Group 4: Rafael Velasquez

Group 4


Real estate broker

This post is part of our voter guide for the Nov. 5 local elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to some other key races.

Commission seats in Miami Beach are at-large positions, so the groups don’t represent any particular neighborhood or section of the city.

This interview has been lightly edited. Velasquez’s opponents are Michael Barrineau, Steven Meiner and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

What would your top 3 priorities be as commissioner?

I. Rebranding/reinventing Miami Beach as a world tourist capital for music, arts, and entertainment. I’ve been a Miami Beach resident for more than 25 years now and chose to live here because I love Miami Beach! Besides, it’s an amazing location and weather, Miami Beach’s greatest asset is without a doubt its people. We are diverse, tolerant, open, inclusive, and fun! We love arts, music, and entertainment. That’s why we live here. However, living in Miami Beach also comes with its challenges. Yes, we are a world tourist capital, but Miami Beach is not the only happening place any longer! Today, we are competing with Wynwood, the Design District, Midtown, Downtown, and Brickell. Faced with this rising competition, I believe that Miami Beach needs to reinvent itself. It needs to become a center for arts, music, and entertainment by hosting a larger number of top national and international events in music, arts, and entertainment, which will redefine our City’s character in the future. As your commissioner, I’ll make sure this happens!

II. Local Public Services. We also need improved local public services for our seniors, families, and single parents. Whether, it’s about building new bus shelters, lowering the cable and internet costs for our seniors, or offering discounts to single-parents, it’s about improving our neighbors’ daily lives. Our city can offer more classes to our children, and help our single-parents with discounted rates to register for them. Miami Beach wants to be known for its best competitive sport teams, athletes, and talented new artists, and performers. These are small changes that can go a long way.

III. Implementation of Office of Inspector General and $439 million [general obligation] bond. In 2017, I proposed the creation of an Office of Inspector General. Although, I was not elected then, my proposal survived and was presented as a referendum to our City. It passed overwhelmingly and today we have that Office of Inspector General. I’m proud of it. Now, I want to make sure that our Inspector General really will go after corrupt politicians, public officials, and contractors. I will take special leadership and pride in ensuring that our Inspector General will be a model for other cities on how to effectively reduce public corruption, and not another empty political promise to appease voters. We need to make certain that our Inspector General will always remain truly independent and is empowered and sufficiently funded to effectively reduce public corruption and restore trust into our City government. No more back room deals. No more pay for play. Last November, Miami Beach voters also voted with an overwhelming margin to approve bonds in the amount of $439 million for public safety, parks, and infrastructure. Let’s make sure now that the money is truly and efficiently spent in our community’s best interest. We need to ensure that our current G.O. bond oversight committee will be enabled and have the administrative tools available to enforce the promises that were made to our residents! I will make it my personal mission that contrary to many fears, our government will actually spend the loaned money for much needed public safety, parks and our city’s infrastructure.

What does a resilient and sustainable city look like to you?

A resilient and sustainable city recognizes the imminent threat that climate change is posing to our community and takes pro-active, state-of-the-art measures in order to protect its neighbors and their properties. Miami Beach aspires to remain a leader and model city for combating sea level rise and any associated challenges related to climate change.

What steps should Miami Beach take to combat homelessness?

Miami Beach needs to take a more proactive approach in order to meet the daily challenges that homelessness poses to our city in order to help all affected individuals and neighbors, and increasing everyone’s quality of life. Specifically, Miami Beach needs to assist homeless individuals to find immediate housing, provide them with mental and/or medical health care where necessary, and help them to reintegrate into our workforce. Moreover, our Miami Beach Police Department should keep a continued record of our homeless population to ensure that we do not have any wanted criminals living in the shadows of our homeless population, thereby posing an imminent threat to our neighbors.

What does responsible development look like in Miami Beach?

Development that respects and conforms to the character of our different neighborhoods, and will improve our neighbors’ quality of life.

How do you think areas like Washington Avenue and Lincoln Road should address their vacancies and lost businesses?

Property owners need to realize that they need to lower their rents in order to lower operation costs for small businesses and make Miami Beach attractive again. Concurrently, our city needs to provide incentives (e.g. tax breaks) and streamline its overly bureaucratic and burdensome permitting process to encourage businesses to return to Miami Beach.

Do you support the latest Baylink proposals to connect Miami and Miami Beach?

I support finding a feasible Baylink solution for connecting downtown Miami to Miami Beach. We need to find a solution to the continued traffic congestion on our causeways. However, any Baylink solution must be publicly controlled and operated, not by any private entity.

What steps should the city take to reduce pollution in Biscayne Bay and on the beaches?

Our city needs to better filter any waters released into our bay and work on improved coordination with other governmental entities in order to hold individuals or legal entities accountable for polluting our bay and beaches. Our bay and beaches are unique assets to Miami Beach and we, as a city need to ensure that both are a reflection of what we want our city to look like in the future in order to guarantee our quality of life and continue attracting visitors to our world tourist capital for music, arts, and entertainment.

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