Ken Russell

Why are you running?

I don’t feel that I had a choice in running. I had to step up when my commissioner was letting the neighborhood down with regard to the six contaminated parks in the city. I was successful in leading an effort that reversed the city’s plan and protects our health and home values. Everything I’ve learned in business over the past 20 years has provided me with the tools to be an effective commissioner. Knowing how effective I could be, and how our current commissioner has let us down on many issues, I felt it was my responsibility to contribute to a new leadership in the city that focuses on ethics and service—not bro-deals and self-enrichment.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Miami right now?

ETHICAL REFORM. With the strength of the D2 seat, I plan to lead a culture change in city hall. I would like to implement a City Code of Ethics that increases scrutiny of conflict of interest and campaign financing. I have no vested interest in this position other than to affect positive change for the community.

What are some of the solutions you would propose?

a) Create a Municipal Code of Ethics for Commissioners (above and beyond the existing county code)
b) Expand conflict of interest protection so as to recuse any commissioner who may be compromised on a vote
c) Remove City Commissioners from the Board of the CRA
d) Clarify language within the CRA directives and rules so that the elimination of slum and blight cannot be misinterpreted as a “slush fund for mega development”

If we gave you a $100 budget, how would you spend it?

Please share a few words about how you would tackle the some of the following challenges:

Poverty and the low median wage: I firmly believe that the concept of “working poor” should not exist. Someone who works full-time should not be living in poverty, and I will advocate for this within my abilities as a Commissioner, beginning with advocating to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. Now, within the broad subject of poverty, the city faces a specific crisis that must be addressed immediately and effectively: homelessness. Homelessness is an issue that touches all of us. We should do everything in our power to help our city’s homeless get back on their feet. We need to act quickly and do things in the short term that will help the homeless in the long term. That means finding them real job opportunities and affordable housing. The city needs to build its relationship with the county’s homeless trust and work together toward a mutual goal. Personal issues need to be set aside and we must remember that the priority is to house the homeless and provide needed services to them. Proper leadership and communication can go a long way to building these relationships and getting what the city needs for its homeless population.

The high cost of rent/real estate: Our commissioner is acting with complete disregard for anyone outside of the upper-level of affordable housing. He is pushing through high-end projects without consideration for the consequences that come along with those decisions. For example, the city recently committed to give $108 million in tax subsidies to the developers of the Miami World Center project. We already have a desirable city for developers. These types of projects shouldn’t need incentives and handholding to get them here. If anything, we should ensure that these projects are done with the public in mind and are taken on with the people in mind. The effect of these actions is a district with too few affordable housing options and our most disenfranchised neighborhoods being pushed out of their homes by gentrification. I will implement a policy of smart development, that will ensure that every new development project will protect the interests of our citizens, comply with sea level rise mitigation techniques, assure affordable options for lower-income households, and come with strings attached for the residents of Miami.

Congestion and transit options: I have heard my opponents say in several situations that traffic has no solution. This is precisely the old-establishment way of thinking that I wish to change. We must bring our attention to newer, more efficient and cheaper technologies being applied successfully in cities around the world. As commissioner I will seek to adopt new tools and technologies, both in the public and private sector to reform public transportation to create a public transportation network that is accessible, comfortable, and efficient. By extending the trolley and introducing Mag Lev trains (a less costly, more environmentally friendly and more efficient technology), I advocate to develop a system of public transportation that is more accessible, convenient, and efficient. The light rail or trolley should connect all parts of our city to the major hubs and to the emerging parts of the city (Wynwood, Design District), as well as extend connectivity to South Beach (through light rail or high-speed bus). My public transportation proposal would make public transportation an enjoyable choice, thus reducing traffic congestion throughout the city. I’m in favor of a Municipal Transportation Trust Fund that would match county, state, and federal funds when available. We need a new generation of leadership that can bring new solutions to the table and work with all sides to get things done.

Climate change and environmental damage: The city of Miami is the last in the county to take on sea level rise mitigation. We need to empower a task force to really study the risks, causes, and solutions to deal with the current trend of climate change. We must also look to solutions that will reduce our footprint on the environment.

Transparency in government and access to open data: I applaud all effort and ground gained within the county to achieve open data access so far. Transparency is only the first step from which we can utilize statistics and information about our community. I will make sure that the City of Miami follows suit with the county and goes even further to create the positions within local government that can maximize access and organize data.

In summary, I would like to say that the current path of government is to create Miami as a facade of a successful metropolis. All efforts have been made to build the tall and shiny skyscrapers that project success to the outside. But that growth has taken place without the proper infrastructure, and without the soul of a city that should care for the least fortunate and hardest working of its population. A culture change must take place that recognizes that a full and whole community is not created from the top down. It is built from the bottom-up. I know that a strong leadership voice in the District 2 seat, combined with the effective negotiating skills to get the 3 votes needed on any issue, make me the best advocate for the community.