Group 5: Ricky Arriola

Ricky Arriola

Group 5


Founder/CEO, Inktel Holdings

Miami Beach commissioner

This post is part of our voter guide for the Nov. 19 local runoff 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. Arriola’s opponent is Raquel Pacheco.

What would your top 3 priorities be as commissioner?

Sea Level Rise — Our city must continue to elevate roads, create incentives to prepare historic properties for sea level rise, and require all new developments to be built well above the base flood elevation. We must also continue to replace our aging infrastructure, so we don’t experience a degradation in essential city services nor pollute our sensitive Biscayne Bay.

Public Safety — Our residents and tourists deserve to feel safe when walking down our streets at any time of day. Even though our actual crime numbers are down, there is a perception that crime is increasing. To combat this, we’ve brought in new leadership to the Miami Beach Police Department. We are also investing in license plate readers, high definition cameras in commercial districts, and other crime fighting technologies.

Strengthening/ Diversifying the Local Economy — Our economy is heavily dependent on real estate and tourism. Both are threatened by sea level rise. Therefore, we must diversify our economy to bring in more professional services. One way to do this is incentivize the construction of Class A office space, which is lacking on Miami Beach. We must also develop a strategy for retaining small businesses and cutting the red tape to attract new and interesting businesses.

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

A resilient and sustainable city is one that plans for the future and is able to absorb and bounce back from both expected and unexpected hits. For example, hurricanes and king tides are expected in South Florida so, we have good standard operating procedures for the mitigation and recovery efforts associated with them. However, the Zika virus and the recent seaweed invasion took Miami Beach by surprise. In both instances we assessed the situation, consulted with experts, rapidly drew up a battle plan, executed those plans effectively in coordination with multiple jurisdictions, and convened after-action meetings to learn from mistakes and plan for the future. During my tenure as commissioner and finance chair for the city of Miami Beach I pushed for the city to adopt a bold, modern resilient strategy so this mindset could be weaved within each municipal department.

What will you do to increase transparency and accountability for public officials?

As Commissioner, I co-sponsored a referendum question that created the role of Inspector General in our City’s charter. Our Inspector General will be charged with investigating fraud, waste, and abuse in City Hall. He or she will be armed with subpoena power and a team of professional auditors. I also sponsored an ordinance that prohibited campaign consultants from lobbying the very elected officials they helped get elected for a period of a year.

What steps should Miami Beach take to combat homelessness?

When I first asked the city of Miami Beach Commission to consent to allowing the state legislature to levy a 1 percent homelessness and domestic abuse tax, I lost 6-1. When I pleaded again this year, I lost 5-2. Then, when I begged to place a referendum question on the ballot to let the voters democratically decide – I lost that vote yet again. As a member of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust I remain committed to ending homelessness and not just managing it. All but three municipalities (Miami Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbour) in Miami-Dade County pay into the work of the Homeless Trust through the state approved tax. Without Miami Beach paying its fair share, the Trust will not be able to build permanent supportive housing, which has been heralded as THE solution to homelessness by HUD under two very different presidential administrations. If I win re-election, I will personally collect petitions to allow this question on the ballot so our elected officials know how compassionate our residents truly are.

What does responsible development look like in Miami Beach?

Responsible development occurs when property owners engage with neighbors to build a project that works both for the surrounding community and the city as a whole. One notable case study is the development of the old South Shore Community Hospital. The former hospital had remained abandoned and the ground around it laid fallow for over a decade. The property owner could not find a program to make it work. Then, through a public-private partnership the City Commission allowed for the construction of a condominium in return for an iconic 3-acre park for not only the residents of West Avenue, but also for the whole city. As the chair of the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee I led the negotiation of the agreement that also includes the construction of an artistic pedestrian bridge, designed by Daniel Buren, that will connect the City’s baywalk that is currently separated by Fifth Street.

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

Landlords should reduce their rents. Unfortunately, many of the landlords, especially on Lincoln Road, are owned by publicly traded [real estate investment trusts] that seek the highest dollar per square foot and ignore the need for a scaled down retail and restaurant mix our commercial corridors. Therefore, this is a time when government must get involved otherwise, we risk losing these streets to the downward spiral that is urban blight. As commissioner I have spearheaded initiatives to improve the situation such as: creating a temporary/ pop-up business permit so entrepreneurs can test their concepts for a short period of time in a vacant storefront while a landlord seeks a long term tenant; zoning out uninteresting chain retail stores and franchise restaurants that jack up rents for small businesses; requiring set asides for arts and cultural spaces from development projects; forcing business improvement districts to increase their contributions to the public programming of commercial streets that appeal to residents and tourists alike; streamlining the permitting process so small businesses have less overhead when opening up; and much more.

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

I support mass transit linking Miami to Miami Beach. I believe the City Commission must keep an open mind to all proposals that will be responsive to the County’s request for proposals (RFP). I am open to all technology solutions under the RFP including monorail, light rail, Metromover, and light rail. Reducing our dependency on cars, creating convenient transit alternatives, designing more walkable/ bikeable communities is something we should all strive for.

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

As a traveling triathlete, boater, and dad, I am constantly worried about our carbon and plastic footprint and how it effects not only shores, but also how it effects other coastal communities around the Earth. I sponsored the ordinance that makes the serving of plastic straws illegal on Miami Beach, then turned around to create a path to prohibit all plastics on Miami Beach. But it’s not just plastics, waste is our issue. We must commit to becoming a zero-waste city by focusing more on reducing and reusing! I  toured the largest recycling facility in South Florida and I was shocked by what I saw. As a city, we must also continue to replace our aging sewer pipes. Many of them are as old as the city itself. When these pipes burst, they spill onto our streets and then the stormwater carries the waste away into our bay. That is not acceptable and that is why these investments are so crucial and cannot be further delayed. The time is short for our delicate aquatic preserve and words can’t take the place of action.

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