Three Miami Beach Group 6 commission candidates fielded questions about historic preservation and the proposed convention center hotel at a public forum Tuesday.
It was the final discussion held by the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, a weekly gathering of Beach residents at Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen, 1654 Meridian Ave. Candidates for the seat, held by term-limited Commissioner Deede Weithorn, introduced themselves to the crowd.
▪ John Elizabeth Alemán: information technology consultant, executive board member of the North Beach Elementary PTA and chairwoman of the city’s quality education committee.
▪ Mark Samuelian: management consultant, real estate investor and community affairs leader for the Alton Road Business Association
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▪ Jonathan Parker, a local DUI defense attorney running for the Group 4 seat, also spoke at Tuesday’s talk. He did not participate in the Group 4 forum two weeks ago.
Residents asked candidates where they stood on the planned convention center hotel, which was approved in an initial vote Friday by the city commission. The land lease that clears the way for development of the headquarter hotel at the corner of 17th Street and Convention Center Drive passed on a 6-1 vote. A second hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2, after which voters will decide in November.
Alemán supports the hotel, saying she agreed with the argument that a renovated convention center can only attract big conventions if it has a hotel next door.
“I’m in favor of the city of Miami Beach pursuing a healthy convention business,” she said.
Samuelian said the hotel opens the door for new business and won’t create the traffic headaches opponents say it will. Convention attendees would park at the hotel and walk throughout their stays. That would lessen traffic compared to consumer shows, which are more common these days and bring in people taking day trips in their cars.
“On traffic, the promise is that we will get these conventions in and we won’t have the daytrippers,” he said. “I want to make sure our booking policy is in line with that.”
Parker echoed Alemán and Samuelian, adding that the city needs to make sure the hotel is well kept during the full course of the 99-year lease.
The popular question of historic preservation in Miami Beach arose again.
Samuelian said he wants to see fewer incentives in the city’s code for people who want to build “McMansions” and more incentives to designate homes and neighborhoods historic.
Parker supports historic preservation because he feels it brings value to Miami Beach, but he said he wasn’t well-versed on the specific issues.
Alemán said having the government designate homes and neighborhoods historic may create an undue burden on homeowners who want or need to alter their homes. She favors encouraging people to get their homes designated if they wish.
Another common question has been if candidates support the creation of a new position at City Hall — an independent inspector general. The query comes amid much talk about the recently formed political committee Relentless for Progress, a group chaired by term-limited Commissioner Jonah Wolfson that has solicited nearly $1 million in contributions from city vendors and developers.
All three candidates said they support the idea.