facebook_pixel

Mark Samuelian

Why are you running?

I love Miami Beach, want to give back to the community and am confident that I can deliver for our residents. Importantly, I am at the point of my career where I can serve our community full-time.

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

  • Traffic/parking
  • Flooding/sea level rise
  • Over-development and quality of life
  • Transparency, accountability and accessibility of local government

What are some of the solutions you would propose?

KEEP THE BEACH MOVING

  • Rein in over-development. For starters, I oppose development on Watson Island
  • Expand the successful Alton Road trolley to connect the entire Beach
  • Shift to “multi-modal” options to become less reliant on cars, and develop other viable public transportation options for residents, commuters, and visitors, including BayLink
  • Be more selective regarding the type of events we bring to the City
  • Aggressively implement a number of quick-win opportunities including sequencing of traffic lights, Uber/Lyft, bus only lanes on the causeway, shuttles and so on.

PROTECTING OUR HOME WITH DYNAMIC FLOODING/SEA LEVEL STRATEGIES

  • Keep our streets dry and clean with short term approaches including pumps; do not pollute the bay with litter or chemicals
  • Examine our neighborhoods and historic treasures to plan for protection against water rise
  • Ramp up our efforts to work with world-class climatologists and water specialists to protect our city for the long term
  • Responsibly protect our coastline, maintaining dunes and mangroves while improving re-nourishment projects to harden and our protect beaches
  • Create financial resiliency with long term risk management solutions to withstand potential environmental threats
  • Lead by example with local green initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint

IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR RESIDENTS

  • Preserve our historic neighborhoods and homes with more green space
  • Encourage and support our small businesses and restaurants that give us our unique flavor as a city
  • Ensure that Miami-Dade School Board is working to improve education for our children; support supplemental programs, including Pre-K and transitioning South Pointe Elementary School into a K-8 Center
  • Oppose gambling, we don’t need it and we don’t want it
  • Work with our police force to maintain and improve safety while increasing responsiveness, sensitivity and accountability

RAISE THE BAR AT CITY HALL

  • Fight for campaign finance reform to limit the impact of special interests
  • Raise the bar on ethics and install an independent inspector general
  • Increase transparency in local government and how our tax dollars are being spent
  • Promote a government that adopts best practices in fiscal responsibility
  • Improve inclusivity in our government, and work actively to involve citizens in problem identification and solution

CELEBRATE DIVERSITY AND INCREASE UNITY

  • Get our vibrant LGBT community, diverse ethnic groups, preservationists, small businesses and the entire city working together for a better Miami Beach
  • Improve our City’s historic Human Rights Ordinance to set the standards on equality and representation
  • Increase training and educational resources for our city staff/employees and local businesses
  • Uphold a standard of no-tolerance for discrimination and an open door policy for all

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: In Miami Beach, those getting paid close to minimum wage cannot support themselves. I am in favor of contract workers receiving fair pay and benefits. I favor the municipal campaigns to raise the minimum wage. I am aware that many communities now use a $12 to $15 per hour minimum.

I also believe that local hiring benefits and helps sustain/stimulate our local economy by making sure that more of our tax dollars are returning to our residents and as revenues to the city. In close consultation with the City Manager, I’d be happy to look at any potential local-hire legislation that has clear, detailed guidelines, percentages and language that allow the City to enforce such an ordinance.

I would expand beautification projects in lower income neighborhoods to enhance and improve local quality of life across Miami Beach. I firmly believe in the need to protect and maintain our low-income housing options in Miami Beach. As an independent candidate running free of the influence of special interests, I know I can best provide a voice to all of our residents, no matter their financial status or income. Having a diversified housing market will allow Miami Beach to remain accessible to current and future residents across the economic spectrum.

The high cost of rent/real estate: Development in our city must be diversified; not every house or condo can be a million dollar property to be sustainable. If we are not thoughtful in the projects we approve, we can easily over develop and drive/price out locals and, especially, younger professionals. Preserving the character of Miami Beach does not mean fewer McMansions or skyscrapers, and it doesn’t simply mean preserving the facades of our historic buildings; our residents are what help to maintain our City’s unique character.

Making sure that there are affordable living options in Miami Beach ensures that our current residents are not forced to move elsewhere if they are not affluent. The Middle Class in our country is dissolving and it is what drives our economy, locally and nationally. Investing our tax dollars wisely would help lighten the economic burdens our residents face, especially in terms of transit.

Congestion and transit options: We must find and harness innovative solutions to address our traffic, transit and parking to decrease congestion. I believe there are multiple important reasons for our traffic congestion problems. First, excess over-development has far outpaced transportation infrastructure. Moreover, we have not sufficiently adopted approaches to mitigate the demand (users) for our infrastructure; our focus has been excessively geared towards cars. And finally, we are victims of poor policy decisions from years past. Poor planning, combined with a lack of coordination, communication and vision are needlessly congesting our streets.

The bar for new development must be significantly higher than it is today. Our City has grown too quickly without sufficient planning. New development must be accompanied by appropriate transportation infrastructure and planning. That is why I strongly oppose the Watson Island Development project. The MacArthur Causeway simply doesn’t have the capacity to withstand excess development.

We must creatively address the demands placed on our small barrier island. We need to be more selective in the types of events we bring to our Convention Center and city at large (for example, more mult-iday conventions that result in less traffic than one day show). In addition, we need to seek ways to reduce commuter traffic, perhaps by utilizing workforce housing or employee shuttles. We also need to address delivery trucks and the way they impact our city.

I believe we must shift to a “multi modal” world where a variety of transportation modes exist. Los Angeles has recently announced major policy changes to reduce the over reliance on cars. And Alice Bravo, head of Miami-Dade Transit, has said that she would like to make Miami “car optional.” We need to move aggressively to reduce our reliance on cars and expand alternative solutions including trolleys, other public transportation, and bike/pedestrian paths.

We would benefit from having a clear vision and framework that is vetted and communicated with residents, businesses and the County. I have a vision for how we can approach this problem head-on in a comprehensive manner and on a more local basis. My vision starts with making transportation a top priority and ends with carefully vetting and working with our partners/residents/businesses on a personal level.

I am proud to have supported the development and success of the Alton Road Trolley and will strongly advocate for its expansion. The Alton Road Trolley has averaged approximately 1000 passenger rides/day and is a great success. Now expanded to North Beach, we must aggressively pursue Mid Beach routes and connect the entire city. The trolley is an excellent short term solution and we must do everything possible for it to succeed and reduce car usage.

Buses and other public transportation, including BayLink, must be part of the mix. We need to optimize our current bus system working closely with the County. We must finally put forth and follow through with a real plan to link our city across the bay and ensure our residents (specifically seniors, visitors and youth) can actually benefit from the transit solutions we invest in and/or develop. Implementing realistic comprehensive solutions, such as BayLink, that serve the interests of our residents must be a top priority for our next Commission. Given the significant costs ($800 million to $1 billion), a Public Private Partnership (P3) may be required.

Bikes and pedestrians must enjoy a safer environment with protected lanes and pedestrian-friendly zones. Given the rapid growth of Citi Bike, bike safety is an urgent requirement. I also support adding more police officers to our streets in residential areas to make sure traffic laws are being enforced. We have much to learn from other cities that have become more bike and pedestrian friendly (Portland, Minneapolis, and Amsterdam are examples).

I am proud to have participated in, and supported, the administration’s current transportation master planning efforts. A clear transportation vision, including desired usage share by transportation mode, is an important starting point. We then need a holistic transit plan for our entire city, with clear connectivity nodes and key milestones and metrics.

As a degreed Industrial Engineer, I know I am the most qualified candidate in my race to address this critical issue.

Climate change and environmental damage: We must make sure that as we prepare to better address flooding and sea level rise that we do so in a way that does not negatively impact or disturb our natural resources, which are a priceless asset to Miami Beach, our state and nation. In speaking with thousands of neighbors and fellow Miami Beach residents, many have raised/shared vital concerns about the negative impact our newest temporary and permanent water pumps may have on our local environment and marine life.

As your next Group 6 Commissioner I will protect our home and environment with dynamic strategies to:

  • Keep our streets dry and clean with short term approaches including pumps and not pollute the bay with our litter or chemicals
  • Examine our neighborhoods and historic treasures to plan for protection against water rise
  • Ramp up our efforts to work with world-class climatologists and water specialists to protect our city for the long term
  • Responsibly protect our coastline, maintaining dunes and mangroves while improving re-nourishment projects to harden and our protect beaches
  • Create financial resiliency with long term risk management solutions to withstand potential environmental threats
  • Lead by example with local green initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint.

As an engineer I believe in planning ahead and utilizing technology to plan for and invest in the future, embracing long and short term solutions to address flooding and sea level rise. Recently, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County have begun taking important steps to mitigate against the threat of Sea Level Rise. We need to continue finding innovative short term solutions, including pumps, to keep our streets dry. We also need to do a much better job making sure that our solutions are not polluting and damaging the fragile marine ecosystems by pumping chemicals and litter into the ocean, bay and our canals.

We need to maintain and harden our city’s infrastructure in the short term while creatively planning for the future. One common sense measure is the installation of grates to block litter from entering our sewer system from the streets, in addition to investing in advanced filtration processes. We also need to do a much better job actually maintaining, hardening and utilizing the infrastructure we already have. Filters need to be cleaned, the same with clogged drains. In order to do that, we need to have our city staff inspecting and constantly cleaning out our system.

We have to examine our neighborhoods and make sure we are taking the necessary steps to responsibly preserve our historic treasures. We must work with homeowners in each neighborhood to protect our homes from anticipated rising water levels coming from the porous limestone beneath us and directly from the ocean. Residents need to be given the tools and empowered to best harden and make our homes resilient from the threats that face us, including access to loans to improve their home’s sustainability.

We need to ramp up our efforts with world-class climatologists, scientists and water specialists. We also need to carefully evaluate the plans we are putting into place to ensure we are getting the job done right, the best way, on time and coordinated to reduce impact on our residents and businesses. I will work closely with a range of experts, and actively study every solution/plan we promote and every penny we spend; there is simply too much at stake for us to get this wrong. We need a long term plan that is comprehensive and thoroughly vetted to protect our city for the long term and in order to be truly sustainable.

We must continue to make our coastlines resilient against the effects of Sea Level Rise. Maintaining dunes, along with other beach re-nourishment efforts, need to be a real part of any sound strategy. As part of this effort I also support working with the state to ensure tougher FDEP regulations are put in place to ensure that re-nourishment sands used on our beaches meet higher standards of health and safety. Currently, our state only regulates the type of sand but not the quantity of contaminants (arsenic, debris) that have been found in neighboring municipalities after such re-nourishment projects. I would work to raise awareness on this issue and ensure that our beaches are kept safe for generations to come. As we address this issue, it is important to understand the vital role effective beach re-nourishment projects play in building resilience against natural erosion and other threats to our coastline.

Beach re-nourishment projects and other efforts to preserve our beaches and coastal communities are a necessity to safeguard our future. We must be sensitive to the ecosystem; we must also recognize that debris and contaminants are a threat to both our natural environment and to those who use our beaches.

We need to thoughtfully create financial resiliency, with long term risk management solutions, to withstand potential environmental threats. Miami Beach can and must lead the way forward with local green initiatives while continuing to decrease its environmental footprint. I would actively lobby and work with our partners at county and state level to strengthen our ability to effectively combat the threat of sea level rise. We need all hands on deck, and I will take a leadership role on our city’s commission in addressing this issue.

Transparency in government and access to open data: I will continue to fight for campaign finance reform to limit the impact of special interests. I will introduce an ordinance to tighten and restrain the ability of special interests to contribute indirectly or directly to candidates in our local elections.

I will work to raise the bar on ethics and install an independent inspector general to help fight corruption, ensure accountability and increase transparency. I have stood strong against the influence of special interests and will be an independent voice on our city’s commission. Increasing transparency in local government in how our tax dollars are being spent will promote government that adopts best practices in fiscal responsibility.

We must improve how inclusive our government is and work actively to involve citizens in problem identification and solution. As a full time commissioner, I will not be clocking in and out after or before monthly commission meetings, I will work and be available daily to help serve Miami Beach residents. My office will have an open door policy and a zero tolerance for sweetheart back room deals.

I will work closely with our city manager and attorney to spearhead and implement policy to ensure all city documents are easily and immediately accessible to our residents. I would like to see all records and documents be safeguarded, stored and maintained on a closely monitored backup server to ensure documents could never disappear in the middle of the night from our records. I will also work to use technology to ensure progress on all projects and investments are easily tracked and are open books to taxpayers.