Retired. Former head of Catalyst Miami
County commissioner since 2014
This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.
District 8 curves through South Miami-Dade and goes north from about Southwest 320th Street northeast to about Southwest 112th Street. The district goes as far west as Southwest 227th Avenue and east toward Biscayne Bay. It includes areas like Cutler Bay, Homestead and Palmetto Bay.
What would your your top 3 priorities be as commissioner?
Transit & expanding rail
Growing our local economy & creating sustainable, quality jobs
Environment and climate Change
What does “good” public transit for Miami-Dade County look like to you?
Good public transit has three parts: fast, frequent, reliable (meaning that it is consistent, pleasant, goes where you need, safe). It is a connected system where everyone in our County is served and can move around with ease without relying on a car. Our public transportation shouldn’t be an option of last resort—it should be the first priority that helps get cars off the road and eases traffic in our streets. The only way we will do this is by ensuring that our buses and our rail cars are clean and serviced, that wait times are kept low and delays and breakdowns scarce, and by keeping fares at a minimum so every resident of Miami-Dade County isn’t priced out of the services that they pay for with tax dollars. While we work to expand the entire system, we can enhance the existing system by making smart, coordinated choices about creative last mile solutions.
How will you support expanding affordable housing as commissioner?
It starts with leveraging funding from every available source. In the past, I’ve advocated and helped pass legislation that requires 25% of proceeds for the sale of certain County-owned properties to be deposited into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In addition, we’ve adopted my legislation that requires Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) with housing plans to build mixed income housing. Lastly, I’ve been a champion for community land trusts, which build housing and use a shared approach that splits ownership between the home and the land it is built on to help build equity more broadly, bring costs down and assure long term affordability. I’ve also pushed resolutions and worked with our state representatives and senators to restore state affordable housing dollars that have been regularly “swept” out of trust funds depriving Florida families of hundreds of millions of dollars intended to build needed affordable housing.
What does a resilient and sustainable city look like to you?
As a community in which the economy depends upon the sun, I envision the Miami metropolitan area as a place where we harness that power with solar panels on every roof. It’s a place where our infrastructure is built with an eye on the future that can withstand rising seas and extreme weather. Furthermore, we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so I envision a thriving parks system where residents and visitors alike can enjoy clean beaches, biologically unique protected habitats, amazing parks designed for a broad range of sports and activities, can go swimming and fishing in water safe from contamination and protected by vibrant reefs teeming with marine life. I envision a place where anyone of any physical ability can get around our community safely and easily – on bikes in protected lanes or on fully electric buses, trolleys, cars, and of course, on foot.
What lessons did you learn from Hurricane Irma that will influence how you govern if you win?
As far as lessons learned, I’m committed to being proactive, and not just reactive, in the face of worsening storms. This is why I published a detailed report on recommendations to strengthen our hurricane preparation and response at the county level. My report included many creative solutions such as solar and battery powered traffic lights to prevent car accidents and to relieve our police to address more critical life safety issues after a storm, moving power lines underground after 90% of the County lost power for nearly a week mostly due to wind damage, developing a network of nonprofits to help mobilize resources quicker, making every shelter animal friendly and dozens more. Thanks to the collaboration I had with the Office of Emergency Management and our Technology team at the County, we even developed a mobile app that helps residents access critical hurricane preparation and real-time information while increasing our preparedness with community stakeholders and partners. More than anything, Irma has taught me that we are all in this together, because wind, rain, and flooding don’t discriminate. It’s our responsibility as a government to make sure that we are prepared for the next big storm.
If you had the chance, would you uphold or reverse the county’s decision to abandon its sanctuary city status and cooperate with federal immigration officials?
I would reverse the decision, and voted against its passage. Although Miami-Dade never identified as a “sanctuary city,” our policy regarding detainers until January 2017 required payment from the federal government to cover the additional costs associated with honoring such detention requests. Beyond the economic implications for local government, social science has shown that when local law enforcement officers are co-opted as immigration enforcers, we see a decrease in crime reporting from our most underserved communities. The fragile trust between police and the communities they protect and serve is only damaged when municipal and county officials are used to enforce federal immigration laws.
Do you believe in systemic racism, aka the idea that racism is baked into some of our existing policies and laws, and if yes, what ideas do you have for addressing that?
Yes. “Color-blind” policies have historically perpetuated a system where minority communities are systematically held back and prevented from having the same opportunities as white, well-off communities. Our community, like our country as a whole, has a long and complex history of excluding and mistreating some groups based solely on race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or gender. The legacy of these harmful policies and practices persist to today. Particularly in areas like zoning, procurement, economic mobility, affordable housing and criminal justice, we have a responsibility to ensure equity across our County by doing away with policies that disadvantage some in favor of others. It’s why I’ve proposed and passed legislation that ensures that women and minority-owned businesses have a fair chance to bid on county projects.
Should the Urban Development Boundary remain fixed, or do you think there are certain economic and mobility needs that are more important?
The Urban Development Boundary (UDB) absolutely needs to remain fixed. Tampering with it would only serve to open up our most vulnerable and protected areas to development and put all of South Florida’s water supply at risk. As I’ve said since I first ran for office, there simply is no Planet B. The UDB was put in place to safeguard our precious Everglades and I am committed to holding the line. In fact, there are places recommended for eventual expansion, called Urban Expansion Areas, that even the professional planning staff had tried to eliminate, but were rebuffed by the Board of County Commissioners at the time. I believe that we need to reexamine those areas – some of which overlap our wellfields, and others are in coastal flooding zones – and delete them from the map.