Before dozens of residents at the weekly civic meeting known as the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, five candidates for Miami Beach City Commission introduced themselves and gave their takes on issues including traffic, historic preservation and sea-level rise.
The forum, held Tuesday at Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen, 1654 Meridian Ave., gave attendees a chance to meet and question five candidates hoping to succeed Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, who is prevented by term limits from running again for the Group 4 seat:
▪ Michael DeFilippi: Realtor and member of the city’s citizen sustainability committee.
▪ Scott Diffenderfer: Realtor and president of the Belle Isle Residents Association.
▪ Isaiah Mosley: environmental scientist with the URS Corporation.
▪ Elizabeth “Betsy” Pérez: music business professional who works with her husband, songwriter and record producer Rudy Pérez. Rudy Pérez produced the city’s centennial concert in March.
▪ Kristen Rosen Gonzalez: speech and communication professor at Miami Dade College and board member of the Miami Beach Leadership Academy Alumni Association.
In their first chance to sell themselves to voters in a forum, candidates generally took the same broad stances on topics such as traffic.
Pérez said she wants the city’s trolley system to extend through Mid-Beach to connect the existing North Beach and upcoming South Beach routes, as well as supporting a light-rail system in South Beach.
“I’d love to see a streetcar system,” Pérez said. “I’d love to see people park their cars, get out of their cars and take public transportation.”
On preservation, Diffenderfer echoed the desires of many of the Beach’s most ardent preservationists when he said he likes the Coral Gables model, where all homes up for demolition must first be reviewed by the city’s historic preservation board.
“I think that when we get a house that’s not in a historic district but is a historic house, it should go to historic preservation for design review if they are doing alteration or demolition,” Diffenderfer said. “I fully support saving every historic house that is worth saving.”
Mosley pointed to his background in science when saying the city needs to pay attention to any effects the storm water being pumped into Biscayne Bay may have on the marine environment.
“You start sending all those nutrients, all those trace metals, all that bacteria directly into our surrounding waters — we could be destroying our surrounding waters,” Mosley said.
DeFilippi said his focus is on keeping Miami Beach clean. Even though the sand is maintained by Miami-Dade County, he said he wants to have the city’s Public Works Department sift the sand daily to remove cigarette butts, bottle caps and plastic items left behind.
“Maybe the residents don’t see it as much, but people that come here for the first time, and I speak with them and I ask them, ‘How clean do you think the beach is?’” DeFilippi said. “They say it’s not very clean. That’s the reality of things, and it has an impact on tourism.”
Rosen Gonzalez pushed for more city involvement in the the public school system, which is mostly under the control of Miami-Dade’s school board.
“How we can help in education is by creating excellent supplemental programs,” Rosen Gonzalez said.
The Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club will host two more forums for the remaining two groups of candidates the next two weeks. The free forums start at 8:30 a.m. at Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen.