B.A., Boston College
Bike and pedestrian safety activist
1. Sea level rise is obviously on everyone’s mind. Do you think Miami Beach is on the right path?
We have a unique dilema: water is coming at us from above in torrential downpours, all sides through sea level rise, tides and storm surges, and below through our porous ground. While I believe the city is moving in the right direction, there are certainly concerns with our approach. Installation of pumps is definitely going to be a significant part of any resiliency efforts, as is strengthening and raising our sea walls, dunes and other barriers.
The city has failed us in pushing for raising 60 miles of roads. That will simply displace the water, and in many cases result in flooding of private homes and businesses. We need to protect not only city infrastructure, but our community as well. While there are some places where elevated roads are appropriate, implementing this citywide is simply pushing the problem to all of us. More effort needs to placed on the pumps.
We also need to determine if our pumps are ambitious enough to deal with all possible scenarios. We won’t get another chance. Furthermore, our plans need to address properly filtering the water we pump out. So, while we have taken positive first steps, as a community we can do better.
2. The costs of sea level rise are increasingly falling on property owners as well, as efforts like raising roads make homes more vulnerable. What can the city do to help homeowners combat sea level rise?
I believe in the power of our community. Once the city embraces our community, rather than simply expecting us to fall in line… only then can we move effectively on this and other challenges. The city needs to focus more on collecting, filtering and removing water that enters our city limits. This is not accomplished by uniformly raising the roads. This is accomplished by revising our plans to focus on the entirety of our community.
Beyond our governmental resiliency planning, the city should do everything in its power to aid residents seeking to protect their own assets from the rising tides. Reductions and waivers of permitting fees for resiliency projects are one simple way to encourage this. However, the city must ensure that resiliency is not used as a means of abandoning our historic character.
City Hall can also sponsor more educational opportunities to raise awareness among property owners, guiding us on best practices used by others in our community and beyond, sharing resources when available and instilling a sense of community in this fight. Our city will only thrive if we work together.
3. There is a lot of tension in Miami Beach right now around the question of who the city should plan for: the long-term, year-round residents, or the lucrative tourism industry.
3a. What is your stance on Airbnb and other short-term rentals? (Asked by The New Tropic reader Stephen Michael Fox Jr.)
Short term rentals are crippling many aspects of our city. Poorly vetted short term tenants cause tremendous harm to our residents quality of life, plus increase the burden on our police force and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, our city is on the hook financially for the taxes these tourists would have paid had they stayed at traditional establishments.
We need to focus on enforcing current ordinances, and one possibility is enlisting the aid of the other ‘victims’ (the short term tenants). Current ordinances leave them without a place to stay, so are we really surprised when they claim to be ‘friends’ with the owner? I believe the city should work together with our hotel industry to have special rates available to the city for these displaced tourists. If a guest is willing to provide sworn testimony acknowledging the short term rental, I believe the city should situate them in a nearby hotel. The fine would certainly cover that cost. Our current penalties mean nothing if not enforceable
That said, I am not fundamentally against short term rentals. Resident quality of life comes first, and until all parties can work together, our current approach is appropriate.
3b. The proposed change to Ocean Drive’s last call?
This vote to change Ocean Drive’s last call is an unfortunate example of the city failing at proper governance. This is an issue that should have been heavily scrutinized and decided upon by the commission, not passed on to voters while simultaneously failing to provide relevant data in a timely fashion.
No, changing the times alcohol can be sold will not solve any of our problems. We can debate about the value of business lost as a result, but it is irrelevant. The city should not be forcing closure when no positive will come of it. The crime on Ocean Drive will not be solved by this. It is a 24-hour problem, so should we just shut down Ocean Drive and the beach completely? Fixing the underlying problem will require our community to work together: our elected and appointed leaders, our police officers, our Ocean Drive business owners, and our residents. Restricting alcohol sales in this one place will worsen the problem. These challenges will spill over into other residential communities. Drinking will continue. Crime will continue. This ballot item only serves to divide us, when we have bigger issues we need to work together on.
4. How do you plan to bring in a diverse range of voices in your decision making? Miami Beach has a large immigrant population that often goes unheard, plus a large working class population that helps to support the tourism industry. How will they be included? (Asked by The New Tropic reader Sarah Emmons)
I am running for Mayor specifically so that everyone can have a voice. I will work tirelessly to remove the fear of retaliation as an obstacle that discourages this involvement and constantly seek out ways to encourage everyones participation..
Our community is more than just those that can vote in this election. Whether it be age, immigration status, a different ZIP code or anything else that prevents someone from voting, it doesn’t affect their value as a part of our community. Personally, I will always do everything in my power to be accessible to anyone who seeks to improve our city in both large and small ways. I will encourage all stakeholders to be involved in public meetings, and I will be available beyond that to hear everyones concerns – and bring them with me to our public meetings
Miami Beach is one community. Our elected and appointed leaders, city personnel, year round and part time residents, businesses and their employees, and yes even our tourists all bring valuable insight, experience, ideas and solutions to our city. My campaign is about harnessing the power of our community, all of it. As Mayor, this simple fact would be the fundamental direction of my administration.
What is one change you want to make that would improve YOUR life in Miami Beach? (Asked by The New Tropic reader Ruth Klestinec)
As a bicycle commuter I have quite literally almost been killed on our dangerous, incomplete and gridlocked streets. I believe safe streets are crucial to our growth as a city, and that will require a fundamental change in the thought process at city hall. I would push for changes in planning, engineering, construction, maintenance and enforcement that would properly consider the safety of everyone – on foot, on a bike, in a car and so on. This change in mentality would lead to streets that are safer, thus encouraging increased multimodal transit. Since foot and bicycle traffic take up less space, this would improve the flow of vehicular traffic as well. The end result would be roadways where traffic flows, and people don’t fear for their lives.