Critics of the salary increase, including Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, have questioned whether elected officials should recommend their own raises. Gelber said earlier in the month that he would support a review of commissioner salaries by a third-party group as long as any changes didn’t impact current officeholders. Commissioners Micky Steinberg and Mark Samuelian also opposed putting raises on the August ballot.
In June, four Commissioners voted in favor of adding the item to the August 28th ballot: Ricky Arriola, John Alemán, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and item sponsor Michael Góngora. Commissioners Mark Samuelian and Micky Steinberg voted no. Mayor Dan Gelber left the meeting early to attend his daughter’s high school graduation but was later quoted by the Miami Herald as saying he opposed the increase.
Samuelian said, “I absolutely understand the spirit and totally buy into the comments around talent pool… I do think the timing that Commissioner Alemán mentions with the upcoming budget, that fact that we’re in little bit tougher times I think is an important point.”
Samuelian reiterated his opposition. “I understand the spirit. I would echo the comments about timing and I know it’s not reality but somehow I think people are going to conflate the GO Bond and raising taxes.” Putting these on the ballot in the same election cycle with the GO Bond in November “gives me pause,” he said. “I do not believe that’s a legitimate connection but somehow I could see that if folks aren’t following the dialogue closely, those things coming at the same time also doesn’t strike me well, so I’m not going to support this today.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “I’m not comfortable with this. I don’t feel like this is the best timing… it’s a very big increase, 23%.”
“We just decided [two days ago] to ask the voters if they wanted to spend $430m in taxes” through a General Obligation (GO) Bond, Samuelian said. “I’m not sure the timing is right then to say, in addition, we’re going to raise your stormwater fees by 23%.”
“I believe that the GO Bond is us making the case for a lot of funds for stormwater, a lot of funds that help resiliency, and the voters are going to decide,” he continued. “This is different. They’re not getting a seat at the table on this one.” With potential proposed changes coming to the program to include new options such as blue and green infrastructure, Samuelian said, “I understand that we will need new funding. I’m not disagreeing with that but the changes in the program, to me, I think we could push this out a year or two and I would recommend we do that until we have much firmer footing on the funding.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, after reading the Staff memo, “In my 8 months here, this is one of the strongest recommendations I’ve seen in terms of not to proceed” and he asked City Manager Jimmy Morales why.
Samuelian said, “I’m concerned about the terms changing… I strongly support the goal of revitalizing Town Center. I’d like to get the stimulus that I want but I don’t think we’re there and I’m of the mind now to think about if we’re going to plow millions of dollars in, how might we do it in a better way? Are there options at this point? We spent a year and a half … are there options or other things we could do is the question on my mind at this point.”
Samuelian said, “Candidly, I would be of the mind today to be entertaining options. I honestly would.”
He elaborated. “Maybe we should just think about selling the lots. Have we done the due diligence of other things to do because I’m sensitive to the time and given my colleagues comments about how far apart we are, I’m just wondering about that.”
“I think the action on the Inspector General which will be at the same time is related,” Commissioner Mark Samuelian added. “Hopefully the residents will see that as a wonderful step for government. They, hopefully, will see that that will add transparency and accountability to the GO Bond so I actually think there’s some positive connectivity of those two so I’ll support this today.”
Samuelian, one of the critics of the City’s plan to elevate roads said, “I have not been shy about my concerns about aspects of our stormwater management program. I have been very clear that we need enhanced planning, more external views, blue and green infrastructure. I’ve also been very direct about my concerns with road raising. Having said that, this bond provides us the opportunity to continue to improve what we’re doing. We cannot stop. We need to improve as we go and without the capital we wouldn’t be able to do the good things that as a group we’ve started to move through with so I’ll be supportive of this today.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said he supported the project because of what it could do for the City, noting that the current revenue from “a surface parking lot that generates about $100,000 a year” will convert to “$10m once we’re up and running at a steady state and that is goodness for our community.”
“In the last three years there have been 17 new hotels in Miami Beach,” Samuelian said, but “this is the one that really pays off for the public. This is the one that really delivers” for the City.
“I always have been sensitive to overdevelopment and construction, that’s sort of part of my value system,” Samuelian continued. “I think the concerns of the community have been heard and I’m fully supportive of what we’re doing today.”
When Commissioner Mark Samuelian proposed continuing the dialogue over the August recess and having another Finance Committee meeting to review the details of the deal, Galbut said he would take the Baywalk contribution off the table. He was looking for a unanimous vote of the Committee but said he was willing to take a 2-1 vote to move the item onto the Commission agenda in September.
Samuelian said, “I understand we want to move expeditiously but, on the record, this property’s been like this for 13 years… I don’t think an extra meeting would be a problem; in fact I think it would help the deal” saying he wanted “to get it right.”
Following another brief recess, Samuelian was willing to accept the redlined agreement and voted with Arriola and Commissioner John Alemán to instruct the Administration to draft a development agreement that allowed for the vacation of 6th Street and other ordinance changes to send to the Commission for first reading in September.
Aunque la noticia general fue dada a conocer a inicios de abril, cuando los comisionados votaron a favor de la ordenanza propuesta por el comisionado Mark Samuelian, durante una reunión de la Comisión de Miami Beach ayer lunes fueron aprobadas las pautas concretas de diseño que deberá tener cada menú.
“Estamos tratando de garantizar que el cliente tenga claridad sobre lo que está a punto de pagar y que lo sepa”, dijo el comisionado Mark Samuelian cuando se se aprobó la medida en abril, y sus palabras van camino de convertirse en realidad.
“Dramatic street raising causes the city problems. It elongates the projects, it causes there to be a lot more cost and complexity and it is losing the trust of the residents,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian.
Fighting over whether to elevate road or how high to raise them slow down other work that could help residents now, like installing more pumps and clearing drains. One of improvements delayed over the dispute about North Bay Road was repairing area fire hydrants, where the water pressure suffers because of leaky, aging pipes.
Samuelian sees street raising as an answer to tomorrow’s problems, not today’s, and unnecessary in some neighborhoods.
In some cases, he said, elevation could even hurt the neighborhood. Neighbors opposing street elevation consistently cite a loss in their property value as a big concerns. They also worry higher streets will make their front doors will look funny and potentially funnel damaging water into their homes.
“We’re counting on our property base to fund the projects. We had to be very careful about anything we could do that would impact that,” Samuelian said. “I think we need to stop.”
Samuelian and some residents point to the findings of recent expert groups, which advised adopting more natural solutions, like plants, to soak up excess water.
“We’re trying to ensure that the customer has clarity on what they’re about to pay and that they know,” Commissioner Mark Samuelian said when the measure was discussed in an April meeting. “That is the basic principle.”