On Tuesday, February 12, at a joint meeting of Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club and the Miami Beach Taxpayers Association, I officially announced my intention of running for Mayor of Miami Beach. It was humbling to see more than 150 community activists and leaders supporting me. Even more humbling was receiving the support of my fellow colleagues, Commissioner Jorge Exposito and Commissioner Jonah Wolfson. Commissioner Deede Weithorn has since added her support, as well.
It was not an easy decision to decide to run for Mayor.
As your Commissioner, I learned that there is always more to do and as Mayor, one can achieve far greater results. This decision is not about me but about the needs of our community now. That‘s why I have offered myself, to be your Mayor of Miami Beach. I offer the opportunity of a new direction for the City we love. City Hall needs to be fundamentally changed and managed in a way that will make us proud. There are many important issues that we can handle wisely, if we use good judgment and common sense. As Mayor, I will tackle these critical issues that face our community:
I will root out corruption and incompetence. From the beginning of our crisis of corruption in City Hall, I demonstrated that I am decisive and began forging a path of reform and renewal. Looking to the future, I am making sure that we follow a well-thoughtout process of finding a new manager to lead our City.You can be sure that once we have a new manager in place, I will support that manager and the necessity to clean house in all levels of the administration as well as overhauling the procedures of code compliance and fire inspections. Now that we have acknowledged the fraud, corruption, neglect, failure of oversight and lack of accountability, we can begin the necessary accountability and controls over all city departments. I will not hide behind the city administration or employees. The buck stops with me.
FIX THE UNSUSTAINABLE PENSION SYSTEM
While the vast majority of our employees are hard working and honest, the City’s employee pension funds cannot continue as presently structured. They are simply unsustainable. I know that our employee unions are important, but we cannot allow favoritism towards those unions to cripple the long-term interests of our residents. It used to be that salaries in government were more modest than their private sector counterparts. These days, however, City employees often make more than their private sector counter parts. I will fix the pension system so it is equitable for the city and the employees.
Since the beginning of my public service, I have made environmental concerns a cornerstone of my efforts. Of critical concern are the threats to rising sea levels and resulting flooding and storm surges pose to our community. As Mayor, I will convene experts from around the globe to help create new solutions. European cities have for centuries dealt with tides and flooding. We can too. It is not only to be environmentally friendly but also it makes financial sense.
BALANCING OUR CURRENT NEEDS
Once again, Miami Beach is enjoying a surge in property values and development. While many of us are grateful that Miami Beach is once again experiencing this renewed economic boom, I will not allow this push to be an excuse to build without oversight and restraint. We need balance. Our resources should not be allowed to exceed their capacities. We also need to be more vigilant with our zoning and not allow commercial uses like hotels to be built abutting residential communities. As Chair of the Land Use Committee, we have sent that ordinance to the Planning Board. We will look at prohibiting other commercial uses abutting residential neighborhoods, where the intensity of use is inappropriate and produce similar ordinances to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods. While I am in favor of development, new development or redevelopment must be ‘sensible’ and not overtax our infrastructure. The development of the Miami Beach Convention Center requires leadership. I think there is a consensus on an upgrade, a ballroom and a reasonably sized adjacent hotel. I was impressed by the January planning meeting that was run by a neutral third party and not by the city.
CIVILITY AT COMMISSION MEETING
We need a return to civility. I am not faulting anyone of my colleagues. However, there have been many instances where it has been difficult and embarrassing to be sitting at the dais. This must stop: no fighting, no personal attacks, no name calling. Meetings will start on time. Residents will not have to wait hours for a time certain item to be called.
Miami Beach is a great city and our possibilities for the future are endless. The tax dollars derived through our dynamic tourism industry subsidizes many of our quality-of-life initiatives that help make our quality-of-life better for our residents. Of utmost importance is the duty to our community to ensure that all hard-earned tax dollars are expended wisely and without undue influence to the contrary.
I was born to listen.
I have always listened to both sides of the issues and found a balance. It is my sincerest hope that you will tell me how you feel and how we can improve our quality of life. Then, together, we will continue to craft solutions that meet our challenges in these times. I guarantee you this: I am not one of the good old boys of the past that many in our city have come to expect. I represent greater things for Miami Beach, as we move into the future. Join me and together we can make our home an even better place to live, work and play.