Upcoming MB Ballot Questions

Miami Beach is abuzz with news and excitement over the upcoming local elections with Vote-By-Mail beginning this month, followed by Early Voting and Election Day on November 5.  Mayor Gelber faced no opposition and will serve an additional two-year term. I was proud to endorse him and am delighted to see the Mayor back on the dais.

There are also six important ballot questions.   I have received a number of resident inquiries and wanted to share some information and perspective that may help in your decision-making process. This link includes the actual ballot questions and official explanation from the City:

Official City Explanation Here

In addition, below I have summarized my opinion as to the essence of each question as well as my vote and rationale.

Ballot Question 1: Increasing Mayor’s Term and Changing Mayor’s Term
This ballot question concerns increasing the Mayor’s term from two years to four years. If approved by the City’s voters, all members of the City Commission – including the Mayor – will have a four-year term, with a maximum term limit of eight years (two four-year terms) starting in November 2021.

NO – The current Mayoral two-year term structure has served Miami Beach well and provides significant accountability for this important office to the voters.  In addition, given that three Commissioners are on the ballot every cycle, keeping the Mayor on two-year terms allows residents to change the majority of their City Commission if they so choose.  Finally, I believe that voter participation is important to a thriving city, and we are challenged by having our races in odd years without other major elections.  A Mayoral race increases community interest and engagement, and so this change would likely decrease turnout to an even lower level.

Ballot Question 2: Amend City Charter to Increase Annual Compensation of Mayor and City Commissioners

The ballot question asks voters whether Mayor and Commissioner compensations should be increased, starting in 2021 (in other words, if approved, the increased compensations will not immediately apply to sitting members of the City Commission). Specifically, the question asks whether effective with the City’s General Election in 2021, the Mayor’s annual compensation should be increased from $10,000 to $75,636, and whether the annual compensation of each City Commissioner should be increased from $6,000 to $45,381.  These new figures reflect the annual cost of living increase from 1966 to the present, and additionally, the new salaries would be increased annually based on the Consumer Price Index.  Separately, elected officials will also continue to receive taxable expense allowances to pay for position-related costs.

YES – This ballot question (passed with a 6 -1 Commission vote) will not affect me or any of my colleagues in our current terms on the City Commission.  In fact, I voted against a previous version of this ballot question proposed last election cycle because it would have applied to the current terms of the Commission.  Higher salaries will allow more people to venture into running for office, not just those that have enough income/time flexibility to do so.  A larger talent pool should ultimately produce more representative and qualified candidates, as well as more people participating in the political process.  The current salaries established in 1966 do not adequately reflect the size and complexity of our current City government and the resulting time required.

Ballot Question 3: Amending Procedures for Filling of Vacancies in City Commission
The proposed amendments revise the Charter by establishing a procedure (including specific time periods) related to vacancies on the Commission caused by the resignation of a Commission member. (Note: The existing Charter language only addresses vacancies in general and does not address vacancies due to resignation.) Further, in order to clarify the Charter’s provisions governing the filling of any vacancy on the Commission, the proposed amendments make clear that the Commission is not required to appoint someone to fill the vacancy, but instead must initially decide whether to appoint or schedule an election to fill the vacancy.

YES – This ballot question will create clear procedures for the filling of a vacancy caused by the resignation of a City Commission member maintaining the two options of appointment and election.  It will allow the Commission more time to make this decision and provide more opportunities to cost-effectively conduct such an election at the same time as the County or City are being held.

Ballot Question 4: Naming of the Main Convention Center Park/P-Lot as “Pride Park”
Pursuant to the City Code, a referendum is required to approve the naming of an exterior portion of a City facility, including a City park. The subject ballot question asks the City’s voters whether the main Convention Center Park/P-Lot should be named “Pride Park.”

YES – Pride Park is truly fitting for our community and sends a strong message of inclusivity.

Ballot Question 5: Ordinance Authorizing New Floor Area Within the Interior of Historic Buildings for Adaptive Reuse
This question asks whether the City Commission shall adopt an ordinance authorizing the use of new floor area within the interior of historic buildings for the adaptive reuse of such buildings. “Floor area” generally means the sum of the horizontal areas of the floors of a building. “Floor area ratio” (“FAR”) is the measure utilized by the City to regulate the overall size of a building. The City’s Land Development Regulations establish a maximum FAR for each of the City’s zoning districts. “Adaptive reuse” generally means the renovation and reuse of pre-existing buildings for new purposes.

YES – This ballot question would encourage the renovation and enhanced utilization of certain historic buildings.

Ballot Question 6: Floor Area Ratio Increase for Office Uses Along Washington Avenue and Alton Road
This question asks whether the City Commission shall adopt an Ordinance increasing FAR to 2.0 for buildings in the CD-2 district that are located along Washington Avenue and Alton Road if more than 25% of the building area is used for offices. The measure is intended to provide the same maximum FAR for buildings along Washington Avenue and Alton Road that contain offices, as the maximum FAR that currently applies to buildings in the CD-2 district that contain residential or hotel units.

Mark Samuelian

YES – Washington Ave and Alton Road would benefit from additional office space and additional people during the day.  This measure would allow office buildings the same FAR (ie., building size) as hotels/ residential uses.

Please note this link which shows a clip from when the Commission voted on these and rejected three other potential ballot questions:

View Video Clip Here
(Timestamp: 2:46:55)

I hope this information was helpful as you prepare to vote on these important ballot questions!

Mark Samuelian

FOSPE Thanks City of Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian

Chess TeamThank you, City of Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian

Friends of South Pointe Elementary (FOSPE) Children & Education Foundation would like to express our heartfelt thanks & gratitude to City of Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian for his sponsorship of two Miami Beach South Pointe Elementary students (Christopher Urgell & Jolie Bagat) in our after-school fall semester chess enrichment class.

Mark playing chessHis generosity is allowing two students to learn about this historic game that continues to have relevance when success in school and life can be aided by being “one-step ahead”. On behalf of myself and the FOSPE board & team, thank you very much Commissioner Mark Samuelian.
Miami Beach High School

Also a sponsor of Miami Beach Sr. High’s football team’s t-shirts…. Go Hi-Tides!

Moving Miami Beach Forward — Together!

Dear Neighbors,

We have much going on in our little slice of paradise. I want to highlight some important accomplishments achieved for Miami Beach residents so far in my second year as Commissioner. My office has made it a priority to promote a better quality of life for our residents, improve Ocean Drive, prudently address flooding/sea level rise and make sound financial decisions for our City.

Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge: This G. O. Bond project was approved by the Commission earlier this year, and I was a strong advocate. Completion is expected for next year, and I am confident it will bring safety and convenience to our residents.

Inspector General Office: Over 60 applications were received and are currently being reviewed by the selection committee. The current plan is to present the finalist at the September Commission Meeting, and for the office to be implemented later this year.

G. O. Bond: The first round of bonds have been issued and our resident oversight committee has reviewed and prioritized the 24 projects that are currently underway. Some of these projects are termed Quick Wins and include the Mid Beach Beachwalk, park improvements (Polo, Collins, Fairway, Crespi, Stillwater and North Shore parks), and enhanced security for public places.

Flooding/Sea Level Rise: Mayor Gelber appointed me the Chair of the Sustainability and Resiliency Committee, and we are working diligently to improve our approach with enhanced community engagement and third-party reviews. While we continue to execute Neighborhood Improvement Projects, we are simultaneously implementing recommendations from the Urban Land Institute’s review which I proudly sponsored.

Unsanctioned Vendors on City Property: I advocated forcefully to clean up malfeasance on public property and am proud to have sponsored this ordinance. Some of these vendors have bad intentions and include “promoters” of troublesome unsanctioned events/parties which adversely impact our community.

Sidewalk Cafes: Taking advantage of or deceiving customers not only makes the City look bad but affects our quality of life. Proper advertising of prices on menus is now a requirement. And I have been particularly focused on other approaches to address these bad apples. Enough is enough!

Miami Beach Senior High: The safety of our children is paramount and in conjunction with the City and PTSA, accident-prone drop off zones are being improved. There is now better visibility, additional signage and reinvigorated MBPD enforcement.

Better Bus Project: The City is a sponsor of the county-wide Transit Alliance which is working to improve our bus routes. Proper public transportation helps riders and reduces cars on the road.

Miami Beach Website: Engagement Toolbox! A big part of having trust in government is transparency and making information easy to access and understand. I am happy to say that working with Miami Beach United and the City, we have added a one-stop shop on the City website to access information most important to residents. https://www.miamibeachfl.gov/residents/

I have tremendous gratitude to my colleagues on the Commission, the City administration, my Commission Aide, Elias Gonzalez, and most importantly my life partner, Laura Dominguez.

Warm wishes to all for a safe and happy summer. Looking forward to the second half of 2019, and please contact us if we may be of service.

Happy Fourth of July,

Mark Samuelian
Miami Beach City Commissioner

 

Moving Miami Beach Forward

Dear Neighbors,

I am honored to share highlights of progress in our community during my first year in office including: new Miami Beach Inspector General, reorientation of our flooding program, planned G.O. Bond improvements, Ocean Drive enhancements; all accomplished while listening to and helping residents.

Thank you to Miami Beach residents, our businesses, City Administration and Officers, Mayor Gelber and my fellow Commissioners — important, sustainable progress is always a team effort.

Inspector General: I am thrilled the community voted 81% for an independent office of an Inspector General.  This was a campaign promise, and I am excited to see it come to fruition.

Flooding/Stormwater Program Critical Review: Sponsored legislation that invited an external review of the City’s flooding mitigation efforts at no cost to the taxpayers.  The City is reorienting and improving its flooding/stormwater program based on Urban Land Institute, Harvard, Columbia and other external perspectives.

G. O. Bond Referendums: As a resident, I completely supported the G. O. Bond which passed with an overwhelming 70%.  I spent time attending over 15 neighborhood and community meetings across the City to answer resident questions.

Ocean Drive Enforcement Enhancements: Sponsored legislation ensuring bad operators on Ocean Drive no longer mislead customers with false or vague information on their menus. This has already led to enforcement actions resulting in a restaurant closure and a second operator losing its sidewalk cafe license. Also promoted, along with my colleagues, an off-duty police program in order to alleviate safety concerns.

Express Bus: Co-sponsored a project to create a dedicated lane on the Julia Tuttle for an express bus service.  This bus will help approximately 40,000 workers that commute to Miami Beach as well as any other driver on the Tuttle.

Vacant Storefront Window Covers: Aesthetics is important to our community, and I have sponsored legislation that has focused on ensuring vacant storefronts have visually appealing window covers.

City Grader pilot: Sponsored a program to have the city pilot City Grader, a website committed to real-time performance review of city government by residents https://www.citygrader.com/

Kite Surfing Ordinance: Sponsored legislation that ensured kitesurfing rules are codified for the safety of all swimmers and kitesurfers on the beach as well as clamping down on illegal teaching that inconveniences all beachgoers.

Animal Welfare Committee: Sponsored legislation that created the Animal Welfare Committee, an advisory committee comprised of residents with expertise in the field of animal care.

Small Biz Task Force: Sponsored legislation that created the small business task force to identify ways the city can help incentivize the creation of new, small businesses and nurture the ones already here.  The task force was able to have the National Small Business Association host its southeast regional meeting in Miami Beach, an event which brought together small business owners and experts from throughout the region.

Miami Beach City Committees: Mayor Gelber has appointed me as Vice – Chair Finance Committee and one of two commissioners on the new Ocean Drive Committee.  I anticipate being appointed as a Committee Chair in the coming year.

I have tremendous gratitude for my Commission Aide, Elias Gonzalez, and most importantly my life partner, Laura Dominguez.   As Hanukkah began at nightfall December 2nd, I would like to wish all who celebrated the Festival of Lights many happy moments and lots of smiles.  And for those that observe Christmastime, peace and joy to you and yours this season.

Warm wishes to all for a safe and Happy New Year.  Looking forward to 2019 with so many exciting projects and knowing the best is yet to come!

Yours in service,

Mark Samuelian
Miami Beach City Commissioner

 

Importance of a Miami Beach Inspector General

Dear Friends,

October is upon us and that usually means the final weeks before voters make their voices heard.  This election season brings referendum questions that could mean exciting changes to Miami Beach.  In this newsletter, I am happy to share my Op-Ed in The Miami Herald about the Miami Beach Inspector General, a “Meet Mark” video, and some upcoming dates where you can learn more about the G. O. Bond and its projects.

Yours in service,
Mark Samuelian
Miami Beach City Commissioner

Miami Beach Referendum Questions – Vote YES!

Dear Friends,

Voting has officially begun!  If you receive your ballot by mail, it may have already arrived.   This year’s ballot has wonderful opportunities for Miami Beach.  Voting YES on all six Miami Beach Referendum questions will help continue to move Miami Beach forward.  Plus, The Miami Herald unanimously recommended YES on all initiatives and below is a brief explanation of each referendum:

Inspector General (Miami Beach Referendum 1)
An independent Inspector General will significantly raise the performance bar at Miami Beach City Hall. Miami Beach voters will help bring this vision and my promise to reality by voting Yes #384.

Convention Center Hotel (Miami Beach Referendums 2 and 3)
The City listened to the voters and your feedback helped shape this new project. The hotel is smaller at 800 rooms and 100 feet shorter than the previous proposal.  A developer will be leasing City land and funding the project, so no tax dollars!  This lease guarantees over $16 million of new city revenue in the first ten years.  The third referendum is the hotel question and the second referendum allows you to decide if you would like a portion of the money generated to go to education, flooding, and traffic measures.  Vote YES #386 and #388

G. O. Bonds (Miami Beach Referendums 4, 5 and 6)
The City established a special committee of residents from across Miami Beach who met diligently for weeks evaluating and prioritizing projects that were most needed.  Please check out www.gomb2018.com for information on each of the Parks, Neighborhoods and Public Safety projects.  We need these critical investments for our community and candidly there really is no great “Plan B.”  Vote YES #390, #392 and #394.

My office is always available to answer questions.  Please feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Yours in service,
Mark Samuelian
Miami Beach City Commissioner

Real Results: Reorienting Resiliency Program

Dear Neighbors,

When I ran to be your Commissioner, one of my most important campaign promises was to review our resiliency strategy.  I committed to apply my engineering expertise and ensure that the solutions put forward were the most well thought out, effective and efficient. I am happy to share a progress update including some real results.

Real Results

  • I sponsored, with the unanimous support of my colleagues, an insightful review of the City’s resiliency efforts by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) at no cost to our city’s taxpayers.  The initial report can be found below and the final report will be published in July.
  • I helped lead the charge to successfully reject (5 – 2 Commission vote) an ill-conceived almost $90 million La Gorce neighborhood street-raising project, and demand better.

Reorienting Resiliency Program

Based in large part on our results above the City Manager, Jimmy Morales, is recommending we reorient our program with the following actions:

  • Address the need for permanent generators on both future and current projects under contract.
  • Finish existing projects that are underway.  Also, the City will fix any issues that have been identified with completed projects.
  • Integrate green, blue and gray infrastructure into a stormwater plan through dynamic modeling and design criteria.  The City will identify a multidisciplinary firm that can take the completed engineering models and create an integrated neighborhood improvement plan.
  • Proceed with West Avenue project in collaboration with a major research university that has proposed a demonstration “Acceleration” project that will take existing plans and update them to integrate green, blue and gray infrastructure at no cost to the City.

Additional Policy Priorities

While I am encouraged, I plan to forcefully advocate for further improvements to our program including:

  • Make sure that our resiliency projects have the proper aesthetics that make our city distinct and attractive, and properly utilize the Design Review Board.
  • Rethink our “one size fits all” street raising policy, which has potential downsides and risks to private property owners.  We need to tailor any potential street raising to the uniqueness of our neighborhoods and immediately explore policy alternatives.
  • More actively support neighborhoods that want to pursue undergrounding power lines as part of neighborhood projects.
  • Seize unique opportunities to create truly innovative resilient parks including potentially 500-600 Alton, North Beach West Lots, etc.
  • Implement dramatic improvements in our community engagement throughout our resiliency program.
  • Enhance our financial planning and oversight for this several hundred million dollar investment.

I made a promise, and am pleased with the important progress we have made in just 6 months.  “Do Nothing” is not an alternative; Miami Beach will become more resilient, and we will do it right.

Yours in service,

Mark Samuelian
Miami Beach Commissioner

Link to ULI Study:
http://www.mbrisingabove.com/your-city-at-work/stormwater-program/uli/