Eileen Higgins

District 5


Owner of Inside the Glass, LLC

M.B.A., Cornell University

On the board of or a member of these organizations (among others): Downtown Neighbors Alliance, Miami Climate Alliance, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade

Check out the rest of the District 5 voter guide here.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing District 5?

Every person in District 5 is affected by at least one of these three issues. Housing they can no longer afford, deciding between being stuck in traffic or stuck on transit, and jobs that often pay low wages. Some District 5 residents are affected by all three.

What approach do you think the county should take to address public transit?

First and foremost, we must improve the reliability of what we’ve got. That doesn’t cost billions of dollars. As a transit rider, I’ve been stuck at a bus stop waiting for a bus that should come every twenty minutes, but comes in 40 instead. I’ve watched drivers miss a stop, and just [the other night], a bus took an entirely different route without announcing the changes leaving passengers several miles from their intended destination.

We have District 5 residents who are 100% reliant on our bus system to take them from their homes in Little Havana to their service-sector jobs in Miami Beach. The bus system cannot fail nor inconvenience these families. They do not have the luxury of hopping into a $15 Uber should transit fail them. The free circulating trolleys have made a big improvement for shorter trips in the City of Miami, Miami Beach, and Doral. But many parts of the county do not have this option. We should make them available, particularly if adding a short circulator trolley can solve the “last mile” problem of getting residents from a transit hub to their homes. As soon as the studies for the SMART plan are complete – now delayed until late this year or early next year – we must decide quickly on the solutions for each route so that we can secure federal and state funds to get started.

How do you think the county should address crime in the district and throughout Miami-Dade?

Public safety is the bedrock of community. There is crime in District 5. Sometimes it’s violent, other times it’s car break-ins, or tourists behaving badly in Miami Beach. Either way, neighbors are affected. Outside of District 5, there are neighborhoods like Liberty City that face much higher rates of violence. No matter where you live in the county, the commission collectively must work to give the Miami-Dade police the resources they need to keep us safe and to give civil society groups the resources they need to break the cycle of violence. An example of just such a program is the one that PACT (People Acting for Community Together) recently advocated for and received approval for.

For nearly two years, we’ve worked to find solutions to minimize gun violence in the zip codes most affected by firearms. We demanded that the county fund gun violence intervention programs that other cities have successfully implemented and bring them here to Miami-Dade. This program is now in the budget.

Other long-term solutions require investments in neighborhoods to prevent young people from dropping out of school and being more likely to commit crimes or be forced into the criminal justice system for misdemeanors. That’s why I’ve advocated for civil citations within the county and throughout the state. The police must continue to receive funding for innovative solutions like Shotspotter that has improved their response time to neighborhood shootings so that they arrive on the scene as soon as Shotspotter recognizes that an incident is occurring.

Do you support the extension of the Urban Development Boundary and the 836 expressway​?

The residents of South-Dade struggle with some of the worst commutes in the County, but I don’t think building another highway is the solution, especially if it moves the UDB. The UDB exists for a reason. The Everglades are part of the natural protection we have to protect us from sea level rise and the intense storms predicted to come with climate change. Anyone who watched Houston flood last year knows that paving over wetlands is a sure way to cause residential flooding. It’s time to make transit a priority. We must build the transit solution that the residents of South-Dade deserve rather than another traffic-clogged route. A highway is not a solution to traffic. Reliable transit is. The time is now to be spending time funding transit not more traffic in a fragile ecosystem.

Where do you stand on gun reform and gun control? Do you think enough is being done and do you support the laws that were passed at the state level?

As a longtime member of PACT’s gun violence intervention committee and a spokesperson for Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense Miami-Dade Chapter, my advocacy for common sense gun reforms is well known and didn’t begin with the tragic events at Parkland. The statistics show that every other day, a person is shot in the county. While the rate isn’t increasing, it’s got to go down. And reforming our gun laws is part of that process. The state preempts the county from making local gun regulations. The County should join the other municipalities such as Coral Gables and West Miami in their lawsuit asking for the right to make our from making our own decisions about how to keep our kids, schools, and neighborhoods safe. We have an ordinance on the books (Miami-Dade Ordinance 21-20.18) that is not fully enforced.

I would also advocate that no county-owned properties ever host gun shows and that we exit existing contracts and never enter into others. I will continue to be a voice for changing Florida’s and our nation’s gun laws to include comprehensive background and mental health screenings and would (as I already have) call for a ban on sales of high-capacity magazines and weapons of war, not of self-protection or for hunting use.

How have you prepared to be District 5 Commissioner?

First, through my career which has been a mix of private and public sector work and has exposed me to a wide range of views and environments in which I’ve been able to successfully solve problems, grow businesses, and lead teams. I started as an engineer working in manufacturing, got an MBA from Cornell University, went on to drive growth for some of the world’s most well known brands, and then decided to give back by serving as a Peace Corps Country Director. Secondly, I’ve been actively been involved in many local community and social justice groups which have provided the opportunity to learn about Miami-Dade in general and District 5 specifically. From working on a gun violence intervention committee looking for solutions to the plague of gun violence in neighborhoods like Liberty City to advocating for opening and funding a County Affordable Housing Trust to mentoring our public school students to become small business owners and entrepreneurs, I’ve worked across the county to make a difference. As a resident of District 5, I know the details of issues that face our residents and, more importantly, have worked to solve them in the community. I decided to run because I wanted to represent my neighbors who are the people I live, work and commute with every day. I’m running for Commissioner because I don’t want to “read” about these issues any more, I want to solve them.

Check out the rest of the District 5 voter guide here.