Why are you running?
My entire political career began 10 months ago, when I got tired of fighting the urge to write-in “none of the above” every election day. I decided to do something about the fact that the candidates on the ballot weren’t people who were like me, who thought as I did, who would do the job of helping run the city like I would. If there weren’t people like me, I chose to BE the “person like me” that other people could feel a little better voting for—I’m just looking for help to do so.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Miami right now?
The single biggest challenge facing Miami today is leadership that doesn’t represent ALL of its constituents, just the ones that got them elected. The mayor and commission should be making plans that benefit our city as a whole and provide for growth of the entire community, not just one aspect of it. Support systems, infrastructure and public services should increase with (actually before) the growth of the city to provide strong roots for our communities. Just because a certain industry or two is funding election campaigns, they shouldn’t receive carte blanche in the city. Just because all our commissioners are career politicians, lawyers and former policemen, doesn’t mean the solution to every problem is a new law and sending officers to enforce it. The city government should have the input of many different industries, residents and neighborhoods and should attempt to gather data on all sides of an issue before making decisions. It’s better to do a good thing slowly than barrel through badly.
What are some of the solutions you would propose?
Transportation: Improving local connectivity to the larger county public transit systems; work with county/state to expand connectivity to other communities.
Infrastructure: The necessary support services to maintain the current and future growth of our city has been neglected for years. Adequate PD, FD, Water & Sewer, etc. must grow at a rate equal to the development of our communities.
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: We need to retake the ability to address these issues back from the state (laws passed in 2010 and 2013 prevent municipal or county ordinances which address minimum wage, employee benefits or rights, living wages). We have to pressure Tallahassee to allow home rule on these issues once again, considering that half of the companies that lobbied for these laws have themselves raised their minimum wages and benefits voluntarily. We can also attract better paying jobs to our communities by improving our schools to graduate a workforce with the necessary skills to meet employers needs (last FCAT rates were 50% reading at grade level, 33% math at grade level). High tech jobs won’t provide remediation for our workforce—we have to prepare them to do more than unskilled jobs.
The high cost of rent/real estate: The current state of available housing is the result of our government’s choices. In addition to the commission’s willingness to build only luxury condos, I attended a County commission meeting where they were being chastised by a contractor for only approving luxury housing and Section 8 projects. The construction industry wants to build moderate cost housing for middle-income residents, but the leadership isn’t coming from the top.
Congestion and transit options: Miami’s transportation issues are two-fold: non-residents for whom necessity requires that they pass through the city getting from point A to point B (a Kendallite who works on South Beach, for instance) and the residents of the City of Miami needing to leave their homes and go about their daily activities. The former can be addressed through working closely with neighboring cities, the county and the state to create inter-connectivity throughout our metropolitan area that would encourage more people to abandon their cars for equally useful alternative modes of transportation (County Commissioner Suarez is currently working on a proposal to expand MetroRail in 4 directions that would allow it to service FIU/Dolphin Mall, Dolphin Stadium, South Beach and residential communities as far south as Homestead; this is a good start—the airport spur proved that if we build it, they will come). The latter will require planning within the neighborhoods to provide localized public transportation that connects to the major lines without clogging up the local streets—this would include more bike lanes, more safe walking paths, trolleys and busses, keeping in mind that it rains 75% of the calendar days and is unnaturally hot 99% of the calendar days in Miami and that people will scarcely utilize public transport if they arrive at their destinations drenched in rain or sweat.
Climate change and environmental damage: Honestly, what issues aren’t on the horizon for the Greater Miami Metropolitan Area? A city with an average height above sea level of five feet is ground zero for the climate issues of tomorrow. While other municipalities need flood plans for disasters, we need flood plans for two inches of rain on Thursday. We lose entire on-ramps to our major traffic arteries on rainy days that most agricultural communities would welcome. A significant portion of our tourism industry depends on fishing and lobsters, and both are at risk due to acidification of sea water. Our port has invested millions of dollars to be ready for the influx of Panamax freighters through the Panama and soon the Nicaraguan canals, but forecasters say that as early as 2025, the Arctic Circle route to the eastern US and Europe may shave 25-35% off transit costs, as well as shift the busiest east coast ports from Houston/New Orleans/Miami to Boston/Brooklyn/Norfolk. Only by putting our “head in the sand” environmental policy to rest can Miami have any hope of mitigating these issues in the future.
Transparency in government and access to open data: Almost a half century into the Information Age, the inability to provide public access to data and their public representatives can only come from two sources: unwillingness to spend the necessary capital and representatives’ desire to keep the public in the dark. Neither of these are acceptable in a modern democratic government. The capital must be prioritized to make these improvements and representatives with the necessary integrity to make them happen should be selected.