Mark Samuelian who is going through his first budget process on the Commission and as a member of the Finance Committee said, “We keep running into the CPI thing” referencing the lack of automatic increases to keep up with the Consumer Price Index. “Costs go up every year. We’ve waited years without acknowledging cost increases… that’s partly on us. We need to stop that.”
Commissioner Mark Samuelian said, “This issue has prompted a lot of community outreach… it’s the FAR decision that was the catalyst that drives some of the issues around quality of life, traffic, development. That issue was decided by the voters. We’re here to take it from there.”
He said he understands the concerns expressed about the process. “A certain number of height was latched onto and, maybe looking back,” he said, there might have been a way “to help [residents] better understand” the process that would happen after the vote which, he said, “was the step on a journey but it wasn’t the final answer. But for a lot of people, they heard that was the answer so that was a complication. Nothing mischievous going on but I could clearly see a lot in the community thought we had an agreement” of 125 feet in maximum height.
“We now have to do what’s right with the information that we have,” Samuelian said. “Our goal is revitalize… we need to make sure we get shovels in the ground,” With regard to the public benefit being tied to obtaining a permit within 15 months he said he wasn’t comfortable with that being the only milestone and suggested incorporating temporary certificates of occupancy (TCOs) into the mix.
“On the topic of height, this is a tough one,” he said. “I’m open to considering going above 125. For me, at this point, I find it hard to believe that we would get anything above 200.” He said he would support the proposed guidelines on first reading, knowing the options for variations in height based on location or lot size would be further discussed at the Land Use meeting this week.
Critics of road raising, including Commissioner Mark Samuelian, argue the city’s “one size fits all” plan to elevate all streets to the same height doesn’t serve residents whose properties are at different elevations and need tailored approaches. The ULI report, Samuelian said, ‘has not materially changed my view.”
Gelber told the organizers it appeared they had 4 votes but reiterated concerns about public input. Commissioner Mark Samuelian agreed that he might like another month.
Arriola, Alemán, Góngora, and Rosen Gonzalez voted in favor. Gelber, Samuelian, and Steinberg voted no.
At a MidBeach Neighborhood Association meeting in September, Commissioner Mark Samuelian said the city needs the bonds because it has “a lot of pent-up needs.”
“While we have had sufficient funding to operate the basics of the city, for these type of projects, capital projects, park projects, public safety projects, beachwalk projects, we have not sufficiently funded them,” Samuelian said. “At the end of the day, this is about an investment in the community.”
Residents reportedly unhappy with the road raising policy elected Commissioner Mark Samuelian as a lead voice reviewing resiliency projects and slowing some down.
Samuelian reportedly found that he supported City Manager Jimmy Morales’ goals to include permanent generators on stormwater projects, finish projects underway, fix issues on completed projects and integrate alternative solutions like green, blue and grey infrastructure.
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.”