked with South Florida Work Force, in a program called Florida Back to Work, which seeks to strengthen small businesses in Miami- Dade County
Previously worked for two local mayors, Coral Gables and Miami-Dade County
Why are you running?
I’m deeply concerned about what’s happening in my community. There is a political class that has two main problems, they’ve been there for too long and they lack certain moral and ethical values. There is a lot of corruption, bureaucracy, nepotism and those practices are impoverishing our community. There is also a lack of comparativeness, meaning that only we modernize the system. We could create 400,000 new jobs in Miami-Dade County and provide a better quality of life.
Thirty percent of my community is in poverty right now and 50 percent of my community makes minimum wage, yet they’re the ones who pay the highest tolls in state of Florida.
Why are you best qualified?
I’m not in bed with special interest groups or lobbyists, I’m the only candidate who hasn’t accepted money from special interest groups.
I’m finishing a masters from Nova in business and I’m also a political scientist from FIU. I’m the only candidate that’s worked in Washington, D.C. in congress, and a lot of our funding comes from Washington. We need political officials that understand how that works.
I have the experience, the studies. What’s most important is that the Regalados and Gimenezs are part of the problem. They’ve been there for too long.
What are the biggest challenges Miami is facing?
- We need an office of anti corruption. The system has a lot of leaks, corruption, bureaucracy. We need to work with an office of external corruption as an independent elected official.
- Economic development. We need to boost economy in Miami-Dade County. That’s easy, I have nine pillars of the prosperity fund, which states how we will create 200,000 to 400,000 new well-paid jobs in Miami-Dade County directly. By creating jobs we’ll change lives.
- Transportation. I have a plan to build a train that connects four corners of Miami-Dade and take away a lot of the tolls and the red light cameras, we need to take them away because there’s proof that the funds go to politician’s pockets.
- Safety. We have 500 less police officers on the streets than four years ago, yet the population has grown. We need to secure our streets. If you have a problem in your home today and if you were to call the police, it takes three to four times longer than it did four years ago. The levels of robbery and violations have increased because we have less protection on the street.
- After-school programs for youth. I want to create a volunteer program where every kid in Miami-Dade County has access to aftercare programs paid by the Mayor’s office where they can get tutoring or play their favorite sport.
How do you propose solving them?
Regarding safety, there is an equation in place that tells you per every 100,000 residents, there should be x amount of officers. As per the size of our county, we need x amount of officers. We have 500 less officers on the streets, so I would put the officers back on the streets. I will make sure officers are well trained and work close with community especially in the community where there is a lot of stress. Make sure police officers are there for them and not against them. Develop special programs where police work close with churches and nonprofit organizations and community leaders. That same office of anti-corruption, any citizen can call in and report any police officer that has conducted inappropriate behavior.
What makes Miami so damn cool?
The cultural diversity, no other place in the world has our diversity. I love running. My life has changed a lot in the past six months due to campaigning. But in my normal life I like to play sports. I think Miami is an incredible place for outdoor sports, biking, running. I’ve done the Miami half-marathon twice, the past two years with a good timing. I play tennis, play golf, soccer. I love sports. Hang out with friends and family. The restaurants are amazing, you can visit any country through the different cuisines.
What can Miami-Dade do to prepare for sea level rise and protect our natural environment?
We need to hire the most knowledgeable experts in the world to come and help us. I’ve been talking and doing research on the Dutch. They have been 10 feet under the sea level for the past 100 years and they’ve managed it very well. They have been elevating certain streets, sidewalks, deepening their canals. We need to create clean energy sources to contribute to the environment, promoting solar energy and other forms of clean energy. We need to create ducts 50 feet from the coast so it creates a drag effect to ocean levels and also water pumps in certain areas.
Miami will not be under water.
Why is the rent so high?
It’s horrible. In terms of public housing, a lot of political officials are not doing a good job. This comes from a 36-year old working in politics and I’m concerned and disgusted with some of the things I’ve seen in politics. In regards to housing, there’s a crisis. You know Miami is a place where millennials still live at home with their parents, they can’t afford the high cost of living in Miami. We have a brain drain in Miami in regards to millennials. No millennial likes to live at home with their parents, but they can’t afford to live independently. In addition to that, anyone with a bachelor’s or master’s make less than anywhere else in the nation. That’s a big open door to a brain drain with the millennials. I want to keep the best and brightest here.
Regarding housing, in certain areas I will create rent control, something New York City and Philadelphia do, and what it does is it limits the landlord to rent 2 or 3 percent the appraisal cost of the property, what’s happening is since there is no regulation, landlords can say OK, my property, I’ll rent it for $2,000 or $3,000, but if you put in rent control, that means landlord can only rent 2 to 3 percent more. I also want to create a housing program, where recently graduated millennials can pay less than $1,000 a month in a nice, decent apartment. I already have a contract with developers who specialize in this housing program around the world.
Is there anything that can be done to fix our transit system and get traffic under control?
We’re going to build a train that’s called Panther Express, that will be elevated, lightweight and fast. It will be powered by solar technology, and it will connect the four corners of Miami-Dade County.
The public sector puts money in and I’ll put money myself. More buses is not the solution. Every traffic light will be smart. So far there are no smart lights, which are traffic lights that take real traffic conditions into consideration and change signals according to that. We will create a closed circuit water bus that will connect Key Biscayne with Miami Beach and Coconut Grove. We will expand the Metromover and it will continue to be free. Miami-Dade County’s budget is the fourth largest in the nation, yet our population is rather small.
How do you feel about the county’s campaign finance system?
It’s horrible. I can give you 20 examples of people who are still there, not doing a good job but still give money to the mayor. I’m against that. I’m against creating secret accounts to accept donations. … We have to regulate it.
If you had a $100 budget to spend on the city, how would you spend it?
Santamaria could not be reached for follow-up on this question.