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.”