Why are you running?
I am passionate about Miami Beach and I am running for Miami Beach City Commission because I think we are facing some of the toughest challenges in our history. As a resident of Miami Beach since 1992, I am extremely proud of what a great city we have become. But traffic gridlock, limited transportation options, sea level rise and irresponsible development are seriously threatening our quality of life and need to be addressed so we can take our city to the next level of greatness.
As a long-time neighborhood leader, businessman, and community advocate, I have the experience and track record of building consensus and working together with others to solve real world problems.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Miami Beach right now?
Traffic gridlock is the most immediate quality of life challenge and is having a huge negative economic impact on Miami Beach businesses.
Multiple, uncoordinated construction projects, daily changing lane closures, and No Parking signs everywhere make getting around Miami Beach a nightmare. There is also a huge increase in demolition of historic homes. Many residents feel overwhelmed by the amount and pace of change and feel like the Miami Beach they know and love is slipping away.
Sea level rise, poor urban planning, and transparency in City Hall are big concerns to residents. Although these are big challenges, I have no doubt we can overcome them. I am excited by our potential. Our city is full of diverse, creative and intelligent people.
What are some of the solutions you would propose?
We have to continue to focus on viable public transportation options like circulator buses and trolleys, protected bike lanes and wider, shaded sidewalks. We need to connect existing parking garages to mass transit so people can park and move around the city without cars. Water taxis, bus rapid transit, rail — we need to look at everything and be open to find creative solutions both short-term and long-term. We have to start enforcing existing traffic laws for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Miami Beach needs to take responsibility for better managing our traffic flow by fast-tracking the use of technology including intelligent synchronization of traffic lights that adjust for real-time conditions, electronic message boards and phone apps to keep motorists informed of the latest traffic conditions and lane closures. We need to hire “mobility coordinators” to coordinate and monitor construction projects, lane closures and traffic tie-ups and keep traffic moving during the many years of infrastructure improvement projects we have ahead of us. We must set up a transportation trust fund in order to fund these initiatives and be able to match state and federal funding. And we absolutely have to develop better relationships with the County, State and bordering municipalities. Many of our traffic issues are regional in nature and we need to be united as a region to be effective in solving our mobility issues.
I would like to study the idea of a “Miami 21” type comprehensive urban plan for all of Miami Beach so that we could encourage smart, iconic development while offering much stronger incentives to protect our historic homes.
We have to continue to be aggressive and progressive in dealing with sea level rise by raising streets and buildings, and installing pumps and higher sea walls. But we need to include community advocates, preservationists and scientists as well as engineers so that we take care of our environment, particularly Biscayne Bay, and do a better job of adding green space and tree canopy to make our city environmentally friendly as well as more livable. All stakeholders need to have a seat at the table and be heard.
If we gave you a $100 budget, how would you spend it?
Since everything above is going to take tens of millions of dollars to address, I think I would spend the $100 on health and human services…
Please share a few words about how you would tackle the some of the following challenges:
Poverty and the low median wage: I believe strongly in providing a living wage for workers and have received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. I have met with leaders from SEIU, Unite Here, AFSCME, and the Florida Laborers, and one of the goals we share is making improvements to the Miami Beach Living Wage Ordinance. I believe need to find a way to raise the minimum wage and tie rate increases to the Consumer Price Index so income doesn’t continue to fall behind the cost of living. I would also advocate that all RPFs for development projects include strong language and percentages for local hires, so that we can provide good jobs for members of our community.
The high cost of rent/real estate: Because of limited space and high demand, market forces are very strong and developers want to maximize their profits and luxury housing is the highest return on their investment. This is another reason historic preservation is important–many of our historic buildings have smaller units that don’t command top dollar and provide lower cost and affordable housing. And if we have a comprehensive plan for the city, we would be able to identify areas where creation of affordable and workforce housing could be incentivized as redevelopment is focused on North Beach.
Congestion and transit options: See above. Improving mobility in Miami Beach is my number one priority.
Climate change and environmental damage: The city has already begun to implement a $500 million project to fight flooding and sea-level rise on Miami Beach by installing pump systems throughout our community. I applaud the administration’s efforts to mitigate flooding and believe we are leading the nation in addressing rising seas. But reports about the damaging impact these pumps are having on our bay are very concerning. As a City Commissioner, I would work together with our city’s engineers and scientists to find ways to keep flood water off our streets without harming our environment. I truly believe that that we can become a model in adapting creatively to the challenges of sea-level rise by working together with county and state governments, as well as by promoting private/public partnerships.
Transparency in government and access to open data: If elected, I would use my voice as City Commissioner to support aggressive campaign finance reform and transparency. We have to find a way to get the influence of big money out of local politics, particularly city vendors and lobbyists. I am leading by example and have led a grassroots fundraising effort with donations mostly from individuals. I will do everything in my power to make City Hall accountable to the voters rather than special interests.