Just completed graduate degree; military veteran
Bachelor degree, University of Texas
Associate's degree in military intelligence, Cochise College
Master's degree in Public Administration, Florida International University
Army veteran, served in the Military Intelligence Corps
Chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, 2008-09
Why are you running?
I came back from military service and I started poking around the county budget in summer 2014… I didn’t feel the budget reflected our values. I thought someone would step forward and offer an alternative vision and choice. I felt like the 600,000 Democrats in Miami-Dade County deserve a choice in the time of Donald Trump. It’s outrageous to have just three Republicans of our choice.
Why are you best qualified?
I don’t have anything negative to say about my opponents.
I have spent my entire life committed to public service, from Save the Manatees to taking the initiative to restore Lincoln Memorial Park, saving Virignia Key, and the Pine Rocklands. There are the hundreds of progressive democratic candidates I fought for around this country. Women’s choice, equality — I stod up for those things way before they were cool.
Sea level rise, it’s more than a decade that we’re still not addressing it. I said all this stuff since 2004, since the Jimmy Morales campaign. The things I said in 2004 are still relevant in my speeches today… that tells me we have a dramatic lack of leadership.
I have publicly fought for these things.
[People will say] “B.J. was talking about this 12 years ago.” That shows the voters I’m ready to lead. I’ve been talking about solutions to today’s problems many years ago.
What’s the biggest challenge facing Miami?
The biggest countywide problems I would say… we’ve hit over 40,000 doors and the voters keeps saying traffic, traffic, traffic. It’s very easy to say traffic is an issue. What the heck is this punk going to do about traffic?
Congestion is not something unique to Dade County. Why don’t we look at regional approaches to mass transit?
You combine all the counties together in the metro area and you combine your economic and political power and you leverage that toward mass transit funding. You expand lane capacity, clear accidents more quickly. It takes four hrs to clear an accident with no deaths. Israel can clear terror attack in two hours. We have traffic jams caused by fender benders. If we were to look at the half cent, if we were to put that toward light rail 12 yrs ago, we’d be a whole different community.
Once they see a light rail going to South Dade, the people will be so pleased they will probably raise that half cent to a penny in a few years. They can get funding at state, federal if they see that county commitment.
The issue is leadership, as in where are our values? We’re going to sit in this traffic nightmare the rest of our lives. Our grandkids are going to be really angry with us for not doing something about it.
I will have an open door policy. I’ll hold springtime budget hearings instead of two weeks before budget is due. I’ll put in place an ombudsman so citizens can take their complaints to someone whose job it is to look into government efficiency. We can flush the people’s money down the toilet and no one says anything.
We need to reform the county structurally, do more annexation. Do you really need 20,000 employees? If you dramatically cut the responsibilities of Miami-Dade County, you will save billions of dollars to put toward families, the environment.
They have not had a clear choice since 2004 between a progressive Democrat and right-wing Republicans. That was the last time we had a Democrat vs a Republican. Jimmy Morales was Cuban and Puerto Rican, grew up in Miami Beach, and got beat by the police chief. That was the last time hundreds of thousands of voters had a clear choice.
How do you propose solving it?
What can Miami-Dade do to prepare for sea level rise and protect our natural environment?
It’s coming. Now we’re in more of a mitigate the adverse impact. I don’t think we can reverse the damage. Republicans and Republican leaders have got us into a pickle. We’re going to have to address it now.
New projects need to be elevated. You’re going to have to restore the coastline to its more natural barrier, which helps with hurricanes. You’re probably going to have to raise the seawall from downtown up to Normandy Shores. As far as South Dade, they’re lucky with some of the nature they have, but I expect you’ll have pumping, but it must be done in an environmentally friendly way. We can consider absorbent concrete, absorbent sidewalks. The seas are definitely going to rise in the next 60 years. If we are not prepared, we’re going to be underwater. We also have to think about the collateral damage of what it’s going to do to our freshwater supply.
We really need to take a comprehensive approach. This is all stuff we should have done 20 years ago. This is a huge problem and there’s no way I can fix it. We need to mitigate and minimize the adverse impacts of the sea level rise, be responsible stewards of our nature and environment. We’re not going to build our way out of sea level rise. No amt of concrete is going to help us with sea level rise.
This idea of progress and growth, that we’ve got to build another condo or the sky will fall — those are not my values. If your readers are tired of concrete concrete concrete but want trees and shade and solar panels… then they have only have one choice.
Why is the rent so high?
The media has been talking for years about the program in Montgomery County, Maryland. We tried to bring that to Miami-Dade. Any large project will have to set aside 20 percent of units for affordable and workforce housing. The only way to get out of that 20 percent rule is for developer to build an entire portion of project for affordable housing.
That will incentivize developers to build two buildings, one affordable housing and another market rate. I would put the 20 percent rule on any new large scale project in Miami-Dade County.
They couldn’t do it like build a crappy version and a fancy version right next door because they couldn’t sell the fancy.
We need to use the infill land. There’s plenty of land in Miami-Dade County, whether that land needs to be bought or is owned already but improperly categorized… Each bit of that land can go to affordable housing or additional green space. I would do every inch of land let’s say east of 37th Avenue, before we would ever keep going west. There should be a moratorium going west until the infill is done and that space should be used for small business growth, startups, and affordable housing.
I have no interest in any more large-scale developers. I don’t need to help a millionaire make another million dollars. We’re not going to sell out our community anymore. [Developers] will not have a friend in the mayor’s office to catalyze their growth.
Dade County will be just fine. When you cannot afford to live here, not only do people who follow the law move away, you increase the desperation of people who can’t afford to move away. We do not have 100 percent of our society upper-middle class. That’s why you see some of these up and coming hip neighborhoods. They’re gentrifying them. They’re not keeping the same people in those neighborhoods. What did you do with the people you pushed out? My grandfather was a developer here in the ’50s, ’60s. They gave you nothing. It’s ridiculous to say the only way to get anything done in Miami-Dade today is by incentivizing millionaires and billionaires. Those days are over.
Is there anything that can be done to fix our transit system and get traffic under control?
How do you feel about the county’s campaign finance system?
[Referring to the proposal in front of the county] It doesn’t go far enough. Juan [executive director of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party] knows my position is a $100 limit. I’m going to propose a $100 limit. I will put it to the voters. I’m a little bit concerned because I think the Supreme Courts are reluctant to let you restrict the who. I think we might have trouble legally restricting the who.
I don’t want any registered lobbyists, developers donating, but I don’t know if we can restrict them. I think that’s the best way to go and no one is going to take a bribe for $100. Only individuals can contribute, no businesses, no PACs. The $100 individual limits would apply to everyone from dog catcher to president. Get the money out of politics completely. That’s why I don’t raise money.
I don’t want to know who they are, I don’t want them to call me, I don’t want them to come lobby me. Those are not the kind of people I want to support me. I would rather lose than have the support of those fundraisers.
If you had a $100 budget to spend on the city, how would you spend it?
$25 Public safety: Safety is single the most important organizing principle in any society. Whether its police, fire, traffic, mosquito control, food safety and response to citizen concerns.
$20 Transportation: We must put funds towards mass transit to alleviate the traffic nightmare. Bus and Trolley will supplement.
$15 Neighborhood/infrastructure: Assuming this is NOT water and sewer or port revenue, I would invest in neighborhood and collective use infrastructure. This will includes everything from sidewalks to traffic circles, dog parks, fountains, artwork, and neighborhood programs for kids and seniors.
$15 Environment and climate change: We must respect our natural beauty of South Florida. I will put County money towards environmental restoration of Virginia Key and Pine Rocklands. I will support increasing shade capacity.
$10 Parks and recreation and culture: We will make ALL county Parks and Museums free for residents. We will invest in creating a world class Pine Rockland Central Park type property surrounding the Zoo. We will invest in after-school and summer programs for children, teens and young adults.
$10 Health: Assuming this is not JHS revenue, I will support FREE vaccinations and FREE County preventative health clinics.
$5 Real Estate: Sell our inventory of excess county lands and purchase new lands for affordable housing and environmental restoration.