Communications Director, 1199 SEIU, a union that represents local healthcare personnel
B.A., St. Thomas University
1. Where do you stand on the Miami Forever Bond program?
The Miami Forever Bond offers potential solutions to two of the most existential issues facing our community and the City at large: sea-level rise and affordable housing. While the bond itself was pushed out to the City of Miami Commission in a rushed and very irresponsible manner by Mayor Regalado, the funds could help solve several crises in our city. For example:
- Upgrading storm drains is crucial. Anyone who doubts the need for an upgrade should consider what happened during Tropical Storm Irma. Yes, I said it… We were not hit by a hurricane, but by a tropical storm that massively flooded streets and exposed our city’s gross lack of preparation.
- The lack of affordable housing is killing our middle class and driving or community further into poverty.
However, I also understand the concerns that residents have with forking over hundreds of millions more to a city government that is drooling on itself for the payday. City officials, at least those currently in office, see this as a chance for tax payers to “make it rain”. The entire process of introducing the bond and giving the commission seven days to approve it shows a serious lack of vision and planning.
2. The City of Miami has tremendous income disparity. What are your plans for prioritizing inclusive development, particularly expanding the scope of affordable housing?
Mandatory inclusionary zoning or an affordable housing fund if developers refuse to build affordable housing units is our only short-term solution – You build or contribute to the fund. However, we must be bold in our thinking and approach. Several years ago, the Florida Legislature preempted rent control with a law that leaves City residents vulnerable to uncontrolled and unfair housing costs. We should take a case against this bad law all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Many metropolitan cities have enacted successful programs that benefit the property owner, while protecting historical architecture; and more importantly, keeping hardworking residents in their homes. I will also work on a plan to put money from large and thriving tourism operators back into our community, without taxing our local small businesses in the district.
3. Do you think Miami is on the right track for addressing sea level rise? Are we taking drastic enough steps?
No, I do not. The only thing City Hall takes seriously is how to sell off our communities to the highest bidder. One of the main problems with city government is the complete disregard for strategic long-term planning. You want proof? Look at how the Miami Forever Bond proposal was presented to the commission and the public at large. Commissioners had just seven days to digest a massive, complex plan before having to vote on it.
4. Traffic is a major issue for Miami residents and those who pass through. What can we do to get people out of their cars? Particularly to make the city safer for cyclists and pedestrians?
The reality is that there is no silver bullet to quickly solve this situation. Miami’s population will continue to grow, and our traffic issues will be an ongoing challenge. But we can take important steps now for a better future. I’m a proponent of bicycle lanes, like those in many other big cities, but this also would mean less room for cars. The real issue is that Miami-Dade County’s public transportation system ranks as one of the worst among metropolitan areas. I would propose bringing together the private sector and public agencies to deliver the smartest new and efficient ways to supplement and improve our mass transit options.
5. How do you plan to bring in a diverse range of voices in your decision making and to take concerns of unheard populations into account?
My professional exposure in working for Fortune 200 companies as well as my current work with labor unions has provided a great look at just how diverse those voices can be. I think the first vital step is engaging our unheard constituents and moving them to vote. Quite simply, our vote is our voice. But far too often, our commissioners completely ignore the calls and even obvious needs of constituents. These “leaders” arrogantly behave as if only they have the right answers. We must do a better job of listening to those on the frontlines – residents, small businesses, independent experts, etc. – on all key issues. Currently, the municipal government is rigged with those who only want to enrich themselves and their cronies. Instead, our goal should be to pave the way for a vibrant, bustling city that provides the opportunity for everyone to thrive.