…Commissioner Mark Samuelian, a member of the Ocean Drive Safety, Security and Infrastructure Subcommittee, said, “I think it’s prudent that we proceed… there will be a lot of opportunities to review it.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian weighed in saying “I do have some sympathy on fairness. Directionally I’m comfortable with the policy and I can see the argument that many of our residents may not want a Walgreens there. But, as a point of fact, if Walgreens is gonna invest all this money to put it there, they must believe someone wants it there, that someone’s gonna be shopping in this environment and that there is a need. Maybe it’s not residents. It could be tourists or visitors. Either they’re making a really, really bad decision or some consumers see value in having it there.”
“The second thing I would say is really around fairness,” Samuelian continued. “I obviously trust our advisors and City Attorney on the legal side, so I’m not sure where that line is in terms of where you get to keep going [with plans]. My sense is we’re pretty close to it from a fairness standpoint.”
“We may not love the prospect of a standard Walgreens,” Samuelian said, “but If this doesn’t happen, are we going to have an empty storefront? What’s gonna happen? We talk about retail vacancies. This looks like it could go in, not sure of the timeframe. How quickly if they’re not allowed could a new deal be put [together]? When does something come in? What’s that process look like? Are we going to be here six months talking about more empty storefronts when there was a tenant who could have been there? So, I’m intrigued by Commissioner Arriola’s thought of looking at uses but, while I support the policy, I share Commissioner Alemán’s concerns around fairness for this one applicant.”
Miami Beach officials are already bracing for gridlock and phone calls from irate residents.
“We know this train is coming, no pun intended, we know it’s going to have a big impact,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who sponsored a resolution at Wednesday’s City Commission meeting giving city staff the green light to evaluate several temporary traffic fixes while construction is underway.
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “I support the applicability as we had on first reading. While I understand the concerns, to me it’s a fairness issue. We talk about being fair to business, being open to business, a set of folks made investment decisions, did something under a certain set of rules. To change it now in front of them doesn’t strike me as fair so I would support keeping the applicability as we did on first reading.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said he wanted to see “more data, more fact-based analysis” of projects. “With the size of money flying around, I really think we need to elevate our game.”
Referencing the “unique challenges” faced by the City in terms of sea level rise and flooding, he said he wanted to “raise the bar on resiliency” with better “planning and executive engagement with community stakeholders and with the boards.”
Samuelian urged Morales to present a “stronger point of view” on items so that decisions are “less Commission driven.”
“We rely on your professional expertise and your team to call it like you see it,” Samuelian told Morales. He wants Commissioners to consider less of the “small details” and more big picture items but added, “Overall, I’m very pleased.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who has pushed for the inspector general’s office, said he thinks the initiative will end up saving the city money over the long run.
“One of the main functions of the inspector general is to help the city government work more efficiently, so if you think about it, even if the inspector general would identify just 1 percent efficiencies, that’s $6 million a year,” he said. “If you ask me if I’d spend $1 million to save $6 million? Any day of the week.”
At the same meeting, Commissioners John Aleman and Mark Samuelian pushed back on the criticism, saying the city is doing the best it can. “We are constantly challenging what we’re doing,” Samuelian said.
“We collectively have to keep pushing the envelope, but we also have to acknowledge that the technology is not perfect,” Aleman added. “There’s no technology for that that can operate on an industrial scale. If there was, we’d be implementing it.”
While Alemán was aghast at the design, Commissioner Michael Góngora said he was excited about it, in a lukewarm kind of way. “I’m not so sold on it myself,” he said, “but I think that is the wave of the future.”
Ultimately, Góngora prevailed on Commissioners Ricky Arriola and Mark Samuelian to tentatively approve it. The LED display proposal will now go to the Design Review Board for consideration.
Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who estimates that he has met with at least five candidates and heard from five more, said that agreeing not to run in November isn’t a deal breaker for him.
“At this point I’m going to wait and see the full lineup of potential candidates before I make a decision,” Samuelian said. The commissioner plans to go to a South Beach residents meeting on Jan. 22, known as the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, where all of the applicants have been invited to introduce themselves.
The city’s efforts have their critics. A citizens group, We Love Lakeview, is protesting a plan to raise roads in their neighborhood, worried about water drainage onto their land and property values. Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian agrees the city must respond to sea level rise but has concerns about what he calls “our one-size-fits-all policy of every street being raised,” both for the cost and the possible adverse effects on neighborhoods. The city has hired an outside firm to develop a sea level rise mitigation and stormwater strategy that will look at the street-raising policy, but also many other areas, such as ways to improve the aesthetics of a city while managing stormwater.